Wednesday, January 22, 2014


If you've ever wondered what a modest Ohio river looks like at sub-zero temperatures…wonder no more! Here's the Cottage Riffle, which is located about thirty feet from where I now sit typing, at 8:30 or so this morning, when the rising was just varnishing the sycamores, and it was minus one degree Fahrenheit outside—but, thank God, a toasty sixty-eight here in the great room.

I used to go fishing for steelhead trout in weather this cold and colder—wading favorite Michigan rivers until my blood congealed and I had to come back to the truck or a bankside campfire for a brief interlude of thawing out. Either I'm turning into a wuss in my dotage, or I've gotten smarter, but nowadays in such weather I'm content to let the old blue heron do the wade-fishing while I watch in heated comfort from indoors.

Of course, seeing as how there are no steelhead to be angled for in these Buckeye streams, that's a pretty easy temptation to resist. 

Now if there were… 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


After the latest bout of high water receded, I looked out and saw an unfamiliar object rearing up in the slow current twenty feet beyond the deck. Whaaaaaat?

Either the legendary Loch Ness monster had fled Scotland and taken up residence in Ohio…or an old German sub had chugged up from the Gulf via the Mississippi, Ohio, and Great Miami rivers, turned left into my home stream, and was now contemplating firing off a torpedo at one of my sycamores.

Ughhh…I took a calming sip or two of strong coffee, and supposed it could also be a waterlogged snag with a protruding limb, which had washed downstream and lodged temporarily in the Cottage Pool. However, given the month I've had, nothing would surprise me—and I'm not about to immediately discount even the most bizarre possibilities.

Which is not to say we're having too bad a time of things nearly a month after our pre-Christmas flooding. 

Throughout the house, our floor coverings—carpet and hardwood—had to be ripped up and removed, and are now sodden, snowy heaps in the yard, so we're walking on cold, rough concrete. There's still stuff to be unloaded from my friend's big box truck parked at our back door. Still plenty of piles and boxes and tubs waiting in various rooms, to be sorted through as soon as we can. 

Yet all but a couple of the rooms—my writing room and the laundry room being the exceptions—have been put back to usable if not exactly normal conditions. The only pieces of furniture we lost were a chest-of-drawers, mirrored dresser, and a nightstand—all veneered mahogany from the late-1940s, their value more sentimental than monetary. A few smaller items succumbed, too, but not many and nothing that can't be replaced.

We've had a handful of subsequent disasters, all minor and most fixable. But our work is definitely cut out for the months ahead…including a total redo on the kitchen and bathroom and bedroom, new flooring throughout, and probably new walls in most rooms—whether it's drywall and paint, barn siding, or something else. 

The reimbursement from our flood insurance will only be about half what the FIMA inspector told us during his inspection. Disappointing—but better than nothing, anyway. This means a much tighter budget, perhaps different materials, and certainly the maximum DYI we can manage. A lot tougher than we'd hoped and been led to believe, but still doable. I think. 

We're optimistic and resigned to the long haul. Moreover, I don't intend to turn this blog into a months-long series of pity-party posts whining, grumbling, fulminating, grousing, and complaining about the hardships we poor old victims of a minor natural disaster are now having to endure as we "recover our lives."

Our lives are just fine, thank you…or at least as fine as they were pre-flood. We're inconvenienced but encouraged, even excited by what we can do, still have, and may end up with—not moaning and bellyaching about our loss. We're warm, well-fed, and pretty comfortable. Blessed, literally and absolutely. Thousands of folks all across this country live far worse, in far worse conditions—with no hope of betterment down the road. 

Years ago, I spent a couple of weeks as the guest of a Cherokee family living in the Snowbird Mountains of North Carolina. Mother, father, five sons and three daughters. In a two-room, cinder-block house which probably didn't measure 800 square feet total. Water for cooking came from a spring fifty yards up the hill. The outhouse was a hundred yards in the opposite direction—remember, keep an eye out for bears in the laurels, and don't forget to check for copperheads and timber rattlers around the building's bottom edge under the single wooden step. Parents and girls slept in one room, guys and their guest in the other. Mom and Dad had the only bed; everyone else a mattress on the floor.

I learned so much during those two weeks—about the flora and fauna of the lovely Southern Highlands, about herbs and healing plants, folklore and history, and how to fish for mountain brook trout. I got taken in and introduced to a world quite beyond my own upbringing. A magical and wonderful time, simply because they were an generous, marvelous, full-of-joy family. I've never met a happier bunch. They obviously loved and respected one another—but they also enjoyed one another, and took great delight in sharing each other's company.

Were they dirt poor? In need of some Federal Aid program? Only by some standards. In other ways they were as wealthy as anyone I've ever met. And they certainly taught me that you live from the inside-out, not the outside-in. 

So while I'll try and keep you updated in my posts with our recovery/redo process, please understand that we're just having an adventure, with all the little quirks, setbacks, and unexpected pleasures therein.    


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


We're back in the cottage. For better or worse. We returned Sunday. The place is a mess, stuff strewn everywhere—bags, boxes, plastic tubs, teetering piles. Like a bomb detonated in every room. We're trying to put some of it in the best order possible given the situation, and the rest we'll get around to one of these days.

The carpet, pad, wood floors, and baseboards have been pulled up and piled in the yard. We're walking on rather rough concrete. But it's dry, swept as best we can, and with the little woodstove going and pumping out heat, sufficiently warm. The necessary bathroom facilities all work. The kitchen is usable. Truth is, we've camped under rather worse conditions.

Of course we returned on the day when that arctic low that's been making such headlines moved through. The day started off in the mid-30s˚F; above freezing. About noon it began to rain, and the rain soon intensified to where it was coming down pretty heavy. Temperatures began dropping. In mid-afternoon the rain turned to sleet—wet, sloppy, nasty, soak-you-in-a-minute sleet. The cold grew. The sleet continued unto well past dark, then sometime between 8–9 p.m. turned to snow, which eventually accumulated to maybe 2 inches. That on top of the wee'k earlier snow, plus the sleet and ice from the previous hours. 

Sunday night the temperature plummeted to a record low for the date of -14˚F (-24˚C) with a windchill somewhere in the -45˚F. Brrrrrr. Trips to the woodpile were quick and interesting. Myladylove and Moon-the-Dog spent the night in the bedroom, which we've also put into usable shape, and which has electric baseboard heat. I was afraid I'd be too comfortable and sleep too well. Instead, I slept (sorta) on the recliner in the great room so's to be handy for tending the fire—which I did every couple of hours. I did the same thing last night when temperatures bottomed out at -10˚F, and I'll probably do so again tonight, though the low is only suppose to be a balmy 6˚F.

Today, as yesterday, will probably be spent cleaning up and/or organizing whatever I can and keeping the woodstove fed and glowing. The cold water taps in the shower and kitchen were frozen this morning, though the bathroom sink tap worked. I set up a heater and blew warm air into the plumbing access opening and managed to get both those going—but the bathtub refuses to drain. Don't quite understand why—ice in the outlet line?—and nothing I've tried so has helped.     

Come leave for work time, Myladylove's Honda wouldn't start. I managed to get my truck up the driveway hill and she drove it to her branch office. The downside is I won't be making my planned grocery run.

The image above is of the river upstream this morning. In spite of our prolonged days and nights of seriously low temps, the slightly high water, and a fairly fast current caused by Sunday's rain and sleet has prevented a freeze over—though there're lots of ice chunks and slush being carried along. Incidentally, that blue is not the river's true water color but a reflection of the early-morning sky and shadows; the water is really an opaque dirty tan.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


In case you wondered why I suddenly went silent on December 22—no further Advent posts, no Merry Christmas or happy New Year wishes—the above image is the reason. The inevitable happened…we got a bit of water in the cottage, as anyone who chooses to live so close to a river must expect.

Not a lot, mind you. Only an inch in the worst place and none in this front room which you see pictured. But still, enough that all the carpet, pads, and hardwood floors had to come out. The sorta good news is that we'll get to redo things to our liking—stuff we've intended changing since we moved in here seven years ago. The sorta bad news is that it will take months to get it done.

What got us was not the amount of water coming down the river in the photo, but the fact the larger river this stream flows into, about eight miles below where we're located, was at a 55 year high—spread out onto its floodplain, moving slower. Thus "our" river discharged more slowly into that one, allowing for a higher-than-normal rise here. When measured at the gauge a mile upstream, we frequently have higher readings. We didn't think we'd have any problems from this particular rise.

Wrong. Though it took a while to figure this out. One thing about this sort of flooding, it happens slowly. Very slowly. Like a quarter inch per hour. You pick a spot to watch outside—a rock or tree—and check it every so often as the water sneaks up.   

Sunday afternoon the Internet went out. I thought it was due to water, but it turns out a tree feel up the road and took out a feed line. Sunday evening I called Dale, a longtime friend who owns a big box truck with a power lift. Dale came over straightaway. We loaded my piano and a few pieces of furniture, mostly handmade keepsakes, plus a trunkful of family photos. The irreplaceable stuff. Monday, Myladylove and I along with our truly wonderful neighbors, Mike and Melanie, put a couple thousands books on board. Nothing you can ever acquire in life will beat such friends and neighbors—folks who come running to help no matter the hour or the need.  

Monday evening, Myladylove and I packed up a few clothes, Moon-the-Dog's bed, and bailed…having accepted Dale's offer to stay with him for as long as needed. Dale lives a half-hour away, across town, in a 3800 square-foot home he shares with a pair of huge, shaggy Bouvier des Flandres mutts. The Bouviers initially intimidated Moon. But they soon proved lovably friendly, and quickly accepted her as a welcome refugee. And Moon is delighted by their doggy door which allows "at will" access to the sprawling, fenced-in back yard.

We've been running back and forth ever since—pulling up carpets and flooring materials, setting fans to dry things out, etc. Myladylove has had to go to work, of course, other than a half-day before Christmas and New Year and the two actual holiday days. I finally got my Mac up and running here at Dale's place. Christmas was a bust—though memorable by its absence. New Year's too, though I did sauté a nice dish of shrimp which we all enjoyed. 

The house is still a mess—but more from our piling stuff around than the water. Other than the floors, there's not too much damage. We'll have to replace lower cabinets in the kitchen (we planned on doing this anyway) and install a new water heater (also something we'd planned) but that's about it so far as I can tell. We have flood insurance, though I don't know yet how much they'll cover. But all in all, other than the mess and work ahead, quite possibly this will prove a blessing in disguise since we'll get to do many things we'd already planned. 

With luck, we'll be back in the cottage this weekend. Living on concrete floors and at a level of functioning only slightly above camping, but home. Dale will have to go back to cooking his own suppers, and Moon will have to give up the freedom of a doggy door. I'll post and answer comments as I can. 

Bottom line: we're fine. Life is good. And when all is said and done, these past few days have likely proven more blessing than disaster. It has sure been an adventure.

(P.S. I will post and answer any unanswered comments…just not right now.)