Natural Perspectives: Memoirs of a hot weekend

This past weekend was good for staying inside an air-conditioned place. That wouldn't be our house, so I did the next best thing. I closed up the house early in the morning, turned on the fan, and sat in my rocker with an ice pack on my chest. That helped keep my body core cool. I also drank plenty of ice water.

Vic braved the elements and ventured out into the heat. He attended the emergency preparedness festival in front of the Huntington Beach Central Library on Saturday. This is National Preparedness Month. While we don't face hurricanes or winter ice and snowstorms here on the coast, we have other things to worry about.

A natural or man-made disaster could occur at any time. Earthquakes, fires, floods, tsunamis, heat waves or coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that disrupt power for extended periods of time could all occur here.

We should be prepared to evacuate our homes on short notice if needed, or shelter in place for up to two to three weeks if necessary. At the festival, the Huntington Beach Fire Department's CERT program distributed a list of suggested items to have on hand. I looked it over and discovered that, thanks to my extensive preparations last year, we're in pretty good shape.

I have a "bug-out bag" in my house and car with emergency first-aid supplies, water, food, spare clothing, copies of important documents and some cash. In our garage, I have enough stored water to last us several days, plus a filter that would allow us to purify lake water or water from our rain barrels if we had to. I have several weeks' worth of canned and dried food that gets rotated through use and repurchase. I have a solar shower, portable toilet, wind-up and solar radios and flashlights and all the camping equipment that we might need to live in our yard if our house was uninhabitable. I don't expect to ever use these things for an emergency, but if one comes along, I'm prepared. I hope you can say the same at your house.

Sunday was a tad cooler than the record-breaking heat of Saturday, so I dragged Vic to the community garden in the morning. He sat on my garden bench and read while I weeded, harvested and watered. We came home with over 17 pounds of produce, which he carried for me. Most of that harvest was two lovely watermelons and a sack of tomatoes. I also got assorted squash and some nice wax beans and Japanese eggplant. My community garden plot has been producing nicely for me this summer.

Sunday brunch at home was a delight with a homegrown cantaloupe, some toasted pumpkin bread that I made with a homegrown pumpkin, and a lox, bell pepper and green onion frittata with eggs from our chickens and veggies from the garden. I told Vic that I felt like a real homesteader. Well, a 21st-century urban homesteader, anyway.

In this heat, I check in on our chickens frequently to make sure they have enough water. They go through it pretty fast on hot days.

To catch you up on what is happening in the henhouse, we lost one of our three baby chicks. We are down to Peep and Cheep.

It seems that one of our many night critters got Cluck even though she was in a cage. I had all three chicks in a dog training crate and they were doing fine. But when I checked on the chicks one morning a few weeks ago, I found the crate locked but only two chicks inside. I feared the worst.

I checked with the neighbors to see if little Cluck had somehow escaped her cage and made it into their yard. They said no, but that they had heard a horrible racket from our backyard the night before. I investigated further and found one chick-sized wing feather about six feet away from the cage. A cat could have easily reached its paw inside, grabbed a chick, and pulled it outside for a snack. A raccoon or opossum could have done the same. Very sad.

The remaining two chicks are now too big to be pulled through the bars of the cage. If I raise chicks again in a couple of years, I'll add hardware cloth to the outside of the cage.

Chicken Little has responded to this heat by molting her feathers. Unfortunately for our household egg supply, chickens don't lay when they molt. Henrietta is too old to lay except for a few months in the spring. We would have no eggs at all, but fortunately, Miss Hillary is once again laying regularly. But now she is beginning her molt, too. I'm counting the months until the new girls grow up and start to produce eggs.

Back to our Sunday. After brunch at home, Vic attended the butterfly festival at Norma Gibbs Park on Graham Street. The Huntington Beach Tree Society was giving away free bloodflower milkweed plants. They self-seed and propagate themselves, and are great for attracting monarch butterflies. I have plenty of them in our yard, and we get a lot of butterflies.

We finished our day at the Habit, a brand new burger place that is opening at Talbert Avenue and Beach Boulevard. They were doing a fundraiser for the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, and the place was packed.

I'm looking forward to a break in this weather, but the weather guys say it could heat up again. Good thing we have all that nice, homegrown watermelon in the refrigerator.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. They can be reached at Lmurrayphd@aol.com.

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