The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Life's Little Trials



There are times recently that we feel like we've been given the chance to practice the future. The future that doesn't contain all of the wonderful modern conveniences we have grown so fond of and in some cases, dependent upon. There are skills we can practice now, some by choice and some by circumstance, that may increase our success and comfort when the chips are down for good. Here are just a few things we have had the opportunity to experience in the last few weeks and days.

  • How to garden with too much water
 
  video
 
  • Preparing to have the water shut off due to flooding or contamination of the public water supply (this ended up being rumor, but was good mental practice) 
 
  • Power outage involving a fire at a regional substation (found out a transformer blew; odd it didn't happen during one of the major tornadic thunderstorms we had on Monday, it happened in calm weather; we found this strange)

  • The main ham radio repeater in our area was down due to a power outage. A generator that was donated to the radio club has not been installed, and there is limited battery backup to keep the repeater operational. This repeater is the main source of communication for our regional storm spotter and emergency communications hub.

So, what does all of this teach us? Many, many things, which is good. Let's start with the garden. We have had historic, record breaking rainfall amounts in this area for the month of May, with this came muddy soil conditions for planting which is far from ideal. A few years back we were in serious drought conditions and when we tilled the garden it was in a cloud of dust, literally. This year, it was really too muddy one time, but we knew our window of opportunity was very narrow, so we took it, and now, I'm glad we did. There are still folks waiting to plant or replant their gardens, and what they did get planted may or may not make it.


Yesterday, in the beautiful, rare sunshine, we noticed a few of the squash plants were wilting, which immediately made us think of squash vine borers. We have applied two batches of green lacewing eggs and nematodes in hopes of combating the vine borers, among other insects, so we were very disappointed. But upon inspection, we could find no damage from vine borers, so we pulled one small squash plant. The only conclusion we could come to was that it rotted in the ground from all of the rain.

Slugs. The slugs are proliferating at a phenomenal rate in all this moisture, and eating everything. We are in search of some iron phosphate which is supposed to be deadly for slugs. We are now finding tiny little new slugs everywhere. We have been putting out eggshells and coffee grounds, caffeine is supposed to be fatal to slugs as well, when we have them. We could also apply diatomaceous earth, but with daily rain, it would just wash away again and again. If we get a few days without rain, we will apply it everywhere. The cabbage worms have also showed up in mass, even with the lacewing applications. It has been a tough year for gardening.

video

Along with our record rainfall this month there have been a number of days that we spent in very, very stormy weather with too many tornado warnings for comfort. We've had neighbors that have been flooded in for days, remember we live in hill country. There are some houses that when you have a heavy rain, you just can't get out. As of May 20th, we had record rain for the month of May and it has been forecast everyday until the end of the month. Most of the folks we know that have been rained in, or conversely rained out, are doing fine, but not everybody has been so fortunate. We have lost a few rescue workers, and that's really tough on a community. We've had people's houses washed down rivers, thousands of acres of pasture land and cattle ranches are under water. There are still a handful of people that are unaccounted for. These are just some of the tragic stories. 

As mentioned earlier, our local ham radio repeater, and every antenna tower on top of a mountain was without power for about two days. Most of the commercial towers had reliable backup power. Somebody made an intelligent decision to shut the repeater down. The reason being, it is the primary radio communications system involving severe weather, and since we have severe weather forecast almost daily, it can be turned back on if needed for severe weather use.


Other types of communication needs. We were told by a reliable source that our local water treatment plant had been compromised with flood water. Then we started hearing the same thing, via the rumor mill, from multiple sources. The fact is, it never happened. We contacted our local water distributor the next day and they told us to listen to the local country stations for any announcements. Well, we don't get AM radio where we live, and our main local little town, which is 25 miles away, had a 12 hour power failure. So, how are we supposed to know? 

Next, we had a power failure in our area. As a general rule, during the worst weather, we seldom lose power, but it does happen. We called a couple of nearby neighbors. No power. We called some neighbors five miles down the road. No power. We called some friends 10 miles away. Get the picture here? This was not just a little power outage, the entire area was black. So, here come the rumors. The good news is, we could get rumors. The bad news is, they were also false. There was a fire at a local transfer station, not sure how it happened, it was not a hot day, there was no bad weather in the area. But we didn't have a way to communicate, not effectively anyway.


Before it got dark, we went around and gathered up lanterns. Fortunately, the day before I had charged up the rechargeable batteries and lanterns. By the way, all of our lanterns are battery operated. But the reason they were all charged is because the day before, on Memorial Day, we had four separate tornado warnings one right behind the other in our little neighborhood. Thank the Lord this happened during the daylight hours. But, all of our batteries were charged. 

We have some interesting pictures for you, of some of our local flooding. This is the highest I have ever seen the water in this area. If it's a low lying spot, it's got water sitting in it.





So, that's what we've been dealing with for the last week. But the whole month has been a down pour almost everyday. We've learned a lot. Sometimes people can get a little edgy when they don't get enough sunlight. In the northern climates they have a condition called SAD, seasonal affective disorder. When we lived in Barrow, Alaska they used a special type of fluorescent tube in the classrooms that provided kids and adults with a broader spectrum of light. We also had a special light in our home, for some people it worked and for some it didn't. But there's been a lot of folks in this area that have been a tad bit edgy lately. I guess that lack of natural vitamin D will do that to some folks. 


We have some eggs in an incubator right now and they're about four days away from hatching. We've had some incubator issues lately, which I'll discuss more in a chicken post in a couple of days. But when you have eggs in an incubator, and your power goes off, you better act quickly. In this case we grabbed a bunch of blankets, wrapped up the incubator, and hoped for the best. Our power was only off for three or four hours, but if it had been like the little town close to us and it was off for about 12 hours, then that would have been a different story. More on that later.

And to add to it, we went up to take a peek at how the livestock were doing, and discovered that the pigs were out. At first it was a serious concern, but like most animals that you feed, with a small can of feed, you can easily coax them where you want them to go. That was a great learning experience.

video

Part of what we're talking about here is how you deal with things. When life is great, and everything is going along well, then it's easy to deal with life. But we all know it's not like that everyday. We didn't lose any animals to flooding. Nobody got hurt. Our chicken pen is in sad shape, but someday it will dry. Overall, we are doing pretty good. It's easy to deal with things. But the last few days have been excellent practice. Today the power is back on, we don't have any real issues with our drinking water, the stores are still open, my retirement checks are still coming to the bank, and the shelves are still full of items that people need and don't need. But tomorrow that could all change. One of us could slip and break a leg. We still have severe weather just a hundred miles west of us and it's got to go somewhere. So, take advantage of the good days, because someday, maybe someday soon, the days are not going to be good. Practice today while you can. Learn your weaknesses and your limitations. And if you're of this persuasion, then thank God for what you have.

We'll talk more later, Frank

28 comments:

  1. And here we are in California with our horrible drought. Wish you could share! Texas had their big drought a few years ago and now they are having flooding. Crazy weather. End times I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Brenda, there is lots of crazy weather around, but the weather follows normal cycles, it's just our turn to get the rain and your turn to be dry. In another hundred or so years, it will be wet in California again. Thanks for reading.

      Frank

      Delete
  2. My goodness you are having a lot of rain. The last time I saw that much rain here was when we were building our house - 17 years ago. We had five inches in 24 hours. As much as having power go out or the water shut off are an inconvenience I think that those times are an awesome way to learn, challenge and prepare ourselves for what will be coming. Well done on being so resilient and dealing with what Mother Nature throws at you. No matter what happens I'm sure the two of you will be just fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Calidore. Thank you for your kind words. As a general rule, not too many things bother me in life, and they seldom bother me during a crisis. But if and when things really get bad, no one will be prepared. It is still good practice. Take care. You need to watch those people up north across the water.

      Frank

      Delete
  3. Our prayers to you both and all your critters! We keep get storms forecast then they miss us.
    Stay safe and secure and as my Father used to say in bad weather...keep your matches dry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think your father's advice is wise, Fiona, but we have replaced our matches with Bic disposable lighters. Yes, I know that they will not work at 20 below zero, but if it ever gets 20 below zero in Oklahoma, then I'll be moving to Louisiana. I have Bics in old coats that were actually rusted, that after a couple of flicks, you have a flame. Thank you for the prayers.

      Frank

      Delete
    2. Can you get those little crystal hand warmer things? They might help with the incubator in a pinch?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_warmer

      Delete
  4. It looks WET!
    I hope things dry out for you soon.
    We lost power a couple of days ago-I was so happy to have it back a few hours later. I am such a wimp!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, Sandra, a picture is worth a thousand words, because it is wet. And today, we had a torrential downpour for about 30 minutes. It's everyday. But it will pass. We may have to replant the garden, but we will do what we need to do.

      I have no desire whatsoever for the electricity to go off. Everyday that Mr. Sparky keeps coming through our wires is a good day, because we have become very dependent upon electricity. Our society will not be able to function without it. Thanks for the comment.

      Frank

      Delete
  5. wow - THAT is a lot of rain! we had a gray march and april and i must admit it got long in the tooth - i need my sunshine! you guys are having a heck of a time this may but because of your resilience you are getting through it. tell Fern that i have caught up on all of the backposts but haven't left comments as she knows what i would probably say. i am glad that you were quick-thinking with wrapping the incubator in blankets - good job! and i am glad that you didn't lose any animals. and you are so right - pretty much everything is easy during good times - it's times like this may that really tests you.

    i will do a reverse raindance for you both! keep up the good work and the great posts. your friend,
    kymber

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Kymber, hope you're feeling better. A reverse rain dance? So is the water going to be going up instead of down?

      There is something to learn new everyday. We've never had plants rot before, but this year we have. We've always had a couple of slugs, but this year we have slugs everywhere. We actually saw a catfish the other day in the yard after the flash flood, with a slug on it's head. But these things will pass eventually. Thank you.

      Frank

      Delete
    2. teehee. no, a reverse raindance is dancing so that your rain will stop. i swear it works. and yes, thank you, i am feeling much better!

      Delete
    3. Kymber, start dancing, we had a heavy downpour this morning and there is another one heading our way in five or six hours. All and any help is appreciated. There is a little town in our region called Talihina that is sand bagging businesses, and the hospital there has been shut for well over a week due to massive flooding. This is the way it is here right now, and there is a large system that is just east of Lubbock, Texas heading toward southern and southeastern Oklahoma. We'll see when it gets here.

      Frank

      Delete
  6. Thank you for the reminder that we must be diligent for all things. Have you tried your chickens for the slugs? Our hens fight for the snails and slugs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We take the slugs to the chickens, Steve. At this stage right now, the chickens would eat the garden, as they have done in the past. I have crawdad holes coming up in my chicken pen. Wet year, or wet so far anyway. Come August, things may be the exact opposite. Thank you for the comment.

      Frank

      Delete
    2. If you can find any turtles around, slugs are their ultimate favorite food!

      Delete
  7. Fern and Frank,

    And the rain just keeps coming! We've adapted to the mass of water, and learned even though we don't have leaks in the house,our master bedroom closet has a moisture issue. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact this house is old and doesn't have a traditional foundation. We have fixed this issue, and are continuously watching the house for other potential issues. Our garden is totally flooded, some vegetables are still trying to hold on. Once the rain stops, we will replant in hopes of having some vegetables in the future to harvest. Hubby and I have considered building and Ark to float on by, lol......
    On a more serious note, approximately 1 to 2 miles from our place.... homes were destroyed and in the river. We had a lot to be thankful for.
    Stay safe, and weather aware.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I open my closet doors during the day to help let the moisture equalize, Sandy. And on occasion, I open all of the cabinet doors, open the windows, turn on all the fans, and just let the house air out. Fern and I are very thankful that things weren't a lot worse. As you well know, not everybody had it quite as good as we did. Keep your powder dry.

      Frank

      Delete
  8. Frank and Fern-
    My parents used to use beer to control the slugs. Put some beer (about 2") in a jar - a wide mouth jar, that's kind of shallow - about the size of a salsa jar. Bury the jar in the ground, up to it's neck. The idea is that the slugs will smell the beer, climb in to party, and drown. It's an icky thought (for me) but I know it works. My job every morning during the summer was to go dump out the slugs and beer and refill the jars. Dad always claimed it was the best use for beer that he knew of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bettina, I agree with your dad. I wonder if there is another way to do it without actually buying beer. Maybe some type of a yeast mixture, or something like that? Good idea, thanks for the recommendation. So, would you call that a happy slug?

      Frank

      Delete
  9. I am glad you two are safe. You've been in my thoughts and prayers since I heard about the OK weather on our news. I think I've shared this before - but when it dries out, buy some cow bran from your feed store and put around the perimeter of your garden beds. It's great to deter slugs but has to be reapplied after rain. It's as good as slug bait but without the chemicals and is safe for animals and kids. SJ in Vancouver BC Canada.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, SJ, we will certainly look into it. We're just about to the point to try anything. Take care.

      Frank

      Delete
  10. We're north of you here in Oklahoma by a good ways, but we're wet as well. The bridge over the spring road has come up w/a gigantic hole in it and one lane is blocked off of the road which is really about a 1 1/2 lane at best of times. If that bridge goes, it's a 30 minute drive around in the two other ways out of the neighborhood on paved roads! And a nightmare drive thru mud n/mountain pass on the dirt road. Ya'll please pray for a break in the rains! Just a couple days to dry out would be nice. ~Sassafras

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you are able to get around a little better by now, Sassafras. We're finally having sunshine and starting to dry out some. That means we aren't in the house much since there is a lot to do. In a couple of days I should be able to start working over the garden pretty good. Take care.

      Fern

      Delete
  11. This is a timely post for me because I have been thinking a lot lately about what my weak areas are and what I need to practice. I watched a documentary about middle class families and their experiences during the 2008 downturn. None of them was prepared. They lost water service and power service. That affects so many things. Since I have a Berkey water filter, food storage, sun oven, stoves that burn twigs, propane stoves, I can have food and safe water for my family. They spent so much time trying to get food and water to eat and clean up that they couldn't do other things like look for work or plant a garden.

    Communication is huge. I found out about a search for a wanted person in our area through my Ham emergency comm group. It wasn't on the news yet. I was able to be extra alert and prepared because of Ham radio. We have a weekly practice activation net that we all must take turns being net control to learn how to do it ahead of emergencies. We also practice simplex because repeaters fail even with electricity.

    Gardening is hard even in good conditions! I am experimenting with what I can grow inside now that the desert heat is here.

    It is really eye opening when you think about how you would provide the necessary items for living if times got even a little worse, let alone a lot worse.

    Thanks for these posts. Very thought provoking and helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. where do you live, i live in central tx and the flooding has been horrible. dianneferay@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jeepers. You guys have your hands full. If there is any silver lining in bad weather, it's finding out what needs to be changed or improved around the farm.

    Watching the rain in the videos, my biggest worry is erosion in your garden - a garden in which you've no doubt spent years soil-building. If it were me, I'd be in tears.

    Thank goodness the piglets didn't get far. You're right --- as long as they know where the food is, it's easier to round them up. (That's how I get my kitties to come inside for the night - I rattle a can. Works like a charm. My kitties earn their keep, but I don't want them tangling with night creatures like owls, coyotes and raccoons.)

    I'm sorry the bad weather seems to have taken up residence in your neck of the woods. You're taking it well. I'd be a basket case.

    Just Me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know a lot of our nicely fertilized topsoil washed right out of the garden, Just Me, but crying won't bring it back. We plan to bring down the barnyard when it gets dry enough to clean it out. The barn really needs cleaning with all of this rain, but if we take the tractor in there now, the corral will turn into a mud hole. Even with the erosion, the garden is doing very well, all things considered. We have some small yellow squash and a few heads of cabbage developing. Everything else is growing well. I hope to replant some things in a few days.

      It's good to practice dealing with difficult situations, then when things really get tough, you can fall back on the strength you have developed. Something to think about. Thank you for sharing.

      Fern

      Delete