Off The Grid

DD#2 and I got home late last night from the high school football game. I collapsed into bed, but was awakened several times by the power going out and coming back on. We have a Sleep Number Bed, and every time the power goes out, the inflating unit makes a loud clicking noise. It went off around 4:30 a.m. and came back on shortly thereafter. I finally gave up trying to sleep and got up and came downstairs. I was just getting out of the shower when the power went off again—and stayed off. 

Playing Little House on the Prairie was not in my plans today. I had no work in the queue, so I had thought I would take advantage of the time to do some cooking and cleaning. Alas, no electricity means no water because we're on a well with an electric pump. I folded clothes, swapped out the sheets on the beds for the flannel ones, and did whatever else I could think of that didn't require electricity or water. 

The husband believes that any kind of emergency goes more smoothly with an adequate supply of coffee. He pulled his truck, which has a little Honda generator on it, up next to the house:

and moved the coffeemaker out to the porch and plugged it in:

He always fills it the night before so that all I have to do is flip it on and start the coffee brewing. So we were caffeinated while we waited for the power to come back on. DD#2 helpfully texted her network of friends to determine who had power and who didn't. It appeared to be localized to our area. 

We went out to the garden and pulled up the dead bean plants and the stakes that were holding them up. Finally, a little before noon, the power came back on. I was able to do laundry, process another six quarts of fermented pickles for storage, and make a couple of pies for the Mountain Brook Homestead Foundation Pie Social tonight. I am a (rather lame) member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. I mostly support them in spirit. It's a wonderful group and I'm going to go to the pie social tonight and show my face and take a couple of pies made with our strawberry and rhubarb. It will be a good opportunity to visit with my neighbors. And then I am taking a couple of kids to the Homecoming Dance at the high school. The husband will go back at the end of the dance and pick them up. 

I didn't get quite as much done today as I had planned, but that's the way it goes. 


The Day Before

September is National Preparedness Month, and while I think FEMA is mostly useless, they did come up with an interesting graphic. It shows a map of the United States, and each state has a date on it. That's the day before a significant diaster impacted that state. It's meant to illustrate that every day is "the day before," and often you have no warning when a disaster will strike. 

[Out of curiosity, I clicked on Montana, which brought up a story of the fires of 2000. Then I clicked on Ohio—where I grew up—and was not surprised to see a story about the tornado that leveled Xenia.] 

So, are you prepared? Have a three-day kit, at least, but ideally you should be prepared to survive a week or longer without assistance. 


Speaking of survival...the tomatoes survived two nights of frost unscathed save for four plants that got frozen when the corner of the concrete blanket slipped off. The rest of them look as healthy and happy as they did a week ago, and now they are basking in sunshine and warm temps again. We will probably get another 10 days of this and then we'll have to surrender to the inevitable and bring all the green tomatoes in to ripen. I finished blanching green beans last night, and they are all in the freezer. I still have to cut up and grill some squash, but that's about it until we start making salsa and spaghetti sauce. I am almost ready to breathe a sigh of relief. 

The husband's father is here visiting and I walked over to the garden with him yesterday so he could see everything. He kept exclaiming that he couldn't believe how many projects we had going, and at one point he said, "All you need is a cow!" (I actually talked to someone about a cow the other night—some people we know have a cow that just had a little heifer. I don't have a barn or a pasture, unfortunately, so we won't be getting a cow this week.) The pullets have started laying—hooray! After two years of having chickens, I am rather addicted to a constant supply of fresh eggs. 


Things have more or less settled down at work, finally. I am getting a handle on the workflow changes; my two dictators usually load up their reports in the late afternoon, so the reports are waiting for me in the queue when I log in in the morning. I did have one day this week when I got all my work done early and had nothing else to do. I told my supervisor I was available for overflow work and she filled my queue for me.

[We have one doctor on this account who saves up all his reports for about two weeks and then dumps them all into the queue at the same time. I feel sorry for the MT who is assigned to him!]

So the good news is that my workflow is more or less fairly predictable, I don't have to worry about competing with other people for reports, and I can basically have as much work as I want to do. That's huge for me, because I know how much money I want to make every month and I will work as hard as I have to in order to do that. The bad news is that I had to give up my Thursdays visiting the nursing home. When we were working from a shared pool, I could take the morning off one day a week. Now that I am responsible for two specific dictators, I have to get their reports done and so I have much less flexibility. It makes me very sad to have to give up those Thursday mornings at the nursing home. 

On balance—except for the nursing home thing—I am pretty happy with the new system. I like predictability. And I like making money. 

I did a leukemia patient report yesterday and had something of an epiphany. When I had leukemia 18 years ago, they ("they" meaning the doctors) were trying to determine the standard of care. Most of the clinical trials at that time focused on comparing survival rates with bone marrow transplants versus just chemo. I was actually on one of those clinical trials, but took myself off of it when I decided I did not want a bone marrow transplant and wanted the chemo-only option (I would have been randomized to one or the other). So the regimen I had was a week of what is called "induction therapy" with two drugs, idarubicin and Ara-C, a week of "consolidation therapy" with idarubicin and Ara-C, and then a week of "high-dose" therapy with a dose of Ara-C that was 10 times what I had received either of the first two times. (Some patients require more than one round of induction therapy to get their leukemia into remission.) That all took place over the course of about six months. And that regimen that I had is now the standard of care for leukemia patients with the same kind of leukemia that I had. I realized as I did that report yesterday that even though I had taken myself off the clinical trial, I was still part of the data that factored in to developing that standard of care. That makes me feel very good, in a weird sort of "I am contributing to scientific progress" way. 

Man, I still have trouble doing those bone marrow biopsy reports, though. They really make my hips hurt. 


So Glad My Husband Does Concrete 

If you are the husband and me, this is how you protect your tomatoes from a killing frost:

You drape very large insulating blankets (normally used to protect concrete while it cures) over the tomato plants. I went out mid-morning to undrape the blankets and give the plants some ventilation, and they look like they were nice and toasty last night. We will keep the blankets on again tonight, and then we should be good for a few more days. The lettuce was under a tarp and survived the night unscathed. 

The same cannot be said about the squash plants, however:

They are pretty well done. The upside is that now it is really easy to find the acorn squash and the pumpkins. 

No more pickles or peppers, either:


We will have a lot of cleaning up to do in the next couple of days, but at least it won't include giving pounds of mushy tomatoes to the clucks. They will have to wait a few more weeks for their share. 

Stuffed peppers for dinner tonight. Yum. 


Freeze Warning

You know, if it's going to get cold, I wish it would just get cold and stay cold. The long-range weather forecast for the rest of September is for above-average temperatures. It's supposed to be in the 80s later this week. That would be wonderful for the plants in the garden, except that Mother Nature is planning to kill them off with a hard freeze tonight. Why? Why is it necessary to assassinate everything in the garden and then give us two more weeks of warmth? It just about makes me want to scream. 

So the husband has been out in the garden since early this morning, picking everything he can pick and pulling up spent plants (I did say a prayer of thanks that zuchhini season is over). This is what my house looks like now. Lots of tomatoes—and there are more in the greenhouse:

Two boxes of cukes (sorry it's blurry):

A bucket of green peppers:

More beans:

A lovely crop of jalapenos, the last of the zucchini, and more beans. There were a bunch of little zucchinis that we gave to the clucks. They love zucchini. I commented to the husand that baby zucchinis are a delicacy for which restaurants will pay big bucks, and we flung them to our chickens. Sort of like pearls before swine, I suppose. 

And my absolute favorite picture of the day—celery in the bathtub. I was out of places to put things to dry. 

I don't think celery is going to make the cut for next year's garden. I am now officially beyond the point where I want to grow things just to say I could. Celery falls into that category. The stalks of our celery are skinny and only about 6" long. I cut a bunch (we planted a lot), which I washed and which will now get bagged up and put in the freezer for when I make stock. 

I am now in full-on panic mode, trying to prioritize vegetables and decide what to deal with first. The cukes (a lemon cucumber heirloom variety) have a maximum shelf life of about 36 hours in the fridge, and that's pushing it. I am going to make a gigantic batch of gazpacho tonight and freeze it. Dinner tomorrow night will be stuffed green peppers (for about the third time this week). The green beans will have to be trimmed, but the husband and DD#2 can help with those. The tomatoes are getting washed and bagged and thrown into the freezer until I have a chance to deal with them, like in November. 

I pulled up about six of the basil plants, which were the size of small trees. I have never had basil like this before. Alas, I didn't get the pesto made. I did hang the plants up in the greenhouse to dry for use in spaghetti sauce, but the pesto will have to wait until next year. I was fretting about the basil over lunch, and the husband finally said to me, "Our survival this winter does not depend on you getting the basil picked." 

[He always does manage to put things in perspective when I start getting all wound up.]

So the husband is going to put a row cover over the lettuce, and we're going to try to save the tomatoes by putting concrete blankets over the whole works (there are stakes in all 104 tomato plants, so they will hold the concrete blankets up off the plants). If we are successful at keeping the tomatoes alive until tomorrow morning, they will get an extra two weeks of warm temps to ripen, as there are no more hard freezes forecast for the near future. Wish us luck. 


The Joys of Vanity Sizing

I picked DD#2 and a couple of her friends up from cheerleading yesterday and took them to one of the thrift stores in Kalispell. This coming week is Spirit Week at school (in anticipation of Homecoming), and one of their dress-up days is supposed to be "items from the thrift store." We spent about an hour there and they all came up with cute outfits to wear to school. 

While they were busy, I looked through the kitchen section (nothing I needed), the crafts section (nothing there, either), and then I started looking through the jeans and the pants. I can always use jeans to wear in the garden. The bonus is that a lot of the jeans at the thrift store are lacking in that stoopid spandex that is so prevalent in clothing nowadays. I am so tired of having my pants fall down after half an hour of having them on. 

The downside to shopping for pants at the thrift store is that funny thing known as "vanity sizing." I was trying to explain this to the husband last night. When I go to the store now, I usually start with size 6 or 8 pants. That makes me laugh just to type that, because I haven't worn size 6 or 8 pants in a long time. What clothing manufacturers have done is to adjust the sizing so that someone who would normally wear a size 10 or 12 now has to start with a size 6 or 8. They don't want us to be upset that our clothing sizes are larger, so they have taken what used to be a size 10 and made it a size 6. 

In our neck of the woods, not surprisingly, it's pretty easy to find brands like Woolrich and LL Bean and Carhartt at the thrift store. I took three pairs of Woolrich pants into the dressing room with me. I had a pair of 8s, a pair of 10s, and a pair of 12s, because they all looked to be roughly of a size that would fit me. They all fit differently—and the size 12s were actually smaller than the size 10s (the size 12s must have been much older). I did find a pair of Woolrich cords for $2 that fit quite nicely, but that was the only pair that fit out of about a dozen pairs of pants I tried on. (I also found a pair of wonderful flannel-lined khaki Woolrich pants, but alas, they were a smidge too small.) 

I would love to go back to the thrift store to look for more gardening jeans, but I am going to have to budget a lot more time because I am going to have to try on a lot of pants in a lot of different sizes to find ones that will fit me.

Let me also say that I found a pair of Carhartt jeans that would have fit me really well had they actually come up far enough to cover up my C-section scar. I hate "low-rise" almost as much as I hate spandex. 

This particular thrift store also has two mangles for sale (I had to explain to DD#2 what it was). Anyone need a mangle?