Friday, August 10, 2012
Stone Cold Bitch
The last weekend was vintage Virginia August.
Hot, muggy, but with a persistent breeze that tousled the trees and kept things from getting too miserable. By mid-day Sunday, the haze had thickened and the skies to the west were darkening. Around three, the first rumbles of thunder came from far off.
By four, the air quieted and stilled; the proverbial calm before the storm. A few drops of rain fell here and there, then the wind began to pick up as did the rain, in unison. The rain began to spray, sudden intense sheet of fine droplets that sounded like sand scouring the windows and skylights.
The group of us sat nearly mute in the dim greatroom—not quite cowering, listening intently to the rising storm. A bright flash of lightning, immediate smash of thunder, wind tosses the lawn furniture across the grass, and a loud thud, as of something hitting the house.
Then the wind diminishes as quickly as it arose, the rain becomes more gentle and steady, and the sky slowly lightens. I venture outside to inspect the aftermath, and am relieved to see no apparent damage to the house or any of the buildings.
But my goodness there is a lot of cleanup to be done.
The major limb of a wild cherry sprawls across the fence line of the summer chicken yard, mercifully falling where the fence was already damaged. A tall pine leans lazily across the driveway into the embrace of one of its comrades. The crown of a massive tree snapped off, taking two other trees with it into a tangled mess of oak, cedar and ash that thoroughly blocked the lane.
But the best is yet to come.
In the back yard, it is hard to count the number of trees downed or damaged, but I will try. Live pines, felled or mortally damaged: five; dead pines downed or broken, three; deciduous trees broken: one, a poplar missing half a stem; collateral damage: the large apple tree, struck by a fallen short-needle pine—the pine is still there, so we cannot assess the damage; numerous other trees still concealed amidst the wreckage of their comrades; at least two massive snags still suspended in the air menacingly.
The first order of business is to remove the upper half of the pine that snapped and smashed the west gate to splinters, coming to rest on House #2. Amazingly, though it bent the fence and pulled the fence posts askew, it appears to have done no harm to the chicken house, not even budging it from its cinderblock foundation. The birds are all safe.
There is more rough weather anticipated for the days to come. It will take weeks—probably months—to clean up wood that fell in those fifteen seconds. Some of it will be gathered and tossed on the pile waiting to be bucked to firewood. Some will be chipped for mulch or cut to lengths to be used as borders. Some will be burned, neither fit for any other purposes nor worth the trouble. Some will be left to rot where it fell, to return to the meager skin of soil stretched across these rock ribs.
This is not what we had planned to do this weekend. But you know, sometimes Mother Nature can just be a stone cold bitch.