Friday, May 27, 2011

Flooded Bees

Friday, May 27, 2011

The sun is trying to break through this morning and although it's only 9:30, I feel as if I have been up for a full day. Last night at 7 PM the National Weather Forecast made an emergency announcement for parts of Vermont. It included a tornado warning and indicated that the storm was currently in Roxbury and was traveling east at 40 mph. Roxbury is 10 miles from Northfield which is 12 miles from Montpelier which is 20 miles from Vermont Flower Farm. Even though these are "crow flies" distances, I figured the storm would be here between 7:45 and 8 PM. The storm arrived in full fury at 8:10 and continued with pouring rain. When you see rain coming off your standing seam roof and shooting out 12 feek away from the "V", you know it's raining. I nodded off at midnight, three hours after the electricity went off. At 1 and 3 AM when I awoke, the storm was still pounding but the high winds never materialized.

This morning at 5 I headed for the nursery. Traveling down Route 232 suggested things would not be good at the nursery. The road was covered in places with gravel, running water and tree limbs and logs. Still no electricity. Around the corner at Creamery Street the traffic was stopped as trucks challenged water crossing Route 2. My neighbors Gerry and Duane were walking down Rt 2 looking at the water and the damage and as I rolled down the window, Gerry commented that things were not looking good for my bees. Duane, a beekeeper for years thought they were history since the hive had almost been under water. I moved on.

As I stopped to open the gate, the nursery looked different. To my left looking towards the village I saw our port-a-potty floating in a pond that was 6 feet deep. The daylily field, the hosta display garden, one rototiller--all were under water. As I walked the "shore" I could see that the water had dropped 4-5 feet since the rain had stopped and that was a good sign. Then I noticed the snowmobile bridge from the village. It now bordered what used to be my fence line.

Everyone is not fortunate to have good neighbors but Gail and I are really lucky at our house and at our nursery. Gerry pulled off his boots and walked into the water to help save the toilet as we both joked about the new vocational prospects we shared. I tied the port-a-potty to an apple tree and got on to the next chore. My neighbors were there to help.

Out back my pump house was 2 feet from the roaring river. I gathered my tools and for the sake of time, sawed off the pipes, disconnected the 220 electric and dragged the pump and tank up the bank to the tractor. Another problem averted for the moment at least. Then I moved all my equipment higher up the hill and headed to check the bees.

The water mark on the hive gave no hope that the bees were alive. The only hope was that they got into the second story and somehow by miracle the queen had climbed as the water in the hive rose. Not a good sign for a beekeeper in his second day. I lifted the top and found an angry mass of bees that had either climbed or floated to the top. I replaced the top and headed for home. Maybe, just maybe there was hope. I needed to find them a new location.

My neighbor Kim was on the road as I pulled in our drive. I asked if he could help me move the hive. He headed for tools and I grabbed a flashlight and headed down stairs for strapping material to screw the hive together for transport. Thankfully, our cellar was dry. Back at the nursery we blocked the entrance and then screwed strapping to each side of the hive to keep the supers from shifting. The sound of bees was noticeable and they were no more pleased with the day than me. As we loaded the hive on the truck, one bee nailed Kim on the leg as we left for home.

10 AM now. A helicopter just flew over surveying damage. The phone is working and people are calling for reports and whether the road is open and does the store have coffee ready yet. Some folks amaze me. Gail is packing the truck to head to the nursery and begin putting things back in place. I'm going to rest for a while and go down later when the water drops. The hosta garden I have worked on for 4 years will be missing some plants as the water cut a new course and I suspect all my latest plantings--almost a hundred this week, are probably gone. But here's the news about this all. Yes, we may have lost our bees and some flowers. The tiller will have to be drained and cleaned up but it will run again. The pump house will need to be restored but for now, there is no need for water anyway. Our retail area is in great shape and all other equipment is fine. Route 2 will probably reopen by late today or tomorrow and things will get back to normal. Like some in the area, we didn't loose that much. Admittedly I hate doing fencing and there is at least 400 feet that is missing and needs replacement. But there was no loss of housing or property or life like in other parts of the US. Karl the Wonder Dog was up all night during the storm but he is fine now and is sleeping soundly. As I have heard some Vermonters say "We done good." There's a ton of work to do but farmers are resilient. They have no choice, they have to be.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's 67° and calm. Another storm is approaching for tonight but for now, we are ok. Hope you are too.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm


Andrée said...

I'm so sorry. I hope you, your business and your bees recover soon. This is awful.

Cherdecor said...

I am sorry for your loss. I am going to give you a little love link so other people can read about
the storm that came your way.

This may have been the storm that brushed by us by only blowing my garbage cans to the top of the street and bringing their tree limbs down to my lawn. There was some circular activity going on there.

May the bee hives dry out and your plants survive.