The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Thunder and hail

Still having problems with the laptop. I’ve tried the air spray idea but the precious machine is crashing constantly – answers to inquiries and comments when the system is more stable. Meanwhile here is a post.

Photo: hail in the kitchen garden June 2009

Photo: hail in the kitchen garden June 2009

“When you were little did your parents tell you that thunder was just God moving his furniture around?”
“No.”  Danny smiled. “It’s a great concept, though.”
“Part of me liked it. I enjoyed imagining the size of a table or sofa that would make that noise. But the idea worried me, surely God would get his furniture right first time.”

Children’s values are so black and white. Now I know that ‘moving the furniture’ could indicate a truly open mind. Events and ideas change all the time.

Suddenly this afternoon the rain turned to a thundery hail storm. Danny was safe in the Rat Room with the Min Pins. I was right at the end of the garden in our greenhouse.

This is the sort of time that I regret not paying the premium price for safety glass. I had the choice of braving the hail on the long dash back to the cottage or staying put. Feeling like Gabriel Oak during the storm in Far From The Madding Crowd, I tossed some fleece over our salad bed and put some giant pots over some baby tomatoes that I planted out last week. A few minutes later I spotted some dwarf French beans standing stalwart under attack and I scampered back to bring them into the greenhouse, their leaves already pitted with holes.

The last time this happened, several years ago in June, the hailstones were the size of twenty pence pieces and our entire tomato crop was shredded. At least this afternoon the stones were just 4mm. Standing in the greenhouse as the hailstones rattled away on the roof I wondered whether I should have covered Danny’s spuds. I made a mental note to invest in more fleece when I next have a windfall. But I could have spent the entire half hour storm rushing about with the fleece. All our crops are important. And I particularly enjoy the salad crops.

When the storm finally passed I stepped outside to inspect the damage. The kitchen garden was hit far harder than the herbaceous borders. A few runner beans had snapped – perhaps they will just be a bit more bushy –  and most plants had small slashes and holes in their leaves.  Just three tomato plants sitting in a tray outside the back door had been shredded. These were spares so they were not really mourned but it was interesting to see the extent of the devistation. All leaves ripped awayand goodbye to a potental of 3 kilos of tomatoes.

Some friends of mine who used to farm locally always insured their oil seed rape crop against being damaged by hail. I can see that in just a few minutes hail could decimate a crop. I reckon for a small plot some old sheets stored in the shed or greenhouse could come in really handy to protect our crops from hail in June. But this also needs invigilation when hail is expected. PerhapsI should make myself free and available for the entire month of June ;).

When I returned to the house, Danny was at the door.
“How are the cabbages?” I could almost hear his brain clicking to find the name of any veg apart from potatoes.
“Fine, just a few holes.” His face softened with relief but had to double check the fate of his babies.
“And my potatoes?”

Thankfully they’d all survived too.

  Leave a reply


  1. Domestic Executive

    It seems strange for blogging in both hemispheres about hail recently – it’s understandable for us in New Zealand but not in the UK when you’re suposed to be enjoying summer. My beans took a beating the other weekend but otherwise I think the leaf damage is pesky slugs!

  2. michelle sheets

    You know, thats funny, since we had thunder, lightning and hail last week, and I’m in Oregon, USA. I wonder if it was the same storm? Do you suppose a storm system would stay together for that long?

  3. kate (uk)

    We had a storm around 5 am- just 3 thunderclaps, but hellfire, they were loud. God was throwing large wardrobes downstairs. On thunderclap number 3 he was chucking several of them at once and taking a flash photo of the effect- the house shook!
    No hail, no damage, but everything in the garden about twice the size today that it was on Friday, despite the chilly nights.
    The rest of Sunday was just very,very wet.Barrels all full to the very top again.

  4. Michelle in Nz

    Relieved the damamge wasn’t too bad. Well done with your hasty plant rescue mission. Dad’s new spinach plants looked shredded from a hail storm a few weeks back but are recovering well.

    Huge relief that Danny’s potato plants survived, cos life wouldn’t have been pleasant for you otherwise!


  5. maggie


    I stumbled into your blog having Googled for pork leftover recipes, and really enjoyed reading the latest post. We had the thunderstorm and some heavy rain, and I worried about my little seedlings, almost at thinning and transplanting stage, in the raised bed, and the plantlets in the cold frame. But all survived, thankfully. (I live in NW Norfolk by the way, and often see bad weather that affects friends just five miles away, pass us by… we seem to be stuck in a little corner and miss a lot of it!)
    Enjoyable read, thanks…

  6. magic cochin

    I think you were nearer the epicentre of the afternoon’s storm than we were – we had a mix of heavy rain and small hail stones and distant rumbles. The morning’s storm coincided with the Pet Service at the village church – jokes about Noah and Arks couldn’t be resisted!

    I don’t think our plants were damaged – but I’ll do another check right now!


  7. Linda

    One of the reasons I love reading blogs (and thank you, by the way, for being a very regular blogger – people who ‘drop’ their blogs for months on end just as I was getting interested have turned into a pet hate!) is that it gives an insight into life in different parts of the country/other countries.
    Here in West Wales the issue is usually rain. We don’t get as much as Ireland, but enough. It has taken my husband (from the London/Kent border) years to really get the “make hay while the sun shines” maxim. He just assumes that because the sun is shining today, it will also shine tomorrow.
    I, on the other hand, am the one carrying a brolly around central London “Just in case” in June. I remember holidaying in Kent one May, and being amazed at everyone’s gardens. They were all weeks ahead of ours. You don’t see many ‘dry’ plants like lavender here as the winters are too wet.
    This difference affects more than gardens. The outdoor eating beloved of Country Living covers can’t really be planned for down here. Wedding guests from your part of the world froze at a family wedding down here last summer. And as for fashion – pass me my wellies and waterproof!

  8. Rosie

    We were driving on the motorway when our storm hit – torrential rain with thankfully only small hailstones but it was impossible to see the lanes for floodwater and was rather scary. We had the rain in the garden but no hail it would seem and all the crops look fine (and grateful for the water). I’m glad you were able to protect yours.

    As for thunder we were told it was either God moving the furniture around or the angels having an arguement. My sister and I were allowed to chose which we thought – I always chose the arguement, my sister the furniture and that in itself led to an arguement. Maybe that was Mum’s way of distracting us from the thunderstorm?!

  9. Belinda

    Hi Fiona, glad to see your damage wasnt too bad. My heart sank when I saw your heading today. I have been gardening just a short while & was hit with hail last summer but was amazed how soon the plants came back to green lush growth.

    Im quite curious about “fleece”

    I keep reading about it on U.K blogs buthave never seen it here in OZ. My weather here over the mountains means heavy frosts etc so it might be a good idea if I can find it.

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