All posts by Annette

Weeds everywhere

And cover crop arrival! 60 pounds of cover crop:

This cover crop consists of: bell beans, vetch, oats, and peas, and I ordered a separate back of buckwheat. This is going into the rows as we pull things out to add biomass/organic matter back to the rows.  If you need cover crop seed, or anything else ag-related, and want a good deal (and fast shipping!) hit up Hearne Seed. They’re terrific, and we’ve never had an issue in all the years we’ve been using them.

I went out and started down one side of a row I weeded last week. While doing that, and looking at the walking aisles, I realized something.

We’re going to have to pull out all that mulch and just go with the commercial grade weedblock. In the picture there is chamberbitter, AKA mimosa weed. It is everywhere – in the aisles, in the beds – and it’s damn hard to get it pulled good to the root in the mulch, Under the mulch is actually some not-commercial landscape weedblock, and these things do not care at all. As I was pulling them, listening to the satisfying rrrrrip  (after I pulled a second time because the first time  the top portion of the stem snapped, grrrr), I realized they had grown their roots right through that not-commercial weedblock, which was part of the issue with the tops snapping off when I pulled.

I saw a homesteader video where some folks put down exactly the commercial stuff I have, and it seems to work really well for them. I was concerned that it might get very hot – it is black, after all – but the woman in the video said she goes out in bare feet on it all the time. They are not in Florida, but this mulch gets really hot anyway, so if it does get really warm, we’ll already be used to it.

I also decided on another major change: taking out the frame on each row and just having a regular raised bed. I decided this for a few reasons, but the main one is: the edges of the metal sides are sharp. I’ve cut myself numerous times, and we can’t let the kidlets in the garden unsupervised while the frames are in there. I think the dirt will all stay where it is – there’s a smaller version of these larger ones behind the asparagus bed, and it’s still there after ten years – mainly because I haven’t shoveled it out of there, since there were still asparagus plants in it. I get the plants out (except one) and into the main asparagus bed, so moving that dirt out is on the fall list of chores.

Speaking of asparagus: it’s in desperate need of weeding (the strawberries, too – they’re just buried in mimosa weed, poor things). I’m the only one who weeds the asparagus, as it’s far too easy to pull an asparagus plant while pulling the weeds.

You can see at the upper center and the left there are asparagus plants completely enveloped by weeds. It takes patience and a sure hand to remove the weeds without uprooting the asparagus. The one at center right is a baby I rescued from the invaders.

This is the asparagus on the left in the previous picture – one of them, I should say. There are several coming up from this little circle.

My sister and I have a deal, and we’ve had it for years: I will pull weeds, because she hates weeding (as any normal person would), and she will bag them up for the yard waste pickup when she’s over at the ranch. I try to make sure she has plenty to do.

There are more piles like this in the north garden. The only problem is that it keeps raining, putting a damper on bagging. We’ll get there, though. Sometimes it all looks so impossible, so disheartening, and I curse getting sick at the most important time of the season. But then I tell myself I couldn’t control that, not really, and now it’s just one step after another after another after another: get it done. And so we will.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Off my feed

Ever wonder where that phrase came from?

Anyone raised on, near, or around a farm would know immediately.

I was up until after 5:30 this morning transferring mail from one server to another. While one rather large batch was transferring, I took the opportunity to grab a quick nap. I got back up, set off another item, went back to bed for about 40 minutes, then got back up again, unpacked something, updated a ticket, and hauled myself out for some physical therapy related to laryngospasms, which are unpleasant and make you feel like you’re going to die because you can’t breathe. I then waited at the rehab place for 45 minutes before actually getting into it. If I had not been short on both sleep and food, I probably would have been more charitable in my mind about waiting – again – for some medical-related bullshit. To make things even more exciting, I have an appointment with an ortho tomorrow, then on the 3rd, 7th, and 9th, with different doctors, with a followup at the rehab place on the 14th. Thrilling. Also, fuck cancer. If you’re offended by the f word….this probably is not the place for you.

The chicks have shipped, according to an email from the hatchery. I’m hoping they arrive tomorrow, but they can survive up to three days in transit – shorter times are better, of course, but such is the wonder of being able to order just about anything through the mail.

I had planned on mowing late this afternoon, but it has been so humid here today that nothing dried out. Such if the wonder of Florida.

The even weirder than normal sleep thing and food thing have me off my feed in the “I feel odd” way. I’m hoping that will pass if this little tech world of mine cools it a bit. I’m hoping that getting this done and getting some writing done will help, too. Killing off someone – literarily speaking, of course – does wonders for one’s mood.

I was looking to the skies the other night – the moon and Mars are very close to one another in the early evening sky, and got this shot of the moon.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Police yourself

Or at least your email.

Company-wise, we have a policy of three year retention of mail; indefinite for certain special items. Personally, I try to keep things trimmed to the last year at most. I wish more people would set themselves some kind of purge schedule for mail. I’m trying to move someone with 140 gigs – that GIGS – of mail spread throughout their corporate mail. Do you really, really need a copy of  that mail you sent six years ago? Or some piece of mail you received four years ago that references something that no longer even exists?

Figure out some kind of policy for your mail and make it as common a chore as vacuuming your floors or changing your bedsheets. Your mailbox (and your mail administrator) will thank you.

Don’t count your eggs

Before they’ve been popped out by a hen.

No, that isn’t the way that saying goes.

Chick prep day whatever: today I braved Tractor Supply to lay in some stores for the chicks, due to arrive (probably) Tuesday. I’m sure the USPS will be much happier with a box of peeping chicks than packages of humming bees.

Anyhow, the local place was hopping today: I counted over a dozen other people there, including the stereotypical grizzled old cowboy, boots, hat, and a belt buckle that was rather impressive. He had a head full of white that nicely set off his deep tan – what could be seen of it, since he was also decked out in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. People may wonder about working outdoors, in Florida, in summer, wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, but if you’re doing certain types of work (especially during mosquito season) it’s better to have more cover than less. He was not, alas, there to buy a new hay corral or have Big Jim (in my mind, there is always a “Big Jim” at a feed store or Tractor Supply) load up some heavy ass posts and giant rolls of cattle fencing because he was finally closing in that big piece of pasture, you know the one, on down past that new pond, right?

Nope.

Just a single item, maybe two, that I couldn’t even see from where I was in the line with my 50 pound bag of chick starter feed, some chick grit, and a new trough at the other register they finally opened to relieve Elaine (that was her name, actually), who originally had us about ten deep waiting to check out.

I also had to hit up Target today, looking for a couple of adapters. It wasn’t a horrible experience, completely, but that is one soulless, non-interactive place to be. I imagine it’s only a half step up from Wal-Mart, which I have not visited in well over 15 years at this point, thankfully. Not a single person talked to me – which is fine, I don’t exactly crave human contact – and as I went toward the checkout, the air smelled curdled somehow, as if someone had dropped a jug of milk that splattered everywhere but didn’t it get cleaned up all the way. Five days ago. Or it could have been the guy in line in front of me. Either way.

To top off my day, I had to go to Best Buy, which is now a riot of sound and gigantic active tv screens. They really, really, would like you to buy various appliances. At least the people are friendly enough, but the checkout takes forever because they want to see if you are in their system already. Whatever happened to the days of just buying the crap you need and getting out?

Also, I have to say that moving all the electronic detritus you’ve accumulated from one machine to another has to rank up there with the most tedious, annoying things you have to do. Even more annoying is when you realize you copied some of the outlook-related files, but not the actual PST file that you need to go on the new system. Argh.

Funny stuff from the folks who made the hanging waterers I bought (instead of making them myself because my time is money and I’ve got enough capital tied up in other things at this moment): they would like you to know they also sell nesting boxes – for the non-chicken initiated, these are where the chickens will lay their eggs, typically, although they will also lay them on the floor or, even more fun, under bushes/plants, where you won’t find them until much, much later, and one wrong move translates into a very big mistake involving the sulfuric aroma of rotten eggs. Anyhow, their illustrations just made me laugh, and perhaps you’ll get a chuckle, too.

It is true that chickens, once they start eating their own eggs, will often continue to do so unless they are physically prevented from doing it. There are solutions for that, but the best thing is to prevent them from doing it in the first place. Giving them good nesting boxes and collecting the eggs on a regular basis tends to do the trick. More importantly: no poop on the eggs! (In reality, with good nesting boxes of any sort, the eggs will generally be poop-free.)

Until next time peeps: be well.

 

Capturing lightning

I’m a big fan of storms (minus any loss of life, of course). I love the smell of the air just after it starts raining. I love almost-blinding flashes of light followed by deep, rumbling thunder. I love the wind kissing the chimes, their perfectly-tuned tones resonating long after the initial strike. I love the sound of rain, especially if it varies in intensity based on which part of the storm is moving over us.

Because we get near daily storms, I’m always trying to capture some lightning with one of the cameras. Most of the time, I put the Canon on a tripod and stick it on the front or back porch, set it off, and hope I get something.

The other afternoon, I captured not one but two images of cloud to cloud lightning in the storm that made itself known to us. I got the editing done on that video of the first capture: in real time initially, and then slowed down to 25% so it could be seen better. I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Adversity

As you, dear readers, know, I’ve had my share of adversity lo these 13 recent years. This morning, one of those annoyances made their appearance: a nasty headache. I managed to get up, then thought it would probably be better if I could get a little more sleep and not endure the worst of it.

Did not work out. Part of that was because I’m an insomniac even at the best of times, and it takes me forever to fall asleep anyway unless I am totally beat. The other part was because my brain wouldn’t shut up with scenes for the current novel, ideas for the next one or two or ten, snatches of dialogue, the things I needed to get done today, and the things I had planned to do today.

So I got back up and used tylenol and caffeine to deal with it. That has worked out okay, but it’s like a small piece of my brain noggin is on an acid trip (or what I imagine it would be, since I’m not into that sort of thing): a little out of myself. No hallucinations, thankfully. I almost  blew off today’s blog, because let’s face it, who is reading this? But I reminded myself that this is more me than anyone else, and it warms me up nicely for the other writing I need to do. Thanks, Brain!

One of the things I needed to get done was to feed the bees. We’re heading into the next nectar flow, and they’ll probably only need this week before they’ll be able to forage what’s blooming in the area. They’ll likely be able to fend for themselves through August and September, and perhaps (if this year is like last year) into October. It’s kind of a dicey time for a beekeeper: if  you get a swarm going in October, that’s probably a death sentence for the swarm and the hive it came from, even if October is warm, as it was last year (in fact, this is how I lost a hive last year: they thought it would be a good idea to swarm in October, when it was in the 80s, only to have October turn into fall and be substantially cooler). I captured the swarm, but they died and the original hive died as well. So, that’s going to take at least weekly inspections, during the muggiest, swampiest time of the year for us here. It was brutally nasty when I fed them today AND I got stung, twice, on my right quad while getting some rainwater out of one of the feed holders on a hive. Bitches.

Last night I went outside to get some audio of the peepers because they were SO LOUD. As I was coming in, i did the usual check for frogs, to try to keep them on the outside, where they belong, instead of the inside, where they sometimes die and mummify, leaving us to find them in the weirdest spots – and then yours truly has to clean those up, because no one else likes to. Sissies.

Here’s the video from last night: the Green Frog Rescue Follies. The two with hair on them were the ones I kicked out of the house as I went outside to get that audio.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And be on the lookout for tiny green frogs.

Consistency

As of yesterday, I had posted to the blog nine days in a row. Today makes ten. Go me.

At first, I thought I might just do something short and silly, like type the date and call it done. Interesting enough, I’ve found something to talk about, even if it’s of interest only to me. And even if it is only me interested, I’m okay with that.

I’ve also written – actual writing on the novel front – for five days in a row. As with the blog, at first I thought I might not have a whole lot to write toward the story – or at least, nothing that I’d be proud to point to and say, “This is not total shit.”

As with this here blog, though, it seems to be not terrible – the act of getting the words down or the words themselves. There will be things to fix, of course, and I can handle that. But if you never write it, it can never be really fixed, even if you think it’s perfect in your head. Excelsior!

I’ll leave you with two pics of a mystery bird my mom caught in the top of one of the trees in the rear of the property. It’s obviously some kind of heron, with that neck extension.

And here is the mystery bird leaving the ranch, neck retracted.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Tuesdays are the worst

I’m not sure what it is about Tuesdays in tech. They are absolutely the worst day of the week, with weirdo requests and people not bothering to take in anything you’re telling them. For instance: we’ve just told someone how to set his email client so he can actually, you know, GET HIS MAIL. He’s decided to leave everything alone  and only change if it becomes a problem. Sir, it already is a problem, so perhaps taking our instructions would be beneficial to your email operations completing properly. These things don’t magically cure themselves.

I have a theory about this phenomenon: I think people get back to work on Monday, blow through whatever it is they have to do, and by Tuesday are once again slacking off and leeching off their employers’ internet connections to do stuff related to their sites. It’s the only thing that makes sense given the sheer number of tickets on Tuesday versus other days of the week. Not that I’m knocking slacking off – if whatever you have to do is done, slack away.  I have a suspicion that some people have not completed their work when they indulge their slackiness. Shame on them.

I don’t recall ever seeing this specific issue in the non-tech, in real life jobs I’ve had in the past. It may be that those jobs were just hellish all the time. Certainly the retail jobs I’ve held were pure hell, every day.

If this is as bad as it gets, user-wise, on otherwise normal days (no server crashes, network issues, etc.) then I guess it isn’t too terribly bad on this end. We could still dowith a little relief from the folks who are not inclined to take instructions to heart, though, regardless of the day.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chick prep week: day one

Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:

Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.

All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.

Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.

No chicken butts atop the waterer

I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!).  For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.

The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.

The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.

At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.

Until next time, poops – I mean, peeps: be well.

 

New tools

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just cannot seem to get started on that Thing you really, really want to do, and if you do get started, you don’t carry forward with it.

Now, having things that must be done so something else doesn’t die – managing the bees, for instance, or feeding the dogs, or making sure the chickens are ok – makes it much easier to do those things. Other activities, that hurt no one and nothing (except maybe your psyche) are easier to rationalize when you don’t do them. Writing is one of those things, for me, mainly because in my justifying-energy-use head it just doesn’t seem to be as important as everything else in my life, when in reality, it’s absolutely quite important, according to my “what do I want to be when I grow up, what is it I do best, what’s the most fun thing to do” brain.

I’ve read tons of tips and books and watched scores of videos about procrastination, getting out of your own way, naming the importance of what you want to pursue, and all that other stuff that goes along with not doing the Thing you tell yourself you want to do.

But the other day, via a video (that I was watching more for fun than anything else), I heard about Focusmate.com. The theory behind it is one of an accountability partner – which, as plenty of people know, helps when you’re trying to do something like write or paint or sculpt or practice the piano, or anything else. You create an account, then book a session for whatever time you like. They pair you with someone, and at the designated time, you launch the session, and both you and your partner for that session are on webcams, doing your work and watching (out of the corner of your eye, if your screen is set up correctly) one another.  It’s like being there in person with one another, except without the travel or noise of whatever environment you might been in had you gotten together in real life.

Even though my internet connection sucks on the best of days, and because there is no way I’m meeting up in real life with a person or persons at a coffee shop or anywhere else, it seemed like something worthy of at least a try. So I ordered myself a cheap little webcam that is now hanging atop my monitor like The Raven, eyeing me, and today signed up for a session at 2, with another upcoming at 6. The sessions last 50 minutes – about the time of the typical session with a shrink or analyst, and I imagine that is not by accident. You log in, launch the session with whoever you’ve been paired with, exchange greetings and what you’re working on/hope to get done, and off you go, doing whatever it is you are respectively doing. In the early session, I was paired with a guy working on some computer science-related material; as I type this, it’s about half an hour or so from the second session I booked. I’m happy to report that in that earlier 50 minute session, I pounded out 968 words, according to Scrivener.

You’ll also get notices from the site when the next session is starting if you log in via your phone – I discovered this by accident because our internet connection went down about 40 minutes before the start of the 2 PM session I had booked. A notice popped up on my phone 30 minutes before I was due to launch the session on my desktop. That was nice, although I thought I was going to have to cancel that session thanks to my sucktacular ISP. Luckily, they got themselves going again, and I was able to complete the session without a problem.

So, if you’re looking to do something – even doing some reading you’ve been wanting to get to, I imagine – and like me, can’t get yourself to do it because you have ten million other things you need to do, you might want to give Focusmate a try. It’s free, and the only things you need are a camera, mic, and a computer with an internet connection available.

Until next time, peeps: be well.