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Good Morning, Irene

Sunday, 7:30 a.m.:
71 degrees F, 75% humidity, winds, 6 mph with gusts in the 10 mph range, foggy, raining hard and steadily, Barometric Pressure 28.20.
When I went to sleep last night, it had not started raining yet but it’s obviously been raining for most of the midnight-7:00 period because we have a pretty well-developed stream in the driveway. Now, we get that when we have a really hard sustained rain here, so this, so far is not a huge disaster but we are just starting in, in terms of our exposure to Irene’s effects. Later, it will get worse. The DH went up to do chores and everyone is a little annoyed at being inside (the turkeys are basically outdoors all the time in their yard and only come in to roost or get food and water), but and ounce of prevention and all that. We debated getting them in last night and now I’m glad we did because chasing them around to get them inside in wind and rain would be absolutely no fun. Looking at the radar, basically the entire state of New York except for perhaps Buffalo is completely engulfed in the storm which is yellow. No red. We’ll see how fast this storm moves now.

9:00 a.m., 71 Degrees F, 76% humidity, winds: 5-10 mph with gusts WNW, Barometric pressure 28.14. Raining hard. Lost power at 8:30. Wanted a second bucket of water for flushing…just in case. Ran around the outside of the house to find… one of the downspouts did not have an extension on it to take the water away from the foundation (not a good thing in general but good for the purpose of putting a bucket underneath it), so I put a five gallon bucket under it, which filled to the top in less than 5 minutes. Now, a downspout extension will go on the hardware store list NOW.

9:30 a.m, 71 degrees F., 75% humidity, winds 5-10 mph with gusts WNW, Barometric pressure 28.11. The DH and our son out in the garage finally able to get the generator to work. The choke needed adjustment. Lesson learned: Having a generator in a box ‘just in case’ is great until you have to use it and don’t know how to make the thing run. Note to self: Next time we have this sort of warning, let’s all not only clean things up, tie things down and get the animals inside, but also do the drill on systems such as a generator.
Regular utility power came on at 9:35. Lucky us.

10:00 a.m., 70 degrees F, 76% humidity, winds 13 mph with gusts WNW, Barometric pressure 28.11.

One of the things I’ve been keeping myself busy with this weekend is making some winter fleece clothes for my grandson. Our house is a lot cooler than his house and he spends a lot of time here with us, so I need to make sure we have plenty of snuggly clothing for him here, especially because he will be starting to walk this winter. I already finished a black set with a sailboat on it. Our son came up with this ‘Buck Rogers’ space ship design for an applique. I put this on by hand, with a buttonhole stitch, which worked out really well, considering we lost the power and I wouldn’t have been able to finish the front if I had been depending on my sewing machine. The zigzag power lines at the bottom are done with doubled up sewing thread, in a chain stitch.
7:30 p.m., 67 degrees F, 71% humidity, winds out of the SW at 2.9 mph, Barometric pressure: 28.50. Little bits of rain still around. We were lucky here; others in the county and nearby were not so lucky. Lots of flash flooding of the ‘usual suspects’ in terms of streams. Police were evacuating some roads in rural areas. About 50 miles from us, in the Catskill Mountains, a little village, Margaretville, was completely flooded and Governor Cuomo went down there. The water was up to the fenders in his SUV. Margaretville is in a valley which drains from the Hudson, Delaware and Susquehanna rivers so they have had more than their share of massive floods over the years. Everyone will have a big job cleaning up in the coming week. For the moment, though, we’re done here.


For anyone out there who is still thinking that anyone off the Atlantic shoreline does not have to worry about the current, ahem, weather situation (we can all start singing “Good Night Irene” now), I’ll be posting about the effects here at Chez Siberia over the next 48-72 hours. We are located on the PA border, about 200 miles in a straight line to the nearest hunk of beach in New Jersey. With the current storm diameter of approximately 500 miles (and it’s a bit more disorganized at the moment, now that it’s made landfall in North Carolina), that means that real ‘storm stuff’ (that’s a technical term) should be reaching us by the time Irene hits the Maryland shore. Actually, I just looked at the radar and this sort of outlying band of stuff on Irene’s northwest side is already into northern Pennsylvania and into southeastern New York, which is probably why it’s cloudy here as well.

So. Here we go. One of the things that people forget is that you don’t have to have the eye of the hurricane go over you to get effects from a hurricane and actually in many places it’s not the wind – it’s the rain. And rain is not your friend sometimes. We’ve had a very wet August here; the ground is saturated, which makes it very easy, given any wind at all, for trees to come down on power lines and knock out the electricity. Losing the electric at Chez Siberia is really, really bad.

First: We are in the country, that means that everything here runs on electric power. The pump for the water (which means no water for drinking, washing or cooking and no water to fill up the toilets after they get flushed). All the appliances. If it were the winter, we’d be looking at no heat from the furnace either because a) the ignition of the system to burn the fuel oil is and electric spark and b) the furnace is forced hot air which requires a fan which requires…electricity to run.

Second: The house at Chez Siberia is at the bottom of a slope, which produces a lot of hydostatic pressure underneath the house. A couple of inches of rain and we are looking at 18″ of water in the back basement — except for the fact that we had a huge sump dug back there and the biggest honkin’ pump made installed with pipes going up and out to the ditch at the road. This pump literally runs almost all year round. Which is why if we lose the power, we end up with 18″ of water. Now, don’t ask me why we chose to put the freezers down there – a far better choice would have been out in the garage. Eighteen inches of water (even if you have freezers and fridges off the floor) can knock out the motor and compressor – trust me, we know this and have had to replace a freezer more than once. Once we had so much water down there that it lifted a completely full freezer off the floor and floated it across the basement. Hello? So, this time, the DH went out early this week and got a generator which will be set up between today and tomorrow so that WHEN we lose the power (because we will lose the power; that is almost a guarantee), we can rotate it among the pump and the two freezers (like, two hours run the pump; then an hour on the freezers) to keep the water off the floor and keep the freezers cold.

So. If you look at the picture above, what you see is….nothing. That’s right. Nothing. We took down the awnings from the deck and put those away. We moved all the potted plants into the greenhouse except for those two huge ones that are tucked into a little nook formed by a bay window and the front door. They will be safe there. I think.

So, what did WE do to prepare?
Bought water and batteries
Charged everything up
Filled up the cars with gas
Got a generator and a gas can full of gas
Cleaned off the deck and anything outside the house that could fly was locked down or put in the garage.
I defrosted stew beef last night and this morning set up the crockpot with the meat, broth, carrots, onions and celery. Why? Because I have power NOW, so I need to do things that I need power for NOW. If I needed to do laundry, I’d be doing that right now, too.
I’ve got a five gallon plastic pail that I’m filling with water to use to flush the toilets (remember? no power, no pump, no water for the toilets).
We have six gallons of water in milk jugs put aside for drinking.
I’ve got my meds all set.
We’ve located any paperwork (we won’t need to evacuate, but it’s always good to know where the passport, birth certificates, insurance papers, and so on ARE, just in case you need them).
We harvested what was harvestable out of the garden.

What have we NOT done, that we need to do? Well, we have chickens and turkeys outside and as soon as the wind starts to pick up, we will be hustling those guys into the shed with food and water for the duration.

From a weather standpoint, here is what things look like this morning (we have a weather station up on the hill – how long that will last under any sort of sustained high winds is another question):
7:00 a.m., 66 degrees F, 73% humidity, winds: 0, Foggy, barometric pressure: 28.73
9:30 a.m., 69 degrees F, 70% humidity, winds: 1.6 mph from the SW, Foggy, barometric pressure: 28.73

I’ll keep updating over the next two days.
Everyone out there – stay safe.

UPDATE ONE Saturday, 12:15.
73 degrees F, 72% humidity,winds: 1.6 mph from the NW, Cloudy but bright, barometric pressure: 28.73.
Things here are pretty quiet. We are waiting. My neighbor, Mr. Optimistic, is out on his lawn tractor, cutting away. The DH and our son have gone to the movies. I’m sewing – because I still can. A winter fleece outfit for our grandson. Big change from when I made clothing for my kids 30 years ago — this is in black and red. Very smart looking and rather grown up except for the red sailboard on the black top. Before I’m done, he’ll have a matching (only with a space ship on the front) red outfit and a couple of shirts, but if we lose the power, all bets are off. Thank goodness he won’t need these for another couple of months. Question: Did we over-prepare?

For the ‘belt-and-suspenders’ crowd, you can never, ever over-prepare.
UPDATE TWO: Saturday, 7 p.m.
The radar is showing bands of rain (the red and yellow stuff for the wewather radar aficionados) at the edge of Irene crossing over our area at the PA/NY border in central Upstate New York. Although we are ‘scheduled’ for rain at 9 p.m., given what we are seeing in terms of cloud cover and so on, I suspect the rain here will start before then. The DH and our son went out to do chores and also to bring in the turkeys. Even without the ‘help’ of the effects of a hurricane, turkeys are great flyers and will take off given half a chance. Not tonight, kids. Not tonight. The prediction for rain tonight is in the 2″ range, with winds picking up overnight into the 25 mph range. Tomorrow will be worse.
78 degrees F, 66% humidity, winds: 5.4 mph SW, Heavy Clouds, barometric pressure, 28.64

Are you ready? Yes, I’m ready…

This week so far has been one for the books:
Multiple earthquakes, on the west coast, the Rockies, and on the east coast.
A hurricane that threatens to hit the coast of North Carolina by the end of the week and make landfall in New England by the end of the weekend.
So, as a ‘just in case’ thinking process (and it’s almost too late), I combed through the posts and came up with these:
anxiety reduction party one
grill cooking

But also, I just want to remind readers in the Northeast and in eastern Canada who might never have experienced this before, even if you don’t get a direct hit from a hurricane, you are still in danger of damage from wind and heavy rain and if you are at the coasts, we are talking major flooding, I think. (more…)

Every Month is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Well, next month is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so I’m getting the jump on everyone here to talk about skin cancer. Part of this is that I feel that EVERY month should be one where we remind ourselves that we can get skin cancer, not only during the spring, summer and early fall. Temperature has nothing to do with the risk of skin cancer. As a matter of fact, if you asked a thousand people in this country what states have the highest rates of skin cancer, they’d get them wrong – they’d pick Florida or Texas or California. The highest rates of skin cancer are found in states such as New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. Cancer by state

And don’t ask me why (more…)

Oh to live in the country, now that septic system season is here

Aunt Toby knows that a lot of people feel positively romantic about living in ‘the country’. Grow your own food, sunset cocktails on the patio or deck, a few chickens yammering around in the yard while you, in your large straw hat with the artistically tied gingham ribbon…

Well, it’s not. (more…)

More Appliance Fixing: Humidifier

One of the things the DH and I did this year, was look at our heating situation. We have an old oil furnace at Chez Siberia and even without the issue of ‘buying foreign oil’, the thing is old. But replacing it would not change several issues involved with furnaces in houses:
1) They are all electric started so when we lost our power in the winter time, we also lost the heat.
2) Replacing it with a more efficient oil furnace would only make our burning foreign oil even more efficient. Cleaner, but still foreign.

So, we replaced our major source of heat in the house with a wood pellet stove in the living room with the oil furnace as a back up in case the weather got so horribly cold that we could not keep the house warm enough.

The is just one problem with wood heat – it’s dry. Really really dry. Like dries out your nose and your skin and makes you cough and gives you winter itch dry. So, we needed a source of moisture. (more…)

How to get warm and stay warm

P5190021  New lamb (Truth in advertising: This is not a shot of any of our sheep; this photo is courtesy of North Devon Farmer)
Everyone cozy? All settled in? (given the amount of snow and cold out there right now, Aunt Toby certainly hopes wherever you are is cozy) Let me tell you a story. (more…)

Winter Driving

(The photograph is courtesy of the Washington State DOT)

OK – folks, I am making the bold assumption that all of you reading this are comfy, cozy, and indoors. If I am wrong, raise your hands. Mmmhmmm? Oh in the back with the mukluks — how are you running your laptop? Oh, ok…
Back to the business at hand: Being Prepared. We haven’t turned out attention to that for a bit. Today’s news story about the hundreds of cars stranded on a section of the New York State Thruway (conveniently located just to the lee of Lake Erie and Ontario) because of a jack-knifed tractor trailer…in the middle of what is coyly referred to by all and sundry in the weather biz as a ‘lake effect snow event’ reminded me that it might be a good time to flog the idea that having stuff in the car ‘just in case’ might be time well spent.

Let’s imagine for a second the poor people hunkered down in their cars (probably idling until they run out of fuel) starting at about 3 p.m. yesterday. As of 3 p.m. TODAY, about 100 people had been rescued and taken to a community center, leaving hundreds of people still sitting in cars in the middle of snow coming down at the rate of about 1″+ an hour. With wind. I don’t know about you, but if I’d been in one of those cars at 3 p.m. yesterday, at about 4 p.m., I would have been cursing the fact that I was on an interstate and was not within walking distance of a bathroom, much less a coffee shop with something hot to eat and drink.

Having access to a bathroom is a biggie with me. It’s amazing just how painful and humiliating it is NOT to be able to…well, you know, when you need to. It’s not something like hunger that you can just suck up and sing funny songs about. And do not delude yourself that it will never happen to you. Actually it happened to the DH and I coming back from New York City, while we were stuck in the middle of the bridge at the Delaware Water Gap in the middle of a four-hour traffic shutdown. Not only no bathroom but no way to get off the bridge and find one. After about an hour, some of the other drivers, the guys, decided that they would – well, you know. Being in the middle of the bridge, we were not exactly in a position for me to jump out of the car and hightail it up into the pines to do a little garden watering behind the shelter of the evergreens.

This is when I became extremely grateful that for some reason, we had an empty plastic bottle in the back, which I doctored with a pair of nail clippers. Sweet relief, that, but I was lucky.

The DH and I once went up to cow country in Alberta on business and while there, we were introduced to preparedness Alberta-style, which for a vehicle includes a couple of milk jugs of water, several heavy blankets, blinkers, food of various kinds (including chocolate bars, etc.), and a five gallon can of fuel. Now, up in Alberta, the ‘law of the west’ basically requires that if someone shows up at your door in the winter, you take them in, no questions asked. And you get them warm and feed them and house them until daylight, when the RCMP can be called. You do those things because the next time, it might be you — and walking around in the dark when it’s -40 F in the wind is a sure way to end up in a snow drift, looking like cordwood.

So, being prepared is a good idea. One of the things about some of the people who were interviewed for this story on being stranded in the snow south of Buffalo, New York were the number of them who said something on the order of ‘I was just going out to (pick one: do a little grocery or holiday shopping, go bowling, visit my mom, go the post office…).’ Notice, they were not saying, “I was on my way out to Nebraska or Ontario.”

A lot of them thought they were just going on a thirty minute trip. Didn’t think to throw anything in the car. And then they got stuck at 3 p.m. and 24 hours later, they were still stuck out there in the wind and the snow – no food, no water and …no bathroom.

So. Here’s the list for the box that goes into the back of the vehicle in the fall. Leave it there until spring and then take it out. Then freshen it up and put it back into the vehicle in the fall again. Always have the box:

Two heavy wool blankets (three is better but we’ll go with what we got)
Ziplock(tm) bag with energy bars, chocolate, protein bars
Two big flashlights with fresh batteries — check ’em each fall.
Beacons that blink – fresh batteries too.
Roll of paper towels
Power connection for cell phones and/or an extra power supply(search on ‘cell phone USBs”) that is fully charged up. Most of them will carry a charge for several months.
Plastic gallon milk jug, empty, with the top cut out of it so that the hole is 3-4″ across.

Also, whenever you leave the house, make sure you take at least one gallon of water with you and a gas can with 1-2 gallons of fuel. If you end up stuck and put the car into idle to keep warm, you will run out of fuel to run the car. And dress appropriately, which means: warm clothing and socks, boots, sweater, heavy coat, gloves, hat, etc. The number of people who just jump in the car to go down to the store in their indoor clothing is amazing to me. Sitting in a car in 25-30 degree weather with nothing on but jeans and a flannel shirt is going to get cold really fast.

OK? All straight?

Worth The Fixing

One of the aspects of our consumer economy is frankly the way we treat everything as disposable. Whether it’s clothing, kitchen equipment, or furniture, a lot of it is made so badly and cheaply that fixing things that go wrong is either impossible (you can’t get to the guts of the thing) or the parts to fix it with are more expensive than what you paid for it. But sometimes it’s worth it. Here are two examples:

Meat thermometer. (more…)

Books Worth Having: General Self-Sufficiency

When the DH and I were first married and moved to our first (rented) house in the country, our self-sufficiency skills were pretty meager. I had done a little bit of vegetable gardening at my parents’ house, under tutelage at the level of “just buy a bag of Scotts™ Turf-Builder and throw it out there”. My mom was definitely from the ‘buy a plant and find a hole to put it in” school. (more…)

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