Irene and the past three days

Hurricane Irene took out our power, phone and internet service, and so I haven’t been able to post anything—just when I was getting started! I have been writing posts out, however, and so here they are, starting with Sunday:


So often solutions don’t occur to you until it is too late. Saturday was spent “battening down the hatches” before Hurricane Irene passed through—or as many hatches as possible. I did give some thought to my very tall (8-9 foot) sunflowers that had only just started blooming. Every year I plant a row of them along one edge of the vegetable garden, and they stand like huge sentries. Bees love them and a wide variety (including our honey bees) swarm over the giant blooms; some of the fuzzy-type bees sleep on the flowers, perhaps so they are first on the scene the next morning.

Sunflowers before the storm
Sunflowers before the storm

Unfortunately it wasn’t until I awoke this morning, to powerful winds wringing the treetops, that I thought of a way to protect them. However, when I looked out the kitchen door I could see the sunflowers had already keeled over, one after the other, like some arcade game. The cucumber trellis was starting to break, so in heavy wind and rain Cherisse and I went out with the power drill to take it down; hopefully saving the plants from being yanked out of the ground. We took the reluctant dogs for a brief walk and peered in at the chickens through the one small part of a window left exposed; Cherisse boarded up the windows and door yesterday, sealing them in with plenty of food and water. They appeared fine.

Our ancient Catalpa tree seems to be suffering the most with huge branches down. It is a wonderful tree with a twisted trunk that looks like it was carved. Someday it will have to come down…it is barely alive and too close to the house. But it is so lovely. John Ciardi wrote a wonderful poem that describes it perfectly, with its huge leaves and brief cascade of white blossoms.

We are surrounded by trees; as we watch them twist impossibly in the wind it is a wonder they still stand. The flowers in the garden are bent over, as are the two hydrangea trees Connie and Joey gave us. With a ridiculous abundance of flowers (another favorite of the bees), they have been pulled to the ground. If there is a sudden loss of nectar supply at this critical time in the season, what will the bees and birds do?

In a few hours we will see if our long day of preparation was adequate. We harvested what we could, including much of the basil that we pureed with olive oil and froze for winter cooking. Our power has been off since 8 am, so hopefully what we have put away will be okay until National Grid can restore electricity. We brought indoors everything we thought could blow away, and boarded up the barn door. But for everything growing, we are hoping for the best! We will see.

Nightfall Sunday:

We have beeswax candles (not our own) burning in the chandelier in the dining room—part of the house that dates from the 1700s—giving us enough light to play Bananagrams.

Power is out!
It is always dark around us, with no streetlights and few houses. Tonight there is complete darkness.


The bees got a busy start this fine morning, making up for a lost day.

Bees are back to work
We did too. I woke up throughout the night hoping the power was back on, and worrying about all the food we have in the chest freezer. A lot of chicken and meat from Pat’s Pastured, plus bags of fresh-picked blueberries, zucchini bread, soups…all put away for the winter months, and in danger of spoiling. A bit late we decided to buy a generator and headed out to Home Depot, only to discover the inevitable—they and every other store we passed were sold out. In seven years of some severe winter storms we had grown complacent because with every power outage, National Grid could be seen within hours in our road, restoring power. Now there isn’t a sign of power workers anywhere—they must be covering other neighborhoods, perhaps more densely populated. Since, for all our preparations on Sunday we neglected to grind coffee (we have a camp stove to boil water but only whole beans), we continued on to Providence and called our resourceful friend Kris. She had a small generator we could borrow and told us about the East Bay Ice Company. We joined car after car, pulling up to buy 25 pound blocks of ice or 30 pound bags of cubes. We took six of the former and two of the latter (and two cups of coffee from Seven Stars) and headed home to line our chest freezer.

Once we had done what we could for our frozen foods, we assessed the other damage from the storm. We tied up the sunflowers and tamped down their roots—there is a chance they might make it. The rest of the garden fared pretty well, with some spotty damage. The Catalpa tree lost even more branches, and a few trees are down in the woods. But happily, there is no great damage anywhere around us. We released the chickens and they pecked around outside enjoying the lovely day, the storm and their imprisonment forgotten. One of the great things about chickens is they react dramatically—“ the sky is falling”—and then as soon as they realize they haven’t been killed after all, they adjust instantly to the new situation.


Now if we could get power—and phone service—we will adjust as well!


Oh, the things you take for granted. Like making toast or taking a hot shower. Day three with no power, and it could be a week before it is restored. The damage to power lines is very extensive and half of Rhode Island (and much of New England) is without power. Major roads are blocked off and many traffic lights are out. The little generator is not strong enough to power the chest freezer (or the coffee pot for that matter!) so we are relying on the ice; I remain very worried about the food.


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