Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food. We are currently not producing any products for sale.

Please follow the links in the top bar for more information on our products and their availability. Continue reading below for our blog where we detail the adventures of raisin' animals and whatnot.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Weathering Isaac - Pt 2

I woke with the dawn on Thursday morning and looked out our bedroom window. I didn't even recognize what I saw at first. Our bridge was under about 4ft of water, the creek that runs just behind the 1st pasture had topped its banks during the night and flooded our pasture! Even more alarming was realizing that the waters had reached our poultry pens. I shook Big Onion awake and we quickly threw on clothes and headed out back.

There was a good 1.5-2 ft of water flooding our pens closest to the creek. Big Onion came out of the silky pen with all four new chicks drowned. Bianca was such a good mother that she was trying to keep them warm even as the waters came up. Our poor little bantam chickens were barely able to keep their heads above water. We quickly bundled all three chickens in towels, dried them as best we could, and set them up in a raised cage in the poultry house.

The quail pen had some water, but I gave them some plastic pallets to climb on to get up out of the water and they seemed ok. When I went back to check on them later, the water had risen again and one quail had drowned. This was prompting enough for us to scoop up all 40+ birds and tuck them into another raised cage to dry off. Again there were a couple birds that seemed stiff and cold, but were soon back to normal once they got warm and dry. I have to hand it to those tiny birds, they never missed a stride through the whole thing. They stayed very calm, and many of the girls actually laid eggs while crammed into a rather tight space.

After losing one of the quail, we decided to just move all the rest of the birds out of the flooded pens. I think the chickens were happy to be on dry ground, but less than pleased that all 8 of them had to share one cage. They were also inexplicably terrified of the young Buff chicks in the next pen, all cowering in one corner of the cage behind their giant white rooster protector.

The adult turkeys and guineas were muddy and soggy, but their pens still had dry ground so they stayed put.

While all the other birds were doing their best to stay dry, the ducks and geese were pleased as punch with the pond we installed in their pen. They had 2 ft of water and were going to town splashing and playing in their new lake/pen.

In the morning, we tossed a wooden pallet in the pen just so they could get up and out of the water if they wanted. By afternoon when the waters just kept rising, we decided to move them to the relatively dry ground of the goat pen. Neither the ducks nor the goats were pleased with this decision.

Meanwhile, the wind kept blowing and the rain kept falling in waves. All day Wednesday we saw the poor sheep rushing out of their enclosed area whenever there was a break in the weather to get as much grazing as they could before the pouring rain would drive them back under cover. Thursday morning, their normal cover was under water so Big Onion walked them up near into goat pen, and we gave them some grain to eat.

 Well, after we moved the ducks up, we had to close the goat pen off to the sheep and just as we were headed back inside, it started to pour again. Pepper, our friendliest sheep, rain straight to us for help with the rest of the flock close at her heels. I did some fast thinking and with a call of "Sheep sheep!" led the girls into the nearby covered area where we keep the 4 wheeler. I was so amazed they followed me, even more amazed that they thought to turn to us for help in a time of crisis.

 Our second pasture beyond the trees under about 5-6ft of water. We would need a boat to get to the rest of our property.

You can actually see the current of water flowing into our pasture in some of these pictures.

One of the scariest things we saw checking out the flooding were these floating islands of red ants. They were also swarming all over the buildings. The surface of the water was also swarming with tiny little floating spiders. Big Onion and I came away with more insect bites than we could count every time we went out to check on everyone. We both ended up with angry red rings around our calves just at the point where our boots end.

Early in the afternoon we started hearing reports of a possible dam break in a major river that runs just a few miles from our house.  We had already spent the day plucking sodden distressed birds from the water and watching the water level in our pens go up and up. The radio was talking about mandatory evacuations and 17 ft of water. I'm not ashamed to admit I had more than one moment of panic that day. Big Onion and I talked about what we would do if we were forced to leave. Do we just open cages and pens and leave the birds and rabbits to fend for themselves? We talked about packing all the dogs and cats in his car and the goats into mine, moving the sheep to the higher ground of the backyard and just hoping we would have something to come back to.

I sat down with the handy deck of cards and started playing solitaire to keep myself busy while Big Onion tried to catch a little sleep. I kept telling myself if I could just win one game, just one game, everything would be ok. The power would come back and the water would go down. It took about 5 or 6 games, but I finally won one. I actually woke poor Big Onion up to say I had won at solitaire, everything would be ok! I kid you not, the words had barely come out of my mouth went the power blinked on! (Note from Big Onion: This is true. Creepy, but true!) We turned on the news and learned that we were too far away from the river for a dam break to effect us. Not long after that, the water levels started very slowly going down again.

By Friday morning, the creek was back within its banks and the bridge was miraculously still in place. We were left with a muddy, soggy mess of a barnyard. I actually had to go to work down in New Orleans, so poor Big Onion was left by himself to put new bedding down in all the pens and relocate the birds back where they belong. The last and biggest duck pen is still a mud pit so the waterfowl will be double bunking it for a while. We also have a lot of debris and fallen branches to clean up and some fences to repair. Unfortunately, my garden was all but destroyed. The corn, for sure, has seen much better days...

This picture was taken well after the storm had passed.

All in all I feel like we were extremely lucky. We lost a few young birds, but overall there was no major building damage, our house did not flood, and we came through unharmed with almost all of our animals healthy and safe. There is still a lot of work to do to get things back to normal, but I think we'll be ok.

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