Category Archives: country living

Preparing for an emergency

Like the rest of the nation, I watched the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Florida and up the coast this week with a mixture of sympathy, terror and awe.  What would you do?  What could you do to prepare?  The scale of this natural catastrophe is beyond comprehension.  But there are a few things you can do to help during an emergency situation.

Last year I posted a few helpful hints for emergency preparations and equipment.  I’d like to expand upon that a little.

First of all, you need a GO bag, or BOB (bug out bag).  This is usually in the form of a backpack filled with some essential tools and equipment.  You can buy variations of these emergency kits ready-made online or make your own.  These can be tailored to your location, climate and season.  Keep in mind the weight as you don’t know how long or far you may need to carry this.

I would definitely take a power bank which is already charged or can be charged from a solar-powered charger.  Both of these items come in various sizes and weights.  Add a solar-powered charger. And don’t forget your charging cords.

Then some rechargeable light source.  Either free-standing or a headlamp so your hands will be free.

A portable radio, either rechargeable or hand-cranked.

A paper map.  If the power grid goes down, your GPS won’t work.  Familiar terrain may look totally different after a major event so a map could help.

Some cash money, as all the ATMs will be down if no power, as will the credit card machines.

Some high protein food, power bars, trail mix, etc.  Water and / or containers, or even purification tablets. 

Other items that may prove helpful would be a poncho or large trash bag, some smaller resealable bags, utensils, such as a knife or pot. Disposable lighters. Essential medications, or first aid kit. Good shoes and maybe a change of clothes.  Copies of essential paperwork or at least an electronic copy on a water-proof flash drive. 

As you can tell, the list is endless.  It all depends upon the circumstances, the type of emergency you are expecting, and how long you expect to be on your own. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquake or any number of man-made disasters.  You should be able to grab your bag and get out of Dodge in about fifteen minutes.

There are some excellent websites out there, as well as some informative books.  One of my favorites is Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart.  You can learn a few emergency survival skills without becoming a total prepper. 

A little preparation and knowledge can provide you with the confidence you may need when faced with a difficult situation wherever you live.

The oldest house

Farmhouse with Red Maple

I have mentioned several times over the history of this blog how rural and sparsely populated this area is.  In fact, until just last year, we were the only county in the state that didn’t even have a stoplight…and we were proud of it.

But times change. 

This was brought home to me last week as I pulled out of our driveway and drove down our short road.  I noticed a new house being built.  Well, I knew it was being built; it’s a former neighbor who is moving back to the area.  We’re happy as they were good neighbors. 

This set me to thinking about all the new houses that have cropped up since we moved here over 35 years ago.  At that time there were only six houses on the whole two and a half mile road.  Now there are twelve.  Yeah, I know, not many but still doubled. 

This led me to reflect upon which house was the oldest house.  And…it’s OURS! 

When we bought this house at auction (that is a lot of money to spend at the drop of a hammer), it was in the position where it could have been rented out and run into the ground in about ten years, or someone could put some money into it and fix it up.  We chose to do the latter.  We had been looking for a place such as this for over a year.  We could either find a house in the country with no property, or property with no house.  Despite what the Hallmark channel would have you believe, it’s difficult to find a nice old home in the country.  Still a desirable goal but increasingly scarce.

The road out front was gravel (since paved).  We do have city water but it had only been in for about three months which is probably why there wasn’t too much competition for the home (few people knew about the city water which would have made the property more valuable.)  It’s also only a few miles from the state’s largest natural recreation area, a desirable place.  But it’s the setting that everyone always comments on as they drive up.  The house sits in the middle of the property.  We found a cornerstone that dates it to 1883 but I think it’s probably about forty years older.  Probably an original land grant, several of which we saw when we were in the market. 

The front of the house is log with layers of clapboard, insulation, and siding on the outside, and lath and plaster, new drywall inside.  The walls are about a foot thick which makes for a very quiet home.  I’ll regale you with all our adventures in remodeling a house this old some other time.

I’ve often reflected on why someone would build a house in the middle of the property rather than on the road with easier access.  The road used to kick up lots of dust but this was before automobiles.  Probably because the house site is flat with several close water sources – creeks, dug wells, springs, etc.  I have also noticed over the years that we found many pottery shards and Indian artifacts, chips, etc.  This may have been a dwelling site long before the country was settled.  The attraction of water sources, abundant wildlife, a large river a few miles away would have been the same for native Americans as they were for settlers.

This also led me to reflect on the house numbering system.  (I had a lot of time to think on the drive that morning.)  There are some places in Japan where the house numbering system is based on the age of the dwelling.  The first house on the block is number 1, the second house on the block is number 2, etc.  That is totally confusing for a person who was raised in the Midwest where roads are laid out in grids, usually of a mile.  How does anyone find a house in the Japanese system?  Do people go around and around the block until they spot the desired number? 

I am not an historian but I do enjoy learning how a community or area got settled.  It reminds me of Pete Hammill’s book Downtown: My Manhattan, Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland, and other similar stories.  Who came first?  What was it like then?  Why was this area selected? I’m sure that your local library, county museum, or historical society can direct you to information on the settling of your own locale.

Anyway, these are some random thoughts I had on a little trip to town the other day.    

A month of art

August has been scorching here this summer.  Too hot for outdoor work.  So I spent much of the month in the studio just being an artist.  This was a great respite from all the other chaos of the summer. 

However, we did have a couple of days of lovely cool  temperatures, in the low 80s. Fling open the windows!  I took advantage of the cooler weather to clean out my studio.  This meant dragging nearly everything outdoors, rewrapping and packing many of the paintings, vacuuming, debris clean out.  Just making an inviting space to work again. 

Our garden was in name only this summer.  And I only gave cursory attention to the weeds and flowerbeds.  This meant that I had plenty of time to devote to creating some art.

I began with building up some inventory, especially of sunflowers, some of my favorites.  Although I usually grow several different varieties from the mammoth giants to the multi-stemmed, to all the colors that are available, this year I only had a few to work with.  I planted them but they just didn’t want to make an appearance.  So I used some of the many photographs that I’ve taken over the years. 

I did several sheets of minis.  I can get four 4 x 6 on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper.  Although I often repeat a theme, they never turn out the same.  I buy mats and backs in bulk so it’s pretty easy to prepare them for display or shipping. 

Four mini sunflower paintings on quarter sheet of watercolor paper. Although the top two are the same subject, they’re not exactly alike.

Then I did a few larger ones. After that, I created duplicates of two local scenes.  These are not standard sizes so I have to cut the mats to size for framing.  More time and money involved.

Two paintings of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center on quarter sheet of watercolor paper

Finally, the last half of the month, I was really missing our usual vacation.  This was probably prompted by selling some previous western scenes so I dove into that subject.  These paintings were larger and more complex, the smallest being 9 x 12 and up to 12 x 16.  I have some pretty extensive photo files from some of our western vacations so plenty of subject matter to choose from.  The most difficult part with these paintings is canvas prep.  And trying to come up with new titles.  Grand Canyon Vista #1, Grand Canyon Vista #2, etc.  But it’s so satisfying to just put on some music or recorded books and zone out.  Due to the many years of plein air painting, I can generally produce a painting a day, maybe two.  But I did discover that I had duplicated two scenes from previous years.  They came out similar but not exactly the same.

Overall production for the month of August was twenty-five.  Not all are shown in the multi-image above as several were duplicates.  And I didn’t work every day.  It’s very rewarding to spend time alone with my thoughts and just create.  To build inventory for online shops, the holidays, or local and regional shops. 

Most of these paintings will be up on my Etsy shops soon. https://www.etsy.com/shop/KitMiracleArt?ref=l2-shop-info-name or https://www.etsy.com/shop/My90Acres

The rest of the story

The consensus is that Brutus isn’t as bad as we thought. Probably a small fuel leak which was set off by a spark from the manifold. Some repairs needed but should be in working order soon.

Our friendly neighborhood mechanic stopped by to check on Brutus. He thinks it isn’t that bad and he can be repaired. Some scorching to the hood, the air cleaner is toast, and he won’t know until he tears the innards out. But overall, he can probably be repaired. That’s good as we sure need a farm truck around here for hauling firewood, straw for the garden, even the trash to the dump.

And the fire extinguishers have all been replaced including a much larger one for the house. A small but necessary investment.

As you can see, the hood is scorched.

Be prepared

Brutus, the old farm truck. A family member for over three decades.

I have been working all week on a couple of ideas for my Sunday blog post.  Although I don’t usually write it until the end of the week, I give some thought as to subject matter, finding or taking photos, etc.  This week’s post was going to be about books. 

However, life had other plans.

I was in my studio early this morning, packing a painting to ship today.  My husband and son were outside installing a new battery into old Brutus.  (See former posting here.)  It was a sunny and blessedly cool morning so I had the door to my studio open while I was working. 

Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye.  I glanced outside and saw a fire beneath old Brutus.  AAAAaaaggggghhhhh!  (And my car was parked right next to the truck.)

I shouted to my son who came running, handed him the fire extinguisher that I keep handy in the studio, and he ran off with it.  Well, two more extinguishers later, the fire was out. The outdoor faucets and hydrants are too far from where the truck was parked to have been any help.

We’re not sure yet what started the fire – maybe an electrical short, maybe a fuel leak, or even a mouse nest in the air cleaner.  We’ll have a mechanic friend stop by next week to give us an assessment. Fortunately we were prepared or it might have been a very different story. 

Although we live in a remote area which is our reasoning for having some home fire protection, I would urge everyone to have a few fire extinguishers on hand.  You just never know what kind of emergency you might encounter. 

I’m not qualified to advise what types of extinguishers to get but there are several varieties for the many kinds of possible fires – paper, wood, chemical, oil, grease, etc.   Check online or with your local dealer or hardware store to see what they advise. 

You don’t know when you will need one.  Or wish you had been prepared. 

The rest of the story

Here are some photos of poor Brutus after the fire incident. As I said, we don’t know what type of fire it was. This is the damage.

To outward appearances, Brutus still looks pretty good….for a 37 y/o truck.
On closer look, the hood is scorched. That white powder is from one of the fire extinguishers.
Ah, here’s the damage. What was burned and melted? We’ll find out this week.
One of the small fire extinguishers. This one is a C rating, meaning it will handle three kinds of fire/flames.

Some idle Tuesday

Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying
Is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life
Are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

                Baz Luhrmann,  Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)

I thought about titling this post Life Happens but the lyrics from Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) kept rolling through my mind.  Although normally I’m pretty regular at posting, the past two months I’ve only been able to post a couple of times.  Life happened.

One day I spent plein air painting with a friend.  The next day saw my husband being transported by ambulance to a big city hospital some distance away.  The next four weeks were a blur.  Surgery.  ICU.  Tubes and drips and ventilators.  Me making daily round trips of 150 miles.  I memorized the mile markers, counting down the miles each way.  Testing the speed limits.  Crossing time zones and arriving at the same time I left, or two hours behind on the return trip.

I think I lived on trail mix on those drives.  Listened to some recorded books.  Mostly thought about…whatever.

This spring was beautiful and all the flowering trees and plants were trying to cheer me.  But it is also one of the busiest times here on the farm.  The garden, which fortunately had been plowed and tilled, only got planted with the aid of my granddaughter.  My son came by to mow the grass – it’s a huge yard.  But everything else had to wait.  Trimming, weeding, recordkeeping, cleaning, etc.  There are just so many hours in the day.

I did manage to finish a couple of commissions which helped keep the crazy thoughts at bay.  But no real creative work of my own.  It’s all about priorities.

My husband has been home for about a month.  He’s recovering nicely but still has a way to go.  No marathons in his future.  And he probably won’t be cutting firewood this year which is just fine with me.  It’s messy and dusty.

I don’t think there is really any way you can plan for an unexpected life-altering event. I think about this every time I see some sort of tragedy on the news; people who left their homes in the morning and then…some idle Tuesday arrived.  Friends have been so kind and understanding.  In the Midwest, people bring food.  The neighbor will take your trash to the dump.  Small thoughtful gestures.

We’re both doing much better now and some semblance of normalcy is creeping back into our lives.  I’ve been painting more.  Although I have written off the garden this year (now we’re experiencing a drought) but I did get my first little tomato yesterday.  Small blessings.

Hug those you love and be kind to those who are going through difficult times.  Someday you may need some strength and comfort, too.  Probably. 

Painting local

The Little Cottage, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14, KitMiracle I was driving down a side street of nearby Birdseye, Indiana, when this scene captured my attention. One of the smallest houses in town with the largest tree in town. The front path and gate are framed by beautiful lavender and blue irises. Painted in heavy impasto, a very impressionist-style painting.

One of my favorite parts about traveling is seeing new vistas.  Visiting the mountains, the parks, the ocean, historical sites.  It’s all good.  I always take my art equipment and capture the areas on canvas.  Parking my easel on the edge of the Grand Canyon and painting for a couple of hours is my bliss. 

But one of the best parts about traveling is returning home and seeing your own world through new eyes.  Noticing that which you may pass every day but in a new way.  You can look at your own home town as a tourist.

At the Crossroads, Schnellville, Indiana. Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14. KitMiracle It was a spring morning and the sun was playing in and out of the clouds. This little road has many twists and curves, the beautiful hills catching the sunlight. This little crossroads only has about six houses and reminds me of many villages in Germany or France.
Seven Cedars in Spring, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12, KitMiracle. Along the same Schnellville Road, these cedar trees were silhouetted against the spring sky.

Spring here in Southern Indiana was so beautiful this year.  Often we’ll receive a late frost or freeze which pretty much ruins everything, but this year was spectacular.  The wild flowers in the forests and fields put on a show to remember.  I captured the spring greens of the fields and byways for several weeks, and even had my husband drive while I was shouting, stop here! to take photographs.

The Old Lady’s House, acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14, KitMiracle. I used to drive past this house frequently on my way to work. A very old lady lived there who always mowed her lawn by hand, and she always wore a kerchief. I think her grandson lives there now. Located in central Dubois County, this is a very typical spring view in these parts.

The results have been paintings of spring fields and crossroads, little villages, gentle vistas of all types.  Not my usual big, bold colors but a much more gentle palette.  Often painted in the style of Pissarro or Monet but not actually deliberately.  I just want to bring to the viewer’s attention and appreciation the overlooked landscapes of our everyday world.

Take a look around your own world, your home town, the back allies.  I’m sure you can find some wonderful vistas, too, which you may have overlooked a hundred times.  They’re out there, I promise.

View more about these paintings online at this link.

Spring in bloom

Several varieties of daffodils bloom throughout the spring. So easy to grow.

I wasn’t sure if spring would ever arrive this year.  We’ve had weather ranging from sleet and snow and ice, to upper 70s and 80s two days later.  Very unpredictable.

But I love the spring greens this time of year.  It only lasts a few weeks before the heavy greens roll in, but that bright yellow-green just perks me up. Didn’t we used to have a crayon called “spring green?”

The bluebell blossoms start out as pink, then turn sky blue when they open. They pair well with naturalized narcissus.
From one small patch, these blue bells have naturalized all over the yard. I have given starts away and even planted some along a wooded path last year. When they’re finished blooming, they totally die back and won’t be seen until next spring.

I have been driving around just gathering photos for future reference.  One day, I even had my husband drive the little country roads while I took pictures. Have to capture the scenery while it’s here.

However, the beauty just in my own yard has been refreshing also.  A cacophony of whites and yellows, blues and purples.  The really exciting thing about the spring flowers is that they’re so fugitive.  They don’t last for long and I know that I won’t see them for another year. And in most cases, they are pretty much maintenance-free.

Now the real work begins.  Planting the garden, preparing flower beds, trimming the lane, picking up winter debris.  It’s always something here on the farm.  But I love it.

The lilacs have been particularly spectacular this season. The scent is almost overwhelming but welcome for their few weeks of blooming.
Here are more naturalized flowers by the old well.
Wisteria on the arbor. This is the first year that our wisteria has bloomed. Such a beautiful flower but a little invasive. I have to trim it back from nearby trees and bushes.

Spring is coming

Male wood duck. (Photo courtesy The Spruce.)

This past Friday we were assaulted by Mother Nature with freezing rain, hail, sleet.  Just wave after wave, all day long.

But SPRING will arrive eventually.  Forsythias are in full bloom, the daffodils are nearly past, the crocuses that I planted last fall finally came up although I think the chipmunks and squirrels got most of them.  The yard is a carpet of spring beauties and the redbud is ready to pop.  The bluebells are out.  Blue and yellow. 

Even my largest crabapple is late.  This time a few years ago, it was in full bloom.  A week of warm weather will surely see it out.

Although we lament the weather as Mother Nature doesn’t always follow our wishes, we know spring will eventually get here.  The swift who makes a nest on the porch of my studio is already nesting.  The mourning doves are pairing up.  And I’d better get the rest of the birdhouses up real soon.  Like today, maybe.

As I drove down the driveway late Friday afternoon, I stopped at the creek (which our drive crosses), just to see what I could see.  And I saw this beautiful wood duck paddling around.  This is the first one that I’ve seen in over thirty-five years!  The plummage was beyond words.  So colorful and distinctive.  I hope that the wood duck family starts a family nearby but the creek with its after-storm gully washers is not the best place for a nest.  Maybe up the hill a bit.

Anyway, all this is a reminder that even if you live in the same place and don’t go anywhere, surprises can find you.  Keep your eyes open.

Spring is coming.

Brown eggs

Five Eggs, original painting on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

If you happen to get to the post office or a farm supply store this time of year, you will hear the peeping  sound of baby chicks.  They are SO cute!  And it takes all kinds of willpower to NOT buy a bunch of each. 

There are many varieties, but I particularly like the speckled ones and the ones with feathered feet.  They look so fancy.  We’ve had many kinds over the years.  I also loved the bantams, the females, not the males which tend to be aggressive for their size.  One year, one of my favorite dun-colored females disappeared.  I was certain that she was the victim of a raccoon or hawk.  But after about three weeks, she reappeared with about eighteen little bantam peeps following her. They were so tiny and cute.  I don’t know where she hid but apparently it was a good hiding place.

This antique sponge bowl holds five fresh brown eggs.  Do they taste different?  That’s hard to tell but they sure are deep yellow when cracked open. Probably from all the extras that the hens get in their diet than those that are confined to chicken factory farms. 

We’ve also had blue and green eggs, too.  It is rumored that they are lower in cholesterol but I don’t know if that is true.  They’re just so beautiful to look at.

The sponge bowl, by the way, gets its name from the decoration.  The glaze was applied with a sea sponge.  I have only seen these in blue. These stoneware bowls are very heavy for their size. I bought this at auction many many years ago and still use it for fruit and whatnot.