Tractors and Tornados

Tractors and Tornados

It’s been an odd kind of day. My eldest son turns 6 this week and we’re planning him a birthday party on the land. But since we don’t really have a house yet, Emma had the imaginative idea to make it an adventure party. After all, what good is 100 acres if you can’t use it to occupy twenty kids under six?

The big “bottom field” on the land has been used for hay in the past and is really overgrown. The grass must stand about 7 feet high or more and is quite perfect for maze making. Now, that’s a big responsibility for George The Tractor, especially since he’s not a very happy tractor at the moment. I took him out for a spin a couple of weeks ago and he got hot. Very hot. Now, granted the temperature was mid-30s anyway, but the temp gauge on George’s dashboard was pointing to a level where your average vulcanologist would begin whistling nervously and sidle quickly away from the vicinity.

Apparently the problem stems from a broken hand throttle and dodgy dashboard electrics. That means I have to use the foot pedal which revs the engine too high and get’s the temperature up.

But today the risk was worth it.

There have been some truly impressive corn circles throughout recent history (see the photo of one), but none have been so grand as The Metcalfe Swirls. At least that’s what I imagine they’ll call them. Air Canada passengers are probably already marveling over the amazing symmetry and intricacy of the spirals. Wondering in fact, whether this awesome creation could be anything but the work of extraterrestrials.

Myself, I am only concerned about one thing: after unleashing the children, whether we’ll ever see them again. Because this maze is about 200m square and the grass is 7ft tall and home to several species of snake, luminous frog and possibly panthers. Emma is going to post parents at regular intervals but honestly, I’m thinking we might need a chopper. An “eye in the sky” so to speak. Or perhaps some radio tags for them to wear. Undoubtedly the kids will love it. Any hint of danger just makes my boys want to do it more.

So hopefully the only casualty from this mammoth maze-making enterprise will be George, who sustained a broken bolt on one of his 3 point hitch arms and sadly couldn’t continue on to complete the mowing of home field. He limped off like an Argentinian footballer that ran into a mildly firm tackle. Luckily, the mechanic from Rath Equipment is due to come and fix him on Tuesday so hopefully they can sell me a new bolt and help me get it installed.

I took the opportunity to slope home without shame and take the boys to the pool before we all boiled and collapsed into a unpleasant jelly. We joined a private swimming pool in Manotick at the start of the year and I must admit to being sceptical about it. After all, it was fairly expensive and I’m tighter than a gnat’s chuff when it comes to spending money on silly things like practicalities. But, all praise to Emma’s foresight, it actually is utterly awesome. The kids love it to bits. In fact, the only thing Neirin likes better is the ice lollies he gets to keep him hydrated.

After a couple of hours soaking up some sun and splashing about like a cat in a bath, we headed home for dinner. I mowed yet more grass, tidying the neglected rental-house garden and finished just as the first hints of clouds appeared on the horizon. Perhaps I should have checked the weather, but after such a glorious day the ferocity of the storm that was about to hit Ottawa wasn’t at all expected. So, Huwyl and I cheerfully jumped into the Jetta and headed out to the farm to put the chickens to bed for the night.

The sky continued to get darker as we drove but the first few strikes of lightening were far enough away that I wasn’t concerned. Summer storms aren’t that unusual here and we’ve told Huwyl that it’s just the god Thor drinking with his buddies in the clouds and being too loud. But this one came on fast. Like, Carl Lewis in spandex leggings fast.

There’s a stretch of Snake Island Road just before it intersects with Stagecoach Road that has some huge open fields used by a turf / sod farm. One of the fields had been cut and was just dirt. As we approached it, I saw a wave of dust flying across and engulf the truck ahead of us. That truck can’t have been more than 50 yards ahead but all I could see were its tail lights vanishing in the murk. Before we got there I looked left and saw the dirt swirling in a wide cylinder coming at us rather quickly. It’s pretty amazing how fast the human mind can think when in a dangerous situation. If only I could operate at that speed all the time, I’d have secured world peace by now and have the answer to why Belgium exists.

It isn’t just the speed of thought, it’s that thoughts can be imagined, processed and decisions made in parallel. So while I was thinking “oh gods, a frickin tornado is going to scoop us up like that cow in Twister”, I was also thinking, “Oh shit, my firstborn son and heir is in this car” and “brake or floor it?” and “huh, pretty, I wonder what the equation is to model that…”

In the end, I decided to floor it. The back end of the car wasn’t happy and there was a good amount of dust on the road but we rocketed past and left the tornado to pass the road about 20 yards behind us.

The rest of the drive wasn’t any less scary. The road after that field is lined with trees and they were bending like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix. Not fun when they’re also raining down heavy branches onto the road. Somehow we made it unscathed to the farm and got the chickens into the coop. In fairness, two had the good sense to go in by themselves. The other two (who shall hereafter be known as the blonde twins) were huddled under the ramp and didn’t kick up a fuss when Huwyl and I flung them inside. With the lightening crackling and rain pelting down on us, Huwyl ran into the basement of the house where it was safe while I recovered the tent that was in another field, lashed some tarps over the exposed piles of building materials and generally did manly things in the rain before joining Huwyl in the basement.

There was some pretty impressive thunder and lightening so we waited it out for 15 mins until the worst had passed. Even before completion, our house is giving us shelter which is cool. The drive home was easier, except for the two fallen trees and debris on the road. I was glad we were in the Jetta; the Germans know how to make a solid car and they don’t come much heavier than a diesel Volkswagen.

Huwyl was a star. Didn’t panic, cry out or get concerned. He did everything he was told quickly and without question. It made me proud that even though he later told me he was scared, at not-quite-six years old he was brave enough to suppress it and still help me with the chickens. He earned his big bowl of ice cream and I have to say, scary tornado stuff aside, tonight I was a happy Dad.

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