Dealing with the Aftermath

When I said we were done with the hurricane cleanup, I meant at our house, not necessarily at George’s. He had his place plus his daughter’s in Ormond and his brother’s in Deland to deal with. So for the past two days we’ve been focused on taking apart and burning downed trees and tree debris next door and I think we still have another day’s worth of work. I’m mentally and physically done with it! Now the aftermath – mosquitoes. They take a week or so to hatch from all the new standing water and they’ve done so with a vengeance. I’ve never seen so many aggressive, hungry skeeters. I cover up as best I can and spray whatever isn’t covered. That helps. I think they have a life span of about a week so as soon as we get a nippy morning, they should be only a memory.

Got back into the garden and planted the first set of root crops which included carrots, radishes, parsnips, rutabaga, and beets. It’s a tad early but we supposedly have a cool front heading our way. I’ve had really bad luck with roots the past two seasons and had vowed to drop them from future gardens but decided to give them one more chance and some extra special loving attention on planting. The rutabaga is a replacement for turnips which really did poorly last year – great greens but no root tuber. I really don’t know if rutabaga greens are edible or not but Nancy knows a number of elderly southern ladies who probably will have the answer to that. Or I can just give them away under the turnip green label and see what the reaction is. Never grown rutabaga’s so not exactly sure what to expect. The other possibility I’m mulling over is trying another patch of the same turnips that failed last year but with the extra attention mentioned above. My new approach is to add a large dose of “trace” minerals to the soil alongside the crop. That means Epson salts and bone meal. I fertilize very lightly, most relying on compost, and that may leave the soil lacking something needed for root crops. I’ll be able to answer that question in about 2-3 months. Except for radishes which will germinate in 5 days, all the others take a while to germinate – maybe as much as two weeks – so I have to be diligent in keeping the seed beds moist all that time. I got a break with a nice rain right after I got the first few rows planted. And while I was planting the root crop, I popped in a couple rows of spinach and lettuce. I suspect it’s too early in the season, i.e. not cool enough, but I like living on the edge! It’s a way to hedge the weather – better for zucchini’s if the weather stays warm; better for the spinach and lettuce if it cools off.

The other garden news is that each of the three zucchini plants have micro zucchini’s sprouting out. Ditto the cucumbers. That means table size by next week. The experiment with these is an occasional spraying with soapy water to ward off marauding critters. In one of the currently unused rows, a renegade plant just popped up that looks suspiciously like another zucchini or another kind of squash. We’ve had both acorn and butternut squash which means seeds in the compost pile so we won’t know what it really is until it produces fruit. I know it’s not a watermelon.

Back to Normal

Back to normal. We lost power when the storm hit Friday and it was restored late Monday afternoon. Along the way the refrigerator crapped out just to make things more challenging. We have two small standalone freezers so for four days I was shuffling frozen water jugs between the fridge and the freezers a couple times a day to keep from losing contents. First thing Monday morning I called the appliance repair place but the best they could do was schedule a service call for Tuesday afternoon. Monday night I decided to make one more run at fixing it myself and did!!! So on Tuesday morning when I checked, as if by magic there were ice cubes. Service call cancelled. We had already found a replacement that is on sale until the 15th so if it craters again, we’ll jump on it.

The game plan is to finish the cleanup today now that we have power restored. That means breaking out the chain saw and attacking those large branches that were just too big to tackle with pruning equipment and blowing away the small debris that still covers the driveway. I reckon this to be a full day’s work by the time I get it over to the burn pile.
In the garden, squash plants looking good, ditto cuc’s and pole beans; jury still out on tomatoes.

Went over to check on the house we’ve been remodeling/rebuilding and it weathered the storm without a hitch. He lost a few trees and had to cut his way into the driveway but no damage. The next job there is installing the plumbing but that will have to wait a few days while we all do storm cleanup.

About a year ago our power washer crashed. That was a good news/bad news kind of thing because it was a pain to use but Nancy was always on me to pressure wash this, that, or the other thing. I did halfheartedly look for a replacement and found one a while back that looked like a decent design and reasonable price – when on sale. I really needed a power washer a few weeks back and decided to borrow my neighbor’s unit. He has this monster, gas powered machine, and I could tell right away it was an overkill and also it wouldn’t start. As luck would have it, the one I had my eye on came on sale at Lowes so I reluctantly made the purchase. It’s an electric powered unit that provides 2000PSI pressure (as compared to George’s 3500 PSI unit). My old electric was 1650 psi and it did the job so I knew 2000 was adequate. It did the job just fine. What I like about this one compared to my old one is that the pressure hose is longer and much more flexible and the power cord is much longer. It’s also mounted on nicer wheels so the whole unit can be moved with less pain. I have the big screen porch and the concrete deck at the house to do but also the dock about 200’ away. It was always a struggle to move the old unit from one area to the other. Much, much easier with this one. The only issue I had was washing the sheds, a couple hundred feet up the driveway. I learned that this unit is much more sensitive to input water pressure/volume and needs a larger diameter hose and larger faucet facilities than I have up by the pump. I’ll fix that in the near future when the smoke clears from the storm damage.

2 Days After

Day 2 after the storm. I woke up about 7AM and there was just enough light to walk up to the generator. Fueled and restarted it in about 2 minutes and back to the house. There was a light on in the bedroom but it didn’t wake Nancy so she’ll get up this AM to lights and a freshly brewed pot of coffee. This is getting routine. A pleasant surprise last evening. Nancy decided to take a cold shower. I knew that wouldn’t play since our well water is a cold 72 but she came out and said it wasn’t bad at all and that I should take one. I knew this was a ruse to get me to freeze my butt off but I did need one and figured if she could tough it out, so could I. Turned out the water was actually quite warm – not hot but certainly comfortable. I got out probably in under 2 minutes but the water was still nice. We have a 40 gallon water tank at the well and then the hot water heater tank in the house so I figure that until the tank levels fall to a certain level, the well pump doesn’t turn on. The well tank sits outside in partial sun so I guess that water is in the 90’s; ditto the hot water heater in the house.

I revisited the shed where the large limb had landed on the roof and upon closer examination, it did punch a hole in the roof so when I pulled out the branch the metal roof was ripped and exposed to the elements. I tried to straighten it out as best I could and then made a duct tape patch followed by a square foot piece of tarp and another layer of duct tape. That should hold up just fine until I can devise something better.

Went down to the dock and was pleased to find it largely intact. The glider swing was in the water but I had tied it so it didn’t drift away. Ditto the ladder. Lots of broken branches but nothing requiring a chain saw so I was able to fairly well straighten in out in a couple of hours. The lake is at the highest level it’s been in a few years but still about a foot below deck level. Also the garden was not as tattered as it looked yesterday. I’ll know in a few days if it will fully recover but I’m hopeful.

Nancy’s getting more adventuresome with the electric and used her hair dryer and a stove burner to cook breakfast. We had been using the Holland exclusively so this adds a dimension.

No word yet on our beach place. Flagler was hit fairly hard and whole sections of A1A were washed away. From the news, it seems worse a few miles south of where we stay and we have our fingers crossed that it will be useable next month.

The Day After

Day of the storm. I got a decent night’s sleep and was pleasantly surprised to find that we still had power at 5AM. The wind was howling and the rain was coming down big time. I decided to get up and brew a pot of coffee while we still had power. The networks are broadcasting live info nonstop and have been since yesterday morning so we are in heavy overload of weather radar and sights of news reporters blowing away. Tom called last night about 10PM and he was fighting the water. He had drained the pool but it was rapidly filling up again. If the pool overflows onto the deck he’ll have trouble keeping it out of the house. Joey is closest to the action and should be in the worst of it about now. No doubt he’s lost power but I’m confident he can handle whatever happens.

Update – We did lose power as predicted about 7AM. I had the generator all set to go but had to brave walking up to the shed area in the wind and rain. I knew it was going to get much worse so no sense procrastinating. One pull and we were back in business. We ran it for about 10 hours then refueled it without ever turning it off so it’s really going to makes this all livable. (note, I learned today that I should have turned off the generator while refueling.) It was a tense day with howling wind that the weather guys said was 75mph where we are. It rained hard and horizontal so I don’t know if the rain gauge really works under those conditions but it recorded 5”, less than forecast. We had a few large branches break off, one exactly where I usually park the truck so we dodged a bullet on that. Had another substantial branch break off and land on the roof of one of the utility sheds but it didn’t appear to hurt the roof – another bullet dodged. We have lots of tall pine trees close to the house so we were constantly getting pounded by pine cones. That startles but the roof was up to it – really glad we decided on a metal roof. The worst thing happened about 5PM after the worst of the storm had passed – the tv antenna broke such that the antenna was more a wind vane than an antenna. Since the wind was coming from the west, the antenna swung to that direction and we basically lost TV. Nancy is not a happy camper but we have a couple of Netflix DVD’s and there’s nothing on broadcast TV but hurricane news so I’m ready for something different.

Day after the storm – Wow what a mess. You can’t even see the driveway with the fallen branches. It took about 3/4 of the day to get it all reasonably cleaned up. Then my neighbors (on both sides) and I fixed the antenna. It will take most of another day to dispose of all the debris – fire pit disposal system. I haven’t gone down to check out the dock yet. I’m operating in overload mode now so I’d rather wait until all else is done before visiting there. You might think that’s an ostrich approach but I think it will be ok just loaded up with debris and present another full day cleanup job. I don’t need that yet.
The generator has worked two straight days without a hiccup and it will probably be another two days before power is restored. We’re fairly far down the priority list. It seems to run 10-12 hours on a single tank which I think is about 4 gallons. I started out with about 20 gallons so you can do the math. We start it at 7AM and shut it down about 11PM. We can pretty much run anything in the house but the AC and the hot water heater including a burner on the stove, the toaster oven, the microwave – of course not all at the same time but with a little thought, it does the job just fine.
A quick look at the garden proved it had a rough time of it. Details in a couple of days.

A Few Hours Before the Big Blow

Getting ready for the big storm and it’s looking real this time. According to the local media, we should be experiencing high winds and serious rain by tomorrow morning last about 10-12 hours. I think I have everything tied down or put away but with winds of 125 mph predicted, you never know. I cranked up the generator to make sure it would run and luckily it started on the first pull and ran just fine for about 15 minutes. So I filled it with gas and have it sitting in place up by the carport and sheds, all connected to the electrical outlet. I have 20 gallons of gas in waiting plus a full tank so that should get us through a 3 day power outage. Beyond that, I would think I could find gas after the storm within driving range. So for the past two days I’ve been converting water to gas and water to time. What?????? The biggest problem with losing power is losing the freezers and fridge. Also when we turn off the generator – we run it roughly 12 hours a day from about 9AM to 9PM – that shuts down the freezers and fridge. So the idea is to load up those appliances with frozen water bottles to keep them cold when the power is off. The frozen water buys us time and, in a sense, functions like the generator for the fridge and freezers. Other than that the house functions perfectly except with no A/C and no hot water. The Holland grill will function as the primary oven so we can operate for a long time without the stove.

The other concern is a tree coming down and blocking our egress path so I moved the truck over to my neighbor’s field where it’s in no danger of a tree fall. I brought the chain saw in the house in case we have to cut our way out – it wouldn’t be the first time. If a tree falls on the house………….oh well.

Not worried about any lake flooding. Even a foot of rain wouldn’t bring the lake even up to deck level. The concern with too much water is that it loosens the soil around the trees so they can topple over under the wind stress. I guess a tree could fall on the dock………….oh well.
The garden will probably suffer. The cuc’s and pole beans are climbing up the trellis which exposes them to the highest winds and driving rain so I’m guessing they will be fairly well shredded. The zucchini plants are growing really well and with great big leaves to act like sails, will no doubt be a major target. When you plant a fall garden you know you’re heading for storm season and the potential of an early frost so it’s a crap shoot most years.

We’re feeling good about the house under construction; it’s unquestionably stronger now than it was before we started. I’m sure the original house wouldn’t have withstood this storm.

Hurricane coming

Done with college football early in the season! After my gators died from Tennessee poison, I’ve lost interest. Good for the garden, bad for the fish.
We took a short trip to South Carolina to visit our niece and her extended family including our three favorite great great nieces. Nancy is usually working on some quilting piece for the family and our backlog had built up to where a hand delivery was justified. We drove straight thru on Friday then left Sunday afternoon to return via Savannah and on into Jacksonville Monday morning to hit the local Costco. We dropped about $650 there and actually wouldn’t have had room in the car for another dollar’s worth of stuff. We took a different way coming from Spartanburg to Savannah to avoid Interstate 26. That’s the most stressful interstate to drive in my experience. It’s very hilly, the traffic moves at exceptionally high speed and it has to be more than 50% populated with giant trucks. I guess that’s due to the proximity to the ports of Charleston and Savannah, major east coast freight harbors. Google maps said a way to avoid the interstate would be exactly the same mileage but add an hour of travel time. Considering that one could easily sit for an hour dead stopped on 26 in a traffic snarl, we decided to take the back roads. Glad we did. Lots to see with no stress driving and since we were stopping half way, no time constraints.
Our social life took a big uptick this past couple of weeks. Our postmaster is into little theatre and he told us he was starring in a production of the Man from La Mancha. We hadn’t seen that in 100 years and thought it might be fun to support him at a Sunday matinee and then top it off with a trip to a local watering hole known for a large variety of specialty beers. The show turned out much more entertaining than I had expected and our postal guy, Ray, was really quite good. Ditto the pub. Nancy has a new favorite beer, Florida Cracker, from a brewery called Cigar City, no doubt in Tampa.
Nancy had dinner out mid week in recognition of her charity quilt work for a local service organization. Since she can’t drive I took her and killed a couple of hours trying out the Florida Cracker for myself. That’s the first time I’ve sat in a bar by myself in at least 15 years. I noticed that the protocol for anyone sitting down at the bar is to immediately pop you smart phone out on the bar and then pick it up and peck on the keyboard every 10 or so minutes. I don’t have one so I was clearly out of my element. I think there might be a market for a dummy phone which looked like a smart one but could be programmed to ping or make a different sound every 10 minutes. Should be able to sell one of those for $20.

Getting ready for a hurricane. Cranked up the generator to be sure it would still run and tied down everything on the dock. Seems like there should be more but not sure what. Right now it looks like it will pass offshore about a 100 miles east of us so we should experience winds under 60mph and maybe get a couple of inches of rain. If it happens to change course in a bad way, we’ll just hop in the car and go as far away as practical. Not going to ride out a direct hit.