As if Covid-19 wasn’t bad enough, an ice storm hit Texas with the worst arcing around Fredericksburg. We were clobbered at our ranch and had to leave our home for two weeks due to lack of power and water. We were more fortunate than some in that neither we nor our animals were harmed. Others we know were not so fortunate. But what a mess the ice storm left with downed trees and branches strewn everywhere. I am told by those who have lived through hurricanes that the damage is very reminiscent of a hurricane. Below are a collection of pics taken following the ice storm.
A major challenge arose in keeping the horses and cattle with food and water. The ice storm dumped several inches of ice and snow on the pastures such that the animals were unable to get to the grass beneath the ice pack. The temperature dropped so low that the diesel gummed up such that the tractor would not run. This made it impossible to pull hay out of the barn. Instead we tied a strap around the hay bales and pulled them out of the barn with my pickup.
Water became a challenge as well, as the lines from the well to the water troughs froze. The water in the trough also froze but by using a sledge hammer I broke up the ice enough for the animals to drink. Eventually no water was left in the trough, but by then we were able to open the gates, allowing the animals to get to two creeks that had flowing water.
The ice on the road to the house became treacherous. After two harrowing trips slipping and sliding down the hill, I realized that the danger was simply too great to repeat. I began to leave the pickup in the pasture below the house and hike up the hill, entering the yard via the back gate. Such were a few of the novel challenges we faced.
Since weathering the ice storm and regaining power at our home, I’ve been spending much time chainsawing and hauling branches to our dump site or to various burn sites. Generally I also have taken a day a week to vaccinate folks at our vaccination center. To do so, required I update my medical license. Doing so turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as the State of Texas made it extremely easy to re-activate my license for the duration of the pandemic and at no cost. I never knew the State could move so quickly as my license update took only a couple of days.
Gradually the labor is returning the ranch to a more normal state. Regrettably we have lost many, many Live Oak branches and of less concern the junipers (what we call cedar). Both of these had foliage that collected up to an inch and a half of ice, followed by snow, breaking many limbs and entire trees. Am extremely grateful for my ranch hands who have worked hard ever since. One of the few benefits is that I’ve pretty well worked myself back into shape and have had to tighten my belt two to three notches. Anyone else out there wish to try the Hutton exercise plan and diet? You can join the plan at no cost!
Admittedly, the ice storm diminished my spirits big time. Seeing a beautiful piece of property become so terribly damaged was a blow to my equilibrium. Since then my spirits have oscillated but are now on an upward trend. Thank goodness for good neighbors who took us in (the Norris’s) and kept us warm and well fed. Their mighty generator along with a clever addition of their diesel tractor adding to the generator kept us and the Davies’ family warm. It was like a prolonged sleepover and Happy Hour.
One of the most memorable events occurred for after we lost power in our home. The power line broke due to massive ice collection. Heck, I thought, we’ll just move into our guest house that still had power and water (the wells are powered by electricity). But after two days in the guest house and experiencing nothing worse than rolling blackouts, we lost power there as well. In fact the entire valley went dark that night. The temperature in the house fell to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. We piled on the blankets but were still cold. To keep our dogs Bella and Jack warm and to keep Trudy and me warm, the dogs were invited into the bed for a group cuddle. Did you know the normal temperature for a dog is 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. It was like having two heaters in the bed with us. The following morning, we accepted the gracious invitation from our neighbors and left our very cold guest house.
Knowing we have such good friends, willing to take us in is a very good feeling. The catastrophic weather event ended up bringing three families much closer together than would ever had occurred without the storm. For family and friends we are most grateful. We now have new resolve to repair the damages at the ranch and strive for an even better future.