Monday, February 25, 2013

Preparing Your Backyard Farm for Weather Extremes

No matter how much you prepare and plan, weather uncertainties are likely to occur in your backyard.  While nothing can prevent a hurricane from passing through your area, keeping in mind possible or likely weather events when you plan your backyard farm will give you a greater level of success.  This is part 4 in a 4 part series on Weather and Climate for the Backyard Farmer.

To start, think about the weather in your area, and divide the following weather events up into 3 categories: Unlikely to occur, may occur, and likely to occur

  • Hurricane/cyclone
  • Tornado
  • Flooding
  • Hail
  • Heavy/damaging Winds
  • Blizzard
  • Ice Storm
  • Drought
  • Heat Waves
  • Extreme Cold

Recurrence Intervals

If you are looking for information on how often these events are likely to occur, you may come across information about recurrence intervals.  This is an average (based on past data) of how often this event is likely to occur.  You may see something called a 100 year flood, meaning that on average this flood occurs 1 every 100 years).  It is very important to remember that this does not mean that the flood occurs 1 time each 100 years.  You may experience 3 years in a row with a flood of this magnitude and not have another flood for 300 years.  Just because you experienced a 100 year drought this year, it does not mean you won’t experience one next year.  In fact, you may be more likely to experience one next year since the climatic elements that caused the drought may still be in place the following year.

General Preparation

While many of these weather events take specific preparations, there are some general things you can do to prepare.  Here are a few items that will ensure you are better prepared for most weather events:

  • Assure that buildings and structures are sound, insulated where needed, and not overcrowded
  • Create drainage for areas that are likely to flood – especially places where animals live
  • Collect water in barrels, cisterns, or a pond
  • Plant a variety of crops, since certain types may survive specific weather event better than others
  • Have a generator on hand or another means to generate heat
  • Cut down or trim trees or branches that may fall on your home, barn, sheds, or garden
  • Prepare a disaster plan for when things go wrong
  • Consider which event occur most commonly in your area, and prepare for those events

Creating a Disaster Plan

Create a plan for weather disasters so you are ready before the event arrives.  Despite improvements in forecasting, we all know they get it wrong, so it is always better to be prepared.  When creating a disaster plan, write out how you will care for your animals and property, who you will contact in an emergency, what supplies you may need on hand for your family and your animals, and where you might go if you are forced to evacuate.  Injuries from weather events are just as likely to occur during the clean-up stage, so be prepared and careful.

Climate Changes

While extreme weather events can occur at any time, there are also slower permanent or temporary climate changes to consider as well.  The slow warming that is shifting agricultural zones northward means that different crops will fail or thrive than in past years.  It also means that weather events may increase or decrease with frequency.  While many changes may be permanent, it is also important to remember that locally, shifts in climate may be temporary and may revert back to a previous climate.  While it is difficult to predict local climates in the future, you can make observations and see how things have been changing in your area (you can look at last frost dates and see if there are any trends over the last 30 years that may give an indication of change in the future).  

How do you plan for weather extremes in your area?


  1. We have rather erratic weather here in Montana and always have to be prepared. We had an unusual early frost in August last summer, luckily a farmer friend tipped me off and I was able to cover all our plants in the garden. After that experience, I began checking the weather forecast everyday until our normal frost period started later in September and our growing season ended.

  2. We've been dealing with weather extremes here for months. I'll have to bookmark this for reference! With temps well below freezing, winter prep is no joke! It's important to have a food supply for not just the people on the farm, but the animals too. In case we might get stuck/can't go out, we make sure to stock up on things like feed early on.

  3. These are great things to think about and plan for. Our big thing right now is electricity. If we are without power, we have no water. So we're exploring options.

  4. Great idea to plan for this. I live in earthquake country and are most likely to experience drought...and *maybe* a tornado, as we've had them touch down nearby. That's really odd for California, but it does happen every now and then.

    Thanks for sharing at the Farm Girl Blog Fest--always a was a pleasure to find your posts in the list!

    ~Kristi@Let This Mind Be in You