Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It has been raining here for what seems forever.  Sure, I know, we DID have a couple of relatively dry days last week, but I think the last time we saw the sun was Tuesday... And what do they predict for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday?????  You guessed it. Rain.  I think it was Friday when I heard the weather announcer comment that our area is currently nine inches over the normal annual rainfall....

As the Rains Were Beginning

I DO know that we have LOTS of "puddles" on the property.  I am reminded of my brother Tim when were were children.  There was a low spot in our back yard in Bowie, Maryland, and when it rained a lot, that low spot would fill with water. One day, on our way to school, Tim declared to our little group of kids who walked to school together, that the puddle in our back yard was as deep as Foxhill Lake. Well, of course, since all of the kids were also familiar with that local lake, EVERYONE jumped on Tim, and razzed him for days about that statement.  But Tim, always determined to stick to his story, never backed off of that statement.  And now, more than forty years later, as I slosh through wide puddles that cover my shoes in water as I make my way to the goats and to the chickens, I think to myself... these puddles are as deep as Foxhill Lake! And I smile at the memory.

Despite the rain, we continue to make progress toward our vision for this old farmhouse. The past couple of weeks have been spent creating the "new" second story.

New Lumber Load Delivered
Joe Inspects New Lumber

The previously "funhouse" floor posed a bit of a challenge, but the carpenter has installed a new and LEVEL floor frame, on top of the old boards, and has installed the new sub-floor in the back part of the second story. He has also has successfully completed the raising of the ceiling in that half of the upstairs.

New Floor Frame Installed
New Sub-floor Going In
New Ceiling/Roof Supports Going In
New Rafters In Place

Next he will do the same thing to the front portion of the upstairs.  This is no small task and takes a good bit of engineering, but it is coming together.

Meanwhile, we've kept busy cleaning up the downed limbs from the hurricane, and have had many a burn pile in the last few weeks.  Funny how the more we do, the more there is to do...

Loads of Downed Branches
And More
Judy Watches yet another Burn Pile

It is very hard for me to believe that the summer is already gone and we are facing the collection-of-firewood-for-winter season.  It seems as if this year has flown by.  There is simply not enough time to complete everything we have on our to-do list. Nevertheless, we do continue to make progress and one day, we will be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor.  In the meantime, however, there is no rest for the weary (or is that the wicked???) In preparation for the colder months, Joe is re-appropriating one of the double carports to transform it into a barn for the chickens and goats.

To accomplish this, the carport had to be moved.  To accomplish the moving of the carport, the original goat pen fence had to be taken down.  And then there were a couple of days of just cleaning the area up from fallen branches, etc.

Joe Removes the Fence Posts
Judy Rolls up the Fence

On Tuesday, the last day before the rains set it for good, Joe and the carpenter moved the carport. The process was interesting to watch.  It involved a tractor, a twenty foot pole, a chain,  a crowbar, a rope, a few blocks of wood, a couple of giant C clamps, a few logs, and a couple of guys who "knew they could" get that carport moved.

Joe and Wendell toy with the idea of
dragging the Carport...
Joe Starts the Move with the Tractor
So Far, So Good
Add a Few Logs to Facilitate the Rolling
Moving, Moving, Moving
And, Finally, In Place

Since this move entailed going AROUND a tree or two, there were a few exciting  moments, but, about an hour after they started, the carport was resting nicely in its new location, some fifty feet from where it had started...and none the worse for wear.  NOW.... if only the RAINS would give us a break, Joe could get working on the transformation...

Paths reemerging after cleanup

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Clouds Threatening

Today was a solitary one -- I alone, with the car radio...and the thoughts in my head.  Clouds were the number one visual gift for me today, even though I first had to make my way through a torrential downpour from Gloucester, VA to west of Richmond. After that, though there were short-lived rain pockets, I would describe the day as "threatening."

West Point, VA

Bedford, VA

As I drove, looking at those threatening clouds, I thought the folks in Texas might not consider those big black clouds menacing at all... they would, I imagine, welcome them and the rain they promised to deliver.  But I am not in Texas, and after just experiencing the more than 12 inches of rain delivered by Irene, I'd just as soon see those clouds disappear without a trace.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Sky and Black Clouds

Beautiful Sky

I had been looking forward to traveling with Joe, but the circumstances of the current construction phase at the farmhouse, coupled with a fair amount of lost time due to the hurricane, made it more realistic that he stay back and I travel alone... the trip is, after all, for my work.  So, the seven hour trip was less inviting.  But, it is necessary and so I made the drive.  Along the way, I had hoped to stop and share a quick lunch with my daughter in the Charlottesville area, but between the rain and our schedules, we decided against it.  Instead, we chatted on the phone awhile... That's always a pleasure, and today was no different.

Dark, Dark Clouds

Patch of Blue in Sky Ahead

5:00 PM Abingdon, VA

In the end, the drive I was dreading turned into a very nice, peaceful one indeed...never a dull skyline, and lots of time to think.

Blue Sky Trying to Push Away the Dark Clouds

Sky or Ocean?  Such Turbulence

Blue Ridge Mountains In Clouds

Friday, September 2, 2011

Earthquake, Hurricane, and Some Spectacular News

August has flown by as fast as did July and June before her.  I think if time doesn't slow down soon, I will soon awaken to discover I am a grandmother!  Oh wait....

Actually, in March, when my daughter was in town to do the floral arrangements for a local wedding, she shared with me the news that she and her husband are expecting their first first grandchild.  Why, you might ask, even HOW, you might ask, did you manage to hold THAT news so close to the vest?  Well, Jenn asked that I keep their secret until they'd had the opportunity to share their news with Benoit's family in France, some of whom would not learn of the new addition until they took their vacation to the U.S. and to visit with Jenn and August!  That is a LONG time to keep a secret that is such an exciting one!

Now I REALLY have to decide what I would like to be called by my grandchildren....maybe I'll let them decide....

Jenn and Ben
Meanwhile, playing the month back in fast-reverse mode, we are recovering from Irene, though we are most thankful that her impact on us was minimal in comparison to many others.  Yes, we lost trees, but they were all in the woods and posed no threat to animals, humans or structures.  Yes, the neighbor's tree went down, taking with it the power lines and our power...for 53.5 hours...but we were able to secure a generator the day after we lost power, and managed to save the summer's bounty, currently stored in freezers for winter meals. And yes, we had more than a foot of rain, which, with the wind, ended up toppling our sunflowers, giving our young fruit trees a serious lean, and threatening to flood our old farmhouse, currently under renovation...but the newly completed cement pour in the old farmhouse crawl space served well, and NO water came in...NONE...NADA!  I was so impressed!

Tree that took out our power
Street sign taken out
Unloading Generator

So, to us, Irene was like the proverbial bad was three days coming (our preparation took three full days), three days here (well, technically, we were only without power for a little over two days, but the crazy rain started a full day before we lost power) and three days going (we have spent the last three days, since the power was restored, cleaning up after the storm).  The fallen trees in the woods will become winter fuel for the wood stove.  The seeds from the glorious sunflowers will be stored for next year's crop. And the goats and chickens will, for at least the immediate future, see me as their FAVORITE person....they all hunkered down for the storm in their fortified shelters, and were OH SO HAPPY to see me every time I went out to check on them seemed to calm their nerves!

Sky After Irene
Joe with Fallen Tree in the Woods
Now not even a week before Irene, I was making lunch in our above the garage apartment when the whole place shook violently!  I had no idea what had happened, but Joe, Mr. California, was quick to educate me.  "That," said he, "was an earthquake."  He then cautioned me that often, aftershocks followed.  No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the garage apartment shuddered again.  Joe and I flew down the stairs and out of the garage, eager to check on our carpenter and his son who were working in the old farmhouse.  We found them in the back of their old pick up truck, loading debris from the house to carry off...they'd felt the back of that truck, the earth did not shake.  They looked at us with some disbelief as we explained, and as we were telling our story, the carpenter's wife called him to report the earthquake they'd just felt!  Their disbelief turned to a little bit of envy...they MISSED the only earthquake they'd lived through.  As with Irene, the earthquake did no damage here.  The news media REALLY made a big deal of it around here, and we were all really excited about it....but then, we are somewhat simple folks, if you catch my drift...easily distracted and such.
Garage Apartment, unscathed by earthquake or hurricane
Loading up debris from Demolition
Upstairs, being gutted
Despite mother nature's bag o' tricks, we have been successful in making more headway on the old farmhouse.  We have decided to change the upstairs from a three bedroom (three small bedrooms) to a single bedroom, with a large, roomy bathroom, and have decided to raise the ceilings from their current almost seven feet to a full eight.  The upstairs tear-out is underway. We will, eventually, reestablish three bedrooms when we add on the "east wing" but that will be AFTER we finish this phase.  When this phase completes, we will have a very simple, but sturdy farmhouse, which will meet our immediate needs.

As for the gardens this summer, they displayed a varying degree of success. Our freezers are full of produce and we have eaten fresh harvest every day this growing season.  We will not put in a fall crop this year, as we will be traveling a fair amount for work (again).  I have made many, many quarts of tomato sauce from my cherry tomatoes.  I did not peel or seed them, but whirred them in the blender, threw them in the pot and cooked them down until they were a smooth sauce.  To some batches I added eggplant, and to some I added kohlrabi.  The tomato sauce is delicious, and I have quart bags filled and frozen for winter cooking.

The latest flowers to show us their stuff are the Moonflowers.  Beautiful, huge white blossoms, best enjoyed in the evening and night hours, they are hard to photograph in the daylight, since they close their blossoms in the morning. Still, I did get some pretty decent pictures of them as they opened at dusk. 


Sadly, Joe's tobacco was a casualty of the adverse August weather.  A couple of plants, ones that he'd kept in 2-gallon pots, survived, but the tobacco in the field is pretty much a goner.  The corn was a huge disappointment, as were the cauliflower and onions.  We won't waste our time with them again next year.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, kohlrabi, spinach, peas, potatoes, beans, eggplant, bell peppers, strawberries were all winners.  We have been enjoying our first "bunches" of grapes from the vines that seemed to take FOREVER to get started, but which eventually did produce a tasty fruit, with promises for many future years' bounty. We learned a LOT this year in our experimental gardening.  Hopefully, next year we will work smarter, not harder!

And, even as the August weather was conspiring to bring a hard end to our summer growing season, I happened on a FaceBook group from my hometown, Bowie, Maryland.  I joined the group and was immediately treated to a mega-trip down memory lane.  Two of my brothers have also joined in the fun on that group and we have been having a great time.  I have reconnected with old friends from grade school, and have even discovered a lady who grew up with us and who now lives right in my current town in Virginia!  My brother Ray and I were "commenting" on a post this morning...I from Virginia, and he from China, where he is currently on business.  At one point Ray wrote the words that I have now decided best represent me, and therefore, are my FaceBook profile picture!

Of course, we are all looking back now, and thoroughly enjoying it.. but, as one of the group's members noted, we are looking back over the other shoulder....

And....while August was spinning out of control, I was tied to my computer two nights a week taking my class....I take the exam (for my first try) at the end of September.  I'm old, my memory isn't what it used to be, my attention span isn't what it used to I will feel EXTREMELY lucky if I pass the exam on my first try...a LOT of people, much smarter than I, have had to take it several times before passing.... At least the class time is over.  Now it is just the buckle-down-and-study-for-the-exam time....(wonder where I will fit that in?)  Meanwhile, everyone else remains busy, doing what they do best.

Brush Control
Happy Goats
Mosquito Control
Goats and Chickens