Thursday, February 25, 2021

COVID LOSS

Recently we posted about COVID hitting close to home.  Most of those we mentioned have recovered, though some with lingering issues.  However I found out a few days ago that I lost one of them; the wife of my previous boss, whom I worked with side by side daily for the better part of fifteen years.  She successfully battled breast cancer more than ten years ago...


...and she fought hard with this too but in the end, she just could not come back from the virus.

She loved roses, these yellow roses are for her...

Then a dear coworker lost her Uncle to the virus (only 61, no underlying health issues).  As I was reading his obituary, I read a few lines in it that made me smile and I thought I'd share them with you:

"Later, he continued his passion of nurturing plants and trees and purchased a property...where he poured his soul into improving and perfecting the land.  He always had a garden much too large, but he insisted it was for anyone who needed it; it was for everyone."

You can probably guess why that struck a chord with us.  I can only hope that someday someone will say that about me and our garden and property.

This garden bounty is for him...

I remember early on in the pandemic a doctor or scientist said that by the time this is all said and done, almost everyone will know someone who has died of the virus.  We have lost a few customers at our office but losing her brings it close to home and just as my coworkers loss has come close to her.  COVID is so insidious in who it hurts and who it doesn't.

That's why it makes 2nd Man and I so hyper-vigilant to stay as safe as we can. 

Please, stay safe people...this isn't over...


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

SNOW AT THE FARM

See yesterday's post for an update about the farm itself 'after' the freeze and I added an update to yesterday's post about the boil water notice.

These are 'during' the snow.  2nd Family was kind enough to send photos after we said they could send any pictures they wanted to venture out and take.

So here are a few they sent us to share:


This is the back for one of their outbuildings, icicles all along the top edge...


Footprints in the snow! They were walking down toward our part of the driveway...


This picture shows how deep it was.  Again, for people up North and East, don't laugh at us but this is definitely a HUGE event for us...


This is their front yard...


And this is our driveway...


And this is our front yard.

This is the angle we usually post from the front porch.  This was taken by the trail cam (not sure what triggered it, we think a bird).  While we're glad we were safe and warm here in town (well, to a point, ha) looking at this makes us sorry we missed seeing it in person as this might just be a once in a lifetime moment.  Setting aside the terrible outcome that all of this weather brought to the area and to the state, there is something so beautiful about a pure white fresh snowfall.  Peaceful and neat, almost like a clean slate.

We'll take Spring though.  Ready for it.  Not ready for our Summers but at least we're prepared for that.  We heard a guy on TV whose house had collapsed ceilings from broken pipes say something that kind of sums up what happened here:

"Our homes are built for Houston Summers, not Michigan Winters"...

Monday, February 22, 2021

FREEZE AT THE FARM SURPRISE

 Saturday was the day to check the farm after the historic Winter storm.

There was still ice on the steps.


And on the North side of the house, in the shade, there was still some melting snow.  The ground was also super saturated everywhere from the melting snow and runoff.  The house was fine, thankfully.  


The water heater stayed unfrozen, we had rigged up some lights on old school hooded reflectors.  They hang with a clamp and as fate would have it the doorknobs in the bathroom (where the water heater is) were shaped to have a foolproof way to mount it with zero danger of falling off.  This angle looks like it's close to the door but it wasn't.  There wasn't anything flammable nearby.  Even with the rolling blackouts on the grid, it was on long enough to keep the area warm and above freezing in the house (small bathroom with both doors closed).  

The water was turned on to see if any obvious leaks.  We didn't see any but we decided to turn it back off until we could take a closer look by crawling under the house next weekend and inspect the pipes for small leaks that are not so obvious.  The p-traps in the the sinks were fine with the RV antifreeze inside.  

Looks like the house dodged the freezing problems.  2nd Family had one burst pipe under their house.  When we're not in the house, it's easy to drain, flush and shut off water.  When you live there, even with heat on, you have to have water and then you battle the temps but the pipes can still freeze.


It was time to uncover the citrus trees to see how dead they were (ice still around the outside of them).


This is the lime tree.  Dead.  Dead dead.  I bent a couple of branches and they snapped right off.  I figured that was going to be repeated two more times. 


This is the orange tree.

If I didn't see it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed it.  It's still green!  The branches don't have any visible freeze damage.  I could be wrong, maybe it will never leaf out again or next weekend it will melt into a puddle, ha, but we were still cautiously surprised.  We have NO idea how this survived single digit temps.  I never put the Christmas lights on the timer under the cloth because we figured even if they were 10 degrees warmer with those turned on, it wouldn't help with a low of 8 or 9.  Somehow it looks like it survived.


And here is the lemon tree.

It's ALSO green.  Well, kind of.  There seem to be a few brown ends but for the most part it is green.  Again, we have no idea how it survived.  It could still die and we're planning for that occurrence.  But maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised?  Heck, one out of three would be great.  Two out of three would be amazing!

We're rethinking the citrus though.  We'll see what survives.  They are still so small and frail and haven't grown much since we put them in the raised beds.  They do well and then are set back by a freeze.  These are 2 years old.  If the orange makes it, since it's in the middle, we'll leave it and do something different with the lemon and lime.

Stay tuned.


Remember the beautiful peach tree blossoms from a couple of weeks ago?


Yeah, not so pretty now.  We had read that they were hardy to about -25 degrees so we didn't bother to cover it for this freeze.  Not sure if we made a mistake there. I guess we'll see what happens in a couple of months.


Come back tomorrow for some fun pictures of the snow at the farm.  2nd Family took some for us and then the trail cam captured a beautiful one of the front yard.

MONDAY UPDATE:



They citywide boil water notice was lifted!

We've followed the instructions and things are back to normal...though we did think twice about the first few times of using it but they say it has passed all the tests.  

Saturday, February 20, 2021

WATER IS BACK

We woke up Saturday morning to the water back on and it was at full pressure for most everyone...


After almost four days of little to no water, I think that was the best shower I have ever taken.  I could have stayed in there for an hour...


And the toilet flushes again without buckets of pool water needed to make that happen...


They are still having to give water to those who need it as the entire city of Houston/Harris County (millions of people) are on a boil water notice so we're not out of the woods yet.  The lines were over a mile long again and we just heard tonight that it might be Tuesday before the boil water notice is lifted...



Friday, February 19, 2021

ANOTHER FREEZE UPDATE

We know everyone is wondering how things are going.  On the good news side, 98% of all people in our area have electricity.  There wasn't much problem with downed lines it was just the facilities that control the power grid failed because of the freezing.  They did not prep for weather like this (after being told 10 years ago at the last big freeze that they should, but we digress).  

So we have power.  Most everyone does.  Once those places on the grid got their capacity back up, the power came on.  That's the good news.

The bad news is the boil water notice will now extend through at least Monday.  And in more bad news, after having water pressure back somewhat today, it's now back to nothing.  Open the taps and nothing comes out.  Not even a trickle.  There are now lines over a mile long of cars waiting to get water.  People are taking buckets to a spigot in a park where water still comes out.  We're still good for drinking because of our two 5 gallon bottles, we have about a dozen small bottles, and a dozen or so cans of sparkling water.  Plus some soft drinks.  Oh and wine.  We can always have wine, ha!

We are back to getting pool water for the toilet.  We know some of you suggested filling the tub with the pool water to save the back and forth and we may do that if it lasts longer.  For now though it's not that bad, an elevator ride down, a few feet to the pool, a quick dunk of the bucket and back up.  If nothing else, it gets us out of the apartment a few times a day.

In parts of Texas where the temperatures have not gotten above freezing, even with power back on, many heating systems are not working and people are cutting up furniture to burn just to stay warm.


It boggles our mind that here we are, in the year 2021, we just landed a robot on Mars, and yet our way of life is just a freeze, storm, or pandemic away from complete collapse.  There will be more pandemics, more storms, and more epic winters.  It has really made us think about the farm, what we want out there and how best to prepare for the unexpected in the future.

Speaking of the farm, it's back out this weekend for the first time since all this happened a month week ago to see how things fared out there. 

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

FREEZE UPDATE AND HOBART PIC

We know how you all enjoy a Hobart picture so there's one at the end of this post. 

With water shut off for almost 3,000,000 people, we had to improvise for water usage.  Thankfully we were prepared for drinking water, we had two 5 gallon bottles, a couple dozen small water bottles and an assortment of the canned flavored sparkling water.  Drinking water we would be OK.

But because we weren't told ahead of time that water would just be shut off (perhaps lack of preparedness on our part as well) we weren't able to fill up the tub for flushing the toilet.  One of our blog friends mentioned using melted snow for toilet flushing.  The snow is long gone here but that made us think...our apartment building has a pool...we pay rent...the pool is part of what we pay for...so I grabbed a bucket...

...went down to the pool level and filled a large bucket, carried it back up (in the elevator, ha) and filled the tank in the toilet.  It worked perfectly.  I've gone down three times so far.  The first time I was the only one.  The last time there were four other people with buckets and another person on the elevator said "wow that's a great idea!"  Later in the day the building sent an email and said it was OK just be careful as the pool area is wet from rain and it's going to freeze again tonight.

Thinking outside the box!


As for work, many of you know I work in the insurance business.  Our office here has no power so we are trying to work from home like we did for so long during the pandemic but the connection has been sporadic.  Turns out our company has a server hub in North Texas.  They prepared for tornadoes and hail and even wildfires.  They also prepared for "normal" Winter weather.  Turns out they didn't prepare for THIS kind of cold and so the servers went down and now none of our laptops can function property with the company software and systems.  They are getting it back up little by little.  Today our office took 12 claims for burst pipes.  Yesterday we had 8 claims.  Those are the ones we know about.  There could be people who called directly and we haven't been updated yet.


For those worried about Hobart and if he's staying warm, no worries there.  Here he is (when it was 11 degrees outside), curled up on a blanket on the couch after we covered him up.  He slept for hours there.  He's got the cushy life for sure.

He's not spoiled or anything...

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

UNFOLDING DISASTER IN HOUSTON

The freeze disaster in Houston (and a large majority of Texas) just gets worse almost by the hour...


Woke up to more sleet and freezing rain.  With the melting snow and rain and temps in the low 20's, things turned to ice on the roads AND now the power lines.


There are now 1.5 million people without power, up from yesterday.  There are homes in Houston where dripping water faucets have turned to solid ice and pet water bowls INSIDE the homes have frozen over.

There are apparently a large number of fatalities that are being reported, not just from carbon monoxide and house fires but just exposure.  They are actually giving people the warning signs of hypothermia for the first time in our history. 

Those up North are probably wondering why all of this is happening.  It's worth reminding people that our homes and indeed our entire infrastructure of electricity, water, roads, bridges, even the internet lines, are built around staying cool in our oppressively hot and humid weather.  They don't build things or prepare for Winter weather like this because we never have it...



And then the hits kept coming.  This morning we all awoke to a mandatory boil water notice for all of Houston.  We noticed pressure was low...and then we received this from our building:

Dear residents,

As some of you may already know, due to the frozen water lines, all of Houston is now experiencing loss of water, including our building. This is a citywide issue and we do not have an expected time frame as to when this issue will be resolved. 

Please be advised that due to our boiler system, with the water lines being frozen, we are expecting to lose heat. For updates you can text the keyword WATER to 713-526-1111 for the latest on the water situation. We also encourage you to call 311 for more information from the city. 

We hope you all are staying safe and warm. We will send more updates as soon as we receive them.


So now we have no water.  I mean, you turn on the taps and NOTHING comes out.  This is for ALL of Houston.  2.5 million people are now without water.



Thankfully we have a 5 gallon water bottle I just loaded into the dispenser the other day and a second one stored.  We have some smaller water bottles as well.  Of course we would have filled the tub to use for the toilet but there was no warning.  We just woke up and got an alert that there would be no water.  Sigh.  Also note in the building message I posted that there may not be heat either.  We're fortunate that because our building is a high-rise, it is built of concrete with 12 inches between units and 16 inches between floors and ceilings.  That makes it kind of like a cave or underground home, the temperature stays within a range (except for Summer, ha).  As long as we have power we have electric an electric blanket to keep warm and plenty of quilts.  Also have some nice flannel pajama pants and sweatshirts.  Oh and wool socks.  When we lived in the house, the floors could get cold in the Winter being pier and beam so I had us well stocked with warm clothing.  Grateful we have it now.


To top it all off, another Winter storm is coming but we think no moisture, which is good.  Lows Friday however could be back into the upper teens.  That will not help an already worsening situation in the Houston area and most of Texas.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

HISTORIC FREEZE DISASTER

Now here's a sight we never thought we'd see...


...snow covering downtown Houston.  This was the view from the balcony.  It was a Winter wonderland but only in appearance.  There are 1.4 million people without power and things are getting dire in the area.


This was yesterday's weather and forecast.  It is still below freezing and will have been below freezing since Sunday afternoon.

Roads are impassable because of ice.

Pipes are bursting in homes.

There are boil water notices because of water pressure/power issues at the water treatment plants.

People are having to deal with below freezing temps inside their homes and several of our coworkers have been dealing with temps in their homes in the 30's.

Both airports have been closed to inbound and outbound flights until things get better.

It's not ice on the lines, instead this is a complete and epic failure by our power companies.  They did not prepare for an event like this and things are bad and getting worse.  This is not like a hurricane where the lines came down in the wind and crews have to get out and repair them.  In this case the grid has gone down across the region because of various issues related to "we never knew it could get this bad" and they are unable to push power to the customers.  The good side is that as they fix the problems, the power should just come back on because the lines are still fine.

Now we just hope for above freezing temperatures as soon as possible. It's looking better today as I type this, the above forecast has changed and we may get above freezing this afternoon but still so many people suffering in the freezing temperatures right now.

But round two of possible ice comes again tonight...


Monday, February 15, 2021

RECORD BREAKING FREEZE HAS ARRIVED

So...saturday was the day we had to go to the farm and get things ready.  Two weeks ago I had grand dreams of  cleaning the mower and leaving it out to be picked up...working in the garden and adding new soil to the raised beds...pulling weeds from the fruit tree beds...

Well Mother Nature had other plans in store for us!


Single digit temps, snow, sleet, ice, wind chills below zero...this is all unprecedented for our area.  Oh we've hard freezes, low 20's.  But this is a whole other level.

So "R" from 2nd Family came up and helped us prep the house.  We shut off the water at the well and at the house.  Then I opened all the taps in the house and let the water drain out.  He brought an air compressor and we blew air in through the outside faucet and that pushed water out of the taps.  There was a surprising amount of water still in the pipes even though the faucets were open but nothing coming out.  Now we see why just shutting off the water and opening the taps doesn't get all of the water out.  We used it for about 10 minutes on and off, closing and opening various faucets so that as much water as possible was forced out.


Finally there was no more water coming out and we considered it drained.  We left the taps open since the water won't be on for a while.  Lastly I poured some RV antifreeze into the drains so that the p-traps would have some protection in case we didn't get it all out.  RV antifreeze is made to be safe and non toxic in septic systems.  In fact, the label even adds "for vacation homes" which at this point fits the farmhouse.

The last thing I had to do was save the sensitive plants.  Obviously the tropicals are the most sensitive.  But this is such a harsh cold that almost never happens here, we felt it was best to take even the berry plants.  So I backed up to the house, put down the rear seats and started loading things up.  


Here is the back of the Jeep, loaded up with two banana plants, six blueberry bushes, two bay laurel trees, two pineapple plants, and three other plants.  I did forget the extra fig tree we have on the porch so who knows if that will make it.  Will just buy another if needed.

The citrus trees are covered but even fully grown they are only safe down to mid 20's.  Covering them and putting lights with some heat being generated still wouldn't save them from single digit temperatures.

Pretty sure new citrus will be coming this Spring...  

All we can do now is wait for it all to be over.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

VALENTINES DAY DAYTONA 500 BLIZZARD WARNING

Yep, all three.



Happy Valentines Day to all.  Certainly different than last year at this time.


Regular readers know we enjoy NASCAR.  We're watching today.  Of course as this posts, a huge crash stopped the race and now it's pouring rain there in Daytona.  If we had to guess, this race will be run tomorrow.  It could be a night race too.  We'll see.


And on top of all that, Houston has been issued, for the first time in history, a blizzard warning.  Stores have closed, mass transit has shut down and the Mayor has told everyone that unless it's a dire emergency, everyone needs to stay home today and tomorrow and into Tuesday.  Thankfully Adrian and I can (and will) both be working from home.  He'll be working from home all week and I'll be here Monday and Tuesday for sure, we'll have to see how the week progresses.

Update tomorrow on both the weather and the first part of the weekend.

Stay warm and safe !