Things that bug me, part whatever

“Nothing more detestable does the earth produce than an ungrateful man.” – Ausonius

Being ungrateful and disloyal – not blindly loyal, mind you, but disloyal to people who have treated you beyond well – are two things that annoy me considerably. Some days (or weeks), I really do question why in the world we go out of our way to do all the extras we do for people when we get those things chewed up and spat back out at us as people give lip service to thanking us for everything we’ve done while they sail out the door without ever bothering to discuss options with us before doing so, even when they have been perfectly happy for a decade or more. It is disheartening and depressing to go through, and very stressful in some ways.

Exploring Planet NoSocialMedia, Day 6

I’m closing in on a week without the usual social media haunts of mine, and I have to say: it feels pretty damned good. I hit up the headlines on a handful of sites just a couple of times a day, and STAY AWAY from the comments.  Today I didn’t actually check the news until mid-afternoon, and that felt pretty fine, too. I’m quite happy to have avoided all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the last few days especially.

What have I been doing instead? Writing! Mostly. I’ve also pulled a bunch of weeds, sorted out some things on my desk, cleaned out my inbox piece by piece, done some reading, worked (of course – something has to pay the bills until the writing does), and in general have been quite productive without the whirlpool of suck that is social media.

If you have it in you, and you want to get more done without the stress various social media outlets create (yes, they do) or just want to relax and do nothing, you could do worse than significantly scaling back the time spent on those. That isn’t to say there should be none in your life – after all, most people are not like me, content to live in their own heads most of the time – but I bet if you timed how long you’re on, you’d be astonished at the reality of the amount of time spent there versus what you think you spend there. I was. Real life is much more delicious with less of that particular seasoning.

 

I am not a Scorpio

I’m a Pisces, astrologically speaking, if you’re into that sort of thing. But I had a visit from a member of that group. An actual member.

Scorpion, now deceased

The most common one we see at the ranch is the Hentz striped scorpion – that’s the critter above. It’s the most common of the three types found in Florida, as it happens, and none of the three are lethal. Their stings can be painful on the scale with a wasp or hornet sting, though. How do I know this?

Because that critter there got me, twice, the other night when I went to bed. Somehow, it got into the house. Then, somehow, it made it to my room. After that, somehow, it managed to crawl up into my bedsheets. When I laid down, it went under the sleeve of my shirt, near my armpit, and, feeling threatened at that point by the motions of my arm and the tightness of that space, proceeded to sting me. Twice. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on at first – I thought perhaps I’d carried a bee with me all day long and she’d finally had enough, but when I hit the flashlight app on my phone and looked, there it was. I flung it on the floor, and let me tell you this: those things can move fast.

It was just shy of three inches long. Was is the operative word, as that scorpion, like the parrot, is no more. But it did give me the creeps and now when I finally get to bed, at whatever oddball time that is, I have to scout around to make sure no other visitors from that particular clan are looking to abuse my hospitality by invading my house.

 

Exploring Planet NoSocialMedia, Day 1

Some months ago, I told myself to pare back on the timesink known as facebook. I’d been doing really well, too, although I’d not gotten around to doing some of the things I planned to do, which was the reason I dropped facebook in the first place.  I don’t count this as a total fail, because I did get some rather deep introspectional type stuff done to clear up some things in my head that will help me forge ahead with these other things I want to do.

However, I wound up back on facebook as a place to vent after a few events (one of which was the horrifying massacre of 49 people and the wounding of scores of others at a gay nightclub in Orlando) and got sucked in again, resulting in more and more time there, wasted.

But! During the last few days of June, I made it known that I was going to live on Planet NoSocialMedia for the month of July, and perhaps even longer.  It’s slightly easier for me, as the only ones I actually participate on are twitter (not much), instagram (not much except pics from the ranch), and facebook, the ultimate alien-like, face-humping, time-wasting monster.

Today is (still, as I type this) July 1. I have not ventured off Planet NoSocialMedia today. I also have not written anything today. I think this will be all right, though, as I had to get some other things cleared out of the way after having a couple of days of forced rest thanks to some physical issues that cropped up.

Now, we head into Day 2. The goal: continue to work at things that need to be done at the ranch, but also meet a very basic step in the workout to rebuild those writing muscles. A mere 250 words, or about one page of a typeset book, is the target. We all learn to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we run, after all. I firmly believe that trying to start off with some huge goal, right off the bat, after years (ok, decades) of not pursing my art would be like the people who make resolutions to go to the gym, show up on January 2, vastly overwork themselves even though they are not used to working out, then find the next day they can barely move, so they wind up not going to the gym as they resolved to do, slipping back into old habits, only to do the same thing again the next year. I don’t want that, so that is not the way I’ll pursue it.

More to come, my dear readers who swing by every so often. Take care of yourselves.

Connected

As many of you know, I moved out to the very edge of the biggest city in the area – technically, just across the county line into a town that is both unincorporated and unknown to most people even if they live around here. Now, while I love life at the ranch, with all the ups and downs that go with it, there is one thing, above all else at this moment, that I miss dearly about living closer to civilization.

High speed internet access.

Now again, as most of you know, I run a business that is internet-based (well, one of the businesses is). While satellite is ok, it is definitely not high speed. It is also terribly unreliable, and in a place where we receive reasonable amounts of rain, generally speaking, it leads to signal loss. There is also the problem of the satellite just deciding to cut out for no apparent reason at all. We have endured outages when there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and when there is a stronger than usual breeze, as if the signals are blown out of alignment by the wind.

Over the years, we occasionally check to see if any of the usual providers have made it out here. We know that Comcast has a loop on a pole about 700′ from the house. So we went on their site to determine if service was available, and while the first guy said there was “nothing remotely” in our area, the second guy who called a day later said what we knew: there’s a loop 700′ away from us. Happy day!

He was quite interested when we said we wanted the largest business package (that runs about $300/month, give or take), and that other people in the small development here had also expressed interest in high speed access. We went back and forth for a week, only to be told, in the end that no, they would not be able to do it, because the loop at the road “already had too many people on it” and it would cost Comcast $200K to roll it out to us. Mind you, this is already after we had polled the people here – some of whom, like me, run their businesses from their properties – and almost to a person they wanted some form of service, whether it was internet only (us) or internet plus tv (several), and all were agreeable to having a multiyear contract. It seemed, when we reported those results, like a win-win, but someone on the chain knocked it down.

It’s rather unfortunate because it is so close to us since we run up against the main access road. The upper level business account dude suggested we contact one of the local offices and have them call their corporate overlords to talk about it. I’m not entirely sure what difference that will make, but it is on the list of things to do. The tiny candle of hope still flickers in the darkness of slow internet service here.

Tuesday’s child is NOT full of grace

In the tech world, for some reason Tuesdays are generally the shittiest days. Problems are extra large, people are extra dense, ticket volume is extra high, and everything just seems to be a bigger pain in the ass than it usually is. Generally speaking, all my days are pretty much the same – to the point that sometimes I don’t even know what day it is – because I work every day, anywhere from 12 to 18 hours, doing something. So I take Tuesdays in stride, because often some other whack-a-mole will pop its head out on a day other than Tuesday, and to me,it seems like Tuesday even if Tuesday is just lending an outfit to another day.

However.

Today was my personal Tuesday. It started off very calmly. As Stacy astutely points out, that’s sometimes a warning indicator, i things are far too calm. Turns out, this was one of those times. Got my breakfast, got a shower, headed off to pick up a paper scrip from one of my docs because the med contains a scheduled drugs so cannot be called in – thanks a bunch, Feds, for making it annoying for those of us who actually need the stuff. It’s a 35 to 40 minute drive to that particular office, as it’s on the other side of the world from the ranch. Picked it up, got back in the car, and started my way toward Publix, to get the thing filled, plus pick up another that was ready, along with a few assorted other items.

On my way there, I get a call from the ranch: the electric company dude who reads the meter (they just drive up the driveway to the house and use their reader without getting out of the pickup, yay technology!) managed to back into and snap a stub that is a water line. To the house. Since Gabby was there with some worker bees, they shut off the main valve that leads to the house. Therefore, no water in the house or to any of the irrigation piping until it’s repaired.

Change of plans: we have no spare 1″ PVC lying around. Everything is the wrong size. We do have couplings, and they assure me we have pipe dope. Off to the big orange store. I pop in, pop out, hustle back to the car. In the parking lot, some guy gives me a shout, starts walking toward me with his hand out, like he wants to shake my hand and says, “Hey, how you doing?” and who obviously either wants to sell something, or get something. I say, “Sorry dude, in a hurry.” and I head back to the ranch, where…

…we do some test fitting, cutting down – with a mini coping saw, because the PVC cutter I had once upon a time I cannot find – test fit things, judge it good, and get ready to finalize it. No cement. Primer, yes. Cement, no. I dig around in various places, and in a drawer I come up with cement that a) I do not prefer and b) is old, so questionable. We try it anyway, allowing it to set, then turn on the water. Sealant: fail. Off I go once again to the big orange store, and since I’m already out again, to Publix to get the other stuff for the ranch.

The big orange store has all the things I need – including a ratcheted PV cutter – and I also spy some couplings that have rubber seals and teeth to grip the pipes when they’re inserted. No cleaning, priming, or cement required. I also find a combo cleaner, primer, cement in a handy spray bottle just like spray paint. Why did it take this long to come up with this? I pick up both, along with traditional blue dope, and head to Publix, where…

…as I’m giving the scrip to the tech along with my ID, and she’s reviewing it, she says, “Oh, no. They didn’t date the scrip. We can’t fill it.” Argh. I take the scrip back, pick up the other stuff, race back to the ranch, where….

…I redo the bottom fitting in the traditional way, but cannot get the top fitting off to redo the cement on that. Fine. I do the bottom, allow it to set, wipe off the excess, and then the valve to get the water flowing again to test it, only to find….

….the top seal is definitely not going to work. Fuck. I turn off the water, cut the pipe off at the ends of the couplings, which requires digging out the bottom part of the stub a bit, get the other part of the replacement PVC I didn’t use, and cut it down. Instead of dealing with the traditional prim/dope method, I slip the newer coupling on to one end and use my body weight to push the piece snug and it clicks into place. The other coupling goes on the top connecting pipe, and I cut down the replacement pipe a couple of times until I can get it to slide under the top coupling (after pushing that part slightly to an angle in order to do so. I push down with all my weight, but can’t get it to snap into place. I grab a rubber mallet and pound the damn thing until it gives a satisfying snap. Finally.

Time for a test! I open the valve, and the pump kicks on. The couplings hold and are not blown off by the pressure. There are also no leaks at the joints. Yay. I head inside, turn on some taps and the tub in the master bath to force the pump to cycle on and off to make sure any pressure changes don’t damage the joints. it doesn’t. Problem solved!

By now, I’m drenched in sweat and my pants are sliding further and further down my hips. I have a massive spasm going on my left side, from my hip all to the way to my face. I decide – it’s now 4PM, and I left the house about 11AM originally – it’s time for lunch. Except…

…it pops into my mind that the bees need to be fed. Luckily, I had already made their syrup this morning, so I poured the jars, climbed into my suit, went out, and changed their bottles. It’s very still, with no wind, and very humid, and I’m sweating even more in the suit than normal. I head back inside, peel out of the suit, and get lunch started, only to be hit….

….with a massive new spasm that takes my breath away. I lean against the counter to let the worst of it pass, then grind up my antispasm and other meds and finally get lunch made.

Then I find out Comcast is not willing to run access to our one road development: there are too many people on the loop they have at the road now, and they estimate it would cost them $250K to do our road. Fuck. The corporate guy suggests we call our local Comcast office and have them call in to corporate. Yeah.

So, thanks, Tuesday, for fulfilling every expectation I generally have of you. But you can go now, really. Seriously.

The evolution of frames

Eight years.

That’s how long it’s been since I moved out to the ranch.

The first couple of years were mainly spent working to rehab the property: filling dumpsters with what was likely decades of trash that people just dumped wherever they liked because the property had been not a part of the state forest it abuts, but a similarly wooded parcel to which they had access. Getting good soil going at least to get grass to grow in what had been a sandy, beach-like property because the developer had scraped off the topsoil and sold it off. Working to get plants and trees in place so the wildlife – lizards, squirrels, birds, snakes, you name it – would come back. Those were hard-working, back-breaking years. They were worth it.

Ultimately, we decided that if we waited to plant gardens until the soil rehab was at least almost to completely done, it would be another five years before we grew any of our food. Instead, we built framed beds, filling them with a mix of topsoil, manure, and perlite, the latter to help provide some aeration in the mix instead of having every frame be composed of soil that would settle, become difficult to work, and have no give or good draining at all.

So we did. The first frames were 4′ by 4′, built of wood, each separated by a couple of feet as walkways. This led to some inefficiencies, as each individual frame then had to be watered, and drip irrigation was impractical, as there would be loads of connections that would have to be run from one frame to another.

The next iteration was 4′ by 8′ frames, also built of wood, butted up against one another in long rows. The longest row was 4′ by 42′. This made watering much simpler, as long lines of drip tubing could be laid all the way down the line.

The problem with those, of course, was the wood. It warps after enough time in the harsh environment here, and eventually starts rotting. We went with those for a couple of years, until finally hitting on a better solution: frames made from 22 gauge roofing metal sheeting. Cut in half lengthwise, they were screwed together at the seams of each 8′ length, and plain squared balusters (cut down to size) used to provide some structural support for each “wall”. All of our beds are now built out this way, although we do have an issue with some of the balusters rotting from being in contact with the moist soil all the time. On some of them, the screws have popped out because of the way the wood expands and contracts in the weather. Some of the frame sides have bowed out, as the pressure of the soil exerts an outward horizontal force. For those, the solution is to shovel the dirt away from the sides of the frames, reset and reseat the supports for the side, then pull all the soil back into the trench along the side of the frame. As you might imagine, this is more back-breaking hard work, and something I leave for the fall/winter to get done instead of trying to do this during the main growing season in temperatures that hover in the mid-90s to the 100s throughout.

The good thing about the metal frames is that they will last for a significant length of time before anything needs to be done with them – if anything ever needs to be done with them at all. A bonus of this use is that unlike the wooden frames, which break down, rot, and become something that isn’t good for much, the metal frames are steel, so they can go to the recycling center.

Although it took some years of experimentation and use to get to this point, it has served us well since the final frame type was put in place, and now we have spent much, much less time on frame maintenance than we did with the wooden equivalents. That time, recouped, is now spent on other, more productive tasks.

No matter what

I generally do not get into politics, most news, or religion here, but I will say this: no matter what someone may think of Joe Biden, there is no denying he is a decent, compassionate man, and a terrific communicator. And, no matter what, the inequity that pervades our legal system is, at times, sickening: if this “champion swimmer” Brock Turner was not white, not a “champion swimmer”, and not at Stanford, he would have received a far harsher sentence and the presiding judge would not have overly concerned himself with how the man would have fared in, been treated in, or been affected by a longer sentence than the paltry six months given to him as a gift. It is appalling.

The only possible good to come out of this – if anything can be termed good in relation to it – is the message from the actual victim in this case. No, Turner the Elder, the victim is not your son. It is the woman he attacked while she was in no condition either to consent or resist. She is also the hero of this pathetic example of justice, as are the two Swedish grad students who didn’t simply look away and ride by. While we may never know her name, one thing we do know, and will know, now and for years to come, is that she has potentially made a difference in the lives of those who might not otherwise speak when visited by the horror of a sexual assault. Through her, perhaps others will find their voices too, and as all decent people do, say enough is enough: no matter what, this is not okay.

Her full statement – and I suggest reading the entire thing – is here.

Today’s color is: orange

Neon orange, actually. The girls are all bringing in basketloads of neon orange pollen that look remarkably like a certain cheese we all know and love, but that I will not name. The name sounds like this, though.

Yes, an old and timeless favorite.

I tried to get a couple of closeups of: the eggs in the cells, the pollen in the cells, and one of the girls with her pollen baskets stuffed with cheddar. Two out of three ain’t bad, as they say. The pollen-laden gal went off to do a waggle dance to inform some other bees, which I also tried to catch, but when i looked at the video, I realized the sun was still behind me enough that you cannot see a damn thing happening on the frame. Oh well, there will be other chances, because that’s how they communicate where nectar and pollen are out in the world. In the meantime, this photo turned out the best, I think. Those little white things that look like pieces of rice are eggs. This is from one of the new packages installed in late May. Of those, all but one are motoring right along. The one had a bit of a later start because they couldn’t get the queen out in the same timeframe. So, she’s a few days behind in laying. No worries, though. They’re all healthy and active, and this is what counts.

Eggs and pollen June 7 2016

The girls are incredibly busy, as our nectar flow is still on. This week will probably be hellish, as the forecast calls for high 90s and zero rain. While that is generally fine for the girls, as long as things stay in bloom, it’s hard on the farmer slash beekeeper. It’s almost time to go into the established hives and start pulling honey, too. That’s best done, like most things, when the majority of the foragers are out foraging, which here means between 10AM and 4 PM, the hottest part of the day. Maybe we’ll get a sneak rain shower here and there – but probably not, so I will also be filling the birdbath I use as the general watering hole for the girls every day so they’ll have access to fresh water and not start hanging out at the pool.