Archive for June, 2009

Rainwater harvesting

Thursday, June 11th, 2009


It seems strange to be planning for drought when we’ve had a thunderstorm daily (for about 2 wks) but drought does happen in Virginia.

There’s a cistern under the big house, deep underground, that’s fed by the roof gutters.

But part of the screen porch renovation was to add 2 of these huge cisterns for its roof, as well. There’s one on each side and each holds 65 gallons. And they have cute little hoses which can be hooked to regular garden hoses.

The first day it was hooked up, we had another thunderstorm (a real gosling drownder as they call it here) and the cistern actually overflowed. That’s one side of a fairly small roof! Think of all that wasted water! (Now go and look at your roof. Hmmm….)

The screened porch is one of the big projects this summer. I’ve been campaining for its resuscitation for quite a while now (ok, nagging.) It’s about 80% done, so will have pix pretty soon (if it ever stops raining so we can finish w/the painting.)

It’s going to be a terrific place to sit in the evening & watch lightning bugs & read & eat salads. I may even sleep out there, we’ll see. But no bugs, which is the purpose of a screened porch. Having lived so long in the NW, I’m a smorgasbord¬† for every biting insect in Virginia, so the screened porch can’t come soon enough for me!

Spanish words for the day: aranas (spiders) and moscas (flies)– ’nuff said.


Sunday, June 7th, 2009

One of my favorite things in this area is the huge Double Tollgate Swap Meet/Flea Market every wkend. There are some vendors who go there every wkend, and some who are doing a version of a yard sale. And it’s the size of a fairgrounds.

What’s changed in the two yrs since I’ve been there is that the Hispanic population is much more visible, if not larger (probably both.) And now the Double Tollgate has not just a taco wagon (I’m totally addicted to taco wagons.) but a kind of co-op going on. There’s a really good taco wagon, flanked by a fresh fruit (served in big plastic cups w/lime juice & chili powder & salt) and a liquado stand. First, I got a huarache (kind of a tostada, but shaped like an oblong- like the sandals) and an elotes, a roasted corn on a wooden stick smeared w/mayo & spices. Yumm! Then of course I had to have a fruit salad (which included: watermelon, pineapple, oranges, papaya, mango & lots of jicama.)

The liquado stand has huge big jars of beautiful juices. This time, they had canteloupe, pineapple, watermelon, lime and HORCHATA. Liquados aren’t like juices, really. They’re fruit blended & then mixed w/sugar and water. (Also called agua fresca.) But horchata is basically cinnamon rice milk. And boy, is it GOOD. I think I could have drunk that entire vat. The vendors thought I was pretty funny. The mom, who probably makes them all, kept grinning at me & commenting to her son in machine-gun Spanish, and really cracked up when I asked her what was in horchata (between my lip-smacking & generally looking like a cat in a jug of cream.) Evidently everybody but me knows all about horchata.

So upon arriving home, I immediately hit the internet. Here’s the recipe I’m going to try:

Oh, and Cain, our landscape guy who’s from Mexico & eats @ McDonald’s, as he prepares for citizenship, thinks it’s hysterical that I came all the way across the country & my mom served me quesadillas (and I was excited about it.) As my mom says, he’s learning a lot here, but most of it may not be useful to his assimilation. BTW, Cain has a twin brother named Abel. Really.

From the farm…

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Well, I’d planned to take 2 leisurely days to get from Columbus, OH to the farm in VA. But Wed turned into one of those days when everything ‘gangs aft a-gley’ so I finally bagged it & went straight to the farm. Sometimes you just have to go with what IS instead of what you’ve planned.

So I showed up sweaty be-draggled & a day ahead, and was taken in anyway. I guess that’s what mom’s are for (note to self.)

In the meantime I’ve been orienting myself, and wondering how I could have brought this much stuff & still have so much stuff in the PT storage unit. It’s a mystery. As one of my friends said, “For someone who’s not materialistic, you sure have a lot of stuff.” So I’ll be working on that strange dichotomy, I expect.

In the meantime, I found a way to get my computer set up finally, so that it’s plugged into a battery backup. Given a two-hundred year old house & constant thunderstorms, I think that’s wise.

I’m having a little trouble acclimating & getting used to the time change. But I sure do love my rope bed. It seems crazy to me that they went out of usage. In fact, a lot of the antique ones have been “modernized” with rails for a box spring. Speaking as someone who slept 11 hrs last night, I vote for ropes instead of springs.

Yesterday the temperature plummeted from high 80’s to 57. For those of you who haven’t believed in the Sara temperature effect… yeah, tell the Virginians who are running around in sweaters in June. Seriously, everywhere I go, it’s “unseasonably cool” and seems to coincide with my visit. I’m hoping that staying here for several months will allow nature to recover its equilibrium.

Since it’s raining, mainly I’m unpacking & rearranging things. Cain, the gardener/handyman, is helping me w/my spanish. I’ve learned to say Happy Birthday and attic so far.

Oh, we did go to a garden store yesterday & bought lots of herbs. I got 3 big bushy basils, which is really exciting for me. Basil’s like crack to me, and it looks like I may get enough even for me this yr (if I remember to pinch them properly & not get them all leggy.)

Once it stops raining, I’ll probably post some pix, but in the meantime, it’s back to work… Hasta luego!

Columbus OH

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

sock-monkeyWell, my co-pilot and I are back on the road today after a layover at Cousin S’s house in Springfield, IL. Lots of fun. Met the new boyfriend, washed clothes & hung them out on the line. She even made my bed w/line dried sheets & blankets. And loaned me a cat, which was terrific. I’ve been so cat-deprived that I nearly petted poor Boo’s fur off. Boo didn’t seem to mind, though. I do love that screen porch of hers. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a summer evening (or morning or afternoon) w/out getting eaten to death by bugs. Oh, and we had Thai food & Indian food dinners and REAL COFFEE every morning.

We did have occasion to see whether jewel weed (aka touch-me-not) actually does work on bug bites. IT DOES. Just split the stem & rub on the bug bite. It’s supposed to work on poison ivy as well, but luckily I haven’t needed to try that yet. This is the kind of thing that happens when you’re the houseguest of a naturalist…

Let’s see, also had lunch w/my aunt & uncle. Really good homemade veggie soup. And I forgot to tell my scofflaw uncle that he’s been a bad influence. I’ve been driving barefooted. Which is totally illegal.¬† Not only that, but I’ve been crossing state lines barefooted, which is probably a felony. Next, I’ll be tearing tags off mattresses.

Today I was in my first thunderstorm. It was totally wild. The whole sky (and the sky is very big in the midwest) was just opaque gray. And then huge raindrops hitting the windshield, and then suddenly the wipers couldn’t go fast enough & I could only see the semi ahead & semi behind, because it was more like swimming than driving. A little like driving a submarine.

So tonight I had dinner & then had a pink bubble bath (thank you P & J!) and now I’m off to bed & will decide tomorrow whether to do some sight-seeing or just plow on thru the last 7 hours of driving.

Oh, I found a drive-thru Starbucks near my hotel. This is more important than you might think. I went to Hannibal, MO & was all excited about Mark Twain, but spent most of my time in a coffee house, mainlining espresso… I’m sure Mr Clemens would have been amused. (River, what river?)