Let me say right away that our farm is not in a state of emergency and all is well. However, Tennessee has been declared in a state of emergency due to seriously heavy rainfall and flooding, with the brunt of this happening in the middle and eastern part of the state.
I think everyone is aware that 2018 was, in many places in the U.S., the wettest year on record. A good portion of our excess rainfall came in the last few months of 2018. In our part of the world the fall is our driest time of the year. It isn’t completely dry, we have no months that call for that looking at historical weather records, but the expected rainfall is lower in the fall than the rest of the year. This year we exceeded average rainfall amounts every month from September through December, sometimes by quite a lot.
January didn’t bring normal rainfall, but we were only a couple of inches over normal. That felt pretty normal after the last few months. After the first couple of weeks it seemed like February was shaping up to be like January, higher than normal rainfall but only by a couple of inches. Then this past week happened.
Like all farmers, Jason and I almost obsessively look at the weather forecast at times. Last weekend I said to Jason, “have you looked at the forecast for this week? Surely the rainfall totals they are forecasting are wrong?” I couldn’t believe the inches of rain being projected to fall on already over-saturated ground. As it turned out the forecasts were not wrong. According to Jason’s electronic rain gauge we had 11.13 inches of rain over the past week, so far in February we’ve had 15.22 inches of rain, and in 2019 we’ve had 21.27 inches of rain to date. That is an incredible amount of rain to contend with, especially given that we aren’t in the growing season so no growing grass to absorb the moisture. In May 2010 middle Tennessee experienced a 1,000 year flood. I will be interested to see how this week’s flood is classified in the record books. If it isn’t 1,000 year flood it is probably close.
We were still on my parents’ farm during the 2010 flood and had no issues. We did own this farm at that time and were in the process of building it out, and it appeared that there were no issues here during the 2010 flood. I’m happy to officially say that we had no issues this past week other than inconvenience, I will say it gets old working in the rain continuously.
I have to give credit to Jason for this farm’s ability to handle what should be once in a lifetime flooding that we’ve now seen twice in 9 years. When we spent almost three years looking for the right farm to purchase, I accused Jason more than once of making the process more difficult than was necessary. He would not look at any acreage or farms that had a single acre of floodplain, even if it was 1,000 year floodplain. His mantra was floodplain floods, and that doesn’t work for a livestock farm. His unwavering stance on the issue eliminated a lot of farms for us. There are a lot of farms that have some 1,000 year floodplain on them but Jason would not give an inch on his requirement of zero floodplain.
Jason further showed his ability to read the land by carefully selecting where every barn, run-in shed, fence and gate were placed on this farm after we purchased it as bare land. He was fussy, and again I pointed out that he was making things complicated. But again he was right. Even non floodplain land will have ponding water when you are getting 11+ inches of rain over a few days, but none of this ever happens in our run-in sheds, we never worry about water in the barns, and I don’t even have to worry about puddles at the gates. I don’t say any of this to brag because I really feel for the water damage that some of our friends and neighbors are dealing with. I just felt I needed to publicly say to Jason that he was right, 100% right, on the entire subject and it is a good thing he didn’t listen to me.
Thankfully, the rain cleared out at about 10pm last night and today was sunny. We have dry days, mild temperatures and sun in our forecast until Wednesday evening and then guess what? We’re supposed to get another inch or more of rain. We’ll be fine. The cool season grasses are starting to green up and wake up, and by this afternoon most of the standing water on the farm was already gone. We have plenty of mud, it’s impossible to not have mud after 21 inches of rain in two months which came on the heels of four months of record breaking rain. But most of our pastures are not muddy, just the traffic areas. We’ll be replacing a lot of gravel in our traffic and gate areas along with the driveway over the next few months. It’s done its job but a lot of it is starting to sink, but it thankfully much of it is holding up. When I’ve been on other horse farms in the area and seen the state of not just their traffic areas but their pastures, I’m always happy to be going home to my farm.
It has been a heck of a weather ride the last few months. If I have to choose between extremes I would take too much rain over a drought. However, if I’m really allowed a choice, I’d like to just go back to our average weather statistics. I don’t know if that will happen anytime soon.
Cisco, Rip, Grand and Homer
Trigger and Chance
Sabrina keeping watch over Timbit, Sparky, Innes and Flower
Toledo and Roho playing before breakfast
Nemo and Sebastian
Blu and B-Rad
Romeo and Gus
King and Levendi
Silver and Cocomo
Blu and Happy
Happy and Johnny
Miel, Ascot and Lighty
Jake, Maggie, Missy, Dolly, Norman and Traveller
Convey, Homer and King
Cinnamon, Dawn and Calimba
Flyer and Lotus
Dolly and Penny