August 31, 2021

History repeats? The "I" storms

August 30, 2021
In 1751, my five times great-grandfather landed in Philadelphia and made his way to Maryland's Cumberland Valley. The valley has South Mountain along the east side and Fairview Mountain along the west. A good portion of his descendants remain. It's a nice place to live. Although we experience all four seasons, the highs and lows of each are generally bearable, and the mountains provide beautiful vistas and a small measure of protection from severe weather events. 

As I write this blog entry and add updates, the country's attention is focused on Hurricane Ida which is currently hammering New Orleans. Ida made landfall on August 29th, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at virtually the same spot. It is to me another example of our cyclic weather patterns. By the time the remnants of Katrina reached western Maryland, it was light rain. The mountains broke the storm apart. I hope if Ida comes this way, the mountains will protect us once again. What worries me is the Ida is an "I" storm. 

More retired Atlantic hurricane names start with "I" than any other letter, and nine of the names have been retired since 2001. 

August 31, 2021 8:30 PM
Iris (2001), Isidore (2002), Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Ike (2008), Igor (2010), Irene (2011), Ingrid (2013), and Irma (2017). 

Isabel, September 17, 2003, hit us hard, downing massive trees and slicing off the power for 55 hours. In 2004, Ivan caused flooding. Ike came along in 2008 and the outer bands drifted over and brought wind and rain. Ike made it to Canada. In November 2009, a different Ida hit us and became known as a Mid-Atlantic "nor'easter."  Irene in 2011 did not make direct landfall, but it was a huge storm and we had winds and rain and the subsequent power loss. It was different on the other side of South Mountain. In 2011, Isaac brought a good bit of rain. 

I doubt I'll forget Isabel. She brought down an 80-foot tall oak that landed mere feet from the house. It's a fact of life that mature trees die and fall, but this one had the help of a micro-burst. 

While what we experience here in western Maryland is nothing - NOTHING - compared to the heartache people along the Gulf of Mexico suffer, we are concerned. We worry about loved ones. We worry about property damage. We worry about power outages. The "I" storms are nothing to ignore. 

There's little we can do to prepare even if we were certain Hurricane Ida will reach us, which when I began this entry seemed unlikely. As we've followed along, the storm has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm and is moving slowly. It's Tropical Storm (or depression) Ida that will impact us. It's going to rain - a lot. 

I've filled the gasoline cans to make sure we can run the generator and that's about it. We wait and watch the radar, and know that one hundred years ago, our great-grandparents had no such early warning system in place. They never knew how bad a storm was until it passed over them. 

And yet such knowledge encourages us to worry, to fear, and we have been instructed to "fear not." That's difficult to do when media images of destruction, and our own memories, remind us we do have things to fear. 

Perhaps I should let greater minds ponder these things. Perhaps it's enough that I know the "I" storms brim with the potential to cause major damage. And perhaps I must bow to powers greater than my own. It will be as it will be, and none of us can change it. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 30, 2021

Preserving peaches

I heard the peach harvest this year was exceptional, and from what I saw at the orchards it was not a lie or a marketing ploy. I made the drive to a local orchard my grandmother favored for peaches and brought home a half-bushel of Bounty. They were huge! 

This local orchard has been family-owned and operated for a few generations. I like to see that sort of stability. Anyway, I went and bought peaches. 

These peaches were, no lie, bigger than my fist. I'd never heard of Bounty peaches, but they looked and smelled wonderful, plus they're a freestone variety. I've since learned they were developed at the USDA peach breeding program at Kearneysville, West Virginia, which is just a tad more than half an hour from the manor. 

Once I had the peaches home, I immediately began to process them, canning them in pint jars. I got twenty-four pints of canned peaches and one batch of peach jelly. It was an intense two days but very much worth it.

With so many pints on the shelf, I won't need to can peaches again next year. I suspect it will take two pints to make a pie, but that's okay. I didn't want to process them in quarts and risk opening a jar to have peaches for dessert and not using the entire contents over the course of a few days. 

Home-canned fruit is good in the sealed jar on the shelf for at least eighteen months. I personally am not worried about fruit that is jarred longer so long as the seal is intact. 

And that's the key to safe consumption. The seal must remain intact. If you take a jar off the shelf and the lid falls or lifts off in your hand, throw the food out and sterilize the jar. Don't risk eating it. It rarely happens, but a seal can fail so be mindful of it. 

I'm looking forward to canning apples, but that won't be such as intense process. Apples keep longer than peaches so I won't need to do them all at once. I'll also be putting apples in quart jars. Some of the newer varieties such as Gala are available now, but I want Stayman or Winesap which are older varieties and will, I hope, capture the flavor of my grandmother's pies. 

Summer fruit and winter pies and cobblers. It's worth the work. 

If you want to learn more about canning, please visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation at This is your preserving bible. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 29, 2021

Black-eyed Susan

Trivia fact - the Black-eyed Susan has been Maryland's state flower since 1918. 

My foremothers always had abundant patches of Black-eyed Susan. It's a hardy, free-seeding plant and gives a lovely pop of bright yellow to the August flower garden. Back in the day, I was given a baggie full of seeds and told to simply scatter them on the ground. I did and the next year I had lovely flowers. 

These days, I'm down to one plant but now I have hope! For the first time in years, the deer have not come in close enough to eat the buds before they flowered. I have hope of harvesting a crop of seeds to scatter over the manor. 

Black-eyed Susan may be an old-fashioned flower, but I like it. It comes back every year and spreads on its own (usually). Maybe I'll get lucky and end up with a patch to rival that of my grandmother. 

Old-fashioned? No. Black-eyed Susan is the stuff of memories living and blooming today.

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 28, 2021

Morning mist

I've been remiss in my blogging these past days. There's been a lot going on and the days flew by. People often say, "the time got away from me" when this happens. I think we understand the full statement is that we lacked sufficient time in our schedule to do some things not necessary for survival, such as blogging. One of my goals for this weekend is to catch up on my writing, both with the current manuscript and the blogs. 

But I'm easily distracted these days. I landed at the computer with a cup of coffee and did the normal things. Checked my email, checked Twitter, checked sales reports, watched the mist settle in over the manor. Yeah, that was the one that got me.

Once the lovely, soft mist came down, Deuce and I headed out. I have all sorts of things to do, but a walk through the misty woods with the dog trumped them all. We made the first mile and detoured to one of the streams so he could get his paws wet. On our way back to the trail, we met up with my cousins and their dog, Sadie. Deuce isn't too fond of Sadie yet. She's a bit energetic and he's a bit stoic, but they managed to walk together just fine, basically because Deuce took his normal point position and ignored her. It was still a lovely walk. 

By the time we got back, about ninety minutes later, the sun had burned off the mist and the temps were climbing. The next order of business was for Deuce to cool down and for me to get a shower. 

I still have the same to-do list as before our walk and now there is less time to do it. And you know what? I don't care. I may or may not get all the items checked off my list. There's still time to do a lot of it whereas there was a small window of time to walk in the misty woods. 

I think I chose wisely. 

The Lady of the Hideaway

August 16, 2021

How apropos

Just a few days ago I expressed my annoyance with media darlings who preach rhetoric. We're all quite capable of forming our own opinions when given true facts, and therein lies the rub. We need The Truth. 

Lack of rain can be a serious problem. So can flooding. We all get it. The earth is doing something it's done many times already and we're all to blame for it. I get it. My fault. 

As a young girl, the week of The Great H--n Fair was something the entire family looked forward to with great anticipation. My grandparents moseyed around the fairgrounds, chatted with their contemporaries, and went to the tractor show. My mother haunted the ag show, notepad and pen at the ready to jot down ideas. My father met his cronies, found a shady spot, and talked about work - or he shadowed me in case my friends weren't there. I was cut loose to meet girlfriends and hop on every ride again, again, and again until we were all dizzy. And we did this every day for a week because it took a week to see and do it all! 

Why did it take a week? Because it rained every damn day. When was the Fair? It overlapped the second week of August, sometimes beginning around the 10th, and sometimes ending around the 10th. 

When I saw the 10-day forecast this morning, my thoughts instantly went to Fair week. Rain with the threat of thunderstorms is absolutely normal for my area as we enter into mid-August. 

I suppose this is one of the reasons why I don't trust what I'm being force-fed about the weather. Our earth heats and cools. Ice ages? Had 'em. Tropical forests around the globe? Had 'em. Mass extinctions? Had 'em. It's pure hubris to believe we paltry humans have much say in any of this. 

The Lady at The Hideaway

August 14, 2021

How does water escape the earth?

Water does not escape the earth. While H2O can break down when "attacked" by UV radiation, it's the diatomic hydrogen that can achieve escape velocity. When the breakdown happens, oxygen becomes ozone which is bound by gravity to the earth. So scientifically speaking, water does not leave the planet. 

And this matters....why?

The Lord of the Manor was watching a broadcast this morning that was supposedly about the weather. Instead of getting the weather, we got a pack of political activists. Their latest schtick is about conserving water. That's a great idea for people who live in California! I sure don't want them coming east to try and get mine. 

Mine is several hundred feet underground and naturally filtered. It is returned to the ground and once again naturally filtered as it continues onward. 

Out here in the country, I don't know of any entity other than the local State Park that wastes or pollutes water. I'm serious. Country folk - old-time country-raised folk - don't waste much of anything. Yes, we tend to bathe every day, but we work and we need to get clean. We're not Hollywood. We don't like to brag about three-day-old body odor. We like soap. Hell, we can make our own! 

I'm not sure why the total idiocy I heard this morning annoyed me so badly. The condescending attitudes? The blatant inference that they are so much better than their country living viewers? The conviction that the way they live is the best way to live? The obvious belief that the common folk are too stupid to figure out ways to conserve on their own? 

And what about these rising sea levels? We know how to desalinate seawater. Why aren't western states investing in this as a way to provide more water to the people who live in the west? That would help solve two problems at once, wouldn't it? And sea salt as a by-product? Lots of people prefer sea salt. 

There was just something about the broadcast that set my teeth on edge. It did not ring true, and by that I mean I thought it lacked sincerity. It sounded like party-line propaganda. 

We are under attack. While conservation is necessary, it's now being used as a way to control the populace.

Awareness of a problem leads people to take steps in their own lives. We begin to take action, moving toward a goal knowing that even small changes make big impacts. Why is this not enough? It's about control and sometimes, like what I heard this morning, it's control by trying to cast blame and shame on others. And if we don't fall into step, they'll amp up their game. It's what liberals do - anything to win. 

LOOK at who is feeding you the weather and news reports. LISTEN to their message and ask why it's their message, who supports their message, and most importantly who BENEFITS from their message. 

Who benefits? Do you? It's something to consider. 

The Lady of The Hideaway


August 13, 2021

Peaches anyone?

It's decision time. Do I get a bushel of peaches, or do I pass on them until next year? I'm definitely on the fence about peaches. 

My grandmother always canned peaches. It didn't matter if she still had a few jars left over from the previous year, when the peach harvest was happening, peaches were processed. My grandfather had a couple of dwarf peach trees, but there were problems when he'd only bring in a few peaches at a time. Processing just two or three quarts of anything at a time is labor and time-intensive. I don't like to preserve anything if I can't fill the canner. 

That's a problem I won't have. Having been an eyewitness to what the deer can do to fruit trees, I never planted any. Nor will I. If you'd like to read The Apple Tree Story, it's over at Between the Keys. True story, too, and it explains why I won't bother with fruit trees. 

But back to the question of the day. Do I go to the orchard and get a bushel of peaches? I can make a batch of peach jam, peach pepper jam, maybe a peach chutney, peach pie filling, and plain peaches. If I do it this year, I'm likely set for peaches for the next two, possibly three years. We're told that home-canned foods are good for eighteen months, but the truth is it lasts longer if the seal is intact. Would I stretch it past three years? Probably not, but two years isn't a problem for me. 

I'm leaning towards doing peaches. It'll add variety to our winter menu, something we desperately need. We're like most people in that we gravitate toward the "easiest to cook" menu. I want to do better and better needs to include peaches. 

The good news is I won't need to try to do everything today. There's time to join Himself for a cup of coffee before I head out to the orchard. I want to make a few phone calls to see which storefront has what variety and for how much. I know I want a freestone variety and not a cling. I think my grandmother preferred Red Haven, but there are newer varieties out there. 

Home food preservation is a brave new world to me. My grandmother would be amazed at the changes in our foods and the shortcuts we now have to "putting up" canned goods. 

For better or worse, peaches, here we come!

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 8, 2021

Family reunion 2021

The Lord of the Manor is the oldest of five siblings. His mother was the oldest girl in a family of eleven. Suffice it to say, his family reunion has occasionally gotten lively. But not so much this year. This year, attendance was sparse with quite a few people opting out. We've both taken the Covid-19 vaccine and so we decided to go but keep our distance as much as possible. 

Keep our distance. Right. Some family members are idiots. 

The reunion was held at a local park that has a nice pavilion. It's covered but not enclosed. A light, persistent breeze kept us cool and I wondered did it blow the germs away from us or did it bring the germs to us? Such a wonderful musing to have on a Saturday afternoon. 

With my husband's limited mobility, if I'd declared I wasn't going, he could not have gone as he would not be able to get there on his own. His youngest brother would probably have seen his power chair loaded and unloaded, but I'm not sure Himself would have asked. The man does exhibit stubborn pride at the wrong times. 

In these uncertain times, having the reunion could be considered an acceptable risk. We need family. We don't need family who are careless about respecting individual space and I did observe some of that. One of my sister-in-laws is the driving force behind maintaining the reunion even as participation waned in the pre-Covid days. Insisting everyone form a circle and hold hands for prayer, something responsible church leaders avoid these days, was foolish of her. (We did not join in this.) 

The fact that Himself declined to be part of the prerequisite poker game told me how uncomfortable he actually was. Dealing with my own ambivalence about going probably kept me from seeing his. As he has become the family Patriarch, he felt pressured to go. Once there, he refused to be cajoled into staying too long even though he may not be able to attend many more reunions as his health continues to slowly decline. I get it. He needed to see his family and that made a short stay an acceptable risk. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has everyone thinking differently about family, about personal safety, about personal rights. The government is likely to soon require us to show our papers - proof of vaccination. And now we are learning that even being vaccinated isn't always enough as reports of "breakthrough" cases are increasing daily. We have perhaps accepted a poison into our bodies that will prove to have little protection as this virus continues to mutate on its programmed path. 

Do any of us approve of the way the world is turning? I fear some holding positions of power do. If I'm lucky, I have another twenty years in this world. I pray we can keep anarchy at bay that long. To do that, families need to stick together even to the point of risking serious illness. 

Yesterday really brought it home to me just how scary the time we're living in is. 

The Lady of The Hideaway

August 6, 2021

An unexpected and appropriate change


Yesterday afternoon, a visitor braved the drive into the woods to visit us. When he arrived, I smiled and said, "Welcome to my hideaway!" And that's when it hit me. I knew right then and there I needed to update the title of the blog. In the beginning, it seemed like Holly Tree Manor, because of all the holly trees, was a good name, I've not warmed to it the way I'd hoped. Those words, so easily spoken, resonated deeply. And so we make changes. 

The Holly Tree Manor blog has officially been renamed The Hideaway. 

Google Earth provided a good overhead photo of the manor and house. It clearly explains why the name change is so appropriate. I'm invisible on the ground level, but not from the air. 

Whenever I look at my woods, I'm reminded of the words of my favorite poet, Robert Frost: 
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

He's not alone. We all have miles to go.

The Lady of The Hideaway