Sunday, September 4, 2011

Potatoes & Peppers: Hurricane Irene taught us a lesson

On Sunday, August 28, 2011 Hurricane Irene swept through our little state of Vermont. In its path was my livelihood and home, along with countless others here in this mountainous terrain. But, we are Vermonters who are known for our Yankee ingenuity and rugged individualism so we will persevere. Sometimes though mother nature can be just a little overwhelming as she was last week.

Hurricane Irene left her calling card at the back door of my business in Cuttingsville. Before that I didn't even have a back door. I have a small thrift shop, Anna Q's Attic, that housed lots of books, clothing, household items, tools, furniture, collectibles and homeschooling materials. It was a hub for the community and a great place for local families and out-of-state visitors to pick up inexpensive items. Everything is now gone except for the building itself. In a matter of hours my sweet little shop went from this...

To this...

From the front everything looks just dandy although somewhat muddy

I now own sandy beach front property

Hurricane Irene made her own entry at the back of my shop

We spent the week salvaging and cleaning but there wasn't much to save on the inside. We now need to clean out the debris and mud then tear out the sheetrock, insulation and ceiling tiles. That's next on the agenda. I'll basically be left with a shell of a structure. I can only describe the magnitude of this flood as biblical! Some old timers tell me there hadn't been one like it since the flood of 1927.

Because I was working in another town conducting an estate sale the day of the storm,  I was unable to get to my shop to save anything. Even if I was able to get there I'm told the water rose so fast that in a matter of minutes it was 4 feet high around the shop. One of my sisters was attempting to pass by the shop in order to get to a town where another sister lives but she had to turn around just before my shop. She saw for herself the flood waters swallowing up my little building.

It isn't the thought that I've lost so many material items that saddens me the most. It's the idea that now I can't provide the homeschooling and surrounding community a place where they can find inexpensive items for their homeschool and for themselves. I can always rebuild and probably will, but meanwhile our economy has shifted so badly in the wrong direction it may take some time before I can get back on my feet. My own home had 4 inches of water in the basement the day of the hurricane and I lost a fair amount of inventory destined for my little shop. I was fortunate my sweet hubby, son and niece were home that day to discover the breech and save much of what was stored there. Apparently, either the water table rose extremely fast or the basement wall developed a crack that allowed the water to flow in. We don't live near any brook or water source, only mountain springs. I have nothing to complain about though because my mom's home was under 4 FEET of water!

My mom was evacuated from her home and brought to the shelter I was running
The day of the hurricane itself was quite an adventure. We bugged out of the estate sale at around 1:00 pm as flood waters began to swallow up bridges and roads leading to the house where we were. I haven't done such a fast bug-out since I was in the Army. We needed to turn around 4 different times just to find a way into Rutland City. Once there we gassed up the van, grabbed some grub and headed for safer ground. I dropped off my crew consisting of my nephew, his homeschooling daughter and our homeschooled friend, Victoria, at a sister's house. From there I headed to our local volunteer fire department where I am an auxiliary member. The remainder of my day was spent setting up and running an evacuee shelter in our town of Wallingford.

Things seem to be getting back to normal, whatever normal is. There is lots of work ahead of us and winter will arrive eventually. It gets cold here in September and October and the leaves are already beginning to turn. That's always a sure sign winter won't be far behind. You can see more photos of the flooding on my road and the clean up of the shop here. Our homeschooled son Zeb loves photography and took these photos.

My little shop will probably remain just a shell of its former self until spring and I can decide what to do from there. Heck, even my full propane tank for the shop heater floated away and hasn't been seen since. If Mother Nature wants something moved nothing will stand in her way. Look what happened to Evening Song Farm, the organic growers just up the road from my shop! Their entire crop field washed downstream and a river replaced their livelihood. That would explain the potatoes we found in the front yard at my shop and the perfectly formed green bell pepper sitting atop the debris dam at the bridge nearby.

The view from Anna Q's Attic and the debris dam at the bridge

A homeschooling family of 7 lived in that Victorian house yonder when I bought my shop

What nature giveth, nature taketh away

These are all just little reminders that Mother Nature is in control no matter what we do, or say, or think. She took away my material things but left me a beach in my back yard with 10 inches of some of the most gorgeous sand I've ever seen. She spared our lives but left us with much to ponder. What we choose to do with those lives now is up to us.

Persevere and do good!

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