The smoke, the storm, the flood


Beau is a man who needs his sunshine.  So you might say the last week has been a challenging one.

First came the smoke.  It’s been here for a week now, drifting down from a Canadian fire and settling eerily over Porcupine Creek.

Then, on Monday night, the storm the prognosticators had been predicting came in.  For about 36 hours, the wind howled and it rained hard.  It even snowed, though not much of the snow stuck around here at our low elevation (other folks higher than us reported two feet; we can still see snow on the Yellowstone-Missouri divide to the north of us).  By the end of the show, our rain gauge tallied 2 inches of moisture… though the snow was blowing in sideways, so a lot of the snow moisture probably wasn’t measurable.

If memory serves me correctly, it seems like this was one of the more intense and unrelenting storms I’ve seen in my lifetime.

In the middle of the storm, our AI’d heifers that missed the first heat cycle and bred up in the second cycle starting calving.  We have been calving heifers for, oh, a little over a month… and still have half of them to go.

Unfortunately, a heifer doesn’t know not to deliver her calf in a puddle.  But then, as the rain pelted downward and the creek rose upward, most of their pasture was a puddle.  A record number of heifers for this year calved that day… and it was a tough day for all of us.  The kids and I remained hunkered down in the house as Beau slogged through the mud out there (though Asher did go out to patrol the yard a time or two in his snow bibs).  The power flashed continually and finally did go off for a couple hours.  Just as we were preparing to relocate the whole family to the bunkhouse, where there is a wood stove, the lights came back on.  (Two other PV cow camps, both south of Sumatra, were out of power for three days.  It sounds like our coworkers at those two camps buckled down and handled things very well the old-fashioned way.)

The storm finally held up early Wednesday morning.  It wasn’t long ’til the creek meadows started to fill with flood water.  The pictures above and below were taken from our back door.  As you can see, our little house is right here on the edge of the only swamp in Eastern Montana.  It’s a man-made swamp, created through a series of dikes and dams on Porcupine, and I think it turned the creek into something that wasn’t originally intended.  The dead trees and cattails which abound are the result of previous floods.  This swamp is a continual blight on the views out my windows, but I try to look past it to the green grass which you can practically hear growing these days:



Of course, a Blake kid can’t be surrounded by water without wanting to get in it.  By Wednesday evening it was nice enough for me and the kids to venture out for fresh air.  This fence brace is at the southwest corner of our yard:


And this meadow is north of our yard:


They really, really wanted to get in… so I let them go as deep as their rain boots would allow:



Marsielle had to stay in the backpack on my back, but she was sad because she really, really wanted to be doing what the big kids were doing:


By Thursday afternoon the water was going down, and Beau decided it was warm enough for the kids to take their shirts off and get wet:


Even Marsielle.


Those couple hours of sunshine on Thursday really lifted everyone’s spirits.  We even took a little drive down the county road to see if Porcupine Creek was running across the road.  And it was:


This is our only way to town, but we weren’t planning to go to town anyway.  And we could’ve made it through in an emergency… after all, the Schwan’s man did.  He pulled up to our house on Thursday and said he’d had to ford three creeks to get to us.  Good thing, too — we were out of ice cream.

We have to be thankful for the moisture.  As I remind Beau, you can never not appreciate moisture here in Eastern Montana, no matter how it comes.  No matter how inconvenient it is.  No matter how much you wish the sun would just shine.  Because this moisture has filled the reservoirs with water and guaranteed enough grass to get us through another year.

Two more coincidental issues leading to a lack of light this week:  the electricity in one of our two bathrooms hasn’t been working for about eight days.  Beau’s checked everything he can think of — it’s not the lightbulbs, it’s not the breaker — so the next step is climbing into the crawl space to figure out what’s going on.  (He’s really looking forward to that.)  In the meantime, the living room lamp is in the (windowless) bathroom, leaving the living room shadowy.

Additionally, our old behemoth of a hand-me-down TV quit last week.  So… we have not only survived an impressive spring storm sandwiched by windy, cloudy, smoky days… with driving rain and muddy conditions making it impossible for the kids to get outside much…

… but we have done it without TV.

(Patting myself on the back now for being an authentic Prairie Mom.)

© Tami Blake

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