Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Memo from the Weather Gods

To:  Kathy Lipton, Copper Penny Farm

From:  The Weather Gods

Re:  So You Dreamed of Owning a Farm

Congratulations!  You have been selected to participate in our "Test Your Mettle Challenge."  As you have already discovered, this challenge is not for the faint of heart.  Since you purchased your farm in September, we've sent our best (worst for you) weather to test if, in fact, you can withstand the more difficult parts of operating a farm.

We gave you perfect weather for your first weeks of farm ownership--the sunny days and warm temperatures that are characteristic of late September and early October in Maryland.  Wasn't it great to be able to clean out the barn and do other chores without having to worry about adverse weather conditions?  

Dry fields meant you could drag full muck buckets across the back pasture to the compost area, ride the horses in the pastures and enjoy watching the horses as they settled in.

So in October, we decided to increase the challenge a bit by dumping 3.5 inches of rain on your farm, including 1.5 inches in a two-day period.  Those beautiful pastures that you thought were so ideal suddenly had muddy areas at the gates to each pasture. We cranked up the wind machine too.  There were 17 days with winds exceeding 20 miles per hour.  Six of those days had winds in excess of 30 miles per hour.

The rain gods sent forth nine days of rain in November, totaling another 3.5 inches of rain.  You started studying the lay of the land to see how and where the pastures sloped so that you could address the mud problems.  You ordered a ton of gravel and a ton of sand to help fill in and drain areas.  You wanted to also get fill dirt but--ha ha--it was too wet to be delivered.  The new Deere tractor got a work out on the few sunny, dry days while you and Zoe spread the sand and gravel in the worst areas.

We couldn't resist sending a little preview of the winter to come--on November 26th about two  inches of snow fell.

Temperatures in December were above average but the month was another rainy one.  There were 13 days of rain totaling 3.6 inches.  By late December, there were areas of deep mud in some of the pastures. Many days were too wet and muddy to use the tractor to haul manure to the compost pile.  So you started an alternate poop pile (APP) near the barn so you didn't have to struggle with the muck buckets in the muddy back pasture.  The plan is to move the APP to the compost area when you finally get dry weather and fields--maybe sometime in June? 

Over and over again, the weather gods heard you say, "I love my farm" so we knew that we had to ratchet up the challenge.  We put our heads together and began planning a record-breaking winter.  Rain and/or snow fell 16 days in January and temperatures were below average for most of the month.  The cold often seemed far worse with so many windy days.  You learned that the actual temperature was often meaningless.  It's more important to focus on the "feels like" temperature so you know when and how to blanket the horses.

You grumbled (okay, bitched) about the weather and pasture conditions but we never once heard you say that you regretted purchasing your farm.  You guessed it, we cranked up the terrible weather even more in January.  Temperatures were below average and there were 16 days of precipitation totaling four inches for the month.

We pulled out all the stops in February with terms like "Polar Plunge,""Arctic Blast" and "Polar Vortex" often included in the weather forecasts.  As if the mud wasn't bad enough, in February you had to contend with days so cold that the mud froze solid with the depressions from the horses hooves looking like craters on the moon.  At times there were wind gusts in excess of 55 miles an hour.  Once again, it was nearly impossible to take the manure to the original compost pile so the APP began to grow and a second APP (APP2) was started closer to the barn when snow and ice made it impossible to get to the APP.

In late February, the snow gods sent the heaviest storm of the season--leaving a foot of snow on the farm.  Slight warming in the days that followed and frigid temperatures at night created conditions akin to a skating rink.  February 20th temperatures broke a 120-year old record of 5 degrees in Washington DC and you suffered below zero temperatures in your area.  Wind chills dipped temperatures below zero on a number of nights.  

Snowfall Totals December 1, 2014 through February 22, 2015

As February drew to a close, the weather gods heard you say, "well, the worst of winter is over now."  That statement made us laugh and challenged us to continue to torture---er, challenge you.  So March roared in with a day of snow, sleet and freezing rain that left a glistening coat of ice behind.  The only way to safely walk to the barn was to avoid the icy paths already cut through the snow.  Walking in the crunchy snow was the best way to stay upright.  


And we just couldn't stop there so on March 4, we threw in a combo--rain, sleet and snow.  Tee hee-- you are going to get up to 10 inches of snow on March 5.

Spring is just three weeks away.  Just wait until you see what we have planned for you.