Ice Storms, Fires, Blizzards, and Hail- Heartbreak in the Heartland

This first 5 months of 2017 has taken its toll on the 5-State area surrounding the Oklahoma Panhandle. With a devastating ice storm hitting right in the thick of calving season. “Dark Monday” and it’s 1 million (+ or -) acres burned across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Southwestern Kansas, and Eastern New Mexico and Colorado- which destroyed thousands of acres of grazing lands, scorched hundreds of miles of fence, multiple homes, stole 6 human’s lives and burned thousands of head of cattle and wildlife alive. A crippling April 30th blizzard which left hundreds more cattle dead in Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The most recent a hail storm which carried with it baseball-softball sized hail that tore through the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma killing calves, destroying crops which were only a few weeks shy of being harvested, as well as countless homes, vehicles, and other buildings.

But you won’t hear much about this on the news. 

The recovery process is still taking place- and will continue to take place for months. Our hearts are so full for the help and love we have received from so many agriculturist across the nation. But I would be lying if I said that each day isn’t still a challenge to keep our heads up. It’s hard to watch your life’s work go up in smoke-literally. Or watch the wheat that you have tended to and prayed would come out of damages caused by ice and and snow coupled with 60 mph winds survive just to be pounded into the ground by hail just before harvest. It’s so hard not knowing how you are going to make the equipment payment. It’s hard to have to walk through your pastures and see and even have to put down suffering animals who couldn’t escape the flames, or to pull up to your pasture ground to find your cows and calves had looked for shelter in a draw which is now covered in snow- and those mamas and babies have all suffocated- or the babies who couldn’t weather the baseball sized hail who had been literally beat to death in the night. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking- loss of profits aside.

So today, while you go about your life- while you go to your 8-5 job with a guaranteed paycheck and little risk to your livelihood, when you go to the grocery store and notice the price of food slightly higher, remember, the places where your food comes from has been ravaged this past year. There will be a shortage- not in the “oh my gosh we can’t feed everyone and we have to ration” sense, but as compared to years past. The ranchers and farmers will struggle harder than usual to make their payments this year.

We are strong, we will rebuild, we will continue to raise our cattle, we will continue to plant our crops. We will wake up every day and continue to go to work- just like you. But our hearts and our land will take some time to heal. Remember us in your day to day activities too. 



“A farmer has to be an optimist- or he wouldn’t still be a farmer” 

Will Rogers

 

Small Talk- Weather in the ‘Handle

I had a lot of things that came to mind to write about today, but I decided to stick to my original plan and talk about the weather. I was just a little too stirred up to be able to write my feelings on the other subjects that came up today in a tactful way. You’ll hear about those soon enough though, don’t you worry!

I thought in order for me to really be able to share my life, you would have to understand weather patterns (or lack there of) in the Panhandle. So, if you’ve made it far enough to read this part, thank you! I will do my best to make it worth your time!

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The picture above is from a little over a month ago. We were headed towards a drought so bad we weren’t sure if we were going to even have wheat to cut or enough grass to graze our cattle. On March 3 the winds came a howling- with approximately 40 mph sustained winds and well over 50 mph gusts that day. we watched as dust turned the sky brown. and listened intently as wildfires ravaged a 4-state area burning just over 1 million acres in total. I could write a whole blog on just these fires, but I will leave that for another day. Now back to the sky being brown with dirt. That happens often here, in fact, a day that the winds are less than 25 mph is generally considered  fairly “calm.”

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You see, people in my little region are praying people. Even if we don’t attend a church service every Sunday or even really know if we believe- everyone seems to pray. After those fires, everyone prayed- not only for comfort and healing for the families, but for rain. We pray for rain out here almost every mealtime and bedtime prayer anyways, but after those fires- we prayed hard, even those who don’t pray often- and, I truly believe God heard. In the past 2 weeks we have received nice, soaking, slow rains a couple times a week. So far my house has received just over 4 inches of much needed rain. Our Wheat is finally popping up from the dirt, our pastures are finally starting to get a little hint of green to them. The spirits of everyone, not just the farm and ranch families are much more jolly- but we all know and understand, that we are just one windy day, one month of little to no moisture from being back in the same boat we were a few weeks ago. It’s our life- and strangely enough, I’ve grown to love it.

 

Now to the fun part. While a month ago we were fighting a losing battle against the elements, 90 degree weather, 40 mph wind, blowing dirt, and terrible fires- and now we’ve been blessed with rain and snow… yes, you read that right. Snow. I know it’s not uncommon for it to snow in April, but where you live is it ever 84 degrees on Monday, snow an inch and a half on Tuesday, be warm enough in the night that all the snow melts before 7:00 am Wednesday morning and be back to almost 70 degrees by Thursday? Well here things like that happen almost all the time.  Living in the Oklahoma Panhandle is kind of similar to living with a pregnant lady (or at least me as a pregnant lady). One second she’s happy and farting rainbows and when she sings the little forest animals gather around and all is perfect- the next second she’s literally the Devil’s wife out to destroy you, your dog, and steal the leftovers you were saving for yourself (If you don’t think that is the work of Satan, I don’t know if you should be on this blog), then the next second she’s crying happy, beautiful gentle tears. Living in the Panhandle is an adventure- because each day you have no idea what you’re going to wake up to (and don’t even rely on the meteorologists- they’re as bad at guessing the weather as the rest of us, they just get to do it on regional TV.) Pictured below are photos of our Tuesday snow and screenshot of today’s temperature.

Continue reading “Small Talk- Weather in the ‘Handle”

A Little Bit about Me

Hey guys!

I thought my first blog would just be a little “get to know me,” a little look into my life.

I am a full time “Jack of all Trades.” I am a housemaid, changer of diapers and official boo-boo kisser, an amateur chef, and a master of sarcasm. I’m also an employee at a local Extension Office, a 4-H volunteer, and a lover of animals, and a proud inhabitant of the Oklahoma Panhandle. I have a passion for agriculture and educating others about the industry that sustains not only my livelihood, but also the lives of the entire world. I grew up loving all things princess- aspiring to be a princess, (what little girl hasn’t at some point in her life) hence the name of my blog.

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My fairytale begins long before this point, but for the sake of time (and honestly, this isn’t an obituary) we will start where I met my “Prince” so to speak. (We never speak to each other that way- I almost cringe calling him that.) I met my husband, Nick as a freshman in college. He would tell you that I was a hard one to catch; but I would counter that there was an equal amount of cat and mouse games for both parties there for a while. Eventually fate would take its course and I would become the wife of a farmer on August 3, 2013. Before you get any ideas, I am not a city to country transplant. While my family did not farm, we were what I would consider a rural family. The town I grew up had around 300 inhabitants, with the only businesses being a gas station, a co-op, and a CPA Office. I grew up in FFA and the “Friday night lights” of the school’s basketball gym. I showed sheep, was active in all of my school’s extracurricular activities at one point or another (what few they had), and took great pride in being a “country kid” like small town kids generally do. I had a rather basic understanding of farming and what it took for those guys to make a living, but being married into a true “farming family”has opened my eyes to so many realities today’s farm and ranch families are facing that many people not directly involved in the industry will never fully know. This blog will give you a first hand account of our daily lives. Struggles, successes, and everything in between. Stay tuned!

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Aside from being married to my farmer, we introduced our sweet, ornery boy in the world on October 2nd, 2015, (14 days past his due date, I might add.) He was late arriving, and I have been late to literally everything since. Gage is the light to our lives, and already growing to love the “tombine,” ‘tratee,” “doney,” “tows,” “seeps,” and “boppies” (combine, tractor, donkey, cows, sheep, and puppies). Mama and Daddy couldn’t be more proud.

As a college student I worked as a scale operator, grain inspector (It’s really not as cool as it sounds), paper filer, basement cleaner, and “anything else that needs done person” at a local coop. While that was not my first job, that was the first job that I can say I really started to get a real glance into everything it takes to make a farm work. I watched farmers stand there in awe and frustration as they found out fertilizer or chemical prices had risen so high or as they watched the grain markets plummet. I took phone calls from landowners in California wanting to sell their grain- to find out they had about half as much to sell as they did last year due to crippling drought. I even watched as some farmers had to sell out. The cost of production was just far more than what they were making at the end. It was the first job I had that gave me an education to go along with the education I was paying for. Although it wasn’t always  rainbows, and I wasn’t always a fan of all my co-workers, I built some great bonds with some great people, and learned so, so much.

From there I took a job with a local extension office. Working with an office of only women was a little intimidating to me at first, I know how women can be, ya know. But this job has been a whole new education. I am the secretary- by no means a specialist or an agent, but I love my job. In the past two years I’ve learned even more about agriculture research, everything extension has to offer, as well as 4-H- which I have developed an even deeper passion for than I had before- who knew that could happen?!  Hopefully through some of my posts, you will get an idea of just how great Extension and 4-H truly are.

My blog will be a direct view through my eyes of life in the ‘handle. Some days will be just a run-down of our day-good or bad, sometimes it’ll be a recipe, other days it will be an opinion or something I feel strongly about. This blog will be a way for you to get to know me- and to live my “Rural Life Fairytale” right along with me.

love and joy,

Amber