May 19, 2008

Montana Life Lesson #8 - Expect the Unexpected

Hello all....and sorry I was gone so long. Actually I'm not that sorry, because truth be told, I would have stayed gone a lot longer, probably forever, because if I was gone from this blog it would mean I was still home.

Anyway, I know I said I'd be back around the 12th, but you see....we live in Montana now, and wierd things happen....like freak May snow storms that nock out your power for weeks on end....

And yes I'm serious. Here's what happened.

We picked up Malcolm's little sister from school in Bozeman and delivered our load in Miles City on April 30. We were home by 8:00 that night. We dropped Justine off first at their parents house, where we stayed and sat around the table and chatted for a couple of hours. Somehow the talk turned to the weather and we were telling stories of late snow storms and things like that. I think what brought it up was the snow that was supposed to go through south of us....way south of us. Our forcast, when I checked earlier that day to see what my vacation was going to be like, was for temps in the 40's-60's and like 30% chance of rain on a couple of days.

Well....we went home, put away groceries, and went to bed at 11:00, and it had started raining...a huge blessing because we were terribly dry and in desperate need of rain. So it was raining and that was good and we were happy snuggled into bed at home.

Apparently I woke several times in the night....isn't it sad that my bed at home is a "strange bed" that I have to get adjusted too....and everytime I woke up it was raining...rather hard. And I thougth this is good....we need the moisture. And I'd turn over and go back to bed.

The girls got me up at 5:00am to go potty and it was lightly drizzling and soggy. We went back to bed.

The girls got my up at 6:00am to go potty (they had gorged themselves when we got home...they always do) and there was white dusting on the ground. I did a double take because after all I was still groggy and the light was still early morning light. Yep...a dusting of snow.

We got up at 7:30 and it was raining again...lightly....the dusting of snow gone.

Rachelle came to eat and we hooked up the old Nintendo set...nerdy arn't we?...and Malcolm and she got into a deep competition at Mario Brothers...the original. And around 10:00am it started snowing nicely, a pretty snow of large flakes that dusted the ground quickly and we all admired it and thought how pretty and how odd, but the big stuff is south of us...no worries.

Around noon, it was really coming down...like we couldn't see the creek across the road from our house, and we had a couple of inches probably, and Rachelle and Malcolm kept commenting, quietly and between intense segments of competition...."this isnt' good." To me, it was still so pretty and we were cozely tucked in, and I was enjoying the day.
Around 1:00 the power started blinking, and at 2:00 it went out. The end of the Mario Brothers competition.....and the beginning of a new experience for me. And it was still snowing.

So there we were...no power, no phone, no heat, no water (because our well pump runs off electricity). But still I was like thinking this is kind of fun. Because you know....where I come from the power goes off...and a couple hours later (at MOST) it comes back on and life goes on and in the mean time you pretend you live 100 years ago and its all fun.

By I guess 6:00 it still wasn't back on, Rachelle had gone home to dress her dogs and see to things there. She had a brand new litter of puppies (they were born the previous night) and she was worried about keeping them warm. Malcolm had the worst case of cabin fever I've ever seen...he doesn't do well just sitting, and he decided he was going to drive up to his parents and see if they needed help with anything. I told him I'd ride along because I knew the road would be a mess, but I also know he's capable of driving in the muck and getting us back. I was going to bring the girls, but he didn't want to in case we got stuck, because it was still snowing really hard, and it was cold and if we got stuck we'd have to hike to a neighbors and the girls would get cold. So that made sense, and I left them confined to the hallway in their little summer T-shirts with their bed, a blanket, and a couple of chewies, and a fire in the hearth. He tryed to convince Rachelle to come too, but she was adament about staying put and told us we shouldn't try it. The road was going to be too bad from last nights rain. But Malcolm was intent on getting away, he knew his parents had a generator, and thus...something to do! And off we went.

There were several inches of snow on the road, and our road was a mucky mess because its still packed dirt, without gravel, and its was supremly soggy and slippery. But me in all my delirius joy over snow, thought it was fun sliding throught the mud. We arrived at his parents and discovered that the loss of power was due to the pole in their yard that had the transformer on it being nocked down. Therefore, everyone down the line was nocked out too. We sat and visited some more, I think we helped feed lambs that night, but I'm not sure, and around 9:00 or so we headed home through the ever deepening snow. And we got about 2 miles from their house and there was a power line laying on the road, and we just drove across it no big deal, and we got another mile and almost went sliding into another line that was hanging at fence height across the road, and there we stopped. There was no way around or across, so Malcolm decided to turn around and head back because his Dad had said if we didnt' call from Rachelle's (who has an "antique phone" for just such occasions of no power) in about 30 minutes (and we'd been gone 15 already) he'd come after us in the tractor. So Malcolm's turning around, and we kind of made a big rut in the mud and snow, and kind of got stuck in it, and even had the front tires of the truck slip over the edge of the bank at one point, which would have been our doom...we would have been walking or waiting on the tractor for sure, but by some miracle Malcolm managed to get out of it and finally turned around, and we headed back to his parents house.

So we had a slumber party at his parents house, and Rachelle...bless her heart...got out of bed and hiked through the snow storm to my house, and rescued my babies from impending doom as Cresty Popsicles because I'm a bad mommy who abandons her children to heatless houses and hardly clothed for the weather. She took my babies in like any good foster mommy would do and even let them sleep with her and her two Cresties and informed me the next day that 4 Cresties in the bed was WAY too many...it got a little toastie in there, because they put off so much body heat. So for future reference, two is enough, four is too many.

Ok, I got off track. Anyway, the next morning it had stopped snowing and in the clear air of morning we saw this....

(these were taken a day after the storm and it had already melted considerably)

Its about a mile from the house to the road and only about three poles were still standing. And this is what it looked like pretty much anywhere you went. Because of the snow piling up on the lines, and the direction of the wind, almost all the poles that ran east to west were snapped off like toothpicks. Poles holding lines that ran north to south were fine.

There was concern about livestock. Two years ago a storm like this came along in April and they lost about 40 calves because the cows took them down into a low area to get out of the weather, then the calves layed down, and sadly the cows all bunched up together like that walked all over them. And since most of the herd had already calved they were turned out to pasture and obviously had gone to shelter. So Malcolm and his Dad went out to see what the results were for this storm. They brought in about 4 calves that were down and cold, and there were others over the course of a few days, but most recuperated. In the end, only three calves were lost. Also two of the bucks (they had 4 bucks for the sheep) died hovered up next to the corral gates where they had tryed to get out of the storm. And around 30 ewes who had been turned out because they didn't have lambs (for various reasons) were no where to be seen and assumed lost. However, two days after the storm they appeared out in the pasture. No one ever went to count how many came through. A few of them were lost, but not sure on exact numbers.

(the missing ewes miraculously appearing from no where)

We made it home that afternoon, after the power company sloshed their way out there and cut all the lines down off the road...there were many....and the snow had begun to melt already. By the next day it was almost completly melted....all of it, even though there was nearly a foot of it. It just vanished.

Now...you'd think thats where the adventure ends, but no...it goes on. You see rain all night and a foot of melting snow, and knowing that south of you, just a little way, in Ekalaka, they got about 4 feet of snow, and all thats melting too....well that kind of means the placid little creek in front of your house that you usually drive across on the four wheeler and don't get you feet wet....well that kind of turns into a raging river in just a matter of a couple of days. And it doesn't go down....for days and days and days. And because the main line crosses the creek out in the pastures, the electric company couldnt' get to us. In that previously mentioned snow storm of two years ago, it took two weeks for Rachelle to get her power back on. This time they expected it to be longer. So....Malcolm took Justine back to school on Sunday and bought a generator for us in Billings, Miles City and surrounding areas being sold out for obvious reasons. So for the next two weeks I ran the generator a couple hours every morning and evening to keep the fridge and deep freeze mostly cold and frozen, did laundry with the washer, but had to hang clothes to dry on clothes hangers hung over window blinds and the yard fence because the generator wouldn't power our dryer, washed dishes sparingly, and tryed to remember not to flush the toilets when the generator was off because without it, we had no water. And we didnt' run it continually because it burns about a gallon of gas an hour. Malcolm's parents had to run theirs continually because they had a lot of bum lambs in the barn sitting under heating lamps to keep warm, and had to have hot water to make bottles for them. In fact, before we got our generator I cooked like this....

and when their generator went out one morning, we had the guys carry in buckets of water from the pump in the lambing barn, and heated water with the same burner to make bottles, and we had everyone of Peggy's pots scattered over the kitchen heating milk and water and it was a big mess, but it worked.

So we went about our days. And you would think the road would dry out nicely, but it continued to rain off and on for about 4 days after the snow melted, and it just got soggier and soggier and it was like this.....yeah we needed moisture in a bad way....but lets be realistic here....the ground can only take so much! SO....you get the soggy picture? There was water standing everywhere, and the road was a mess, and our bright red pickup was lumpy and brown from the mud stuck all over it.

About a week after the storm, the electric company was still working on things, but still hadnt' gotten to our end of the county, so even Malcolm's parents were still without power. And that Friday, in the morning before they had fed lambs, their generator went out. And there they were, no power, no water, no bottles for hungry lambs, and cold lambs at that because there were no heat lamps working. Luckily, a neighbor, (who also has a "fixit shop" had a generator they could use so they got back on line later that morning, and the next day the "calvary"rolled in, leaving muddy tracks behind them, but still there to save the day. The power was back on at their house a couple days later.

But they still couldn't cross the creek to get to us. And so we waited, and ran the generator a couple hours morning and evening, and hoped they'd get to us before we had to leave so we wouldnt' have to pack the deep freeze up to his parents house. In the mean time it had dryed out enough to bring home the yearlings, so Malcolm and his Dad made 7 trips to Bowman, ND to the feedlot where they had spent the winter and brought them home, all the time being thankful they had decided to wait, because you see, the morning we woke up and it started snowing..that was the day they were going to start bringing home the cows. But because it had rained all night, they wanted to let the road dry out some. It would not have been good to have the cows home for the snow storm.

Thursday afternoon the power company came down on fourwheelers to see how it looked (they could come down our road, just not across the creek to part of the lines that were down). They didnt' want to cross the creek. It was still high, but had gone down quite a lot. So Malcolm demonstrated to them that it was crossable by crossing it on his four wheeler and he took the bull dozer up there so he could pull their equipment across if needed. They stared working setting poles that evening. Friday they would have had us back on, but while pulling a line, the line and a pole snapped, so they had to get that refixed. They got all the lines and poles that were down in the corrals too and Saturday around noon our power came back on. Celebration....

And Sunday morning we left for work. So....didnt' get to enjoy the power much, but I did get to wash and DRY a load of clothes (no more stiff jeans), and we didnt' have to leave worrying about the freezer full of venison thawing out.

How's that for a vacation???

Lots more to tell about and share. So....

to be continued....

1 comment:

Meag said...

Whew! What a.... well, do you call it a vacation? LOL!!! Sounds like an adventure I am happy to read about and not experience for myself! Glad you are back blogging! I get to see you this weekend, right?