As we write this, the winds of Winter Storm Riley continue to assault Serendipity Farmhouse, but they are beginning to subside. In their wake there is damage and destruction. We lost two holly trees and now we have a pine tree that looks like a famous bell tower in Pisa, Italy. It will take days to clear the debris and even longer to remove the downed trees. On Monday, I officially begin “semi-retirement”. This, dear readers, is not the way I expected to be “living the life of Riley”.
Let’s put the moral up front this time: Our tagline “Pray, Prepare, Preserve” is more than just a fancy alliteration. Here at SFH, it’s our way of life.
Pray: As Winter Storm Riley approached, my beautiful spouse and I recognized that the predicted 70 mph gusts would necessarily bring damage, power outages, and serious inconveniences. We made it a special intention in our prayers to ask for protection for ourselves, our family, our friends, and all God’s children in the path of Riley.
Prepare: We are not “preppers”. We are not “survivalists”. We are practical people who understand that things can go wrong. For that reason it is always wise to have food, water, fuel, and other items ready for use in time of emergency. You can never be prepared for everything, but you can do a lot to spare yourself from injury and inconvenience.
Preserve: We’ve learned it’s important to remember both what we did right and what we did wrong. We preserve our “lessons learned” – we write them down. We replace mistakes with corrections. We review and revise our emergency plans accordingly. – Then, we go back to Step One – Pray!
So how did we at Serendipity Farmhouse make out during Winter Storm Riley?
Not only did we pray before the storm, we prayed frequently during the early morning hours of March 2nd. It was hard to sleep and by midnight there were brief power outages. By two in the morning, the metal roof was making frightening sounds and by 2:30 the power was completely out.
In the midst of the howling wind and the sounds of distressed metal on the roof, the view from the windows was oddly and eerily captivating. The Full Worm Moon illuminated the yard and the wildly swinging branches became mysteriously moving shadows all about. Mr. Monte was beside himself, running from window to window, both frightened and fascinated.
And then there was no power. There were no lights, no telephone, no Internet, no water, and there was no heat from the propane furnace. Serendipity Farmhouse was returned to the way it was when it was born in 1927 – no electricity and no indoor plumbing.
At four, I lit a fire in the wood stove. There was heat. We broke out the emergency lights and lanterns. If necessary we also had a paraffin lamp on the farm table in the dining room. I also brought out one of our three emergency radios and tuned in a station that carries weather, closings and emergency news. Ten gallons of flushing water and a supply of potable water were stored nearby.
Then the lights came on. Hurrah! Beautiful spouse made herself a cup of coffee in the Keurig. I was next in line (Mr. Monte seldom drinks coffee, otherwise he would have been ahead of me) and I was just about to make my cup – – – – darkness, again! Arghh! Beautiful, wonderful, gracious, kind, adorable wife let me have the last half of her cup.
As the morning progressed, the house was warm and wife went back to bed. I began writing down my lessons learned.
Lesson Learned No. 1: Add a jar of instant coffee to our emergency supplies. We have a percolator coffee pot and a can of Bustelo, but instant coffee require less water.
Lesson Learned No. 2: Filling in my journal of events I, of course, longed for my laptop. Yet, upstairs we have this beautiful old Hermes manual typewriter. If I only had a ribbon for it, I would have greatly enjoyed typing out our experiences.
As we approached hour eight without power, our thoughts turned to the food in our refrigerator and freezer. It wasn’t cold enough to put the frozen food on the porch. That wasn’t an option. So, it was to the shed and load the generator on the wagon. I brought it to the house, ran extension cords to the freezer and refrigerator. Voila! Within minutes the appliances were doing their jobs and the food was preserved from harm.
Lesson Learned No. 3: While hooking up extension cords, never make a mess on the kitchen counters. Wife is OCD and gets very upset.
Then, with wind still whistling and blowing, I surveyed the estate known as Serendipity Farmhouse. There was debris everywhere. Two holly trees, both of which had required a great deal of labor to tame and look presentable, had been uprooted. No damage was done, but we will miss those two hollies.
SFH has a rather extensive vineyard. Our vast plantings extend to one whole, entire grapevine that has not produced a single grape in three seasons. That grapevine possesses a regal arbor as it resting place. Today, that arbor remains flat on the ground and our forlorn grapevine continues to hold on for dear life.
Finally, there is debris, a great deal of debris – branches, limbs, and twigs. My beautiful wife insists that it be immediately retrieved and handled in a suitable manner. Yes, my dearest most beloved spouse has explicitly commanded that I take care of it and take care of it soon! (Just because I often make piles of branches and am somewhat tardy in disposing of them, she thinks that this pile of debris would not be handled expeditiously.) Under threat of severe penalties, I have decided to dispose of this new pile soonest.
And so it is and so it was meant to be during this windstorm at Serendipity.