It happened fast. One minute I am looking for the lentils that I will make for dinner. The next, I am in total darkness.
My first instinct is to find my boyfriend, J. He is studying for an exam scheduled for tomorrow. His first instinct is to locate flashlights and batteries. J sets up a flashlight on the coffee table in the living room and floods the room with soft white light. I peer outside to confirm that the problem is not a fuse blowing in our house. Except for the lights from the occasional cars on the road, the neighborhood is shrouded in darkness.
It is a little past 6pm on Thursday night, November 21st. The darkness is furnished with a soundtrack of winds blowing between 20-30 miles an hour. I was aware of the high winds but too busy to pay much attention. Now, the sound is pervasive.
As J dials the number of the electric company, there is a loud knock at the door.
“Don’t open it”, J says, in a cautious voice. We are both accustomed to city living. We know that we live in a safe neighborhood of Santa Rosa but the reaction is automatic.
“Who is it?” I ask.
“It’s the neighbors…candles.”
We have a dozen or so candles and we are not using any of it so I am happy to share, I think. I open the door to a couple. He is holding a flashlight. She is holding candles and matches. She hands several candles to me.
“Oh, I already have some,” I say. When she continues to try to give some to me, I gingerly take a few. I accept a large box of matches too. Those could be useful because I do not know where mine are right now. They say something about us being new to the neighborhood and probably being unprepared. I am touched by their generosity and thank them profusely.
J continues to study in the living room, using the laptop batteries that are fully charged. I eat a peanut butter sandwich and read a novel on my iPad. When I get bored, I draw.
We take a break at 7:30ish to start a fire in the fireplace. The neighbor’s matches come in handy. It is a beautiful fire and warms the room quickly.
The lights come back around 9:48pm. My plan for the evening was to cook, eat, read, and write. I was unable to cook. But I ate, read, and drew. I also wrote most of this blog on my iPad while the lights were out. Plus, we enjoyed our first fire in the fireplace in our new home. I make a note to return the candles and matches tomorrow. Since I do not know which house they are from, this will be a good excuse to meet the neighbors.
I am not accustomed to power failures but this one was not so bad at all.
After hours of labor, the ground awaits seeding. I can hardly believe it. But see for yourself.
On the left is the untouched soil. On the right is the same land but freed of weeds, tilled into softness, and mixed with organic soil. To further make the land hospitable for cultivation, I pummeled it with a cultivator (as seen in photo). This process helped to remove rocks and mulch and to even out the ground.
After a few more days of cultivation, the ground is ready to accept herbs that will survive the upcoming winter chill: cilantro, sage, and fennel. There is a chance that the cilantro may not survive the frost but the other two are hardy herbs that should make it. That is, if the sage and cilantro seeds are not gorged by birds first. I have re-planted the fennel from seedlings bought from a gardening store. After some internet research and some time spent at the local hardware store, I have a strategy that I hope will work in protecting the seeds from birds: an iron edging border to which bird-repeller mesh can be attached.
There is another possible predator. As much as I love the neighborhood cats, I fear they will be interested in feeding on my herbs. The bird-repellent net is probably not sufficient to deter them since it is made of ultra thin plastic that they can easily paw through. I will replace the plastic nets with chicken wire once the seeds start showing signs of life to the extent that a cat’s curiosity might be piqued.
For now, the cilantro and herbs have started to germinate. The fennel is surviving and showing minor signs of growth. I expect to see more viable results of my labor in a few weeks.