Oh, hail

We’ve had a rough few days here, weather-wise. Several rounds of storms brought around 5″ of rain early in the week, followed by a brutally muggy Wednesday that was crying out for strong storms to break out. And they did.

Lightning started crackling around us by late afternoon, and we soon had a very energetic thunderstorm building right over us. While I’ve seen worse storms in Texas and elsewhere around the West, this was the strongest we’ve had on this farm, with constant nearby lightning strikes, high winds, and heavy rain. The power kept flickering on and off, then finally died. Worse, pea-sized hail began to fall and kept up a pretty steady pelting for 10-15 minutes. Interspersed in this were larger chunks up to quarter-sized, bouncing impressively. Listening to our crank-radio, we heard reports of a funnel cloud being spotted along Highway 63 just southeast of us, and a tornado warning ended up being issued for parts of Callaway County, further along the storm’s track.

This storm dumped another 2.5″ of rain in less than an hour, on already saturated ground, producing another impressive flood on the stream and really causing problems for our produce, as this much water can drown roots and/or cause plants to topple over. But the real damage was from the hail, which shredded leaves and knocked down plants, while also punching plenty of holes in the row-cover fabric we use to keep insects off more susceptible items like squash. Here’s a photo tour of the damage:

Many scallions were knocked over, broken, or otherwise damaged. This one shows multiple hits that broke the upper two stalks, while the lower stalk looks like it took a direct hit that split it open like a bursting gun barrel. Not sellable.

Sturdier items like beets have some holes and broken leaves, but should be ok, especially as they’re nearing harvest. As we pull them, though, I suspect we’ll find some bruised roots that took direct hits on their shoulders. Given that we sell our beets with greens on, for extra food value, this will diminish the value of many.
Beans, too, are relatively resiliant to small hail, though like any other plant the holes and shredded leaves weaken the plant and make insects and disease more likely. This is a particular problem for organic growers who rely strongly on healthy plants to fend off problems on their own.

Hardest hit was zucchini, because these plants rely on upright, delicate stalks and large, tender leaves. These guys really got hammered, with the stalked broken and flattened and the leaves shredded. They’ll probably recover, but zucchini are so susceptible to insects and disease already that this will really increase their risk down the road.

Out in the field, we lost some young sorghum and corn to direct hits, while all the beans and potatoes are showing some shredded leaves. Still, it could have been worse, as I expect most things to recover. Very little was truly destroyed as it easily could have been if the hail had been any worse.

So we’ve now had around 8′ of rain this week, with another round of strong to severe storms expected Friday. For context, I looked into our blog posts from last year, and found a long article from June 26, 2008 lamenting the heavy rains and storms that were causing problems for us. It’s an interesting read for comparison; back then the whole state was getting pounded and rivers were rising fast, whereas this latest storm just impacted a narrow swatch of mid-Missouri.

It’s nice to not worry about irrigation so far, but this is far too much. I’m staying indoors today, with an expected heat index well over 100F; I’m not adjusted to this yet and nearly gave myself heat stroke yesterday working to finish a new goat hoop in our upper pasture.

And here is what hail-damaged peas look like:

Our market stand may be pretty small this Saturday.

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