Hurrication 2017

Growing up in the Midwest, aka “Tornado Alley,” we had annual school drills for what to do in case of a tornado, how to use the emergency exit door on the school bus, etc., but raising our son in the southeast, he has a whole different set of weather-related issues for which to be prepared. In 4th grade, he got a day off of school because the sole road onto our island was flooded out by the king tides. In 5th grade, he got 10 days off of school because of Hurricane Matthew. Today, he returned to 6th grade after 6 days of no school thanks to Hurricane Irma. Fortunately for us in all of these instances, our home remained water-free, although with Irma it came up about as close as it possibly could without actually doing any damage. For those of you who have never had to evacuate your home due to a pending hurricane, there is a myriad of factors that come into play before, during, and after the storm.

The first step is usually denial, best expressed with humor:

 

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With hurricanes, you have the advantage of time and planning: because there can be literally weeks before a storm forms off the coast of Africa and approaches the US coast, there is time to prepare. When Matthew hit last year, it had been over a decade since the last storm found its way to our area and, despite the yearly doomsayers who predicted we were “due,” most residents became complacent and believed our little slice of coast to be more or less impervious, that Florida and the Carolinas would always bear the brunt of any storms for Georgia. That wake-up call, combined with the recent ravaging of the Gulf coast by Hurricane Harvey, had everyone here keeping one eye on the weather channel and mentally starting their hurricane prep to-do lists.

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But all that lead time can also lead to a heightened sense of anxiety. Will it hit us? When? Where should we go? What should I pack? And we are lucky enough to have a portable home we could leave with–much cheaper than getting an inland hotel, many of which were already sold-out by Wednesday from Macon to Atlanta since a majority of Florida was already evacuating north trying to get ahead of the monstrous storm. So many people here without the means to evacuate had to be taken to shelters in Augusta, although fortunately the shelters also accepted pets. It’s a tremendously personal decision whether to stay or go and having lived through 2 hurricanes (and evacuated for both), I see both sides. Once an evacuation is deemed mandatory, there comes a point of no return after which if you need assistance, you will not receive it. Obviously by staying behind you aren’t any better able to protect your home from a falling tree or rising tide, but there is something to feeling like you are in charge by acting like a captain going down with his ship. Plus, evacuation is only the first part, there is still the re-entry protocol…it can take days for the all clear to return after the storm passes. We would have wifi, a tv and dvd player, games, books, plenty to eat and drink, power, water, and bathrooms (as long as the state park did anyway), so no complaints on our part to evacuate.

On Wednesday afternoon, I met my mom for lunch at the always-fabulous RAW Ingredients and was amazed to realize that she was still thinking that the Saturday night 70th birthday party she had planned for my stepdad was going to occur. I tried to dodge our evac plans by questioning that my stepbrother and his family were really coming from ATL to Tybee on the verge of a hurricane, but she was non-plussed. By the time we finished our sushi, we had hatched a plan to all get hotel rooms in town for Saturday night so we already off-island for a quicker escape on Sunday and that way we could continue the party at the Marriott post-dinner party. I picked up Jack and we headed into town to run hurricane-prep errands like getting prescriptions refilled, bank cash withdrawal, groceries, and gas. I had about 5 miles to empty by the time we got to the 4th gas station since all of the previous ones had lines around the block for each pump. At Kroger, we threw 3 cases of bottled water in our cart and I couldn’t help but recognize the blank stare on everyone else’s faces as we all walked around in a suspended haze of what-the-heck-should-I-buy-besides-water. I decided this was no time for my usual frugality and comparison shopping…we got a 12 pack of diet pepsi, dr. pepper, the “good” chips, crackers, chips, and granola bars vs. my usual cheapie brand selections, 3 bags of candy, a variety of cheese selections, and fruit that seemed pretty hearty (red and green grapes…guess what we actually forgot to take with us? The fruit!). By the time we left Kroger, my mom called to tell me that she got us hotel rooms but the venue for dinner party canceled. She was starting to realize this hurricane was a big deal.

On Thursday, September 7, the announcement came that Tybee would be under mandatory evacuation order starting at 8 am on Friday, September 8. I was confused as to whether that meant we had to leave the island by 8 am or just start prepping to leave at 8, but there was talk that the highway would flood with Friday’s high tide, so we finished doing all we could to help prepare our workplaces and home, and loaded up our hurricane provisions, hooked our 1963 Airstream up to my SUV, and got the heck out of Dodge. Ty drove my car and pulled the trailer with Jack while I drove Ty’s car with Krypto, aka, the most-neurotic dog on the planet, and we headed inland, away from the threat of a 10-15 storm surge that would likely wipe our island off the map if it came during high tide as predicted.

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We got settled into our home-away-from-home around 1 pm on Friday in the Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park (side note, the GA State Parks website and reservation system could use a 20th-century refresh).  It was a beautiful day, our campsite was right on a lake, and apparently there is no bug control inland to compare to the coast, because the “love bugs” were literally everywhere (side note, apparently they are attracted to the color white b/c my car was covered with them while Ty’s black car, not so much). We created a drink we called Tattnall County Punch: one part rum, 2 parts Crystal Light cherry pomegranate, one part Sprite, garnish with a side of lovebugs.

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Those bugs were literally everywhere, landing on our clothes, faces, food, even Krypto could not escape them. Our reservation was through Wednesday and most of the other campers seemed to be escaping Florida. One site even had a box truck filled with all of their stuff…not sure how they ran power to it though.

Tyler was forced to play Uno with us (I got our first per usual so it was up to 2nd place play-off between Ty and Jack). 20170908_192315.jpg

And Jack got to practice his boxing skills with our trash:

 

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Saturday we drove around the area, taking in the beauty of the pecan tree groves, cotton fields, and small-town quaintness. Tattnall County is home to the Wiregrass Trail and there was a Miss Wiregrass Pageant scheduled for Saturday night along with a variety of other old-timey events later in the month. Vidalia, home to the best sweet onions you’ll ever taste, was much bigger than I expected, and we drove past the “world famous” fruitcake bakery in Claxton, GA, although we didn’t stop. We even had lunch at Dairy Queen!

By Sunday, the storm looked like it was going to come up the west coast of Florida and hit more inland Georgia than coastal, so we were again faced with another evacuation…better to ride out the storm with wind gusts and potential tornados in a tin can or head home? We opted for the latter and returned, settling back into our dark, boarded-up house by about noon. The storm hit in full on Monday and we lost power, so we went back out into the Airstream to at least have some natural light. Then the surge came and our street became a river. We unhooked the trailer in record time and drove through the knee-high water in our yard to higher ground. Side note, our yard is about 90% fire ants: did you know those suckers will bond together and make floating islands? Loads of fun to walk through knee-deep water AND get ant bites.

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Although the water came up fast and high, it spared our home and trailer and we had power restored by Tuesday night, the boards were taken down by Wednesday, and even wi-fi was quickly restored, much to Jack’s relief. After a solid week+ of family time in close quarters, some of it without power, I was very happy for things to return to normal and purge my “hurricane brain” of not knowing what day it was. Here on Tybee once Labor Day passes, the IGA usually changes their sign to say “back to normal” with the r intentionally backward to represent the quirkiness that is Tybee without the tourists and I couldn’t agree more. Many islanders experienced devasting flooding to their homes so we were truly lucky to have dodged Irma’s wrath.

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Meeting a Legend

Last year during a looming hurricane, we spent a weekend on Daufuskie and discovered what a magical place it is. This year, we’ve had the opportunity to visit other, mostly uninhabited barrier islands, including Cumberland and Ossabaw. Even though each of these islands can only be accessed by boat, the main difference is that there are restaurants on Daufuskie, which is a lot easier than packing in your lunch (and packing out your trash).

Several years back, Tyler met an acquaintance who told him of a book, Reefer Moon, by Roger Pinckney. The book illuminates the drug-running by shrimpers in this area during the 1970s. After reading it, I tracked down everything else he had written, much of which focuses on his island home of Daufuskie. Before even stepping foot on the island, I felt like I knew all about its quirky, lovable, stoic inhabitants from his words.

So when friends invited us to boat over for lunch on a beautiful, 70 degree Saturday in February, we gladly accepted. We sat outside at Marshside Mama’s for lunch, enjoying ahi tuna, mahi, gumbo, and something called “the heart attack” (can you guess who ordered that? Hint: it was Tyler).

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The sun shone bright and hot on us as we enjoyed a couple of cold beers in continued celebration of Tyler’s birthday and life in general. Even the yard dogs there are mellow.

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From there, we headed back to the boat and went to the Old Daufuskie Crab Company at the Freeport Marina on the other side of the island. They had live music and a good crowd of people and dogs. We ordered their house drink, the Scrap Iron, which they have mixed up in a big glass dispenser on the bar. It tastes a little like a long island ice tea, but with a ginger ale kick…the actual recipe is top secret but they are really good. We swatted at the insatiable gnats and enjoyed our drinks while the guitarist sang Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd tunes. And then, across the bar from us, who sat down but the legendary author himself. Tyler and I flocked over to him to introduce ourselves and fawn over his genius. Next to him was a cute young couple in matching yellow Tour Daufuskie t-shirts. The man went to the restroom and the woman asked the random guy next to her if he wanted to do a shot. He politely demurred (who declines a free shot?), so I immediately volunteered Tyler to do it since we were celebrating his birthday and all. It turns out, Emily and her fiance, also name Tyler, are getting married on Daufuskie in April. We spent the rest of our time getting to know them and promising to come back for their ceremony. They even had one of those new-fangled Polaroid cameras and immortalized our time together with their no-shake-it technology. All in all, it was a day filled with randomonium and the kind of magic and new friends that can only happen on Daufuskie.

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Urban Homesteading, cont’d*

And now for the update on my mad gardening skillz…complete with first harvest/two easy peasy meals made from items lovingly grown by yours truly.

You be (bas)illin’

At planting time (approximately 2 months ago):     basil

Currently, 5 out of 6 4 out of 6 starter plants recommend my gardening talents (that sneaky one on the inner right side is technically an attached offshoot of the second plant in from the end!)

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You say toh-may-toes

tomato

I say, “can’t wait to make a tomato sandwich!”

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There are three that are starting to ripen–they’re low and inside the pot, so I am hoping the birds will not have the chance to enjoy them before me. In years’ past, by the time I looked out the kitchen window to see a red ‘mater and the 30 seconds it took me to walk outside, they always managed to swoop in and peck my ‘mater (that sounds dirty, but I assure you, it is not).

I’m a pepper, you’re a pepper…

I don’t have a before shot for the three pepper plants, but they are growing like gangbusters! It was a little rocky after I first planted them and we had a crazy storm that blew them all over and they lost a lot of dirt, but, as you can clearly see from the multitude of peppers below, I triumphed!

pepper family

wouldntcha like to be a pepper toopicka packa peppers

A Sage for the Ages, But Neither Pine, Nor Apple

No before pix of pineapple sage, but it was just an itty bitty thing when I planted it and look at it now!

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I have been steeping it in sun tea and am thinking of creating mojitos this weekend (it worked with the loquats that grow like crazy around us!). It’s even getting ready to flower, and they look like they will be pretty and red.

The Honeymooners Special: Lettuce Alone

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Not quite ready for a salad, but they’re getting there…and 100% of plants planted remain alive!

Gettin’ Figgy With It

One of the fruits of my labor (see what I did there?) that I am most excited about is the figs! Again, no before pic but I assure you this guy is thriving.

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Can you see the tee-tiny baby fig? So far there are three whole fruits, which should be ready to enjoy sometime next month.

Eggs-cellent plants

Speaking of thriving, most of the plants I grew from seeds sown in egg shells started strong but are mostly all failing to thrive (read: dead). Not sure if they don’t get enough sun on the front steps, or maybe using regular eggshells instead of organic ones is the culprit (I am 90% sarcastic here but 10% convince-able that this could be a thing).

The seedlings out front are still hanging in there but don’t seem to have grown hardly at all in two months, especially when compared to the eggplant seedlings growing in the back yard.

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You see the white of eggshell but no green, yes?

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Three visible egg shells, one visible plant (possibly a tomato? It was pretty obvious when planted what was cilantro, what was sage, etc., but with most everything dead, I have no frame of reference).

failure to thrive  Tee-tiny sprouts, but better than dead!

eggplants, meh  Eggplants

And now, for the stars of first harvest:

1st garden harvest   My precious…

I halved and de-seeded the peppers, laid them over a bed of uncooked rice, covered everything with 2 cans of red enchilada sauce and popped it all in the over. After about 30 minutes of cook time at 350 degrees, I sprinkled shredded cheddar over everything and let it cook for 15 more minutes until all melted and bubbly and gooey. Added chopped tomato as garnish and we chowed down.

I bought Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything about 20 years ago and still consult it on the reg. I used his recipe for pesto, combining fresh basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan (I cheat and use the “green can” parmesan because I know we always have some on hand!), which I tossed with cooked rotini pasta and shredded zucchini that I briefly sauteed in olive oil. Chopped another garden fresh tomato (Brenda 2, birds 0!) for garnish and color. Both recipes were delicious!

Also, I’ve convinced myself to move all of the front porch pots to the back yard. Stay tuned to see if anything changes, I mean grows…

*this title is still entirely ironic.

First Week of Summer Vacay

We survived our first week of summer vacation…it was really hot so we pretty much divided our time between staying inside in the a/c, swimming in the ocean, or swimming in a pool. We went through 3 swim masks and one snorkel, so now I just buy them in bulk at the Dollar Store.

In an effort to not let Jack’s impressionable young mind turn to mush for the next seven weeks, I have lined up a variety of science-y things to do and hope to update this blog at least once a week with our successes and failures, as well as anything funny along the way. First off, not science-y at all, but fun nonetheless, we designed our own tattoos and I drew them in permanent market on Jack’s biceps:

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Yes, that does say “Ruler of Death” per Jack’s instructions; he also drew the skeleton on paper for me to copy.

jack lion tattoo

This one came from a Google search of “lion tattoos” and taking into consideration my limited Sharpie skills for anything with too much detail.

Now on to the science fun! Before school ended, I picked up a couple of little kits at Tuesday Morning and also checked out a couple of library books on stuff like making your own volcanoes. First up, Make Your Own Meteor Kit!

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Basically, they give you a little mold and three tiny bags with different colored space age-y material a little heavier than sand that you pour into the mold. I really liked this project because the steps were easy but you had to wait a bit for things to set up between each step so it kind of prolonged the fun and we set a count down timer on my phone (anytime I can teach Jack about time, being patient, waiting for something, etc. is a good thing!).

jack making the meteor

Here you can see Jack carefully pouring the red meteor material into the mold. Once the mold was full, we covered it with water and sealed in a little cup for 30 minutes to set. After the 30 minutes were up, we opened the mold and it was solid but tacky, requiring another 30 minutes to be completely done. Once done, the experiments began…we filled a baking pan with flour and threw the meteor into it, measuring the impact of craters and crash paths with a measuring tape and talking about how different speeds, angles of trajectory, etc. resulted in different kinds of impacts.

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Here you can see the meteor in the middle right of the pan.

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Here you can see the meteor in the upper left after carving a nice impact channel. We talked about the craters on the moon and about how big the meteors that made them must have been, as well as different kids of craters on earth, those made from long-ago meteors and those made when volcanoes explode. Good stuff.

Final verdict: Totally worth the $3 or $4 I spent for an evening’s learning disguised as entertainment.

I Have Officially Seen It All @ The Beach

Living at the beach, we see a lot of the things that you would expect: PDA, tattoos, drunk people ignoring their children, swimsuits too small for the body they are on, kids playing frisbee, kids building sand castles, etc. I thought I had seen all there was to see in this particular setting until today…

Solar Face Shield, a full face sun protection visor

So, apparently this is a thing…some kind of full face sunscreen visor. I saw two people (obviously related to one another, but difficult to say whether it was a mom and son or brother and sister since I couldn’t see their faces!) frolicking in the waves today when Jack and I went to the beach to celebrate the first day of summer vacation. The website notes that they are very popular in Asia and offers up the following benefits and tips:

  • 50+ UPF maximum full face sun protection
  • Now available in a 6″ or 7″ tinted see-through shield
  • One size fits most
  • Padded head band
  • Detachable sports strap
  • Not suggested for use while driving a car
  • Imported
  • FYI: High heat, for example the inside of your car in the summer, can warp the plastic shield.

For just $27, you too can snag one! Personally, I’ll stick with good ol’ sunscreen.