The Crews that Pick up the Pieces

It was a wild night last night. Strong nor’westerlies rattled the windows and tossed things about in the yard for most of the night. Sometime around four in the morning the wind abruptly shifted to the south, bringing squally rain.

Around 5.30, I let the cat out. I had just laid down again, hoping for fifteen more minutes of rest before starting my day, when I heard a car approaching. I heard it skid, and then there was a loud crack.

It wasn’t the first time someone had failed to make the turn at our house. My husband and I grabbed headlamps and ventured out into the rainy darkness.

A white ute (pickup truck) nosed into our fence, a power pole lying across the bonnet (hood).

The driver, seemingly unhurt, was already out of the car, cursing the start of his work week.

A call to emergency services brought the local fire brigade—three trucks and a dozen volunteers, who stood in the rain, managing what little traffic our road gets, and checking the driver. They could do little with live wires sprawling across the road.

As the sky slowly lightened, the ambulance and police arrived. The lines company arrived to turn off the power.

I spoke to the policeman. He had not slept last night—this was his third auto accident since midnight. Likewise, the linesmen had been up all night fixing wind damage.

Eventually, a tow truck came. A larger crew from the power company arrived bearing a new pole and a digger. They worked through the morning’s squally rain—it’s not a small job to install a new pole in our rocky soil.

I’m thankful to all these people, many of whom were volunteers who went off to work after their early-morning foray in the rain. They are the crews who go out at any hour, in all weather, to pick up the pieces when something goes wrong.

As I write this, the power is still out. It is raining, but the linesmen are up the new pole, reconnecting the cables. I may be able to post this by early afternoon, if I’m lucky. I hope they all get to go home after this and have a nice long nap.

Ushering in Autumn


Thursday’s dawn farewell of Gita.

Gita blew through earlier this week, dumping 96 mm (nearly 4 inches) of rain on us. She also seems to have ushered in autumn. Sultry summer heat has given way to crisp air in Gita’s wake. The sun is still hot, but the nights have been chilly. The crickets sing their welcome to a new season. Even the garden has taken on an early autumn look, tired plants beginning to look tattered and yellow. Before Gita, I had ordered my firewood for the winter. It seemed too early at the time, but now, I’ll be happy to see it arrive.

Summer fruits and vegetables should still roll out of the garden for the next six to eight weeks, but the end is in sight. We’ll enjoy it while it lasts.


The Square Trees and other natural wonders…sort of

The rock at Hanging Rock Bridge.

Years ago, when my husband and I were Peace Corps volunteers in the Republic of Panama, we visited the famous Arboles Quadratos (the Square Trees) in El Valle de Anton. The Arboles Quadratos were, according to the guidebooks, amazing freaks of nature—trees with perfectly square trunks. These remarkable plants grew in a special grove in the rainforest behind the hotel in El Valle, and were one of the town’s main tourist attractions.

So we went to see them.

They were buttressed trees, like many rainforest trees are. And the buttresses made them…sort of squarish, if you had a little imagination. I think there were, maybe, four of them in a cluster along the trail. Their beauty was completely overshadowed in my mind by the rest of the forest around them.

My daughter and I recently had a similar experience. On a road trip, we kept passing signs for Hanging Rock Bridge. It seemed all roads led to Hanging Rock Bridge. We figured it must be something pretty spectacular, if so many signs pointed the way to it.

So we went to see it.

And, yeah, there was an overhanging rock near the bridge. It was kind of cool. But the landscape around the bridge, with stunning limestone outcrops in every paddock, was far more spectacular than the bridge’s rock. If you’d gone out of your way to see the rock at Hanging Rock Bridge, you’d be disappointed.

Plenty of other ‘natural wonders’ fall short of the hype surrounding them. Others, unknown by anyone but locals, are truly stunning.

Like the Iglesia de Piedra, the Rock Church, near our village in Panama. This narrow chasm was carved by a small stream, and it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been—maybe 30 metres deep, and so narrow you can touch both walls. Vegetation covers the opening high above, and makes everything look green below. The stream is shallow, and frogs hop away from every step. At the back of the chasm is a waterfall plunging all the way from the surface.

No tourists make pilgrimages to the Iglesia de Piedra. Few outside the surrounding area have ever heard of it. But it knocks the socks off many a popular tourist destination.

The world is full of these hidden gems, and one of the most wonderful things about living in different places is finding the local wonders. The beautiful places tourists never hear about.

I’ll still go to see the Square Trees and the Hanging Rock Bridges of the world, but much of the wonder of the world is reserved for those who live with it every day.

Preparing for Gita

Just some of the weekend’s harvest.

I have been AWOL from the blog for longer than usual. I have good reasons, one of which is whirling toward New Zealand as I type. Cyclone Gita is bearing down on us, and though we aren’t likely to bear the full brunt of her damage at our place, we will get heavy rain and gale-force winds.

So I’ve spent the last two days bringing in the crops that might be damaged by her—wheelbarrow loads of corn, soy, black beans, borlotto beans, tomatoes, and apples. This summer’s intense heat and sufficient rainfall have not only encouraged excess cucurbits, but also increased my bean harvest—picking took far longer than I expected, and I will spend the next week shelling them all.

But when the rain starts later tonight, I’ll be able to relax, knowing I’ve done as much as I can to protect the crops. And the rush to bring them in means the job isn’t still hanging over me, lingering on the to-do list.

So I may not have posted the blogs I’d hoped to, but I’m ready for whatever Gita throws at us.

Little Beach Poems

Spent some time at ‘our’ beach today, watching waves, birds, dolphins. Here are a few little poems I wrote there:

Terns wheel and bob
Above each dolphin
Like balloons on a string.


Wave rises, crests
Wind blows foam back

Like errant strands of hair.


The hiss-swoosh of wave
And rolling pebbles
Rounds all edges.


Shag arcs and dips its head.
The body follows
And is gone.

Summer Soup 2018

I feel like a broken record sometimes (those of you under the age of 45, ask your parents what I mean by that). The garden season repeats itself each year in a pretty predictable fashion, and I find myself blogging about the same events every year.

Saturday was Summer Soup day, which I’ve blogged about more than once before (in 2015 and again in 2016). This year’s production was 25 quarts of soup and 6 quarts of vegetable stock, bottled and ready for quick meals throughout the year. Production time, just over 14 hours.

It always feels good to fill every pot in the kitchen with delicious vegetable soup…at least for the first hour or so. But by the end of the day, I’m sick of being in the kitchen and ready to collapse. I need to remember the feeling later in the year when I’m feeling guilty about just pulling a jar of soup out of the cupboard for dinner. I’ve put in the time. We all have, because even the kids help pick and chop vegetables for summer soup. We’ve earned every ‘free’ meal we get from it.