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Wazzup Hoco?

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I’ve been absent quite a bit these days. Not that I wanted to be, but I have had all kinds of things happening.

Dead Internet was one.

Cataract surgery, the second. I can now verify that with this second eye done yesterday that I have 20/20 vision in both eyes for distance. Soon to get only reading glasses.

That’s the really good news. As for the internet thing, it’s been a challenge. Kudos to Comcast for solving it (I never thought I would write those words). Ten days total. Teams of people. The final verdict. Cable that was damaged underground, thirty year old cable. They ended up repairing it by digging up the area south of our driveway last Friday night In the rain. Much of the earlier detective work took place during the brutal cold. Guys in buckets on single digit temperature days.

They spliced new cable to give us back our internet.

I suppose that means I should blog more. Giving credit all over the place. Checking out Food Plenty and writing about it.

Giving a shout out to the Wine Bin for their great customer service. We bought a box of Montaud Rose, 2016 vintage, which ended up being sherried. No problem to return.

I really love the small businesses around here.

And, another shout out to Kendall Hardware. For having everything we need, to deal with bad weather, and to feed my feathered friends.

I also made New Year’s Resolutions that I didn’t get to blog about, what with spotty internet. The biggest. Get back to talking about the CSA baskets. A new post soon on that topic.

 

Coping With the Cold

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Cold weather is returning, after a nice couple of days. My little bird friends are hitting the water heavily.

In particular, my friend Flicker. Definitely here because of the heated bird bath. If you have feeders, make sure they stay filled, as the birds depend on you for food.

My bird bath isn’t pretty. But, it’s functional. I need the brick and rocks there to keep the insert from blowing away in high winds.

The blue birds are back, too.

They don’t use the feeders, only the water.

Other things I have paid attention to, as the temps dipped to single digits last week.

Letting the water drip at the most vulnerable place in the house. That bathroom where a pipe burst four years ago. We use the hall bath in the worst weather, just to keep the water flowing. Our master bath is protected. The hall bath is on the west side, where the winds blow and the walls are always cooler.

We also now keep the panel off the access to the crawl space, allowing warmer air to get in there. On the coldest days, I do laundry and run the dryer on high heat, raising the temps in that unheated crawl space full of pipes to the kitchen, laundry room and mud room bath.

We were told a long time ago, do not turn on a gas fireplace, or light a fire, while keeping the glass doors closed. They can shatter from the thermal shock. We have heard of many places where this has happened.

Also, do you know where your main water shut off valve is? Find it out. It makes a huge difference, if a pipe bursts, to be able to stop the water quickly.

We are weathering these cold temperatures so much better, since we took the time to beef up all our insulation. The house is warmer. We are happier for it.

We insulated the attic,

and all the dormers.

Last but not least, for me, the cook. I keep using the oven on slow cook, making soups, pasta meals, and stews, which are comfort foods.

 

Good News Bad News

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Well, the good news is the easy repair of our washing machine. Just the switch which says the top is down and the motor can run.

The bad news. Our internet died Tuesday. Much drama. Two visits. Trucks with buckets trying to access connections in brutally cold weather. No internet and suggestions that we need a new cable run. Then, OMG, the internet returned at 11 pm last night. Magically. Now, we have no idea if we need new cable runs from the main road. I am just frantically paying bills and answering emails in case it dies again.

It is amazing how much we now rely on internet to support us.

My volunteer work, at the Conservancy, for example. I need to publicize upcoming events like the renowned owl expert with incredible information about one of our favorite predators. Paul Bannick, on the 12th of January. Ranger will be there. This event may sell out. Go online and book quickly. His event on the 13th in VA has already reached its limit at 175 participants.

Another fun event on the 13th, we have a haiku writing fest. With crafts by Columbia Families in Nature. Come out and banish those cold weather blues.

The last bad news in our area. The closing of Casual Gourmet. I will miss Alexandra’s shop in Glenwood. They are retiring and no one wanted to buy it from them. For the rest of this month, they are liquidating their inventory. Stop in, help them out, and say farewell.

All in all, this brutal winter is knocking us down. We just need to find things to keep us occupied and WARM.

A December to Remember

And not always in a good way.  Maybe turning 65 tomorrow is a good thing. Time will tell. Hopefully the dozens of phone calls trying to sell me Medigap policies will cease.

As for why I wasn’t enamored with this month? So many things failed, or had to be replaced. I felt the checkbook and credit cards were always out.

The one that hurt the most? Having to take down a beautiful spruce tree.

I loved that tree. Standing as tall as our house. Weathering storms.

It survived snowmageddon, and ice storms. But needlecast did it in. We couldn’t save it, and last week it was felled. A hole in my yard and my heart.

It was just one of those things this month. Add to it a failed heat pump. Struts and shocks on the SUV. And, today! A dead washing machine. Anyone know where the nearest Laundromat is?

I shouldn’t complain. We are lucky that we have small local vendors who take good care of things for us. Landers’ Appliances will come to assess the 13 year old washer to see if it is salvageable. If it isn’t, Bray and Scarff will be replacing it.

BA Auto Care (formerly known as British American) did an awesome job as usual on our 14 year old car.

Advance Arboriculture surgically removed the tree, leaving nothing but mulch in our front yard.

Environmental Systems Associates (ESA) replaced our failing heat pump with a new energy efficient unit.

What did you get for Christmas? I got a bunch of invoices for all this work.

As for tomorrow, we aren’t going anywhere for my birthday. It’s just too cold and miserable out, so we will hunker down, pan sear a few filets, and open a bottle of old red wine. I should send my hubby up to Dandelion Bistro to pick up a nice chocolate dessert to savor with the leftover wine, after dinner.

I must be getting old. I prefer an evening by the fireplace, watching old movies, instead of going out to celebrate.

Napa and Sonoma

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I think if there was one place that we would love to live, and that we loved visiting, it was California wine country. For me, the combination of agriculture, culture, climate and activities made it one of our favorite vacation spots.

It depresses me to see it burning out of control.

We spent 10 days there, a decade ago. Rented a house. Visited wineries. Cooked. Grilled. Strolled through amazing farmer’s markets. Ate at awesome restaurants.

Chateau St. Jean. In the news now for the damage to their property.

It was one of the first places we visited. Picnic in the gardens while enjoying a glass of wine.

We went to over two dozen wineries that trip. Some of them were known because of our wine dinners at Iron Bridge.

Like Corley.

Family owned. Transplants from Virginia. We still get wines from their wine club, and we hope they are doing OK. They are between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29, fairly far north in the valley.

We first met them at a wine dinner in 2005. Out there, they remembered my husband and were so nice to take us everywhere on the property.

We made other friends out there. One, St. Helena Olive Oil. I would order their oil on line to be delivered here. They lost part of their production facility, although Peggy posted that her house was spared.

The impact on all of us. The loss of produce and fruit. Sonoma was a humongous producer of vegetables and fruit, for the US market.

US olive oils. Hopefully, those old, heavy producing olive trees survived. Otherwise, it could be years before production comes back to normal.

Avocados. Nuts. Citrus. Berries. The melting pot in Sonoma.

Makes me nervous when Florida and California have losses in citrus. Between the hurricane and these wildfires.

Add to it all, the disruption in income when all these businesses can’t open. For them, and their workers.

It’s been a crummy year here in the US, hasn’t it?

A Record Year

On the garden yield. The 2017 tomato crop has blown away all my previous yields.

This was probably my heaviest harvest in August. Over 20 pounds. So far this year my grand total has exceeded 171 pounds, and the cherry tomatoes are still producing.

My previous personal best was 139 pounds the first year I moved to a community garden plot. I thought that was an immense amount and now I am dealing with another 30 some pounds. The freezer is full. I have been gifting a half dozen friends regularly. The food bank and the Wine in the Garden auction basket winner have benefitted from my harvest.

I keep extensive records. By variety. Number of tomatoes. Number of ounces. Every time I pick. I sort. I weigh. I process.

Doing this allows me to decide what to plant again. What to give up. This year? The last of the pineapple tomatoes. They disappointed me for the last time. I love how they look, and how they taste, but they are fickle and fragile.

My replacement for them. Striped German. In the top picture, they are the very large yellow tomatoes with the green stripes. Those were picked a bit early, just before a predicted rain. If I left them on too long, they would split.

In this picture, you can see what happens when the rains come and split the tomatoes. My other favorite from this year, the small cherries with the darkest color, are prone to splitting too. These, the black cherry heirlooms, and those Striped Germans were bought from Love Dove Farms. I bought a market pack of four Striped Germans, and two plants of the black cherries. They will most certainly be grown again next year. They were superior in taste and both produced well.

San Marzano and large cherry tomatoes also did well.

I had two San Marzano plants that produced more than 20 pounds of tomatoes. The red cherry and tomato berry plants also went crazy in late July.

My freezer has dozens of containers of oven roasted cherry tomatoes. All winter long, I will be enjoying them over pasta or mixed with couscous or rice. I freeze them in single dinner size. Enough for the two of us to share.

The plants this year were spectacular.

Ringed by rebar and string to keep them upright. Many reached over six feet high eventually. I put in 32 plants this year in two long double rows in the garden. I lost two of them early in the season. Thirty plants. Averaging almost six pounds per plant. Since eight of the plants were cherry varieties, that’s a healthy return on “investment”.

One other surprise. The purple bumblebee hybrid, which isn’t purple at all.

Do they look purple? Not to me. They do have a great taste. Next year, they will return with the black cherry, striped German, and the San Marzanos. I will probably also repeat the Brandywine and the Rutgers.

It may be the end of the season, but the planning never stops. And, let’s see if I can get to 175 pounds before the first frost.

Preparedness Bootcamp

Did you know that our county is having an emergency preparedness “bootcamp” on the Office of Emergency Management Facebook page?

Not a bad time for us to review what we need to do, to remain prepared for possible extreme weather. With Hurricane Irma out there, and maybe more behind it.

I can’t believe it has been five years since Sandy came through. I remember being a new blogger and writing quite a few posts about preparing for it, and how we coped.

We are much more prepared these days, making it simple to ramp up if we need to do it. Always have extra batteries. Have all sizes of containers around to stockpile water, if needed. We know where to get the largest bags of ice, and we have four coolers for food.

We hope that Irma will somehow miraculously take a hard turn and go out to sea, but if not, we are ready.

Around here, it’s that massive deluge of rain that worries all of us the most. As big as Irma is, it will be hard to avoid getting drenched somewhere along the East Coast.

For those interested in weather, and wanting to learn more about preparedness, check out the OEM page. And, be prepared.

Finally, one simple tip, and a recipe. Make sure you have a good hand can opener. Power outages, you know. For us, the simplest meal. Canned tuna in olive oil, canned chickpeas, a white onion, salt and pepper. Drain the chickpeas. Dice the onion. Mix tuna, chickpeas, onion and salt and pepper. Add a bit more olive oil if it needs it. Serve over lettuce.

Stay safe!