Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy's Aftermath

At least I can say everyone is safe, including the animals, and our house was not damaged.  We had nowhere near the devastation of coastal New Jersey and New York.  But Monday night was eerie with the tremendous winds and we could hear trees falling down but couldn't see where they were landing.  Occasionally we could get an idea where one ended up but really had no idea of the damage done.  Once the power went out we really had no idea what was happening outside.  We could hear the wind howling and an occasional "whomp" as some tree or large limb hit the ground. 

The winds died down just after midnight, but then the phone calls began.  My husband is the facilities manager for a lab and they were also without power.  We got up around 4AM (another phone call) and ran the generator for a while to cool down the fridge and freezer and catch up on the news and weather.  Alan left for work then and I went back to bed.  Alan came home again around 11AM to run the generators again and see exactly what had happened outside.

We lost quite a few trees, of course not any of the ones I want to take down.  Most just lifted the whole root ball out of the ground and fell over.  The largest tangle began with a couple trees from the game lands toppling into a few of our trees and everything landing on my garden and chicken pen.  The garden fence along the back wall is shot (it had seen better days anyway and was in need of replacing) and so are two sides of the chicken pen.  Our 14 foot metal gate is a twisted pile of unrecognizable metal.  But the trees missed the chicken coop and no poultry were harmed.  And everyone is happily running around the yard eating grass and any other bugs they can find.

The goats seemed rather annoyed this morning and wouldn't come out of their house until this afternoon.  They were happy to stay warm and dry and eat their clover hay.

The stream is running faster and more full than I have ever seen.  The sound is wonderful and it is staying pretty much in place.  And we have an island!

We are staying warm with our wood stove, although its not that cold, upper 40s  to lower 50s.  The wood stove is also our cooking appliance as well.  I sure do miss my gas range.  Things will be better during power outages when we have the wood cook stove installed and can make small hot fires to cook and then let go out.  The Vermont Castings stove needs a good bed of hot coals to make enough heat to do any cooking and that heats the house up a lot. Its been running in the upper 70s inside the house.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

We spent the weekend preparing for the hurricane.  Saturday we shopped, and then spent the rest of the day battening down the hatches at the old house and picking up  a few storm supplies, like the generator.  Sunday we got things ready at the new house.  We really have no idea how the storm could play out at the new house.  At the old house we had no basement so no flooding worries.  We knew which direction the winds usually came from, and we had a simple conversion to the generator in case of power outages.

Our new house is a new entity for us.  What will 4-8 inches of rain do to the stream?  That little leak under the basement steps? What will it do with a large amount of rain?  Is the sump pump big enough to handle a large amount of water? Can we even get to our house? What happens to the bigger creek that our little stream feeds?

I left work at 4PM today and made it home safely with only a slightly longer travel time.  The little covered wooden bridge was fine, although the Saucony Creek was beginning to flood.  My daughter had a cozy fire going in the wood stove and was washing the dishes when I got home.  There's no apparent damage anywhere, yet.

My husband just got home from work and told me that I-78 west bound is closed at the exit to get to our house.  When I came home and exited the interstate it was a parking lot beyond the exit.  My son, who is staying at the old house, said a minor power line came down just beyond our property and started a fire, but the fire department put it out quickly.  And we didn't lose power at the old house.

So we are ready to ride out the hurricane.  We have a generator, gas, lots of food, wood for the wood stove, candles, flashlights and batteries, and of course lots of kitty food!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The turkeys

Can I just say how much I love my new hen turkeys?  They are so sociable and friendly.  At least one is always outside of the poultry pen just wandering around and eating grass.  Whenever anyone goes outside the hens just want to be around you.  They like to peck at whatever is hanging off your person; clothing, fingers, shoelaces, etc.
We spent last weekend at a 17th century event in MD and while packing one of our turkeys really wanted to come inside the house.
Then the cats saw her and were also interested.
The other day the turkeys followed me to the garage.  When I came out of the garage I found them here:
They are so much fun to have around.  They almost follow you around like a dog would.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Old Order Mennonites

Sunday night, while taking my daughter and her friend back to West Chester University, we drove by this little building and saw about 15 bicycles parked outside.
On the way home, about 9:30 PM, there were about 30 bicycles and all the lights were on inside.  Apparently it is a grocery store and welding shop.  And maybe a hang out for local Old Order Mennonites on Sunday evening?
I had to check it out today.  It is the cutest little discount grocery store.  They have a couple of froaen food displays and then you are "welcome to the cooler."
You can buy a 5 gallon bucket of ice cream, local eggs, local goat cheese, and they had a big wooden crate of local apples.  Other things looked like seconds or out of date things, like the mayo dated June 2012.  There's a big sign over the door that says "If you don't like the way the food takes bring it back and we will kindly refund your money."  The girls working there were all Old Order Mennonites and so was the older woman who was checking out ahead of me.She and the clerk had a lively conversation in Pennsylvania German.  Then she walked out the side door and went into the house next door. Even with the rain, it's still Monday, time to do the wash.
I bought some chevre spread with smoked habenaro, dried apricots, tin foil and pickle and pimento loaf.  And two pounds of nice looking Jonagold apples.  I think I'll be stopping in occasionally.

Monday, October 15, 2012


The temperatures on Friday night here went down to 29 degrees.  We woke to significant frost and much damage to the annuals.  My zinnias went from looking like this one day:
To looking like this the next day:
OK, so these are not the exact same zinnias, but it's raining outside and I can take this picture from the front porch. The marigolds also took a hit from the frost. I was planning to pull the zinnias and marigolds this morning, but the sparrows and finches have been eating the seeds so I guess we'll keep the seed heads around a little while longer.

 I was worried about the raspberries freezing so my daughter, home from college, and her friend picked all the ripe and near ripe berries Friday evening.  Then into the freezer on a cookie sheet they went.  Once frozen they were placed in a freezer bag.  These individually frozen berries can then be taken out one at a time to be used as needed.  And they taste like little frozen oranges!

The walnut harvest is huge and the squirrels are having a field day.  They have been kept very busy hiding their nuts for the winter.  I watched one squirrel dig 6 holes in one of my flower beds before he "planted" his nut. 

This is the first fall in a while that I have not canned something.  There just isn't enough time in the day or energy in this body to do any canning this year.  But I have harvested quite a few seeds.  Yesterday, while cleaning up the vegetable garden at the old house, I harvested seeds of these pretty little sumflowers and seeds from my purple coneflowers. Of course pictures of those flowers are on the computer at the old house.

Our new hen turkeys are settling in nicely.  My husband found the three of them roosting on top of the chicken coop last night.  The toms spend the day displaying to impress them and are making some very interesting noises.  The hens are quite tame and love to come up to see what you are doing.  Last evening one pecked at the water coming out of the hose as I was filling their waterer.  They will eat from your hand and are not afraid to come up behind you and peck at the back of your legs.  And they make the sweetest little noises.

My husband has been busy moving the firewood to the new house and has already brought over three trailer loads.  We've used the wood stove a number of times and we are very happy with the way it warms up the house.  Nothing beats a wood stove on a cold night!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My trip to Moscow

Moscow Pennsylvania that is.  This past weekend confirmed that all my turkeys are male. So I found some Narragnsett hens on Craigslist and went to get them today.  Don't ever try to get directions from a teenage boy.  Moscow is a lovely little town, and only a little out of the way. Turns out the road I was supposed to turn onto has no road sign, urrgghh.
The three male turkeys have been busy displaying for each other, but haven't started fighting, yet.
But they spend most of their time trying to show off to each other.

The new hens are the same age, but a little smaller and not as distinctively marked.
They make the sweetest little hen noises.  I spent the morning turning my cattle panel greenhouse into a quarantine pen for the new hens.  They will spend the next few days in there, then,....let the turkey courtship begin! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Yay, the wood stove is in!

I love my wood stove.  My husband loves our wood stove so much that we had to move it to the new house.  There was a Russo coal/wood stove with a metal flue in the new house, but it is really meant for coal first and we both agree we don't like burning coal.  Too dusty and we don't like the smell.  We really like our Vermont Castings Vigilant wood stove.  Bought about 20 years ago it has been the perfect size for heating our school house. Last year we didn't turn on the heat until December 23rd, just used the wood stove to take the chill off.  We don't really know how well this new house is insulated (if at all) and don't relish paying a large oil bill.  So we are hoping we can keep the house warm mainly with the wood stove.
We had our first fire last night and we were very happy with the way the stove warmed the house.  At the old house our wood stove was in a room with 13 foot tall ceilings.  It took quite a while for the heat to start warming up the first floor, even with the ceiling fan.  In the new house we could feel the heat almost immediately.  With the addition of a small fan to blow the warm air into the rest of the house we had the kitchen up to 70 within one hour.  While going down the stairs you could feel the heat rising up.  My daughter's bedroom is above the room with the wood stove and she was warm last night.  We actually had to stop adding wood to the fire around 7PM or we would have been too warm to sleep well.

I don't think I could ever be without a wood stove.  With the weather and number of power outages we get it is necessary for heat and cooking.  I use the wood stove to help dry laundry in the winter.  I have a great floor clothes drying rack from Lehman's that works great in the winter when I want to dry clothing in front of the wood stove.  A load of laundry will dry in a couple hours and the largest size is big enough to hold two large loads.  And drying the laundry in front of the fire puts humidity into the air. 

I am not the only one who is happy to have the wood stove burning again.  Lily is too.
And for the old house, we bought the exact same stove to put back where we took this one out.  It's a couple years older but the same model.  We knew the stove would fit well and I really wanted to sell the house with a stove in place.  And no we couldn't have just put the same model stove in the new house.  My husband knew who owned our stove before us and how they took care of it and how we took care of it. He was in love with this particular stove, not just any old Vigilant!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall is here

Fall is here; and bringing with it chilly  nights, and days sometimes too.  The goats are getting frisky with the cool temperatures and the leaves are beginning to change.  Some signs of summer remain, though.  The zinnias continue to bloom like mad and the fall gold raspberries show no signs of letting up. 
I found a nice stand of bittersweet and cut a few strands to decorate around the house.
 I've always wanted a lamp post.  Now I have one and I get to decorate it as well.  And the bittersweet helped liven up the front door. (The lovely shade of green didn't photograph well.)
We are looking forward to when the trees in the hills around us begin to change colors, until then we have to be content with smaller touches of color.  Our dogwoods are really beautiful right now.
Yet another sign of fall; my husband moved the wood stove over from the old house and is hooking it up as I type.  Good thing as it is supposed to go down to 38 degrees tonight.  I can't wait to have my wood stove going!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The garden notebook

The gardens at the new house have been a real source of joy and inspiration and have me dreaming of future plans.  I can't wait to see the bulbs in the spring.  Every time I plant something I dig up a few bulbs.  I figure they must be just about everywhere.  The previous owners left me a garden notebook and receipts of fruit plants they had bought in the past.  I started reading the garden notebook this week.  It is priceless! It notebook itself predates their purchase of this house in 1985.  The first 4 pages are expenses from 1974. The garden notebook begins in 1988 on May 8th.  It's just a simple diagram of the vegetable garden.  Turns out the gate was there in 1988, that explains why it is starting to fall apart.  And they had strawberries, quite a few, but none are there now.

 The above drawing is interesting because it diagrams the bulbs that she planted in 1993 around the back patio. 
 One of my favorite parts of the garden notebook is when she went back later and wrote in how things did.  For example, I know they had lots of rain in 2000, the beans did well, and the white corn- "don't bother, yuck." I may not bother with lima beans as they were "awful."  I also know that I should plant my onions before May 27th since the ones planted on that date in 2002 didn't do well and she recommended planting earlier. 
She was still planting and writing in the notebook 3 weeks after we signed our sales agreement.  Her last entry is dated May 19 and there are still at least 20 pages left in the notebook.  Guess I need to keep it going.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Boy have I taken for granted how easy it was to do the laundry at the old house.  I planned to go to the laundromat this morning, then bring the washed clothing back to the new house to hang up to dry.  Well, I realized I had no laundry detergent at the new house so I had to drive to the store to get some.  Then coming back from the laundromat I realized I had only a few clothes pins; so back into town to get clothes pins.
The laundromat was nice and clean and bright.  And only 2 other people at 9AM on a Monday morning.  Once the clothes were in the machines it was a nice half hour of reading.
 I love to hang our clothing outside.  Sheets are the best.  Nothing beats climbing into bed with sheets fresh off the line.
 My childhood memories of hanging clothing outside include watching my grandmother hang her clothes out (after using her wringer washer.)  She had a cool umbrella clothesline and solid wooden clothes pins.  So, of course, when I found similar clothes pins at the hardware store I had to get those.
As a child we didn't have a dryer until I was in 9th grade.  When it was raining we hung our clothing in the basement and I remember bringing in frozen jeans that could stand up on their own.
Hopefully, the washer will come to the new house this weekend and I will have everything I need in one place to do laundry.