Category Archives: Gardening

Aging

The Meredith Vieira Show: Why Christie Brinkley Looks the Same as 25 Years Ago, Exclusive Video!

Thanks, spammer. It’s nice to know she’s doing so well after all these years. But the actual spam is about tacos and chalupas and other tasty Mexican foods, and you’re making me hungry. And also kind of pissed off that I can no longer eat some of those things any more.  Asshole.

Onward: today I pulled up the dead peppers and the brassicas since I harvested the last round before the freeze. There are a couple of broccoli plants that are putting up side shoots, so those I left in place. Maybe we’ll get a small side harvest, maybe not. Since the temps are once again right up in the mid-70s the next ten days, it won’t hurt a thing to leave them there.

On the bee front: uncovered the hives, as they’ll be warm enough for awhile. On one set of three in the rear garden, I found a bunch of bees, mostly dead, under the cover. Sometimes, they’re just not very bright: instead of just going back into the hive, they hung out on the top, and froze to death. What can you do?

I still have not placed my seed order, something I was supposed to do a couple of days ago. I’m not entirely sure why  I am kind of balking at doing this. But today! Today has to be the day. Otherwise, my todoist list will guilt me by reminding me it’s x days overdue.

Coming up: an MRI on my gut and a PET for my neck. New year. New medical crap. Fuck you, cancer, is all I have to say.

Stay awesome, peeps. And if you’re not awesome, work on it.

AIC

That stands for Ass In Chair, and is the hallmark of people telling you how to get things done (like writing). Like anything else, it can also be used as a shorthand way of a way to get things done. Obviously, you can’t improve your batting by having your ass in a chair, but the equivalent – spending time in the cage on a regular basis – is true. Likewise, you can’t keep your gardens in shape if you’re sitting on your ass, but again, the equivalent – get out there on some kind of schedule and do the weeding or the pruning or whatever else needs to be done – is true.

And so it is in the tech world. Yesterday, after a disaster of an update by a vendor, I basically spent 20 hours with my ass in my chair, fixing things that the update had crapped on. It also meant I missed out on visit time with my sister and the kidlets, and also that I missed some of the cleanup things that she and my mom were doing – although, to be honest, the former is always a lot more fun than the latter.

Today, and for the next couple of days, “winter” is among us. Tonight’s low is forecast for 27F, which for us likely means a few degrees colder at least. Tomorrow’s forecast  isn’t much better. But to demonstrate how weird our winter is, Tuesday will see us climbing right back up the thermometer, to the mid-upper 70s.

The peppers and tomatoes bought it in the last freeze, which left the broccoli and cauliflower as the last survivors. I did the fourth and final harvest from those as the temperature dropped, and in the coming days will pull all the dead/spent plants for the compost pile and turn my attention to getting some things done in the rows so they will be ready for the first transplants or seeding as we move into the beginning of the main season this year.

Earlier today, I covered the surviving hives to help keep some warmth in them as we go through our cold snap. Those will remain in place until next week when we’re back to milder weather.

Now that my ISP has finally gotten itself together and allowed the upload of that pic there (after six tries), my picks for the weekend wild card playoff games.  I had picked Houston over Oakland, and had this crap ISP allowed me to finish this in a timely manner, that would have been in place before the game ended. Houston did win. Tonight’s game, Lions at the Seahawks, I’ve picked the Seahawks. For tomorrow’s games, I’m taking the Steelers over the Dolphins (although I’d like for Miami to pull off that upset), and the Packers over the Giants (duh).

For Monday night’s national championship game, my pick is Alabama over Clemson.

And now, time for another cup of tea – decaf alas.

Stay well, folks.

Feeling the blahs

Yes, not everything is sunshine and rainbow farting unicorns. Today, for some weird reason, I just feel out of it and fairly unmotivated to do much of anything at all. This may be a combination of things, the biggest one of which is the ongoing issue with a lump in my neck combined with the severe weight loss due to the pancreatitis flareups, plus, as a sort of cherry on top, the chronic cough I’ve had for a couple of years now has really been an incredible pain in the ass the past couple of days. It’s annoying and very tiring to go through those episodes, which about half the time lead further into a sneezing fit.

To give you an idea of just how it is: I still have not placed my seed order for this year. However, I wrote in my (handwritten) journal that I would do that tonight, so I am going to sort out what I want in all the things I put into the spreadsheet, and get the rounds ordered from the various suppliers. By this time last year, I already had flats going under the lights in the barn. I think, though, this won’t be too bad a thing to start them late this month or the beginning of February. They grow so quickly that even transplanting them out in March from a January sowing means dealing with large, often tangled seedlings. So, this year, the goal is to get them out of the flats in a more reasonable timeframe, and if they are a couple of weeks younger than I’ve been doing, it probably won’t matter a bit.

Thought of the day:

“Well you are here and born with fire and desire
You’re the only one can stand in your own way”

From this video by the Wailin’ Jennys. Take care, people.

Starting over

The tomatoes got zapped.

This is not for a lack of trying to keep them alive, though. It was simply too cold and the plants far too stressed from the weirdo weather we’re having this “winter”. It got down to 27F by Saturday morning, and while they looked not too bad when I uncovered them that morning, in the bright light of an 80F day today – I told you the weather was weird – they are unrecoverable.

I will say that the makeshift covers to mimic a greenhouse environment were not terrible, however. It kept them safe from the first round of freezing two weeks ago. I’d like to either get my actual greenhouse situated somewhere on the property, or get a design finalized that will make it far easier to pull the covers on and off of the tender annuals here at the ranch – for us, that’s tomatoes and peppers. The second round of freeze was harsher than the first. But, a valuable lesson learned, and ideas for better covering of the rows are on paper and I’ll be looking into the best way to do this – most importantly, the best way it can be done by one person (me) who has issues raises one arm over shoulder height and needs something that is not completely exhausting.

The brassicas – broccoli and cauliflower – didn’t seem to care all that much, covered or not. But the heads were a tad smaller than in the usual spring season; again, a product of the wildly fluctuating temperatures.

Above: broccoli along with cheddar and graffiti varieties of cauliflower. Most of that was sent home with my sister.

A new season is upon us, and it’s time to get back to poring through the seed catalogs, trying to restrain myself from ordering one of everything. One of my goals this year (because I don’t make resolutions) is to post every day to the blog in 2017, even if it’s just a post about the weather conditions. Everything I’ve read on forming habits says that the goals should be attainable – that is, not huge goals, but smaller chunks of the larger, ultimate goal – and not reliant on someone else’s involvement to get to the goal or reliant on circumstances that may never come.  The goals should also not necessarily be on the actual final goal, but on the processes/steps that lead to it, to avoid the dreaming brain from visualizing that ultimate goal from being done, which sends the brain signals that it isn’t necessary to pursue it. This one goal will force me to write something every day, which I hope will feed over into my actual fiction writing as well. It isn’t so bad getting into the mood to write up something once you just get the fingers moving.

I’ve also started a new project that will involve weekly postings to another blog: another attainable goal that does not rely on anyone else, and also involves a deadline, which will require me to get it done.

All those things I studied on for the past month also said setting new habits and/or goals is also easier to do if you announce your intentions to someone/anyone. I’m not certain who reads this here blog anymore, but I am hoping 2017 will be a return to longer-form writing instead of people zipping through useless, inane facebook posts or 140-character shorthand tweets. I have not been on facebook generally at all for over a month now, except to update the pages I am maintaining. I’ve found it to be a great relief not to be sucked into that time pit, and life is better for it.

Read more. Think more. Do more. This is my hope for my fellow travelers on this orb for the year. And it is also my hope for myself.

 

Saved

Our forecasts out here in the boonies, in the winters, are horribly off. In summer, we can simply count on the high temperature being higher than what they say and be done. It’s summer. It’s hot. It doesn’t really matter if the high is forecast to be 94F and it turns out to be 100F, relatively speaking. In winter – what passes for “winter” here – we do count on it being cooler than the forecast, but the measure of cooler-ness varies wildly. That matters, greatly.

Sunday: the forecast was for the low 40s (all temps are F, for those of you in C lands). Here at the ranch, actual overnight low: 31. Half the tomatoes and peppers took hits.

Monday and Tuesday forecasts were for 34F and 37F, respectively. I had decided on Sunday that I was not going to go through the routine of covering any of the second round of plants, because (frankly) it is exhausting, and I actually did not have the things I needed to do it. But, me being me, with my tilting at windmills and all (corn!), Monday morning I decided that I would, in fact, cover them.

The big orange supply store. Two trips. Lots of plastic sheeting. Lots of cursing from me because my body, post-cancer, is not the same body it was – fuck you, cancer! But, with a bit of help from my mom, I got the peppers (40′), broccoli/cauliflower (32′), and one 50′ row of tomatoes covered. The other two row of tomatoes (one 50′, one 32′) were left to their devices, as I was exhausted, having run through all the calories I’d taken in. Since I can’t eat like a normal person any longer, my daily intake is pretty damned small. After Monday’s dusk work to get covers in place, I came in, laid down on the dog bed with the puppy, and promptly fell asleep for an hour.

Actual temps at the ranch overnight Monday and Tuesday: 31F and 29.8F.

I don’t mind that the forecasts are off, but I would love for them to be in the same general vicinity.

As it stands, most of the peppers are unlikely to make it, along with most of the tomatoes – many of both plantings had fruit set on them. The broccoli and cauliflower don’t seem to have minded any of it – there were about a dozen plants that wouldn’t fit in the main rows I had designated, and these were not covered. They’re fine.

In addition, I lost one hive to the freeze. I knew this would happen, as the weather well into October was unsettled, and we still had 90 degree days. There simply were not enough bees in the hive when the weather started to slide, and I had no more bees to give them to populate the box. I looked in it yesterday, and found the queen and her tiny clump of bees frozen on a patch of honey on one of the frames. There are two other hives that are iffy: the late swarm I caught from someone else’s beeyard that clustered in mine, and another one that simply does not have enough bees. A third is on the edge – I killed a ton of yellowjackets trying to rob out that hive, and reduced their entrance to the smallest possible to make things easier to defend with a light load of bees.

Overall, the sum of it pissed me off and made me terribly sad at the same time, and I started beating myself up for not being better at taking care of both of these things. We generally  hold ourselves to higher standards than we do other people, and I think I probably do this to an even higher degree than most – it’s a “perfectionist/you can never fail or have a setback” mindset that I’m working on (not very successfully – ironic).

It’s all a work in progress. I have to remind myself that I am, too.

 

Snapping

As in cold snapping.

Yesterday and today, we’ve had a taste of what passes for winter here. Not by the forecast, no. That was more spring- or fall-like, with the forecast in the low 50s overnight. Last night the low bottomed out at 38.8F at the ranch. Not ideal, especially since in the past two weeks I’ve made up some nuc boxes for the bees, and had made no real preparation for them for cold temperatures because the forecast seemed to be rather mild. Now, I’m dreading what I’ll find out there a bit later as it warms up and I head to the beeyard to check them. Worse, I also had several new queens out there, and if they’re goners, that’s going to be a shame.

On the plus side of things, at least it didn’t freeze. We are trying to sneak a second harvest in, and if the temp had dropped further and zapped the tomato and pepper plants I have out there, it would have just added to the overall disappointment at not mentally adjusting the forecast lower – which is something I do during the winter, as we are in the boonies and our lows are always lower (and highs, in the summer, generally higher) than the forecast. I usually don’t have to start that until the time changes – have I mentioned lately how much I don’t like the “fall back” routine? I hate it. But, the weather has been weird all year, and I suppose adjusting my expectations will have to be a year round thing instead of a seasonal one.

Here, have a video of a honeybee emerging from a cell. The bees are booming, with the queens still laying non-stop and filling frames. This temporary dip in the weather may slow them down, but we’re going right back to 80F degree days, according to the forecast, so we’ll be anywhere between 76-86F by my estimate, and that will probably get them going again at a higher rate.

Where have you been??!!??

It was a long July and the first part of August has been as well. We’ve been rearranging servers t the NOC, trying to stay ahead of the weeds (and failing badly), and yesterday I had 15ml of fluid sucked out of my face under my right lower jaw because I have a huge lump there. It doesn’t sound like much, but that isn’t a very large area, and even 5ml would be a huge amount. Not nearly the same as the almost 2L I had aspirated from my right lung a few years ago, but just as painful even with some lidocaine. On the plus side, it was an ultrasound-guided aspiration, and I got to watch it on the screen, so that was pretty cool.  I can tell the fluid was adding some padding to the bulge, because now I’m left with hard lumps instead of kind of squishy ones. It will be back to the doc to see where to go from here. I’m really hoping to not have to have myself sliced up again, but if that’s how it goes, that’s how it goes.

In the meantime, I’m trying to tend my bees – a very small hive I was babying along vamoosed at some point in the past week – and with my sister’s help, trying to get the weeding done everywhere and plastic down to solarize the rows and not have to spend half my time yanking up weeds. For years now I’ve tried to come up with some kind of mulching system that is not hideously expensive, is easy both to maintain and plant through, and that would not cook the roots of the plants when we have three straight months of 100F weather. My thought is to pull back the top layer of soil in each row, maybe six inches or so, throw a layer of hay down, cover that back with the soil, put black plastic on top of that, and then a heavy layer of hay on top of that. The plastic should keep out the humongous numbers of weeds that don’t care what the weather is like, I can punch through plastic easily enough to plant/transplant, the under layer of hay will act as a water wick and retain moisture for the plants,  and the top layer of hay will keep the plastic from becoming an in-frame broiler and help retain the underlayer’s cool/moist combo. This is the theory, anyhow. I hope it works, as it would make life much easier around here.

I have five flats in the barn under the lights: primarily tomatoes and peppers – the peppers took a direct hit from pests while I was down with pneumonia over Memorial Day and they never recovered – some onions, leeks, and brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower). The latter will go under some shade cloth after I get that rigged. I’m also working on rigging shade barriers for the height of the season to go along the frames to help with the insane heat we’ve been having down here. A check of my weather station records, and the notes I’ve kept from before I had a weather station tells me each summer is getting hotter, longer, than the previous one. This year, we hit 100F before the end of May, and that has lasted right to this week, where we are averaging about 93F. The issue with such high heat for things like tomatoes is that we also have high humidity. This causes the pollen to clump, so the plants may grow, and often will also flower, but fruit set is poor, as pollination is more difficult in these conditions. Rigging some shade to take the brunt of the west/south sun may help that (at least I’m hoping it will – only testing will show if it does, so that’s what we’ll do).

My hiatus from social media is still on, and life is much better for it, I must say. I’ve also stopped going to various news-related web sites to avoid getting into time-sucking, useless commentaries with people I don’t know (and in many cases, wouldn’t care to). This has also been a good thing, and I’ve stuck to reviewing headlines at Google news and just zipping in to quickly read an article without getting drawn into commenting on anything.

Life at the ranch continues: the world spins, and we with it, doing the best we can with what we have.

Exploring Planet NoSocialMedia, Day 1

Some months ago, I told myself to pare back on the timesink known as facebook. I’d been doing really well, too, although I’d not gotten around to doing some of the things I planned to do, which was the reason I dropped facebook in the first place.  I don’t count this as a total fail, because I did get some rather deep introspectional type stuff done to clear up some things in my head that will help me forge ahead with these other things I want to do.

However, I wound up back on facebook as a place to vent after a few events (one of which was the horrifying massacre of 49 people and the wounding of scores of others at a gay nightclub in Orlando) and got sucked in again, resulting in more and more time there, wasted.

But! During the last few days of June, I made it known that I was going to live on Planet NoSocialMedia for the month of July, and perhaps even longer.  It’s slightly easier for me, as the only ones I actually participate on are twitter (not much), instagram (not much except pics from the ranch), and facebook, the ultimate alien-like, face-humping, time-wasting monster.

Today is (still, as I type this) July 1. I have not ventured off Planet NoSocialMedia today. I also have not written anything today. I think this will be all right, though, as I had to get some other things cleared out of the way after having a couple of days of forced rest thanks to some physical issues that cropped up.

Now, we head into Day 2. The goal: continue to work at things that need to be done at the ranch, but also meet a very basic step in the workout to rebuild those writing muscles. A mere 250 words, or about one page of a typeset book, is the target. We all learn to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we run, after all. I firmly believe that trying to start off with some huge goal, right off the bat, after years (ok, decades) of not pursing my art would be like the people who make resolutions to go to the gym, show up on January 2, vastly overwork themselves even though they are not used to working out, then find the next day they can barely move, so they wind up not going to the gym as they resolved to do, slipping back into old habits, only to do the same thing again the next year. I don’t want that, so that is not the way I’ll pursue it.

More to come, my dear readers who swing by every so often. Take care of yourselves.

The evolution of frames

Eight years.

That’s how long it’s been since I moved out to the ranch.

The first couple of years were mainly spent working to rehab the property: filling dumpsters with what was likely decades of trash that people just dumped wherever they liked because the property had been not a part of the state forest it abuts, but a similarly wooded parcel to which they had access. Getting good soil going at least to get grass to grow in what had been a sandy, beach-like property because the developer had scraped off the topsoil and sold it off. Working to get plants and trees in place so the wildlife – lizards, squirrels, birds, snakes, you name it – would come back. Those were hard-working, back-breaking years. They were worth it.

Ultimately, we decided that if we waited to plant gardens until the soil rehab was at least almost to completely done, it would be another five years before we grew any of our food. Instead, we built framed beds, filling them with a mix of topsoil, manure, and perlite, the latter to help provide some aeration in the mix instead of having every frame be composed of soil that would settle, become difficult to work, and have no give or good draining at all.

So we did. The first frames were 4′ by 4′, built of wood, each separated by a couple of feet as walkways. This led to some inefficiencies, as each individual frame then had to be watered, and drip irrigation was impractical, as there would be loads of connections that would have to be run from one frame to another.

The next iteration was 4′ by 8′ frames, also built of wood, butted up against one another in long rows. The longest row was 4′ by 42′. This made watering much simpler, as long lines of drip tubing could be laid all the way down the line.

The problem with those, of course, was the wood. It warps after enough time in the harsh environment here, and eventually starts rotting. We went with those for a couple of years, until finally hitting on a better solution: frames made from 22 gauge roofing metal sheeting. Cut in half lengthwise, they were screwed together at the seams of each 8′ length, and plain squared balusters (cut down to size) used to provide some structural support for each “wall”. All of our beds are now built out this way, although we do have an issue with some of the balusters rotting from being in contact with the moist soil all the time. On some of them, the screws have popped out because of the way the wood expands and contracts in the weather. Some of the frame sides have bowed out, as the pressure of the soil exerts an outward horizontal force. For those, the solution is to shovel the dirt away from the sides of the frames, reset and reseat the supports for the side, then pull all the soil back into the trench along the side of the frame. As you might imagine, this is more back-breaking hard work, and something I leave for the fall/winter to get done instead of trying to do this during the main growing season in temperatures that hover in the mid-90s to the 100s throughout.

The good thing about the metal frames is that they will last for a significant length of time before anything needs to be done with them – if anything ever needs to be done with them at all. A bonus of this use is that unlike the wooden frames, which break down, rot, and become something that isn’t good for much, the metal frames are steel, so they can go to the recycling center.

Although it took some years of experimentation and use to get to this point, it has served us well since the final frame type was put in place, and now we have spent much, much less time on frame maintenance than we did with the wooden equivalents. That time, recouped, is now spent on other, more productive tasks.