Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

weather and the land

Getting back to the farm left very little time to think about anything beyond what needed to be done. We had not even totally unpacked the trailer when the snowfall began. The weather reports changed by the hour as to what we should expect. Very cold. No snow. Snow. Some snow. A lot of snow. Besides weather we came back to the main lambing time. 

So looking at weather maps more than we have in years, we had feeding, lambing, unpacking, the joy of such a beautiful snowfall, and finally, as happens so often in the aftermath of such a storm, a power outage. 

Photos and memories are all that remain of the storm as the snow has mostly gone into the ground. The power was finally restored. We have a lot of live lambs but lost more than we had in the last three or four years-- never this many in one year. Some is the weather. Some maybe the wrong ram for young ewes. It is part of the nature of raising livestock but not a fun part. It was complicated by no electricity from Saturday afternoon until about midnight Tuesday night--followed by another power outage Friday morning from 3:20am until 7:30am (likely due to a downed tree across a line as a lot of them haven't looked good since the storm).

When you are without power, it's amazing how it changes living. Surprisingly, light was the thing I found myself missing most. Yeah, the internet, but we could get online sporadically with long extension cords attached to either the trailer battery or a generator (original one stopped working one day into the outage). What we couldn't have were electric lights, the refrigerator, stove, water for flushing or drinking (well pumps run from electricity). 

What we had was heat thanks to the fireplace and a good wood-stove. We lit candles, but they provide pools of light. It feels like living in a cave when the only light comes from flames. It was a good reminder, when I get back to writing something historical, although likely people didn't think about it so much as it just was what they experienced.

The power company was the most disappointing it's ever been as they kept giving updates when we would call in and each one was the same-- we're working on it. Be back in 48 hours. Here are the places still without. Who believes anybody when they say it'll be 48 hours? That just means they don't know. These days they operate like so many businesses, you are never allowed to talk to a real person. A computer runs it all including the crews from what we can tell.

Finally Tuesday night when Farm Boss called their recording, it said, all power is restored in the area. that's when he got angry and told them as much. They were on our road later that night, just before midnight with three trucks to restore power. It could have been done Sunday and saved us the cost of a new generator-- if they had listened to their old timers-- like us. We've been through it before. Their computers are clueless as they go by whatever info was typed in!

When you live out and through this kind of storm, you totally appreciate the crews that go out in the worst of it and try to bring it all back to normal. The road crews worked steadily not only removing snow but the trees and branches that went  across the roads from the ice and snow load. 

Of course, I can't be sure what went wrong with our power company, but I am blaming their computerized system that cuts jobs and frequently fails pretty much in an emergency. When the guys out here were the ones deciding what to do, they got the job done. When they are forced to depend on a computer to tell them where to go, the story is not the same. 

Anyway all is well that -- at least temporarily-- ends well (other than the cost to us of that new generator as we didn't have time to get the old one repaired if we wanted to save what was in our freezer as it began to warm up). I am just very glad we were here for the whole experience. It was a snowfall my part of Oregon hasn't seen in probably ten years-- beautiful, intense, filled with opposing emotions, colors and feelings. For someone like me who remembers these kinds of storms when I was a kid, I enjoyed it-- even to some extent the power outage as it does challenge us to bring out the best we have. I am not yet ready to live somewhere that the temps never change and there is no challenge. I'll save that for my 80s... maybe ;).

Anyway it's more or less back to normal, and the snow is gone all but for patches. We are back to rain, which our land badly needs; so we welcome it. Some people kid Oregonians about how so much rain must be depressing. It isn't for most native Oregonians-- especially those who have lived their lives the west side of the Cascades. We do what we want in it. We know it's what makes our land what it is. If the rain goes, so will go a lot of our vegetation. This is a drought year in our area and even this amount of rain hasn't gotten our snow-pack or river levels to normal. It's not as bad as California but we had already been experiencing forest fires. That's not good when it's January and February; so I am glad to see it raining.

In the house there has been a lot of color with the roses earlier, the fires in the fireplace, candles. In the midst of the rest of this, I have been trying to get good photographs of a gift we were given in Arizona. They are carved bookends of two buffalo heads by a talented Bisbee artist Thomas Suby who does phenomenal work as you can see if you look at this link or this one Bisbee sculptor in wood.

The detail and personality in his work is amazing, but the glossy finish has  made them a challenge to photograph on the mantle beside one of our Navajo rugs, some pottery by a local potter, and candles. Because of the shine from the flash, I gave up and moved them to a table where outside light helped to cut down on the glare. You can enjoy the grain of the wood and detail finally this way.

The wood is ironwood which we happen to live near quite a lot of it in Tucson. Ironwood doesn't flourish everywhere as you'd see if you were in Tucson. Our home there is in one of its regions. We have several healthy trees, lost one big old one since we moved there. I tried every which way to keep the biggest and another younger one alive but lost them both. They had reached the biggest size possible for their settings, I guess. That area has caliche in the soil and maybe it was a factor. The big one might have lived its life expectancy but it was a big loss, such a lovely tree.

Ironwood trees are beautiful all year but especially when they bloom. They also have fine little slivery leaves and limbs. Unless you have worked around an ironwood tree, you have no idea how insidious those tiny slivers can be. I wouldn't have one near the pool but in the natural vegetation region of our property there, i love and treasure them. I am though thinking maybe the stump from that big one we lost... maybe just maybe some of it should be carved ;). I used to carve stone but bloodied my hands so much that I gave it up-- not to mention the soapstone dust is bad for lungs. We left the old ironwoods where they were as the hawks, doves and other birds love to perch on them as they survey their world.

 May 2012


OldLady Of The Hills said...

I'm glad you are having Rain there.....I so wish we would have some here----some real substantial rain, I mean....
Sorry to read of your losses with those babies---And I'm really happy to read that you finally got your power back. It really seems as if the Computer has changed many many things for the worse, as well as the better.The Cable Company here seems to have the same kind of problems. No one knows what's wrong with anything and no one knows how to fix anything unless you are lucky and get one of the old-timers who DOES know what they are doing. The world is falling apart!!

Those are lovely sculptures....I hope you do make something from the Tree Stump.....

Tabor said...

Maybe the drought is breaking. I was intrigued by you comment that maybe the death of the lambs was due to the wrong ram? Is this a gene thing?

Rain Trueax said...

It's a genetics thing. He is a young ram and maybe he's throwing bigger lambs which is good for growing them up fast for meat but not good for the ewes birthing them.

robin andrea said...

Power outages are very challenging, especially if your water supply is cut off because of the well pump. Really sad news about the loss of the lambs. The convergence of things.

Celia said...

Sorry about the lambs. When the kids had their farm we'd lose some piglets and a baby goat or two. Its how it goes.

When the utilities go we are pretty much on our own in our little town too. Bless the utility workers. That's my only concern about moving into an all electric condo but I can go to my kids house with their nice fireplaces.

Rain Trueax said...

The generator will resolve the problem if he gets the big one going. They are good for a few lights, computer and the freezer but won't do the well pump or the stove. The little one that we got at Home Depot will work with the trailer when we want to camp in BLM areas with no utilities-- my favorite kind of camping. In an all electric condo, a small generator might be a good security if you keep much in your freezer anyway. One thing about the NW, it's not just winter storms that can knock out power.

The day will come when I need to be in resorts or places with all the comforts. It's not here yet and I intend to make the most of wilderness experiences over the next ten years. I figure by our 80s life may have to change. It's one of the awesome parts of old age-- you really never know what's coming.

Rubye Jack said...

Your house is beautiful Rain and looks so comfortable. I imagine you have a gorgeous view out there.
The buffalo heads are quite nice and of course the Navajo rug is great.
No, the electric guys don't really care about the computers. I think they are unreasonable compared to the guys who are out there, some having done this for many years.

Ingineer66 said...

I am glad that you can still find the good in a power failure. We get them so rarely now. They remind me of when I was a kid and we would get them a few times a winter. Short outages are kind of fun but they get old quickly. You probably already know this but LED bulbs use so much less electricity that you can use many more of them with the same size generator.

Rain Trueax said...

yes, we mostly have the LED now. The interesting thing about generators, that I didn't know, is they need a certain load to work well; so we had to run on enough to make it smooth. When the old one gets repaired, it can run the whole house. We also hadn't had one for several years; so this kind of was our wake-up call to get everything working and make sure it always is as with windstorms, we could lose it anytime.

We don't have a big view as we are in a valley. From my windows I see trees and the creek when it's in flood but otherwise it's comfortably below the house ;). From the bedroom I can look back toward the pastures and the livestock.

With the potential of a big quake someday, I like having a generator. The little one will work with the trailer when we camp backcountry which is my goal to do more of this summer. :)