Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Feast to Famine

First we had flooding. Too much water in the barn. We water flowing in the mangers, sopping cow beds, endless sweeping and shoveling and running of the gutter chain.

Then last night we had none. I was watering pen calves while milking; Becky was watering indoor babies, when it just died out without a whimper. We had heard sirens. We wondered.

Shortly after the water went off the lights did too. Milkers stopped, instant darkness, even the cows jumped. And of course we still haven't been able to replace the generator cables.

After we got the machines taken off the cows and hung up and everything shut off (I just happened to have a little flashlight in my pocket and the kids had cell phones, which serve in a pinch) Alan went down street to find that this had happened. (I feel so bad for the poor folks involved, to have such a thing occur so close to Christmas...or any time really. Such a sad thing for them.)

Thanks to the wonders of those cell phones and Alan having friends on other farms around the Town of Glen, we soon knew that it was a widespread outage.

We went inside and sat in the house in the dark, talking and debating what to do. Most of the cows were milked already because Liz needed to get some rest, having been up all night Monday taking her boyfriend to the emergency room (he is out of danger, but pretty uncomfortable). She had finished most of the boss's cows too, so there were only about thirteen head left to milk. It was tanker day though and the tank had not yet been turned on, so if the outage went on for more than a couple of hours we were going to have to dump the milk.

We heard through the grapevine that ten PM was the earliest power would be restored...this was at about seven-twenty.

So we decided to go to the barn, feed out some hay (grain is moved into the barn with an auger...electric of course...and the girls hadn't had their evening feeding) and start hand-milking the high producers. We would have to throw away the milk, but we didn't want them to be uncomfortable for any longer than was necessary.

I was standing there in the dark in the kitchen, fishing around for a wool sock under a chair, getting ready to do all that, when, squeaky-squeaky, flash-bang, the furnace fan began to rotate, the lights blinked on and all the clocks in the kitchen began flashing the wrong time.

There was no need for a food court. The four of us (we sent Liz to get that sleep when we saw that it was going to be a late night) burst into the farmer version of the Hallelujah Chorus.

We could milk. We could feed. We could cool the milk and wash the pipeline. We could eat dinner, only an hour or so late and get our own sleep.

There was plenty to be joyful about and we were. With all the machines on my line, we finished milking the cows in about twenty minutes, fed them some extra just because and came indoors to computers and warmth and glowing light bulbs, which we purely do not appreciate enough.


Floridacracker said...

That is a joyous feeling when everything clicks back on.
Now if the ice maker in my fridge would just start working again.

joated said...

Great little story that puts your jobs in perspective.

The speed with which power is restored can be surprising in dairy country. Several times after severe storms that knocked out power to the Bolt Hole back in the early '90s, I was shocked to find it took 30 minutes or less to restore power. Of course that was before three of the dairy farms in the immediate area opted out of the dairy business. Got to keep those milking machines and cooled tanks running!

Jinglebob said...

I'm glad you were only out a short while. Amazing how we have become addicted to all these luxuries like electricity, tho' in your case, it's really a necessity.

Cathy said...

I'm exhausted and elated for just having read this story.

I can't imagine your relief!

Now I'D LOVE to hear this:

" . . . the farmer version of the Hallelujah Chorus."

Merry Christmas to you all!

PS. Hope Liz's boyfriend is ok.

Linda said...

It scares me that we rely on power as much as we do. Glad it came back on as fast as it did. Around here I have emergency everything ready (especially in the winter) and our generator is getting a much needed upgrade.

Jan said...

It so rarely happens, but it is humbling to think how dependent we are on having power at the flick of a switch.

Ericka said...

glad everything turned out okay.

sometimes, i think the amish have the right idea. it scares me to be so dependent on things i can't control.

DayPhoto said...

A fire is so horrible! AND trying to milk without power is next being crippled! I'm so glad that it came back on and all the milking got done!

Wishing you a Happy New Year!


threecollie said...

FC, we rejoiced I can tell you. I will hold good thoughts for that ice maker. lol

Joated, ours has been down for days several times, hence the generator. I would like to meet up with the so and so who took our cables.

JB, I love the lights and power tools and power toys. I have lived without most of them, including running water and a reasonable source of heat (Primitive cabin in the Dacks for a few years, and man, oh, man, do I hate the cold), but I sure am glad I don't have to very often. I cannot begin to describe how happy I was when those lights came on and the furnace fan rumbled to life

Cathy, kidney stones...took all this time to get a diagnosis. As to the chorus, mostly sighs of relief and the sound of people hurrying really fast to get to the barn and get er done in case it went out again

Linda, I hear you. We have got to get those cables replaced, but they cost the earth and the insurance paid less than a quarter of it so we have to scrounge the rest somewhere.

Jan, as I sit here...furnace fan sucking heat upstairs, little pumps circulating hot water from the outdoor boiler, coffee warm from the microwave, computer giving me a window on the world..I am grateful, very, very grateful.

Ericka, I hear you. I wouldn't mind cutting the dependency somewhat, but the Amish have to work so absurdly hard to do without what we have. I actually could live like one, as far as knowing how goes. Lived in a primitive cabin the Adirondacks for several years. We did have electricity, but heated with wood, carried water, outdoor plumbing etc. Living that life is hard in ways that sap you..the smallest thing, like warm water for a bath take so much. I think it made me appreciate the lights and heat a lot more.

Linda, I feel bad for the families, especially a little guy who lost his Christmas presents. Happy New Year to you too!