Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday July 29th - In the aftermath

We had our first eggplant this week, grilled with olive oil, pesto and Parmesan. It was sort of a hit or miss proposition, because nowhere in the whole giant space of the Internet will anyone tell you when to pick them. The general consensus seems to center on "when they're young, they taste better" but what constitutes "young" is largely undefined. Some say when you can leave a thumbprint, others when the fruit is glossy from one end to the other. I went with the glossy indication and once it was off the plant and in the sun, it was pretty clear that it lacked a continuous glossy sheen. The end was shiny, but the attachment point was dull. But it must have been close enough, because it tasted pretty darn good. The only indication that it might not have been picked at precisely the proper moment was a bit of green flesh under the skin. No matter, we enjoyed it.

Lots of nice sunflowers blooms during the last two weeks; every plant this year has been a mystery, either because they came up on their own or because I planted them from a jumble of seeds collected last year. So many beautiful blooms, all different and all inspiring. Our biggest plant topped out at 128" tall, not bad for an orphan transplanted from a walkway. Growing these beauties is such a nice summer time hobby, very little work and lots of enjoyment.


 The big news though was a storm we had on Friday the 26th. We had had a half inch of rain the night before, so things were a bit wet when the big one rolled in about dinner time. It's never a good thing when we get a big downpour on ground that is already saturated, we're on ancient clay riverbed and the water has nowhere to go. The result is puddles and mud, which makes managing the place and the animals tough. This one would turn out to be tougher than most.

As with all thunderstorms here, it gets dark, the wind picks up and then the rain starts in earnest. We watched the evening weather and the forecaster warned us that a big cell was coming in from the north. Not wishing to get caught in it, we went out and completed the horse chores and I even took a moment to go up on the roof to make sure the downspouts were clear. Before going back in the house, we walked up the drive and took a look to see what was coming. The northern sky was a most foreboding shade of blue-purple, and we could not see the mountains as they were already obscured by sheets of rain pouring down to our east. We went in and waited, and within a few minutes we had a small inkling of just how bad it was going to be.

It got very dark and extremely windy and then the rain came in blasts, followed by hail which actually began to accumulate making the front yard look as though it had had a brief snowstorm. The barnyard and driveway began to flood immediately, and then the power went out. It was 7:15PM. We stood out in the carport watching the rain and hail come down violently as the temperature started to fall rapidly. At this point, water started to pour in through the ceiling of our office, so it was time for pots and towels on all the desks and computers. Heading to the front of the house we heard water splashing and discovered the same thing in our library. More rapid response with buckets and flannel sheets. 

Those two emergencies addressed, we discovered water seeping in through our kitchen door - the porch and front yard were now completely under water. We took turns sweeping it away from the door and out the gate to lower ground before a couple of soaked towels stemmed that leak.

The barnyard and driveway were covered in water that was in turn covered with a green mat of shredded leaves. Out back, all the horse pens were now at least ankle deep from edge to edge, with the ponies bravely standing in it up to their ankles. It was a mess. 

Eventually the rain and wind lessened while the lightning continued on for a while. We sat out back and enjoyed a glass of wine and some music and waited while the storm blew itself out. Still no power. I saw a small frog swimming up the driveway. We went to bed in the dark knowing we had a giant mess on our hands. At 1:06 the power returned and all those lights left on jarred us awake. It failed again at 2:40.



 Saturday morning dawned sunny and humid. Much of the water had receded, leaving debris everywhere along with a coating of mud on all the gravel. The water in the horse pens had gone down a bit - everyone had some muddy high ground to stand on. We moved the big boys to our large arena which had mostly drained. The little guys were restricted to the alley between the turn-out gates, better than where they were but not that great. Everyone had a breakfast of hay only.

The garden was a mess, not destroyed but hardly the same. The tallest sunflowers were all either leaning over or topped, their big unopened blossoms hanging limply by a thread. The tops of most of the tomato plants were split and ripped, and the leaves on everything were shredded, in many cases with only the veins remaining. We used our stock of garden stakes to stand up the sunflowers, pruned the tomatoes and generally straightened things out. Not a complete disaster but a big disappointment nonetheless. 


 It only takes a few days for things to recover to the point where we are not severely inconvenienced. Out power was back on by 4:30 Saturday, an outage of about 21 hours. Nothing in the fridge was ruined and it was very nice to be able to use the faucets to wash our hands and faces after a day of cleaning up with bottled water heated on the stove. A couple of small showers on Saturday and Sunday night didn't add much to the mess (thankfully) and our host of Hummingbirds seems to have grown during the disaster. Today I used a pump to consolidate the water in two of the pens and if everything shakes out well tomorrow, the big horses can return to their regular homes. We were able to get the minis back into their pens last night.

Now we move ahead with our plants, grateful that all our hard work was not completely destroyed. Next week is shaping up to be the first big tomato harvest, the point in summer that we look forward to the most.

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