Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How Will You Spend Your Extra Second?

2008 was an interesting year, to say the least. Some say you either loved it or hated it. Personally, I'm somewhere in between those. There's good to be found in everything and tonight, I get a chance to add another second of good to 2008.

Our earth is a aging ball that is slowing down as time goes on. What this means is that every so often, in order to keep everything copacetic (I think this just might be the first time I've ever really used that word in a sentence where it was apropos), the powers that be add a second to our year.

Like its cousin the leap year, it's called a leap second. The last time we had to do this was in 2005.

We won't have to wait until midnight to get our extra second, though. Since the master clock is in Greenwich, England, we get ours here in the Eastern Standard Time zone at 6:59:60. Now the question is, what will we do with it? We don't want to waste it now, do we?

Here are some ideas:

  • Give someone an unexpected kiss
  • Take another breath. The oxygen will do you good
  • Eat another M&M
  • Smile at a someone
  • Catch another second of sleep
  • Read three more words
  • Wink at your sweetie
  • Snipe an auction on eBay
  • Scratch an itch
  • Sniff a rose
  • Take a second look
  • Plant a seed
  • Say a little prayer
  • Pet your cat
  • Speed dial your mom
  • Take a picture

How will you spend your extra second?

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Heart Electricity

Sunday, December 21, 2008

4:30 AM
I awaken, look at the clock. Where's the clock? Why isn't the nightlight on? Why can't I see the clock? Oh no. The power's off.

4:32 AM
I shake Romie. He moans. "Honey," I say. "The power's off."

4:33 AM
"Honey? Did you hear me? The power's off."
You woke me up just to tell me the power's off??

"Uh, yeah. I thought you'd want to know."

4:35 AM
Romie gets up to go to the bathroom and announces that it's about 4:30 and the power is off. I notice how cold the room is.

4:37 AM
Romie crawls back into bed and proceeds to be uncharacteristically chatty. I moan in response until finally I shush him and tell him to let me go back to sleep. He complains that I woke him up and he can't go back to sleep so I shouldn't be allowed to either.

12:00 PM
Romie shakes me awake and asks if I'm going to sleep all day. I then hear the clock downstairs strike 12:00. Wow. I think to myself that it's no wonder people who have hypothermia want to sleep.

12:05 PM
I contemplate crawling out of my nice warm cocoon. Romie opens the blinds and implores me to look at the pretty, glittery, ice-covered trees. He thinks I should bundle up and go outside to take pictures. I give him "the look."

12:12 PM I crawl out of bed, put on my fuzzy microfiber robe, go downstairs and wrap up in a blanket on the couch. Romie joins me at the other end. Baby joins the snuggling and helps keep us warm. Where are the other cats when you need them?

2:48 PM
Why isn't the power back on yet?

4:30 PM We bundle up and go outside.
35 mph winds with gusts to 45 mph. Wind chill is -30° F. We do this not because we're crazy, but because we agreed to take care of the neighbor's chickens. Why can't they be our next-door neighbors instead of three houses away?

4:40 PM The chicken's water is frozen solid, but there are 15 eggs. We check the house and it's 34° F. We start the gas stove to warm the house up a little. House reaches 43°. Turn the stove off and go back home.

5:45 PM There's a knock at the back door. It's the next-door neighbor we invited over to keep warm in our 55° basement. Talk of food ensues and Romie and The Neighbor take off to get pizza. I snuggle up with the kitties by candlelight, listening to the battery-operated radio playing Christmas carols.

6:45 PM Pizza arrives and we chow down. If we had electricity, I would have heated mine up in the microwave because it's already cold, but beggars can't be choosers.

7:00 PM Romie mentions perhaps we need to bring the houseplants downstairs so they don't freeze. I know the cold is starting to affect my brain, since I never even gave this a thought. We start to haul them down and this means that all 175+ houseplants are crammed into every available space in the basement with us. It feels like a botanical conservatory.

8:12 PM I take the flashlight upstairs to go to the bathroom. Romie brings water from the sump hole to put in the back of the toilet so we can flush it. I decide to check the thermometer to see what the state of affairs is now.

9:30 PM After stimulating conversation about past ice storms, the declining morals of the country, and just when the power might come back on, we all settle down for a cold winter's nap. I never go to bed this early unless I'm sick.

10:00 PM Since Romie is on the longer couch and I'm on the shorter loveseat and can't stretch out, I go upstairs to our bed. I pull the covers over my head and it's only cold for about ten minutes.

Monday, December 22, 2008

6:30 AM Romie wakes me up because he's going to work and can't believe I've slept in the frigid bedroom all night. He's afraid I'll freeze to death while he's at work and tells me he doesn't want to come home to a dead wife. Oh brother.

9:30 AM I awaken to the sound of my cell phone ringing. It's The Neighbor. He had gone to work and they sent him home. With a generator. His house is 60° and he has TV. He says, "Why don't you come over?"

9:35 AM I knock on The Neighbor's door. TV! A warm spot! I plop myself down with a cold Diet Pepsi Max, which I'd brought from home, along with some bagels. The Bonnie Hunt Show is on TV.

10:00 AM Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? is on TV.

11:00 AM The View is on TV. Why isn't the power on yet?

11:15 AM The Neighbor and I go down to The Chicken Neighbor's house and light the stove again. We wait until the temperature goes from 33° to 40° and then we go back to his house to get warm again.

12:00 PM The noon news says 44,000 customers are without power and it may be four more days until it's all restored. Dang.

12:20 PM Romie calls from work to check on things and I give him the latest news on the power outage. He's instantly depressed. But at least he doesn't have a dead wife, I tell him.

2:30 PM Okay, this is getting old, but at least I now have a place to stay warm. I go back home to check on the cats. They're doing fine and aren't even down in the warmer basement. I check on the outside cats, which are in the garage and the pool house. I clean the litter. Some of it is frozen to the bottom of the litter box and I have to chip it away. Geesh.

4:20 PM Romie gets home and we go back down to The Chicken Neighbor's to take care of the chickens. Fourteen eggs this time. My thumbnail fractures from the cold when I bump it on the door and I don't have long nails. Ow.

4:30 PM Romie calls his mother, who has been using his brother's generator, and finds out she has her power back. He calls his brother to ask if we can use his generator then. Sure! Romie leaves to go get generator while I stay at The Chicken Neighbor's house.
I start the gas stove in the house again and wait about half an hour until it reaches 40°, when I turn it off and walk home.

6:15 PM Romie and his brother return with the generator and proceed to work on hooking it up.

7:00 PM The generator is running and the basement is now heating up a bit.

7:40 PM Romie's cell phone rings. It's The Neighbor To the North calling to say the power is back on.

7:40:30 PM My cell phone rings. It's The Neighbor Who Spent the Night calling to say the power is back on.

In the end, we were without power about 41 hours total. The house reached its coldest at 31° and you could see your breath. The basement was better, with 50° being the lowest it got.

My thanks and gratitude to those workers that had to be out in that frigid weather with dangerous wind chills of -30° to restore power to so many. God bless them.

Today, we had more dangerous icing and a thunderstorm, all in the same day. And tomorrow, just five days after our power was restored, we are to have a high of 62°, rain, and possible flooding. It's as if Mother Nature had some weather days left over and needs to use them before the year is up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Message from Our Little Acre

Christmas is upon us, having rushed in as it does every year. Anxiety runs high - will we get it all done, will we find the right thing, will we be late to the party, will we stay healthy? Invariably, Christmas gets here, right on schedule, whether we're ready or not.

But imagine Mary, as she traveled to Bethlehem with Joseph. I'm sure she was hoping the impending birth of Jesus would hold off until they could get back home. But time waits for no man, not even when it's the Son of God.

So Christmas comes, in spite of our readiness or lack of it, and we rejoice in the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Not for the presents (although we like them), not for the culinary delights that are prepared (we like those, too), but for the birth of Jesus, who we as Christians believe is God come to Earth in the form of a man.

We at Our Little Acre wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and for those that don't celebrate in the way we do, we hope your holidays are good ones as well.

Romie, Kylee, Simon, Baby, Jilly, Jack, Luna, Boo, Max, Sunny, and Lola.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Here a Chick, There a Chick...

...everywhere a chick chick. Our neighbors don't have a farm, but there's one on three sides of them, just as there's one on two sides of us. They have a big white barn and a little gray chicken coop, with 37 chickens and two roosters.

Last year, some of their brood paid us a visit and I was so enamored with them that for months I talked about wanting some of our own. It would be great to have fresh eggs and the roosters were downright handsome. Romie vetoed the idea and my aunt convinced me that I really didn't want them pecking in my garden. She assured me they would.

Okay then. We'll settle for admiring the neighbors' and we'll buy our eggs from them. It's worked out rather well actually and we laugh about how we eat green eggs and ham.

Last week, they asked us if we would take care of the chickens while they took a trip to Florida for Christmas. Sure we would! They showed us what to do and it didn't seem too difficult. They left on Saturday morning, just as we were recovering from an ice storm. And then...the bottom dropped out of the thermometer and we had below zero temperatures, with 35-40 mph winds, creating biting wintery conditions. Around 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, we lost power.

Now that makes for quite a different scenario, but those chickens are tough! Almost tougher than we are, when it comes to surviving the elements. At five below zero, they clucked around like nothing had happened, even running in and out of their coop through the little opening.

All we had to do was water and feed them and gather the eggs. I laid claim to the gathering eggs part right away and Romie has been taking care of the watering and feeding. The water trough has a heating element in it to keep the water from freezing, but when the power goes out, of course it freezes. During our outage, they were without water some of the time, but it didn't affect their laying.

They average about 15 eggs a day. We gather them around 4:00 in the afternoon, because they're generally done laying for the day by then. One of the hens likes to sit on the eggs all the time, even if they aren't hers, so I have to reach in under her to get them. She doesn't seem to mind.

So far, it doesn't seem like a big deal, this having chickens bit. Of course, we haven't been asked to clean the coop out yet either.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

I was nearly ready to publish this blog post late Saturday night (December 20th) when we lost our power due to the ice storm, high winds, and below zero temperatures. We didn't get it back until earlier tonight, after 41 hours without it. That - in another post.

Sometimes the weather people miss their predictions and I'm happy about it. Sometimes they get it right and I'm happy about it. Other times, they get it wrong and I cheer. And then there are the times they get it right and I wish they'd been wrong.

Take Thursday night, for example. Freezing rain, with a potential of .1 to .25 of an inch of ice was predicted. We got that, and then some, as did most of northern Indiana and northwest Ohio.

When it was all over, we ended up with .5 to 1 inch of ice that coated everything except the west side of vertical objects. Branches broke, trees fell on power lines, and travel was treacherous and very dangerous. Thousands lost power and are still without it as I write this. Ours went off briefly several times, but we never really lost it for any length of time.

There's a weather poem that pertains to fishing, but a part of it is appropriate for weather in general, in our area.

When the wind is blowing in the North
No fisherman should set forth,
When the wind is blowing in the East,
'Tis not fit for man nor beast,
When the wind is blowing in the South
It brings the food over the fish's mouth,
When the wind is blowing in the West,
That is when the fishing's best!
~ Author Unknown

There was evidence that the wind was out of the east. Not only were the west sides of trees free of ice, but the icicles hung at an angle pointing westward.

The bird feeders hanging on the pole were frozen at a similar angle. It was as if the world lost its balance.

An ice storm brings with it some beauty though. Otherwise drab winter features suddenly become glittering jewels. Nearly everyone grabs the camera to record the event, whether it be to have a record of the damage or to save the beauty to look at later.

Here at Our Little Acre, we lost some branches out of a few trees, with only one suffering major damage. The Amur Maple in the northeastern corner of the property, behind the two apple trees was completely topped out.

The weight of the ice, coupled with the wind, was just too much for its branches to take and they were broken. The tree will survive, but it will take a few years of growth before it looks somewhat normal again.

I went out to take pictures while the freezing rain was still falling. Every so often, a loud crash could be heard and it sounded like there was some logging going on all around us. Crack! Swoosh! Bam! With the trees that line both sides of the creek that runs behind our house, there were branches both small and large coming down every few minutes.

The hope was that the temperatures would rise above freezing long enough to melt the ice from the trees and power lines before the next weather system comes in, but that didn't happen. If we get the wind that is expected, there will likely be more damage and more power outages. This is one of those times when I'll be happy if the weather report is wrong.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the photos of the ice that coated Our Little Acre:

Blue berry on Cedar tree

Pond fairy resting on a stump under the Willow tree

Bluebird house on Shagbark Hickory tree

Oops! Forgot to bring in the Monarch...

English Ivy on a large oak tree

Ice along the split rail fence

Oak leaf in ice

The pussy willows have taken on a festive red color.

The Weeping Willow tree in Max's Garden is twined around other plants in the garden and hangs low to the ground

Colorado Blue Spruce

The yews are literally dripping with ice

First-year Brussels sprouts that didn't quite make it to harvest

The Washington Hawthorn looks handsome as ever with its scarlet berries

Detail of berries and thorns


This close-up of Xeranthemum reminds me of those glass paperweights that have flowers inside them.

The miniature rose I pictured earlier has been preserved in ice

Icy drops suspended on a spider web
(I can't believe I even noticed this tiny thing!)

Needles on the pine tree we brought home in our suitcase from Maine in 1979

Pasque Flower foliage

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

If there ever was a better way of describing how I feel about certain poinsettias, I don't know what it is. In my recent post about saving poinsettias from the garbage heap after Christmas, I expressed my distaste for what some stores have for sale in the poinsettia department. Disgusting colors and that glitter.

We put glitzy findings on our Christmas trees. Lights, beads, shiny balls and ornaments. We ooh and ahh over those. But poinsettias just shouldn't be sparkly. They're pretty enough all on their own.

So it may come as a surprise to you that I succumbed to the wiles of a certain poinsettia that I saw in a certain unnamed Big Box Store that urges us to save money and live better. There are methods to my madness, however.

First of all, they had the color I wanted - salmon with white edges. Secondly, they were inexpensive, so if I manage to kill it, I won't be losing much ($8 for the larger ones).

I tried to look past the glitter, which really wasn't all that offensive on this one. After all, if I do manage to keep it alive, it will outgrow its glitteriness, won't it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Desperately Seeking Susan

Some things are just not meant to be.

Three years ago, I ordered an amaryllis bulb called 'Susan.' It was to be a lovely clear pink and I looked forward to seeing it bloom. The bulb almost immediately shot up a flower stalk and I began to get excited. I saw hints of pink as the buds began to form and then open. Finally, there she was, in all her glory.

Sort of.

She was big and she was pink. But something was wrong. She looked as if she'd gotten caught in the rain without an umbrella and her blush got smudged. What happened here?

It turns out 'Susan' was sick with some sort of virus. I was disappointed, but I let her go on and do her thing. I planted her outside the following summer and planned to let her bloom again the following year, hoping she'd get rid of the virus somehow, even though I knew that wasn't likely. I still have the bulb, and while she puts out foliage, she has never again bloomed.

A few weeks ago, while shopping at Meijer with daughter Jenna, I came across some boxed Amaryllis bulbs. It's common to find them in the Big Box Stores at this time of year and at a reasonable price, too. Sometimes I pick one up, if the bulbs looks healthy and they're decent-sized. You can usually peek into the box to check them.

Meijer had many varieties and one of them was 'Susan'! I checked the bulbs and they were nicer than I expected in size and appearance and the price was unbeatable at $3.99. I bought one and went home looking forward once again to having a beautiful 'Susan' among my collection of Amaryllis bulbs.

The bulb had just a hint of green poking its way out of the top of the bulb when I planted it and over the next few weeks, it grew tall and the day of its debut arrived. I saw hints of color as it slowly opened...wider...wider...until finally there she was....



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December 2008

It's easy for me to post for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day this month. I don't have anything blooming in the garden. That means I'm technically not eligible to participate, I guess, but just because I don't have anything blooming outside, that doesn't mean I don't have any blooms.

I do have one plant blooming out there, if you can call freeze-dried blooms "blooming." The rose that I posted a picture of last week is still there, although more faded in color.

I looked for viola blooms, like I had last year, and wouldn't have been surprised to find them under the layers of frozen leaves. But though the plant itself is still a vibrant green, there are no blooms. So, we'll have to go back inside to find color, and that's okay with me because with it being 17° F. out there, I'm not about to spend much time admiring the garden.

Most of what I have blooming is downstairs in the basement greenhouse. I could bring them upstairs while they are blooming, but there's such a difference in the temperatures that I'd hate for them to get used to the warmth upstairs and have them think it's spring. Most of the basement plants have gone into a semi-dormant mode and I don't really want to disturb that too much.

A couple of the Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) are putting out blooms. Winter is their normal bloom time here, so I might bring one of those upstairs and just leave it until it can go back outside in the spring.

The Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens 'Fragrant Delight') gets to looking pretty pathetic by spring, but it always manages to eke out a few pale blooms throughout the winter. It's not as fragrant in the basement, but still has that telltale vanilla scent.

One of the
Brugmansias put out a few blooms in the last few weeks. I think this is the last bloom until next summer for 'Cupid's Blush' though. It's not particularly fragrant in the evenings as is usually the case with the brugs, but that may be due to the much cooler conditions it's in. It's such a pretty color though.

The Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii) is in a south window where it gets the most sunlight possible in the house, and it blooms all winter, although by spring the blooms will be less vibrant. Summer sun deepens their color.

I brought the pot that has the
Cordyline in it for overwintering and that pot also contains purple Angelonia (Angelonia gardnerii). I was surprised to see a single bloom on it this morning. As prolific and carefree as the Angelonia was out in the garden this past summer, I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess!

Not truly in bloom yet, the Bougainvillea (which didn't bloom at all the entire summer) has been producing its gorgeous bracts ever since I brought it inside. I can see the flower buds forming, so they will be in bloom soon, but it's the raspberry bracts that I love so much about this tropical.

I'll soon have Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) in bloom inside from three of the bulbs that are in pots right now. And one of the orchids has the promise of future blooms. It's always a big event when both of these plants break into flower.

I'm sure January won't bring any new blooms outside, but with all the Amaryllis I have here and orchid blooms lasting so long, we'll have those to look forward to!

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