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Kentucky is our Neighbor…

Fridays and Saturdays are the two busiest days of the week. There’s produce to be harvested, washed, and packaged on Friday for Cowtown Farmers Market on Saturday morning. I rarely make it through the ten o’clock news without drifting off to sleep (that is if I’m lucky enough to be finished by then). I don’t often get to keep up on news happenings until Sunday night…

That changed this weekend. I had left my phone on the desk while I was at Market (which I’m prone to do a lot lately). I saw a text from my sister Dana in Georgia asking if my family in Kentucky was okay given the tornado that hit Friday evening. What the…?

It was then I learned of the massive tornado that had hit the Midwest, much of it through Kentucky. I checked my newsfeed and saw the pictures and the over two-hundred-mile path of destruction through south central Kentucky. I called Momma immediately.

She told me everyone was okay. That most of the devastation was north of them. Flint Ridge, our family farm, had suffered some broken windows and roof damage. I let go a sigh of relief, still horrified by the devastation and loss of life.

She called back a short time later to update me on what new information she had learned. Momma and my brother Danny huddled in the hallway for two hours after the sirens went off. My brother-in-law had left his work trucks at a new home they were working on. The home and the truck were both destroyed. There was quite a bit of damage around Russellville, but Adam’s truck (and job) and the smaller damage at the farm were the only losses suffered by my family. Still, it had destroyed the lives and property of so many in the area.

I watched the news later. The devastation was catastrophic. Governor Beshears had declared a state of emergency and the loss of life trumped the scenes of mayhem on the news. Sitting here some seven-hundred-miles away I felt the pain of loss and helplessness for all those folks so far away. My heart was heavy. I said a prayer of thanks for my family and a prayer of lament for those whose lives had been destroyed.

I had planned this morning as a time to update you all on my Kentucky Thanksgiving. Somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to do so today. Please pray for Kentucky this morning. The death toll from Friday night’s storm is forecasted to rise. There is never a good time for such things to happen, but I can’t imagine a worse time – the pain that comes from such a tragedy at Christmas. It will take years to recover from the loss.

It’s times like this that remind us of the importance of community – of building the common good. The outpouring of assistance coming from not just Kentuckians but from around the country reminds me that community still exists. It’s unfortunate that tragedy often must be the reminder.

Please keep everyone affected in your prayers. Hold your family a little closer. Take time to love them better. We don’t know what tomorrow brings…

Severe Weather Kentucky
The candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky following Friday’s tornado
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One Last Day to the Longest Short Month

Ah, the last day of February. Tomorrow is meteorological Spring. While it’s not the official (i.e. – the Vernal Solstice or Saturday March 20th) first day of Spring, it’s a reminder that warmer days are just around the corner.

It’s hard to believe that a mere two weeks ago we were huddled around a space heater with no water in a 30-degree house. I was out on the porch this morning for my meditation time. Shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops were all that was needed to be comfortable.

We were blessed to have a generator to power the space heater and a coffee pot. Others were not so lucky. There are still folks without water as I write this. Please pray for relief so the disaster recovery can begin.

Opal’s Farm took a beating. We may still be able to salvage some onions and spinach. I had to replant cilantro, beets, turnips, snow peas, and snap peas. I’m glad to have gotten them in before the rain this weekend. We have potatoes to plant when it dries up and more onions are coming to replace what was lost to the freeze.

They had just started putting out

It has been a busy week here at the farm – replanting, plowing, and irrigation repair. We lost a couple of hundred feet of PVC pipe to the cold. There’s much to catch up on so if you have a little free time and want some dirt therapy go email us at opalvolunteers@gmail.com or opalsfarm@unityunlimited.org. We’ll get you going!

We had our annual membership meeting for Cowtown Farmers Market yesterday. We are pleased to be a part of such a dynamic group of farmers and vendors that believe in bringing fresh, local food to our community. We will be continuing the SNAP and Double-Up Food Bucks through April 1st as well. Please come see us and enjoy the best fruits and vegetables in Fort Worth! We’d appreciate the support for our local farmers.

February, especially this year, was an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. The freeze was a major obstacle to a successful 2021. The produce we would normally take to market was lost, cutting our revenue for the next few weeks. This is a huge blow to our budget for this year. We are currently seeking assistance from a couple of disaster recovery resources, but so many farmers suffered losses this month that it may be months if we receive financial assistance.

We nearly doubled our yield over 2019 last year and we hope to do so again in 2021. Our soil health has drastically improved with the amendments we were able to have last year (Thank you Sliver Creek Materials and Microlife/San Jacinto Environmental!). We’ve expanded our production area by another acre. We are excited by the possibilities even with the hardship that came from the deep freeze.

We’re also aware of how blessed we are to be a part of the community and all our friends. While your thoughts, prayers, and volunteering are appreciated more than you know, we are asking for financial help to whether this setback. If you’re able to give, please go to www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm and click donate. You can also donate through Facebook, or even drop by the farm.

We have an exciting Spring and Summer planned and we’d love for you to be a part. Thank you for all each of you do. Thank you for being part of Opal’s Farm!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
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Can’t Wait Until Saturday

After a couple of fits and starts we finally have power here in our little neighborhood. We set the thermostat to 64 degrees to lower our demand. There are still many Texans huddling in the sub-freezing temperatures and the dark trying to make it until Saturday. Things are supposed to return to “normal” winter days – the sixties are coming…

My step kid brought it to my attention that Texans are the butt of jokes on her social media by people from up north. I guess we have different people on our news feeds. Most of our followers for both www.gregoryjoel.com and Opal’s Farm have constantly checked up on us and offered to help in any way possible. I love our community.

The Trinity River normally

We are now dealing with the water issues that come after a long, hard freeze. Yesterday morning I found water running down the driveway. A pipe had burst in our laundry room. Fortunately, it was an easy repair and I spent most of the day wet vacuuming up water from our back room. I never imagined I’d be grateful for such a leak, but if that’s the worst plumbing issue we have then we are blessed. The news was filled with pictures of our neighbors with water filling and destroying their homes.

We lack water pressure and we’re under a “boil water” notice, but we have power and water (and lots of coffee!). My wife’s noticing that I haven’t been able to shower since Sunday. That’s okay. I’ve spent a couple of weeks backpacking in the high country. I can assure you this is nothing. It could always be worse.

The Trinity today

I’ve been able to watch the news the last couple of nights. I’m discouraged to say the least. Everyone spends their time pointing fingers and little action is taken to relieve the misery so many Texans are in. I don’t expect much from the politicians and pundits anyway. Their track record isn’t great. I’d rather spend my energy with folks who are “being” the change, with action.

That’s an update on our little cul-de-sac. Continue in prayer for our neighbors as they struggle through this mess. Please don’t stop either. My gut tells me this is going to be a hard one to recover from. When you tuck your little one’s into a nice, warm bed this evening take extra time to say thank you for that bed and let you goodnight kiss linger a bit…

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What I’m Grateful for Today…

I had planned to be posting regularly for both myself and Opal’s Farm since I wasn’t at the farm this weekend. Unfortunately, the Texas weather decided I could wait. We, along with about 13,000 other electric customers in our zip code, have been without power for almost two days. The temperature hasn’t been above freezing for the last week and isn’t predicted to be until the coming weekend. It was three degrees when the power went out and hasn’t been above twenty degrees since then.

This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to people living in more northern climes. However, Texas – statewide – is totally unprepared for this. It simply doesn’t happen here. Not like this anyway. Our power grid is not built for such extreme temperatures. I was doing late winter planting for early Spring veggies two weeks ago. Governor Abbott declared a disaster emergency for all 254 counties! We are not alone in this and my heart breaks for those who are so often overlooked and left behind.

We are fortunate. I got my generator from the farm and ran a couple of space heaters in one room – and most importantly, our coffee pot. Our neighbors have looked out for one another, our animals are safe (we had a three-dog night for the last two nights…), and our tummies are full. Our son, Paul, brought hot meals and coffee from across town (the roads are icy and treacherous) for us and our neighbors. Hardship often brings out the best in communities.

There’s been an unusual camaraderie with complete strangers – people in the same boat sharing stories, telling each other who still has power, and where the find goods in short supply. We’ve been able to charge our cell phones in my truck. I’m amazed by the network of calls that have gone back and forth between friends and family.

Being truly “off grid” has awakened a spirit in our community that we often don’t get to see. It reminds me that humans – God’s kids – aren’t designed for “rugged individualism no matter how hard we try to act like it. It also makes gratitude for the simplest of things shine through. Our prayers over the last few days have been for things like lamps that turn on with the flip of a switch, furnaces that keep the house toasty warm in the dark night, and a hot meal (and not just cold cuts!). We’re usually annoyed when our three large dogs take up so much of the bed at night. Now we offer prayers of thanks for all that body heat!

The power outage also reminded me that I don’t have to depend on the computer to write and reading by candlelight isn’t all that bad. I may not be able to post anything online, but I have lots of pen and paper. That makes writing all that much more enjoyable.

I’m not going to make this long. The power may go out yet again, just as quickly as it came on. We had a brief thirty-minute spurt of electricity yesterday before it flickered out. I just wanted to say I hope and pray everyone is warm and safe on a frigid February day. Pray for each other and thank God for the little things. You never know when you might need them more than ever.

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrr…

 “It’s frigging cold!” I used to laugh it at my neighbors who complained about the cold in in Texas. We’ve had above-average temperatures this year. Fifty degrees is not cold folks. Today? “It’s frigging cold!”

We’ve haven’t gotten above freezing for the last couple of weeks. The high temperatures are only projected to drop for the next few days. The forecast calls for a possible three inches of snow over the weekend and more later in the week. Much of the country is in the deep freeze so we’re not alone. It just doesn’t happen here often, so this is a major “weather event” for us. There was a 133 car pile-up on I-35 yesterday with six fatalities and 80-plus people sent to the hospital…

Opal’s Farm has come to a bit of a stopping point in our late winter planting because of the weather. It didn’t stop the Tarrant Regional Water District though. The started on the infrastructure for our new pump and irrigation this week and are almost finished. I’ve been doing the “Happy Dance” all week. TRWD is so good to Opal’s Farm. The best way I know to show them gratitude is to grow lots of food for our neighbors. TRWD has always believed in Opal’s Farm’s mission and their support has been invaluable.

Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this week and freezing temperatures. We planted all our onions (around 6,000 of them!) in the week before we knew about this coming in. Onions are hearty plants but so many freezing days in a row will inevitably hurt some of them.

I was once asked what our “Plan B” was in the event of a flood or other disaster. It’s simple – we replant! The farm is a great example of what to do in life – replant. Life throws out some hard lessons. Sometimes you just have to replant and go on from there…

I know this has been a tough year on everyone. If you are able, please consider a donation to Opal’s Farm today. You can donate securely at www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm.

Stay warm out there folks…

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash