Good with the bad

On Sunday we only had a 30 percent chance of rain. In our part of Kansas, that normally means 70 percent chance we won’t see a drop. The day before I had joked with my dad after he had mowed our yard for us, that it looked so nice that we just needed a nice rain to make it look even better! And I do believe I got what I’d wished for.

When the first storm came through it was looking like it was going to be another disappointment because as quick as the storm built up and moved on, we only got enough to get everything wet with big fat raindrops. About an hour later as we were trying to leave to go feed cows, another storm came. This one brought some heavy rain and a few hailstones. Once it had passed we loaded in the pickup and tried to head south. We only made it down the road a couple of miles before we had to stop and wait it out. I cringed hearing the hailstones hit the outside of my pickup. Finally it let up enough to safely drive. The farther south we got, the less rain there was. At one point, we could see the next storm rolling in, and even witnessed a few rope tornadoes forming and quickly spinning out. By the time we got to Clark County the road was dry and it hadn’t rained a drop at the farm. By the time we’d finished chores there it was starting to sprinkle. So we had hope for rain there.

Since it was Mother’s Day we decided on our way back home that we’d stop for supper in town. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, it started raining. It rained some more, hailed a little and blew like crazy. Not thinking much of it, we headed home and when we headed north we were astonished by how much rain had collected in the ditches and was running off fields. At the house we found some hail damage on the house, and a lot of water, but everything was still safe.

I went out to check the horses and they all looked no worse for the wear. As I was shutting the gate to their pen I looked at the ground. I found a pretty good-sized hailstone stuck in the mud, and a few more as I walked to the house. They were pretty decent sized for being out there for a while after the last storm. Shaun was intrigued by the hailstones and wanted to eat them.. I had to explain to him what they were and that they really shouldn’t be eaten!

Collection of hailstones from May 11, 2014.

Collection of hailstones from May 11, 2014.

My choice of footwear

Yesterday when I got dressed for work I knew they were forecasting triple digit heat and 40 mph winds. Capris and my bling flip-flops seemed rather appropriate since I would be spending my day in the office. Or so I thought.

Later in the day my office phone rang. It was my mother and from the sound of her voice I knew something was wrong. There was a grass fire by their house, and she was headed home to check it out. I packed my computer up and headed her way since she had my son. On my way, I called my sister who lived just north (between 1/4 and 1/2 mile) of the fire. She was frantically loading horses and trying to get things lined out at her place. I checked on Shaun and went to my sister’s. We loaded her mare and her 4 month old filly (she’d already had 6 other horses loaded) and pulled the pickup and trailer into the drive so a quick escape could be made if needed. After setting out some sprinklers around the house we got a game plan “just in case” we needed to get the other three horses off the place.

For a couple of hours we switched from cooling off in the house to standing on her front porch watching the firemen work. There was one particular spot they couldn’t get to and douse the flames, and had to just let it burn. That was pretty unsettling sitting in her dining room and looking out the window to the south and seeing smoke and blackened earth.

I’m nearly positive everyone who lived around this grass fire is truly grateful for the Ford County Fire Department and several rural fire departments that responded. I about took them some water, but would have had to run to town to get some to do so. The Red Cross beat me too it, and from some of the looks of the firemen out there, they needed some shade, water and rest. The 100 degree temps and 40 mph winds sucked the life out of them.

After a couple of hours the firemen slowly started to head back to town and all the excitement was gone. My sister was still on alert, afraid the flames might come back since the wind was still howling. She unloaded the mare and filly and tied the rest to the trailer just in case she would have to load them again in a couple of hours. I texted her at nearly 10 p.m., and she couldn’t see any flames.

The wind today has been much better, but yesterday’s excitement will not soon be forgotten. I am contemplating putting an old pair of shoes and a pair of jeans in my pickup just in case I choose poorly when I get dressed in the mornings. It couldn’t hurt. How much help can one be in flip-flops in case of an emergency like this?

Standing next to my sisters house looking south at the grass fire. My dang iPhone just couldn't do it justice.

Standing next to my sister’s house looking south at the grass fire. My dang iPhone just couldn’t do it justice.

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This was the view from my parent’s front door.

Too close for comfort

Last night my biggest dilemma was whether or not to ride my horse since it looked as though it could rain. Once I got to the house the radio started barking at me that there was a tornado warning for extreme northeast Gray County, northwest Ford County and southwestern Hodgeman County. My ears perked right up since that’s about where my house is and I listened to the warning while looking to the west via my rear view mirror in the pickup.

I got out of the pickup and stopped in my tracks trying to identify the noise coming from the south. As soon as I realized it was the tornado sirens in Dodge City (we are about 10 miles from town) my phone rang. It was my sister. Her husband had called her and told her to go to our parents basement (they live on the same road about 1/2 mile apart) and take shelter as it was headed her way. I got in my house and the phone rang again. My husband was telling me the same thing since we don’t have storm shelter either.

Mom was at my house with Shaun, so we packed it up and headed west. I said a little prayer for the good Lord to take care of my animals and look over my house and headed down the road. However, it looked like we would be driving into a rather large wall cloud/funnel cloud, so I quickly called my sister and asked what it was doing over there. She said, “its rotating above the shed and I’m in the basement.” I told her we were headed to town and to stay safe. Called dad and asked where he was, and of course he was headed home. I told him to go to my other sister’s in town, but of course he didn’t listen.

As I was heading into Dodge City, gawkers and lookie-loos were lining the street outside of town watching the clouds and taking photos. I was not impressed and silently hoped they got stuck in the muddy ditches for their stupidity. I wasn’t stopping even though I had my camera with me.

It wasn’t even raining when I got to my sister’s house. It never really did rain there. We waited it out and eventually I went back home to check on horses, dogs and my husband. This is what I found..

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The hail beat our siding up pretty good and broke the outside pane on two windows. I’m sure it obliterated our roof and it dimpled up our metal gutters. Hopefully the insurance will take care of us.

I’m not sure if there was an actual tornado that touched down near us, but the hail/wind damage was enough to scare me. That’s for sure. I have never seen such ugly clouds as I was driving to town. Hopefully we just get nice, slow, easy rain from here on out.

Should have been a storm chaser

I’m blaming it on the fact I have a smartphone with internet access and I can check the National Weather Service forecast at any hour of the day or night. I can see what the weather is currently doing or what they are predicting for a week out. I love watching the weather, especially the storms that develop around my home. I have pretty much an unobstructed 360 degree view of the environment.

Forecasters have been saying for the last week there might be a significant weather event – thunderstorms and tornadoes for today, except they were only saying 20% chance of such storms in western Kansas. However, when I stepped foot outside to get things around to go to the farm sale, I had that uneasy feeling about the weather. It was dark to the west and clouds kept rolling past us to the north. The cattle across the west fence were walking the fenceline and when I left to go to the sale they were all bunched up.

At the sale we got rained on twice, so we packed it up and went home. As soon as I got Shaun, the dogs and myself into the house it started raining and then pouring. Pretty soon round one passed by. The satellite kept going out since its on the south side of the house and the storms were coming from the southwest. Then round two came. More rain and a few chunks of hail. The TV finally came back and they were saying tornado on the ground near Ashland. Not cool. My husband was down near there. Then they were saying reports of a tornado 3 miles from the Clark County Lake. Pretty close to the Scott Family Farm. Then forecasters were saying Bucklin. Ugh. Between the intermittent satellite TV, the radar on the computer and watching the windows in the house, I about gave myself an ulcer.

Sounded like the first storm that went to the southeast of my place, produced a tornado near Wright, another reported near Spearville. Another storm went past us over to Burdett and Hanston. From the sounds of it Burdett got more than one storm out of it. The one near the farm produced a tornado near Bucklin and later Mullinville.

The clouds have gone and now the sun is shining. I wonder if the heat will bake up some more watching later this afternoon? Here’s a few pics of the backsides of the storms.

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My kind of neighbors

Our closest neighbors are more than a mile away. From our house you can’t even see theirs because of the lay of the land. Recently in the pasture to the west, we got some new neighbors. They are the best kind.

Wind is a dirty word

I grew up in western Kansas, so I should know what to expect with the weather. I currently live in western Kansas, so I know what the weather is capable of. The wind blows in western Kansas, and I know this. See a pattern here? You would think I’d be used to the wind. I’m not. I despise it.

The last couple of days we have been under some sort of wind advisory, wind warning or a fire danger advisory. Nothing new in this part of the word. The last two days we have had high temperatures. Saturday it was 85 and yesterday it was in the 90s.

My sister and I hosted a barrel race in Garden City on Saturday. We initially scheduled the race to be held indoors because it was the end of March and you never know what the weather will do in western Kansas. The forecast on Wednesday was saying 85 and light wind for Saturday. We decided to move it outdoors. We get to Garden City to set up for the race, and of course, the wind has to blow. Not bad, but enough to be an annoyance.

Yesterday we went to Elkhart for a barrel race and boy was it nice when we got there. It was cool enough to need a jacket and a very light breeze. I even mentioned to a friend that I’m not even going to say anything about how nice it is without with w-i-n-d. Spelling it out made me think the man upstairs wouldn’t hear me complain. But by the time it was our turn to run the wind had picked up and it was getting to not be very much fun to be out in it. The drive home was not much fun in my short-bed pickup and the wind pushing us around. We did make it home in one piece.

Now I hope this wind is blowing in some rain for us. At least the wind might be good for something..

Smells like rain

When I went out this morning to feed my horse, I immediately thought the air smelled like rain. Then I realized I had too heavy of a coat on and started to sweat since it was probably 50 degrees and I had on my winter Carhartt on.

Out of curiosity I looked up the weather forecast on my Blackberry and found it was 80 percent humidity. That’s unusual for my part of the world. Our humidity normally ranges from the middle teens to mid-twenties. It’s usually very dry here in Western Kansas. (I know, state the obvious!)

I wish it would rain so that the grass would grow.

I wish it would rain so the wheat would grow.

I wish it would rain so they could grade my road.

I wish it would rain so my poor horse wouldn’t have static cling.

I wish it would rain so I could consider planting flowers in my yard.

I wish it would rain so my pick up could get dirty again and I can spend $13 to wash it.  (Not really, but I’ve learned not to complain about mud.)

I wish it would rain so the pastures would grow and turn green. (Yes, I know I mentioned that before, but grass is important when you have cows and horses.)

This morning while working Gary Allan’s “Songs about rain” came across my Pandora stream, and it all just seemed to fit. Not necessarily about rain in the physical form, but rain is in the lyrics. Good enough for me. Plus Gary’s not bad to look at.

Not that kind of girl

For entertainment or a break in the work day I either read a couple of blogs I have discovered through Twitter or a barrel racing forum. Last week on the forum there was a post from a gal that was living in Canada. The temperature where she lived was well below zero and she was having to take care of cattle on their ranch while her husband was on a hunting trip. Reading her posts about frozen tanks, frozen vehicles and numerous other escapades involving electricity, snow, livestock and frozen water I laughed and laughed. I would guess that’s her way of venting and handling the situation the best way she could without losing her sanity in the process (or killing her husband when he returns home).

After only having to care for one horse for the majority of the last 14 years, it’s hard for me to fathom caring for a couple hundred cattle or a dozen horses when the weather is bad. As I sit at my desk reading, I think, “there would be no way I could handle taking care of the things by myself.” Sure, I can handle three horses in the frozen tundra of western Kansas when it happens, but there’s no way I could take doing their work day after day. Heck my sister takes care of their cattle – moving bales, feeding and even gathering a sick one or loose one into the pens every day. I have it easy, and honestly, I like it that way. If she can do it, so can I. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

However, if my husband decides to leave me home to care for horses and cattle on my own some day (while he’s off doing something fun), I would like to think he has the confidence in me to not return home to dead or sick livestock.

Howling wind

Yesterday I worked at home and by mid morning the tin flapping on the shed outside the back door was about to drive me nuts. Thankfully, the volume on the TV and my little boy’s babbling partially drown out the sound. Remind me to help my husband when he’s tacking the tin back on the half-falling down shed..The old shed

The old shed

The bad side of the shed. Taken before the house was built.

Wind is nothing new where I live. Most of Western Kansas was under a wind advisory yesterday and it was extended to today. I despise listening to the wind blow outside our house and as I tried to open the back door to go feed the horses it only solidified that hate. And I don’t hate very many things.

I worry about the wind even more since my husband started trucking two years ago. When he was hauling grain, it wasn’t as worrisome, but now that he’s hauling hay – large oversize loads that are much taller than the grain buggy – I picture the truck getting pushed by the 40 to 50 mph gusts. Today, he was smart and opted to stay home. But some days he has to push through, literally.

But there’s got to be something good from having the wind blow occasionally, right? Surely there is. When I find it I will let you know.