What season is it?

Pollen season, of course.

It appears we are done with “winter”, unless Mother Nature decides to give us the middle finger and gift us with a random freeze.

In the meantime, this is the time for working like an overcaffeinated squirrel on meth to get everything in shape for when we just snap right into summer. The good news is that it’s supposed to be rather balmy and springlike after the next couple of days, and that’s the best time to get some of the larger (sweaty, dirty, annoying) tasks done. Today I got the rest of the bed ready for strawberries and also reset the long side of that particular frame, as it was bowed out quite a bit. It’s amazing what you can do if you paid attention in geometry (angles!) and have some three foot rebar.

Aside: I had been posting daily. Alas, I was sick – again – and that has just started to lift a bit over the last three to four days. Whenever I’d have a scan or xray or whatever and wind up with some Thing that could be addressed with antibiotics, we’d all say, “At least it isn’t cancer!” The past three weeks, after having xrays at the ER and then again at the outpatient center, we say, “At least it isn’t pneumonia!” They both suck. I think this thing on my neck is playing a large part in all this, given that I can express the gunk out through the sublingual salivary gland, and it’s obvious that it’s infected from time to time. Next week, we’re going to a new ENT, referred by my current ENT, who is more of the usual stuff. The new guy specializes in surgical oncology for the ear, nose, throat, and I’m hoping he has some kind of answer for me related to this. It’s annoying.

Back to the gardens: about two weeks ago, I direct sowed shelling peas, carrots, and radishes. Those are up, although the peas have some duds amongst them and need to be resown here and there. In addition to fixing the strawberry frame mentioned up above, I also sowed lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, and pac choi.

In the barn, there are five flats under the light – all tomatoes and peppers. The tomatoes are up, and I saw the first unfolding green stem of a pepper when I needed to get rebar out of the barn. This week, I’ll get the broccoli and cauliflower into flats under the lights. They can, for the most part, take the wild fluctuating temps, and even temps that hover near freezing if Mother Nature pulls one on us.

I’ve also been fixing the fences around the gardens. Rabbits have been in the gardens, both front and back, based on the evidence.


While I’ve been going around, weeding, shoring up frame sides, doing other things that have been neglected the past couple of years thanks to illness, I’ve found rabbit poop here and there. I’ve also found obvious nests out in the front – among the asparagus, but also (amusingly enough) in the carrots – and in the back, in the vetch I’d thrown down as green manure. I’m not building buffets just for them, so closing holes or openings in pieces of the fence is important.

Tomorrow will be another day. Strawberry planting day, to be precise. They’ll go into their freshly turned frame and into the second frame just west of it, and by June we’ll be getting berries to go with all the other things we’ll be harvesting by then.

Time to finish a tube feed and then hit the sack. Until next time, peeps: be well.


Blank canvas

The best thing about gardening is the blank canvas you get to work with at the turn of each new season.

The green at the left in that second frame in the foreground frame is the overwintered carrots.

What cannot – for now – be seen are the new sowing round: in the frame row in the foreground,  I’ve added peas, and in the second frame with the overwintered carrots, more carrot seed along with radish seed.

A parade of lights. More accurately, a testing of all the lights before they get rehung over the tables in the barn once more. Several have dead sides entirely, either the tombstones or in the wiring, but I’ll just hang those on the perimeters with the bad sides out – there is a slight loss on the lighting anyway because I don’t have about six more inches of table space available, so it all works out in the end.

I had planned, the day I started this post, to head to the hardware store for some seed starting material, but my body betrayed me again and I tumbled into feeling very crappy. Yesterday was horrible. Today, however, is a new day and although I’m not 100%, at least I don’t feel like death warmed over. It’s grey, chilly, and rainy today, so I’m also not particularly bothered by doing anything other than work today.

The seeds are rolling in, with three of five vendor orders in. Now if this nonsense will exit my head and throat, I can get down to the very serious business of getting things growing.

Let the Games begin

That’s right, (winter) sports fans, the Winter Olympics are here.

The good thing about the games being half a world away is the magic of the DVR: by recording them, I can zip through the things I don’t want to watch (the training runs in skiing) to get to the things I do (biathlon, etc.).

Norway has won more medals in the winter Games than any other country, and since part of my heritage (on my grandmother’s side) is Norwegian, a little piece of me gives a cheer whenever they get another. Of course, I will hope that Team USA gets some podium time, too.

Good luck to all the athletes. It isn’t easy to be the tops in your sport and it isn’t easy to make the Olympic teams. As a former athlete myself (nothing winter-related, thank you), I know.


Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.

Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.

Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.

Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.

I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.

Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.

Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.




Night drive

I missed the window for a new posting on Wednesday. I was actually in the process of composing it when I had to head out to the NOC to beat a server into submission. Unfortunately, I also found another issue with a power unit while I was there, which means setting up another unit, configuring it, then switching the servers on the bad unit to the new one. It seems as if there is always something crying out for attention in the tech world. It can be very annoying and quite tedious.

But it was somewhere around 11 PM when I left, and the roads were mostly clear. There is literally no way to get anywhere I need to go without running into construction along the way. Jacksonville: Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.

It isn’t a terrible drive for thinking and having some music on during the trip out and back (about an hour and 20 minutes for the total round trip). I let my mind wander throughout the drive, and usually come up with a scene or two for some of the books that have been percolating in the back of my head. That happened tonight, and one of those scenes is a rather pivotal scene toward the end of the book that will contain it. The problem is I haven’t been writing. At all. Between being sick and work, where things can be really nutty sometimes, and have always-active tasks that need to be done, it doesn’t leave a ton of time when my brain is not totally fried from dealing with those tasks or with clients who are having some kind of issue.

I’ve said before (maybe here, maybe not) that a lot of tech work involves waiting. Waiting for a new kernel build to update on the servers. Waiting for the servers to reboot to finalize those new builds. Working on transfers of content from other networks to ours and doing the hundred little things that need to be done if they’re coming from a network that doesn’t use the same control panel we use. I’d guess it probably amounts to a little over a quarter of our time. What I would like to do is be able to train myself to get some writing done in those in between times of waiting or on tickets that land in the box for support. I read that Anthony Trollope would break out his writing into 15 minute chunks over the span of a few hours. He managed to pound out all sorts of stuff doing that. AND he was working for the post office.  Since it’s rare that I’d have a few hours in a row, I’ll have to make some adjustments and grab time where I can, making it a priority.

And that, my handful of readers, was my late evening. I hope yours were quieter.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Gimme a B!

For bean. Or give me a G for garbanzo. Or give me a C for chickpea.

Do you sense a trend?

One of the things I used to make in my old life was garbanzo bean soup, AKA Spanish bean soup. After I stopped being able to chew and swallow stuff, I sort of lost my way on that and a bunch of other things. It’s only reasonable, I suppose, to get a bit depressed about the state of your being and realize that you’re going to have to bow down to the inevitable, as otherwise, you’re liable to get bitter about it, too. Knowing that you probably have a couple more decades on this planet and that this is how your life will be is just….well, it sucks, not to put it too bluntly.

The other conclusion that I’ve reached after years of working on the rehab side of thing, trying to get my mouth stretched against the damage and scar tissue gifted to me from the radiation to my head and neck – hey, fuck you, cancer! – is that I’m really never going to be able to eat anywhere close to how I ate  as a normal person. I’m not even going to be able to eat like I did when I was trying to save my teeth by shelling out thousands to my dentist, which wasn’t great, but at least it was real, solid food.

After reading up on the effects malnutrition can play once you’ve been hit over the head over and over by cancer (fuck you, cancer!), the treatments, the side effects of those treatments, and the lasting “gifts” from those treatments, I decided it’s going to be soups (non-chunky, please) and purees for me from here out.

I figured I would do some looking around at baby food makers, because most have all the functions built in these days: steam food and puree it, from the same appliance, without whipping a ton of air (and thus foam) into the food. While I was doing this, I was thinking about the food combinations that would be more like a real meal. A meat and three sides, for instance (and if you’re from the South, you’ll get just as much a giggle out of that as I did). Purees of my own slow smoked pork butts with my own bbq sauce, beans, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. Purees of my guacamole. And on and on.

So I picked up a variety of purees for for babies, figuring I could get a sense of what flavors worked together in that form, and how they tasted. I chose samples from three different companies  of the ones my Publix carried that were for babies about six months and up.

One word: gross.

Toddlers don’t exactly have refined palates. After all, anyone who has been around children know they will put almost anything in their mouth, from food to dirt to cat poop. This probably makes it easier to feed them the purees from the manufacturers and easier on the manufacturers to produce those. Who can fault any of this? Not me.

But if you’re an adult, faced with finding things to eat because your mouth and throat are basically that of a baby/toddler, these things can be pretty dreadful. Disclosure: I tried multiple items, from different producers, and they ALL tasted bad to me, even the stuff that was nominally just (say) a fruit puree. It’s damn hard to get an adult who likes peaches disgusted by a peach puree. Make that puree taste like tin wrapped around slime, though, and presto!

I wound up tossing “adult puree” into the Oracle and came away with some interesting things. One is that there is a company that makes purees, for adults, in cans. No offense, but I am not trying those. There are also sites with suggestions for people with dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and people on soft or what are known as “soft mechanical” diets – i.e., people with dentures or implants. Or people who can’t have implants and for whom dentures are out of reach, too painful, or physiologically a problem. Choose one or all.

The how to get to purees is simple: cook the food, puree it. The how to get there using what to puree it is not that simple. I looked at babyfood makers, as I said, because that’s what they’re designed to do: cook the food and puree it. I realized, when looking at them, that they would probably be insufficient, unless I wanted to be making food every couple of days. While I don’t eat a ton more than a growing baby does, I do eat frequently through the day. I needed something more robust, but I didn’t need a bottle warmer or a defroster/warmer, and I didn’t really need the high points a few of the reviewers pointed out in the ones I was looking at, because using both hands to deal with it wasn’t an issue for me versus the mom with a tot in one hand trying to get things done with the other. After doing some searching on what was better to puree, and reading reviews, I decided to get one of the Ninja brand machines that specifically got good grades on purees, and its other functions – like making shakes, which I will still be drinking – are those I will also use. It will also enable me to replace the current little blender I use to make shakes, so it’s a multitasker.

Now, I finally pulled the trigger on that Saturday night. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me it would be delivered Monday, thanks to Prime. Awesome! The problem: the United State Postal Service. More specifically, the rural USPS. Monday: no delivery. I knew – I knew! – the problem, because it’s one I’ve faced before.

Like many places now, we have a communal mailbox. Ours has two larger parcel boxes for things that won’t fit into the small mailbox for each house. If those are full, or the items will not fit, most of the time, the carrier will take them back to the PO. This is even though a) it’s roughly 200 yards from the community box to my front door, b) in the winter, like right now, you can literally see my front door from the box, and c) the fact they have to drive past my driveway not once but TWICE to deliver mail to another small cluster of houses that are built within my already small little area. We’ve had this chat with the postmaster over at the PO, and it’s made no difference: some of the rural carriers are shitty, and whether we actually get something on time that is either shipped USPS or where USPS is the last mile (common in rural areas where things are shipped by UPS or FedEx but end up at the PO for the final leg of delivery) depends on who is driving.

The other annoying thing about this is that I can’t just go the next day to pick up the package, because there’s no way to know if they will bring it out the next day and attempt it. So the next day, the carrier drops the notice in the box, and the day after that, I go pick up whatever it is. Two days later than the “guaranteed” delivery, because we have lazy carriers. It isn’t like they’re humping this stuff on their backs. I just can’t understand it sometimes, and I’ve given up on trying. I’m annoyed, though, because I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In any case, the Great Puree Test will have to wait until tomorrow. Who knows – if I can develop some good recipes, I could probably write a cookbook for people who either have the same issues as I do or care for someone who does. Or for moms who want their babies to go on a food adventure outside the stuff companies are making.

Until next time, peeps: be well. Don’t forget to chew your food thoroughly.


Cowpie bingo

There is such a thing. Anyone who lives near or has lived in ranching country knows what that is. For the rest of you: divide a pasture field into a grid. Number the resulting squares, and then have people put money down on a square they think the cattle you let into that pasture will take a dump. The winner gets something as a prize, but the event is generally a fundraiser kind of deal.

Winter in Florida is a lot like cowpie bingo. Every so often, Mother Nature drops by to take a dump on us, just to remind us that while we may be tropical most of the year – and sometimes even all of the year, in some cases – she can and will come down for a short stay, even given her very busy schedule.

We’ve already had six days in a row with freezing overnight temps, with one in the 20s. Then things went back to a rather Florida-like “winter”. Tonight and tomorrow, however, actual winter is back for a two day show, roping us in with the misery it’s creating up north.

Tonight, just before I geared up and went out to turn on a couple of the far taps around 10PM, it was 32F. Two hours later, and it’s dropped to 28F.

The wind has also picked up, as the blue line at the bottom shows. It’s cold. Very cold. And a terrific reminder why I will never live in the northern reaches of the country again. Had enough of that in my childhood, and I’m not anxious for more. We, unlike people in the great north who have to spend a quarter of the year at least playing host to winter, will get right back to our version of it.

In other news….see below the fold, as there’s a pic that may make some people a tad squeamish. If you don’t like blood, don’t go there.

Continue reading Cowpie bingo

When life gives you fish (oil)

So Thursday was a pretty crappy day.

As my small but deluded devoted readers know, I put a hive with a very, very small population of bees in the barn to protect them from the freeze. I had found the queen (yay!) and they seemed happy enough. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and when I checked on them on Thursday, I found it had gotten too hot in the barn with the heater running: one of the frames had its wax melted, and there was honey and wax all over the floor.

So, I had to clean that, scooping up the honey and wax with a bench scraper, and then washing up the mess. And…the bees were not in the hive box. They were clustered up again the window. I got them down, but did not find the queen. As the queen had one wing clipped, she certainly would not be flying anywhere. She was not in the box, not on the window, and I couldn’t find her amongst the bees that had finally reached their last shift and died.

I was taking a break from the cleanup to get something to eat, and had a coughing fit – a hard one – and my throat started to close. I wrapped one of those cold towels that you put in cold water and then snap to get excess out around my neck and tried to stay calm through the wheezing. It finally eased, and was fine the rest of the evening, although it made me a bit hoarse.

To top off my craptacular day, I was going to do a formula feed through the tube, and when I flushed the tube with water before starting the formula, I felt wetness on my abdomen where the tube goes in, and then on my hands. I wondered if I’d just not put the syringe fully into the tube, but nope: the tube itself had split open at the abdomen side. It’s been in place for eleven months, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but it was (and is) annoying. When I coughed, a little squirt of belly juice would erupt from one of the holes the blowout had caused. I needed something to hold things together before Tuesday, when I’ll go to the hospital and the doc will replace the thing. I took a small binder clip (the black ones with the wings), clipped it to the tube at my abdomen just before the tube goes into my stomach, then wrapped gauze around that.

Toss in some other stress, and Thursday was a shitty, shitty day. I’ll explain the oil in the next post, as I’m typing this right now and suddenly feel like I’m about to barf.

Until next time, peeps, be well.

Business 101

Boss: “We’re a pretzel and chip outfit. What can we do with all the broken pieces that don’t make it through the line?”

Product person: “I have a solution, boss!”

Boss: “That’s a bonus for you!”

Product person: “But wait, there’s more! You know how some of the whole pretzels get knocked out of the sorting line because they’re overcooked?”

Boss: “Yeeeesss. Do you have something in mind for that?”

Product person: “Yes, I do!”

Boss: “Wow, Product Person, you are getting a double bonus for this.”

Product Person looks down, shuffles their feet: “Aw, thanks Boss.”

No disrespect to Unique, which appears to be the brand. Personally, I think this is marketing brilliance. Even if I could eat, I wouldn’t eat either one, but I’m sure others will. I picked up a bag of the “extra dark splits” thing up there, to force my family into taste testing them. Someone around here has to do it, now that I can’t.


Winter has arrived

Floridians in general are not pleased when we have a real winter, despite the shortness of our exposure to said winter. I – a native Floridian – absolutely hate the few real winter days we have. I just don’t like the cold at all. I’ve been wearing two pairs of socks since September because my feet are cold almost all the time. Now, for the arrival of this:

I have on three pairs of socks, my sweats under my jeans, and a sweatshirt over my t-shirt.  For the outside times – like throwing a moving blanket over the big hive out back, a tarp on top of that because it’s supposed to rain through the day tomorrow – I put on my hat, my jacket with the heavy lining zipped in, and gloves. I made a run to the grocery store to avoid having to go anywhere at all this week if it can be avoided.

In other news, the forecast also shifted to the point where we may have sleet and/or snow  in the morning.

While I detest the extended forecast of too damn cold, I am hoping that we get some flurries tomorrow, so my niece and nephew can see snow.

On the bee front, the barn bees may not make it. When I checked on them this afternoon after covering the hive in the beeyard and the wellhead and bladder to keep them from freezing/being iced over from the rain/sleet, there were a number of dead bees on the landing board, frozen to death. I did pull a couple of frames to look down into the hive and did see some bees in there, and I am hopeful they will make it through.

I know the northerners amongst my handful of readers are laughing about my whining about the cold. But hey, there’s a reason I live here and not there, you know.

We will survive the great freezapocalypse that has our local meteorologists having weathergasms much like they did with the hurricanes that visited us last year.  But some of us – me – won’t be terribly happy about it.

Until the next time, peeps: be well. And bundle up if you’re anywhere other than SoCal or south Florida. It’s damn cold.


Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life