Every ascent has a descent in its future. So it goes with Sawmyl Synders Farm. Selling an average of 30 dozens eggs a week up until May 26th, 2016. This stream of income included sales of mostly chicken, ample duck, plenty of turkey and sparse goose eggs. Farm expenses helped offset income taxes and eliminated sales tax on farm related spending. Quickly getting rich…slowly. In the prior holiday season, I processed two of my young turkeys. These two standard bronze birds, a nine pound (dressed) hen (we infrared-fried for Thanksgiving) and the jumbo twenty-two pound Tom (we roasted) for Christmas. In the garden, our crops included five types of tomatoes, two variety of long string beans, three kinds of potatoes, plus cucumbers, okra, onions, garlic, etc. The little cabin (shack, some say;) wore a new and a freshly painted, inspired interior, including earthy colors with accented walls. Our sweaty endeavors in a far-from-the-crowd setting allowed for satisfaction. Yes, before us, then, we saw a growing ideal and a peaceful retirement. After us, came the deluge.
At around 5:30 P.M., I headed out, loaded with farm fresh eggs, headed for Thursday home deliveries. As I locked tight the front gate, the clouds above let loose. Before I drove down a mile, the blinding rain drove me back. Back in the house, in the laundry room, my wet clothes in the dryer, I moved to the easy chair and put on a favorite DVD in my still cable-less house. Within an hour, a buzzing alarm sounded in the laundry room. Water rising from the floor into the dryer. Oh my! My boots go and I take off. The near catastrophic Tax Day flood back on April 18th, forced me to move the tractor and trucks up stream. Now, wading through water already knee high, the new tractor and old pickup awaited my rescue. They waked their way to the rail fence one-hundred yards away, and nearer the main road out. I hugged my bewildered livestock guardian dog, Syndee, and put her, for the first time, in my truck cab. She road shotgun on leather seats, while quite confused, as we drove up to the Nichols Sawmill Road exit, only to find traffic already stopped dead. No fleeing this disaster. Seeing a rising fate.
Now rising water up from the once shallow creek far from the house. Now near. Cresting fifteen foot banks, flanking the house. Streaming down from the main road above, surrounding the house all around. Sitting in my new King Ranch, we waited. Listen. The water crunching gravel past tires. I resisted the urge. As I watched in the rear-view-mirror, the fast moving muddy rose. The top of the duck house sank. The five foot high waterfowl shelter, two hundred feet away, gasp its last. I saw my dreams of Sawmyl Synders Farm sink as my ducks and geese rise and revel in their new water wonderland. No reveling on the other side of my car mirror for me. Fleeting thoughts of doom, constant thoughts of what next, and no place to go, we existed for two hours in suspension. No anxiety or boredom, no fear and no hope. A halt to the rain brought all of these sentiments flowing back – and then some.
A scream can not rage indefinitely, and so it is with storm. Two hours after it began it stopped. Our home – flooded. The propane tank leaking. Those few goats gone. More loss than could be counted now. Less future than could be imagined before. In the days ahead, I heard more unsolicited opinions than genuine empathy. Can you imagine? Such as: It could have been worse (true, I could be dead). You are lucky you have insurance (false, I paid my annual premiums and FEMA excluded items, limited coverage, and took a deductible). But my favorite: I told you so! (not true, a neighbor claimed to have warned me about this 500 year flood after I bought the property. In any case, friends I expected to help with the disaster never showed up for the crisis part. However, strangers I barely knew showed up on Memorial day and beyond. So, it was that season again. Time to find some new friends. Time to rebuild. Time to update my paradigm.
Months have passed. The fifty laying hens I lost are being replaced. Only twenty layers remain but with twenty-five pullets in the pen, production looks good for February. Twenty-five more pullets coming this December, with production due in June 2017. The ducks and geese survived the high water and relished it. The turkeys survived but, they will tell you, with less relish. These birds on higher ground must have wondered “What’s the rumpus!”. With the goats gone, and nothing to guard, I felt I needed to get another guardian dog for my surviving guardian. Her name is Sydnee. Akbash puppy. Now I have two Turkish livestock guardian dogs with nothing to guard. Karabash and Akbash. Black Head and White Head. Other additions include the dozen meat chickens I raised and processed for the holiday meals in 2016 and the weekend feasts in 2017. Busy work while still trying to grasp the past and grope for a future. Believing without seeing becomes a necessity. Surviving a flood means drowning your sorrows and moving on. Those witnessing Mother Nature’s devastating potency and cold lack sentiments have a new reality. But what will it be?
Every descent has an ascent in its future. I can’t build more field fences and animal building on the rubble of this flood. Repair the existing and adapt to the reality. Do not wait for the next flood but have alternatives if it occurs before I die. Can you dig it? Yes, my land is higher on the other end where I also have road access. No, it’s not in my original plans. But neither was the deluge. So it’s time to put on my big boy pants, stop feeling sorry for myself, and wade back in Sawmyl Synders Farm in 2017. A funny thing happened on the way to my retirement