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Lucky to be alive

Lucky to be alive

Storm Radar MapBy now you’ve heard about or experienced first hand the large and unusual storm system that raked through the south last Wednesday (4/27/11). A week ago today, we strolled outside to discover the damage caused by severe thunderstorms that went on and on from around 4 PM through midnight. Yesterday we learned that nine tornadoes were officially recorded in our small east Tennessee county alone, knocking down trees and power lines, destroying homes and barns and in some cases killing people and livestock. I’ve never seen a storm like that. It was one serious thunderstorm after another for almost eight hours straight. At one point the wind blew so ferociously my family and I grabbed blankets and pillows and took cover in the center of our house, away from windows. We’d return to that spot a few times that night, as the wind howled and local radio stations and Twitter updates warned that strong cells were approaching, hail was on the way or apparent tornadoes were on the ground and moving fast. It was scary and exhausting.

Storm Damage
A hickory tree crashed through one of our sheds, crushing our lawn tractor and other things.

It took days for us to assess the full impact of the storm. News reports showed the terrible destruction in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where we camped two weeks prior and in Ringgold, Georgia, not far from where we live and a town we frequent on trips to Atlanta. There was a lot of damage locally, too. In fact in our own back yard we lost our workshop (pictured above) when a large hickory tree succumbed to the wind and saturated ground. 45 degrees to the right of where that tree fell was the room we were in at the time. It most certainly would have crushed us. It may seem dramatic to say it but we feel lucky to be alive today.

I haven’t mentioned our horses yet because they were fine in the barn. Well, fine is a relative term. Our horses don’t seem to mind storms much except for Moonshine. I periodically peeked out the back door and saw her nervously watching and pacing in her stall. We worried about the barn but it’s the age old question in storms: Are horses safer in the barn or on their own, where maybe they could run away, if needed? We prefer them in the barn. Besides avoiding them being pelted with the over five inches of rain that fell that night, they were relatively safe from tree debris and we didn’t have to worry about them escaping through a downed fence due to fallen trees. Four of our neighbors trees fell over our fence and we lost about 20 other trees in other parts of the pasture. But the horses were safe in the barn…this time. In storms like this, horse owners have a lot to worry about.

If you have any trees on your property and don’t already have one, trust me on this – you need a chainsaw. Maybe two. For the next several days, we spent many hours clearing fallen trees with chainsaws. Sometimes one got stuck in a pinched tree, requiring the use of a second chainsaw to free it. It’s not just major storms. Trees die and fall. We may not use it often but a chainsaw is an invaluable tool at our place. You don’t want to be trying to buy one when they’re in demand, such as after a storm like this (none were to be found).

We feel for those who have lost lives, family, animals or property in the storm last week. Did this storm touch you or your family? Have you heard about any horse rescues?

Tree: 3; Chainsaws: 0

Tree: 3; Chainsaws: 0

Chainsaws stuck in tree…also, Tree: about 50; supercharged F-150 SuperCrew: 1. We went a few more rounds with the tree in our pasture that blew down a few weeks ago. If you look closely at the very blurry picture to the right, you will see two chainsaws – one pointing up, one pointing down. The reason why it’s so blurry is that it was taken at about 7:00 at night with my cellphone. It was the only camera on hand, and I only had it in case I needed to call 911. (Thankfully, that was not necessary.)

Split tree
(Tree in daylight, sans chainsaws)

It was yet another of those things that seem so simple and turn out to be anything but. About 1/3 of this tree had split off the trunk in a bad windstorm, and it was a pretty big tree. It was kind of an eyesore, probably not too safe for the horses who liked to wander underneath it and most importantly, was an irresistible magnet to the neighbor kids who were denied permission to play on it but were doing so anyway. So we headed up to this tree at about 4:00 Saturday afternoon (that would be December 30) thinking that we’d just get the broken limb detached from the trunk. About 15 minutes later, the chainsaw got pinched in the cut. No problem, we think, we’ll just wiggle it out. Half an hour later, we decide to try a crowbar. Half an hour after that, we decide to try an ax. Half an hour after that, we decide we’ll just hook up a tow rope and pull the limb loose with our truck (there was only a small un-sawed part left). Twenty minutes of skidding and fishtailing later, we decide we might need help. So we call up our way too put-upon friends, the Watsons, and ask to borrow a chainsaw. Mr. Watson generously offered to not only bring his chainsaw but to help.

Five minutes after his arrival, his chainsaw is also stuck in the stupid tree. Again, out comes the crowbar; again, no luck. This time, we skipped the ax and went straight to the truck. The Watson chainsaw came out fairly soon after we began pulling, but our saw still wasn’t going anywhere. Another ten minutes of revving that V-8 and sliding all over the place and the father of the neighbor children joined us. (The tree is about 20 yards from their back door; he was wondering what all the ruckus was.) We eventually moved the tow rope to the other side of the branch and pulled the limb downhill, and it finally gave up the ghost – and the chainsaw. What was left of it. Needless to say, we were done chainsawing for the day and the tree will rest unmolested until we get a new chain and bar.

Invisible horse in dark pasture
Can you find the horse in this picture?

By the way, if you were wondering – our two very helpful horses spent all this time getting too close to the unstable tree limb, too close to the chainsaw and too close to the truck, in addition to not moving from behind the truck when we needed to back up, trying to go through the gate with the truck each time we opened it, and scaring Mr. Watson by appearing suddenly in front of him in the dark (they’re pretty much invisible at night, being black – see picture to left).

Sometimes I think our life is just a bad sitcom.

Horses and chainsaws

Horses and chainsaws


Nope, not a Halloween post. The other day Mikki and I were out in the pasture cutting back a large section of a tree that had fallen during a storm. We headed on out with a chainsaw and an ax to clear the tree away from the round bale of hay resting under a nearby tree. The fallen tree presented a hazard to our horses so like good horse parents we were gonna fix it. I figured the horses would be afraid of the loud noises the chainsaw made but was surprised to see they didn’t seem to care. I guess they trusted since the noise was coming from around us, they didn’t have to fear it. At least we didn’t bring any plastic shopping bags with us. Now that would have been scary! Of course, I didn’t saw very close to them and had they approached me Mikki would have shooed them off. And I didn’t cut any branches that would have fallen on them or snapped towards them, despite how close they look in the picture (it was a staged photo).