Category Archives: Homestead

Summertime

I know, it’s been awhile. But the summer months are filled top to bottom with work, both on the ranch and at the company.

A typical day begins at around 5:30. The dogs, all of whom sleep with me, start rustling around, and Newton – a creature of habit – has to go out. So, we all get up, I let the dogs out, check their food and water, check Gandalf’s food and water, grab some tea, and sit down to look over what’s going on: sort some helpdesk tickets, kill off spam, pull up the weather report, see if we have any servers inbound that will need to be set up, and so on.

Then, it’s outside to check on everything that’s growing out there: harvest whatever is ready, watch for bugs and damage that might indicate there are critters to deal with, pull weeds, see if any of the existing plants have given everything they have and need to be pulled, plan out the next rotation of seedlings, get everything watered and/or fertilized (seabird guano for the corn – very high in nitrogen).

Inside, it’s now about time for lunch and a review of what’s going on with the business again: most tickets, a bite to eat, some coffee, and a cooldown from outside. The NOC is a good place to be during the heat of the day if there’s something that needs to be done there. Otherwise, more work, then…

Back outside for more weed pulling, more watering for the things that really need it (cukes, watermelons in particular), making trellises for anything that needs it, planning for the things that will need support down the road, checking the flats to see what has popped up.

On days like today, I might have some bread dough going, which needs to be kneaded, risen, shaped, proofed, and then baked – that will bring me in and out during the day. At times, there’s a special request (cookies, my brother asks, as they head out to my aunt’s place). Usually, I’m also planning and making dinner at the tail end of the day as well. On any given day, there may also be a trip to the doctor or dentist in there somewhere. I’ve been visiting the dentist quite a bit, as oral cancer and the associated treatments are hellish on the teeth. That’s one of the reasons many oral cancer patients simply have their teeth pulled before they start treatment. The aftereffects are horrid, and when you consider that people like me can barely open their mouths afterwards, you can imagine having a dentist and an assistant trying to do anything inside that limited space. So far, I’ve had several root canals, replaced fillings, filled new cavities, already have a couple of crowns with a couple more on the way, and in general should probably just set up a cot at the dentist’s office to save time.

In the evening, more work: maintenance items, handling the occasional ticket, heading off to the NOC for setups if I didn’t get to them during the day. If mom happens to be gone, at dusk it’s also time to round up the chickens and make sure they’re in the coop, ready to bed down for the night.

My days ends somewhere between midnight and 3 AM, at which time it’s off for a nap. Then we start all over again a few hours later.

Most days, I’d say, are fairly normal, happy days, and no douchebags puncture things by being…well, douchebags. The worst are those who take zero responsibility for anything: like the ass who requested that we transfer a domain in. We told him it would have to be unlocked, and never received a followup from him that he’d unlocked it and it was ready to transfer. Fast forward a year: now he’s bitching at us because the domain is expired. Well, we tell him – nicely, I might add – you need to go renew it at the existing location because it was never transferred. He quotes our own ticket responses to us, for some reason, as if a) we don’t have access to them already or b) it says anything other than it says, and then follows up a couple of days later with a pompous directive that we are “hereby informed” that their account is terminated effective immediately, when a simple “please cancel” will do. The topper? We’re apparently nasty and have poor service because we didn’t read his mind, and we’re not to “grace” him with any further replies. No problem: into the filters you go, just to make sure that no mail ever is received from you (and sets off the autoack for the helpdesk) and that no mail ever goes out from here to you. But we’d like to thank you for demonstrating why techs everywhere wind up despising people.

I don’t recall people being total jackasses when I was younger, and I certainly don’t recall the sheer level of ducking responsibility that seems to invade just about every human being these days. When we screw up, at least we have the decency to say so, and then fix whatever it is. When it’s something as stupid as a domain that you didn’t bother to follow through on that you’re being idiotic about now, I’m going to have a hard time finding any sympathy and I’m certainly not shouldering your failure for you. I try not to rant about work on ye olde blog here, but it slips out from time to time. Apologies to my handful of readers.

As long as I’m ranting though, I have to make a comment about one of these Nutrisystem commercials that annoys me to no end. It’s the one with Jillian Barberie, the one wearing so much eye makeup she looks like a raccoon. She’s blathering on about the things she loves, like football. A football is tossed to her, and she catches it. “Football,” she says, tucking the ball under her arm. “How many girls could do that?

That little piece pisses me off. Every girl I know could catch a softly tossed football. A lot of them can catch one that’s being thrown at them while running a pattern and while being defended by the other team. This ties in with Nutrisystem’s pimping out of all those retired football players, I suppose, and is apparently supposed to appeal to some rundown housewife in Podunk, IA, who never played sports at all when she was younger, but damn, could they be more condescending about the implication that girls just can’t do that stuff?

Pictures of stuff coming, promise. Food, garden, chickens. For real.

I spy

Something that starts with an E.

First egg June 30 2008

Would you look at that.

First egg June 30 2008

My money would have been on the fattest one to start laying first, but Quiche beat her to it and gave us this perfect little egg this evening.

Because it was the first, of course we had to take a look at it.

First egg June 30 2008

Perfect yolk.

First egg June 30 2008

And thankfully, no aliens or other weirdness inside.

First egg June 30 2008

Unfortunately, the three of us here had all just finished eating a couple of bowls each of some hearty stew, and the thought of frying this up right now was a bit nauseating. We’re hoping to con….vince Aubrey to eat it when she gets here.

One not so fine day

Timing, I like to say, is everything.

Corn AM, June 12 2008

During my morning rounds, I’d mentioned to mom that I should put together some kind of bracing for the corn, to keep it upright as it started to bear. I’d not noticed any tiny ears forming as yet on that morning, but the time was approaching.

Corn AM June 12 2008

I put that task on my list, then headed off for the rest of my rounds and all the other assorted things that already populated that list.

I suppose I should have moved it up the list a little.

Corn blowdown June 12 2008

Yes, that is my lovely corn, blown down by a fairly severe storm that rolled through. I was of two minds about saving it: on one hand, we were about a month away from actual corn. On another – well, would it be too damaged to stand, or something that couldn’t be replanted, and how much of my time would it take to try to recover it instead of replanting it?

What fool tries to save blowdown corn? One who sees this when they’re looking over the damage.

Corn ears June 12 2008

Closer inspection done while I was crawling through the frames showed quite a number of tiny ears forming. The decision at that point became a simple one: figure out a way to save it, if at all possible.

Besides, there were others who needed their homes.

Frog in the corn June 13 2008

Springing to summer

Our spring, such as it is, yields early and quickly to summer. We are already seeing summertime temperatures and weather – like the afternoon storms that blow through each day. I am still convinced that the ranch is in some kind of Bermuda triangle-like zone where most of the normal Florida type weather passes by. Two days ago, a large, severe storm hit the area. In town, very heavy rains and hail the size of golfballs came down. Here, we got some rain and a spattering of tiny hail that melted as soon as it hit the pavers. Not that I am unhappy about that, mind you: I’d prefer that all the plants not be destroyed in a hailstorm.

So far this season, we have picked about ten quarts of blackberries.

Blackberries June 1 2008

That, as they say, is a mere drop in the bucket given the sheer number of blackberry vines growing wild on the property. We’re going to try to gather as much as we possibly can, though, before the brief season ends. We gathered the above before this storm rolled through.

Storm June 1 2008

Finally, hints of orange-gold.

Sungolds June 2 2008

The first sungolds are coming in.

Sungolds June 2 2008

The squash and zucchini continue unabated.

Squash June 2 2008

They call the wind Mariah

Me, I just call it a bitch. Not the light wind that swirls around, keeping the air moving, drying the sweat off you while you’re working outside. That’s a welcome breeze, sometimes carrying the hint of rain in the distance.

No, I mean the 30 MPH sustained wind that gusts to 45-50 MPH, changing direction entirely at random, snapping the plants back and forth, blowing dirt and dust around, and pushing any hope of rain away from our area. When it lasts, literally, all day, for close to 12 hours, it causes stems to break off, some younger tomato plants to be almost uprooted entirely, and blows other things right off their trellis. Like this.

Peas after the winds

Since they’re about to end their production anyway, I decided to try to prop up the battered plants instead of just leaving them lie and harvest whatever I could over the next week before taking them all out. That day’s haul:

Pea harvest May 12

Some of this was used in a stirfry that very evening, and the rest went to the freezer. In the grocery store today, I saw that Publix had snow peas. From Guatemala, at 4.99/pound. Good thing we grew our own.

We also finished up the planting of the front corn plot (four rows x 25 feet of Japanese hulless popcorn) and the back plot:

Rear corn plot May 12 2008

Eleven rows x 35 feet of Silver Queen. In total, we have planted about 1400 kernels of corn. That should be something to see if it all comes up and survives. The soil is so iffy that I’m not holding my breath over it and not expecting a lot, but naturally I’ll still try to baby it through.

Mother’s Day dinner, for mom and for our newest mom in the family: shrimp two ways, salad, rice, asparagus, broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken breasts.

Mother's Day 2008

Experiments

Last year’s corn experiment was derailed by various things, including either a dog or a deer crashing through the plot. We’ll be redoing that plot again this year, but decided to also try a little experiment.

Corn in the frame, May 4

These frames were set and then seeded on April 20. The photo above is from May 4. So far, so good. These frames were placed in an area where I had planted watermelon and canteloupe last year. We didn’t get anything from those plantings, although there were several watermelons that showed up to get chewed by the ants. We left the fruits and the plants to die off in that area, because as everyone who reads this knows, the soil can use all the help it can get.

Given that, I expected to see some volunteer watermelons show up this year. What I did not expect was to count 41 of them between the frames, and two in the frame above – how they got there, I’ll never know. Most or all of these will need to be relocated, as we’ll need the space between the frames to walk. What we’ll do with all this watermelon, assuming any of it comes in, I don’t know, but I’m sure the people and the animals around here (including the chickens) will take care of a good portion of it.

I’ve also decided to plant part of the front of the property in corn. We’re going to till up a plot in the front and put in a variety called maple sweet. It’s also highly likely that we’ll be putting frames around the front of the property. This all occurred to me as I was cutting the grass at the road side of the property, and before I ran out of gas in the tractor along the fenceline. I don’t mind using the tractor to mow, but growing cool stuff to eat is much more fun and if we ever go the CSA route – something we’ve been discussing more seriously than “one day, we should…” – we’ll have areas already started to hold more goodies.

Going to be a busy season around here. I’m already thinking ahead to winter (greenhouse, wiring the barn for seeding racks, keeping the chickens warm, and so on) and next year (bees, hopefully). I’m also thinking about tomorrow, which will find me at the dentist having two crowns put in my face. No doubt I will not be as chipper as usual after that particular activity, although I hope to be in minor enough pain that I can single line trellis the sungold tomatoes, which are beginning to fruit and need a bit of support.

Life on Lazy Dog Ranch.