Saturday, June 30, 2012

a fragile society in the aftermath of storm

The calm after the storm has been everything but.  People are hyper and are moving about hurriedly going nowhere to be certain.  The lines at the gas station are as far as the eye can see.  There is no water to be found...  Last night, we couldn't get a pizza because the only two open venues in town had cut-off orders for the evening four hours prior to closing! People are sweaty, hungry, tired, and bored.  ....and it hasn't even been 24 hours.

We live in a fragile society folks.   People are too comfortable in their sheltered lives on-the-grid.   Dependency is not easy to accept.   Basic needs: food, water, shelter, (and communication).  All of these needs can be "shut-off" or taken away or destroyed, in the blink of an eye without any warning.  Then what?

I'm not trying to be an alarmist... I'm simply observing human reaction (my own included). 


Well, Phil and I happened to be at Meadowlark Cabin on our Burr Oak farm during the storm.  Julia was with her grandparents in Athens.  We had been working hard on the screened-in porch project all afternoon.  I was staining the siding and ceiling, and Phil was cutting the support columns for the screen.

Now, keep in mind, that we have witnessed plenty of storms out on the farm.  I really wasn't worried at all as the sky gradually darkened and cool breezes of telling air swept around me.   In fact, I was grateful because we needed the rain and the cool-down.  I continued to stain the back porch and Phil continued to cut lumber.  By this time, we could hear far-away and gentle rumbles of thunder.  Phil asked me if I wanted to pack up and go home.  I said, "why? I'll keep working through the storm, it won't bother me any".  Afterall, we were working on the backporch, which is covered by a roof.

Eventually, I decided to take a break from staining to go around front and watch the final minutes of the "approach".  Little did I know what I was in for... naively, I was still thinking that this would just be a passing soaker with a few rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning.

It is always hard for observers to describe what they see when it comes to nature.  Nature never seems to want to fit into the available words.  Words like "epic" or "surreal" seem appropriate... or the ubiquitous, "it sounded like a freight train coming".  But there just aren't adequate adjectives to describe it... loud, terrifying, massive, unreal, scary....

What I saw (without too many adjectives), was a wall of "storm" coming straight at me through the state-owned side of our property.  The roaring wind had taken on a life-like form and reminded me of a wild animal overtaking its prey.   I was instantly scared, but amazed at the same time.  I just stood staring at "it".  Never in my life had I seen the trees bend and contort so violently.  I finally came to my senses and yelled to Phil, "What is this? Is this a tornado"? 

No, it wasn't a tornado.  Just a terrifying "gust front".  The temperature had been well over 100 degrees for two days.  The humidity was low.  As the storm approached, the falling rain evaporated before it could hit the ground, due to dry atmospheric conditions.  This caused a very sudden and drastic cooling of the air.  The result was a gust of air traveling at 80 miles per hour.  This explains why there was no rain at the front of the storm. We didn't see rain until about five minutes after the winds had arrived.  I find all of this fascinating really.  I had never heard of a "gust front" until I saw it on Channel 4's (  website.  Once, I found the terminology, I had to learn more.  I googled "gust front" and learned that they are common out west where the air is typically dry and hot... but here in Ohio, we are used to hot and humid conditions, which produce awesome thunderstorms, but rarely "gust fronts".  Interesting stuff, eh?

We lost our largest tree on the fence-line.  A gorgeous sycamore.  It was sprawled out across the road when I drove away.  The township had cut through the trunk with chainsaws and cleared the roadway by morning.
A significantly sized branch fell from the pignut hickory that shades Mom and Dad's cabin.  Luckily, the cabin was not hit.  I haven't had a chance to walk the property or to go down Ovenbird Trail to survey the woods.  I'm sure we have downed trees, but that is the cycle in the woods.  Downed trees give habitat and shelter to mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects.  Downed trees open the canopy for new growth and give opportunity for saplings to thrive.  Downed trees give back nutrients to the earth and become the home of fungus.  The woods recover.  We should take note and listen.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bowties with Broccoli Pesto

Harvest time!  

Although I've been harvesting salad greens, swiss chard, scallions, chives, basil, and parsley for weeks, the time has finally come for me to harvest the first of the broccoli heads!  I really love broccoli and cauliflower (the two always seem to be mentioned together, don't they?), but cauliflower is soooo hard to grow.  I attempted it my first three years of gardening at The Brick Lady. After three consecutive fails, I decided that cauliflower wasn't worth my time or the valuable garden real estate.  However, broccoli is very easy to grow and a beautiful plant to boot!

In past years, I've actually let broccoli go to seed inadvertently.... simply because it was so beautiful that I couldn't harvest it.  Each day, I would tell myself, "tomorrow I will harvest, but not today".. when tomorrow would come, I would again say, "tomorrow".  Finally, the green broccoli tree heads would turn to yellow flowers and go to seed.
I try not to do that anymore, but I admit, it is still hard to chop the head off my beautiful broccoli plant.  Broccoli, like a lot of other garden vegetables, is a plant that doesn't have to be cut at ground level.  Simply cut the edible portion and leave the rest of the plant.  Throughout the season, additional broccolis will form, although the new sprouts will not be as big as the initial.

 I absolutely love cooking with local ingredients and will go out of my way (and spend more money) to buy local.  It is extra sweet when "local" happens to be VERY local... as in my own backyard-local!  Gardening is wonderful for so many reasons -  it is economical, frugal (frugal doesn't mean being a cheap-skate; frugal means using resources wisely), and spiritually rewarding!

What meal will we prepare with our first broccoli harvest?  Bowties with Broccoli Pesto!  This dish is from a Weight Watcher's cookbook, as all meals Phil and I prepare are relatively low-fat and healthy.  If you are a WW member, this meal is 8 points per serving.  I usually eat more than one serving, but less than two.... probably around 11 points.  Phil usually eats two full servings.

harvesting the broccoli

basil.  fresh herbs are so expensive and you never end up using all you buy, so why not grow your own?  most varieties are easy to grow!

harvesting is made extra special if you've got a nifty little basket.  Dad gave me this one and I adore it!

from garden to kitchen counter
Phil chop, chop, chopping!

 since I use very few pesticides, I have to be very careful when washing my garden veggies.  I don't mind eating a little dirt, but I do mind bugs!
fresh basil

processing pesto
boiling whole wheat pasta.  we switched over 100% to whole wheat and I actually prefer it as it gives pasta dishes a richer flavor

mixing pesto with bowties

dinner is served!  we don't set a fancy table... but I do light a candle every single night during dinner.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I heart trees!

Tree Identification class at Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest with Dave Apsley

Finally, I am learning to identify trees.  Trees have been on my to-do list for a few years, but I was overwhelmed to say the very least.  I even bought two different tree field guides, but they didn't help matters much.  Fortunately, Dave Apsley's method of using a dichotomous key worked for me! After taking his class, I finally understand and am able to somewhat accurately identify most trees!

The photo below is of the classroom and our "practice" trees before going into the field.  Next, I posted a pictorial essay of all of the trees we identified on our group hike.  Trees are beautiful is so many ways.  I am glad that I am finally taking the time to get to know them on a first name basis!

 p.s. - I took careful notes and all of the trees noted below should be correctly identified.  If you see that I've made a mistake, please let me know!

Dave Apsley demonstrating the impressive size of the pawpaw leaves!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Birding Bailey Run

Last Saturday's birding destination? Big Bailey Run in Chauncey!  It is a great location full of all kinds of wildlife.  At one time, the area consisted of a small stream, but now it is a huge swampy wetland thanks to a family of beavers.  I arrived at Big  Bailey at 6:45am and stayed for about 90 minutes before heading to West Bailey.  I had a blast at West Bailey! My only regret was wearing my Columbia trail shoes instead of my muck boots.  My footwear somewhat prohibited me from traipsing through the swamps as much as I would've liked.  Nonetheless, I came home soaked from toes to knees, smelling like a swamp, and very satisfied and peaceful.  It's all good!

male american goldfinch

one of several beaver dams

indigo bunting

Species List - Big Bailey Run
1. wood duck
2. great blue heron
3. eastern screech owl
4. green heron
5. red-winged blackbird
6. indigo bunting
7. blue-winged warbler
8. yellow warbler
9. bald eagle
10. american robin
11. american crow
12. tree swallow
13. gray catbird
14. american goldfinch
15. common yellowthroat
16. red-bellied woodpecker
17. red-eyed vireo
18. eastern towhee
19. blue jay
20. eastern wood pewee
21. carolina wren
22. killdeer
23. wood thrush
24. baltimore oriole
added at West Bailey
25. louisiana waterthrush
26. downy woodpecker
27.eastern phoebee
28. carolina chickadee
29. northern flicker
30. mourning dove
31. tufted titmouse
32. song sparrow
33. scarlet tanager
34. white-eyed vireo

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The 40

Garden Update: June 2, 2012

click here to read the previous garden update

This year's garden has been such a joy!  It is the best we've had in over three years.  Partly because of great weather, partly because of getting an early start, but mostly because I am not pregnant (two years ago)... and I don't have a crawler (one year ago).  Julia is at the age, almost two, where she is much easier to manage and I have more free time.  Phil is working on enclosing our patio so that she can have a safe place to play outside.  We were going to fence in the backyard, but decided to wait until next year when she is closer to three.  She is still little and the patio will work out just fine.

my pride and joy: the cabbage patch

first cucumber blossom

tomato row (better boys and german pinks)

tomatoes slowly ripening on the vine!

what we like to see -- five blossoms on a level

tomato annex (hillbilly, orange, and cherokee purple)
first bell pepper

milkweek in the native wildflower garden

milkweek - the bumble bees and butterflies love it!

rose garden - I am considering adding another color for next year