Stormy Day


First it rained–a winter rain, cold. Then it got warm, and kept raining. By yesterday afternoon the temperature rose to 61 degrees. And that rain. The snow disappeared. By the time I got home from work the snow was gone. The fields were flooded. My headlights reflected on the flooded fields.

In the night, sleet ticked against the windows. The wind grew and the sleet pecked the windows. By morning, snow was falling, the wind tossing it around. Snow eddied in front of the garage and on the porch. Drifts stacked in front of the row of pines. With temperatures in the teens, the wind chill was below zero.  We went for a walk anyway.

My wife and I bundled up–down jackets, snow pants, mittens. We trudged through the snow, literally. The drifted snow, mixed with sleet, was heavy on the road. The plow had not yet come by. Ever walk in wet sand on a beach? It felt like that, except without the bare feet and warmth. Nevertheless, we persisted.

After a while thick flakes started to fall. We watched them drop into the river. Fields all around were flooded. The river ran high. Really high. Yesterday it had come up over the road. Yellow ice crunched under the snow. Circles of snow-covered ice clung to the base of trees, a few inches up. Farther up the road, our boots found slush.


The walk back was colder. We walked into the wind. Back at home I drank coffee, ate the blueberry muffins I had made earlier. I read. I stayed inside. The two of us walked the driveway later to get the mail. Snow still blew sideways. The temperature dropped to single digits.

I had planned to do the Winter Bald Eagle Survey again today, but driving was just not a good idea. I will rise early and do that tomorrow. Hopefully I can access points along the Winooski River, where my portion of the survey takes place. It was be a cold morning. I’ll need to bring coffee. And at least one of those muffins.


Some Positive Economic News, At Least for Me

I used to listen to National Public Radio a whole lot more.  When we moved to this house we did not put a radio in the kitchen, and that is a place I like to listen.  When I am whipping up some tasty meal, I can hear what they have to say.  This morning I was whipping up four-berry muffins and I wanted to listen.  But no radio.

Actually, that is not true.  We have a radio in the kitchen.  It is a wind-up generator radio.  Wind the crank and it charges the battery.  It works great, but the battery does not last long.  I need to keep winding it.  And winding it.  I want to use this radio.  I like the idea of listening to an electronic device without using electricity from the grid.  But, I admit, I rarely do.  I don’t want to keep winding.

There is another option, however.  This radio has the option to charge the battery with electricity from the grid.  Plug it in and charge and off we go.  I could keep it plugged in and listen as long as we have power.  This morning I decided that I was ready to choose that option.  The problem, however, was that I haven’t ever used the power cord.  And I had no idea where it might be found.

This took me to the basement.  Our basement is still full of boxes and baskets and bins from when we moved to this house two and a half years ago.  We slowly empty them and slowly bring new ones down.  The result is clutter stasis.  So when I go to look for a power cord, and I know I just saw the box full of them down in the basement recently, I get stymied.  I can’t find doodly-squat down there unless I get lucky.

I searched and searched to no avail.  I did bring up a mason jar to use for the bulk popcorn I just purchased at Healthy Living, so the voyage to the underworld was at least worthwhile for that, but I never did plug in the radio.  And, to bring this around to the point, I saw an envelope on the floor.  The envelope contained two $50 savings bonds.  Why it was on the floor was a mystery, but I figured that was not the ideal storage location for paper that had any value, due to the occurrence of mildew on such floors.  And so, in my wisdom and readiness to take action, I picked it up.

Now I was fully distracted from finding the power cord.  I had a jar to wash and some savings bonds to check out.  With the savings bonds in the envelope was a letter from the Hartford Courant.  It noted how my service as a newspaper carrier was superb, blah blah blah, and here was a token of appreciation.  I only received one savings bond with that letter, as I recall.  The other came later.  I decided I should find out how much they might be worth these days.

I turned, as is the norm in our house, to the internet for answers.  Ten years ago I might have just wondered about it and found a better spot for the envelope, but now I’ve got Google.  Google led me to the government web site with information on savings bonds, including a calculator to tell me the value of my investments.  As I have mentioned, two of my traits are wisdom and readiness to act, so I used the calculator.  I found out the bonds’ values and also learned a few things.

One of the bonds, issued in 1981 (have I actually held onto the thing for that long?) is worth $131.  The other, issued in 1986 (same question) is worth about $85.  That seemed a big difference for issue dates only five years apart, so I read more.  It turns out savngs bonds earn interest based on when they were issued, and the interest rates can vary quite a bit.  I couldn’t find interest rates for the earlier one but I did learn that the one issued later has a minimum rate of return of 7.5%.

That made me look twice.  Did it really say 7.5%?  Who gets a guaranteed rate of return of 7.5% these days?  You’d be lucky if you could earn 4% on a CD these days.  The rate chart only went back to 1982 but the rate on the bond from 1981 must be higher.  Get this–the highest rate I saw on the chart was from 1982 at 13.05%.  And this is supposed to be a safe investment.  Safe indeed.

So the good economic news is that I have $216 worth of savings bonds, and I have two years before the first one stops earning interest.  Considering these were purchased for half face value, that is a fine rate of return, especially since I didn’t purchase them myself.  Now, we’re not talking a huge amount here, but by 2016 I can cash them both and do something with those earnings.  Of course I will probably just reinvest them.

So it is good to know that I’ve got something, a little buffer, sitting in that envelope.  I keep reading bad economic news.  Here, at least, is some good news, if only for me.  Now I need to go get that fireproof safe I have been considering for years.  Then I can really stop worrying.  At least about a few things.  Then maybe I get on top of all the crap in the basement and, finally, I’ll be able to listen to radio while I make muffins.

Pumpkins on the Railing and on the Table

We have a dozen pumpkins on the railing of the deck.  These are the fruits, so to speak, of our gardening labor.  I have baked up a few of them so far, to use in muffins and soup.  I made two batches of muffins this past weekend.  One was great, the other flopped.

The flopped batch came from missing one ingredient.  It took me quite a while to realize what it was.  Then I remembered that I forgot the baking powder.  It is great to remember that I have forgotten something.  It is far better than to forget that I have remembered something.  The second batch was the progeny of the flop of the first batch.  I was excited to make these pumpkin apple muffins and then I ended up with these somewhat tasty but way too dense things.  The next batch was a winner.

I also made soup this weekend.  It was part of a simple meal:  fresh bread, fresh soup and apple pie.  The pie was a group effort (my mother and niece worked on that) so the meal was truly a family dinner.  The bread was pretty much dee-lish, if I may say that about my own honey oat perfectly risen perfectly baked warm buttery yeast creation.  And the soup was dang good as well.

My wife and I went out to dinner a few nights ago and had some squash soup that was really amazing.  It just folded into your tongue and wrapped around your taste buds in a teasing caress.  It was hard to get enough of that.  I though I might take some cues from that soup and, while I had no illusions that I would replicate it, try my own version.

My version was a pumpkin (duh!) soup, with cream and honey and cinnamon and sage.  It was creamy and smooth and sweet.  I made a lot but it was consumed, even by two young children and a teenager.  That was accolade enough for me.

There are still many pumpkins left.  I will bake and freeze a few and I will make more bread and more soup.  And maybe another batch of muffins.  We still have a bucketload of apples left as well.  Our oven won’t be idle for a while.