Blizzard of 2019

A Little Snow

My last blog entry, on Feb 5th, mentioned that it looked like winter had finally arrived and, in addition to low-milk production, a little snow was expected which might cause additional delays in our delivery. At that time, neither I nor any weather service predicted how much of an understatement that was. On Feb 24th, without warning, the farm and surrounding forests was buried, overnight, in a 2-ft layer of wet, heavy snow and an additional foot the following day. The last time this area got that much snow was 50 years ago.

Initially, we had to focus on clearing our road, the only route to food and fuel for the beings who live here on the farm. Benjamin took this picture and titled it "that's a road."

​Plowing two miles of snow and clearing a path that Kira's truck could fit through took two days. Fortunately, we have a pretty-much-unstoppable tractor with a front loader that can lift entire trees and push them out of the way, so we didn't have to chop up all the trees into firewood during those first two days. We stopped working late in the first day because downed power lines were blocking the road, but then we made the educated guess that all the power lines under the trees must be dead so we could just drag them out of the way. They were, in fact, dead both on our road and for miles around, just as we guessed, and no electricity was to run in those lines for more than two weeks. One mile of our road is not maintained by the County. We also had to plow and clear an additional mile before we encountered a "toyota path" that someone else had cleared. The County was overwhelmed with clearing major roads, and ours was not a priority.

​For a growing farm, being without grid power for two weeks is a setback to our production, project plans, and preparation for spring. Our computer power supply failed hampering our online farm-share-owner communication, bookkeeping, delivery report production, and other things. Today we have a tax filing due, and we only got access to our records yesterday, so that filing will turn into an extension. Farm share owners who are interested in more details about the saga can come visit the farm and get a full picture. The rest of this blog entry will focus on the current story...

Calves, calves, calves

Spring followed that snow storm with equivalent zeal. We have temperatures in the 70's predicted this week, only a few piles of dirty snow remain, and spring officially starts in just 5 days. Fortunately, the cows held in their calves during the storm and subsequent power outage. Once the snow melted and the sun came out, the first calf arrived.

As of today, four cows have calved: Sadie was first with a beautiful Jersey heifer who has a classic Jersey look (even though Sadie is not Jersey). We named her Sugar. Molly was second with another little heifer we named Mini. Bobbi was third, and she had a nice bull calf. Bobbi is Buttercup's daughter, so her bull calf is makings for a good bull to breed back to the herd, because everyone loves Buttercup. Bobbi's milk and her milk-cow demeanor are reflecting Buttercup's quality. Another dozen cows are about to calve. Another cow named Coffee-Bean just calved. An unprecedented calf storm to immediately follow the unprecedented snow storm at Helios Farms. Life is good.

Fresh cows produce a LOT of milk. Their milk production sometimes starts as if their body is expecting to feed a calf (about 2 gallons) and then it goes up over a month or so as if they're expecting to feed humanity (5 or 6 gallons). Feeding humanity is the cow's prime directive, and they seem to know that.

Delivery Schedule On Track

This calf and milk abundance will correct our delivery schedule issues right away, getting us back on track quickly. In fact, I predict that from today forward, we will be on track with our regular delivery schedule. Hopefully, my prediction in this blog entry is better than my prediction about snow in my last blog entry. Insert smile emoji here. As I recall, our regular delivery schedule looks like this:

Friday: Drain

Saturday: Roseburg

Tuesday: Portland (Salem, Silverton, NE PDX, N PDX, SE PDX, Beaverton, McMinnville)

Thursday: Cottage Grove, Springfield, Eugene, Corvallis, Brownsville

Wait until you receive a text announcing delivery, or text Theo to see if it's happened, before you head out to pick up.

Food Supply Resilience

There are benefits to storms that knock you out of commission. For Helios Farms, our vision is to recreate reliable, decentralized, resilient, year-round local food supply for our farm share community. The added struggle of being off grid shows us the areas where we need to improve in order to be a resilient, off-grid food supply for our farm share community.

Thanks to our investor Jim Smith, we have a generator now that can run the whole farm easily. We need to make some improvements to our roads and vehicles so we can keep the food flowing to our community through the storms. The infrastructure improvements we already have in progress are going to be very helpful, keeping animals and farmers cozy and productive even when we're buried in snow.

Putting the "Community-Supported" in CSA

One thing that came out of the storm was a huge amount of support from our farm share owner community, showing us that the food-system revolution is working. Many people in our community upped their payments to help us cover feed and fuel, purchased additional shares, helped transport hay, help build our confidence, and provided a storm of moral support and patience to offset our additional burden from the snowstorm, and raise our spirits here. I can go on and on, but I have a farm to run and spring is here.

Here's a nice FB post by Sonja with a different perspective.



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