Category Archives: Cats, dogs, chickens, and other critters

Hello, sports fans

It’s been awhile, yes. A big thank you to Damian, who noticed I had a script kiddie “hack” the site – not a hack per se, just a defacement, like a tagger on a building wall more than anything else, but annoying. If you’re running WordPress, you need to update to 4.7.2. This is pretty much their equivalent of a hair on fire announcement.

“WordPress 4.7.2 is now available. This is a security release for all previous versions and we strongly encourage you to update your sites immediately.”

So, thanks to Damian, I cleared out that defaced post and got this here blawg, plus the others I maintain, updated.

Speaking of updates, what’s been happening at the ranch? A bunch of things, bleeding over from the suckage that was 2016. Last year was rather a horrible one from every single angle: professional, personal, ranch. I was sick off and on most of the year, and late in the year I found a big lump on the right side of my neck. Those of you who have followed me know that the cancer back in 2005 was on the left side of my neck. This thing ballooned up so big that it finally burst – or, as the doctors say, “spontaneously drained”. There’s a very hard lump in there, surrounded by infection. At this time, since I have kept draining it (which is disgusting) it is much more contained at the moment, but still painful.

After five months, we are now heading toward surgery to remove it. Tomorrow. We’re not entirely sure ow long that will take, since even with multiple types of scans,  they can’t quite tell how large it is or how deeply it goes. We’ll see tomorrow – well, they will, and they’ll let me know afterwards. They have a 23-hour “observation period” which means I will be stuck in hospital overnight, dangit. No day surgery for this one, because, as I mentioned, there’s no way to tell how deep it is or how much they will have to cut if the pathologist says there’s something there and the margins are not clean. That means I’ll be hauling my laptop up and leeching off the hospital’s wifi, which should be at least marginally better than the sucktastic ISP I have now.

So what happened in 2016?  Pneumonia a couple of times, for one. General grue some others, including when my sister came back to the US for a visit, bringing whatever German germs they have over there. The garden was a disaster, since one of the times I was quite ill was around Memorial Day, when things are starting to go full blast in the gardens. I was sick for a couple of weeks, managed to keep the bees fed, and that was about it: everything else spiraled out of control for the most part. We had no significant harvest as we’ve had in years past, and only a handful of tomatoes.

(Insert four days here, as I did not finish this post on the eve of surgery on my neck. Surgery: done. Recovery: continuing. No hospital stay: hooray!)

At the end of the year, I go this lump thing going, and in the bee yard, I lost 20 – yes, 20 – hives.  I think some of that was due to the incredible weird weather we had deep into the year. In October, we were still seeing temps in the 80s, the queens had not been shut down by their respective bees, so they wanted to swarm and had to be split. I suppose I could have just continued to pile brood boxes on them, but I don’t think it would have made a difference in how things turned out: there simply would not have been enough bees to cover all of the brood as the 80-degree days suddenly snapped to low 70s and the overnights to 40-ish, in exactly the same way a swarm or split would not have enough bees for the same thing.

Another problem: absconding. I hesitate to call it colony collapse disorder, although at least three I know fit the conditions: plenty of food and pollen, no masses of dead bees, and the queen left behind with a tiny group of young bees. As in plenty of cases I’ve read about, there didn’t seem to be any problems inside the hive at all. They were healthy, not overly burdened by mites, beetles, or other pests, and then one day they were just gone. One, in fact, disappeared in the course of a day: I’d checked the hive the day before, and the next day, poof! No bees.

It’s disheartening, to say the least, when you’ve busted your ass on 100+ degree days taking care of the hives only to find them gone. A few of the hives had dwindled to almost nothing and were holding their own, but eventually got robbed out by other, stronger, hives. That, too, is strange: the strong hives had plenty of stores, so didn’t need the piddly amounts that were in the weaker hives, and in one case, didn’t have anywhere to really store that excess anyway. It’s an odd life, taking care of bees.

One thing I tried in late 2016 was in-frame feeders. They take the place of one or two frames in a hive body, depending on what size body you’re running in the yard. These have a cap and ladder system that is supposed to allow the bees to go down and gather up the syrup the frames are filled with and crawl back up without drowning. I know a lot of people use them. They’ve had great success. The migratory keepers use them a lot. What I got? A bunch of drowned bees in some, and in other hives, a ton of drowned bees. I pulled every single one out of the hives. While they are convenient, holding a gallon (or two) of sugar syrup to reduce the number of times you have to make syrup and refill, the tradeoff in dead bees did not work for me. If I have to hump 50 jars out for feeding when it’s necessary, then that’s what I’ll do. Lesson learned, in that those types of feeders are not for my beeyard.

This year, I’ll be rebuilding the beeyard. I picked up four nucs from Jester’s down in Mims – almost two and a half hours from here, one way, and it was funny driving back two and half hours with the back of the car humming. All of those are doing great, as they should. Nucs, for those not in the know, are smaller versions of hives. They usually have five frames, with brood, honey, and pollen. The queen is in the box with her bees, and when you get them home, ideally you should swap them over into regular hive bodies. When I returned home that day, it was late and starting to spit rain, so they hung out in the nucs until the next day when I hived them. They didn’t seem particularly bothered by the delay, and I had to add second brood boxes already to all four of them. If you need bees, you’re a small keeper, and you live somewhere that isn’t too far away, give Jester’s a call – I’m pleased thus far with this group that I have, and I can’t wait to see how they perform once spring arrives.

I also ordered 15 packages from Rossman to rebuild the beeyard.  It’s a fairly big expense, but not an overwhelming one, and will get us back up to the numbers I want faster than dealing with splits would, especially since I don’t have a huge number of hives to work with relative to splits.

For the gardens: I have flats in the barn under the lights, and they are all up. In a couple of days, I’m hoping to have this neck thing not hurt so much so I can do the next round of flats. I also sowed carrot, radish, and beet a week or so before surgery, and was planning to do a successive round of those today, but that’s going to have to be pushed back as the flats have been. My goal this year is to have better succession planting and thus better management of what’s on hand and growing throughout the year. It would also help to not be seriously ill this year, and I’ve decided I’ll just have to start wearing a mask if I have to be out amongst large groups of people. In fact, my sister warned me yesterday that there is some kind of nasty flu-like thing making the rounds out in the world, and my brother in Orlando is ill, and says there’s something down there, too. So, masks it is. I’d rather look silly than be down for the count for three weeks and not be able to tend things normally.

For the log/online life: I got off facebook at some point in the middle of last year, and at the end of the year, I deactivated my account. That has freed up a lot of time, removed some stress and pressure, and in general has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I maintain my author page via an account I created just for that purpose: that account has no friends, follows no groups or people, and never will. It’s just there to give me entry to the page I set up, which is not updated on a regular basis right now – because really, do you see established authors hanging out on facebook all day long? No. They are either there to post once in awhile, or they have assistants to take care of their social media. Seriously, the next time you’re on any of the social media stuff, start a timer and see how long you’re on them when you finally exit. It’s astonishing how much of a time sink they are. If you have other things you need to do (write words, repair the sink, do a workout) use social media as  reward – set that timer for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever after you’ve done the task you want/need to do, and when the timer goes off, you’re done. Close them out and go do something else. Maybe one of these days, people will once again appreciate the nature of long form exchanges, like this, instead of 140 character bites or the inanity (“I had nachos!!!”) of most of what people post on social media. Life is too short to watch bad movies, read bad books, or waste years of your life on social media.

One of my goals this year is to post regularly here – ideally, I’d like to do that daily, even if it’s just an image from wandering around the gardens or bees. Notice that I did not say resolution, but goal. I’d like to make it into a habit, and I suppose this post is the beginning of making that habit.

Speaking of habits, I stumbled across a gamified (how I can’t stand that word) habit creator/to do application. It’s over at Habitica.com – it’s free and it’s fun. Some of the functions are not things I’m using (battling monsters with friends, for instance) because I simply want the to-do portion of it. I do still like Todoist, but I find Habitica the one I turn to more these days.

And now? Time to get back to doing some work – work work, as I’m not quite ready for the other work for the gardens and bees just yet. I’m getting there, though.

Hope your new years are falling into place for you, my handful of readers.

Focus

Things that happen out in the country, if you happen to live there: sometimes, your satellite ISP sucks. After sending a rather blistering note to them night before last, amazingly, things have been much better on the uplink side than they had been. Since everything for my actual work was taking so very long to get done during that little episode, I’ve missed a day on this. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it (“You can’t even keep posting for three days in a row, loser!”), I’m just going to accept that some things are beyond my control and rely on other people Getting Shit Done. Now that those other people have, I can move along here.

I also had a doctor visit yesterday – a new gastro doc, since my regular doc’s rather large practice and my insurance company are on the outs and have been for almost a year. Much as I love my doc, the fees for self-pay at a specialist’s office are incredible. That means setting up with a new one to deal with what has the classic symptoms of pancreatitis, with no one willing to actually say so. Which I suppose is fine: even if they’re not willing to make a 100% diagnosis on it, we’re still changing my diet anyway to help with the flareups – since I have no gallbladder, it just makes everything worse.

What that means, eating-wise, is lots of low-fat/no-fat foods, more vegetables, less dairy, way less caffeine (sniffle), and various meds for when the flareups hit. I had one in November that landed me in the ER, and another in December. For the latter, I just went back to my primary care doctor, who is a peach, and he gave me scrips for the same meds the ER doc did. While this whole thing is not something I can control 100%, I am taking the steps to minimize any instances, because I have to tell you, the pain is excruciating, the vomiting is copious, and it’s an all around nightmare. In my case, the vomiting meant dry heaves, and in that first round, I started heaving and could not stop until the ER folks got me hooked up to an IV with both fluids and some amtiemetics (read: stop puking/nausea meds). I would recommend, as I’ve done with this whole cancer business, that you avoid it if at all possible. I also managed to lost somewhere between 15 and 17 pounds in the past two months thanks to that. The doctors are frowning on that part, and I’m having trouble taking in enough calories in any given day – nothing new, but bad in this case – to keep the scale hovering between 100 and 103. It’s a work in progress.

To close this out for the day, and to end on a better note, there’s nothing like a dog to show you unfettered worship and love.

Until tomorrow, peeps: keep being awesome. Or, if you’re not awesome yet, keep working on it.

Letting the new year in, quietly

I’m not a fan of large crowds, and especially not large, drunk crowds, so I spend my New Year’s Eves at home, chilling out, reading, and watching football. This year was no different.

Redneck neighbor guy apparently scraped together some pennies this year to invest in fireworks, as there were random pops of things going off well before midnight. Loud noises like that are things that scare the big dog, so he winds up close to me, regardless of where I am (including in the bathroom).

The puppy ignores all that, but also is always by my side – he’s very loyal.

So, we plopped ourselves on the couch (and floor), watched some football, and then watched The Boondock Saints, recommended to me by my little brother. Not bad.

Beyond the random firework noise, which was minimal, we had a nice quiet entry into the new year. That’s the way I prefer it.

*I tried to post this last night, on the 2nd, to stay with my goal of posting every day, but naturally my ISP – a satellite company I will not name – crapped itself on the uplink side. Those images up there took eight and six tries, respectively, to upload, and I won’t even go into the timeouts all over the place. I finally sent them an email (via my phone, because even their customer page wouldn’t load) asking them WTF was going on, and this morning on the 3rd seems to be better – although it’s storming here at the moment, and they’re not very good about staying up during rain. Or fog. Or sunshine. Or anything. We’ll see if it stays that way after I return from my doctor’s visit and a run to the store.

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.

 

My hero

The cucumbers, running rampant in he front garden north, got some trellis work today, and the green beans, caught in the tentacles of those cukes, were freed to go about their business.

When I completed multiple levels of trellising on both sides of the cuke runs, I found my hero standing over the dead body of one of his enemies, which he had been stalking for a few days now.

Fearless mole hunter

The common eastern mole, making messes of yards everywhere for eons.

Dead mole

I did not cut it in half with the scissors, no. I just didn’t have any gloves with me during that particular excursion to the garden, and simply used the tool I had to pick him up and toss him over the fence into the ditch area by the road to allow nature’s cleanup crew (vultures, ants, etc.) take care of it.

Time for lunch

A small pair of birds built a nest in a ponytail palm we had brought up on the back patio during one of the more frigid evenings in our “winter” season. We hadn’t quite gotten to putting it back out before they started building, and when we realized what they were doing, we couldn’t move it at that point – that would be rude!

The female laid a total of four eggs, and on our occasional peeks, it seems all of them hatched into the usual ugly, reminiscent-of-dinosaurs babies. We have some pics of them both pre and post hatching, but for now, a little clip of one of the parents bringing home the bacon, as it were.

20160424 PM feeding

Let’s do the time warp again

This day, the first day of the new year, has been an odd one. I was up well past the turn of the year, until almost 3 AM. My oldest dog got me up at 4:45 so he could run out and do some business. We all went back to bed, but were up again just before 8 AM. Since then, it’s been nonstop work, either outside (and I’ll have a separate post about that) or inside. No naps, except for the dogs, and it’s about 7:15 in the evening right now but it feels like late evening. Very late evening. Like “this would be a good time to call it a day” evening and go to bed. But it’s far too early for that, and I still have to eat again today as I’ve only had two so far: my usual to start the day, and then this for the new year, as is traditional.

Beans and rice and cornbread

Beans and rice and cornbread, with diced onion and ham. It doesn’t look like much – the soul eating baby could probably eat three of these – but it’s about what I can handle. I managed almost all of it. The leftover, sans onion, went to the dogs. We could all use a little luck for the new year, I think.

 

Helping

A common orb weaver, hanging out in the leaves of the horseradish plants, waiting for something unlucky to come along.

Orb weaver spider

As you can see from the leaves of the plants, the beetles were having a go at them. Since the value of the horseradish is in the root, not the leaves, and as the leaves are plentiful and mostly intact, the plants can weather the bug attack without too many issues other than those cosmetic. Every bug these helpers catch and devour is a plus.

 

Working it out, Dec 16, 2015

My oldest dog – the one who is mostly blind, deaf to anything but the loudest of noises, and generally a cranky old man – keeps getting me up in the very early morning hours so he can get outside and do his business. That business includes what seems to be a routine early morning poop, and if I am not quick enough to the door to open it, it becomes my business because he’s certainly not going to pick it up himself. This is relatively new behavior, as he would generally be able to hold it for the hour or so later I would be getting up anyway, but as I say, he’s an old man and it seems his body is no longer up to that task. I say this only because he woke me u on this particular day after I’d had about two hours of sleep thanks to a server issue that took me to the NOC in the wee hours. Luckily for me, there was no bonus poop round to start my day. There was also no early treadmill session, as I went back to bed for a bit, finally giving up on the sleeping attempt when I awoke just shy of two hours later.

In the evening, I had a rather bad round of reflux/indigestion, the kind that makes you feel as if you’re on the verge of throwing up or dying (or both), but got some meds down successfully and only dry heaved once or twice before recovering. I thought I might pass on the evening treadmill session, because I didn’t feel like it at all after the day that had passed. I did it anyway, and it wasn’t terrible. There’s a lesson there I should take to heart for my writing.

Working it out, Dec 14, 2015

Back in action today with two sessions on the treadmill, complete with trying to convince the puppy to stop playing with his ball and knocking it under the thing. I don’t think this will stick with him – after all, dogs have the attention spam of about four seconds, which is why they’re so absurdly pleased to see you when you just walk out to the car for something and then come back in.

Thirteen minutes this morning, just under fifteen late this afternoon, and more reading done. It’s interesting, reading a book in increments of 10-20 minutes at a time. I read very quickly, though, so it doesn’t take me forever to get through something while I’m putting one foot in front of the other to get to the end of my time or distance. It’s already becoming a habit and our (the dogs and my) routine is working out rather nicely. The only hiccup is when it will have to be done to work around medical appointments, including the xmas gift I’m getting of an MRI on my brain so they can see nothing’s there. Har Har.