I live right in the path of Irene and even though it will likely be only a tropical storm by the time it reaches here, we are getting ready for torrential rain and strong winds. I will share what we are doing and hope you pass this along to all your friends.

First, heed the evacuation warnings. If authorities tell you to leave, do it quickly. Secure important paperwork and valuables in a place as high and dry as possible. Get some cash, preferably small bills and change, make arrangements for pets, secure your property and leave. Don’t wait to see what developes.

If you are staying put, think in terms of safety first and then systems.

Safety: Clean up your yard. Everything from lawn chairs to children’s toys to gas grills has the potential to be a missile. Put whatever possible in a garage or basement or secure it with strapping. We have two yard swings. Bruce is removing the awnings and laying the swings flat. We have already done a clean sweep of toys and chairs, planters and lawn ornaments.

Check out your windows. Do any need to be covered with plywood or taped? If using plywood, consider marking each piece so it can be used again for the same window.

Do you have any spots where water is a problem? We often get leaks into the basement during a heavy rain. Bruce just laid a long piece of plastic to route the water away from the foundation. We are getting a new drainage system but this will do in a pinch. Do you need to make sandbags to protect your property from flooding? Do any roofs need the protection of a secure tarp?

If you have elderly or infirm neighbors, check to see if they could use a hand with this heavy work.

Fill your car with gas. Park facing out and away from trees if possible. If you have a chainsaw, get it gassed up too.

Now for the systems. Do all the chores you can today. The laundry should be done, the refrigerator cleaned and the house picked up. We are doing a big clean as I don’t want to be tripping over clutter.

Secure ice. We’ve been at this for days. I want a full freezer and lots of ice so I can move perishables to the coolers if the power goes out. I will tape the door of the freezer shut to remind people not to open it. We are waiting for a pig to return from the butcher and had more empty freezer space than usual. That space is now full of jugs of water and loaves of bread.

Secure water. We have a ten-day supply but many neighbors don’t. I have been filling containers with tap water for several days so we have water to hand out if necessary.

Secure food. Canned food, fresh fruit, cheese, bottled juice, eggs and bread are good choices. Peanut butter and jelly will get boring. My daughter is making a double batch of pumpkin muffins as we speak. I am making some pasta salad and I put all of the fixings for a tossed salad in individual bags. Don’t plan on leftovers. Use up things so you don’t have to store them. I cleaned out the fridge and Bruce is making a trip to the dump. I don’t want a lot of older food that I can’t keep cold hanging around.

Secure lighting. Kerosene lamps and lamp oil are better choices than candles. If you must use candles, use a glass chimney and place it in front of a mirror for the best light. Never leave any flame unattended. Make sure you have matches and extra wicks. The power could be out for a while. Give each child their own flashlight and be sure the batteries are fresh.

What about cooking? Camp stoves, sterno stoves and backpacking stoves will all work. Our propane stove works without electricity but I pulled out the camp stove for a neighbor anyway. Plan meals that don’t require a lot of cooking.

Sleeping arrangements should be flexible. I keep my kids downstairs with us if the power is out. I don’t want anybody falling down the stairs in the dark.

Flushing is problem if you don’t have water. Keep a couple of buckets of water handy and don’t flush until you have to. You can gather rain for flushing too. Don’t forget the swimming pool water. I wouldn’t drink it but I would definitely flush with it.

If water is a real problem get paper plates and napkins. I know. It’s evil but this is an emergency.

Pet food, kitty litter, medications, sanitary supplies, diapers, toilet paper; What are the things you really don’t want to be without?

Charge your cell phone.

We are bringing the bunny inside for the duration. The chickens will be penned with extra food and water. Bruce is caring for 9 horses this week (naturally!) We will feed them before the brunt of the storm and go back as soon as possible to check on them. He has already filled the water tanks with enough water for many days. They could manage on pasture if we really couldn’t get to them but he will get there on foot if there is any possible way.

Now get out the games and puzzles and some good books. Enjoy the forced vacation. If you are safe, this can be a time of excitement. If you are scared, you will pass that anxiety on to your children. Let this be a challenge, not a catastrophe.

Be well and let me know how you all fared.