This column was originally written for Kansas Farm Bureau’s Insight column that ran in newspapers throughout Kansas in May 2021. To view the original column, click here.
Summer is here! The kids completed their last day of school and have officially reported for summer duty as farm kids. During a recent breakfast conversation, my family sat down to identify some goals for this summer. The kids want to bake cupcakes, ride their bikes, go fishing and visit some museums. My husband wants to harvest wheat and manage irrigation. I want to maintain a clean house. I know some goals are loftier than others.
Another major goal is to keep the kids learning so they don’t experience the “summer slip.”
A weekly visit to the local library, daily reading expectations, intentional quiet time, and going outside to enjoy and explore the outdoors (while also burning off energy) are all on the agenda. There’s a lot of “learning” my husband and I want the kids to experience this summer.
As we were having this family conversation, storm clouds were forming in the counties to the far west of us. The TV weather personalities began mentioning the potential for extreme weather later in the day. As the day continued, the sky to the west of us began darkening and you could hear an occasional rumble of thunder in the distance.
By late afternoon, my daughter’s tee-ball coach began texting parents to determine if we’d continue with our evening practice. The atmosphere was changing, and you could feel it in the air. The weather personalities were now on the TV more than the regular programs while a radar image filled the screen. The folks in the counties west of us were definitely experiencing some weather.
As our tee-ballers were learning how to hit a ball and run to first base, the darkness filling the horizon to the west expanded to include the northern sky. Rumbles of thunder became more frequent and closer.
Practice was cut short because of the threat of lightning. As we drove home we talked about the great science lesson we were about to experience. We’d be able to enjoy an unobstructed view to watch those western storm clouds build and move to the east while staying well to the north of us.
Once at our prime viewing spot, I could tell the kids clearly felt the energy building to the north and west of us. It was an impressive display of darkness within those moving clouds. We could hear the thunder. We could see the lightning. We could smell the rain. And we could feel when the wind shifted.
The storm that was once to the north of us was now rapidly moving toward us. We quickly moved the vehicles into our shop before the rain began. We went back to the house and turned on the TV. The radar showed what we already knew.
From our porch we watched excitedly as the rain fell hard and our driveway quickly became a stream. And then the hail began. Large hail. Tapping on the roof, beating the trees and bushes, bouncing before carpeting the ground. The kids’ excitement turned to concern as the hail continued falling. It kept falling. We witnessed the most wicked hail we have ever experienced.
Early the next morning, the kids were with us as my husband and I scouted our fields and assessed the damage. The kids helped find all of the dents and broken mirrors and busted windshields I needed to take photos of for insurance. They counted the holes now allowing light to shine through into the machine shed. They walked into the saturated wheat fields to help their daddy count the broken stems of full wheat heads that would have been harvested in just a few weeks. They drove through the water to check on the submerged fields of newly planted corn and soybeans.
They heard my husband and I calmly evaluating and problem-solving each situation.
And they learned through our words and our reactions that it could have been much worse and there is still so much to be thankful for even with all of the damage.
I can’t quite connect all of the formal educational standards and competencies we covered during this event, but know wholeheartedly that even though it’s summer break, our kids have already gained some pretty important lessons here on the farm.