It’s a Blizzard Out There

2/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Robin Follette Maine Correspondent

The weathermen talked about it for more than a week. The possibility of a major winter storm loomed, but so far the right things hadn’t happened. If there were going to be a storm it would have to form soon. And form it did.

I live on the outer edges of the area predicted to get a lot of snow and high winds. Our forecast called for 12 to 20 inches of light snow and possible blizzard conditions.

A blizzard, according to the local weatherman, meant winds would be sustained at 30 mph for most of a three-hour period and visibility would be reduced to a quarter mile or less by blowing snow.

This really doesn’t sound that bad. This is Maine, after all.

By Thursday we knew the storm was coming in late Friday. Preparations started Friday morning. There’s always plenty of food in the house, so I avoided a grocery store trip to grab the last loaf of bread and gallon of milk.

We had a problem with a young bobcat, so the poultry has been thrown together in the hen house, and the ducks weren’t adjusting well. Being closed in with them for several days would be hard on the already traumatized ducks. They needed the break of being separated during the day, but deep snow in the pen would put an end to that.

I grabbed a bale of hay and a pet carrier from the barn, and a couple of pallets from the stack out back, and headed for the hen house. With the birds shooed outside for a while and the dogs guarding them, I set to work. The three ducks got half the bale of straw for bedding and inside the carrier. I braced the pallets against the wide opening of the stall, filled feeders and declared the hen house storm ready.

After the five-gallon buckets were filled with water, and the firewood was carried in, and a pot of chicken soup put on the wood stove to simmer for the day, I sat down to work and watch the noon news. The update called for 60 mph gusts, maybe higher, but the amount of snow stayed the same.

The snow started falling early Friday but it was light. It seemed like a non-event. The wind didn’t start to pick up till later in the afternoon and wasn’t blowing hard until after dark.

Around 1 a.m. Saturday, I heard the plastic on the greenhouse roof flapping in the wind. As soon as I’d start to fall asleep again it would flap and snap, a little louder each time as the tear in the poly got longer. As the wind picked up, the metal roof started to sing. I know it’s secure but it still makes me a little nervous. I got up, made a pot of coffee and curled up on the couch to read.

At sunrise, the snow on the porch was deep enough to block the storm door. I pushed the door open and shoveled a path to the step, snow blowing back in my face no matter which direction I turned. The dogs went out with me to check on the poultry, all three of them following me into the hen house to get out of the blowing snow. The wind gusted between 60 and 65 mph off and on for hours.

High winds kept the snow from building up on the high tunnels, barn and house roof. It built up along the south side of the tunnels. The greenhouse is full of snow. It needed a good cleaning but I thought I’d wait till spring and do it myself. This isn’t what I had in mind.

With nothing to lose now, we’ll trim the torn plastic so it doesn’t keep me awake when it’s windy and call it good. The 2-by-6-inch boards shifted and fell as the wind pushed and pulled at the frame. I’ll throw a tarp over it in the spring so that it warms up inside, let the snow melt and have a brand-new roof on it (again) before I move seedlings in sometime in mid-April.

The storm slowed to flurries Saturday afternoon. Steve was able to clear the driveway with the tractor while I shoveled the back porch off a fourth time. I love an open porch until a winter storm blows through. We were fortunate, only 15 inches of light snow. Southern Maine was hit hard with record-breaking amounts of snow.

It’s snowing again today. It will be sunny and 35 degrees tomorrow, so I’ll start working in the high tunnels for the first time this year. I’m beginning to tire of winter and look forward to getting busy with spring work.

Robin Follette and her husband, Steve, operate Seasons Eatings Farm in Talmadge, Maine.

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