Tag Archives: preparation

Memories – December 11, 2017

Our memories of Christmas together go back 40 years and most are wonderful memories, a few sad, a few where a silent primal scream in the kitchen was in order.

As our daughter was born in late November, as soon as she had a voice and an idea of what a birthday was supposed to be, decorating was forbidden until the day after her birthday.  Usually the outdoor wreaths would go up the day after Thanksgiving whether it was the 23rd or the 29th, but the indoor decorations were left in the boxes in the attic or storage closet (depending on the house) until the 30th.

Early on in our relationship, a Santa collection was begun and as the family grew, so did the collection as it made a great gift from the kids or from hubby.  We lived in the Hampton Roads part of Virginia at the time and in the town of Portsmouth was a Nursery and greenhouse that in addition to selling Christmas trees, turned the entire property into a winter wonderland with animatronic displays of various themes, the Santa workshop, Candy factory, train displays, with one room of one building selling tree lights, ornaments, gifts, and hot cocoa.  Our first Santa and his Mrs. came from Coleman’s Nursery.


Several of the more than 100 also came from there as I discovered the gnomes of Tom Clark and they became my favorites.


At some point, a tiny village was also started and occupied the mantel when the children were small and later the corner of the hutch.


Sometime in the late 1990’s, Coleman’s burned and they lost a lot of their displays, but vowed to rebuild.  In 2003, we heard that Coleman’s was closing and selling off their  remaining animatronics and trains and though we hadn’t been in a couple of years because it just wasn’t the same after the fire, we returned and came home with an addition to the village.  Most of the Santas and village pieces are dated by me and often have either where they were purchased or who gifted them to me.  One year at Coleman’s, we discovered that daughter, then maybe 4 was breaking out with chicken pox.  I always wondered how many children we infected that night before we realized, she never felt ill and fortunately didn’t get too many pox, but another memory.

There were Christmases when money was tight and we struggled to make sure that the kids got at least one major gift from their list.  Of course our kids were of the age to want Cabbage Patch doll or Transformers, sending us on merry chases to try to locate the gift that every other child of that age wanted that year.

One year, a small animatronic Santa with a working clock and tape player that played the Night Before Christmas Story appeared.


He always sat in our foyer at Christmas, but has been stored away for more than a decade.  This year, not knowing if he even still worked, he was brought out for the resident grands and with a battery in the clock and a good dusting, he still works, including the cassette.

There were the sad Christmas times as I lost both of my parents in December, many years apart and the unwrapping of ornaments and Santas from them bring tears of love and sadness.

The memories, oh the memories.  I hope my children have mostly good memories of Christmas, I do.

It Can’t Be Over

Warm weather and garden season that is.  When I arrived home from last week’s wanderings, the woods were beginning to wear jewels.  I had seen a bit of the dark red Poison Ivy climbing the trees and the barest hints of color elsewhere, but by this week’s end there is much more color on the mountainsides.

The Maple aka, the Tick tree as you can’t walk beneath it without acquiring at least one.
The photo doesn’t show nearly the color the eye sees.
So I conceded and pulled out the fall banner and mini banner, the fall wreath, tablecloth, napkins and kitchen towels.  With no kids in the house and no Trick or Treaters come this far, I only put a few decorations out, a real pumpkin on the porch, a resin one on the front table, a ceramic ghost and ceramic lighted jack-o-lantern on the bookshelves.

The table set with a large dried bottle gourd, a smaller gourd I painted at Garden Club years ago and a Burgess Buttercup squash from the garden.
So I have conceded, sort of, but I’m not ready for the early frost/potential hard freeze predicted for our region on Saturday night.  Today and tomorrow, I will harvest Tomatillos and peppers, drape a sheet over the peppers tomorrow eve in hopes that we either miss the frost or only have a short light one.  Sunday I may be able to find all of the Buttercup squash, Seminole Pumpkins and sweet potatoes, but I’m just not ready yet.

This is when I wish I had a portable hoophouse that could be put over the two beds that are still providing, hoping to extend their season by a few weeks.  Maybe next year.

Today as the rain comes in, I will can applesauce and apple slices.  Yesterday I started the cider vinegar. Tomorrow, we will bundle up and go buy meat for the freezer, leaving space for the 15 chickens that will be processed next weekend.

Here we go again!

Yesterday was in the low 70’s and sunny, today in the mid 60’s, but a front is roaring through, house shaking wind, torrential rain this afternoon, and plunging temperatures.  We took a day trip today to two Harley Davidson shops, each more than an hour from here for Jim to check out new and used motorcycles with a bit of size to replace his Honda Rebel starter bike.  We got back just in time to pick up our generator and take it to the repair shop and drive home in the worst of the rain.  The generator that we bought 7 years ago was used during construction of the house prior to the electric service being brought down to the house site.  Since that time, it has sat unused in the barn.  It is a sizeable unit and was unfortunately stored with some fuel in it.  We have had several times when having it functional would have at least provided us with some light and ability to keep the freezer working.  It seemed like we should deal with it, so it has gone to the shop to be cleaned and tuned and hopefully made fully functional again.  We would like to have it tonight.  The thermometer plunged 20º in the hour after we got home.  It is falling into the teens tonight and staying near freezing tomorrow daytime and back into the 20’s tomorrow night.

With the strong wind, we again face the threat of loss of power.  Though we and the dogs would be uncomfortable, we would survive it well, the 5 day old chicks would not.  I moved their set up into the basement as the basement having 3 walls underground hold its temperature better than the rest of the house.  I also turned the thermostat up to warm the space more and have brought in wood, paper and kindling to start a fire in the wood stove if the power fails.  The chicks will be placed as close as safe to that stove in hopes that they make it.  At less than a week old, they need 90+ºf temperature and that will not be able to happen for the next 36 hours if the power fails.


The other preparations for storms have also been handled.  The guest bath tub has been filled.  Extra straw placed in the chicken coop.  Wood brought into the garage, fires laid in the fireplace and the wood stove, just awaiting a match.  Oil lamps filled, batteries in flashlights and lanterns checked.  I keep hoping that the prep will ensure that the power stays on.  I would rather be ready and not need it.  

Next time we are threatened, hopefully we will have our generator back and will fret a bit less, but we still will have no heat and no water if the power fails.  And tonight I will not sleep well, I never do when the wind howls even though there are no trees near the house.  There is a shed roof over the heat pump to protect it from snow slide off the roof, but I always fret about it’s stability in high wind.

As the temperatures were falling and the winds rising, the dogs again decided it was time to wade in the muddy creeks in the sinkhole.  I am not amused with this behavior.

Winter will end, I have confidence, but as it darkens, it has dropped 30º already and it is sleeting.  After much coaxing, the chickens have been closed up for the night.

The Calm Before . . .

Again we are being threatened with a winter storm.  How many times has that happened this winter and it fizzled?  But this time they seem to be serious and instead of adjusting the storm away from us at the last minute, they are giving us more and more intensity.  It is to be a snow event in this part of the state.  I love snow and snow sports, so I’m fine with it, however, it always requires more effort on our part as we do live rurally in the mountains and heavy snowfall often means loss of power.  Loss of power means loss of heat, water and all other conveniences of life, so today, the cold, calm day of azure skies will be filled with the preparations for such occurrence.



The downstairs bathtub must be filled with water for necessary flushing and so the dogs will have water.  All of the emergency and camping jugs also filled as to get water when we have no power, we must trek downhill a few hundred yards to the gravity fed yard hydrant from our cistern that is there to water horses and cattle next year after our fencing is done.  Trekking down is not difficult, but toting one or more 5 gallon jugs of water back uphill is tough.  With enough snow, they can be loaded onto one of the toboggan sleds that we bought for our grands and us to play on in the snow, and dragged back uphill.

A supply of firewood will be brought over and stored in the garage to keep the woodstove and fireplace stoked for heat.  The wood is stacked against the end of the huge compost bins by the garden, but who wants to carry wood over in the wet snow when we can just grab it in the garage.

The hay used in the chicken pen and coop needs to be covered as they won’t come outside their coop if snow is on the ground and I don’t want to have to dig the large round bale out and deal with wet hay to get a layer down on the ground for them.

A pot of stew beef that can be finished on the wood stove or the propane camp stove will be started, or a pot of chili made that we can heat on the wood stove or camp stove will be prepped.

The freezer will be rearranged to make sure that there are few air spaces and jugs of ice that I keep in the basement refrigerator freezer when not needed, will be packed on top to keep the remainder of last summer’s bounty frozen.

Some day we might finally get a decent generator, maybe a whole house generator so these preparations will become unnecessary.  Until then, time is wasting, I’d better get to work.


The day is mild, almost springlike. The thermometer has risen to 53f (11.66C) though we still have gusty wind.  The forecast is for our first real snow, not a huge one, but 3 to 6 inches, I’ll settle for that.  The transportation departments are out in force, spraying their salt mixture on all of the roadways in anticipation.  We live on a 2/10 mile gravel driveway, downhill from a 2/10 mile state maintained gravel road, downhill from a real paved road.  With only 6 inches, no drifting and the 4 wheel drive feature of the vehicle engaged, we can get out if necessary.  The only time we couldn’t get out, we had 20 inches two weeks after we had 22 inches that had not all melted and the second snow drifted.  We were stuck for 3 days until our contractor/farmer neighbor came down our driveway on his huge tractor with a blade and plowed us out, then waited to make sure that hubby’s vehicle could get to the top of the driveway.  For about 2 weeks, that is where the car stayed and all supplies that we had to bring in here hauled down to the house on plastic toboggans, sometimes with us racing each other down the driveway in two of the them.  That was 4 years ago, the year of the last Winter Olympics and we posted many photos of our Cave Hill Olympics, our antics in the snow.  We may both be senior citizens, but we still like to play in the snow.




As the transportation folks are preparing, so are we.  Knowing that snow and wind often mean power outages, some for only a few hours, some for days on end and when we don’t have power, we also don’t have water, I have preemptively filled the downstairs tub, the water jugs and will shortly go bring in a couple days worth of wood into the garage for the wood stove and fireplace.  We went to town and resupplied some of the staples that were low from the natural food store.  I added another 8 or 9 inches of dry straw to the chicken coop and put a fresh layer under the coop and where I enter their pen.

With this potential snow, we are facing single digit temperatures at night for the second time this winter.  We will have to leave the hot and cold water faucet in the utility room dripping, pull out the space heater and hope the pipes don’t freeze in there again.  I also need to figure out how to keep the washing machine drain from freezing, though I can always drain it into the utility sink if the water is running.

With any luck, we will have a layer of white to enjoy for a day or two.  The dogs will love to romp in it, the chickens will be less thrilled, but I am still kid enough at heart to be anticipating some snow and a long walk in the cold white world.