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Clean Up and Rebuilding

Posted 7/11/2012 3:12pm by Renae Schlatter.

It's been 12 days now since the storm swept through and created all kinds of havoc. We were so thankful to get power back on day five. Those were some stressful and very hot five days. A huge thank you to the linemen who worked 14 hour days plus in extreme heat to get power restored. We are thankful that we now know how big of a generator we really need to run the farm in case of an emergency. We started out with a 20kW generator that we've had for about 30 years. When we started hearing that the power outages were going to last more than overnight, we started brainstorming about how we were going to handle it. The 20kW was just not big enough. It was hardly enough to get the milking motors going, let alone run all of our cooling units with the meats and cheeses. At first we were playing hot breaker and switching breakers on and off to keep things going without overloading the generator. We made contact with my Uncle in Eastern, OH, who is also a dairy farmer, and he had a 50kW that we could use. He was kind enough to meet us half way with it. That came on Saturday evening. We soon switched generators and got things humming again. Sunday afternoon I had a wedding to attend (yes, a wedding and reception run by a line of tractors and generators...one for the record books I believe!) and when I got home I noticed I could hear the birds, which was strange because the tractor running the generator was a constant 24/7 noise. Well, we had too many things going and it was too hot and the generator quit on us. So, they had to hook our 20kW back up to milk that evening. One of the perks about being in our business is the personal contact with your customers and building relationships with them. Sunday night we didn't know what to do because, again, we needed more power to keep things going and cool. I was able to text one of our customers in Archbold, who was not hit by the storm as much as we were, and asked if he had any connections where we could locate a larger generator. One of his friends happens to work at a rental business and he checked, but low and behold, all of their generators were rented out. But, this friend of our customer knew a farmer in Southern Michigan who he was sure had a generator. Sure enough. He had either at least a 50kW PTO driven single phase generator, or a 100kW 3 phase stand alone unit. Unfortunately the farm isn't 3 phase compatible, but we were able to rent the 50kW from him. Early Monday morning a trek was made to Southern MI and a generator was obtained! Our electrician came out when we got it home (for the who knows how many times since Friday!) and was going to help hook it up. Well, it was something just a little different and rather than unhook what was already running he thought he would take it over to Ralph's cousin, also a dairy farmer, and try it with his tractor. They went over and the generator they had been using had just quit on them. So, they hook up the 50kW and it seems to work fine for them...but where does that leave us? In about three hours the cousins were able to fix their generator and brought the 50kW back to us. Our electrician came again and got it jerry rigged up, and we say, and we were humming away with 50kW's! Whew! To bring an end to this saga, the generator lasted us until our power came back on. By this time we had at least two more generators we had located privately on standby if we needed. On Wednesday, another customer from Toledo had given us a number to call for a rental up that way for a stand alone unit, because by this time our tractor had been running to power the generator almost full throttle for just about five days. Since Wednesday was the 4th we decided we would call the rental first thing Thursday morning. Thankfully we never had to make that phone call because around 8:30 Wednesday night the power was live again! Let me tell you, that was an exciting moment! We were all threatening to celebrate when we did get power, but by that time we were so exhausted we just stayed put! What we did do was put two window A/C units in our upstairs so we could sleep that night in somewhat coolness. That was an intensely hot week and by Thursday or Friday I heard that there had been 10 days in a row that were 90 degrees or above. Triple digits were the norm those days. So, the whole experience will not soon be forgotten.

Our next item of business was to start the rebuilding process. We had a group of 3 week old chicks in the brooder that needed to be moved out to the pasture, but no longer had any pens to move them to. We were and are so humbled by all of the support shown to us through this by our amazing customers. Some of them were asking how they could help and it ended up that since Wednesday was a holiday, and many of them had off work, a group came out to the farm and helped with rebuilding. My oldest brother is a small business owner down on the Northwest side of Columbus, but still keeps up with us on the farm. He walked in as we were eating breakfast Wednesday was soon appointed to project coordinator and delegator! The cars started pulling in with eager volunteers and they just kept coming. In all we had about 38 volunteers that day who put in a total of about 122 hours. Wow! That's not something you witness very often, but as I said, a truly humbling experience for us. It was a hot day, and the guys were out there sweating up a storm and accomplished a lot! At the end of the day they had replaced the eggmobile roof, mended two chicken pens, completed four new chicken pens and had the fifth one framed, and had taken apart the lean-to roof and demolished and organized the scrap from the damaged chicken pens. What a great group! Of course we needed lunch and a group of ladies were my helpers in the kitchen. Actually, they really did everything as I think I ran around all morning like a crazy lady. Sheila was in charge of the water brigade and made sure everyone stayed hydrated. 

One of the first jobs was completing the demolition of the lean-to roof that was back in the woods and the chicken pens.

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And just a plug for the Bobcat Loader in the above picture....quite possibly the most important piece of machinery ever to grace this farm. Just sayin!

There's my brother in the red shirt who was chief organizer and delegator. He did a great job at making sure everyone had a job and getting things done!

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Taking apart chicken pens.

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And yet more demolition.

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This crew cleaned up around the greenhouse. The tarp is now history with plans of recovering it this fall.

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This is the eggmobile reroofing crew. My cousin from Iowa came out and helped for four days and he was in charge of this project.

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The eggmobile crew gets a visit from the water brigade; Sheila and two of her grandsons.

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These guys were working on repairing one of the remaining pens that still had some chickens in it.

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This was the beginning of the new chicken pens. They framed the pens up in the shop and then moved them out to finish.

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Great kitchen crew! They worked with no lights on, no A/C, and no hot water, and no complaining! They made a great spread.

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Once the pens got framed up they put chicken wire around them and aluminum on the back half and finished up the other details.

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Amazing workers! It was at least 100 degrees that afternoon.

 

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Stringing the final wires across the bottom and attaching the handles.

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That's a summary of the day in pictures. We can't thank those of you who came enough for your work that day. You have no idea what that did for our morale at that point. We feel so blessed to have such a great group of customers. Even if you weren't here that day, your help in many other ways was greatly appreciated. Just by being our customer you are helping us out. If it weren't for you we wouldn't have any reason to farm as we are.

We are getting back on our feet now and are thankful for all of the support we have felt and experienced.

-Renae