Category Archives: Food

The lost day

There’s an old movie called The Lost Weekend. Ray Milland stars as Don, an alcoholic writer willing to pawn anything or steal from anyone  to get a few bucks to buy whisky. (It’s an excellent movie and you should watch it – Milland rightfully won an Oscar for his part in the film, and Billy Wilder took home a Best Director statuette.)

I had a dream the other night where Robert Redford (of all people) for some reason asked me what I really, really wanted to do. I had no answer, which was odd, because I do know I want to write and run my business and have my dogs and my bees and my chickens, and that’s what I’m doing. I don’t recall the actual context around the question in the dream – was I someone else, or myself, doing something other than I am now? Maybe.

Anyhow, I missed yesterday’s blog appointment because I was dealing with a massive issue with work that I’m not going to go into except to say it sucked. Royally.  Today, we’ve dealt with two majo spamming issues related to peoples’ contact forms on their web sites. For the love of whatever you hold holy,  put a fucking captcha on your forms. And DO NOT enable any “send a copy of this to yourself, submitter” crap. It’s an invitation to arbitrarily insert anyone’s email address and spammers will find it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but they will, eventually, unless you secure it.

There ends your tech lesson for the day.

The chicks continue to live by the tenets of their lives, which is to eat, drinks, poop, and sleep, in any order they feel like it. At least they know what they really, really want to do. The meat birds, bred to get big, very quickly, are certainly living up to it. After a mere week, they are twice the size of their layer bird companions. Some of them just sit in front of the feeder and eat, sleeping in the same spot. When they go out on pasture, I’ll only be feeding them once during the day. What they eat in the daylight hours will be it until the next day. Letting them eat freely 24/7 for all their time will be too hard on their bodies, and they’re not terribly good about reining in their eating habits.

Got a start today on dry fitting the pieces together for the chicken tractor the meat birds will call home. It’s probably too large for the ten of them, but it’s easier to get more chickens down the line and have the space available than it is to decide to get more in a batch and have to scramble to make a new, larger tractor for them.

We’ll also have the mobile layers to move around the place. At first, there will only be five in there, but we would be able to put more if needed, and if the whole meat bird thing works out, I’d really like to get some turkeys next year in addition to more meat birds, to have for the holidays. And they would be hanging out with the layer birds, so it would be nice to be able to move them with the layers and let them range alongside.

Tomorrow, I get to pour barium down my tube and go get my guts scanned. I can’t eat anything, either, which is why I’m about to have my last meal, as it were, just after I post this. It’s gonna be a thrill, I’m sure.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

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.

Chicken prep

It’s been years since we had chickens at the ranch. When we did, we only had layers (not meat) birds. My mom was quite fond of them, and rejected my suggestion of culling the layers who had passed their prime and were not giving much production as they aged.

We lost one to a hawk or other aerial hunter – all that was left was a pile of feathers. We had one killed by a raccoon – raccoons apparently love brains, just like zombies, and one had ripped the head off one of the chickens as they stuck their head through the fence. Did I mention chickens are not terribly bright?

Of the others, one was lost to a mystery ailment, and the rest to redneck neighbor guy’s dogs. I had to dispatch the ill one and one of the chickens that had been attacked by (but not killed) by said dogs. I buried all of them on the property. Since the last one died, we’ve not had chickens back.

Moving out of the past and to the now: we are going to have chickens once again! This time, however, we are going to have meat birds in addition to layers. I ordered 10 meat birds. Because members of my family are too squeamish to  participate in the actual butchering, that part of the process will be mine, alone. However, once the birds are dispatched, plucked, eviscerated, and washed, they’re perfectly willing to bag and weigh them before the dressed birds go into the freezer. That’s good enough for me.

I was making a list of all the things that need to be done, and there certainly are a lot of things on that list. But next week is clear of any appointments for me and the dogs, so we’ll be able to get it done, no doubt. And there will be pictures!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Time

Where does the time go?

I’d like to think it takes itself off for a nice vacation, doing whatever it wants to do instead of being constrained by responsibility.

Whatever it does, it has the habit of leaving us – arbitrary timekeepers that we are – wondering how it could be almost x time since we last did y. Like almost three weeks since the last blog entry.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that well since that sinus infection back in May. Feeling nauseated almost constantly is not conducive to doing a lot of the things you normally would do. Pain? Meh, you could work through that in some fashion. But nausea? Nope. I was also having hot flashes like crazy. Terribly annoying.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the gardens suffered tremendously: overrun with weeds, beaten down by both the heat and the rain. We got some tomatoes out, but none of the big guys, and we got some beans and peppers out, but not in the quantity we have had in years past.

Colorful tomatoes: sweet million, sungold, indigo drops.

The people who ate these tell me they tasted fantastic.

The rest: determinate and not, paste, slicing,and heirloom, gave us nothing. My sister has been helping me out while I figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I had her go ahead and pull out all the first round tomatoes. I have some in the garden that were started after the big batch of transplants, and I have some more started in the barn – two more sets, actually, with one set ready to get hardened off and then transplanted.

We did get some good blueberry action this year.

I used them in my shakes, and everyone else just ate them like normal people do.

So how did I get back to myself? I realized I had stopped taking the gabapentin (neurontin) back in May during the sinus thing, along with some of my other meds, because the combination of the antibiotics and meds that already have some side effects (like nausea, and other gastro issues) was making everything worse. I added those back into my routine, and presto! The gabapentin was prescribed for the nerve issues from my left neck down through my hand (hey, fuck you, cancer!) but amazingly, it also takes care of hot flashes. Who knew? Not me, or I would have twigged on that sooner than the past couple of weeks. Derp.

With the meds situation back in order, I’m now able to once again do things I need to do, like turn this:

Into this:

And finally, into this:

That’s a good late afternoon’s work there.It has to be done later in the day, because it’s been hot like the sun here  for weeks now. In the afternoons, we get storms rolling through – even if they don’t touch us directly, we usually get some cloud cover, and sometimes even a cooler breeze, which is nice.

Tomorrow, it will be on to the next row that needs to be weeded – the one to the left of this final picture. I’ll also be starting new soil block flats for the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels (ew) and maybe a couple of other late-season items, so they can go in to the rows and get grown before the season ends. It’s a nice goal to have, anyway.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Corn

I love corn (or at least I did in my former, eating life). It is, in fact, my personal windmill here at the ranch – I’ve tried to grow it here for years (until this year) and it simply doesn’t work due to the vagaries of our weather/storms. This year, I didn’t bother.

As many of you know, since about mid-April, I’ve been NPO. That’s “nothing by mouth” for those not into medical jargon. 99% of everything goes down the tube. That includes the high calorie formula, weighing in at 355 calories per eight ounce carton. Most of those calories come from two things: sugars and fats. The latter is oils (safflower, for instance). The former? Corn. Corn syrup and corn syrup solids.

Last month, I started getting some serious gatro aches after eating. I shrugged it off and continued on, because let’s face it, I need the calories. I went through a few rounds of dehydration through the month as well, because it’s just damn hard to stuff yourself full of fluids you would ordinarily drink along and along throughout the day.

I got past it, though I still had some gut things going on. I dropped the formula, and amazingly, while I was still a little weak from trying to get enough calories in otherwise, the gut stuff pretty much stopped. Until the other day, when suddenly, once again, I’m having the weirdest issues when I eat. I’ve checked everything going down, and no corn syrup/solids or HFCS. I pared down my meals, such as they are, and found less is better, even though this means I’ll have to eat more frequently throughout the day, which is really a pain in the ass. And my side still hurts when I eat anyhow, regardless of whether I feel like puking or not.

Recommendation: don’t get any kind of cancer that ends with you having to take your meals through a tube for the rest of your life. It sucks.

(Yes, before the questions come, I have an appointment with the gastro folks on Monday to see what the hell is going on.)

More like slow, am I right?

I’ve never liked the “am I right” thing tagged on to stuff people say. It’s annoying and I think it should be retired along with  “that’s what she said”, “I know, right?”, and the one I find the most annoying of all, “because (something).” We have the gift of words people. Surely you can come up with a “because” that illustrates what it is exactly, you’re trying to say.

Now, on to other business, and when I say slow up there in the title of this post, I mean the type of slow that happens when you’re waiting for time to pass in anticipation of an event. Like eating.

According to researchers, there are various benefits to fasting, and the latest one is that fasting – even for 24 hours – can help your body regenerate intestinal stem cells more quickly than it would otherwise.

Normally – and those of you who took anatomy and physiology may remember this – the cells in your intestines, just like in other parts of your body, but apparently fasting creates some kind of signal to hurry along the process.

So what’s the slow part of all this? Watching that clock, I bet, for most people, to see when that 24 hours of fasting is up so they can go right back to whatever it is they eat.

For me, I’m not going to be fasting any time soon. Not by choice, anyhow. My body gives me enough grief and times when I can’t eat as it is. I don’t need to help it along.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Early season

The early season harvests are all about green stuff, with a splash of yellow: lettuce, kale, asparagus, chard, peas, zucchini, squash…..and green beans.

Like squashes, green beans are amazingly prolific. Unlike squashes, they’re much easier to store. We generally just wash and dry them, then throw them as is into the freezer. I have a commercial style freezer, so it doesn’t take long for small things like beans to freeze decently, and practically takes no time at all for even smaller things like peas.

This means when the green beans start coming in, we don’t have to gorge ourselves – well, fam and friends don’t. We can preserve the harvest in this case via simple freezing. We could pressure can them, but we have a simpler route in this case, saving space in the cold room, but more importantly, saving time.

I had predicted early last week that we’d start getting the initial beans to sample this past weekend. I was right about that.

This variety is called Provider. it’s fast, extremely productive, sturdy, and produces beans on two nodes. It also has some of the prettiest flowers.

Now that this planting is beginning to produce beans, I’ll be setting out another round. Succession planting will allow us to continuously have fresh beans from now until the end of the year, as well as allow us to put a ton of them in the freezer (and possibly sell the excess). After the first two full picks, I’ll pull the plants and throw them on the compost pile, as generally at that point the bugs have figured out the plants are there. By that time, the new round of beans I’ve sown in another area will be producing.  At that time, I may put in another round – it depends on how much we can sell and can/want to freeze.

So, I am steeling myself for the harvest. As you can see behind this mature bean, there are tons of young ones getting into gear.

That’s good eating.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Spring?

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.