Thursday, June 26, 2008

Introducing... Mr. Louis Busch!

So Dad got a phone call the other night from an old buddy he was in the Reserves with. One of the first things he said was, "I can't believe you're still alive!" (Of course, they're the same age...) Turns out he'd read an article on the front page of a farm magazine featuring my dad. So Dad gets off the phone and turns to Mom and says, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you..."

Not only is Dad a celebrity - he's a star of multi-media. He was called and interviewed for this article and forgot to tell any of us about it (the journalist is the sister of a friend of the family). Typical. Jeremy and I were joking about it and made the comment that Tom Brokaw could call and ask to do a week long segment on Dad and his response would be," (long pause) Isn't there anything better to do a story on?" So here's the article... Missouri Farmer Today.
Send all requests for autographs to me, and I'll forward them to Mr. Busch. Due to high demand, please be patient.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby June the fawn

When you leave Grandma's house, you boat to the railroad tracks, walk over the railroad tracks and then get on the tractor to ride back to the truck. The water there isn't deep enough for a boat, but it's too deep for a truck. So the point is - the railroad tracks stick up for miles and miles - with water on either side. When we left Grandma's house and crossed the railroad tracks, we found June, a tiny little fawn. She was bleating, scared and stumbling - and too young to be afraid of us. Her mother was dead and she was sure to be dead within 24 hours, probably sooner than that - there was no way she was going to survive on those railroad tracks. We had a hamper full of bunnies we were saving... we just couldn't leave June on the railroad tracks.

So after a little cajoling, my cousin Gerald got her and we took her back with us, too. Mom had seen a news report about a Wildlife Rescue place in Ballwin that was taking orphaned animals, so we decided we'd take her there.

Once we had her, she calmed down and was perfectly at ease with us. She road in my lap all the way back to Mom and Dad's house - and then for two hours back to St Louis. I didn't have to hold her, she fell right asleep on my lap. She couldn't possibly have weighed more than fifteen pounds.

We called the Wildlife Rescue once we got back to Mom and Dad's house, their message said they'd be open until 8 PM and to leave a message detailing your wildlife emergency. So we left a message and headed to Ballwin. About the time we hit Wentzville, my phone notified me that I had a message (must have been out of service when they returned my call). The Wildlife Rescue place left me a message saying that they weren't licensed to take deer, so they'd have to euthanize her if we brought her in. They went on to say that there wasn't any place in the state of Missouri that could take her. They suggested we call the Conservation Department. I was in shock - and I just didn't know what to do. The Conservation Department said they couldn't be of much help either. Their best suggestion was to let her go near where we'd found her and hope her mother would show up. But her mother was dead! And we found her in the middle of a flood - miles from dry land!

After some discussion - and yes, some tears - we decided to let her go in Creve Coeur Park in an area where we regularly see lots of deer in the evenings. We go there specifically to see deer and are never disappointed. I know it's unlikely that another female deer will take her and let her feed. I'm hoping she's old enough to eat grass and make it on her own. There aren't many coyotes in the area. I don't know what else we could have done.
Some will say we should have left her where she was. But that was a death sentence, she wasn't going to last much longer on the railroad tracks - there was no place for her to go. Her mother is dead. I wanted to take her to a wildlife specialist and guarantee her life, but that wasn't a possibility. I strongly believe that we gave her the best chance we could - at least she's better off now than she was on those tracks.
We walked her deep into the woods and let her go. She came back to me a couple of times, then to J - and then walked into the woods. She turned around to look at us a couple of times, then started into the woods bleating for her mother.
And I came home and cried.

Flood Update - June 22

How high's the water, mama?

Five feet high and risin'

How high's the water, papa?

Five feet high and risin'

Well, the rails are washed out north of town

We gotta head for higher ground

We can't come back till the water comes down,

Five feet high and risin'

Well, it's five feet high and risin'

We had hoped the water wasn't going to get high enough to get into Grandma's house - but after Dad realized it'd risen almost 10 inches overnight, he decided it was time to rip up the carpet and make final preparations for the house. There's no dry land left around the house, you can't even get to the driveway by vehicle - had to take a tractor and then a boat. Below are pics around the house.

And a pic of ripping up the carpet...

We saw even more wildlife than we'd seen on Saturday. The pic below is literally a pile of frogs - and there were lots of piles of frogs like this on the front and back steps. Click on the picture to enlarge it and look closely.

There was a opossum taking refuge in the garage.
And there were a lot of rabbits standing on the highest spots they could reach. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be long before those weren't dry spots anymore. We saw quite a few dead animal floating in the water, so we knew they wouldn't last much longer. So we rounded up all of the rabbits - some really big monsters, and some little tiny babies and put them in a laundry hamper. Took them up to dry land and let them go.

Dad's such a big softie.

Flood Update - June 21

Wrote this post yesterday, but wasn't able to post it until this evening - Mom's internet connection was pretty spotty...

How high's the water, mama?

Four feet high and risin'

How high's the water, papa?

Four feet high and risin'

Hey, come look through the window pane,

The bus is comin', gonna take us to the train

Looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain,

4 feet high and risin'

We headed down to Busch Heirs yesterday morning and took a boat ride around the property. Here are pics of the house and barns around the house - if you go back to my June 19 update post, you can see what the area looked like before the water came up. All the other pics are riding over bean and wheat fields.

The picture directly above is of boating through the "drive-through" barn.

Below are pics of the levee that's being topped right now - looks like a little waterfall. You can hear the water rushing over the levee from the house - and it's a mile and a half to two miles away. There are a lot of fish being forced over the levee, so it makes for easy fishing. So of course there are alot of pelicans hanging out around the levee waterfall filling up on easy pickings. There was a school of jumping carp there at the topping as well, so we got a few pics of the jumping fish as well.

Saw plenty of wildlife, frogs, snakes, rabits, deer...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My parents are celebrities!

Mom and Dad were interviewed by Roche Madden this evening. They were prominently featured on both the 9 PM and the 10 PM Fox newscasts. Click on the link below - it includes a few other stories as well, but theirs is the first report just a minute or so in. (Two corrections, he refers to Grandma's house as "their home" - it's not their home, their home is 5 miles away. So whatever. But he says that we won't be able to plant 100 acres - he's WAY off, it's more like 1500 acres!)

Also - is Mom the soundbite queen or what? Her final quote summing it all up, "When you get into farming, that's what it's all about - it's a gamble. You live with Mother Nature, you love her; and you have to learn her to be a farmer. Otherwise you don't make it," is so perfect, isn't it? Mom said the interview lasted about 20 minutes - but of course they only used about 15 seconds of it. And how typical of my dad - a man of very few words, "We were counting on the wheat. But I guess we'll get by without it." That's probably all Roche could get out of him! Haha.

They were on the 10 PM broadcast as well, but they used the same clips from the interview - the only difference is that they showed Mom when she said her Mother Nature clip.

I'm sure the book tour will be soon, huh Mom?

Flood update - June 19

How high's the water, mama?
Three feet high and risin'
How high's the water, papa?
Three feet high and risin'
Well, the hives are gone,I've lost my bees
The chickens are sleepin'In the willow trees
Cow's in water up past her knees,
Three feet high and risin'

The water is now moving quickly - it's quite possible one of the levees has a breach. Water is rushing into Grandma's basement. The house is totally surrounded. They have seen a lot of deer running by trying to escape the water. It's moving so quickly that you can clearly see it advance.

Click on the map below - in the lower left hand corner where the "A" is, that's Annada and Busch Heirs. And of course you can see the Mississippi River flowing along the whole right hand side of the picture. This give you an idea of how far the water has moved in two days. And keep in mind that it's not a thin sheet of water - it will go far past Annada and it will be about five feet deep in Annada. Right now it's about six inches deep around the house. There are fish flopping around all over the place!

Mom's trying to get as much video as she can - I'll try to post some video clips later.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Flood of 2008... Here We Go Again...

Any Johnny Cash fans out there?

How high's the water, mama?

Two feet high and risin'

How high's the water, papa?

Two feet high and risin'

We can make it to the road in a homemade boat

That's the only thing we got left that'll float

It's already over all the wheat and the oats,

Two feet high and risin'

Here we go again. If you’ve watched the news at all in the last week, you know that we’re getting ready for record flooding. Clarksville (my hometown, population 485) has become quite the media darling. They’ve been on all the local news channels, of course, but also on the NBC Nightly News, Today Show, etc. NBC, CBS and FOX all have their newstrucks there and they’re broadcasting live every morning and every evening with updates. The Mississippi River is predicted to crest a little over 38 feet on Friday or Saturday. To give you an idea of what that means – that’s higher than it was in ’93. It crested at 37.7 in July of 1993.

As most of you know, my family owns a large farming corporation (Busch Heirs) just south of Clarksville in Annada, MO. We farm a couple of thousand acres of bottom land along the Mississippi. Busch Heirs’ base of operations is my grandparents’ farm. If you go to Google Maps and tell it to look at Annada, MO this is what you’ll see (below).

The cluster of buildings immediately north of Annada is that farm. And each of those buildings is a huge barn full of tractors, combines, implements, tires, tools, etc. The largest of the barns is the shop barn. Imagine all the tools and equipment you’d see in an auto mechanic’s shop – now increase that exponentially both in qty and size! (By the way, if you do go to Google Maps and look up Annada, move the map to the east and you’ll see where the river is – that’ll give you a good idea of how immense the ’93 flood was and how immense this one will be – the water was a mile and a half west of our farm in ’93 at its worst!)

In 1993 the levees couldn’t take the pressure and broke – it was disastrous for us. The levees are higher and stronger now than they were then, but even the highest one was built to only holdup to 36 feet. The shortest one on our property was topped on Sunday. My brother-in-law, Jonas, headed up there after work on Friday; as did J and I. I know Jonas had better things to do with his weekend, but he was there to do whatever needed to be done. Friday night we got my Grandma’s house cleared out – all of her furniture was loaded into the back of my cousin’s semi trailer. But that was nothing. The bulk of the work was still left to do. We had four barns full of tractors, combines, machinery and implements to move up into the hills. We had the shop barn to clear out. Dad built two platforms six feet up in the air – and everything in that barn had to be up on those platforms. Every single nut, bolt, hose, tool, welding helmet, bottle of motor oil, acetylene torch, etc – it’s just so incredibly much STUFF. It’s impossible for me to communicate how daunting a job it is and how much work it involves. It seems insurmountable – but we’d done it once before… we’d do it again.

Saturday morning I was touched and pleased to find that we had more help than we’d anticipated! We had five extra bodies with willing hands to work. My father-in-law, Jay; J’s business partner and friend, Mike; Mike’s wife and my best friend, Mary Beth; and our friends Sean and Katie were there to help. We didn’t ask for the help – they just volunteered and showed up. Dad doesn’t ask for help. He’s stubborn, it’s annoying, but it’s who he is – you’ve gotta force it on him. And we did. Altogether we had 15 people working on Saturday. Dad divided us up into work crews and gave everybody their instructions. By 5 o’clock that afternoon we’d completed it all – we’d accomplished more than we’d been able to do in ’93. (Of course those circumstances were quite different – more on that below.)

Here is the shop after we'd moved everything out that we could, and moved the rest of it up onto platforms (the shop is just too big to get it all into one picture - but this gives you the idea...)

Here is the largest barn, which functions as a huge parking garage for tractors, combines and implements after it was emptied. I don't know if you can tell from teh scale, but it would generally hold three of four tractors, a couple of combines and lots of "farming stuff".

There are two of these smaller barns/shed pictured below that hold various trucks, small tractors, etc. We cleaned most of the stuff out of them and them put fencing around them so that anything we didn't clear out won't float away (a lesson learned from '93).

The very largest barn is the one I call the drive-though. If you look at the truck parked to the left (and keep in mind that's a huge grain truck), you'll get an idea of the scale. It contained a combine, a sprayer, a bunch of gigantic implements with sharp blades that I don't know the name of, tractors and tillers, and all kinds of other "farm stuff". Cleared it out too.

We thanked everyone before they left. And I sent them an email thanking them again yesterday. But I don’t think any of them will really understand what a difference they made and how much we appreciate it. It’s just not possible to explain how much got done, how long it would have taken without them (IF we could have even done it all without them) and how much we appreciate it. It’s humbling. I am truly blessed to have friends and in-laws that are as giving and caring as they are. Crap. Now I’m tearing up. Moving on.
As I'm sure you can imagine we were exhausted when we finally got home at 11 o'clock Sunday night. My back hurts, my shoulders hurt, and I'm covered with scrapes and bites and bruises. J slept for 12 hours from 6:00 Monday night until 6:00 Tuesday morning!

Anyway, J and I went up again last night to take some “before” pictures. The water is coming over the levee that lies between Busch Heirs and the Mississippi. We got to the levee shortly after it started coming over. While we were there, Sherriff Wells (Pike County Sherriff) came out to check the levee himself – he’d gotten a call from a helicopter saying a levee had broken or been topped in that area. The water was rushing over the road, creating a miniature waterfall.

We watched HUGE catfish and carp fighting the rushing water and then finally flopping over the road. We even tried to catch a few! I got my hand on a very big one – but he wasn’t interested in letting me touch him so he flipped right away from me.

The two pictures above were taken before we continued through the water and walked up to the top of the levee. This is what we saw - it took our breath away. The water is right there at the top of the levee. The river is supposed to be just under half a mile beyond this levee.

The scene in Clarksville is like something straight out of a movie. The National Guard is all over the place, lots of volunteers, huge flood lamps – it really seems like a movie set, it’s so surreal.

I’ll keep you updated with “during” and “after” pictures. Frankly, this is the easy part. It’s the cleanup and repair after the water finally goes down that’s the real nightmare.

Why is this so different from 1993?

I’m only speaking for my family and our experience. This time the crest is going to be higher than it was in 1993 in Clarksville.

In ’93 they didn’t predict the record-breaking flood at first. They just kept saying it’ll rise another 4 inches, then the next day they’d predict another 5 inches, then another 2, etc, etc. So we spent weeks sandbagging the levees and trying to hold the floodwaters back. On the evening of July 4 our levee broke, so everybody dropped their sandbags and scattered. We all headed to our homes and farms to prepare for the water. We were exhausted and demoralized and angry, and a little scared. We had less than 24 hours to prepare for the coming water.

We worked through the night. We had to move the combines, tractors, implements, etc up to higher ground. We built the same platforms in the shop and put everything on those platforms. We had to clear out Grandma’s house; all of her furniture, the entire basement, the garage, the entire household. We built a platform in her living room too. Ripped up the carpet and put her entire house on that platform. Tried to get Grandma to leave, but she wasn’t having it. (After the water really came up, she relented and she and the dog left by boat.)

The water started rising before we were done, of course. By the time we stopped working (can’t say by the time we were done because we didn’t have enough time to get everything done) we were walking through water up to my knees between the house and the shop. When the water came up it stopped just short of going into the house, but it was 5 ½ feet deep in all the barns. The storms we had while the water was up tore things to shreds. Mom and Dad took turns with my aunt and uncle sleeping at Grandma’s house to keep the looters away – with no phone, no electricity and no running water in the July and August heat surrounded by water. And then, of course, once the water went down, the real work started.

But this time, we know exactly what we’re in for. We know how high the water will get, nobody’s wasting time sandbagging the levees that can’t possibly hold. We have so much help – so many people have already done so much and many others have offered. We are completely prepared for the water well ahead of time. We know certain things will happen that we couldn’t have possibly anticipated last time. There’s nothing left there of any value to protect at this point, so nobody will have to spend nights down there. It’s already a dramatically different experience. Everybody isn’t stressed out with every last nerve frayed. Thank God.