Generators keep farm running after storm

  • The Miles Smith Farm diesel-fueled generator is housed in a concrete building partially underground to help cut the noise while it is running. Courtesy of Carole Soule

For the Monitor
Friday, November 17, 2017

Next to us at the gas pump, a man was filling a container with gas. The guy in front of us pulled a container from his car and filled that it as we pumped fuel into the generator strapped to our flatbed truck.

Two days after a tree-uprooting storm flattened much of New Hampshire, we were all trying to cope by keeping generators filled with fuel.

We have a large generator that kicks in a minute after the power cuts out. This generator is in a concrete building built into the hillside. It is so quiet, we only see the lights flicker as it turns on, powering the farm during its regular Sunday test run. Test runs are important to make sure the unit functions in an emergency.

One generator in the neighborhood was not so silent, so for four days, while the power was out, we slept to the purring of what sounded like a loud lawnmower. The rumble from our neighbor’s generator was a constant reminder that the power was out.

Our generator is fueled by a 250-gallon tank, which we had topped off with diesel the day after the storm. While this generator kept our farm fences charged, freezer and refrigerator units running and most importantly, provided water for our livestock, it was not much help to our remote pastures. The fence at a remote pasture in Gilmanton, where 18 head of our cattle were still grazing, needed power. The cattle had already discovered they could escape through the un-charged wire so it was critical we get power to the fence energizer, which was why we were filling our portable generator that day at the fuel pumps.

As I watched the others fill their containers with gas, and we filled our generator, I thought about how lucky we were to have fuel to buy.

Our power was out for four days, but there are people in Puerto Rico who are still powerless after more than 45 days with limited fuel to fill their generators. St. Croix, a U.S. Virgin Island, isn’t doing much better.

Telephone poles knocked over by Hurricane Irma were repaired only to be taken down again two weeks later by Hurricane Maria. Even with the poles replaced, there is a shortage of transformer boxes used to convert power from the transmission wires so that homes can use it.

Half of St. Croix is still without power, the hospital is damaged, generators have been running so long they’ve broken and everyone is waiting for FEMA and insurance inspectors. Compared to St. Croix’s trials, our storm seems like a cake walk.

We did get power to the electric fence at our remote pasture in Gilmanton, but then the farm generator overheated on Thursday and quit. As we were working to fix it, thankfully, our power was restored.

Most everyone has power now, and we just have to finish cleaning up the downed trees to get back to normal. I guess it’s time to start preparing for the next power outage to keep those cows from running down the highway or worse, having pigs terrorize the neighbors.

After all, good electric fences make good neighbors and quiet generators make even better neighbors.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)