Monday, February 28, 2011

An Oscar Thunderstorm

The barn during a recent sunset.
Sunset, after a mostly calm day. This morning, as I ate my breakfast, we had thunderflurries for about a half hour. It was almost the laziest thunderstorm I've ever witnessed. Didn't see any lightning, just heard some slow thunder. I could see flurries drifting past the window, but they didn't amount to much either. And then it stopped, and the flock of blackbirds that have been hanging around the house and yard since yesterday resumed their chatter.

Last night, though, was a different story. I'm from Colorado, where we don't get thunderstorms in February, so I'm still getting used to storms this early. And storms in Colorado do not rate on the same scale as the storms here, even with all that hail. These thunderstorms are so loud, it's incredible. The thunder shaking the house, the winds shaking the house, the rain shaking the house.

Since moving here last August, every time we have scheduled a big party, there has been inclement weather. Our first party was an ice cream social and we held it on the day of the first cold blast of autumn. Next up was our Christmas cocktail party, cancelled in part because both of us, and many of our friends were sick with a bug, but that turned out to be a good thing, as anyone who would have been at our party would have been snowed in. When we rescheduled the cocktail party, we got more heavy snow. New Year's Eve, tornadoes about 15 miles south of us. Last night was the Oscars, and we held a small Viewing party. And we had thunderstorms.

I'm impressed with the way they forecast severe weather out here in the Midwest. They do not mess around or take it lightly. The weather service was saying we would get rain in the afternoon, and as the temperatures warmed up throughout the day, our risk of thunderstorms would increase, and we'd get severe weather between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. (It also seems that almost every thunderstorm we've had since moving here as happened at night.) They were predicting mostly heavy rain, strong winds, frequent lightning, but a tornado couldn't be ruled out. The storms arrived a little late, about 8:30 or so. We'd been watching their approach first on the television screen, as a series of ever-eastward shifting severe thunderstorm warnings showed up on the map in the corner of the screen. And then by the subtle approach of lightning out the south windows of the living room. I had been worried mostly about heavy rain blocking our satellite feed, or lightning taking out our power. Both things tend to happen during storms, and thought it would suck having a party that needs both electricity and a good satellite feed (but knew our guests would at least be well-fed and able to imbibe even without power). The satellite feed did get interrupted a couple of times, but not for very long. Many of our guests, though, took to standing in the front door to watch the lightning once the storm really got going. I missed the big bolt that struck across the street (I did hear that crack of thunder, though), but there were plenty of spectacular lightning bolts to go around. Our friend, Sherry, had brought over a crepe paper velvet rope that ended up getting damaged in the storm. Rain started streaming in through the now-sealed door to what had once been a deck off the second floor, and that rain came through the ceiling and down the front door. Puddles of water in front of both doors. But that was the only damage. We didn't even miss a single award, which we all thought amazing because at one time it seemed the satellite had been out for something like ten minutes. The storms lasted until about 2 a.m. As I went to bed, I saw that Cumberland County, just about ten miles to our south, was in a tornado warning.

When I remember being a kid and whenever we had a thunderstorm, my sister and I would stop what we were doing and watch the storm, going from window to window, or (if Mom wasn't home) sitting on the back porch on swings listening to the rain on the porch roof. I recall hail popcorning in the yard, lightning bolts playing with the lines down the street, and the sound of tornado sirens. As an adult, I still tend to drop what I'm doing during a thunderstorm and watch them from window to window. Here, though, there are no sirens to warn us of impending danger, and we must rely on our weather radio... And since the storms have been hitting at night, I've been able to see the heavy rain only during lightning flashes. They're still awesome, and scary, and exhilarating, and last night it was nice to weather one with our friends.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Late February Snowfall

Last night when we went to bed, it had been raining for about five hours. The weather service was predicting 1-3" of snow overnight. But you never know, right? So we were both so pleasantly surprised to wake to a bright and sunny morning awash in freshly fallen snow. We got about four inches, and it looks like it was blowing in from the north, since all the trees were coated on the north side of their trunks. As I took these pictures, I was wearing my regular snow boots, but I was too lazy to tie the laces, so they were a little open, and I completely forgot that this snow fell on ground that was already completely saturated. So as I walked to take pictures, I kept stepping into deep puddles, hidden beneath the snow in the yard. The price I pay for art! Anyway, I hope you enjoy these pictures!
The nut trees

The woods

Happy, having a private moment

The front yard from a cornfield

Barn & Pig Pen & Compost Bin

Barn closeup

Birdfeeder Tree

It's really going to happen now!

Pinetree Seeds Order

The first seeds arrived today! Sixty (yes, 60, and this isn't even half of what I ordered. Did I overdo it?) packages arrived in two envelopes this afternoon. I was outside with the dogs when I saw the mailman pull up to the mailbox, and got excited when I saw him struggling to get everything inside. Kerouac & I trudged through the wet (it's an absolute necessity to wear knee-high muck boots when walking outside in the yard now, there is so much water) driveway and across the small river of the ditch to the mailbox, and fetched the first seeds of year (as well as a new Entertainment Weekly and a letter from my friend, Ruthie)! I spent this morning reading up on starting seeds, and realize with some dread that I am somewhat behind already: our average last freeze date here is April 14, which is six weeks away. Before then, I can have some stuff in the ground, but should have some other stuff started. So I've got to get my act together! Luckily, there's a sale at Rural King this week and I'm going to buy more seeding flats as well as the medium in which to grow these seeds in. I expect to have seeds started early in the week.

Seed Savers Order
So what arrived, you ask? many things! I got 38 packets from Pinetree, which my new friends in the Charleston Growers Association said was a good company to order from. They're located in main, and sell mostly heirloom and hard-to-find seeds from around the world. Four kinds of beans, two kinds of peas, two kinds of broccoli, beets, cabbage, two kinds of carrots, lettuce, dandelion (I know...this is a large Italian variety that I hope will be like the delicious dandelion served in Greece), purslane (another weed, and another variety for the table), lettuce, spinach, two kinds of cucumbers, four kinds of tomatoes, six kinds of peppers, squash, radish, collard, and the following herbs: chervil, thyme, savory, lavender, oregano, brown mustard,  & cilantro. (I'd sworn off growing cilantro two years ago. It always bolted before I get a chance to eat it. But last year, I tried it again, and got a few snacks from it. But this year, I'm growing a Mexican heirloom variety that is said to be slow-to-bolt, since it's primary use there is for its leaves, not its seed. I hope it works out!)

The garden this morning.
I first heard about the Seed Savers Exchange this past Saturday, from the Growers Association. They're a company based in Iowa that are preserving and selling heirloom and open-pollinated varieties of seeds, as well as working against corporate ownership of seeds. Their online catalog was gorgeous, and I had a hard time not going completely crazy ordering from them. In the end, I ordered 22 varieties from them: two kinds of tomatoes, yellow onions, one kind of bean, one kind of melon, an Italian variety of broccoli, two kinds of cabbage, okra, corn, radish, turnip, sweet pepper, lettuce, huckleberry, and the herbs: sweet mace, spearmint, basil, borage, lemon balm, and cumin. Their seeds were a little more expensive than some of the other companies I ordered from, but was told that the germination rate is very high for these high-quality seeds. I'm very excited they arrived so quickly. 

I have four more seed orders coming, as well as one more yet to place (tomorrow in the mail). The next step is to get them started, and get the garden bushhogged and tilled. I am so excited! 

One final piece of business: 100% of respondents thought Three Persimmon Farm is a good name (Thank you, Darcie!), so that looks settled! Thank you!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's in a name?

Puddles of rain in our sodden yard.
There is light snow falling through the cold air. The snow isn't really noticeable, until you feel it's cold kiss on your cheek. The dogs, of course, are impervious to it. Really, all they seem to be concerned about anymore is the smorgasbord the yard seems to provide for them: frozen & rotten pears, apples and persimmons, and what I believe are bird droppings: the dogs treat it like brown popcorn from heaven. They can't get enough. It rained yesterday. Almost 1 and a half inches fell yesterday, falling onto already sodden ground. The ground, when not under water outright, is soggy and sticks to your boots. I spent yesterday morning reading about the local food movement around the country, and then reading about soil. I'm feeling more ready to begin tackling the garden!
Most of my seeds are ordered. The internet failed twice while ordering, so two orders didn't go through. I'll re-order those later in the week. Once they arrive, I'll be starting some of them in flats in the garage under grow lights. Rich & I are going to build a cold frame to get an early start of lettuce and onions and some other greens. I'm glad he's as excited as I am!
So this past Saturday, I headed to town and met up with the Charleston Growers Association. It's a group of six other local growers in the Charleston area, all committed to growing produce from non-genetically-modified (non-GMO) seeds and without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. (By all rights, they're organic farmers, but since the word "organic" belongs to the USDA, so many farmers say they're raising crops "naturally".) These folks were very welcoming. I'd seen three of them last year at the Farmers' Market, having bought produce from them and talked to them then. It is very exciting to get involved with the growers here in the Charleston area. They are as passionate as I am about growing good food and talking to people about it. I also got the skinny on how to get a spot at the Farmers' Market, which starts June 1, and runs every Wednesday through the end of October.

Me carrying a fallen limb to the burn pile.
The one thing that got me hung up about the Growers Association: the application. I'm going to have to finally decide what I want to call that garden out there. Since before we moved here, Rich & I have been referring to this place as Persimmon Acres. It's got persimmon trees and many acres of land, to it worked for us. Since getting here and learning more of the history of the place, I've learned that a man named John Ingram homesteaded this place in the 1820's. The url of this blog is a nod to his name: Ingram Farm. We also learned that many folks around here know this place as the Baker Farm. The Bakers are a prominent family in the area. The high school gymnasium is named after one of them who lived in our house perhaps 30 years ago. I think if we owned this place, I might be more willing to name my farming venture with a nod to the history of the place. But since we will likely be moving at some point, I want the name to be able to move with me. I'd like to think that my produce becomes a staple at the farmers' market. Were I to name my business after one singular location, only to move a few years later, what about the name then? Talking it over Saturday night with Rich & our friend, Sam, I came to realize that Persimmon Acres might just be the best name. By Sunday, I'd decided on Persimmon Acres Farm. I really like the sound of it. Yesterday I googled the name, and learned that there is already a Persimmon Acres Farm in Terre Haute, just over the border in Indiana. So that name doesn't really work. In looking around the farm for other names, I knew I wanted to stick with those persimmon trees. They're such cool-looking trees, and for me, quite exotic. Their fruit is delicious and really quite prevalent here in the yard. Were Rich & I to move to a farm of our own, we would definitely be planting persimmon trees. So I've tentatively decided on the name Three Persimmons Farm as the name of this venture. There are three persimmon trees on this farm, and to get to the garden from the house, you walk under the shade of two of them. To get to the barn from the garden, you walk under the other. And I picture a cool logo with the outline of the three trees... Readers, what do you think? Is it a name worth keeping?

Friday, February 18, 2011


For much of this week, I've been pouring over seed catalogs. It's been a fun and educational chore. But also a time-consuming one. From more than a dozen catalogs, I whittled it down to these six from which I will actually be ordering seeds. My process has been a long one: First I picked, in general, what I wanted to grow this summer. Then I went from catalog to catalog, picking varieties. Each time I saw a variety I was interested in represented in more than one catalog, I made a note of that. Figuring these would be 1) popular, 2) perhaps easy-to-grow, 3) easy-to-sell. With many vegetables I want to grow standard types and some that are harder-to-find.  I didn't want to order seeds from any large corporation (i.e. Monsanto), or anything treated or genetically-modified. Ideally, everything I will be growing will be either an heirloom plant or a common, open-pollinated variety, which contrast from hybrid seeds in that open-pollinated seeds are a more traditional seed source. Open-pollinated seeds are dynamic, meaning their offspring may adapt to local growing conditions, as plants have been doing for millennia. Many of the seeds I am ordering are labeled "organic" to boot. Reading these seed catalogs has been exciting for me. The folks at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, in Missouri, gather seeds from all over the world in an effort to maintain biodiversity and keep corporations from copywriting one of the basics of life: food. J.L. Hudson, based in California, is a seed bank. Their simple, black and white catalog blew me away with the depth and breadth of their seed offerings. They sell seeds for sequoia to common herbs. I loved R.H. Shumway's catalog. They're from Wisconsin and their catalog read like something from the 19th century, all the while standing firmly in the current movement toward small farms. All of these companies offer many heirloom varieties, and much garden wisdom. One of the things I learned is that mint doesn't reproduce true from seed. So, like an apple, the seeds of one plant may not necessarily make another of the same variety... talk about bio-diversity! I'm ordering some of the same varieties from more than one company to compare them in the field. For crops that I will be growing more than one variety of plant, I ordered many of the varieties from different catalogs. My labeling and mapping systems are going to have to be strong enough to make all of this worthwhile!

And although the ground hasn't been turned over, and the seeds are not yet here, I am already making plans to sell their fruits. I've been invited to attend a meeting of the Charleston Farmers' Market Growers Association, which meets this coming Saturday at Roc's, my favorite bar in town. The Farmers' Market starts June 1, which seems a long way off, but once I get going, will be just around the corner! The Growers Association is a group of local growers who pledge to sell only what they grow, and to grow using organic, or natural methods of farming. I am looking forward to seeing some of the farmers I met last fall at the market, and meeting new ones. Perhaps meeting them will allay some of my fears, especially the overwhelming sense that I'm in too deep!

Until then, I wait for the seeds to arrive, and the work to begin.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's that in the air?

Sunset February 16
February 16 sunset from the barn.
 Yesterday morning (actually, it was noon. We went up to Champaign Tuesday night to see Swedish superstar pop star Robyn and I slept in very late!) when I stepped outside, the air amazed me. First of all, it was warm. I mean, I didn't need a jacket warm! These past few days have been the warmest so far this year. But it's not just the warmth of the air, it's the smell of the air that's different. It was humid yesterday morning, and with the sodden ground, the air smelled like mud. And there were different birds around. I'm not sure what they were. There was one that sounds just like a pterodactyl. I heard it again this morning. And the vultures slowly circling over the fields. This morning, I saw a heron flying low over the yard on its way to our pond. Ah, yes... spring is around the corner. I can smell it! I was even able to spend some time yesterday just sitting on the porch. Actually, I was writing a letter and taking pictures, and just absorbing the pleasure of being outside and not being cold. Today is Thursday, and although the thermometer read 65 degrees this afternoon, it is far less pleasant. The wind is howling directly out of the south. The sky is ominous and gray. The power flickered off and on all morning, so much so that I started unplugging everything because I was sick of hearing things click off and then click back on. The ground today is even wetter than yesterday. The water flows east down the road and in the culvert in front of the yard. It was actually flowing at a pretty good clip! The ground sucks at your feet when you walk across it, puddles are left behind in footsteps, and where mole tunnels exist, one slowly sinks in.
Where the driveway meets the road meets the sky...

 I dreamt last night of snakes. In the dream, I was walking the dogs through the front yard, walking among all the twigs and branches still lying on the grass, and once among them all, realized that some of them were not branches, but baby snakes, just awoken from their winter slumber. By the time I realized what they were, they were on all sides of me. The dogs were playing with them, and I was trying to remember how to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes. I woke up caught in the sheets with a dog growling at my side. I do not like snakes. Actually, that's not true. I am afraid of getting bit by a poisonous snake. I am sure we have them around here. Last fall, Kerouac found part of a snake in the yard. It wasn't complete, and probably fell out of a bird's beak. I know I'll encounter some. Hopefully I won't get bit, and will be alone, so no one can hear my screams!

But until that day, I am going to continue to enjoy the sublime beauty life in Hutton Township, Illinois offers me...
The driveway.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Let the Melting Commence...

Fallen ice from the power lines

A little closer...
 Last night, Rich & I went to the local Rural King to buy some muck boots for me. We were thinking with the predicted warm temperatures (up to 60 by week's end!) and with all the snow and ice around, we'll need some good muck boots. Rich got a bag of fresh popcorn. If you have never been to a Rural King, perhaps you've been to another farm and fleet kind of store. The scent in there is unlike any store I've ever  been in: a mixture of animal feed, cold cement, tools and fresh popcorn. But last night, there was a new smell in the store: spring. It was like a whole new store! After I picked out a pair of boots, we walked around the rows of seed starter, rows of racks of seeds, huge bags of grass seed, barrels of other seeds, aisles of pest control. It was very exciting. And spring, while not really in the air, is being hinted at today. It is warm outside. In a short while, we're going to go out into the melting ice, in the muck, and pick up the limbs and branches that fell during the ice storm. We're going to finally hang the new bird feeder. In short, this will be the first day of 2011 in which we'll work in the yard!

Power line ice.
I don't know why I'm fascinated by the ice that fell off the power lines. But I am. For a week now, I've seen the straight lines in the snow where the ice fell from the lines above. But today, as the snow melts around those lines, I realize that the ice is intact in the snow. I picked up a piece. It was fragile and melting quickly, but for a few seconds, I was able to hold the power lines in my hand. Or at least their impression. It was some of this ice that brought the power down two weeks ago. It was some of this ice that was so beautiful and yet so terrifying. And it is this ice that is quickly becoming water that will soon become the garden...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 which I talk about food for a long time...

The view from the kitchen door this morning.

Listening to Ella Fitzgerald's "Fine And Mellow", cup of coffee. I've been on the couch reading in the sun for a while this morning. It is a sunny, but very cold day here today. For the most part, the ice is off the trees, although I noticed this morning that the tops of almost every tree glinted in the sun, and shook in the breeze. In my reverie, I jumped (and so did the dogs) when a large chunk of ice fell off the cottonwood and hit the tin roof of the barn we were standing beside. It's still not entirely safe outside: falling ice, freezing skin... It's much  better to enjoy this rare sunny day inside. Last week, during the power outages and our removal into town, Rich did most of the cooking. We're lucky: we both enjoy cooking and we think we're pretty good at it. And while I love being fed, I just couldn't imagine my life without cooking. On Saturday, I made Beef Goulash. I didn't have caraway seeds, and am not sure if the dish would have benefited from their addition, but it was almost just what I recall from my days of living in Vienna, Austria. All those bowls of Goulasch at the Beisl restaurant by school. Served with a cucumber salad, fresh rye bread and a glass of wine, I knew this was simple country fare, and yet it was so perfect... The goulash I made Saturday night was simple enough to make. One pot (how did I cook before my Dutch Oven?) lots of simmering. And 5 tablespoons of paprika. Even reading that in the cookbook made me excited... Ate it with bread I made last week and a glass or two of wine. Delicious!

One of my purest joys involves cookbooks. When I get a new one, I sit down and read it from start to finish. And when I want to cook something, I gather up a few of them and start comparing recipes. Sometimes it's to compare techniques, sometimes just to get a path for improvisation. Yesterday, it was to reconcile two things I didn't have: enough time and all of the ingredients. Rich and I have been wanting to make Beef Bourgingon for a while. We made it once before, together, after watching "Julie & Julia" at the Tamarac Square Theater, drinking wine. And it was perfect. Delicious-tasting. But mostly the memory: driving down Hampden in Denver, talking ourselves out of going out to dinner and instead to go home and cook. I ran into the house, grabbed a Julia Child cookbook, and we drove to the store, buying ingredients, then coming home and cooking the meal together. We both knew that I was going to make Beef Bourgingon last night and Rich went to the store on his way home to buy the things we were missing: pearl onions and some Pinot Noir. Rich came home with the wine, and chocolate chips. We have been talking a lot about cookies, and the other day I made some molasses cookies because we were out of chocolate chips. The molasses cookies are good, and match this cold weather perfectly, but I think someone really wants some chocolate chip cookies! Rich had even called me to ask if it would be better to get fresh pearl onions or frozen. I suggested frozen since I recall reading it's easier than peeling all of those little suckers. I guess he put down the fresh onions, walked past the baking aisle on the way to the freezer section, picked up the chips, counted to make sure he had the right number of items, and came home. But not a big deal. I figured we could cut up a half an onion into large chunks, and that would approximate pearl onions. (Turns out I was right!) Rich had more grading to do, so asked if we could eat around 7:30 or so. Perfect. So I went upstairs and did my taxes and then went downstairs at 6 to start dinner by making a cup of coffee and reading cookbooks. In the three different Julia Child recipes I have for this dish, the average time is 3 hours. Yikes. It was about the same in Cook's Illustrated. So I picked up Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything and he had a recipe that only took an hour. Perfect. We ate at 8:45. But that was okay. And the meal was tasty. The sauce flavorful. I thought the meat was a little tough, but liked the texture of the crisp bacon and the silky mushrooms. And the large onion chunks did provide a burst of sweet onion flavor. With a salad and garlic bread Rich made, it was a satisfying dinner.

A bowl of creme fraiche, perhaps.
Here to the right, you see a bowl of white. It's homemade creme fraiche. Hopefully. Again, after comparing many cookbooks, I settled on a recipe (Thank you again, Bittman!) and made my own buttermilk, and added it to the cup of heavy cream, and covered it, and left it sitting on the counter overnight. It thicker than it was yesterday, but still not as thick as it should be. I'll let it sit all day, and hopefully tonight it will be thick. It does taste nice: sweet and slightly tart. Once made, I plan on freezing some canned peaches and then eating them with large dollops of creme fraiche on top...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowtorious B.I.G., Part Two

Our road sign
The big tree closest to the house...
Where those branches came from
The debris in our front yard
The view of the yard from my office
Somehow the bird feeder's branch survived!
An icy 400 North
The power lines in motion... Yikes!
Heading to town...
Wednesday night. Writing from our friend, Sam's, house. What a night! Around 9:30 Tuesday night, we were watching some television, and heard a large crashing, crunching sound. It was close. Rich jumped up, worried it was a branch hitting his car. We'd pulled the car out of the garage in the afternoon, and left it out. Just above the driveway are

 a number of persimmon and walnut trees laden with ice... But the car was fine. I looked out the front door and saw a large branch lying very near the front porch. That was the sound we'd just heard. Just outside the window of the room we were in. As we looked out the window, we saw more branches come down. This tree is not only the closest tree to the house, but it's the tallest... I was frightened. But that was nothing once we stepped outside to bring the car back into the garage. You remember that it'd been sleeting most of the day, and we figured we were lucky the freezing rain seemed to have skipped us. We were mostly just waiting for the heavy snow. But as Rich stepped out of the garage into the driveway and promptly began to slide, we realized things had made a horrible turn for the worse: it was pouring rain. It was very cold. And everything was now covered in at least a half an inch of ice. Everything. We worked to get the car back in the driveway, which meant we had to use a hoe and a shovel to cut up the ice to get the car some traction. We got the car in the garage, to a soundtrack of tree branches falling, near and far... but that was the predominate sound above the steady rain falling and instantly freezing. We went inside, realizing that there was no way the power was going to stay on, not with that much heavy rain falling, and the tree branches falling so frequently. We went back inside, far more nervous than we'd been earlier, and tried to watch a little more tv. What we really did was call our parents. I think we both needed a little bit of comfort. At about 10:30, or about 45 minutes after the first branches fell, our power went out. One quick click, and then blackness. Rich said, this is here to stay, and so it was. We went into our dining room, lit the kerosene lamp, and played four great rounds of Yahtzee! We slept quite well on the floor between the dining room table and the fireplace hearth. We kept the gas fireplace off during the night, but when Rich woke up around 7 in the morning on Wednesday, turned it on. The temperature in the kitchen had dropped to 48 degrees. Inside. When I went to bed (late, around 3) there was heavy, fluffy snow falling, and I thought, well, here it is... the eight inches on top of the frozen rain on top of the sleet... But in the morning, we found only about an inch or two had fallen. It was enough to allow the dogs to get some traction while they walked. And it was easy to clear a path in the weeds behind the barn... even Kerouac figured out that if he put his head down, he could break the plants and walk where he wanted... I spent the day reading. And around 3:30, our landlord drove up to check up on us. He was glad we were so toasty in the dining room, but warned us that the power would likely be off for at least another day. Rich has school on Thursday, and a good night of sleep followed by a shower would be very welcome for him. Our landlord suggested we head into town, if we can. He helped us turn of the water and then we headed out, on our way to our friend, Sam's house. Dogs in tow. I hope she knows what she's in for... On our way into town, we drove over the power line that had fallen across Hutton Road. The one no longer providing us with electricity. Our neighbor, Alvin, saw us leaving, so that was good news, and on the way back to town, the power lines along Hutton Road were dancing in the wind. Bogged down by the inches of ice on them, they were just bounding in the wind... Our landlord had suggested the power may be out for days, and if those lines met in the wind, well, it'd be many more days. But we're among friends, and among television, and most wonderfully, heat... I hope you all fared well in this storm...

Snowtorious B.I.G., Part One

Ice forming on the persimmon trees.
 Well, they'd been predicting this storm for days. Freezing rain and sleet followed by snow and blizzard conditions. And all of that followed by days of cold. This storm affected 100 million people in 33 states. This is just my story.

Day 1: The paper arrived!

The first wave of this storm was actually a clipper system sliding down from Minnesota. It brought freezing rain to East Central Illinois on Monday afternoon. First about a quarter inch of rain fell followed by about the same amount of ice. This was our first ice storm living in the country. And Monday afternoon, it was beautiful. The ice coated everything, all the trees, the ground, the dried weeds, the mailbox, the trash cans, everything. It dripped off the roof and filled the gutters. It's sound could be heard inside, little droplets of rain and ice hitting the roof. But outside is where you could really hear the true sound of the storm: the trees tinkling in the light coating of ice as the wind moved past them. It was a beautiful sound. I could not imagine, though, what another inch of ice would be like. Already it was difficult to walk outside, and the dogs slid around a bit. I put down salt, though, on the porch, and hoped for the best.
Ice on the bird feeder
These branches had already fallen from a previous storm.
Ice on the cottonwood
How long will these stay up?
The pictures here were taken Monday afternoon, after the first round of ice fell. I was working on this blog post Tuesday morning when our power went out. Monday night, the power flickered a few times. Snapping off, and then flickering on and off a number of times. Rich said that his dad always told him the more times the lights flicker on and off, the longer it'll take to repair, as each of those flickers is the electricity going to another station. We held our breath, and were relieved when the power stayed on. But Tuesday afternoon, it went out for four hours. Rich had bought food and water Monday, so we were prepared. When the power went out, I filled more water bottles with water along with a three-gallon jug that wine had been in. We brought a mattress into the dining room, along with lots of blankets, and things to do, and water for the dogs. Rich sealed off some of the rooms with plastic sheeting, and we turned on our gas log fireplace, shutting the doors to keep the heat in. And we prepared to hang out in the dining room for the duration. I spent the time going through seed catalogs, narrowing down the varieties of plants I want to grow this season. Rich did some work while his computer still worked, and it was a lovely afternoon. The dogs were nervous at first, especially with all the sudden movement and gathering of items... But they calmed down when they realized we were all going to be together. Four hours later, the power came back on. Yes! neither of us had showered, so we each did that, and Rich made a fantastic dinner (marinated and grilled pork steak, stir fry vegetables, fried rice) and we caught up on some TV we'd recorded. We listened to some music, and checked in with the weather, seeing this massive storm heading our way. One of Champaign's TV stations had a viewer poll going to see what they thought we should name this storm. One of the options was Snowtorious B.I.G., which was my favorite. They were still predicting the sleet to turn to snow, and for about 4-8 inches to fall Tuesday night and throughout the day Wednesday. Tuesday it didn't rain much. Most of what fell was sleet, about 4 inches of it throughout the day, and we were glad of that. But everything was about to change... Stay tuned for Part Two.