Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peparing for Irene

How do you prepare for a hurricane? Irene has been my first, so I'm hardly an expert, and since most of the so-called "experts" on television weather have been too hysterical to be of much use, I've been on my own. Oh, sure, they invite you to the same song and dance we're heard since 9/11, have plenty of water and food, an emergency radio and flashlights with batteries, and so forth. But I live on a farm which creates its own set of challenges. There's no shelter three blocks away when water starts rising past the crack under the front door.

The first thing I did was cut up all the downed limbs from the last big blast that blew through last week and stack them in the barn. I figured tomorrow morning, after Irene has left me for another boyfriend up the coast, I'll have even more to keep me busy, so why not get a head start. Forewarned is forearmed or, as we say in Scouts, Be Prepared.

Then I finished mowing the pasture that impersonates a yard around my house. With four to six inches of rain in the forecast and the ground still damp from Thursday's showers, any attempt in the near future is going to be muddy. As it is, the Turners -- people who drive down my dead end lane on the presupposition "Dead End" means something other than "there's nowhere left to go," stop when they realize the sign means what it says and turn around on the grass in front of my barn -- have already left deep ruts like a kid carving his initials in fresh cement. No sense in following their lead.

The next step entailed doing something I've been thinking about for the past three winters. I bought a Coleman stove, one of those single burner jobbies that runs on propane. I considered the more compact model that burns white gas but remembered another Scouting lesson: I hate pumping, Coleman white gas powered lanterns and stoves require fairly regular pumping to keep them burning. If this were the dead of winter, I'd have a fire in the fireplace and cooking over it wouldn't be an issue. But in summer? No thanks, I'll take the stove.

After that, it was off to the local grocer for dried pasta, crackers, and cans of soup to heat up with peanut butter sandwiches. Things that are easily prepared with a pot of water and no fuss, no muss. Why peanut butter? Well, if I have to use the propane stove, it's because the power has gone out. With the number of trees looking for a good excuse to tumble down in a heap like a passel of Green Bay Packers on John Elway (if they could have caught him, that is), power outages are worth anticipating. Besides, I like peanut butter.

And that leads me to the apples. Apples and peanut butter. Whole Foods freshly ground honey roasted peanut butter, to be precise. Talk about ambrosia. Well, the apple wars have started early this year, i.e. the annual foray between the crows, worms, wild turkeys, deer, Freddie, and me, for apples from the ancient trees someone planted here long ago. Who's Freddie? He's a porcupine who rents the space under my barn, though if you ask him, he'd say he owns it. Whatever. Drives the dogs absolutely bananas when he ambles across the front yard at night. I saw him crossing the road yesterday, aiming for a mid-afternoon snack. I called what I felt surely was a pleasant enough greeting, but the little introvert turned round and trotted (I didn't know he could move that fast) back home. Feeling badly because I'd deprived him of the same pleasure I enjoy, I tossed a few nibbled cores and some new ones near his front door. I hope he doesn't mind my fingers.

And that brings me back here. The apples are in the kitchen, sharing the side board with fresh brownies, maple muffins, and chicken cooling for tonight's candle light picnic. All that's left is to write my supervisor and tell him I won't be in the hospital tomorrow, and depending on how badly Irene batters my neck of the woods, maybe not the day after. Last year a white pine with a diameter the length of a meter stick fell across the road and we were landlocked for 48 hours. With only one route to the rest of the world, all it takes is one big tree and a hurricane is turned into an adventure, and I'm ready.

(Photo of apple tree copyright 2011 by the author)
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