Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Snow in Western Pennsylvania

Over the years, it was a good bet that the first snowfall would be on Thanksgiving Day.  As a child I remember some of the big snowfalls in which you needed to dig out to get anywhere.  I remember a picture of my Dad shoveling in a snowfall such as the one pictured below except the snow came up to his knees.

Streets and Sidewalks Covered

There was no getting to the supermarket before the storm to stock up on essentials like toilet paper, milk and bread.  You did with what you had.

Giant Snowflakes Make A beautiful Winter Wonderland
One Thanksgiving when the giant snowflakes started to fall, my friend and I went down to the box factory where there were always large hunks of cardboard discarded next to the building.  Also next to the building was the on ramp for the Highland Park Bridge.  The elevation of the grassy sides of the ramps were just the right slant to take a hunk of cardboard up to the top and slide down.  This was just enough distraction from the day to get us ready for the grand turkey meal that would be almost on the table when we got home.

In my child-raising years, we normally went to my sister-in-law's house for Thanksgiving dinner.  The day normally started out dry and by evening it would start to drop those huge flakes and I would be slightly fearful of driving home because they lived on a hill that led right onto a main street.  We always made it home but I remember the feeling knowing that it would probably snow while I was enjoying the company of family and friends.


The long and the short of Snow in Western Pennsylvania is that it normally starts right on Thanksgiving Day but sometimes comes earlier in the week.  That is true this year since Thanksgiving is a week later than usual.  Today's snow started out slow and didn't actually cover the street.  The sidewalks have a covering that will melt later in the day when we are expecting rain that will turn back into snow overnight.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Roof and Porch Renovation Into Deck

When I moved into my new home ten or so years ago, the back porch was a concrete slab with the roof being held up by a brick railing and posts.  The first winter in our new home it was like the Ice Age reclaimed the area and there were icicles that hung from the roof and the gutters that were dangerous to walk under.  The brick post cracked and I called the insurance company to come assess the damages.  True to what you would think, the insurance adjuster said the damage was not due to the winter ice weight but we had ground subsidence.  The point being they would not cover the damages.

Neighbors Roof which was similar to our pitch.

Then the roof over the back structure that was our kitchen started to show wear and tear.  It was a slant roof but did not have enough pitch to handle the roll off of rain or snow properly.

New Roof with Extended Overhand

I contracted my son, who studied carpentry, and his helper to reconfigure the roof and install the new one with the proper pitch to handle the run offs.  This helped with the structural problems but not to the point that we didn't need to consider repairing or replacing the 4x12' porch that was damaged.

I considered all my options and finally decided to talk to my neighbor who was out of work and have him configure and new deck to replace my existing porch.  He got all the figures together and showed me a proposal from HomeDepot for what I would need in construction materials to replace the porch.  My biggest concern was to have the steps to the yard turned in the opposite direction so that I could leave my dog out in the winter without actually going out myself to put her in the yard.

Before I finalized the agreement with my neighbor, I showed the specs to my son who immediately reconfigured the specs to extend my porch into a deck that would come out to the end of the Roof he had constructed to make the deck 10x14'.

I now have an area that I can go out onto in the mornings and sip my coffee while my dog does her duty in the yard.  I spend more time on this deck than I ever did on my front porch that I had remodeled with similar features the year that we moved into the home.  We invested in roll down blinds that give us privacy and shade and it has become a haven for my idle hours.

Unfortunately, this summer, three years after construction, we were hit by high winds and torrential rains one afternoon as I sat in my car unable to get out because of the storm.  When I went to my deck, the new wicker furniture was soaked through and the roll down blinds were torn to smithereens.  The furniture dried out but I had to replace the blinds which only cost me $55.  I'm thankful that the damage wasn't worse because I love the convenience of my deck.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Too Much of a Good Thing

I'm not complaining because I could have experienced what a good portion of the country and area has been.  It has rained approximately 75% of the previous three weeks.  While in some areas that has caused flash flooding and all other kinds of hazards such as downed trees and power lines, I for the most part have weathered through almost unscathed.  The only problem I experienced was an outage in my Fios utilities.  A power surge took out the battery back up and I was left with no phones, no television and no internet.  That is small potatoes compared with the damage done to another in our area who came home from the hospital after receiving a new son to find a wall had collapsed and his basement and garage were covered in muck and water.

The old poem goes:  "Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink."  In our case it is our gardens that are taking the hit this year from all the rains.  The ground has drunk up all that it was given and a green is cast over my back yard to the extent that I've been dodging storms mowing it to keep it under control.  Pictured above it is again rag-tag and not presentable or usable for a good cookout or to let the grandchildren play.

Meanwhile, I can't complain because my neighbors puts a lot of work into his vegetable garden and his fig trees.  As you can see they are well ahead of their normal growth and not getting enough sun to produce the fruit that they normally do.  Mother Nature has played a cruel trick on these senior citizens who live and feed themselves from their garden. 
Only this week, has the pumpkin vine produced any flowers at all.  Those my neighbor collects and makes into a sweet patty that she dearly loves to eat.
The fig tree is full of fruit but they may not ripen if they don't get the right mix of sun and rain.  So far they have gotten the rain but not much sun.
The tomatoes are full of greens but very sparse on the flowers that need to be pollinated to produce the fruit. 
The flower beds are full of beautiful flowers that would normally attract the bees to pollinate the tomatoes and other vegetable flowers that turn into their abundance.

In conclusion, I fervently pray to our supreme God that he be a little gentler with his rains and provide the farmers and gardeners an even amount of rain and sunshine to make the gardens grow.