Saturday, February 28, 2009

annual visitors

Yesterday, I cleaned out the guest house for our visitors who will be flying in from South America next month. The Martins have been our annual guests for years and usually stay with us from March until September. Every year they bring new additions to the family and we look forward to seeing the younger kids. In fact, we've known and appreciated the friendship of several generations of the Martin family.
The "guest house" ready for the Martins

Friday, February 27, 2009

what i'm reading now

September Songs - The Bonus Years of Marriage by Maggie Scarf is a book about how marriage has changed over the twentieth century. Longer life spans require that married couples adjust to their own and their partner's needs during the "bonus years" that have been added to the average marriage. It's interesting to find that most of the couples interviewed in the book report greater satisfaction and fulfillment in their relationships than when they were younger.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

the family came down

The kids came down today and we killed two birds with one stone. We cleaned up some of the branches still on the ground since the ice storm and we celebrated Burk's birthday.

A grotesque pruning by Mother Nature.

When the limbs began to fall they narrowly missed my riding lawn mower (under the dark green tarp) the grand kids' 4-wheelers (under the blue tarp), and our satellite dish.

"The crew", Burk, Kelly, Hunter, Samantha, Dusty, Tara, and Dorothy

Next year's firewood is piling up

Jenna, Marley, and Hunter help Burk to blow out the candles on his birthday cookie.

Jenna and Marley lick the icing from the candles

Tara does her homework at the table

Saturday, February 14, 2009

quote of the day

Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God. The reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know, but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering. To admit that there is one who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: This requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage him.

-- A.W. Tozier

the grandkids are coming over tomorrow

The grand kids, Marley, Hunter, and Jenna are coming tomorrow and they are going to spend the night. I'd better make a list and make sure we're ready:

  • Spaghetti - we've got plenty of it and they'll eat plenty of it
  • Corn dogs - Jenna can't function without those.
  • Sunny D - absolutely essential
  • Kool Aid Bursts - (grape and blueberry) the emergency back up drink
  • Strawberry Marshmallows
  • Fruit Roll Ups
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Flavor straws
  • Apples

I think we're prepared.

Monday, February 09, 2009

ice storm redux

  • When an ice storm has been forecast be sure to have plenty of batteries of every kind. Don't' wait until you lose electricity. You may find out that there are no batteries at your local Wal-mart.

  • Keep a flashlight by your bed. You may think you know the way to the bathroom, but when the night is as dark as a black cat eating licorice in a coal mine you may bump into things you thought weren't there.

  • Since I learned that kerosene won't keep til next year I had intended to continue to use it in the small heater after the power came back on. But I don't think I can stand to smell it any longer, so I'll use it to start the fires in the piles of cut branches that are accumulating.

  • I was worried about carbon monoxide poisoning from the kerosene heater and the burners on the stove, but our detector never sounded an alarm. I sure didn't want to lose any brain cells from that. I don't have many to spare.

  • Although this ice storm was a catastrophe for the power infrastructure and and the emergency response teams it was a boost to the local economy. Department stores like Wal-mart were packed and merchandise flew off the shelf. Even the electronic stores had an increase of sales for televisions, computer, etc. How were people going to use these things? Restaurants were doing a brisk business as were hotels and motels. Candles, kerosene, and batteries became hard to come by.

  • I've lived in Oklahoma for almost 30 years and I've never seen anything like this storm. Yet, the meteorologists say we'd better get used to it. This is a product of global warming. When the winter is as cold as normal, snow and sleet will result, but when the air is warmer than usual the precipitation will fall as freezing rain which sticks to trees and power lines resulting in widespread damage. I think I'll check the real estate ads in the Virgin Islands.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

the twetlth day was just like christmas

After twelve days without power the restoration crew finally arrived at our house. No more sitting around in the dark. No more cold house. This ice storm will probably be the subject of posts for several more day. I've learned a few things. I'll share them with you, but I think I'll just relax for a day or so.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

it aint over til it's over

On day five we were up early. Two electric utility truck were parked nearby. Oh, boy! I thought. Surely we'll have our power back before the day is out. Dorothy and I took the laundry to Kelly's house and spent the day with them. It was dark when we started home and we were delighted to find lit up houses all along the way through the town of Watts and Westville, but when we pulled into our drive our house was dark. They had restored electricity to the main line but had not restored it to ten houses in our neighborhood. They simply packed up their tools and drove away. And never came back.

It is now day ten. We get updates every morning on the radio. Out of 47,000 customers who lost service there are now only about 5,000 without power. As the number of people still in the dark and cold shrinks we seem to remain in that group. I'm getting impatient.

In the beginning I wondered how people survived before modern technology. The plains Indians lived in tepees whose animal skin walls had an R-value of about one. They still had to go out into the cold and hunt for food. How did they do it? And whatever motivated people to move to Canada? It's colder than this up there. Maybe my fellow blogger Lorna can answer that question. But as the days go by and I'm having to be out in the frigid air to clean the place up and do all the things we have to do to survive, I'm reminded what remarkably adaptive animals we humans are. After ten days I'd still rather my house be warm and cozy but I'm getting by.

I think it's the loss of my daily routine that has had the greatest effect on me. It makes me wonder where we find real life. Is it in living a basic existence, close to the bone, being careful to make few mistakes that would jeopardize well being and safety? Or has the artificiality of modern homes that insulate you from the climate become reality for us? What about cars, cell phones, computers and all the other gadgets that separate us from the physical world? If all those things suddenly disappeared would we be able to carry on? With the current world wide economic situation we may soon find out. Someone should do a psychological study on the effects of the sudden loss of the anchors we depend on to keep ourselves stable.

Today I spent some time on the roof throwing limbs to the ground. Tomorrow I'll fire up the chain saw and continue the clean up. Who knows? We may get electricity tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

the great ice storm of 2009 (cont.)

day four

Dorothy was able to return to work on Friday. She was late going in because I had to jump the dead battery in her car. I had inadvertently left the parking lights on the night before. That was the second mistake I made. It took 2-1/2 hours to scrape the ice from my truck and move it into position close enough to connect the jumper cables (note to myself: buy longer jumper cables). There was still a lot of ice on the ground so we had to throw rock salt, twigs, and even dry cat food under the tires to get some traction.

The sun was shining so the trees soon began to drip and the ice lost its grip and fell to the ground in piles of frozen diamonds. I went into town to buy more kerosene, that precious commodity that stood between us and freezing. Some of our neighbors bought generators that could operate one or two appliances at a time. A generator large enough to operate our central heating unit would be prohibitively expensive so we kept relatively warm with the kerosene and the burners on the kitchen stove. We didn't miss the television. Sitting in the light of an oil lamp listening to a battery operated radio was rather nice for Dorothy and I. We reminisced about old times or just enjoyed each others company.

While I was out I learned that our neighbor, Mike Wolf, a volunteer fire fighter, was injured while patrolling the roads in a fire truck on the first day of the storm. A limb fell from a tree and into the window of the truck he was driving seriously injuring him. I went to the hospital to visit him. The people who are working to restore our power are true American heroes. Most of the fire fighters that cleared the roads of fallen trees are unpaid volunteers. Yet, they didn't hesitate to respond to the emergency at great risk to themselves. And the electric utility workers are working 14 hour days in overlapping shifts round the clock to repair the damage. Let's not forget the letter carriers who had to break an inch of ice off the mail boxes to deliver our utility bills. Neighbors are helping neighbors and sharing their resources to make sure everyone in the community is taken care of.

That night I went outside to retrieve a bottle of Foster's (for me) and a bottle of Merlot (for Dorothy) that I had buried in a pile of ice shards. A little stress relief for the old folks. I was startled by the blackness of the sky and multitude of bright stars. Without the impediment of light pollution I could see the sky as it actually is -- an incredible wonder. I have never seen that many stars. Like Charlie Brown once said, there must have been a hundred of them.

Monday, February 02, 2009

the great ice storm of 2009

I've been keeping a daily journal of what it's like to experience a major ice storm. I'll write as much as I can today. I'm using the computer at the public library so my time is limited.

day one

We were up early, had our showers, breakfast, and were drinking coffee. We had freezing rain all night and the cars, fence and trees were glistening with ice. It was actually a beautiful sight. Then, at 8 am, the power went out. We have a gas water heater and cook stove so we could still cook and take showers. I fired up the kerosene heater which would keep the living room warm. I had plenty of kerosene left over from last year so I thought I was fully prepared. That was my first and biggest mistake I made during this ordeal.

Soon, limbs began falling from the trees. It sounded like the first day of hunting season. The branches would snap with the sound of a rifle shot and rumble as they fell to the ground in a shower of ice shards. We could hear trees breaking far away. We have four large trees around our house, two elms, a wild cherry, and a maple. Each one is at least 50ft high. Limbs began falling into the yard.Several large branches shook the house when they fell on the roof. They continued to fall throughout the day and into the night as sleet and snow fell and covered the ice.
The road in front of us was soon blocked by branches. The fire department came and cleared the road in the afternoon only to have more fall. Our two neighbors, twin brothers, came down and cleared the road again after dark.

day two

We stayed comfy all the first day but the temperature in the house fell slowly and steadily and by the morning of the second day the kerosene stove wasn't working properly. I managed to raise the inside temperature to only 58 degrees.

With no power to run the refrigerator or freezer I put some meat in a box and set it on the front porch. It wasn't going above freezing for a couple of day so the great outdoors served as our freezer. For the first few days we ate pretty good. Dorothy cooked up the bacon and eggs, and even baked biscuits in a cast iron dutch oven on the stove top.

By late afternoon it was evident the kerosene stove wasn't going to make it. I called Kelly and had her Google to see if kerosene goes bad over time. She found that it does and that it can ruin the wick. She sent Burk down with the fresh kerosene. It's a 25 mile drive from their house to ours. Hills and curves. The road was closed at the 59-62 junction 7 miles from our house. Burk drove around the barricade and continued on. He waited while I replace the old fuel with the fresh and when I had trouble getting the flame to start he offered to take us home with him. We probably should gone with him where there was a warm fireplace, where they were eating pizza,making sugar cookies, and having a Wii bowling tournament. Instead, we let the burners on the kitchen stove go all night and curled up together under the covers. You've probably heard of a three dog night. We had a three quilts and a comforter night. And we were fully clothed. So much for the romantic winter interlude we had anticipated. I woke up before dawn thinking about what Kelly had told me about the heater wick being damaged by old kerosene, so at first light I began to disassemble the heater. I removed the wick and cut 1/4 inch off the top of the wick then reassembled the stove. Voila! I worked and has been doing fine since then. The temperature in the living room began to climb again.

day 3

We were up early cleaning out the freezers. The temperature was on the rise and our food was not going to last long. We took our meat to Kelly's and Bill's. On the way to Siloam Springs we drove through a foreign landscape. The world was white and the trees seemed to be made of glass. The branches were so distorted it looked like a landscape painted by Salvador Dali. We visited with Kelly and her family for awhile and it was dark when we started home. We drove slowly through a freezing fog disoriented by the dark and the lack of familiar landmarks.

(my session at the computer is about to expire so I'll continue this later. To see more photos go here