Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene's Calling Card

Well,I'm back! I have had most interesting week. The best place to start is at the beginning,I guess.

Last week,as I posted,we were keeping an eye on Hurricane Irene.Here at home,there was a hurricane of sorts going on...and I brought it all on myself. I have posted in the past that I have depression and terrible anxiety. I have had this since childhood.I am on medication and that has helped greatly,though I still get bad anxiety sometimes; I just don't wake up everyday with a knot of dread in my stomach. At any rate,I didn't realize that I was almost out of pills until...well...I was almost out.I had 5 days left. I didn't think that would be a problem,I called the refill line and figured I would get it mailed to me in about four days,since it was coming from Portland,ME,and that has been the usual time frame from reordering to appearing in the mailbox. I called on a Thursday. I ran out on Monday. Now,you know how they say to never just stop taking medication? You have to ease out of it. I figured,what's one day,folks forget to take their meds all the time. It would probably  show up on Tuesday,anyway,right? I wouldn't even miss a day. Tuesday comes....then Wednesday....

By now, I am in full blown withdrawal.Nausea,vertigo feelings,the works. I felt miserable. I can't sleep. My brain starts doing funky things,I start crying for no reason whatsoever at various times. I did manage on Thursday to keep a visit with My Dear Friend Michelle,and we had a nice chat. However, as soon as I got home,I went right to bed.I knew you could get such withdrawals symptoms from pain meds,but not from depression type medication. Finally,Friday afternoon,my meds showed up and I took one right away. By Saturday night,I was fine. 

However,Friday, I pulled my sciatic nerve. I first pulled it 18 years ago lifting a TV and not using my legs to lift. Ever since then,if I move a certain way,it flares up again. It hasn't happened in a long time,and I wish I could say that I did it moving debris from the storm,or something as equally dramatic,but...I didn't. I did by shaving the back of my right leg in the shower. 

Yep. Shaving my legs. I turned my left hip just right and bang! I felt it,and I knew. I could barely lift my legs over the tub to get out. Since then,I have been moving slowly,taking Aleeve,laying down,and sitting with pillows to help with support. It's a bit better,but even sitting here with a pillow behind me is very uncomfortable,and painful. Sigh.

Now for our Irene adventure......

We started getting rain on Saturday night,and by Sunday PM we had winds gusts of up to 60 miles an hour. The boys had a front row seat on our screen porch:

I took the photo through the screen,as you can see. Our neighbor Walter has some pine trees that looked like they might go,and we could hear them cracking when the winds were the strongest. At noon,we lost power. Rick and Brother B went outside to speak with our neighbor Mike,and as soon as they climbed the stairs and closed the door to the screen porch,this sucker fell:

As you can see,the 30-40 ft limb crashed next to the house,taking the cable,electric,and phone wires with it,and just missed the boys. If they had chatted with Mike just a few seconds longer,it would've landed on them. Mike and his girlfriend came running over to make sure they were OK. I heard a big crash from where I was laying in bed,and the boys telling Zach to stay in the back of the house until they could see where the wires were.The power had already gone off,but they wanted to be sure.All was well. The bad thing was our big generator got damaged,and our flag pole got bent to the ground,but at least no one was hurt,and our house just missed being hit. We do have another smaller generator,so we could at least keep our fridge going,and we could run the TV and DVD player if we wanted.

In all honesty,we didn't watch too many DVDs.We didn't really even listen to the radio.Zach read,and I knitted during the day and read by lamplight at night. We did have cell phones so we could call folks to let them know we were OK and to check the time,but I rarely looked at a clock. We had our gas grill,and we moved our camp stove and a propane tank into the house. We had rain barrel water for the birds,pool water to fill the toilet tank (if it's yellow,let it mellow;if it's brown,flush it down),and we did have bottled water and Crystal Light to drink. We also have water in our dug well,now that we no longer use it. We used to that bathe,wash our hair,and the dishes. It was actually no problem. We had plenty of food as well. Zach didn't complain once. He said he liked not having electricity.He was quite glad to see that our outdoor cat,Molly Bruce,came through unscathed:
I wish I could say the same about our corn. The rest of the garden was fine,though:
Yesterday,some workers from TN showed up to reattach our lines. They came up to help our Public Service of NH electric company.Crews from OH and TX were on their way as well.Canadian crews had to turn around and help back in Canada. By late afternoon,we had electricity,and by 8:00 PM we had cable and the phone.In all honesty,I didn't miss the TV or the computer.

Right now,the menfolk are grocery shopping,since I can't,then they are going to cut up that limb and get it out of the yard. And I am going to take my first shower since Saturday....hopefully I can shave my legs without ruining my back further! That is....if I can bend to shave them at all.

I hope any of my blog friends out there who had Irene zip through are all OK and are getting back to normal.Today is a lovely,bright day.....hope you all enjoy it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Battening Down The Hatches

As I type this,Hurricane Irene is still down in the islands. One track looks like the eye will come right over us when it hits NH,another has the eye going right over Portsmouth,about 25-30 miles away. Of course, there are other tracks that are possible,but we are not taking any chances. When it hits,at the most,it will be a Category 1,but that can still cause some damage with sustained winds of 60-90 miles an hour. If it's down graded to a tropical storm,it can still cause some damage.

Boats are being taken out of Rye Harbor. NH only has 13 miles of coastline,but Rye Harbor is the most exposed. People are not taking chances.

Living here in NH,hurricanes are a rarity.We live too far north,and the ocean water is not that warm to sustain a high wind hurricane. The last hurricane that we had hit was back in 1991,which I believe was Hurricane Bob.

We are preparing.If the power goes out,we have plenty of batteries for flashlights,candles,and parafin oil for the lamps. We have plenty of water-now that we no longer use our dug well,it's full. We can use that for cooking,bathing,or flushing the toilet. We can also fill the large canner and pressure canner with water,or use the filled water jugs for drinking.We still have our water barrels outside for the stock or if we need it. Our generator is fine,and we are going to fill our gas cans up. We have plenty of food. We have our propane grill,as well as camp stoves and plenty of propane on hand. Anything in the yard that can fly around will be put in the garage. The turkeys and chickens will be A-OK.

Hurricane Irene will be in our neck of the woods on Sunday. Rain is suppose to begin on Saturday. They are predicting  upwards of 6" of rain. Thankfully,we have a subpump in the basement. Rick's Dad lives in a trailer park down in North Hampton,only a few miles from Hampton Beach,so we told him that if he doesn't feel safe down there he and Brother Spencer are more than welcome to come up here.

We can only wait and see what Irene decides to do.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Bartering System

One of the things that we have had the benefit of since we moved to the country is the bartering system. This harkens back to the day when folks knew they could depend on friends and neighbors to help them on their farms,and they could return the favor. No money was expected.

We have had great luck with our neighbors. When we had problems initially with our dug well,our neighbor  Kelly had access to the equipment to dig down to the pipes (which,we discovered,was "fixed"with duct tape). He spent several hours at our house,helping us replace this pipe. Imagine what that would've cost us to hire someone! He had also dug out massive rocks from our backyard...all he required was coffee. The boys helped by watching his then bait store ,and by working on various small engine jobs that he took in.

Another neighbor had a few trees taken down,so there was nice pile of mulch an dirt in his yard.He let us take it,and we used it around our garden,in our walkway,and to expand our driveway. Our neighbor Kelly came by with equipment to compact it.Then,our neighbor down the road,Bob (who has since passed on) came driving down the road with his big front end loader,and helped move the piles and push them down,so it took less time. We offered him some money for gas,since this was not a small piece of equipment.He refused.

Kelly also wanted a pig,and wanted to know if we wanted one,too. He would keep it up at his house. In exchange for letting us use his property,we shared the restaurant scraps that Brother Dale would bring up from his job. The pork was delicious,by the way.

Last Thanksgiving,we donated a couple of turkeys and food baskets to some families in town. We wanted it to be a secret,but the person (not a family member) who delivered the turkeys and food baskets let it slip.One of the families was another neighbor,who was having a rough time. This morning,as Brother B was taking a walk,he walked past this neighbors house,and they started to chat. He told Brother B that he wanted to thank us for the food last Thanksgiving.He had a pig this year,and might we trade one of our delicious turkeys for some fresh pork? The meat would not be ready until Dec. No problem! So now we have some fresh pork coming our way.

There are other ways neighbors can help,more simple ways. Out of butter,or sugar, or coffee? No problem. If there wasn't something we needed,we knew the neighbors would give it back when they could.

Growing up in Somersworth,we never bartered with our neighbors. In fact, we rarely ever spoke with them,and our houses were closer to each other than the area where I live now. There was no dislike. Everybody just led their own lives.

I am very grateful for my neighbors. They have saved us thousands of dollars,and I know that they are grateful for what we could provide for them.It  has also created a great sense of community. I wish everyone could have that experience.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A New Game

Yesterday I was in the garden,pulling up my broccoli and lettuce that had bolted. As I walked past my green pepper plants,I saw a good sized pepper. It was the biggest I had ever grown,so I called Rick over to take a look and then I saw something I had never seen before clinging to a stalk:

Sorry this photo is so blurry.This was actually taken today on a tomato plant.

Yep,our first horn worm,or hookworm,or whatever you call it. Then I found our second one. The Girls found them delicious. I checked our tomato plants,but didn't see anymore.

Today I went out to plant some fall veggies. I don't know if they will grow or not, since I am late in doing so,but I figured I would give it shot. I planted spinach,lettuce,green beans,and butternut squash. My tomatoes needed to be staked further,so I grabbed some string and did some old Florida Weave (going behind and in front of the plants with the string to the left,then opposite on the way back). Lo and behold,there was another worm:

And another. And another. And another. I would look for these little suckers and one would be right in front of my face for 5 minutes before I saw it. How clever they are to blend right in with the tomato stalks!And how frustrating for me and Brother B. He was helping me look and every once in a while one of us would exclaim,"You little bastard! You were right in front of me!"Sneaky little suckers. I called Zach outside to take a look,and to take the photo above. He thought they were gross.

16 worms later,all looked OK in the tomato world. The Girls loved their noontime treat.

Now we have a new game-Find the Worm. He who finds the most wins tons of gratitude from the tomatoes and the chickens. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Adventures In Pressure Canning

Today I finally attempted to pressure can my green beans. I admit,with all the horror stories I heard about pressure canning,I was a bit nervous,but I figured if I followed the directions,I should be OK.Some of my nerves were just from attempting something new,not knowing what to expect, and not having the rhythm down.

Well,folks,I am here to tell you that pressure canning is EASY. Yes,that's right,E-A-S-Y. The hardest part is reading through the instructions,getting used to the equipment,and realizing that if your pressure regulator is not rocking like it is suppose to,and steam is pouring out of the air vent, it's normal. It doesn't mean that the canner is going to explode.

I bought my  Presto  pressure canner/cooker ( as well as my water canner) last year when I was wide eyed with the typical canning virgin excitement.I did not have enough veggies to warrant canning them,so I made friends with my water canner and made relish,pickles,and strawberry jam.This year,however,we picked about 4 lbs of green beans,so I knew I could at least break into the pressure canning world with a batch of that.

The first thing you want to do is read the instructions,check out the canner,  it's parts,and read the recipe. Then do it all over again.Pressure regulator?Vent pipe? Overpressure plug? Good to know what they are and what they are for. Then you have to decide if you want to hot pack or raw pack the beans. Raw pack has no precooking,and that is what I did (after checking with Rick to see what he would prefer).I did not add salt,which is optional.

I washed out the canner per the instructions, the green beans the jars,lids,and rings.
I needed to boil water to keep in the jars until I was ready to fill them. I also boiled the lids and rings.

When I was ready to fill the jars,I poured out the water,packed the jars tightly with the green beans,then filled the jars with water to allow 1" of head space,using my head space measure.I used a rubber spatula in each jar to get rid of air bubbles.I wiped the rims of the jar,then put on the hot lids and rings.
I had to boil 3 qts of water to put in the pressure canner. I poured in the water,then placed the jars on the canning rack.I made sure the cover and the body of the canner closed correctly.I turned the burner on high,and waited for steam to start coming out of the vent pipe on the top of the canner. I lowered the heat so that the steam still came out steady;the steam had to come out for 10 minutes.I was then ready to put the pressure regulator which was set to 10 lbs, on the vent pipe.
Now was the part that I was nervous about. At 10 lbs of pressure,the quart jars needed to be processed for 25 minutes. However,you could not start counting the process time until the pressure regulator started rocking back and forth. That was the signal that the canner was ready with the proper 10 lbs of pressure.
I figured it wouldn't take long. Well, you know the expression "a pot never boils?" That also applies to pressure regulators.They don't rock if you watch them. In the photo above,you can see on the left hand side of the lid a little flat head button.This is the air vent/cover lock.(it had already popped up in this photo)To the right,in the back,you see a black button.This is the overpressure plug. The overpressure plug was popped up,and the air vent had steam pouring out of it-I thought something was going to blow for a couple of minutes. I kept watching the regulator,waiting for it rock.Then the air vent popped up and I kept waiting and wondering what I did wrong.Finally,about10 minutes later,it started rocking.I put the heat on medium so it would still rock,but not hard,and turned the timer to 25 minutes. After it processed,I had to wait until the pressure had gone down-the air vent and the overpressure plug had to both drop back down . That took about half an hour. I opened the lid,and took out my first batch of canned green beans. 

So....I used a pressure canner and lived to tell the tale! If I can do it,trust me,so can you!!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Litte Visitor

Little O and Moxie love to sit on the windowsill in the kitchen that looks into our screen porch. The last week,we noticed that more often than not,something would hold their attention for a while. These cats would not move one inch-except for the swishing of their tails.We did finally see what holds their interest.

I took this photo of Little O this AM.She was sitting,staring up towards my egg basket which I hang on hook in the window by the door.I walked quietly to where she was sitting,peered out the window,and saw our little visitor-I was even finally able to snap a photo:

Our little chipmunk friend has been enjoying the bag of bird seed we keep on the porch.Sometimes the door does not close properly,which makes it easy for such a small creature to slip in. Sometimes it hides in our pot belly stove (which is not hooked up,it's for decoration).It's funny to see it's little cheeks puffed out with seed.

Brother B went onto the porch and opened the door. It literally flew out of the basket,under the bench,and finally,bolted as fast as I've ever seen  a chipmunk bolt,to his home in the stone wall.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

2011 Garden Tour

I know, I have been remiss in posting.It seems like the same thing,for the most part,each day,and I have failed to to be motivated to chat about it.

However, last Saturday,our Garden Club had it's annual Members Garden Tour. We had several folks open up their yards so we could poke around and ask questions,or just take photos and admire. My garden was not on this tour. Our yard is still a bit disheveled,and I am sort of out of the loop up here-most members live down in Farmington,and there is nice loop between their homes which is more convenient than trekking up here,out of the way. Sadly,my camera battery died at the house with the biggest garden,and I was not able to take photos at the last house. :(  I did get some good photos up until then,though.

Our first house was that of Kyle and his husband,Stan.They have a small lot,filled with flowers,herbs and veggies mixed in together:

Our second house was that of Pete. Pete is the repurposer (if that is a word)of things.He has compost bins made of truck liners,has veggies growing out tires,and built a greenhouse out of old windows. In the second photo,you will see him showing us his cold frame that he made from dry sink and old window,and in the third you will notice a tall rocket shaped structure.That is an old tanning bed topped with a plastic ball he had.He made it into a small garden tool shed.

The third house was that of Stephanie and her partner,John.Stephanie is a cartoonist who has sold her cartoons to "Chicken Soup For the Soul" books and is the head of the Garden Group.John is the editor of the local paper.After touring their garden they treated us to Cucumber Gazpacho Soup and ice tea.

Fourth stop was the home of Sally.  She had a nice mix of veggies,fruit and flowers.
Fifth house was that of my Dear Friend Michelle.She has a great set up with a bee hive (though the bees disappeared last year),a barn she and her hubby built,rain barrels,chickens,and goats.

The sixth house was that of Carl and Kay. Carl and Kay are an older couple.They built their house,haul water from their pond,cook on a wood stove,and built their own sugar shack for maple syrup.They have massive gardens,and can or dry their harvest to last them through the winter. They eat no meat or eggs.The first photo is that of their sugar shack and the wood shelter for the wood they use to boil their syrup.

That's where my camera battery died :(  The seventh house was that of Pat and Manny. They have horses,chickens,and a small pond. They have two or three garden areas.They invited us to a feast of strawberry soup,spinach quiche,brussel sprouts,salad,and lavender shortbread cookies.

It was a very interesting tour. Lots of good ideas to store away for future reference!