Irene’s Visit

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene has maximized my time and thoughts for a while now. When potentially damaging weather events are forecast and you live on a country road in rural woods with no major services nearby – closest fresh milk is five miles and nearest gas station is eight miles away – you learn to prepare for multiple days without public utilities. We stored ample fuel to run the generator – lovingly called The Beast – and propane for the gas grill for a few days, drinking water (in case the generator broke and could not run the well pump), non-perishable foods, batteries and flashlights, and any other necessity we could think of. I froze all the peaches I had picked earlier in the week, canned pickles, relishes, and butters, and picked as many veggies and blossoms as possible.

Irene hit. Some trees, like this part of an old, split- trunk giant did not stand up well. (The blurriness of this photo is due to Irene’s wind blowing leaves and trees.)


But The Beast provided us, family, and some neighbors with refrigeration, some lights and the ability to charge cell phones, showers and drinking water for 7 1/2 days.

Now, with Irene gone it’s time to say good-by, and to appreciate our fortune.

We lost some mature woodland trees, but the monster oak slated to come down via chain saw is … whew … still towering over the bedroom end of our house. Other’s in Irene’s path were not as lucky.


Our house has no flood, rain, or wind damage. Other’s in Irene’s path were not as fortunate.

For the most part people understood that the conditions they faced were state-wide. Yes, having no electricity begins to get old after a couple of days, but I was really taken aback when family members, with workplace access to regular news, told me of Tuesday’s complaints by Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei’s that some Greenwich customers were still without electricity; that 16 utility crews working in Greenwich was not enough; that Greenwich’s “role as financial center and tax base in the state should be taken into account when CL&P resources are being allocated.” –

As of the Tuesday immediately after the storm – when Tesei’s town had just 28 percent without power – more than 90 percent of our town had no power and neighboring towns were completely dark. There was not a utility truck in sight.  Our town began to get power back on Wednesday when a few utility trucks showed up. Our power returned Sunday afternoon thanks to utility workers from Oklahoma.

I can’t help but wonder if Tesei really feels that tax money from Greenwich carries more weight, more value, than tax money from other parts of Connecticut. The last time I checked my dollar is worth just as many pennies as his, but hey, I was in a news black-out for a week so maybe things changed!

Sorry … had to get that off my chest.

My gardens did not completely escape Irene’s wrath. The hydrangea paniculata and a six foot tall buddleia that looked like this on August 15 …


were blown down by Irene’s winds. (Had they fallen the Tuesday after Irene I would have blamed the hot air blowing from Greenwich’s First Selectman!)

I’m not surprised at the loss of the hydrangea’s demise … I even picked many of its blossoms before the storm. It’s roots had been victimized by voles during last winter and it had developed an ominous lean, as you can see in a photo taken in June.


But it bravely flowered, so I intended to let it hold it’s Pisa-like stance for as long as it was able. I was more surprised at the loss of the buddleia, but perhaps it also had vole damage. Either way, both have left room for me to try something else.

Like I said, we are lucky.

My heart goes out to the people in Irene’s path who lost loved ones, homes, and businesses and are still dealing with the wrath of extreme winds and rain. I also feel for those with incinerated homes from Texas’ wildfires and all who have to rebuild after natural disasters. By comparison, a week without utilities is a breeze.

Many thanks for the kind thoughts posted by blogging buddies during my absence. I plan to re-establish the Gardening Oops (GOOPs) meme on October 1.

To my hydrangea and buddleia, thanks for the foliage, the blooms, and the pleasure of watching your visits from buzzing bees and flitting butterflies. And, finally, Good-night, Irene.

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11 comments for “Irene’s Visit

  1. September 6, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I am glad your home did not suffer damage. If that tree by the bedrooms had come down, it would have been a mess! Tropical storm Lee has left us drenched and with lots of little limbs to pick up, but we were fortunate to not lose power. We are also fortunate to not be in a flood plain. And our weather is at least temporarily much cooler. I look forward to many good gardening days in September!

    • joenesgarden
      September 7, 2011 at 7:53 am

      Thanks, Deb. We are also getting drenched from Lee’s rain and our temperatures have turned cooler. I’m looking at these events as preparation for September planting.

  2. September 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I am so glad you made it through without much damage or suffering. You were so smart to prepare ahead of time so you would have enough food and water to last during the loss of power. We lost some trees, sustained shrub and perennial damage, and were left with a lot of clean-up, but it could have been a lot worse. We did not lose power, but we had our ‘beast’ ready if we did. I also feel for those who have lost so much….so glad your safe and back.

    • joenesgarden
      September 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

      Thanks, Sage Butterfly. Once Lee’s rain passes on we can get back to clean up and begin September planting.

  3. September 7, 2011 at 9:33 am

    The comments from Greenwich — give me a break!!! That sense of self importance among the privileged is always annoying, but when it crops up during such dire times, … well. I am still steaming after reading this, and it’s over with already. My sister in Glastonbury just got her power back late evening on the 5th.

    It’s always too bad to lose plants and trees, but you came through safely thank goodness. I had little damage, one tree down far away from the house, and some floppy annuals blown over.

    • joenesgarden
      September 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

      Laurrie, I’m looking at the blown down plants as a new opportunity to amend the design and structure of that planting bed. As far as the human blow-hard goes, it’s been my experience that such individuals eventually blow them selves out.

      Glad to know you also had minimal damage and that your sister also finally has power.

  4. September 7, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    You didn’t know about that attitude of self-importance and self-entitlement? You should live nearby..heehee!

    • joenesgarden
      September 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      Debbie, I guess it took Irene to blow that attitude of self-importance to eastern CT.

  5. September 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Joene, I loved the image of you doing all that harvesting and canning in preparation for the storm; it’s a down-to-earth kind of rural practicality that I value. And I especially loved that you also took time to bring flowers in to provide beauty during the dark days. I’m glad to hear that you didn’t have any serious damage. My home in Maine also escaped without any serious damage — although there were trees down and roads closed all around my neighborhood.

    • joenesgarden
      September 10, 2011 at 9:44 am

      Jean, I learned my canning skills and much of my practicality from my Gram. Her lessons have served me well more times than I can remember. I am forever grateful for her influence on my life.
      We’re still cleaning up here, but overall the damage has been minor. Glad to hear you fared well, too.

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