Suburban Homesteading in Southwestern PA

By Stacy Artis

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September 19

    Hurricane Isabel has arrived, not that you'd notice.  After all the hype and panic of yesterday, today's barely rainy day is almost a let down.  Some of the schools around here canceled today's classes as early as noon yesterday in anticipation.  I'm not really sure why.  All we were expecting here in SW Pennsylvania is some heavy rain (no more heavy than what we've already seen this summer) and some stronger wind gusts.  Our school district didn't close so I am out there driving the bus.  No problems at all to report.
    We've been pretty busy and a bit stressed the last few weeks, what with getting the kids (and me!) back into the swing of a school routine, preparing for cooler weather, my aunts visiting, work and a few other things.  I've been getting to bed late, but still getting up at 4:30 each morning.  I am TIRED.  I have a new bus route this year.  My high school run is one of the longest in the district and is very rural.  Lots of winding, rutted roads and nasty hills.  It's going to be a lot of "fun" come winter.  The elementary run is shorter and less rural, but it has a lot more kids.  The driver before me didn't discipline much, if at all, so the younger ones are pretty rowdy and not liking the idea of having rules on the bus.  I'm working at it, but it is slow going.  I saw the most progress after I called some parents this week.  That let them know I mean business.  I could also write them up and turn it into the school, but I hate to do that unless they have done something truly bad.  For the most part they are just being kids...excited and noisy.
    Fall is definitely in the air in our area.  Nights are cooler, mostly in the 50's but we've dipped into the 40's once or twice.  No frost yet.  The days are still warm and up until today have been sunny and clear for the most part with high temperatures between 75-80 degrees.  It's my favorite season of all, but it could get just a bit cooler for me.  I am wanting to break out my turtlenecks and sweaters. 
    We're getting things ready for winter as we have the time.  A couple of weeks ago I pruned all the shrubs back and Tim rented a professional lawn edger to go around the beds.  Boy, that thing is slick!  We then put down new plastic and new mulch.  It looks so much neater and the roots have a nice layer of insulation.  Tim started getting the pool ready to cover, but hasn't had time to work on it this week at all.  We're going to have to shock it again before we cover it.  The water is a "lovely" emerald green.
    The garden hasn't done too well this year and the tomatoes didn't do half of what I'd expected.  They just kind of stopped producing fruit all of a sudden and the plants are dying.  I got to can some, but not in the quantity I'd imagined.  Tim is getting prices on duct work for the house.  We haven't needed to run the heat yet, which is a good thing since we need all new duct work as we discovered this summer while trying to use the air conditioning.  The piping kept collapsing in on itself.  I had a load of firewood delivered last week.  All cherry!  Boy, will it smell good burning!
    The chickens are doing well, but we haven't seen any eggs yet.  They should start soon.  It turns out that we have four roosters out of the six!  Not at all what I was wanting.  Tim wants to butcher all of them, but I hope to talk him into letting me keep the biggest one.  He is very large and handsome and I wouldn't mind having some of his offspring around come Spring.  We also need to get a more permanent covering on the run before the snow flies.  We couldn't get what we wanted from any of the hatcheries.  We'll have to wait till next Spring for that.  Our neighbor blessed us with some fresh eggs this week.  Oh, they were so good.  She is getting about a dozen a day.  Hmmmm....maybe I should send my two over for lessons?
    My mom's two sisters have been staying with her for over a week now.  One is from Florida and the other from Arizona so we don't see them very often.  It's been nice catching up and spending time and Megan has really enjoyed their company.  They've done some sight-seeing, but for the most part have hung around Mom's home helping her do things.  On Wednesday we all spent several hours peeling and slicing apples to make apple sauce and apple butter.  I don't know how much apple butter Mom ended up with, but she got 33 pints and 5 quarts of sauce.  One of my aunts made several deep-dish pies with the extra apples.  Yummy!
    I finally was able to get the large crockpot I've been wanting.  It's wonderful!  I have the Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook and have tried several recipes out of it.  It is so nice to be able to toss the ingredients in the pot in the morning and have a hot meal ready to go when I get home from work.  When I don't use it, it is often 6:30 or 7:00 before we have dinner.....and those days is when I'm most tempted to just order something so we can eat sooner.
    The main thing eating our time, sapping our energies and draining us emotionally has been our church.  We are currently in the process of trying to remove our pastor and even though nearly everyone at the church feels he is done here, he is fighting and dragging it out.  It's been very miserable for everyone involved and since Tim and I are both in leadership, it's really consumed us lately.  We hope it is coming to an end here in the next week or two so we can get back to normal and recoop and focus on other things.
    Well, that may not be all that's happening around here, but it's all my poor tired brain can think of at the moment.  I am honestly going to go take a the middle of the day!  Hope you all are high and dry and out of Isabel's way and enjoying the start of Fall.

Carpe diem!