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kansasfarmer's blog

July 2010 - Posts

  • Baling hay, drama queens, and my dog Fred knows more about the weather than the weatherman.

     Things have been busy around my place the last several weeks.  Mother KF had surgery on her foot, prompting my sister-in-law to come down from Nebraska with my two nieces in tow to look after their granny.  Before my brother became a father, he wisely invested in two German Shorthair bird dogs, who are veterinarians dreams.  They came too, everyone in the family but my brother came.

    My oldest niece will soon be 5, but often acts 15(or 30) and is quite the drama queen.  At this point in her life she has all the earmarks of growing up to be a rather difficult woman prone to extreme emotional swings, something the males in her extended family are determined to prevent.  The latest round of trouble began with her grandfather and her uncle(me) each giving her a dollar because she hadn't driven us crazy for about a half hour.  The following day Mrs. KF, sister-in-law and nieces absolutely HAD to go shopping to buy shoes.  My niece Olivia was interested in spending her $2, but could not find anything in the store she wanted, prompting her to throw a fit(as relayed to me by my wife) that was quite embarrassing.  I was embarrassed even though I wasn't there.  Later on, when we were all gathered for our evening meal,  one of the dogs managed to get into a tangle with a skunk, for Brits who have never smelled a skunk, the spray is extremely nasty, and hard to get rid of.  Generally speaking a bath in tomato juice is the only solution, on a 90 degree Kansas evening no one was very interested in obtaining the vast quantity of tomato juice necessary to bathe the dog until it was realized the trip back to Nebraska with the foul smelling dog in the car would be very difficult, and would probably result in said car and family all smelling like skunks for several weeks....but by the time that was considered, the grocery store was closed.  It was then suggested that perhaps the dog would have to stay at grandma's for a while, which immediately resulted in my niece bursting into tears with a blood curdling scream of "this is the worst thing EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!".  If anyone should have been crying it was her grandpa, who was now faced with the prospect of caring for a wife who can't walk for 3 weeks and a dog with the IQ of a cucumber.  I haven't been back to my parents and actually don't know how this part of the story ends, but I am betting if they went back with the dog, they all stink to high heaven right now.  I think my brother will be in the lunatic asylum by the time he gets that girl raised.

    All this took place during a week that was promised to be very hot, and very dry.  With the weatherman confidently proclaiming Sunday night that we would have a week of rain free days near 100F, Monday morning saw the countryside buzzing with farmers mowing hay, myself included.  Alfalfa has all the nutrients in the leaves, so it is important to retain them.  This gets very hard to accomplish in high temps, generally I have to bale with a dew on.  The plan was to mow Monday,then rake two windrows together Tuesday morning, and bale starting Tuesday evening until it was too wet, and finish Wednesday morning.  

    Tuesday morning there was now rain in the forecast, but it was to stay north of I-70, about 70 miles north of my farm.  By mid afternoon I could see the tops of the towering thunderheads 70 miles to my north, and they seemed quite ominous, but the weatherman at 5pm was still very confident the storms would track straight east, and there was no possibility of them getting this far south.  By 6 pm I could hear thunder and see lightening, the weatherman was still determined we would get no rain.  The hay was dry and the leaves shattered at my touch, but at 6:30 I went running for the tractor and baler.  We have a tiny dog named Fred who gets very agitated prior to severe storms, and he was going bonkers as I left the yard in full throttle.  I had only baled for about a half hour when the neighbors called to say he was at their house, leading me to believe this might be a really bad storm, but the weatherman on the radio still said no rain.  By 7:30 the guys on the radio were now predicting rain, but assuring me that the storms were weakening and would not be severe, 10 minutes later the tornado siren sound came over the radio with a radar indicated tornado 30 miles northeast of my farm moving southeast.  By now lightning was coming down in 3,4 and 5 fingered forks.  I was just about to surrender and leave the field(I have never been too clear about how safe you are on a cab tractor) when the warning tones came over the radio again, this time for a tornado 20 miles northwest of my farm, moving southeast at 15 mph.  

    I raced for cover on the tractor.  I called Mrs. KF at my parents, remarkably they had managed to get Mother KF into the basement.   The fire pagers went off to call us to storm spot and a fellow picked me up and we headed toward the storm, trying to get to the southwest side of it, in some of the worst lightning I have ever seen.  At one point it appeared the sun was trying to break through the clouds after a big strike,but once we could see clearly, we realized something was now on fire.  It had hit a tank battery and exploded one of the oil tanks, spreading oil all over the ground and now the entire thing was ablaze.  With lightning popping all around it was not safe to try to fight it, so we simply called back to the station and told them to sit tight until the storm was over.  As we sat looking east, thinking we were behind the storm, the Undersheriff called to tell me the tornadic storm(it had not actually been confirmed a tornado was on the ground, radar indicated there could be one) was at our backs coming toward us.  We immediately moved 3 miles further south, and finally in the flashes of electricity could see the wall cloud, but never a tornado.  Never the less, we sounded the tornado sirens in the town.

    What I learned Tuesday night was I trust Fred's forecast much more than the TV weather forecast.  I did nearly get all the hay baled though, good thing too since about a third of the previous cutting got 11 inches of rain on it.  We ended up with no tornado, and a really nice one inch rain. It turned out to be a perfect July day.

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