Bad Weather

As a native of Northern Maine, then a resident of the Chesapeake Bay area, I have seen a lot of bad weather in five decades. I’ve seen some of it from the deck of a sailboat. When a hurricane threatens to march through the Atlantic states and into the Maritimes, I pay attention.

Television has dulled our understanding of natural phenomena, despite all the news coverage and true adventure programmes. After Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast, people were, at times, misled by the fact that the winds dropped to tropical storm force; there weren’t pines and oaks toppling in the wind. Roofs weren’t peeling away from buildings. “It didn’t look so bad,” many people said, despite the heavy and at times near-apocalyptic rain.

So many people thought of hurricanes as something like Katrina, or the 1961 Carla, which hit Texas and Louisiana. Wind, lots of wind, winds over 100 mph; buildings blowing down, vehicles overturned, people knocked down as they fled for cover. But even in the big Gulf storms, the storm surges and flooding from heavy rain took the most lives and caused the most damage. East Coast storms lose speed quickly when they make landfall, almost always degrading quickly to tropical storms or post-tropical storms. Sometimes they have veered back over the Atlantic, gained energy, and made a second landfall.

East Coast storms don’t pick up as much energy because as they move north, the Atlantic cools quickly. This may change as Atlantic waters continue to increase in temperature. Bigger and stronger storms may be the result, so that when they do make landfall, they will be more destructive.

Modern people are disconnected from the experience of nature. People who go out on jetties and piers in storm surges are intrigued by the sensation of the storm. But their experience of water crashing around them is from water parks, or from watching fictionalized adventure on television. The aerated wave pools and splash experience at a water park is a relatively small mass of water. Real waves, with miles and miles of wind-driven force behind them, have the energy in a big storm equivalent to a falling building. The early reports of injuries during Storm Irene were of thrill seekers and gawkers getting in the direct path of surges and surf.

Later, other people, who had to abandon vehicles as water rose rapidly on flooded roads, said they had gone out because the wind wasn’t that strong, and they weren’t concerned about “just rain.” A very few lives were lost in unanticipated ways, such as trees falling on buildings, but many of those lost were in cars.  There was at least one life lost to fire; others were homeless as a result of losing homes to fires started by improper use of candles.

Vermont was badly hit by the storm. The state seems to have been where the most rain was unleashed, and the rainfall in the mountains quickly ran down to roadways and rivers, causing flooding and undermining roadbed foundations, taking out bridges, washing away buildings. So many factors contribute to the nature of a storm and what will happen subsequently: Those in its path need to always be prepared for the worst. The disaster preparation agencies weren’t wrong, nor were they alarmist. Every major storm is a study in chaos theory.

And despite being a culture with incredible access to information, we still manage, on an individual basis, to ignore it. This had been my advice as people waited for Hurricane Irene.

1. Pay heed to weather warnings. Plan to be in a safe place in the window of time when the storm affected your area.

2. Have basic supplies on hand – water, nonperishable food that can be consumed without cooking, blankets, flashlights. Don’t be tempted to go out in the storm because you don’t have supplies.

3. Evacuate if you are advised to do so. Don’t risk the lives of rescue personnel by bravado, or for fear that vandals and looters will damage your property while you are gone.

4. Stay indoors during and immediately after the storm. Although it may not be raining hard anymore where you are, it is raining upstream. Water will continue to rise. Power lines are down. Electricity and water are a deadly combination.

5. Don’t use candles if you can help it. Flashlights are safer, of course. And don’t use an old fireplace that hasn’t been cleaned or repaired in years. Generally, unless you are well prepared, and use a woodstove or fireplace regularly, don’t expect that everything is in order.

6. Don’t use charcoal grills such as hibachis indoors, even in a fireplace. Don’t use gas grills indoors. The potential for carbon monoxide poisoning is very high.

7.A generator isn’t much use at the last minute if you have never used one before.  Improperly connected, they can cause a lot of damage. Improperly installed or operated, there is a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire. A generator cannot be operated safely inside a building, even a garage. One case of carbon monoxide poisoning resulted when a generator was installed outside a building, but a window directly over it was left open. If you have medical equipment that requires a power supply, either buy one of the portable battery packs that can be charged beforehand on household current, or be in a hospital waiting room when the power goes out.

8.Don’t drink before or during the storm. This is not an occasion for a party. If something goes terribly wrong, you will need all your faculties.

9. Secure pets and farm animals inside. If you must evacuate, have a plan for them that will not put you back in danger.

10. Plan for the next weather phenomenon. The atmosphere is more volatile now, due to increasing global temperatures. The oceans are warming, sea levels are rising. Trim back trees around the house and buildings so they won’t come crashing through a roof or wall. Move valuable equipment to higher ground and keep it there. Keep a supply of drinking water and flashlight batteries in the house. Invest in culverts and ditches on farms where needed. Don’t buy property in a flood plain; look into flood insurance if it is recommended for your location.

I really need to add that if the local authorities and experts tell you to take in outdoor equipment, do so. You may be unconcerned about losing your patio table, but your neighbour will be very concerned if it comes crashing through his car window. Also, hurricanes will spawn tornadoes, so don’t turn off the weather channel just because the worst is over. There may be more to come.


Crofting: Chickens

Nicholas is very pleased with the chicken addition. We have never had a rooster, and for an unexpected gift, the big boy has been fine, and such fun. He was calling to Nicholas today, who was cleaning out the silkies’ crate. I think Dublin has already begun to associate Nicholas with food. He could see him and a bucket, but Nicholas had his back to the pen, and Dublin called him for a good five minutes, crowing

Dublin, the Rocky Road

loudly enough to be heard in the house. He has a good voice, and for such a large bird with three hens in his harem, he is well-mannered. He lets me pick up the girls and is very gentle when he is handled, as well. I was expecting more arrogance.

Pachysandra, a Barred Rock hen

This little lady makes up for him, though, in the hauteur  department. She has a Barred Rock attitude, a bit too pleased with her elegant plumage and fine figure. She had no interest in returning to her stall tonight when we shut the barn, and I had to chase her. Then all her snobbery disappeared, as she looks just like a chubby old lady holding her skirts above her knees when she runs. Hens have this funny, waddly run, with the wings flapping, just like matrons at the church fete in field competitions.

What are you doing?

This is Myrtle or Mignonette. This was what I was trying to get, but she took a lot of interest in the camera, and kept moving in closer:

She prefers this profile.

Myrtle and Mignonette are identical, except Myrtle is slightly bigger. They are a red/Arucana cross, lay green eggs and are very friendly.

We haven’t named the silkies yet, as all four of them are about the same colour. My previous hens, of different breeds, were Jet, Penny and Ginger, named for their feather colours.


Crofting: New Chickens

silkie, about 6 weeks old

The silkie chicks keep growing, and are started to fledge out in their fancy feathers. The four surviving ones are doing well, although they are still living in the big dog crate.

Now we are planning a new chicken pen project, because we were given four mature birds, which we picked up today. Our friends are closing a house they own in a nearby town, and their son had left behind four grown birds, three hens and a rooster. She emailed me yesterday and asked if I wanted them. I agreed; the hens are all laying daily. We drove over to the house this morning, and met her husband, boxed the chickens in a crate, and took down the poultry wire fence. He also gave us a good sized stack of pressure treated fence boards, from which we will build a goat pen.

The rooster is a lovely big bird, the epitome of roosterhood. We suspect he may be a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock, so Nicholas calls him a “Rocky Road.” He weighs about 35 pounds, according to Nicholas. He’s got a good sound as well – he started crowing at me this afternoon when I was working in the barn. Nicholas won’t name the birds, which surprises me. Maybe he is afraid of getting too attached if they are ‘named’ birds. I decided to name him “Dublin,” because of the Chieftains’ old Irish tune, “The Rocky Road to Dublin.”

One of the hens is a good-sized and slightly haughty Barred Rock. She lays buff eggs. I may call her Pachysandra. It is a slightly silly, slightly haughty name.

The other two hens are identical, and I think they are a cross between a Rhode Island Red and an Arucana, as they are gingery in colour, with some white feathers. They are sweet-natured and maternal. They lay green eggs, like Arucanas, but quite large, like a Red. Maybe I’ll name them Myrtle and Mignonette.They are terribly bossed by Dublin, who demands all the nice sitting spots in the hay, and first nibble at the oats.

When the silkies get bigger and start laying, I can try them on some of the other eggs. Silkies are quite broody, and since their own eggs are bantam sized, not quite as useful in the kitchen. I assume Dublin knows his business; he won’t be allowed in with the silkies, as they are so small compared to Mr. Monster. He looks like Godzilla next to them. I intend to keep the silkies in their own nesting box in the barn, and give them their own little run outside. Barred Rocks can be pushy and even bullying.

I need to find a couple of heat lamps, but that will probably mean a trip down to Centreville or Fredericton soon. I also need to get more hay as I can afford it, which will have to be in the next couple of weeks.

It was an uplifting, unexpected blessing for us, and for the birds. The first plan was butchering! I’m glad they were spared, as they are all well-feathered, healthy birds, and I expect we will get a year or more of laying from them. If we get a clutch or two hatched under the silkies, all the better.


The Modesty of Self

I haven’t posted much on modesty lately. I am so fully immersed in my modest ways, that I no longer think much about it. That’s why the nun’s daily clothing was called a “habit.” There’s a lot to be said for the habit, for just stepping into the simple garments meant to just clothe the body, without a thought as to flattery or appeal. Everything I wear is easy, even if I have to wrangle some pins into it right now. My daily dress routine takes mere minutes, and unless I have some unforeseen encounter with kitchen splatter, garden mud or barn muck, I’m pretty much set for the day, no matter where I go.

apron over apron - upper Valley tradition

I used to be a clotheshorse, being slim and pretty. But that was living in what the world expected of me, not what the Lord expected of me. In choosing clothes and spending time on appearance – hair, make-up, outfit – I was making a little idol out of the image in the mirror. It was about ME. Either it was about my feeling like an attractive woman, or it was about me wanting to be just like others. Even as clergy, that got reinforced. I think many of us had a fear that ME would drown in the collar and suit. We even fretted over vestments, expensive lengths of cloth that cost a small fortune, to be worn one hour at a time on Sunday morning. Choosing the right vestments (for flattery and to express one’s innate good taste and brand of theology) was a major issue. After a few trials, I came to dislike vestments greatly. They are heavy, expensive, easily stained, difficult to clean, and a downfall of pride for priests and clergy. When I had several services a day, wearing vestments felt like spending a whole day modelling wedding dresses. The weight of the cloth, the care needed to keep it unsullied, the moving about in yards of satin and brocade – I dreaded it. I switched down to cassock, surplice and black stole pretty quickly. That felt as natural as a dress and apron.

So why was I still getting into the plastic collar and suit? To prove that I was a real priest? To impress others? Some of both.

What I am doing should tell people what I am. If I’m at the altar, or i n he pulpit, or visiting the hospital, I’m the pastor. But mostly I’m a Christian. Part of what I do is stifle that vanity and pride.

Being a Christian became more important to me than being the priest. I identify more strongly with the simple portrait of Jesus and his disciples in the Gospels than I do with the medieval role of the presbyter.

But I needed to stop identifying so strongly with the cultural role handed to me at birth – attractive woman, whose appearance evokes lust, envy, desire, smug approval, or pride. This is what happens when we unthinkingly, unquestioningly, accept what the culture wants for us, without regard for what God wants. And sometimes when we do question the cultural normatives, we still give in, out of fear of being different, out of pressure from those who don’t like our choice, out of persuasion from friends and family who are embarrassed at our rejection of what they accept. Subconsciously, we know that the adoption of a uniquely Christian way of life and its call to separate ourselves visibly will hold us up to a standard we may fail. We may want that opportunity to let our standard slide a bit.

I found that the clergy collar did not require a high standard. Too many clergy have used the collar to hide their sins. Others in recent years have boastfully worn it in the midst of their worldly life – ambition, envy, desire for wealth and status.

God calls us out of that.

And there’s no excuse for pride of modesty either. I see this in evangelical young women, for the most part, mainly because they are the ones who come to me for guidance and advice. There is a lot of initial enthusiasm, and they flaunt their new modest (but fashionable) dresses and headscarves before their less modest friends. They wear modesty rather than are modest. They are not interested in leaving the sinful world behind while aiming for the new Jerusalem. They want to be the Christian character in the game of culture. Others – usually young American women who have read some Amish novels or have seen some “Amish” themed movies or television – desire the Plain life, but find it means Self disappears into the cape dress and kapp. When the cape dress fails to flatter them as they wished, they abandon it. They have not given up the idol in the mirror.

Plain is as much a dedicated life as the monastery. It is a practice of Christian self-denial, and to some degree, all Christians are called to it. The context of it will be different from one place to another, but it is the same. It is a modesty of forgetting the anxiety around the projection of Self. God requires that we become transparent to His Will, both in receiving it and giving it forth. If what we want to project is our own personality, contrived as that is, we cannot be the medium for God’s Peace.

I will say it bluntly: Christian life, no matter who you are, requires great self-sacrifice. It requires great sacrifice of all that we may hold dear in this world. We don’t live in the world of popular culture – television, entertainment, parties, popularity, personal attractiveness, amusement, status, shopping – we live in the Kingdom of God. Jesus brought it to us, and we inherited it with His death, resurrection and return to the Father. We have it now. What we bring into that Kingdom must be beneficial to all who live in it. What we carry out of it must be what proclaims the Kingdom, and the reality of new life through Jesus Christ. It isn’t just a matter of “believing in him,” a brief prayer that we memorize as a talisman, but a change in our daily lives. We are called by Him – really called, like a parent calling a child home at dusk, and no matter where we are and what we are doing, we are with Him and alive in Him, and He in us. When the rest of the world looks for Jesus, they will see you.

from Amish Village

Crofting: Disorganized Day

She's just biding her time.

The day started badly. The smallest chick left got smothered during the night, probably trying to huddle under the larger birds. She wasn’t growing as she should, and since yesterday’s swollen eyelid incident, I had thought she might not be strong enough to make it. There’s no use in coddling along the ones who have something wrong with them, as eventually they weaken the whole flock either by breeding or by getting an illness that might have been otherwise avoided. I wish Nicholas wouldn’t get so attached to the weak ones. I can look at it as part of life – not all chicks can survive – but he is a softie at heart.

The surviving four seem to be getting bigger and are healthy. If I lose anymore, I am going to complain to the seller. We take exceptional care of the chicks. They aren’t crowded, the crate is clean, they always have feed, grit and fresh water. I haven’t tried putting them in the barn yet, as our nights get cool about this time of year. They will start spending some time out there once they have fully fledged. They can have lots of hay for bedding, with pine shavings underneath. I think I’ll invest in a reflector lamp and a good extension cord as well.

Three items that don’t seem to stay on a farm long: Heavy extension cords, good 100-foot hoses, and battery chargers. They grow feet and shuffle off down the road, I suppose.

The dead chick put me in a pensive mood all day, with just an undercurrent of anxiety. I don’t want to have put a sum of money into what I hope will be our future egg and breeding stock and lose it to unknown causes. A friend down river says she had the same thing happen recently with her rare chick purchase, losing three out of eight in a week.

The goats went out on the west side of the house, under overcast and breezy conditions, but by the time I got home from a run to get a prescription for Nicholas, the heat and humidity had risen, and Vanilla was panting like she was in Lamaze class. I transferred them all to the barn, leaving the sliding door open into the new fenced pen, now known as the goat porch. It is really for the chickens, but it is useful to be able to leave that door open with goats loose in the barn. Tara, though, remembered what I suspect is an old trick, and tried leaning out through the fence. It is reinforced with upright 2x4s, and screwed to supports top and bottom, but she put a big bow in it until I grabbed her by the horns, pushed her into a stall, and shut the door. She was not pleased. The other two made use of their freedom to enjoy the pen. Vanilla settled down after about fifteen minutes and a drink of fresh water. The goats are so fussy about water. They had a bucket of water, but apparently some minute insect fell in it, and they wouldn’t touch it again.

Laundry got out on the clothesline, and supper made; the food blog post got written. (New posts for “In a Plain Kitchen” are at I will fix the blogroll link here soon.) One bathroom got cleaned. I can never seem to get both done in the same day.

When I was a young lass, a new mother, and a working wife, I would be close to frantic tears on days like this. Every task was interrupted at least once. I would start something, find I needed to move something, clean something, or find something before the next step. Every time. Every step. Just to do laundry I had to grate soap, relocate the borax (removed to another room for cleaning), run extra hot water to dissolve the soap and borax, find a laundry tub, empty goat drinking water out of tub, load tub, pick up the spilled compost (thanks to the dog) from under the clothesline, clean up after the dog under the clothesline by first trying to find the shovel which was in the garage, and then the rake, which was in the garden…

I survived the day. I did it without loss of temper. I have learned this important lesson: There’s tomorrow. It may be better than today or it may be worse or it may be the same but in a different way. That’s okay. We can live with it. We are not being judged on how well we got organized. God looks at the good heart within. Pass through each day with love and not with anger; pass through each day as if it is your last here. Pass through each day as if you have eternity before you – because you do.



Crofting: Sunny Skies, Stormy Skies

We had several days of rough weather, with rain and wind. Goats and chicks had to stay indoors, which was not what they favoured. We had the goats out on picket and when the first storm came up in the late afternoon, Bucky would have nothing to do with it, and pulled himself loose. He wedged his tether under the lilac though, and he stood there and bawled like a toddler until I rescued him.

The smallest chick suffered an injury to her face last night. I suspect that things got a bit rough around the feed dish, and she took a beak to the noggin. One eyelid is swollen. She seems fine otherwise, eating and drinking, even chirping and beginning to roost on the edge of the dish. We will see how that goes. I checked her frequently today to make sure she isn’t getting bullied, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Silkies are famous for their good temperaments. I do remember a bit of a squeak from the crate last night, so that may have been the moment of conflict. When I went in to check, all was settled.

Nicholas has the hen pen almost finished. We have made some changes to reinforce it, so that goats can’t rampage through the wire. I’m hoping that these almost fledged chicks will soon be barn residents. Nicholas keeps their crate immaculate, but pine chips and chick chow seem to dribble out. I cleaned the barn today, after goats had been penned for two days. That’s about as long as I will let it go. It’s bad enough that this is housefly season. We have been chasing and smacking flies for three days, but there always seem to be two or three who are clever and get away. The barn gets a bit nasty with them after a few wet days, and I had to use a kennel spray to keep down the population. It is safe for animal bedding, and it works well. I don’t spray the whole barn, just the worst spots, and pen the goats away from the spray for 24 hours. I’m being overly cautious, but they can take some peculiar ideas into their hard little skulls, and I don’t want them tasting the walls.

Would you trust that face? I don't.

We are eating peas, beans, lettuce, radishes and onions from the garden. The tomato plants are setting fruit, so I am anticipating a good crop. Plenty more beans coming along, a few sunflowers, and cucumber and squash are wending through the wild yarrow. All my herbs are doing well, too.

Today was one of those perfect Canadian summer days. The sky was clear as a cold water spring, the breeze was sweet and not too stiff. The air sparkled like a diamond. We reminisced about perfect summer days when we were young. In August, about this time, my sisters and I would spend all the time we could outdoors, riding our bikes, walking in the woods, helping in the garden. (I also spent hours in the kitchen turning the food mill as that produce got canned, but that’s another story.) Nicholas remembered a day like this, late August, when school had just started. He was sixteen. The bus pulled to the curb; he and his good friend Tom got on. They had their brown bag lunches with them.

They looked out the window at the little white clouds scudding by, off Lake Ontario. “Come on,” Nicholas said. “I’m not wasting today.”

“Where are we going?” Tom wanted to know.

“The lake.” They got off the bus, hiked over to the waterfront, and rigged Nicholas’s OK dinghy. They sailed all day, getting sunburned, heading home late. There were consequences, but as Nicholas still says, “It was worth the lecture.”

“Was your dad angry?” I asked. “No,” he said. “It was more that he was jealous.”

via daily mail


Quote from Gregory of Nyssa

via bbc

Therefore, if I pray, Hallowed be Thy Name, I ask that these words may affect in me things such as these:

May I become through Thy help blameless, just, and pious.
May I walk in the straight path, shining with temperance, adorned with incorruption,beautiful through wisdom and prudence.
May I meditate on the things that are above and despise what is earthly, showing forth the angelic way of life.

Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord’s Prayer

Crofting: Goats, Chicks, Husband

Nicholas finished the tiny fenced yard outside the barn. I wanted a yard primarily for the chickens, but also a place to quickly stash the goats when I am working in the barn. It is quite securely built, with top and bottom rails to stretch the fence wire across.  We need to block off a few small gaps to keep chickens in, and I will sew a cover for it out of old sheets. Tied to fence posts at the corners, it will make an effective shade and anti-hawk cover. I’ve done it before with chicken yards. If it rains, it doesn’t get weighted down like a tarp. It lasts a season, but old sheets are cheap at rummage and garage sales. The silkies don’t fly like other chickens, which was the reason I made one before. The average chicken can roost in a tree 4-8 feet high, and my chickens were choosing to fly out of their pen to socialize in the trees.

The chicks are growing fast. The biggest one is twice the size of the smallest one. I haven’t had any more losses, so I suspect that the runt got accidentally smothered or trampled. The little  ones cuddle under the wings of the bigger ones. Silkies are good brooders and good mothers. They  aren’t prolific layers, since they go broody, but these, if enough of them are hens, will provide a few eggs for us. I will get laying pullets later. Nicholas is enjoying caring for the silkies, so that is good enough for now.  The eggs are usually buff or brown, but I’ve seen silkie eggs in blue. Some of ours may be crossbred with bantams, but it isn’t noticeable. They are a nice looking, gentle chicken, known for being friendly and pet-like. They would be a good choice for children raising chickens. Even the roosters have parenting instincts and are easy to handle.

silkie hen and chick via wikinut guides

I  have the goats out on tether as the weather is very nice. I had to shorten Tara’s lead a moment ago, as she and Vanilla have decided that lilac has a nice taste. I don’t mind a little trimming, but they nibbled a three-foot high swath out of the back of the bush. These are big old bushes, but I still would like blossoms next year. Lilac only blossoms on old wood. If you cut your lilac blossoms, you will get fewer next year.

I cut a little clover this morning, but it was just too warm for stooping down in skirts and a bonnet, so I will do some more and hoe the garden tonight. We are eating radishes, lettuce and peas from the garden now, with lots of tomatoes coming along, and beans due in a week or so. This may seem late, but due to weather and the lightning strike, everything got planted a month after it would usually go in. Doug and Nikki brought us replacement tomato babies. The surviving squash and cucumber are blossoming like mad, big yellow and orange blossoms. I may have to improvise row covers to carry them through the frosty weather. I have an abundant dandelion and yarrow crop as well. That was unintentional. I will let the yarrow grow, as I use a lot of it in the winter. I will dig some dandelion roots.

We have plenty of food for the month, although funds are very short. I am saving the rest of my gasoline to go to an appointment with Immigration Canada on August 23rd. I’m hoping some sort of document can be provided so that I can cross the border without trouble. I would then have the option of working in Maine at least part-time, and I could see my family and American friends again. I have not had a meeting with Bishop Miller yet. He is on vacation right now, and I have asked if it would be possible to meet when he returns.

I do want to work. My husband pointed out that I do keep writing, even if the pay is almost nonexistent. He would like me at home as much as possible. I think he is still very uncertain about staying alone. I think we can find ways to manage if I can return to work.

But I was called to ministry, and I do what I can even if I am not licensed, nor get paid for the work. Laboring in the vineyard of the Lord is its own reward. It isn’t light work, even if people have the impression that is indoors with no heavy lifting. It is a state of mind and spirit as much as anything, a refusal to get sidetracked by the world, a sharp focus on following Jesus Christ rather than the beguilements of a popular culture of indulgence.