Howling Gales and Power Failures
28th Jan 1998
Christmas is now well and truly gone and I can tell you it was a particularly unlucky one for me as Christmas eve proved to be an absolute disaster in my garden.
The gales we experienced that evening and through the night were horrendous with hurricane force winds blowing away everything regardless of whether it was secured or not. I first realised that we were in for something unusually strong when I went through the backdoor to place some rubbish in the dustbins around the corner of the house only to find both bins meeting me at the back door with rubbish strewn everywhere along the path.
Later on in the evening the power failed, so after an hour or so I ventured outside with a powerful torch to be met on the patio by three broken 14" diameter clay pots that had unceremoniously been blown and smashed from the sheltered corner by the patio doors on to the wall of the house. In so doing my quarry tiles on the entrance to the patio doors were smashed to bits as were the plants that the pots contained.
I went gingerly down the stone steps towards the back garden shining my torch towards the two greenhouses which should have been well lit with the two 400 watt lamps. I could barely make out the greenhouses as the first one was completely covered over with the huge eucalyptus tree that had crashed down from next doors garden completely overwhelming the whole structure. The main trunk landed straight across the centre of the ridge which buckled it to such an extent that the side curved outwards rendering the whole structure beyond economical repair.
With my heart in my throat fearing the worst, I pushed my way through and underneath the foliage towards the second greenhouse, the one that had all my rooted leeks in it. Miraculously the main trunk had just missed this greenhouse but there was a branch leaning heavily across the gable end. Fortunately my father and my son were over and they also ventured out into the howling gale and together we made a prop with my father holding a very unsteady beam of light in the howling wind.
We eventually managed to use the prop as a jack to take up the weight of the offending branch from the structure before that too would be crushed. Afterwards we slung a rope around the tree trunk and around a strong pillar that was part of the patio walls, this would prevent it sliding back and smashing the other greenhouse. We then left the whole scenario to it's fate hoping that no more damage would take place.
We really took a chance to venture out with the howling gale around us, but what do you do when you have a greenhouse full of leek plants for customers and a stubborn Guardsman of a son who was determined to save the day.
The following morning the damage all round was extensive with one of my large polytunnels having it's anchor bolts bursting through the brickwork which should have held the wooden timber side structures firmly in position. We were however able to anchor down the structure by using all sorts of planking etc. Thank heavens that I had removed the top sheet from both polyhouses during last Autumn for the Winter rains to wash into the soil otherwise the whole tunnel would most certainly have taken off like Richard Bransons balloon.
The onions which were germinating in the propagator in the first greenhouse were undamaged so the propagator with the onion trays inside were moved to the second house. My main concern over the Christmas period was the power supply to the second house and into my large 12' by 3" growing cabinet. This supply starts from the potting shed, into the first greenhouse and from there into the second one. As the electrical fittings were now in danger of being exposed to the elements, the first job Christmas morning was to wrap polythene around all the electrical fittings to prevent any water getting at them.
Immediately after the festive season, a qualified electrician isolated the first house whilst connecting the supply directly to the other; I just hope that the insurance company will now pay up in double quick time as any delay will certainly cause me problems, particularly with the American display and Chelsea on the horizon. There is a moral I suppose to this story, before you set up a greenhouse anywhere in your garden, do make sure that there's no tree in the vicinity that could drop down on top of it in a gale! The one who benefited the most from the whole fiasco though was my son, he had two trailer trips full of logs after we had finished with the chain saw, no wonder he was so quick and willing to help!