This past week we had some pretty rough storms. Since we don’t have a storm shelter, my husband and I hunkered down in the innermost closet we have in the house and listened as Mother Nature hurled hail, rain, and tree branches at our little home. Through the roar of what sounded like a train overhead, all I could think was “my poor chickens.” At the same time that it sounded like the whole house might come down around us, I heard what had to be a bomb being dropped, there’s just no other explanation.
My parents texted after they emerged from their storm shelter — three relatively unhappy cats in carriers, mom covered in mud from a tumble down the hill to the shelter — “We’re safe and the house is fine. You guys OK?” Exhausted from a night of absolutely no sleep and the 5 A.M. adrenaline from the worst storm we have had in this house, we slept for a couple of hours.
When we went to let the chickens out of the coop and look around, we noticed limbs strewn all around the yard, siding missing from the chicken coop, and the source of the boom — we had a pine tree down across the yard. It had thankfully only landed on our garden, which is just a patch of grass and clover at the moment. There are a few shingles missing from the roof, and we are missing a couple of small pots that didn’t get wedged in tight enough, but we were extremely lucky.
As we took pictures and discussed what to do next, we realized two things: we are missing an essential homestead tool, a good chainsaw; and we don’t have a good emergency plan. We have prepared some for emergencies, but there are a few key things missing. It was different when it was just us and the housecats. We have a couple of gallons of water in our freezers and there are three freezers and multiple shelves full of frozen and canned goods. We have a grill, and we can turn scrap limbs into firewood if need be. We won’t starve. But now we have chickens and ducks, and in a few months we are getting pigs. How would we water them? We don’t have a good system for making sure that, if the power was out for a couple weeks and the water piped in wasn’t potable, we can water our livestock. That’s a problem. So on the list of things that we have to find creative ways to take care of quickly, that’s right up there at the top.
Last year, our HVAC went out. And we had to have it replaced, which for a number of reasons took us 3+ weeks. In those three or so weeks was the run of days with temperatures in the teens. So let’s just say I’m no stranger to wearing a sweater, coat, and hat to bed. We had space heaters that we left in rooms with pipes; we needed to not burst all our pipes worse than I needed to have a consistent 67 degrees in the bedroom. That experience spurred us both to buy good, heavy-duty wool socks, better boots, and other underclothes to keep warm when we need it. So if we were a little cold, we would be OK.
But the other problem is the lack of a chainsaw. I said earlier we didn’t have a good chainsaw, but I should amend that to no chainsaw. We had to cut down a large pine tree (we have way too many pine trees on our little property) a couple years ago because it was leaning on and killing my pear tree. Sorry pine, the pear gives me food I like. And I am allergic to you. So down it came. It is still sitting there in all its piney, slowly-rotting glory. And now we have another pine tree down due to the storm. We also have five more about 12-15 feet behind the house, and they are three times as tall as the house. If a storm knocked one of those over, our house would be a sad little pile of rubble. So, as soon as we can get someone out here that is good at cutting down trees, they have to go. But to save money we are planning to cut the pines up ourselves. Hence, we are right back to the chainsaw conundrum.
A good chef will tell you that there are essential tools for running a good kitchen — a sharp chef’s knife, good heavy-bottomed pots, and quality ingredients. As a nurse, I can honestly say that if I have a good stethoscope and a pair of bandage scissors, I am set for a shift. And any homesteader that is serious about what they do will tell you that an essential addition to a homestead is a good chainsaw. (And a quality emergency plan.) How and where will you get water? Food? Heat if you need it? These are all things that should be planned for. We have so far taken baby steps in our homesteading journey, but it’s time to make bigger and better plans and investments. Because anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do right.