Jerry Nelson: Mother Nature left lots of sticks for the dog, one big mess for me

Jerry Nelson
Special to the Farm Forum
Image of the author.

It can take a lifetime to cleanup after a once-in-a-lifetime storm.

My wife and I were in Kansas City when the recent derecho ravaged our region. We rushed home not knowing what to expect, but we took the precaution of buying a couple of tarps during our return journey. We surmised, correctly, that the storm would create a tarp shortage in our area.

Much to our relief, there were no holes in the roof of our house. Our shelterbelt had lived up to its name by sheltering our home from the brunt of the storm.

The trees, however, are looking much the worse for wear. It looks as though a humungous weed whacker made some random passes through our grove.

The power was out when we got home, but that was no surprise. The violent winds had snapped off utility poles like they were number two pencils.

Sparkles, our cat, is an outdoor kitty during the warmer months. When we got home, she came out of the barn and meowed at us in a manner that seemed to say, “Holy cow! You’ll never believe what happened while you were gone!”

Bella can work and play thanks to the storm. There is certainly no shortage of sticks to pickup around the Nelson homestead.

Bella, our dog, had been in doggy daycare while we were away, so the derecho was just one big playdate for her. Bella loves sticks; she must have thought she was in heaven when she came home because our lawn was covered with sticks.

The expression on her face seemed to say, “You did all this for me? Thanks, Mom and Dad!”

Some of our downed trees were blocking the adjacent township road, so I set to clearing the public right-of-way. My chainsaw was my close personal companion during the next several days.

Picking up after Mother Nature

A couple of summers ago I bought a John Deere 3010 tractor/loader combo. Some people in our household deemed this a foolish purchase — an aging Baby Boomer indulging in farm machinery nostalgia.

The 3010 was a derecho cleanup hero. She moved massive trees with ease. She helped me create a burn pile that looks much like Mount Rushmore, except that it is a lot smaller and made entirely of a tangle of twigs, boughs and trunks.

Well pumps don’t work without electricity, so my wife and I had to “rough it” for a few days. In this case, “rough it” meant using room temperature bottled water to wash down spicy takeout purchased from a local Mexican food trailer — and to wash ourselves down in the shower.

Our half-dozen Jersey steers weren’t nearly as sanguine about the situation. They stood at their empty fountain and glared at me like restaurant patrons who were peeved at their slacker waiter. I told my wife that the power would likely come back on soon, but she insisted that we provide the cattle with an alternative water source.

I called a local farm supply store and was surprised to learn that they were open. When I walked into the store, its interior was as dark as the inside of a black cow. A salesclerk was instructing customers to wait at the door until one of their other clerks became available. A young and perky female clerk, flashlight in hand, escorted me into the store.

Asked about the lighting situation, the salesclerk explained that the store had a small generator that could provide only enough juice to run the phones and one till.

Ironically, the store had sold its entire inventory of generators.

I told the young lady that I needed both a tank and a tub. It took a few minutes to explain exactly what I meant.

After fumbling around in the shadowy semi-darkness, we sought assistance from a guy who works in the sprayers department. We were soon rigged up and ready to roll.

Heading home

My wife and I drove to a neighbor’s farm and asked if we could borrow a hundred gallons of water. Their farm had power thanks to a tractor-driven generator.

Afraid that the beef in our freezer might thaw, we borrowed a small generator from a friend. The generator had enabled our freezer to chill out for about an hour when our power came back on.

Cleanup is going to take a long, long time. I have picked up approximately 1,283,000 sticks from our lawn using my patented BGR method: "Bend. Grunt. Repeat."

I’ve been throwing the sticks away and Bella has been “helping” by bringing some of them back. She understands the concept, just not the execution.

Life is slowly returning to some semblance of normal. And I’m thinking that I should recommend the 3010 for a medal of honor.