Startled Awake

At 3 a.m., we were startled awake by the smoke alarm blaring and screaming “FIRE, FIRE.” It stopped very quickly, like someone had pushed the test button, but no one was here but hubby and me and we were both soundly asleep. Needless to say, I bolted from bed, I didn’t see flames, didn’t smell smoke, but still went into every room, touched every outlet, checked the utility area of the finished basement, and the circuit breaker boxes, peered into the garage, even stepped out on the rear deck to look at the heat pump and to determine if I smelled smoke as many of the folks up here heat with wood, some indoors, some in the outdoor wood furnaces. There was no indication of fire, no smoke visible or by smell, so back into bed with the adrenalin pumping. The detector in our bedroom was flashing a red light every 10 seconds.

After a few hours of restless tossing and turning, I finally dozed back off, the alarms silent, the red light flashing.

A google search of the manual indicated the flashing light was a low battery indicator, but there was no accompanying chirp, so I guess it triggered the alarm. The alarms themselves are only about a year old. Son 1 when he was here one weekend replaced all the 16 year old alarms with new ones, but the batteries hadn’t been changed since then. Most of the alarms are easy for me to reach with or without a low stool, but the two in the loft and our bedroom are very high. The 8 foot ladder is a challenge for my senior body with achy shoulders, but changing those batteries was a necessity so hauling it upstairs had to be done. It requires negotiating it around the stair railing and not knocking the wall, avoiding ceiling fans and hanging light fixtures once it is upstairs to climb up.

During the restless early morning hours of tossing and turning, wondering what we would do if there really was a fire and could my anxious brain remember everything for the insurance company. I know there are some very, very old photos from prior houses with some of the furniture in them stashed in the safe as an inventory, but this morning as soon as I was up and dressed, I created an album in my Google photos of pictures taken at various times of the rooms in this house and filling in with photos this morning of areas not found and uploaded them to the cloud. To accompany the photos, a Goggle Doc written inventory by room is in the works. These could be accessed by us on any computer at any time should we ever have to prove what was in the house.

With the batteries changed, the light quit flashing. With the morning efforts underway, my mind is more settled. We do have fire extinguishers throughout the house, in easy reach, but hope never to have to use them.

This is third time I have been startled awake by smoke alarms. The first was in my single days when my Dad and I bought a duplex that I lived in the upper half and we rented out the lower half. My tenants were less than stellar, playing loud music all night, and it turned out doing hard drugs down there, setting a chair on fire with a lit cigarette (before laws that prohibited smoking in rentals) after falling into a drug induced stupor and setting off the alarm. I had never heard one before, they were a new invention then. The second time woke us and our three children and it turned out to be a carbon monoxide alarm had failed. We ended up going to the all night pharmacy and buying a new one to make sure we didn’t actually have a carbon monoxide issue.

Hopefully, this will not happen again, but I was one battery short of replacing all six so tomorrow one more will be acquired and that one is a bit more challenging to change, but not as bad as the upstairs two.

False Spring

After typical winter for weeks with cold, damp, gray days and lots of wind, today is glorious. It is 50f (10c), clear, sunny, and calm. A couple of springs ago, a new metal raised bed was added to the garden with the idea of restarting the asparagus bed in a controlled area. Nothing came up from the crowns that were planted there and the bed was not in a good location. I moved it out of the way last year, moving the soil with it and put the third planting of beans in it that the bean beetles destroyed before they could produce. Where I moved it was also not a good location because it was hard up against the fence, an area with every noxious weed under the fence, and in a position that prevented getting the wheelbarrow to the compost pile. Last fall, Son 1 turned the compost pile for me and as I had moved a non productive bed box over my blueberries and heavily mulched them, he moved my raspberry and blackberry half barrels to where the old bed had been and it created the perfect spot for the raised bed.

Today because it was too nice to stay indoors, I moved the metal box frame to it’s new and permanent location and since I wanted it full, not just a couple inches of soil, it became a Hugelkultur bed. The sunflower stalks and corn stalks from last year’s garden were cut and layered in the bottom on a cardboard base and a layer of wood chips fouled with chicken manure shoveled on top.

On top of that, a layer of straw:

On top of the straw was a wheelbarrow full of the compost from the turned pile.

Then the soil that had been in the box was weeded and shoveled into the barrow and added on top and top dressed with another layer of compost to fill the box nicely and have it ready for early peas in another month or so.

While out there, the bed that had the flying greenhouse in it was weeded, hoping that with this week’s potential snow that it will stay clear, and another 4 X 8 bed that had a layer of old chicken bedding piled in it was turned to help it break down. Finally, the compost pile was shoveled back into a pile, trying to turn it a bit more to add to the bed nearest it when the weather warms a bit and the kitchen scrap pile beside it was fenced off with temporary fencing and top and an opening from the chicken run created to allow them to eat the weeds and kitchen scraps and make more compost in that location.

It didn’t take the hens long to discover the new territory.

As I was coming back in the house, I saw a text from a west coast friend, asking if we could chat as there is no Zoom session today and ended up with a delightful half hour or so on the phone, sitting in the warm sun on the front porch and sharing stories. Such a delightful way to end an afternoon outdoors.

Tomorrow the weather takes a turn back to cooler and rainy with wintery mix, possibly snow mid week. We will see, there hasn’t been any so far this winter.


The local bee group is offering pollen cakes for sale this weekend. Before I made the effort to get there and possibly have a chance to get one or two, I decided to check on my last remaining hive. I hadn’t checked since before the Christmas week Arctic freeze, actually, when I installed the sugar board to feed them. It wasn’t very strong then, but I hoped that with 10 pounds of food, they would struggle through the winter and hopefully survive to thrive this spring. At first I just listened to try to detect a hum, no sound. I popped the outer lid and peeked under the inner lid to see if I saw or heard any activity or if they had eaten any of the sugar. No activity and no sound. Fearing the worst, I removed the sugar board and the bottom cover and only saw dead bees. So, my first year of bee keeping was a total failure.

That hive will be dismantled and the frames put in the freezer for a few days then sealed in black plastic contractor bags. One or two nuks of bees will be ordered from one of the local beekeepers and I will try again this spring with only one or two hives, much more knowledge, and in medium boxes that I can handle. That is going to leave 8 deep boxes some with new frames, some built out frames that Son 2 purchased that he can take for his use, or sell as he wishes. I will keep the medium boxes and frames to try to get a couple of hives thriving.

At least the two bears we saw on the farm this summer left them alone, so I guess our 12V charger is doing it’s job.