email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Well, it's been an interesting week.  First an earthquake, then a hurricane!  Hurricanes aren't too rare here, but this was the most direct hit I've experienced as an adult (and the eye was still 80 miles east).  But it was clear there was going to be major rain and wind.

So I was prepared the evening before.  Aside from the usual emergency supplies (flashlights, crank radio, batteries, water, food, etc), I made sure to have a good supply of comfort foods...
Before I went to bed that evening, I noticed my 5" rain gauge was at 4.75", so I went out and emptied it.  I took a quick look around the yard for any tree damage and found none.  But the most intense part of the storm hadn't arrived yet.  The lights dimmed a couple of times, but I never lost power.  I'm very glad all the electric and cable lines are underground here!

This morning I found another 2.5" of rain in the gauge, for a total of 7.25".

There was some tree damage, but nothing serious.  I haven't driven out yet, but I did hear a chain saw in the neighborhood, so someone had some larger damage.

I found some medium branches fallen.

And a few smaller ones, but those were from my favorite saucer magnolia tree.
I have some repair work to do in that tree!  There are a couple of breaks like this.
Two of my tomato cages blew over in spite of being staked.  One stake was bent over at ground level, the other was simply pushed over in the soaked garden soil.  I was able to raise the cages without any apparent damage to the plants.  I put 2 stakes on each cage for better protection.
So I came through the hurricane in good shape. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Well, I have experienced my first earthquake.  It was quite interesting.  My first thought was that one of the 2 huge trees near the house was falling on it an breaking through the attic in stages.  But I realized immediately that the shaking was too frequent and sudden.  So I guess it was about 5 seconds before I knew it had to be an earthquake.

It was odd; the house felt like it was being pounded rather than shaken.  There was no vertical movement sensation.  I think I was being moved back and forth laterally about 6 inches.  I kept on my feet, but after a few more seconds it became visually disorienting because the house and I were not moving in the same way.  So I had to put a hand on the kitchen counter.

It felt as though it lasted about 15 seconds, but everyone on TV later agreed it was about 25 seconds.  The center was about 90 miles away, in central VA, 5.8 magnitude.  Apparently there was one major aftershock and several minor ones in the following hour, but I did not feel any of those here. 

The range of detectable shaking was very large; from Atlanta GA to Ontario, to Ohio (as best I've heard).  It was so widespread because the US east coast is old solid ground; few faults to absorb movement.

  I went outside immediately when the shaking stopped, mainly in case one of those trees DID decide to fall.  It was another minute before the first neighbor came out.  It was hilarious.  The first 3 neighbors to come out all asked "Did you feel that?".  DUH!  I assured them that everyone for many miles around had surely felt it.  I said, "for all we know at the moment, New York is in ruins or the New Madrid fault opened up again" (none of my neighbors had heard of New Madrid).

I went back inside to look for any damage and check CNN for details and likelihood of aftershocks.  All the cats were STILL poofed up after 10 minutes and now, 3 hours later are demanding more attention than usual (making it hard to type).  The only consequences were some fishtank water had sloshed out (no fish), a framed photograph had shaken off a bookshelf, and one tippy samurai figurine had fallen over (undamaged).

It was interesting, but I won't mind if it doesn't happen again...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free Mulch Again!

For years, the County collected lawn and tree debris, shredded it, and aged it.  Then gave it back to county residents for free.  On Saturdays, they would even load it in trailers or pickups for free.  It wasn't big pieces like commercial mulch, nor aged enough to be compost.  I used to get 2 trailer loads each Spring.  One to use for mulch and the other to set aside to compost further.

Then they stopped for 2 (3?) years.  I kept checking their website only to see "No Mulch Available".  I figured they were either using it for county maintenance, or lacked the funds to keep processing the raw debris.

So when I had a landfill load of trash, I asked about it.  I was told the mulch had become available again all this year.  I would swear the website said "No Mulch Available" just last month.  But the imporatant thing was that the mulch was available again!

There used to be hour-long lines to get the Saturday free loading, but yesterday, I was the only customer.  I drove up, put a tarp on the bottom of the trailer (it has gaps between the floorboards) and set the edge of a larger tarp in the front so the mulch would hold it in place.  ONE big bucket load later, the trailer was filled to overflowing!  I folded the top tarp back over the pile and attached it down with bungee cords.

I drove it into the back yard, where I will scoop it out onto this beat up old tarp where the last of the compost mulch was used up this Spring.  Unfortunately, the top tarp did not reach all the way to the back end, and with 3" of rain falling on it, the exposed mulch got so heavy it tipped the trailer back.

Now there is too much weight against the removable back  upright, I can't remove it.  So I'll have to shovel a foot or so clear before I can slide the mulch out.

This is how tipped it is.  I removed the top tarp, in hopes that the rain forecast for tonight will even out the weight and let it sit level again so that I can remove the back.

I shot this picture crooked so that it would LOOK level.  LOL!  That's 2.75 cubic yards of free mulch!  I hate to think what it would cost to buy it by the bag!

As soon as I get this unloaded and spread around the flower/garden beds, I'll go back and get more to leave aside to compost, then whatever more I can get, I'll use to cover my daffodil and hosta beds!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strange Rain

I had the oddest experience today.  Something that hasn't happened to me since I was about 11.  Those many years ago, we kids were playing outside and realized that it was raining in our yard, but NOT across the street!

Well, it finally happened again!  I was watching the rain suddenly pouring down in the front yard, so I went to the back to watch the rain gauge fill up.  Nothing!  It WASN"T raining in the back yard.  Not a drop.

Convinced I was just not seeing it, I went out on the deck.  Dry!  I even went out in the yard because sometimes the trees absorb a lot of rain at first.  Nothing!  It was several minutes before rain finally started falling in the back.

Talk about being on the edge of a cloud!!!  Has this ever happened to you?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Forced Shopping

This is NOT an advertisement for Walmart, though it may seem like one.  It's just that I had a massive shopping trip (for a reason).

For a week, there has been utility digging in the neighborhood.  A large sign said the electricity would be off Aug 1 from 8 am to 1 pm.  So I planned for it.  I had left my car for a battery problem at the dealership last week and the Walmart is right across the street.  I spent the scheduled service hour wandering through the store and found a number of things I could use, plus some things I didn't know Walmart carried (they have expanded their food area).  I didn't want to buy anything then because I would have had to haul it all back to the car dealership.

But I planned yesterday carefully.  The power was to go off at 8 am (and the temperature was forecast for the upper 90s). And I know that scheduled outages get extended sometimes.  So I got up at 6 am and cranked the A/C down to 65, showered, got dressed, made breakfast.  I took the car out of the garage (electric door).  At 7:45, I checked the computer, shut it down, and turned off the backup battery, and unplugged the emergency outage lights.

The power went off at 8:15.  As planned, I went outside to do some garden weeding and random yardwork in the "cool" of the morning (it was already 85).  I came inside at 10 am and the house temp was up to 70 already and no air circulation.  So I went on my planned shopping expedition.

First, to places that sold stuff Walmart doesn't (or has but is junk).  I started at the Home Depot (Big Box DIY store).  I have had several burst hoses lately (they are all getting old) so I wanted commercial-grade, and I needed a couple good new hose sprayers too.  Plus I am trying to design a stand for attaching a nozzle to so that I don't have to stand around holding a nozzle all day when I water the gardens.  I needed to just see what basic stuff I might use.

Got to the Home Depot and found 2 nice hose nozzles.  Damn, I forgot to pace off the lengths of hoses I wanted to replace.  I'll have to get those later.  And I forgot to get 2 more quick-connect male connections.  Later on those too.  Any shopping list is guaranteed to be incomplete.

From there, I went to PetsMart.  Petco has the higher-quality stuff, but where they both have the same product, PetsMart is cheaper.  I wanted a 3rd cat carrier (3 cats - 3 carriers) and a collar for Iza (she lost another one).  I found a nice new red collar for Iza (this one is even reflective).  It was hard deciding on a new carrier (trying to judge the size from memory of the other ones at home).  I already have a small one (fine for Ayla at 7 pounds) and a larger one (fine for Iza at 12 pounds).  But I decided that Marley is probably going to get near 16 pounds at the rate he is growing, so I got an even larger one.  AND it has a TOP opening door!  It has a front one too.  I never saw that before!  I decided to pass on the customized pad at $12; I have lots of old towels.

To my surprise, PetsMart is now carrying Eukanuba kibble.  I hadn't seen it there before.  Cheaper than Petco by $3!  Grabbed a bag.  I have some already, but it will last.

So then it was on to Walmart.  Some of their own brand stuff is well-rated by Consumer Reports magazine, and I go there for those anyway.  But when they sell the same brand name product at 75% of the regular price as other places, I'd be a fool not to shop there.

I bought/guesstimate savings:

Kleenex 3 packs/25%
Tidy-Cat litter/40%
Toilet paper/30%
A single outstanding car mat/(not found elsewhere)
Low sodium V8 juice/33%
Tea (regular and decaffinated)/50%
Narrow spatula (sharp-edged and heat resistant/it was only 88 cents!
A pill splitter (for vitamins and cat pills)10%
Nestle's Quick (no sugar added)/20%
Candy (I have a weakness for Hershey Hugs and Dove Raspberry Dark Chocolate)/20%
A hand-held fertilizer dispenser (for where the yard-type one can't go)/not found elsewhere
Pajama shorts/ impulse purchase
Thick work socks (my gardening shoes are just a little large)/just seemed a good deal

Picture of the loot...
And the new cat carrier.  I hope whoever thought of putting a door ON THE TOP got a HUGE bonus for that idea!

Oh, about that car mat...  I have had this flimsy car mat from the previous car and it keeps sagging and folding under the pedals.  I have to straighten it out every time I drive.  I was going to rubber-cement it to a piece of old chairmat to stiffen it.  Partly because auto places only sell mats in 4-packs (2 front, 2 back) for about $30.  This single one is all I need, it is thick and ribbed  and it cost about $5!

Usually, I just go to Walmart for a few specific things.  I'm usually there for the kitty litter (they sell the 35# bucket for less than the pet stores sell the 27# bucket) and the V8 juice.  But when they sell brand name stuff at half-price, I gotta shop there...

I'll give an interesting example of how bulk changes prices.  When I moved here 25 years ago, one of the first things I bought from a local hardware store was a benchtop table saw.  3 months later, the first Big Box DIY store opened and they had the exact model for half the price and it wasn't even "on sale".  Just their regular price.  I felt robbed!

Another thing...  I had been looking on the net for a wall "clock" that gave date/day/time digitally in big letters.  Couldn't find one.  Walmart had one.  And it gives the outside temperature, indoor temperature and indoor humidity.  AND keeps the clock accurate by radio signal.  For $20!

Another thing...  I had been wanting a "touch-on" bedside lamp for years.  I found one at Home Depot for $40.  It broke in months.  They didn't sell it anymore.  Walmart had one, one time.  Two per box actually.  For $20.  Working fine after several years.

But anyway, it was a great day shopping.  It's not something I do often, so it was great fun!  But it worked out perfectly.  When I got home, the power was back on, and one clock I have counts the time from power-on.  It was only 15 minutes.  I pretty much timed it perfectly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Cat Tree

We have a new cat tree in the house.  Actually, I assembled it several weeks ago, but with one thing and another (mostly Ayla's surprise medical problems), there wasn't wasn't a good time for the cats to post it on their own blog.  So I held off posting about it here until they could.

Here it is each step of the way:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weeding The Flowerbed

Between getting into a daytime sleep-cycle, the brutal heat of a couple weeks ago (but not much better now), and Ayla having medical complications all last week, the weeds took over!  It sure doesn't take them long to grow and for me to get behind...

This is where I planted annuals this year.  I had a large area where some evil runner grass had taken over last Fall.  I dug it out carefully, but some came back this Spring.

I lifted the perennials out and searched through their roots for runners, then moved them elsewhere mostly to make larger patches of their same kind.  My columbine patch is now double in size, for example.

Then I dug the runner grass out again using a spading fork to loosen the soil so that I could follow all the runners several inches underground and slide them out carefully .  That worked very well.  There is almost none left.

But all that digging brought a lot of other weed seeds to the surface and the planted annual bed exploded with them.  As you can see here...
Here's a closeup of one part for reference.
This is the same spot after I spent over an hour of weeding.  Remarkably better.
After the 1st effort I had plenty left to do...
And here is that same section after today's work!
An overview of the entire weeded area!
But that is just the annual area.  As you can see, I have a few more days of work waiting for me.  This spot won't be TOO bad.  Most of that is actually non-weedy perennials that have already bloomed for the year and weeds in the garden path that will come up from the pea gravel easily.
This area will be harder.  There are several kinds of weeds with thin roots that break off easily.  That means digging.
This will be difficult, too.  The close growing dianthus makes it hard to get at the wiregrass and mock strawberry embedded among them.
At least those areas are shaded after 4 pm.  But did I mentioned my area is infested with Asian Tiger Mosquitoes?  Deet works well enough on my arms and neck, but they still swarm around my face looking for a place to land!

And then I spent over an hour hand watering the weeded area and some parts that were most desperate.  I'll water the rest of the flower and garden later when the shade arrives.

Well, I'll have more pictures when I make more progress...