Just when you think you're through the winter storms along comes a late one. A really late one. We called a halt to tunnel building as soon as we knew Storm Katie was on the way, but about half were already up. Nick stalked BBC weather with a heart rate rising and falling in line with the predicted wind speed.
Throughout winter, our maintenance team are repairing and securing the glasshouses so they're in the best condition to withstand weather. We spent Easter Weekend making sure the tunnels were also as prepared as possible - high vents, extra ropes, and for our oldest tunnels, we even drove the fleet of farm vehicles into the field and parked them across the ends to disrupt any serious gusts.
Then all you can do is wait. we went to bed and listened to the grim rattle of the roof slates - it was like trying to sleep inside the chattering teeth of a giant. As soon as it was light, Nick was up and out to check on the damage. The power was down. Everywhere. No power means no irrigation and no motors to open the glasshouse vents. But it was still early, the sun wasn't really up , so he went to look around the farm while I tried to find out when the power would be back on.
He came back, reporting some glass damage where wind break trees had been lost, but on the whole, we seemed to have escaped disaster. But I had bad news. Power wouldn't be back on for hours and the sun was coming out. Over half a million pounds worth of strawberry plants , just about ready to ripen, could not be ventilated or watered.
Nick got to work to find a solution while I tried to find an emergency 3 phase generator on Easter Monday.. I failed, he succeeded, by hooking up a tractor to the irrigation rig. He spent all day driving from site to site trying to ensure the crops were watered but the tractor mounted system wouldn't work on one site. Unfortunately, despite the monumental efforts of Southern Electric to get the power back up, that site is still down, eighteen hours after it went off. The plants are getting drier and drier.
Even after the storm is over, the storm isn't over.
The poor bees had a rude awakening.
We've had worse, so we'll clean up the mess and hope Storm Katie doesn't have a big brother who'll be following on behind....
Yours, The Farmer's Wife