Category Archives: Life in general

Blank canvas

The best thing about gardening is the blank canvas you get to work with at the turn of each new season.

The green at the left in that second frame in the foreground frame is the overwintered carrots.

What cannot – for now – be seen are the new sowing round: in the frame row in the foreground,  I’ve added peas, and in the second frame with the overwintered carrots, more carrot seed along with radish seed.

A parade of lights. More accurately, a testing of all the lights before they get rehung over the tables in the barn once more. Several have dead sides entirely, either the tombstones or in the wiring, but I’ll just hang those on the perimeters with the bad sides out – there is a slight loss on the lighting anyway because I don’t have about six more inches of table space available, so it all works out in the end.

I had planned, the day I started this post, to head to the hardware store for some seed starting material, but my body betrayed me again and I tumbled into feeling very crappy. Yesterday was horrible. Today, however, is a new day and although I’m not 100%, at least I don’t feel like death warmed over. It’s grey, chilly, and rainy today, so I’m also not particularly bothered by doing anything other than work today.

The seeds are rolling in, with three of five vendor orders in. Now if this nonsense will exit my head and throat, I can get down to the very serious business of getting things growing.

Night drive

I missed the window for a new posting on Wednesday. I was actually in the process of composing it when I had to head out to the NOC to beat a server into submission. Unfortunately, I also found another issue with a power unit while I was there, which means setting up another unit, configuring it, then switching the servers on the bad unit to the new one. It seems as if there is always something crying out for attention in the tech world. It can be very annoying and quite tedious.

But it was somewhere around 11 PM when I left, and the roads were mostly clear. There is literally no way to get anywhere I need to go without running into construction along the way. Jacksonville: Our Lady of Perpetual Construction.

It isn’t a terrible drive for thinking and having some music on during the trip out and back (about an hour and 20 minutes for the total round trip). I let my mind wander throughout the drive, and usually come up with a scene or two for some of the books that have been percolating in the back of my head. That happened tonight, and one of those scenes is a rather pivotal scene toward the end of the book that will contain it. The problem is I haven’t been writing. At all. Between being sick and work, where things can be really nutty sometimes, and have always-active tasks that need to be done, it doesn’t leave a ton of time when my brain is not totally fried from dealing with those tasks or with clients who are having some kind of issue.

I’ve said before (maybe here, maybe not) that a lot of tech work involves waiting. Waiting for a new kernel build to update on the servers. Waiting for the servers to reboot to finalize those new builds. Working on transfers of content from other networks to ours and doing the hundred little things that need to be done if they’re coming from a network that doesn’t use the same control panel we use. I’d guess it probably amounts to a little over a quarter of our time. What I would like to do is be able to train myself to get some writing done in those in between times of waiting or on tickets that land in the box for support. I read that Anthony Trollope would break out his writing into 15 minute chunks over the span of a few hours. He managed to pound out all sorts of stuff doing that. AND he was working for the post office.  Since it’s rare that I’d have a few hours in a row, I’ll have to make some adjustments and grab time where I can, making it a priority.

And that, my handful of readers, was my late evening. I hope yours were quieter.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Gimme a B!

For bean. Or give me a G for garbanzo. Or give me a C for chickpea.

Do you sense a trend?

One of the things I used to make in my old life was garbanzo bean soup, AKA Spanish bean soup. After I stopped being able to chew and swallow stuff, I sort of lost my way on that and a bunch of other things. It’s only reasonable, I suppose, to get a bit depressed about the state of your being and realize that you’re going to have to bow down to the inevitable, as otherwise, you’re liable to get bitter about it, too. Knowing that you probably have a couple more decades on this planet and that this is how your life will be is just….well, it sucks, not to put it too bluntly.

The other conclusion that I’ve reached after years of working on the rehab side of thing, trying to get my mouth stretched against the damage and scar tissue gifted to me from the radiation to my head and neck – hey, fuck you, cancer! – is that I’m really never going to be able to eat anywhere close to how I ate  as a normal person. I’m not even going to be able to eat like I did when I was trying to save my teeth by shelling out thousands to my dentist, which wasn’t great, but at least it was real, solid food.

After reading up on the effects malnutrition can play once you’ve been hit over the head over and over by cancer (fuck you, cancer!), the treatments, the side effects of those treatments, and the lasting “gifts” from those treatments, I decided it’s going to be soups (non-chunky, please) and purees for me from here out.

I figured I would do some looking around at baby food makers, because most have all the functions built in these days: steam food and puree it, from the same appliance, without whipping a ton of air (and thus foam) into the food. While I was doing this, I was thinking about the food combinations that would be more like a real meal. A meat and three sides, for instance (and if you’re from the South, you’ll get just as much a giggle out of that as I did). Purees of my own slow smoked pork butts with my own bbq sauce, beans, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. Purees of my guacamole. And on and on.

So I picked up a variety of purees for for babies, figuring I could get a sense of what flavors worked together in that form, and how they tasted. I chose samples from three different companies  of the ones my Publix carried that were for babies about six months and up.

One word: gross.

Toddlers don’t exactly have refined palates. After all, anyone who has been around children know they will put almost anything in their mouth, from food to dirt to cat poop. This probably makes it easier to feed them the purees from the manufacturers and easier on the manufacturers to produce those. Who can fault any of this? Not me.

But if you’re an adult, faced with finding things to eat because your mouth and throat are basically that of a baby/toddler, these things can be pretty dreadful. Disclosure: I tried multiple items, from different producers, and they ALL tasted bad to me, even the stuff that was nominally just (say) a fruit puree. It’s damn hard to get an adult who likes peaches disgusted by a peach puree. Make that puree taste like tin wrapped around slime, though, and presto!

I wound up tossing “adult puree” into the Oracle and came away with some interesting things. One is that there is a company that makes purees, for adults, in cans. No offense, but I am not trying those. There are also sites with suggestions for people with dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and people on soft or what are known as “soft mechanical” diets – i.e., people with dentures or implants. Or people who can’t have implants and for whom dentures are out of reach, too painful, or physiologically a problem. Choose one or all.

The how to get to purees is simple: cook the food, puree it. The how to get there using what to puree it is not that simple. I looked at babyfood makers, as I said, because that’s what they’re designed to do: cook the food and puree it. I realized, when looking at them, that they would probably be insufficient, unless I wanted to be making food every couple of days. While I don’t eat a ton more than a growing baby does, I do eat frequently through the day. I needed something more robust, but I didn’t need a bottle warmer or a defroster/warmer, and I didn’t really need the high points a few of the reviewers pointed out in the ones I was looking at, because using both hands to deal with it wasn’t an issue for me versus the mom with a tot in one hand trying to get things done with the other. After doing some searching on what was better to puree, and reading reviews, I decided to get one of the Ninja brand machines that specifically got good grades on purees, and its other functions – like making shakes, which I will still be drinking – are those I will also use. It will also enable me to replace the current little blender I use to make shakes, so it’s a multitasker.

Now, I finally pulled the trigger on that Saturday night. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me it would be delivered Monday, thanks to Prime. Awesome! The problem: the United State Postal Service. More specifically, the rural USPS. Monday: no delivery. I knew – I knew! – the problem, because it’s one I’ve faced before.

Like many places now, we have a communal mailbox. Ours has two larger parcel boxes for things that won’t fit into the small mailbox for each house. If those are full, or the items will not fit, most of the time, the carrier will take them back to the PO. This is even though a) it’s roughly 200 yards from the community box to my front door, b) in the winter, like right now, you can literally see my front door from the box, and c) the fact they have to drive past my driveway not once but TWICE to deliver mail to another small cluster of houses that are built within my already small little area. We’ve had this chat with the postmaster over at the PO, and it’s made no difference: some of the rural carriers are shitty, and whether we actually get something on time that is either shipped USPS or where USPS is the last mile (common in rural areas where things are shipped by UPS or FedEx but end up at the PO for the final leg of delivery) depends on who is driving.

The other annoying thing about this is that I can’t just go the next day to pick up the package, because there’s no way to know if they will bring it out the next day and attempt it. So the next day, the carrier drops the notice in the box, and the day after that, I go pick up whatever it is. Two days later than the “guaranteed” delivery, because we have lazy carriers. It isn’t like they’re humping this stuff on their backs. I just can’t understand it sometimes, and I’ve given up on trying. I’m annoyed, though, because I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In any case, the Great Puree Test will have to wait until tomorrow. Who knows – if I can develop some good recipes, I could probably write a cookbook for people who either have the same issues as I do or care for someone who does. Or for moms who want their babies to go on a food adventure outside the stuff companies are making.

Until next time, peeps: be well. Don’t forget to chew your food thoroughly.


Cowpie bingo

There is such a thing. Anyone who lives near or has lived in ranching country knows what that is. For the rest of you: divide a pasture field into a grid. Number the resulting squares, and then have people put money down on a square they think the cattle you let into that pasture will take a dump. The winner gets something as a prize, but the event is generally a fundraiser kind of deal.

Winter in Florida is a lot like cowpie bingo. Every so often, Mother Nature drops by to take a dump on us, just to remind us that while we may be tropical most of the year – and sometimes even all of the year, in some cases – she can and will come down for a short stay, even given her very busy schedule.

We’ve already had six days in a row with freezing overnight temps, with one in the 20s. Then things went back to a rather Florida-like “winter”. Tonight and tomorrow, however, actual winter is back for a two day show, roping us in with the misery it’s creating up north.

Tonight, just before I geared up and went out to turn on a couple of the far taps around 10PM, it was 32F. Two hours later, and it’s dropped to 28F.

The wind has also picked up, as the blue line at the bottom shows. It’s cold. Very cold. And a terrific reminder why I will never live in the northern reaches of the country again. Had enough of that in my childhood, and I’m not anxious for more. We, unlike people in the great north who have to spend a quarter of the year at least playing host to winter, will get right back to our version of it.

In other news….see below the fold, as there’s a pic that may make some people a tad squeamish. If you don’t like blood, don’t go there.

Continue reading Cowpie bingo

When life gives you fish (oil)

So Thursday was a pretty crappy day.

As my small but deluded devoted readers know, I put a hive with a very, very small population of bees in the barn to protect them from the freeze. I had found the queen (yay!) and they seemed happy enough. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and when I checked on them on Thursday, I found it had gotten too hot in the barn with the heater running: one of the frames had its wax melted, and there was honey and wax all over the floor.

So, I had to clean that, scooping up the honey and wax with a bench scraper, and then washing up the mess. And…the bees were not in the hive box. They were clustered up again the window. I got them down, but did not find the queen. As the queen had one wing clipped, she certainly would not be flying anywhere. She was not in the box, not on the window, and I couldn’t find her amongst the bees that had finally reached their last shift and died.

I was taking a break from the cleanup to get something to eat, and had a coughing fit – a hard one – and my throat started to close. I wrapped one of those cold towels that you put in cold water and then snap to get excess out around my neck and tried to stay calm through the wheezing. It finally eased, and was fine the rest of the evening, although it made me a bit hoarse.

To top off my craptacular day, I was going to do a formula feed through the tube, and when I flushed the tube with water before starting the formula, I felt wetness on my abdomen where the tube goes in, and then on my hands. I wondered if I’d just not put the syringe fully into the tube, but nope: the tube itself had split open at the abdomen side. It’s been in place for eleven months, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but it was (and is) annoying. When I coughed, a little squirt of belly juice would erupt from one of the holes the blowout had caused. I needed something to hold things together before Tuesday, when I’ll go to the hospital and the doc will replace the thing. I took a small binder clip (the black ones with the wings), clipped it to the tube at my abdomen just before the tube goes into my stomach, then wrapped gauze around that.

Toss in some other stress, and Thursday was a shitty, shitty day. I’ll explain the oil in the next post, as I’m typing this right now and suddenly feel like I’m about to barf.

Until next time, peeps, be well.

Merry what?

I’m not that big on holidays – although in the past, I’ve loved cooking for them – and christmas is no different. I’m also not really good about birthdays, either. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy them per se. I’m not the Grinch, after all. I think once some people (like me) reach a certain age and a certain level of having stuff, I’d rather just take a pass. This most recent thanksgiving, I did take a pass and only made some food to go to the place, without taking myself to the place. Some of that was because I’d have had to wear a mask while I sat and watched other people eat since one, groups of people + kids = germs, and two, I can’t eat like a regular person. So, best to avoid the whole thing. They all had fun, I enjoyed the quiet, and everyone came out a winner.

This year, I even toyed with the idea of not bothering with a tree at all, but (as my mother rightly pointed out) I do have a very young nephew and an even younger niece, and the holiday is for them anyhow. I had to get a followup xray, and after that, I popped over to the Home Depot near it only to find they didn’t have a single christmas tree there.  I did, however, find that they had a very good assortment of citrus trees available. THAT got me excited. I’ll be heading over there to pick up several of them and bring them back to the ranch.

The tree: luckily, it not only ’tis the season for christmas trees, it is also the season where stores are trying to dump their christmas stuff, from trees to wrapping paper to lights. Now, we have a tree that will last for many years – probably well past the time of my own demise – and real tree prices being what they are, will pay for itself next year. It even came with lights, although one is broken in its socket, so I need to do a bit of DIY and get that light out of the socket and get it replaced. It looks pretty good, for an artificial tree. I’ve had them here and there over the years, and christmas tree technology, such as it is, has improved a bit.


What else is happening at the ranch? Not a whole lot, since your humble narrator has been forced to the sidelines for much of the year. The year has been horrendous in the beeyard, and I’ll be lucky to have three hives when spring/summer ramps up next year. My internal odds are telling me I’ll probably only have one. I did order package bees, with queens, from a place in Georgia, and they’ll likely arrive in May sometime. I’m hoping 2018 will be much less disastrous from a health standpoint, and I’ll actually be able to manage them better in the coming year than I was this year.

The gardens lie silent, waiting. I still haven’t put together a seed order, but I plan to do that over the next couple of days. For 2018, I’m just going to (trying to) stick to core staples and not get a bunch of new/exotic stuff. We’ll see how that works out, because anyone who gardens knows seed catalogs are like crack.

Speaking of the health front, as of yesterday, my latest round of pneumo has hit the road finally and my lungs are totally clear. This time, six weeks to clear. We’re not loving that. Goal for 2018: unsubscribe from that crap. I’ve been wearing a mask when I have to go to places like the grocery store, Home Depot, etc. Anywhere there are a fair amount of people, and those people are touching everything, the mask goes on.  It also keeps me from touching my face while I’m wandering around, and when I get back to my car, I have to wipe my hands down with those germ-killing towels before I can take off the mask. It’s kind of a pain in the ass way to live,  annoying, and probably looks strange to people, but it beats picking up some random bug somewhere thanks to a compromised immune system. Another point: I’m planning to have the feeding tube removed in early 2018. I weighed in at 122 with all my clothes/boots on at the doc’s office, which means 118-119 without them, and that’s about where I was around Halloween 2016, before the first round of pancreatitis hit. It’s enough to give me a bump in the reserve I need in the event I do pick up some malady, and enough that my gastro guy will agree to pull out the tube.

All the news that’s fit to update! Until next time, peeps: be well. And be safe.

Return to discipline


It’s hard as hell reading about what’s going on in this country today. We all know, and as I’ve said, I try to avoid politics here. But – and I don’t think I’d be alone in saying this, even for people whose political bents are 180 degrees opposite mine – I don’t think there has been a failure in the government of this country larger or more profound  than what we’re seen since January. It’s stressful and disheartening, and it is going to take us years to recover.

That’s one of the reasons I shut down my personal facebook page, creating another profile just to manage a page that I need to maintain. I got tired of the nonsense, and even more tired of realizing how much of the finite time I have left on this earth it was ticking away. The only reason I visit fb these days is to update that page, or to view some funny video someone thinks I’ll find amusing. I can safely say I have not missed it. I had turned more to twitter, thinking I could just scan through it, post a couple of things, and not have it wind up as a massive timesink or add anything bad – like stress – to my life.


Continue reading Return to discipline

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.


I just saw an ad for the Winter Olympics.  I suppose that makes sense since the opening is exactly three months from now.

There are few things that bother me more than ungrateful people, and that means to anyone. If someone helps you with something, a simple “thanks” will do loads to improve their day. If everyone was a tad more free with expressing their gratitude for something – anything – the world would be a better place. Even if it starts with just a small corner of it. It’s why I always thank the people at Publix for whatever they’ve done, and mean it. Mindlessly blurting out anything from “thanks” to “have a nice day” to “thank you for your service”  doesn’t mean anything. It may just be because I’m a writer that I think these words and the way they are given to others should matter just as much as anything else people think are important. Or I may just be cranky. Who knows?

I’m not feeling particularly insightful or profound right now, thanks to the latest bout of pneumonia I’ve managed to get, and I did think this was going to be very random (like the fact that the Seahawks are wearing neon green uniforms that make them look a lot like the Oregon college team and their ever-changing, eye-popping unis).


Walmart will never convince me that they have some cheerful, personal shopper for you who will go gather All The Things, bag them up, and take them to your car. Or that they’ll have a bunch of xmas-festooned clerks keeping an eye on the lines and opening a new checkout when the lines are starting to snake back into the store. And I wish they would stop using music I like in their ads.

A cool front is making its way to us. The winds are swirling around on the front and back porches, giving a deep voice to the wind chimes as they move with the wind, bumping into one another.  Even when the wind has let up, their tones continue until the last vibrations of the chimes have run their course.

I’m always casting about to find new things to read, especially mysteries and more especially mysteries with series characters. This means that I read a lot of blurbs and reviews on Amazon during my hunt, and sometimes the things they suggest are not strictly mysteries, but more like thrillers. I’m not averse to reading those, and today while searching I found an author with more than a dozen books in three series, featuring the usual thriller-type main character: ex special forces or spy, very nearly indestructible, who prefers to work alone, usually pissed off at their previous employer and betrayed by their fellow agents or their employer, or both. Reading through the material on them, I found three that were pretty much the plots of movies – ex spy gets insulted or otherwise chewed out by a dumbass sheriff in a small town, takes to the mountains and has to be hunted down (Rambo). Or, ex spy finds a young boy who has witnessed a murder, sees the crooked cop in a picture as the ex spy is about to go to the police, and the ex spy takes the kid and hides out in a nearby community that prefers their own company to the world at large (Witness). Or, ex spy is pregnant, betrayed by her team and her handler, gets left for dead, recovers, vows revenge, heads off to Hong Kong, and starts taking out the other members of the team, and even uses a samurai sword at one point. Did I mention she has lung cancer, a year to live, does all the murderous rampage, is actually named Beatrix, and finds her kid? (Kill Bill). I know that there is nothing terribly new or original under the sun and writers are basically rewriting all the stories all the time, but when a lot of the scenes in the books are exact replicas of scenes in the movies, that’s a bit too close.

And I guess I’ll wrap up with this. I hear some nyquil calling my name. Until next time, peeps: be well.