Saturday, October 1, 2022

Busy Storm Season and a Heat Wave

This is something of a serious rebuttal to a video I saw on a website for urban men. It was instructing on how to create an emergency preparedness kit. What they instructed was something between a plane crash on a remote mountain and the household plumbing going out for a few hours. I feel bad for anyone who took it seriously because the producers did...

The weather folks are claiming we could have a brutal hurricane season. "Could." I realize this was mostly an attention grabbing headline. Something to whip up histrionics. We need more of that in our lives.

However, I will take it as a practical reminder for all of you that it is time to think about "disaster" season. Somehow we got past the usual Memorial Day flooding because it was replaced with a predicted mega-drought that still persists into October. It's still in the 90s here, but we're not past hurricane season, and a good snowstorm can bring on another kind of misery if utilities are knocked out.

A Generator is Never a Bad Thing to Own

If you keep a generator at your home as a back up during power outages brought on my tropical storms, hurricanes and blizzards, it's time to do the maintenance. Generator engines get so hot that I'm going to guess they eat spark plugs. Load up.  If you don't have a generator, you should consider getting one if you live in disaster prone territory. I'm still a fan of propane because it burns clean, does not require a carburetor, and if you're conservative with what you power, it will run for a about 12 hours on one 15 pound tank of fuel. For those who are not sure why I don't like carburetors, I'll tell you. It is a device that mixes air and gasoline to power an engine. Your car has one. They get gunky. They have to be cleaned. 

To be fair, though, I purchased the Sportsman GEN4000DF. It had 4,000 starting watts and ran at 3500 watts. That's enough to run a little AC. Or perhaps a freezer or a refrigerator. It ultimately was a hunk of junk. Although I like propane generators, we ultimately bought a Honda eu2200i and a Ryobi 2300. Neither has let us down; even during the most intense heatwaves. 

These little machines run anywhere from 6 - 11 hours on less than a tank of gas. Why the wide range of run times? If it's hot, and the AC needs to cycle more often, then less run time. If it's mild, longer run times. Pro tip: Only run high octane fuel in a generator, and keep oil on hand. You'll want to check the oil level every few cycles, and do the maintenance on both machines religiously.

Lighting and Fans

You will not have enough power to run your whole house. Your power supply is limited by the size of the generator, the amount of fuel you have, and your power demand. Get some battery operated LED lights. Why LED? They use very little power. They won't burn out as quickly as the old camp lantern you packed in your attic ten years ago. Don't forget extra batteries! You can also buy inexpensive solar lamps. In fact, we only use solar lamps. You can find them for under $10, and they will last years.

If you need to use your generator to keep the freezer or refrigerator running, you may not have AC. Sorry. You're going to be miserable. A fan or two can help. Just remember fans will tap into your generator power supply, so don't go nuts on it. A few for sleeping. That's all. As for a freeze disaster, it's important to know that electric heaters use a huge amount of power, so if you don't have gas for heating, then bundle up. A tiny desktop heater may be all you can power off of a generator. 

Food and Water

Don't wait until the day before landfall to get food and water. You can store canned goods and bottled water starting now. Think about it: 3 meals a day X number of people you need to feed. One gallon of water per person per day. I'd get at least a week's worth of supplies. If you don't have a camp stove, get one. They run on small propane canisters. Get 4 or 5 canisters. Academy and Walmart are loaded with these things. I don't see that Amazon has particularly good deals on them.

I shouldn't have to say this, but I'm not going to assume anything. BUY CANNED GOODS. No frozen or fresh food. Anything with a short expiration date is a waste of money. You need stuff you can store for a long time; just in case. You're not making gourmet meals. You're sitting out a hurricane or a bad storm. You do not need MREs. You do not need prepper buckets of freeze dried cereal. Skip that hype. Get canned goods. It won't kill you to eat them for a few days. Don't forget a manual can opener.

Paper Goods

Toilet paper. Go to Costco.
Paper Towels. Go to Costco.
Paper Plates. Go to Costco.
Plastic Ware. Go to Costco.

Plus hand sanitizer, band aides, Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, bug spray.

Get a few flashlights.
And a hand crank weather radio that can also charge your phone.

Finally, keep the gas tank of your car topped off. Usually, there's plenty of fuel. It just may be slow getting to affected regions. It's panicky humans that cause the shortage at the pumps. Panic is a powerful disaster of its own.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Was it a Misspent Youth?

 Slow Living Because We Went Too Far

It wasn't that long ago when all the elements of "slow living" were just a way of being. I wrote half of my Master's Thesis on a typewriter. Hardly anyone had a home computer. Therefore, I wrote the other half on a Macintosh 128k that sat in a computer lab on the 6th floor of the Sterling C. Evans Library at Texas A&M University. I then printed it to a spooled printer where I waited my turn for my papers.

Today, many students would lose their mind if they, one, had to print a thesis rather than share it via a google doc, and two, wait as much as 30 minutes for it to print. Kids would throw themselves off the 6th floor, in 2022, if they found a typo after all of that waiting. Because you know what? You had to go back to your reserved little Mac, put your floppy disc back in it, find the error, correct it, and wait another 30 minutes for your paper. No biggie to my generation. Life wasn't compressed into a blur like it often is today.

I found some old photos from those grad school days. If the above picture wasn't so faded, you might mistake the woman in the top right corner for an Instagram influencer. Flat hat, high waisted shorts, cropped blouse and trendy bag. Nopers. This is the Kerrville Folk Festival, May 1990. I'm sad that my jesus cruiser sandals haven't made a comeback. 

There's still time.

It's Hard to Live Fast in the Country

It's no secret that I love being at the cabin. I think I've pretty much outgrown the city. I need to slow down. Stop looking at computer screens and phones. Sit with myself and enjoy the natural world around me. Relax and feel a breeze. Take walks or bike rides. 

I have been spending more time at our country place. Caveat: technology allows me to work from there, so I am glad for that. 

I've already weened off my Netflix addiction. I really don't care when workmates talk about the latest streaming sensations. In this way, I've reverted to a youthful state of being. No television. I just had no interest when I was in my twenties. I lived for great literature, theater and music. I spent much of my time hanging out with musician friends, writing songs, singing harmonies, connecting to our common humanity.

How did that way of life drift away? It was not a misspent youth. I had a rich life. I think it's easy to put on the blinders of the times and to forget who we are at our very core. The core is eternal. 

The Economy is Nature's Henchman

We're killing this planet. We're killing ourselves. We would go and go and go until something bigger than us makes it impossible to move. Covid was the spark. War is the fuel. So are worker and supply chain shortages. The world economy is in a freefall, it seems. Nature has been waiting for us to pay attention.

A month ago, I was excited about building a proper house in Carmine. Then the housing market was forced to correct itself as interest rates began to rise. We had to pause and figure out what to do that wouldn't be a foolish move. I tend to move at the speed of light. I think 10 years of technology work has frozen my cruise control at 100 mph. Therefore, when  the move I am completely ready to make gets stalled, I get into a serious existential crisis. 

I can either turn bitter and depressed, or I can slow down and find that slower pace in the now. I'm no master of the now, but hot diggity, I'm trying. I mean, look at me! I'm making my first blog entry in a year! I am taking the time to write. I love to write. I am not out spending money in an uncertain economy. No "meh" movie tickets. No fall shopping. Way less eating out. More time getting lost in my own thoughts. More time cooking. More time re-evaluating my today self against my student self. That grad student had a lot going for her. She knew how to relax, get outside and get dirty, connect with people, and by that, fully engage with her world. 

Thanks for engaging with my two dimensional format called a blog. Please walk away from it and give a nod to the planet you live on. It's full of natural beauty and some pretty cool people who never look at Instagram. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Orchard


It's original name was Tornado Alley. The first time we discovered this scrappy acre of fallen cedar trees, scattered by some forgotten force, we gave it a name. I always thought it would be the most inexpensive acre to clear because it simply needed all of those dead trees pushed into a pile to burn.

Over the years, we've opted for clearing and building on the first two acres of our place. Both took more effort to clean up, but now they are park-like in their beauty. Tornado Alley is the barrier that separates development from the wild. That barrier has grown and overgrown into an orchard.

The Orchard is a wily place full of life that sprang from the death of trees. Wild roses create thorny hills and botanical caves for small wildlife to inhabit. The food sources gather there, too. The thorny, massive bushes offer up rose hips, as well as the perfect trellis for grapes and beauty berries to flourish. The Orchard wears a scarf that changes with the seasons. In the spring, it is the color of tannic water that flows through its threads and streams. As the water evaporates, the vibrant greens of mosses and grasses redesign the colors of summer. Pops of color dot the trees as birds come and go. By winter, the warm colors of decay take hold as they wait for the water to return, always pumping life into The Orchard.

There are songs here. The symphony isn't so well heeled as the storied Festival Hill that is only a few miles away, but this orchestra is experienced in the song of the wilderness. The frogs trill like piccolos in a stave of notes and rhythms that are the beat of the symphony. Coyotes draw a bow across wild harmonious violins that crescendo as the night settles in. The big brass of trombones and baritones are performed by the cows as they call across the fields. As the arrangement decrescendos, a whippoorwill takes a solo. In The Orchard, the residents have perfected a masterpiece of song that has played nightly since before any human payed the price of ownership here. 


A man will crush the dirt, rip it apart and plant a proper garden in his quest to survive. A man, and even two girls, will overlook something considered ugly and pesty. Whether it was the spirits of the earth or a delay in plans to eliminate it, The Orchard made a statement in late summer. It will remain. It will provide for the animals, the plants, the stream that borders it, and if its newest human residents wish to partake, it will allow it. The rules are its own, and that means it will not give itself up as easily as a well cultivated crop. It will challenge with scratches, tall grass, bees that bump away invaders, chiggers, and sometimes snakes. But if a person is willing to coexist by the rules of nature, the orchard will share its abundance.

Juices, jams, teas and wines are waiting at a buffet provided by all the things we thought we didn't care for. When the truth is... The Orchard has been caring for us forever.