Lovey, lovey

Checked up on the girls today. It was a (mostly) good day for them to be flying off, foraging for nectar. Usually, this time of year is a real dearth for the bees: it’s too hot, not enough rain, and nothing is blooming. This year, though, we’ve had quite a bit of rain, and it hasn’t run up to 100F+ every single day for weeks at a time as it has in the past.

They’re doing nicely, although I believe one hive may have gone queenless. I stole a frame with capped brood, larvae, and eggs, and put it in that box, and hopefully they will go about their business of making a new queen. As we head toward fall, we will have another nectar flow – one good thing about Florida that ¬†counteracts at least some of Florida Man’s escapades.

In other news, another item to restore your faith in humanity(ish). Lovebirds who have a genetic condition that causes them to lose their feathers. Not only is this video aww-worthy, you can really see the dinosaur ancestors of these little birds.

Lovebirds video

This is how it goes

My plan, last night, was set: after a couple of pain in the ass days trying to figure out why one function in an app we use that is designed to make our lives easier just….stopped. One night it was fine, and the next not. So, tickets in to the app dev people and the organization it was supposed to connect to when it started going into the toilet (soon it will be a week of this crap). Neither has any ideas, and I made it quite clear that nothing whatsoever changed in the environment. One, after a bit of back and forth, told us to check with our “service provider” to see if anything changed. Well, dude, we ARE our “service provider” and I just freaking told you nothing changed. The other vendor level one, no idea, level two, asked us to try a couple of things that made no difference, and then, level three, to see if they had any ideas.

After yesterday, my plan today was to write in the morning, then get back to this giant problem, but instead got sucked back into Giant Problem immediately. I have been working on this literally ALL DAY, trying on my own to figure out some way around or through Giant Problem. Nothing has worked. It is supremely annoying and no one seems to have any ideas for a solution to this weirdo thing that’s happening. Grrr.

But it’s quiet right now, even though I’m also trying to figure out a few user-related headscratchers that likewise are not working when before they have been fine. This is how tech infects every minute in your life. There is a solution to that last issue: leave it, for now. Go make art for awhile. It may or may not be possible, depending on whether you can get that stuff pushed aside in your head for a bit to make room for the creative stuff to come out. Finished? Return to the trenches, with maybe something having sparked while doing that to try on the problems that you’ve not tried today.

So I guess that’s what I’ll do: try to lose myself in the world of my own creation for a little while at least. Some progress is better than none, and I need to make a lot of progress, so “some” is laying the path to “a lot”.

One of the issues is thinking the created art sucks, another that no one will like it. I’ve decided my new motto for that stupid little voice saying all that nonsense is: fuck it. Gonna do it anyway. I’ve read, either in part or in full, quite a lot of bad books. The difference is that they finished and put their art out there. That’s what I need to do and what I am going to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Nice things

Time for more restoring your faith in humanity (RYFIH), rancherinos.

After that scumbag nazi crap up in VA, we could all use some happynicetime, I think.

Today I went out to the beeyard early to feed the bees and check up on a couple to see if they needed another box. It was mostly sunny, and they were waking up, stretching, and getting ready to go about their day, so they were only mildly ticked to have me stomping around and checking them out. There are a couple of them lagging behind their sister hives in growth, but the season is long here, and there is time for them to get to a comfortable size before “winter” comes.

Speaking of bees….honey! It’s a nice division of labor: the bees make the honey. I manage the bees to make sure they’re healthy, fed through the dearth, and are otherwise ok through the year. When it’s time, I pull honey off the bees and bring it out of the yard and into the garage for processing. My sister does most of the uncapping and extraction (when it’s a big pull, we both do some uncapping and get the frames into the extractor). We let the extractor do its work – I have to say here that the larger, motorized extractor is one of the better purchases I’ve made, and has already paid for itself in time – and get the extracted honey into buckets. From there, mom is the primary ¬†bottler of the honey. We had a bit of an issue with the gate on one bucket leaking, so had to transfer the batch into another bucket.

Lovely, dark honey

Next task, after letting the honey sit for awhile to let any bubbles (and pollen) come to the top: bottling.

Before you know it, you have a bunch of bottles to label and sell:

Pure, raw honey

We do not pasteurize our honey. It’s raw, strained only through a medium coarse strainer to catch things like wax and dead bees, while allowing any pollen through and into the jar. Best honey on earth! (Or at least our little part of it.)

That’s it for now, in another post that has taken two days to write. Until next time, peeps, be well.

 

Animal kingdom

This mating ritual of a couple of hooded grebes is hilarious for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the almost tango they’re doing at the end.

Here at the ranch, it was shave the dogs day, which took an hour and a half. The (not) puppy doesn’t like to sit still for his, and he absolutely hates having his front legs shaved. For some reason, he is not as nutty about his rear legs getting the once over. The big guy came over, laid on his side, then didn’t complain when I flipped his 64-pound body over to his other side so I could continue. He is a border collie (mostly), so under his hair that looks like human hair, he has a dense, tightly woven almost mat-like hair growth. I imagine this is what helps keep them dry and insulated against running into water or being out in the elements as they work. Except mine doesn’t exactly work at much of anything except running crows off and barking his big boy bark at people who are checking the mail.

I promised pics – here’s a snap of my hippie dogs, desperate for a hair cut.

More to come, peeps. Until then: be well.

Great news, sports fans!

If ¬†you’ve seen¬†Dodegball: A True Underdog Story – you haven’t? Hie thee to on demand or Amazon or somewhere and watch it! ESPN is finally bringing The Ocho to life. For one day. But what a day that’s going to be! If you don’t understand The Ocho and/or why this is so hilarious, see above re: hie thee. It’s going to be spectacular. No doubt there are things people will be unfamiliar with – I didn’t even know what they meant by the Championship of Bags until I looked it up. That is known pretty well down here in the South as cornhole (yes, yes, I know). I did, however, know what Kabaddi was – and let me tell you what a weird freaking game that is. They also have a rather unfortunate pictogram:

Need some privacy?

It should be a blast.

 

Pictures, we got pictures

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.

It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they ¬†morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.

The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.

Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.

Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.

And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

Tuesdays are hell

In our corner of the world, anyway. For some reason, Tuesdays bring out the crazy. My guess, or just idle supposition, is that people are back to work, they’ve done whatever their boss has assigned them (or gotten through the day, or have it in progress, or whatever) and Tuesdays, they’re back to leeching off their employers’ Internet connection once more. It’s a theory.

Yesterday was productive, though, at least for yours truly: more peppers harvested and washed, ready for the start of the drying process (which will start after this is done). Alas, due to my illness and neglect, the squash plants are history, and the paprikas, harvested previously, gave themselves over to the bugs. The bells are not much better. About a third of the cayennes are still looking pretty spry, and the tabascos…well, nothing seems to bother them very much except leaving the fruits on the plants too long after they have ripened to red, leaving me to think maybe a little tabasco-based pepper sauce is something to be spritzing on the leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs that are having their parties out there.

In any case, having called the season for what it is – a fail – I’m not more disappointed than I already am at the total lack of output. It’s the way things go sometimes, and I can’t change it, so there is no sense beating myself up over it. It has, however, led to some more tweaks to be laid out next season, and as with every process, continues to evolve. The one nagging factor is me: can I refrain from catching some bug during the early part of the season that takes me out of the game for weeks or months at a time? That process is also evolving: I’ll have to start wearing a mask most places I go. I’ll have to carry antiseptic towels in the car for when I go anywhere, to wipe down my hands and anything I’ve touched (phone, car door, etc.) while out. It’s annoying, but better to be in the habit of doing that than not to keep things on the ball here.

In other news, my little brother is moving back to the homestead, and bringing his cat. ¬†While the big guy probably won’t care all that much – he was smart enough not to tangle with my cats (RIP, all) when I moved out here – the puppy is either not as smart or allows his curiosity to get the better of him. My mother votes for option one. I, of course, vote for option two. It’s going to be interesting for a bit. On the plus side, I’ll have someone around a lot of times to do heavy lifting, which is damn hard for me with a feeding tube strapped to my abdomen – what a pain in the ass that is sometimes. I recommend not getting one, if you can help it.

Until later, peeps (I almost typed “peppers” there!): be well.

Another week, another disaster

Disaster may be too strong a word, really. After all, everyone is alive, and healthy (well, not me, entirely, but I am alive, so fuck you, cancer aftereffects). It’s been a mighty weird week and to top it off, we got three inches of rain yesterday, flooding out some of the areas on the property. That mainly means the lower lying areas, but also includes the areas I’ve not yet worked on rehabbing that are mostly clay and hardpan a few feet down. ¬†Those are the areas you can walk through when there is water and have your footprints stay as the water evaporates – sort of your own personal archaeological site to play in, if you’re of a mind to do so.

After that rain moved past us, it turned into a wonderfully cooler, breezy day, without the horrid humidity that plagues us during this time of year. Today is a lovely day and would have been a nice day to be working outside if I’d not had yet another meeting with an ENT to look at this lump in my neck. I think we’re all on the same page that it is most likely within the submandibular salivary gland, and at this point, the only real option would be some exploratory surgery to open up my neck, and either remove whatever the lump is, or remove that gland completely. The latter is ¬†a difficult choice: radiation to the head and neck do a hard tango on the salivary glands, and I’m already missing the sublingual gland on the left side from the original surgery, so this is one of the few remaining, even if it isn’t working properly right now. In addition, the even more worrisome part is not actually the surgery, but the wound healing: the skin on my neck is not a good candidate for rebuilding the area post-removal, because of said radiation – even though the original cancer was all on the left side, the radiation treatment for it involved blasts to both left and right on my neck. So that rebuild procedure would involve taking skin from another area of my body, and since I do not exactly have, shall we say, as much padding as other people, I’d likely have to have balloons put in whatever area we decided would make the best place to grow what would be skin grafts for my neck. It’s a bundle of very serious choices. The easiest choice? Leave it alone, and I keep draining the thing of pus via whatever method it takes: either expressing it via that sublingual gland when the swelling is higher on my neck, or draining it wherever it pools up lower on my neck by opening it (or having it open spontaneously). This time, I opened it my own by puncturing my neck where it seemed the weakest point was – that is, where the pressure of the drainage is building up the most is where I cut it open when it gets too large and painful. Note: I do not recommend DYI doctoring, so don’t take this as medical advice. I’ve been through this enough to know what I’m doing and not break anything else in my neck, and when it’s too bad or I can get a lock on where the best place to open it is, I go to the doctor.

On another note, I’m pretty sure I tore the rotator cuff in my right shoulder some months ago. Probably from chucking the ball for the puppy – I have to keep in mind I’m no longer a 16-18 year old catcher trying to nail a base stealer. It’s quite painful, but with the gardens to have to deal with, I’m hoping some rest and ice will help it heal versus having to go through surgery on that front. For now I have two half working arms. That’s better than none, so we make do with what we have to get through, I suppose.

On yet another note, I participated in, but did not finish, Camp Nano this month. It has been a miserable failure of a month on the writing front. However, tomorrow brings the promise of a new day and a new month, and tomorrow and for all the days following, I write. This determination has come to me after reading two mysteries by the same author where the bad guy really appears out of nowhere in the last or next to last chapter, which is always irksome to me. Unless you’re writing an unreliable narrator like Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this is not fair to the reader. And if you ARE writing an unreliable narrator, it had better be damn well done – I’ve read enough attempts people have made to not yet find anything remotely touching Christie’s adroitness. Obviously, I don’t expect anyone to actually match her in this, but I think it is entirely possible to do it well enough without it being so hokey as to defy the suspension of disbelief by the reader.

I have pictures to get moved from my phone, which is randomly rebooting itself, to my computer to upload them here, and hope to get to that soon(ish). It’s on my rather lengthy todo list, which resembles in practice like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper: it never seems to get smaller.

Until next time, peeps – and I promise to get back on the every day posting routine, no matter how mundane my life is, because it’s still good practice – be well.

Calling the season

After much thought – thinking on it for days and days, really – I decided to call it a season, garden-wise. I didn’t want to, and it pains me greatly to technically classify this as another lost season (i.e., a failure), but there has simply been far too many things going on, and I haven’t been well enough to keep on top of it. ¬†I’ve elected to not do another round of tomatoes and cukes, as I had planned, and in fact, will not be doing any new rounds of anything at all, even brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, which are much easier to maintain as they have fewer pests than other plants.

The peppers are doing well, as are the squash, so those will stay until they have run their course, because harvesting those and processing them is not terribly onerous, although it is time consuming to dry the chiles so they can be stored until the end of the season, nature-wise, in order to grind them into their respective powders.

There are two factors at work here: one, of course, and as my handful of readers know, is my health. I am still recovering from the rounds of pneumonia, and I have a lump on my neck no one seems to know what to do with. I also desperately need to gain some weight, which is a difficult task for me even under normal conditions. Thus far, every gain I’ve made this season is knocked back by work in the gardens – a vicious circle that has to be stopped if I’m ever to gain back even a fraction of what I’ve lost since last November through the various illnesses. When I’m healthy, of course, my body is not trying to burn calories to heal and burn calories for the grunt work that are the gardens here at the ranch. That double whammy is too stressful on my system, and beyond just gaining back weight, puts the removal of this feeding tube further out of reach.

The second factor? Time. I already gave up on the social media time sinks, just popping on to twitter briefly now and again, freeing up large chunks of time. But this season in the gardens, it has been taking me twice as long to do the things that are necessary and second nature to me than they do when I am healthy: I tire more easily, and since my lungs in particular have taken a beating, I can’t catch my wind well, as we say down here. For those of you not well versed in Southern-ese, it means I have a hard time catching my breath during exertion. Thus, the time that has gone into doing all the things that need to be done in the gardens, from starting and maintaining flats, to transplanting, to weeding, to bug patrol has skyrocketed, eating into time I need for other things.

So, the plan: the tomatoes are history, beaten down by too much rain in June, and too much pest and weed burden. Those plants will be pulled for the compost heap and the frames stripped of weeds. The frames where I had cukes and beans will be stripped, weeded, and covered as well. Where we don’t have commercial weedblock already in place, we’ll be putting down heavy mil black plastic to solarize the frames and kill off whatever still lurks in the top inches of the soil – pests and weeds both. The rows of tomatoes have weedblock in place, so will just need covering in the places the holes were punched for the plants.

When the peppers and squash have run their course, those plants will be pulled for the compost pile as well. The rows where the peppers are plants have weedblock, so it will simply be a matter of covering those holes as with the tomatoes. The asparagus rows need to be weeded, but those will not be covered; instead, we’ll use thick layers of straw there, to try to keep the weeds down. Ditto for the strawberries.

And so the rows will lie fallow this season, giving them a break from the constant use we’ve had going for the past however many years. In a month or so, we’ll pull back the cover, and put in some soil-feeding crop – some vetch, oats and winter peas is a good combination that I’ve used before, and I may put in some buckwheat and perhaps some clover as well. After those come up solidly, I’ll cut them off at the soil line, leave the cuttings right in place, and cover the rows up once more, letting it all die off. Before the spring, we’ll pull the covers back, top off the rows with soil and manure, and cover them once again. The rows where we only have plastic down we’ll swap out for weedblock right before transplanting begins. The rows that have bowed out sides from the pressure of soil have to be righted and braced better; that’s a cool weather job, as the edges have to be dug away so the sides can be returned to vertical and braced.

The time I’d otherwise spend in the gardens this season will instead go into the writing bank. I’ve been planning to work on this first book (of about 20, now) in my head since last year’s NaNoWriMo in November, but that got thrown out the window by illness and a bout with pancreatitis (note: the latter is painful as hell). So, I said, “I’ll start in December.” That also was derailed for the same reasons (note again: pancreatitis is a bitch!). I’d lost about 15 pounds over those two months, and headed into January swearing that 2017 would be better, and I’d be able to work on my writing. Enter the pneumonias, the surgeries, the ongoing issue with my neck, the further weight loss, and the time eating monster all of that created when I wanted to get the gardens going this year. The result: a big fat zero on the writing front.

I figure that by next year, when it’s time to get the gardens going once more, I will have regained some weight, which will help the overall health issues, especially when it comes to help keep something like pneumonia from landing me in a hospital bed with IVs in my arms, because my body will be in a better position to help fight stuff like that instead of trying to fight that sort of thing with little to no reserves available. That will also make keeping up the gardens not carve out huge chunks of time and instead return that to the more normal work time I associate with the gardens, leaving pools of time available for writing. This is the goal I’m working toward, and I do believe it is, ultimately, an attainable goal.

My next step from here is to continue to try to adjust my schedule properly in order to get the novel work done first thing in the mornings. Without the worries and constant “I shoulds” intrusions, about the gardens, my mind be free of the stress and guilt over that, which will help my mindset on the writing front. I’ll still be writing here, too, of course, as this writing supports other writing and vice versa. It all also helps continue building and reinforcing the habit of writing on a daily basis: mornings for the main work in progress, afternoons for things like blogging, fleshing out the ideas that pop into my head for other novels, working on poems, and so on.

So that’s the plan, peeps. I hope you’ll continue to follow along for my musings – even if I’m not working gardens this year, I’ll still be thinking/writing about the things that we will be doing out there this year, my thoughts about what to plant next year (and where and why), and of course I’ll still be working my bees.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life