Ice Storm Aftermath

 

 

Bear On Ice

Bear … my port in a storm …

Late last week the worst ice storm in recent memory rolled through our area about an hour northwest of Toronto. Downed power lines disrupted hydro service for several days to thousands of people in the local towns and on farms and other rural properties. Trees, large and small, succumbed to the 20mm of ice accretion that accumulated over a 36-hour period. The impact was nothing short of tornadic. 

What’s accretion, you may ask? Take a look …

Cherries Choked

It twinkles like tinsel in the sunlight and gives everything that sparkly Christmas card look, but its effects are deadly. Imagine trees and power lines straining under the enormous weight of cumulative ice over an extended period time until they finally reach a breaking point. Until temperatures rise again the world is a virtual skating rink.

Accretions

The meteorological masterminds warned on Wednesday that the storm was coming. Of course, all we in the valley hoped they were wrong … as they are so often. Alas …
Down

… as I understand it a Colorado low moved into southern Ontario on Wednesday and clashed with cold winds from the northwest. They butted heads the hardest on Thursday night into Friday which is when all frozen hell broke loose.

Red Wagon

 

Fortunately no people or horses were hurt on our farm, and there was no major structural damage. However, the stress of this brutal weather event played out in other ways. No power meant no water which, with a barn full of horses, is a bit of a problem. Only one water pump out by the paddocks was functional (by force of gravity, we figure), which meant that water had to be manually fetched by bucket for the duration. And not just for the barn, for the housing on the property, as well.

Tree debris was also a major problem. Volunteers, and paid help, came in to clear the high traffic areas cluttered with the fallen willows, maples, birches and pines that had met their icy match.

Words cannot express our gratitude to everyone who pitched in to get the farm through that first difficult day. Due to road closures and icy conditions for most of the day and the fact we live 45 minutes away we weren’t able to help. I would have been useless anyway, as I awoke that morning with a splitting headache which signalled a tipping point for a full-blown adrenal fatigue meltdown if I wasn’t careful.

Weeping Willow

A Long Walk

Saturday presented the first opportunity for my husband and I to walk the property and view the extent of the damage. It was quite disorienting to see the farm in such disarray. Numerous large trees had lost sturdy branches or were completely snapped in half. The hacking trail along the east side of the 20-acre woodland was impassable due to the number of trees that had fallen across the path and into the paddock fence.

One Big Tree

 

As we walked past the ice-laden woods the tinkling and crashing of icicles in frozen symphonic waves snapped, crackled and popped in the air. On every level the scene was so surreal. If ever there was an example of devastating beauty, this was it.

Broken Pine

As we investigated another paddock bordered by conifers the scent of distressed pine permeated the air. The fragrance of Christmas a strange counterpoint to a vision of random destruction.

Crushed

This small garden shed, and a car, took direct hits. Neither were seriously damaged.

Frosted

Living the Dream

Farm ownership is new to us, and I don’t mind telling you that since we took possession of this beautiful property last August it has come with a steep, and expensive, learning curve. We knew the facility had good bones when we bought it, and the grounds appeared, on the surface, to be well kept. However we have since realized that neither was terribly well maintained and we’ve had to invest heavily in repairs and renovations and excavations. Some of this we knew going in. But in the heat of August you don’t expect to find out in a November cold snap that the heating system doesn’t work. And in the dog days of summer you don’t anticipate the barn is going to get flooded in the heavy rains of autumn.

Buyer beware, I suppose. On the one hand I look at these unexpected obstacles as opportunities to get to know the property better while I work to build my equine experiential learning practice. On the other, I just shake my head in wonder.

Acquiring the farm required an enormous leap of faith and was the culmination of a mutual life-long dream to have a place in the country and build a custom home. We are in love with the land and its rolling hills, its lovely woodland, the wildlife and the spiritual peace we feel there. We want to be good stewards of the land; to share it with others who will truly appreciate its beauty, and honour its healing sanctuary. Still, even dreams shape-shift ~ the winds of change blow through offering fresh and unexpected perspective. The challenge is to rise to the occasion and give ourselves permission to see with new eyes. To move beyond the initial disorientation, and locate the silver lining.

Even now as I process our losses and the implications the clean up will have on our budget, I am searching for that silver lining. This requires an open heart and mind, as well as a good deal of faith and patience. I need to continue to live in the moment without being distracted by the drama around me. I need to accept the unexpected and roll with the punches, believing that “everything will be alright in the end ~ and if it isn’t alright it isn’t yet the end.” (Thank you Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for that great quote.)

Frosted Fenceline

 

The Crooked, Old Maple

To finish, an anecdote …

Yesterday, Abbey and I took a short walk to visit the stumpy remains of a crooked, old maple of which I had become rather fond over the months. I wanted a closer look at it as we’ve been thinking about getting a local wood carver to sculpt new life into it.  A sort of memorial, I suppose ~ perhaps a rearing horse to symbolize our rising up to meet the challenge of this new path.

As I stood beside the tree stump, which stopped about two feet above my head, I had the urge to hug it. (Yes, I hug trees.) As I held on tightly, I felt droplets of water falling on my face. I looked up to the hovering branches of the surrounding trees, but there was no moisture there. And then I took a closer look at the torn open trunk above my head. Tears of maple sap were trickling down its craggy bark, as if it was weeping. My eyes welled up as I realized this perfectly healthy tree, so cruelly cut down, was still reaching out for life.

I wiped away one of its sugar tears with my hand, and tasted it, its subtle sweetness bringing both joy and sadness. Suddenly the tree’s fate as a wood carving didn’t feel so certain. What could be done to help this traumatized old soul?

The Crooked Maple

Before … the crooked old tree is second on the left

Broken Maple

After … the crooked old tree is gone …

A friend has suggested that if the root system is healthy (which it probably is) it may be worth trimming and sealing the tree so it can find its way back. I notice there are some remaining shoots on the trunk higher up which might flourish under the right conditions. I’ll consult an arborist. If in the end our efforts fail we will, at least, know that we gave the crooked old maple a fighting chance.

Unknown-1

Call me a sentimental old fool, if you will, but I have a soft spot for the tall, leafy things. The extensive variety of trees was one of the reasons we fell in love with the property in the first place. I hugged that tree yesterday out of a sense of despair, and yet in its traumatic state it ushered in me a sense of hope and healing. I feel I must do what I can to help it.

In the meantime, we begin the clean up. No small task as we have to hire a tree removal service to help and get the insurance company involved. Fallen branches will become wood chips (which, ironically enough, I was sourcing through a third-party last week) for trail paths and my work pen. Fallen trunks will become firewood. Maybe we can save a maple trunk for a harvest table down the road. Or use the larger trunks for some other creative purpose. Who knows?

All I know for certain is that one of the most important things we can do in life is nurture what we love …

Dorothy
Horse Mom

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

The Cream-Coloured Pony

When I was 12 years old I wanted a cream-coloured pony.

In fact, the first horse I ever begged my mother to buy for me was a palomino named Cloud. He was the most beautiful pony I’d ever seen, with his flaxen mane and tail and rich golden coat, and though he also had the bumpiest and thus most uncomfortable trot to sit to he was still, in my pre-teen mind, the most perfect pony I could possibly imagine.

Like many horse-crazy city girls, I dreamt of bringing my favourite pony home, in my case to our 1920s bricks and mortar semi-detached house in North London.

I had it all planned out. The tool shed located on the edge of the carport and which barely held a wheel barrow and a few garden tools, would be his stall. The fact that it was too small was of no consequence. Somehow I would just make it work.

Grazing was a bit of an issue, as our little pie-shaped garden had only a small patch of grass that the dogs actually used for … you know … but this didn’t seem to matter either. Within five minutes walking distance of our house was a lovely big park. In my free imagination I would take him there where he could eat grass all day long under my careful supervision. (Not surprisingly school never seemed to interfere with my dream.) Then I would ride him around the perimeter of this large park named after a king, jumping the occasional bench or playground apparatus, and pole bending around the lines of ancient elms and oaks.

Then Cloud and I would walk the short distance home, along the main road and down the broken path to our street, and I’d put him comfortably away in his makeshift stall with a yummy meal of … well, I never actually got that far in my imaginary plan. It was enough just to know he was there and we were together.

Well, sadly, life with Cloud remained a figment of my imagination that faded with time. It was a sad day when he traveled down the lane in a horse box to his new home. I got over it, of course, but you know, girls and their dreams. They never really forget them … they just get stored away.

So, fast forward to this past March (um … many, many years later …. truthfully decades) when, to my total glee this lovely palomino boy arrived at our barn for a short-term stay. The little girl in me, complete with the Cloud file that had been stored in memory all these years, bubbled to life.

This five-year-old horse was Cloud all over again, and I was smitten.

But not without an undercurrent of guilt. Was I betraying my beautiful Bear while indulging in an old memory of the dream pony of my youth as awakened by this passing Cloud?

This may sound silly, but it’s important to note that horses do get jealous. Bear has chased his paddock buddy, Sam, away from my proximity on many occasions when I’ve visited them by the gate. He is jealous of my attention and doesn’t take kindly to interlopers.

So, yes, that I had given even a tiny speck of my heart to this dreamy, creamy phenomenon had left me feeling a little wanting, especially when I caught myself mindlessly conspiring how I might find the funds to purchase him and then convince the owner to sell him to me.

Evidently the 12-year-old is still alive and well and reeking imaginary havoc.

Then, one day, as was foretold, this golden boy moved to another barn, and with his departure my pre-occupation with an old dream dissolved into faded memory once more .

I don’t believe Bear ever caught wind of this brief flight of fancy, but who can say for sure. Horses know when they aren’t the centre of your world. I’m thinking he got his own back in July. That, however, is a story for another day.

Truth be told, I’ll keep my real-life beautiful bay over a cream-coloured pony dream any day.

Nurture what you love …

Dorothy 🙂
Horse Mom

Copyright Aimwell CreativeWorks 2012