Hurricane Irene: Big Fat Whatever

It’s not that it didn’t pack a wallop.  A forgotten open window immediately brought in a pail full of water.  The power went out at around 10 am, right about the time our basement started flooding, which made us sacrifice our gasoline sap pump and even so took the entire day to deal with.   The same roads that flood every time we have torrential downpours flooded, the same roads that wash out every time washed out.  The orchard porta-potty started the day upright and ended the day slightly tipsy.  We haven’t assessed the damage to the orchard yet.

It’s that we’ve been through it before.

Yeah, sure, hurricanes don’t hit the New England area very often, but in the past ten years we’ve had three major flooding episodes and an ice storm, all “once in a lifetime” events, and I don’t buy the media hype anymore.  I just don’t. 

We here at LLARCS declined to join the masses at the gas station, filling up their vehicles and every gas container they had.  Our containers were already full since we use them constantly, and since all of our roads wash out whenever there is flooding there isn’t much point in filling up the car.  We did not rush out and buy a month’s worth of nonperishable canned goods or bottled water.  We have canned goods because we can our own goods and regularly stock the pantry for those unexpected disasters, and used some yankee ingenuity and filled some containers the night before with some perfectly potable, and incidentally free, tap water.  We don’t have cell phones so we didn’t worry about charging them up.  Our headlamps had battery power, and our wind up radio requires no batteries.  We certainly do need to invest in a small generator to keep our freezers going in the event of an extended power outage, but we by no means were about to buy one for some panicky price at Home Depot.  We had better things to do, like pick out the blueberry orchard before the berries all blew off.

Sorry Walmart.   Sorry media.  Sorry, corporate America. I’m way ahead of you now.

Now if only someone would put two and two together.   Three floods and an ice storm in a ten year period.  Climate change leading to extreme weather.   Hurricanes coming up the East Coast.  Tornadoes in Massachussetts.

Yeah, if you think about it its not really all that news-worthy, is it?  It’s exactly what climate scientists predicted would happen and we don’t seem to care about it as we drive to kingdom come and consume all of our dwindling resources and then get all panicky and excited when actual weather comes, as if we didn’t just have an extreme weather event two months before.  

We here at LLARCS are cleaning up today, per usual with an event like this.  Hurricane Irene dumped a bunch of water on us and made a mess of things.  This morning it is a beautiful summer day, and most people have already forgotten all about it. Get used to it.


The Anatomy of a Pick Your Own

I’m the first up–as usual these days– and as such I feed and water the chickens and let them out of their coop.  I do a load of dishes and a load of laundry as surety for later, when the day has ended and we’re ready to wind down.  Pretty soon everyone is up and we all eat breakfast, which is cereal without fruit, since there will be much gorging throughout the day and too much fruit definitely wreaks havoc on the digestive tracts of young children.

We pack a lunch for everyone, even though Lionel is just splitting wood at the sugar house and I and the Bundles will only be across the street–it’s just better this way.  We also hunt around for a container which can be used as a make-shift kiddie pool to keep the kids occupied for large swaths of the day.  Everyone smears on sunscreen, we find hats, and down we go.

Today being Sunday, we don’t have to put up the road signs which direct people to our orchard or put up the tent; those things were done yesterday.  But there is still some arranging to do; the open sign needs to be put out, the maple syrup, mint, garlic and the hats my mom crocheted need to be displayed.  Oh yes and—as evidenced by the loud screeching sound we just got startled by– we have to turn off the Critter Gitters, which are supposed to deter the turkeys and any other animals which venture down into the orchard but really only appear to annoy humans.

And then we settled down to wait.  We’re really hoping that the turn out is better than yesterday, which started out promising with a knock on our door by an eager customer around 10 am and then the arrival of said customer to pick 15 minutes after we first opened, but ended with a whimper, with only one more customer for the whole of the day.  We’ve already thought of contigency plans, which involve us picking a large amount of berries today and selling them wholesale to local businesses, which might work if I could only convince the Bundles that the peaceful playing they are doing right now in the water can also be done if I walk a few hundred feet away from them.  But Bundle I is having none of it.  Mainly, she doesn’t want to play with her sister, or doesn’t want to have to play with her sister, which she knows she’ll have to do if I am not around.  So I sit, bleary eyed, watching the kids splash in mud puddles and spray the ground with hose water.

Meanwhile, cars drive by.  Some wave, some pretend they don’t see me, one stops and asks what we’re selling, and when I say blueberries she thanks me and drives off.  One passerby, taking her morning walk, actually comes down into the orchard but tells me she doesn’t have time just now to pick.  She takes our number and says she’ll be back “later”…I presume she means next week.  We wait some more.

Finally as we break out lunch one car drives very purposefully into our parking lot, as though it was her destination the entire time, and comes out with a container.  She’s picked here before and she’s back for more.  I weigh her container so we don’t charge her for it later and show her where the best berry picking is today.  She comes back in short order with over 5 pounds picked.  Alright!  Shortly afterwards another couple arrives, and then the passerby who said she would return “later” arrives with friends.  More return customers come and they have brought their friends also.  There’s a big bonanza going on in the orchard now.  They laugh and talk and come back to get their berries weighed and buy syrup and garlic and thank us for having this orchard here and promise to spread the word.

This crowd fizzles out after a while and it’s nap time for Bundle II, who doesn’t know she’s tired.  My best bet is to put her and her sister in the car and drive around the block, so I put them in the car, turn it on, remember that I left something on the table under the tent and go to retrieve it, come back and see that Bundle II is asleep.  So I turn off the car and open the windows, and get Bundle I out of the car.  She’s been waiting for this moment because it means that she and I get to pick berries together.  So far, I was only able to pick 1/2 a pound.

As we’re getting out of the car, another car drives into the parking lot.  It’s a car that’s been driving back and forth all day.  We all remark that the sky is getting dark and as they are retrieving their 11-month old out of the car they ask if we have any berries picked.  I tell them I’ve only managed to pick the 1/2 pound but they can buy it if they like.  They do buy it and start eating berries, then decide that they’d like to pick too, so I give them containers and show them to some good bushes.  As I am doing that, more repeat customers arrive with lots of friends, as well as yet another couple, and pretty soon I have ten people in the orchard.

The sky gets darker.

Some people come back, we weigh their berries, they buy some syrup and then they leave.

The sky gets darker.  There’s thunder in the distance.

I pack up the crochet stuff so it won’t get wet.  Somebody else comes to get their berries weighed.

It starts to rain.

I pick up Bundle I and we run to the car, which I quickly turn on, put on the air and put up the windows.  Bundle II still sleeps.  I ask Bundle I to stay in the car and I rush out again to process the straggler’s berries.  Thunder and lightning crash overhead while we stand in a metal framed tent in the middle of a field.  It occurs to me later that I could have just guessed at a price and been happy with that, but in the moment my fingers fly over the calculator–three times, because I am hurrying– and come up with some random number which I relay back to the customer, who hands me some random money amount in return and we all run quickly to our cars.

Bundle II is still sound asleep, but Bundle I is crying with  her hands over her ears, from fear or loneliness or the loud noise or all of the above.  I watch with dismay as various items I didn’t store or tie down get tossed about or soaked.  I decide to go back up to the house to get Bundle I something to distract her with, and notice that a screen has blown in at the front door and now it is raining inside the house.  Brilliant!  I fix that up, run around trying to batten down the hatches, grab a snack and a few library books and make another mad dash for the car.  We drive back down to the orchard and I am relieved to see that the tent is still intact and upright.

Finally the rain stops.  Bundle II wakes up, Bundle I stops shivering, and the sun comes out.  We all trudge out to the orchard and I pick up all the pieces that got blown away.  We get back into the car and see if our signs are still standing, which they aren’t, so we pick them up.  We go back.  The sun is glistening off of the berries and the leaves and it’s almost 4:15, so we do what we had planned to do all day:

We pick blueberries. 

No more customers come.  We pack up the car, we dismantle the tent, we take down the open sign, turn on the useless Critter Gitters, close the gate, remove the road signs and we go home.  The next day at breakfast, we have blueberries on our cereal.

August 17, 2002

Three days before, we were having a heat wave, but the night of the rehearsal a storm blew in.  We rehearsed in the tent and, since we were kind of making up the whole thing as we went along, we went through several iterations before we settled on a script.  Also, I was coming by boat, which was a complete unknown.

The next day, I completely underestimated the time it would take to get dressed and ended up delaying the whole shebang by probably thirty minutes.  But in the end, the wedding went off without a hitch.  Or rather, with a hitch.  We ended the evening with a totally cool party.  We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon.

There weren’t any Bundles, but there was an idea of an orchard in our heads and a small cleared plot for a little garden.  We still worried a great deal about the flower gardens we inherited and tried to keep them up, but eventually we realized that we didn’t have to do everything the same as the last generation and let them go.   We kept clearing away trees and rocks and detritus and marched along and now, here we are.

Nine years later, my love, here we are.  You and I morphed into Us, a 4 person family unit with all its chaos and peace and joy.  Our private enterprise has turned into an actual business, with permits to submit and taxes to do and an open sign fluttering in the breeze on specified hours.  Bundle I takes violin lessons and Bundle II will start playgroup in the fall, and there’s nothing all that extraordinary about today except that it happens to be our anniversary.    Nine years ago I wore a wedding dress and got onto a barge, and you wore a tuxedo and tramped through the woods, and we met under the sword you gave me for our engagement, which hangs on our wall and reminds us that we are, still, after all, homophrosune.

Ignore Ignore Ignore

Famously, my three year old brother used this on me after a particularly annoying interaction with my five year old self caused my mother to instruct him to ignore me.  He didn’t know what it meant.  “Ignore! Ignore! Ignore!” he shouted in my face.  To this day I find it hard to ignore things.

But something’s gotta give, here.  I had an anxious dream the other night about climate change eating our blueberries and the government taking what’s left of our investments.  Since it’s not far from the truth, and I’m not ready to join a revolution, I’ve decided I’m going to ignore things for a little while.  Here’s my list of things I’m going to Ignore:


I end up paying way more attention than I should to the goings on in Washington, but the latest excuse for a “compromise” bill followed by a vacationing Congess which left vital pieces of our infrastructure in the form of the FAA dangling in limbo, forcing whoever remained on the job to cobble together an agreement to get the agency back up and running while each side licked their lips and claimed “victory” was utterly despicable to me.  Anyway, Washington doesn’t pay any attention to me.  Why should I pay any attention to them?  They don’t appear to accomplish anything except havoc in the stock market.


While a part of me took ironic joy in this sharp rebuke from a crediting agency on the state of our dysfunctional government, I also took exception to a privately run agency having any say in the affairs of our government at all.  And besides which…did they only just wake up?  …Or did someone’s bribe not get paid?  Personally I wouldn’t believe any of their ratings anymore, but then again, I’m not an…


Now that we’ve all been duped into putting our hard earned actual dollars into these virtual whirl-a-wheel 401k blackholes, all the normal, well adjusted person can do is look on with disbelief as a bunch of ADHD monkeys play havoc with our money.  “OH LOOK!  A LOLLIPOP!!”   BUY BUY BUY!!  “OH NO!!! NO ONE’S BUYING HOUSES!!!”  SELL SELL SELL.  “WAIT!  A LOLLIPOP!”  BUY! “WHAT DO YOU MEAN NO ONE’S BOUGHT A HOUSE YET?  IT’S BEEN A WHOLE HOUR!” SELL!  “OH, CUTE DOGGY!” BUY! “GREECE!” SELL. “OOH, SHINY!” ….If I lived such a frenetic existence I’d drop dead on the trading floor.  Even watching it from afar is exhausting.

The Media

What passes for journalism these days is either a tepid pass on from corporate sponsors and fringe groups or it is a slanted propaganda machine designed to coral us all into boxes, and most of it is badly written drivel with typos and out right spelling errors in published copy.  It’s a good thing most of it is free cuz I ain’t buying it.

And finally…


I give up on you, NOAA.  I really do. 


Ahh..  You know, I feel better already.

Watching Water Boil

With anxious anticipation and a worried look at the turkey family hovering around the fence and in our yard, we put up old cds and other devices as bird scares, and kept waiting for the green berries to turn that tell tale blue. 

And we waited.  And we waited. 

Meanwhile, other Farmer’s Markets began selling blueberries and opening up their own PYOs, while our berries took their sweet time.  At one point we thought we were there and were eagerly waiting for Farmer’s Market, but upon inspection found that a Blue Berry and a ripe blueberry are not the same.  As with all things agricultural, there is an art to picking only the best and ripest berries.  Blueberries, unlike tomatoes or other fruits, aren’t forgiving of being picked early.  They’ll turn a nice dark blue, sure.  But they only sweeten up on the bush.

 Then we started worrying about people coming to the PYO and ripping branches, gorging on fruit, dropping unripe fruit on the ground, and basically rampaging all over our carefully constructed investment.  Apparently it has become more common nowadays, and some PYO’s have either raised their prices above their picked prices or closed the PYO part down entirely to spare themselves the resulting loss in income.  It all comes as people become increasingly distant from their food source. 

 But then the berries really started ripening.  Three whole rows of Drapers and BlueRays, ready for people to pick them.  And now its official:  All Good Farm PYO will be open for the first time this Saturday, 11-5.  Now we are in last minute scramble mode; searching for Open flags, Parking signs, and hoping we don’t get picked out on our first day. 

 The pot is boiling, that’s for sure.

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