Saturday, January 19, 2013

The first "Southern Blizzard" of the season (trace of snow)

With the usual hype of eagerly expected snowfall in North Carolina, we made our preparations.  We brought in some extra firewood for the house and built a nice fire in our old Gatling woodheater.  We were well supplied with bread and milk, so no trip to the grocery store.  We made preparations for the greenhouses and chicken house which included heater and generator fuel-check and tractor- check.  We were set.  Bring on the snow!

We enjoyed a meal of hotdogs and fries from Central Cafe in Rocky Mount, then drove home in the rain watching the temperature drop with the drive back up Highway 64 towards the west. The wind was whipping the temperatures down while it drove the rain sideways.

After we'd been home for about an hour and were enjoying a nice evening watching next to nothing on TV, the power goes.  That familiar sound of the beeps from all the digital stuff going off and back on is sickening because we know what's coming next.  Two more quick surges and the power is completely out!!! 

We've already jumped up before the second surge and are scrambling for our flashlights, shoes, coats, and keys, while Tim is pleading, "come one, stay on, stay on, stay on!  Oh, blank!"  He then tells me he's going to the "new greenhouse" first and for me to be ready when he gets back to help him at the other greenhouse.

In the darkness as I prepare myself to go out into the cold rain, I'm immediately thankful for the silent warmth from the heater.  At least we won't be cold tonight even if it's dark.  In the quiet, I hear the eerie sound of the siren going off at the chicken house a quarter mile away telling us the power's off.  Then greenhouse and chicken house phone alarms start calling, as well as Jonathan (he gets the alarm calls, too).  My sister, who has power, calls from Battleboro to see if we have power.  What!?  (just checkin'.)

Tim returns for me and as I'm walking out the door, he steps out of the truck and says, "Oh blank!  The greenhouse is calling again. No power!  I guess the generator's cut itself off!  Let's go to the chicken house right now and get that one going, then back to the other one."

We drive across the road from our house to the tractor shelter and Tim gets on a tractor and starts down the road while I follow him.  The rain is coming down in buckets.  It's mixed with snow and Tim's getting soaked.  There are no covered cabs on our tractors because they are old tractor and left over from the days of tobacco.  No pity...our greenhouses are mighty fine. 

We finally reach the chicken house and Tim hooks a chain to his tractor and snatches pulls another tractor from under the shelter (it won't start) so he can get to the generator.  He then backs his tractor through a narrow passage and hooks up to the generator and pulls it out.  Did I mention this was done without lights and in near total darkness?

He drives the PTO* generator  over to the greenhouse "power pole" and whips through another tiny space and then backs this generator into place.  Once again....without lights!!!  (HE IS THE MAN!)

In a matter of minutes, the chicken house and greenhouse are up and running!  Tim is soaked and hops into the truck to go back to the other greenhouse and get the self-starting generator (that will not start by itself) back up and running!  While all of this is going on, the phone calls continue from the alarms and Jonathan, who is fully dressed and ready to come back to the farm for a sleepover in either of the greenhouses.  In addition, my brother, John, calls and offers to come and help us if necessary.

We go back home and about the time we get through the door, the lights come back on!  Tim goes back out the door to turn off the generators.  I wait and start hanging wet clothes around the room with the quiet woodheat and then reset all the clocks.

Just once we'd like to enjoy a blizzard (or a hurricane) and not have to work so much.  Another storm, another job. (sigh)

*PTO stands for Power Take Off. It's the means by which a tractor can power something other than itself like generators, log splitters, etc.