We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Paddle

Last week our rain totals here in Southwestern Virginia topped 16 inches. This week we are experiencing Hurricane Joaquin rain bands coming up through South and North Carolina, bringing another possible 8 to 12 inches. There is nowhere left for the water to drain. As soggy as it is here, the flooding images of nearby lowlands blasting across twitter and our teen’s other social media remind me we were wise to prioritize elevation when relocating.

Although we have lost power from the grid twice now, Cog’s whole house back-up generator has kept us comfortable and functioning. The sun hasn’t shined in what seems like forever, but our batteries from the solar set-up are kept charged from the grid and ready to provide additional electric redundancy.

Two  weeks ago we had a local tree company come by with large power equipment to take down several tall trees that were looming directly over our house and other buildings. With periodic high winds and dramatic lightening up here on the mountain, sadly our beautiful trees were far more of a liability than an asset. We struggled with the decision to take down such majestic growth. Cog and I were extremely grateful for the summer shade they provided and for sharing their aesthetic grandeur.

it looks so small on its side

Rushing to finish what work we could before the rains arrived, we stacked the last loads of recently delivered firewood for the winter. The cutting and stacking of the largest of the felled trees must wait until the rain and wind stops. The largest one, an 80 foot poplar, is pictured above from the vantage point of our back deck, a structure which was literally built around it. Once standing tall over our home, now it is splayed across the back 'yard' stretching down to the woods. For now, the deer, bear and turkeys will need to find an alternate route other than their thorough-fare we call our back yard.

The wildlife now use the front yard daily to go around our house while the downed trees block their way.
The wildlife now use the front yard daily to go around our house while the downed trees block their way.

The plants destined to come indoors for the winter were rescued as overnight temperatures dipped into the low 40°s at night,cold  enough to finish off the delicate ones. With great resolve I decided I would not bring in flowers this fall and just stick to the practical plants such as herbs and a few indoor vegetables. But alas I am weak and the blooms seemed to deliberately show their best sides while I was selecting, compelling me to fill the sun room with impatiens and begonias. In addition to the persuasive flowers, I have containers of purple basil, lavender, several varieties of mint, oregano, thyme and those dwarf lemon trees I started from seed last year.

A few of the windows where plants will spend the winter months.
A few of the windows where plants will spend the winter months.

We are continuing to expand our local connections and ties to the community by utilizing local businesses such as our new tree service. Frequenting local stores and small businesses for as many of our purchases as possible, we’ve gotten to know the third generation population up here while they service our cars, help us with plumbing and chainsaw parts and tell us which farm(s) their produce and eggs come from. They seem less leery of the no-longer-so-new Yankees with their funny accents and strange ways than before. Even the grumpiest old coot now musters an occasional smile when the Cogs stop by.

It is becoming increasingly clear to us that the average country folk around here do indeed know something is wrong. My working theory is people who live in the country have to rely on their own wits more frequently and therefore just develop a good bit of old fashioned horse-sense. Their bullshit detectors, more accurately tuned because they are too busy living life to be fixed to a television, are particularly sensitive to modern day shenanigans. The country dwellers may not have all the answers, but I suspect not needing to crawl out of the depths of denial gives them a huge advantage over the typical suburbanite who largely has no idea what is about to unfold.

Cog and I joke that our desire is to be accepted, even reluctantly, as fellow mountain citizens rather than outsiders who pose a liability during tough times. When the locals make a list of who is to be eaten, we prefer to be at the bottom or not on there at all. :-) We continue to reach out in small ways to help elderly, sick or absent neighbors. Cog recently appointed himself responsible for cutting the overgrown lawn of a newly abandoned house about a mile from here.

We’ve seen people drive by that house as he mowed, shaking their heads at his desire to take care of someone else’s problem property. But after answering some questions from people in the area about why he's doing it, others began chipping in to maintain the lawn of this decrepit little house, if only because they understood. Cog also cuts the grass along the road to and from that property, giving our tree lined dirt roads the appearance of being wider and more welcoming. One local lady has dubbed Cog the head of the mountain beautification association lol.

Choosing to mow simply because it needs to be done.
Choosing to mow simply because it needs to be done.

Watching all the latest economic events and world news, as expected we find ourselves cringing. Witnessing the unnecessary suffering and losses, the best we can do is take responsibility for ourselves and be the change we wish to see in the world. Maybe rather than acquiring a bigger paddle, we can find a way to all row together as we journey down the turbulent creek.

brutal rainfall
Living just spittin' distance from North Carolina, we sure seem to be experiencing many "once in a lifetime" events lately.
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