Sunday, September 17, 2017

Irma Pays A Visit

NOAA map

A week ago today we were hunkering down as Hurricane Irma was afflicting Florida with her nastiness.  We had watched for a week as it moved through the islands gaining and losing strength and changing course repeatedly.  The news was full of potential paths she would take and how hard Florida would be hit once she arrived.  We took measures to prepare the house, property, animals and ourselves for the hurricanes arrival.  We chose not to evacuate and felt safe enough here since this property had already weathered extremely strong past hurricanes and held up.

Still taking care to remove everything that might take flight, to try to secure more vulnerable items or assist trees and plants that weren't as strong.  Including all my bananas, several that were finally bearing fruit along with some papayas that were heavy with ripening fruit.
Some of my bananas pre-Irma

Looking towards the food forest looks peaceful and lush

My wall I've been building out front for this planting bed had grown quite lush over the past few months.

The elephant ear bulbs I'd planted had all grown beautifully

Looking towards the driveway, we laid potted plants down to help protect them
My papaya in the banana circle with it's fruit

Custard apple also had a lot of fruit ripening on is

We added extra tarps to the chicken coops to keep some of the extra wind and rain from blowing in and then put stakes in the ground and ran wire over the top to prevent the winds from picking these up and breaking everything apart.
Main chicken coop with extra tarps and staked down. Not pretty, but effective

First rain squalls hitting coops

With stores out of plywood Kevin looked online for alternatives to protect the windows.  He found "hurricane curtains" for sale that are made from a heavy plastic covering and were rated for the intense winds.  With no time to order these he decided to be creative and make a version of his own.  He took the Tyvec Wrap we had and made lath frames that he wrapped several layers over and then attached these to the exterior of the house to give protection to our windows.

We moved potted plants closer to the house where they wouldn't be as exposed to winds.

Window for Lauren's room and plants tucked in close, those planted and in pots up close to the house

Windows in front

House and plants ready

Side garden with pvc structures taken down and only the shorter bases left

Garage, Cameron's shed room and the hoop house behind with our hydroponic systems in it ready. My cement for my planters covered and weighed down on the right

Courtyard in front of Cameron's room with the mixer and a few other items tucked in

We still had 3 of our chickens in a tractor, so we added extra tarps and like the main coops tied down with wire and stakes.
Chicken tractor before the storm

This is their tractor after the storm with tarps blown and bananas down around them, but they did fine

With all our supplies and water, along with extra fuel for cars and generators we kept an eye on the news as the hurricane moved into Florida early Sunday morning. All day long we watched as the path of the hurricane zig zagged and never stuck to the path they thought it would take.  By late afternoon the first rain squalls began here.

Rain coming down out back

Then around 8 p.m. the heavier winds began to hit.  The kids got a bit frightened with some of the initial winds and rain blasts, so we turned news off and put on praise music and gathered to pray as a family.  The kids settled down and even went to bed a couple hours later and slept through the real intensity of the storm.  Kevin and I kept vigil and watched again on the news the changing path this weird hurricane was taking.  For awhile we thought it would miss us with the worst of it, but then it moved over and around 3 am the corner of the eye came over our area with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts over 100 mph.  I watched from the small windows by the front door as the winds bent the trees and bamboo way over.  As branches flew around and could be heard hitting the house.

At 4 am we heard loud thuds on the side of the house that the garage is on.  Three of the six solar pool panels had let loose and were swinging back and forth.  We went out and while I tried to hold it steady Kevin took cutters to cut through the pipe so the remaining panels wouldn't be pulled off as well. We then had to separate the loose panels and get them on the ground then weigh them down so they wouldn't become airborne. Admittedly it was scary out there with the noise of the wind and all the flying debris.  I was glad to get this done and get back inside.

The worst of the winds past us around 4:30, but  we still had windy conditions until around 11 am on Monday.  With only about an hours sleep we went out to look around at the state of things on Monday.  Pine branches and boughs littered everything.
Debris that blew up against the front of the house.  My potted plants took a bit of a beating, but are still alive

Our driveway and front of the house covered in pine needles and boughs

Cameron's courtyard area after the storm

Garbage can area with fallen branches and the small holly tree down

Front of the house. Had to cut this papaya tree down.  Hated to do it since it made it through the storm with much of it's fruit in tact, but it was leaning too much and was too heavy to try to right.

My bananas were all gone, and papayas were damaged.  My barbados cherries and loquat tree were all leaning and needed to be pushed back into position with extra dirt added to hold them.

My poor bananas, chicken tractor there on the left

My large Cavendish banana that had just flowered

My pretty elephant ears pictured earlier before the storm looked like this after

The chicken coops had made it through, but the ground water level from Big Lake that's behind us had risen from the almost 10 inches of rain we got and there was about 6 inches of standing water in the coops. We began to take the fallen pine boughs and put them on the floor to give them some dry ground to walk around on so they didn't have to stay on the roosting bar all day.
With the exception of the coops top panel piece, everything stayed in tact. It's a mucky mess around there, but that will dry

Coop floor with mud and water.  We've covered this now with pine needles

As I walked around looking at the damage, I was so thankful to still have electricity. We lost power during hurricane Matthew for 4 days. And despite the intensity of this storm we were fortunate to only have minor damage of the loss of the solar panels and a couple of screen panels from the pool enclosure. Everything else was debris from plants and trees, and though all my bananas were gone and I had to cut down some of my papayas, these will grow back.

Our vehicles had branches and pine needles all around, but thankfully no damage

After working in the yard a bit I walked back towards the house and saw this rainbow in the sky.  I'll take it as a sign of protection and promise.

Sun rise after the storm

So now after a week, with internet service back I can post this and say the clean up still continues. I'm paying attention to which trees and plants faired best and keeping this in mind as I plan more landscape ideas and their placement for the future. We're also keeping our eye on the news as other hurricanes still loom out there with the possibility of affecting us. We'll take this as it comes and keep on keeping on with our little homestead.

Hot and messy as we clean up, but happy overall