When we first told our family that we were hitchin’ the wagon and moving to Iowa, my grandpa gave me a bit of elderly wisdom.
“Iowa,” he said. “They have weather in Iowa.”
I didn’t know exactly what he meant. I mean, I’d been traveling back and forth between Iowa and Oregon for several years with my job, and so I had an inkling about the kind of weather Iowa has. But you can hear all the stories about tornadoes and blizzards and not really understand the power they can bear until you’ve actually experienced one.
We got our first real taste of the unpredictability of Iowa weather last April when our property was hit by straight line winds.
Never heard of straight line winds? They are very similar in force to a tornado. However, instead of a funnel they hit with a down burst of wind and flatten everything in their path in a straight line.
The April storm only lasted a few minutes but it was enough to send my family to the basement (well, except me and the dogs who stood moronically at the back door watching through the window), uproot trees and shred the shingles off our roof. Several of the farms around us lost hog and hay buildings.
To make the event even more bizarre, the winds shifted after the storm rampaged through and the next day blew in a blizzard. Yup. Iowa has weather.
We learned a few things after this experience. We were simply under prepared. We had skated through a couple marginally uneventful springs and winters and had allowed ourselves to grow complacent about the possibility of a serious threat.
So how do you prepare for the worst on the homestead?
Have a plan for the big things
Make sure everyone knows the plan. Where does everyone need to go during a tornado? What do you do in case of fire? Rehearse these plans. Write them down and put them where everyone can find them.
Put together an emergency kit
Ours includes flashlights (out of reach of our kids, who love to use flashlights for everything), batteries, candles, lighter, medical kit and a NOAA radio. We just bought a fire extinguisher, which will be easily accessible.
What if the electricity goes out?
Do you have a backup generator? Enough wood for the woodstove? Think about the worst case scenario, and plan for it. No heat in the middle of the winter…are you prepared?
Secure the animals
Now that we have more animals, I think often about what we will do to make sure they are safe in a weather emergency. Make sure chickens are safe from falling trees or limbs. Pigs and goats should have strong fencing. Can they escape the property if the primary fencing is compromised? Getting pigs out of the neighbors corn field would be almost impossible for us. Animals also need a place to retreat from the storm and a backup source for clean water.
Communicate with the neighbors
Our closest neighbors are about a half mile away. But if disaster hits our community I want to make sure I’m able to help when needed. Consider setting up a local communication hub where neighbors can reach out to each other if they need help. Collect email addresses and phone numbers, and hand yours out. When a tree goes down it’s nice to have a few helping hands with chainsaws. In Iowa, we’ll often drive around the community after a storm just to see who might need help with something. Stay connected!
Make sure your insurance is good enough
Our roof was shredded during the April storm, but we got a brand new roof out of it. Insurance covered it all. But I’ve been in situations where the furnace went out in the middle of the night and the plumbing froze, then burst, and our insurance didn’t cover it due to a loophole in the policy. This would be a good time to review your insurance policy and make sure you’re covered properly. What about your outbuildings? What about possessions on the homestead? Try to minimize as much risk as possible.
Inspect the house and property
Thoroughly inspecting the property at least once a year is a good way to identify any issues that might need to be addressed. Is there old wiring in the house or barn? Thousands of buildings are lost every year due to faulty wiring. Is the plumbing updated? What about the tin roof on the hog shed? Walk the property, check each room in the house, and write down what you see. Then plan to address accordingly.
Food and water storage
This should be where we homesteaders and preppers shine, right? Keep your pantry, basement or cellar stocked with canned goods and lots of clean water.
In the end, after all is done that can be humanly done to prepare for disaster, we still can only control very little. Mother nature is unpredictable. Accidents happen. I absolutely believe that God was watching over my family during that April storm. We need to be responsible with our lives, but it gives me great comfort to know that our lives are ultimately in His hands if we are faithfully connected to Him.
Is your homestead prepared?