On Monday night, we experienced one of the great hazards of living on the Great Plains. Mother Nature entertained us for hours with a brilliant lightning show to our west. Storms that were hundreds of miles away, but because of their height, we could easily see the illuminated clouds.
Two hours later and the gentle pitter patter of rain on the window pane was interrupted by a clink. The pitter patter was quickly replaced with plink, clink, CLUNK. Now, plink you can ignore. Clink is never a good thing, and CLUNK is downright worrisome, but then it was the THUD that really got my attention.
I watched as rice sized hail turned into pea sized hail. The rain picked up and the winds began to howl over 40 mph. The pea sized hail was quickly joined by marble sized hail. That usually only lasts a second or two and then moves on. It didn't. It just kept coming, and coming.
Three minutes later and the gutters where clogged with ice and overflowing. Hail littered the ground and was piled high in corners and around the base of the plants. Then the rains came, 2.79" in just 20 minutes.
In all the years I've been sending in weather reports, and Monday night was no exception, you'd think I'd have learned to check out my own place. Nope, the next (blurry eyed) morning, I went into work and didn't give the previous evening any more thought after hitting "send".
It wasn't until Tuesday night, when I went out to the garden to check on the charge of the electric fence that I noticed something odd. At first, I couldn't quite put my finger on WHAT the odd thing was. I was looking at what was left of a tomato plant, nearest the charger. The stem was broken off at 5 inches above the ground, but the top was laying about a foot away.
Certainly a critter that would have managed to get through 10,000V would have gone ahead and EATEN the darn plant. The cut worms and hornworms weren't even OUT yet. So what the heck?! Then it happened. My exhaustion glazed eyes wandered further down the 40 foot row of freshly planted tomatoes. NOOOOOOOOOOO!
Every single one was completely leafless. The stems were covered in white, pockmarked, bruises. My jaw dropped as I scanned the other two rows. My heart sank when I dared to look at the 200 square feet of onions, their 6 inch long leaves snapped off, bent, and bruised. The cucumbers were crushed under the ice and had gone pale during the heat of the day.
As I hung my head and closed the garden gate behind me, an apple tree caught my attention. OH MY ... THE ORCHARD. I didn't even THINK about the orchard! Walking to the first of 30 trees, I knew what I was going to see. I just didn't want to see it, shredded leaves, cut and bruised fruit and limbs. There was simply no way to have avoided any of it. It just is/was.
Hail is usually not a widespread event. In fact the next acreage over swears that she not only didn't have any damage, she says she didn't even have hail. Totally possible. Back in the day, a farmer would have been able to borrow spare plants from their neighbor if it was early enough to transplant. If not, short season crops would have been planted and you'd either trade for your missing crop, or just make do with the short crop. You always helped a neighbor as you never knew when it would be your turn to need help.
In my case, June 1st is my go-to date for planting anyway. I did it a week early this year to get into the garden before we got 4 inches of rain in a week. Next year, I'll just plant in muck boots if it will save me the trouble. A trip the to the village to the plant nursery and a chunk of change later, and I was navigating the slippery dirt roads with a load of new plants, now safely awaiting planting in the barn.
The apple trees will be fine. They won't be pretty this year and all of the fruit has been pulled off, but I don't let young trees have fruit anyway. A young tree's energy should be spent on growing and root development, and not fruit production. I'll watch them for signs of disease, but beyond that, they're on their own. After all, they aren't the first trees to be hit by hail, and we still have trees in the world.
At least the hail wasn't big enough for the roof, siding or windows to even blink at.
Just another crazy day on the hill.