Well, we made it through Hurricane Irma after sheltering in-place. We did not have any significant damage. The worst that happened was the metal cover over our ag well was peeled back like the lid on a sardine can. We have a lot of uprooted bushes/plants, and a tree down over one of our fencelines. Our neighbors’ metal roofed outbuildings lost part of their roofs. Our power was out from Sunday night to Thursday evening, but we have a generator. We were without air conditioning in 100 degree heat, but we fared okay.

The eye of Irma actually went right over the top of us as a Category 1. We were very fortunate that the storm lost a lot of energy before it got this far north. It was still terrifying because I’ve never experienced hurricane force winds before, and I didn’t have a baseline to be able to tell how bad things actually were. Hence, I stayed up all night gnawing my fingernails and worrying over everything.

I tried loading the big rams, Tzatziki and Coon, and their wether, Badger, into the jug in the garage (see  #Irma – Sheltering In-Place With Livestock) early on Sunday morning before the storm hit, but after having them in there for 8 hours, I realized it wasn’t going to work. With only three sheep in the garage, the heat they were giving off was horrific as soon as I shut the side door. I also realized that there wasn’t enough room for the whole flock as I needed to keep them separated (we are not breeding this year). So, I had to make the hard decision to put the rams back out in their pasture. All the sheep at Sandhill Flats would have to ride out Irma outside.

Turns out it was the best thing I could do for them! Two of the ewes were in heat during the storm. If I had put my entire microflock of sheep in the garage, the rams would have fought each other until they were in a bloody pulp, I’m sure. 

I worried all Sunday night during Irma that the sheeps’ little wooden shelters with metal roofs were being pulled apart by the wind. (I could hear sheet metal flapping in the wind during lulls. Quite eerie.) I worried that the sheep were too tired to stand and were hypothermic after 12 hours of tropical storm force winds or greater. I worried that the roof of the house would peel back. I worried about debris or sheet metal hitting the windows and breaking them, since we didn’t board up. (I could hear trees breaking and snapping outside.) I worried about how hard the floor of the house was shaking due to the winds buffeting the house. The front door shrieked and whistled all night long, in chorus with the growling of one of my big male cats as he crouched in the cat carrier next to me in our small windowless storm room.

I put all of the cats (except one I couldn’t catch – she weathered Irma in the garage) in cat carriers and put them in the storm room beforehand. I didn’t have enough carriers, so there were two cats that had to go into one carrier. Turns out that male cat was suffering from the heat (power was out and no air conditioning) being packed in there with the other cat, and was nauseated and pissed. So, he growled all night.

As soon as the wind started dying down in the early hours of the morning, I let the outdoor cats back out into the garage, let loose two more in the master bedroom, and then had to wait to let the other two out until the neighbors left with their dog. The cats all did fine in the end and recovered well.

At daybreak, I went out into the yard, and with barely enough daylight I could see what I thought were white birds in the pasture amongst the grass. I called for the sheep. Turns out those “birds” were the very clean backs of sheep, huddled down in between large hillocks of grass! When they got tired, they must have just laid down in the shelter of the tall grass. In the end, the sheep came out all fluffy, clean, and white! They had a very good bath and were no worse for the wear. Sheep are so resilient! 

The horse was frisky, unhurt, and ready for her grain. And the chickens were completely oblivious to what happened as they spent the night in the garage in the sheep jug! We were blessed to come out of Irma safe and sound.

Our biggest problem now is the river… The river hit major flood stage this morning. We are waiting to see if our pasture will flood and how far the water will rise. It will be a slow flood, as the river has been rising at the rate of about half a foot per day. There is no crest forecast for the river yet. We are 3.5 feet from the record 20 foot flood of 1933, which is what our flood plain is based on. Stay tuned!