Saturday, February 19, 2011

Grubbs Family to host 7 or 8 yo girl from Belarus

Our family has applied to host a girl from the Eastern European Country of Belarus for 6 weeks during this summer. The American-Belarus Relief Organization (ABRO) arranges for children from families affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident (1980's) to be hosted in the US for clean food,  medical care, and time away from contaminated areas.

Belarus is a country which is rich in Slavic history and one that has overcome many challenges. Chernobyl (1986) reduced their available farmland and afflicted many of the people with illnesses caused by radiation. These challenges have led to poverty, malnutrition, and health impacts from poor environmental conditions in much of the country.

Children who are able to participate in the 6 week summer program for the entire time that they are eligible (Ages 7-16) are believed to add as many as 10 years to their life expectancy.  Furthermore clothes, gifts, and cash sent back with the children enable families to purchase appliances and other items which we in the US take for granted.

We invite you to partner with us in building a relationship with the family who will be entrusting us with their child this summer.  This is how you can help:

  1. Please pray for families like ours who are hosting children.  ABRO is always seeking additional host families.  We will be meeting a child who is in a strange country, speaks Russian, and will likely be terrified.  Pray for her comfort and that we will be able to help her feel at home.  Pray also that her parents will build a relationship with us. 
  2. Donations toward the $2200 travel expenses are greatly appreciated.  Donations directly to us cannot be tax deductible. Those wanting to make a tax deductible contribution will need to do so via an eligible charity or an ABRO supporting church.  Contact me for more details.
  3. Pray for the Doctors and Dentists who are donating free medical care to the children. Medical professionals wanting to participate in providing care may contact a Director or Board Member of ABRO.
  4. Families are expected to provide clothing, school supplies, substantial cash ($200-300 or more), and other gifts to send back with their visiting child.  We saw photos showing how these contributions greatly improve the well-being of their families.  She may also need some summer clothes because NC is much warmer than Belarus.  We estimate that $500-$800 will be required to provide for her.  Some of that total can be reduced through clothing and other direct donations.  We are expected to send warm clothes back with her as well.
Please contact me if you have further questions about the program.  Those wanting to host children must act QUICKLY.

We look forward to partnering with you in this venture to share God's love with a family on the other side of our world. Very soon we will know her name.

Dean, Jodi, and Lili Grubbs

Garden 2011 is underway!

In expectation of extremes of weather through the spring and a possible (we need RAIN!) slightly cooler than average summer I have made the following vegetable choices:
  • Spring
    • Bloomsdale and Galilee Spinach: Both stand up to the heat better than most varieties.  The idea of bringing in a spinach that grows in the mideast is based on my expectation of a rough spring.  Bloomsdale gets planted now, Galilee in a month.
    • Bright Lights Swiss Chard:  The leaves and colorful stems are tasty and useful in salads or sauteed like spinach.
    • Buttercrunch Lettuce: We really love this lettuce.  Crunchy and sweet.
    • Alfresco Blend Salad Greens:  Most people I know rarely eat salad.  It is EASY to grow and when harvest to plate is immediate the taste is unbelievable!  Amazing amount of food for 2-3 square feet of space.
    • Jericho Romaine Lettuce:  We have missed the taste and texture of Romaine Lettuce.  I understand that this variety's tolerance of weather conditions reaches Biblical proportions! :>)
  • Summer - Seedlings being planted this week.
    • Siletz Tomato: Early season F1 Hybrid tomato which does not require bees or other pollination to set fruit.  This variety is intended to provide a tomato harvest in June before the mid and late season maters are ready.  The plant stands up to cool spring weather very well.
    • Homestead Tomato: My main all-purpose mid-season tomato.  Last summer we averaged 6-10 tomatoes per day from late June to early August with a peak of 29 in one day!  All from 4 plants.  I have a small garden and the 4 ft height works out really well.  
    • Whatever Craig LeHoullier offers:  My limited space forces me to only be able to have a few full-size varieties.  Those of you who have been to Tomatopalooza or followed my pictures and coverage know that Craig's work to preserve the genetic diversity of varieties which span generation is immensely valuable!  Craig is also involved in a global effort to breed new Dwarf Tomato varieties.
    • Partenon Squash: This hybrid is expensive but can both stand up to cooler temperatures (May) and set fruit without pollinators.  My plan to beat the squash bugs is to get seedlings going extra-early and use the 3 strongest plants.  Those of us who do not use pesticides have a terrible time growing squash.  I plan to revert to an open-pollinated type in 2012 if spring and early summer look more moderate.
    • Indian River Winter Pumpkin - Bug resistant vines produce the most awesome pumpkins we have ever tasted!  We were eating RAW pieces last fall.  I saved seeds after determining that they were heirloom.
    • Malabar Spinach:  A completely edible vining plant.  When the Galilee Spinach gives out then this takes over. 
    • Armenian Cucumbers:  I wanted to try something different.  Cucumbers always seem to do well in my garden.  These are related to melons and have a milder taste and thin skin. 
    • Stevia:  I am going to attempt to grow some stevia.  This mint relative imparts a sweet taste to food and beverages.  Bruised leaves can make a "sugar tea" which can be used with fruit punch or lemonade.
  • Others:  Basil, Bush Beans, Nasturtiums (bugs hate this plant.  great addition to salads).  Cayenne, Serrano, and Jalapeno pepper.  GARLIC!!! (Easy to grow!). Maybe a chocolate mint plant or other herbs.
The big theme this year to is overcome a roller-coaster spring and early summer.  If we can experience some decent rainfall this spring then the opportunity exists for a nice summer ...albeit.. with a bad hurricane season.  No west QBO to limit storm growth and keep them out to sea like last year!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Before the warm comes terrible cold and storm!

The buzz about the potential for a east coast winter storm has become a rumble.  After the Dec 26 computer model debacle I have kept a healthy scepticism as La Ninas often feature "phantom snowstorms" in projections. 

Deep snow and terrible cold from Mexico through the Great Lakes was last week's big story.  My friends in Chihuahua, MX received a rare snowfall which covered the roads and temperatures reaching -1 F and a Thursday high of only 23, 42 degrees below the 65 F average high!  New Mexico and South Texas were heavily impacted by similar cold which drained power and natural gas supplies to critical levels requiring rolling blackouts and gas pressure outages.  Imagine temperatures near 0 and no way to heat your home!  Power and gas outages also impacted northern Mexico in a similar fashion.

It appears that Old Man Winter is in a foul mood and is set to target the East with a POTENTIAL monster storm and another serious drainage of Arctic air.  The only good news that can come from such an extreme event is how the high pressure which pushes the dome of cold air into our region often stalls in the south and warms up!  My confidence is very high that the days around Valentine's Day will be warm ... the only threat to 60+ highs being reduced if heavy snow is included with the cold.

One of my key tools which correlates very well to dramatic weather is the daily Southern Oscillation Index (SOI).  In my opinion the 2 day crash to slight negative readings on Jan 26-27 which is both preceded and followed by much higher values is a big warning that the tropics plan to participate in the event. 

Here is a European Model forecast which IF CORRECT would lead to a serious winter storm for the entire east coast.  I have added some notes to the forecast.  As usual, the exact track of the storm means everything.  Whoever ends up in the snow zone will get buried. Local Meteorologist Allan Huffman commented today that extreme projections include a 1-2 foot snowstorm followed by low temperatures near 0.
A ECMWF Perfect Storm
The upcoming week will likely be very busy.  Please expect to have your hopes and fears really stretched by computer models which go back and forth with all kinds of storm and cold projections. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will a Raleigh Groundhog see his Shadow?

An early spring is on the line!  Whether the Raleigh Groundhog sees his shadow may depend on the timing of the ceremony.

The massive storm which has buried the midwest in snow and ice is dragging a cold front in our direction.  When the front passes strong winds will sweep clouds away and bathe our potential furry friend in sunlight and delay the end of winter.  Hopefully little groundhog will set his alarm clock early enough to take a nice stroll under gray skies and bring on an early spring.
Source: University of Wisconsin SSEC.