New life at the ranch

That title is a tad misleading, really: since our winters are so mild, the queens rarely take too much time off from laying, which means on any given day, there are likely new bees making their way out of their cells. Yesterday, while breaking down hive #9 for inspection and splitting – I wound up making two splits off this hive, and it will likely stand up to a third – I caught some new bee action on the cam.

A tech’s woes

Do  you know why, generally, many people in IT hate users, and why, generally, first level support techs despise them?

Because these jobs are, in the end, not terribly different than any other server-related job. The nice ones, who take the time to say thanks, or write a nice note out of the blue praising the service, or who do any number of tiny things to show they appreciate what you’re doing, are rare. It’s nice to get those notes/calls/etc.

The vast majority of users, their issues, and the tech’s resolutions are white noise, that constant murmur in the background that follows a tech everywhere, including into dreamtime occasionally. This group is, again, much like anything else in life, a presence that never really fades away.

And then, there are those people. The ones who are never satisfied. The cheap ones whining to you about costs. The ones who complain they “are not a tech” and shouldn’t have to be a tech just to get through an answer about how to change their password (hey, newsflash: a step by step instruction list doesn’t require anyone to “be a tech” to follow). The ones who think they can be immediately hostile and uncivil to the faceless person on the other end of their message for no real reason whatsoever. The very, very  worst of all? The ones who drive good tech people out of the field into more charming, less irritating, and more fun occupations like mucking out cow barns or cleaning sewage lines or deodorant tester.

The ones who request that you do something, confirm that they want you to do it, and never once ask any questions about what they have asked. The ones who then open a zillion tickets, all on the same subject: that they cannot perform operation ABC because what they requested was done. The ones who whine that if (company) had (XYZ), the “inconvenience” they have suffered would have been avoided, as if having XYZ would have made them magically not request the idiotic thing they requested – and that rather stunning logical fail is just another one amongst the thousand little cuts that makes techs hate users. Because it is usually the horrible ones that are remembered best.

Don’t be the horrible one. Be kind to your techs.

Cold before the warm

It’s sort of like calm before the storm, except better because after this little bit of cool weather at the ranch, we will hopefully be turning to spring for good. Not that cooler weather isn’t welcome – minus the freezing bits – but that little voice in my head is already yammering about splitting hives and transplanting from the flats, which are growing very nicely under the lights in the barn.

On another note, this ad keeps popping up during my surfing, and if you don’t look directly at it, and just catch it out of the corner of your eye, it really does look like a dick pic. Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Seriously, advertising people, did you not think this through at all? It has bonus negative points for having Doctor “There’s nothing I won’t endorse for money!” Oz on it.

Looks like a dick

Langstroth

We use Langstroth hive designs here at the ranch. They’re easily managed – well, easily, relative to how difficult it could be otherwise – parts are interchangeable between the hives, and the bees take readily to them. I’d read about Langstroth a bit, but not terribly deeply. As it turns out, I should have: he was apparently quite an interesting fellow, although, sadly, stricken with a mental illness which during his time was not readily treatable.  Fascinating stuff, if you’re a fan of bees and the product they make.

Reclaiming your life

First off: an aptly named “megaton” leek. This has overwintered along with some close friends, and is now officially just slightly less in diameter than my wrist. I can hear you now. “What on earth am I to do with giant, mutant leeks, farmer?”

Megaton leek

Eat them, of course. Potato leek soup. Slice them thinly and add them to whatever dish you’re making that involves onions (just lessen the onion, and add some leek). Slice them, lay them out on parchment on a half sheet pan, freeze them, then bag them. They will last practically forever, and you can just reach in and grab some as you need. The possibilities are not entirely endless, but there are a ton of them.

So what is this “reclaiming your life” thing? It is: getting off social media instead of seeing all that time go down a black hole, purposeless and wasted. You might say to yourself that you’ll just spend ten or fifteen minutes checking in, and the next thing you know, it’s three hours later and you’ve not accomplished anything, gotten yourself pissed off or stressed out, or any other not very healthy thing. Plus, the crazy people pushing woo is simply unbearable. Other than posting something about people staying away from the ranch while I get rid of this pneumonia, and one phenomenal video of a guy singing Agnus Dei (Barber’s Adagio for Strings, if you’re not familiar with that), I have not been whiling away time on facebook, not getting other things done. I haven’t been keeping an eye on twitter. I’ve posted a few bee pics to instagram. And my life has improved for it, both from a productivity standpoint and a general sanity standpoint. It has also allowed me to return to the long form posting that just seems to be impossible on the various social media sites, as that is not what they are designed for, in the overall scheme – add to that weirdo algorithms that make people miss what you say (facebook) or trying to follow far too many people (all of them), and it’s just better without it. People who want to follow what I have to say will come here or to one of my other sites if they are so inclined, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I highly recommend leaving those things behind (except for business-related posts, of course) or at least setting an actual timer if you feel you must browse through what’s going on. You’ll probably find (as I did) that you’ve been spending way too much time on things that really don’t make a huge difference in the overall scheme of things. You’ll also probably find you have quite a bit of free time to work on doing whatever it is you really want to do. The benefits far outweigh the negatives of reading whatever people are having for dinner or that they’re going to the store (seriously, I’ve seen people post to facebook that they’re going to walmart). Leave it behind and reclaim that time and your life.  End of rant.

Given the erosion of the bee population at the ranch – one hive went queenless and absolutely refused to make another, even after three tries, another hive simply absconded for no apparent reason I could determine after examining the hive, etc.  – I ordered eight packages of bees. Two will ship in April and six in May, months that are not creeping toward us, but running at full speed as if we’re playing Red Rover, Red Rover. Yesterday and today, I finally got around to processing the frames of honey I had pulled in late December and January from various hives. Usually, I would leave them on, but since winter as most people know it hasn’t really paid us a visit at all save one night that got down to 23F and a few other random days and nights of cold weather, it’s been positively springlike here. Too much honey in the hives can leave the honeybound. That spells trouble as we jog along to spring, as the queens will be hunting around for somewhere to lay, and if they don’t like what they see or if the hive feels too crowded, they will swarm. Remember, last year we had a swarm in February. In order to get things going for spring, those pulled frames had to be extracted and gotten out of the way. Total: about 100 pounds of honey, which smells like it might be a bit fermented, but we’ll have to wait and see on that. It would be a shame to have to dump it, but unless I can find someone who wants to make mead with it, that’s what will happen. Pity.

Another sign that spring is barreling down at us: frog butts on the windows, and peepers singing at night, even though the nights are still on the bit chilly side. That’s when you know: get yourself together and start busting your ass to get things done.

First up: weeding. If I want to get sunflower seeds in, and start the first round of beans, the weeding needs to be done. That’s y goal this week, in addition to laying another brood box on the only single box hive still in the beeyard – which, handily enough, I can populate with some of the spun frames, as I had a dozen of them during the honey extraction process. Marvelous.

I hope you all are well and that life is treating you kindly – or if not kindly, at least with a sort of benign neglect that does not mean life hates you.

And for your parting gift

As my handful of readers know, I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday (congratulations, Manning – please retire before someone takes your head off and you die on the field) and did my thing where I rate the ads. Side note: someone on twitter asked why people watched the  ads and made comments about those but not through the rest of the year. This should be obvious to the questioner, but apparently is not: the ads for the big game are supposed to be better and funnier, even though sometimes they fall flat. Good ads are noticed during the year, but there are far fewer of them, and most of the time, they are not funny in the laugh out loud sense.

The day after – and no hangovers here, as I can’t drink any more – was business as usual. Tuesday, however, started off poorly and rapidly got worse: after getting up in the morning, I went back to bed for a “nap” that was more like a coma, and slept until 5:30 that evening. Tremendously out of character for me, as those who know of my insomniac ways are aware. A few hours after being up, I once again went back to be and slept through to the next morning.

All seemed to be fine Wednesday, although I did take a nap that morning, for just a couple of hours instead of all day.

Thursday. That was the day the body marshaled all it forces to tell me something was wrong just after noon, by signaling a horrific pain in my left shoulder and an even worse one in my right upper chest. The  shoulder could be from anything, really – I had been to the NOC pulling some servers and racking another. The chest, though, is an entirely different story. Given my weirdo history, anything involving the chest generally rewards me with an immediate order for a chest xray, as it did in this case.

Verdict: pneumonia. Usually,  I get aspiration pneumonia, which is the type you often get if you have issues swallowing properly or fully and food or drink winds up in your lungs instead of your belly. Thanks to the (fuck you!) cancer rounds, this is my typical problem. There’s no real way to tell which type this is, but it doesn’t matter all that much as the treatment is the same: heavy duty antibiotics, which I picked up yesterday and will take for the next week. Fun times!

That means rest and light duty for me, but I still need to check my flats in the barn and check the feeders on the bees. I also need to prep for the upcoming season by ordering bee supplies, keeping watch on the girls to detect swarm activity, and so on, and this is very difficult when every breath burns and feels like someone is stabbing you with a dull knife. I shall, as always, carry on, because there is Shit that Needs To Be Done, and I’ll survive, as usual.

We’re forecast to have another evening right around freezing Saturday night into Sunday morning, with perfectly balmy temps after that. Those will be the days the girls start gearing up for spring and will be the danger times for swarms. We had the first swarm emerge last year toward the latter half of February – when honestly, we, or I, was not expecting anything of the sort. That’s a lesson learned: the bees don’t care about schedules. They care about the environment, both inside the hive and out. The only good thing so far about the swarm issue this year is that in my couple of examinations on the nicer days, I’ve noticed no drones. No drones = no mating partners for queens, although I have no idea if this makes a difference to them or not. Hopefully it does.

One of the hives (#9) has a ton of bees in it, or did when I last opened it. It might be good for not one but two splits from it, which would be awesome. That, however, also needs to wait on weather moderation and the availability of drones. If it gets warm and stays there, those splits might be done sooner than later.

In other news, the seedlings are emerging in the barn under the lights, and we’ve had no hitches in anything otherwise. Except the pneumonia thing. Thankfully, modern medicine is ON IT.

Stay well, folks, and I promise the next entry will have some pictures for your viewing pleasure (and a little teasing if you happen to be in one of those places frozen solid for four months out of the year).

Super Bowl 50

The game should be good. The ads, of course, get almost as much attention as the game. And of course, I will have to comment on them, as that’s what I do! This will be updated as the ads roll.

By the way: ugh, Phil Seeeeeems. It was only 20 seconds for the first of his verbal tics. And it was the first comment he had made.

Michelob Ultra – an ad that looked like it should be Gatorade. C

SoFi – are you great? A lot of people in that ad weren’t! B

NFL – Super Bowl babies. Is there really a boom in babies? I guess maybe for fans of the winning team. NR

Hyundai – the bear chase ad is not new to the Super Bowl rotation. NR

Snickers – nothing says hilarity like Willem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe on the steam grate. A+

Doritos – the baby in the ultrasound chasing after Doritos was pretty funny, especially when the mom smacked the Dorito out of the dad’s hand and across the room. A

Apartments.com – Jeff Goldblum sings “Movin’ On Up” and meets George (Washington) and Wheezy (Lil’ Wayne). B

Avocados from Mexico – “And this is Scott Baio.” Since I am eating guacamole onion rings (or trying to), this made me laugh. “Would anyone like to feed Scott Baio? It’s included in the ticket? No?” LOL. A+

The Jungle Book – live action remake from Disney. NR

Audi – outstanding, probably because I’m such a space nerd, and with David Bowie’s “Starman” in the background? Stellar. Ha. A+

Mountain Dew – Puppymonkeybaby. Weird, and will be remembered for that. C

Sqaurespace – more football commentary from a funny duo, but doesn’t really connect with what they sell. D

ShockTop – Hipster jokes. B

Buick – Bridesmaid stretching out to Odell the catch of the bouquet. Odell says she was out of bounds. A

Advil – what aches? People doing all sorts of things, some of which shouldn’t even be possible. A

Jason Bourne – New Bourne movie with Matt Damon looking hella buff. From Universal. NR

Dollar Shave Club – dirtbag razors. These are always funny. A

Acura – Um, ok. C

Quicken Rocket Loans – Get a loan via your phone, boosting the economy for hand-lathed wooden legs. B

Comment: when defensive players almost take someone’s head off with a facemask like Talib did, they shouldn’t be allowed back in the game.

Bud Light – It’s a party! Quoting Independence Day. “I feel so inspired.” B

Skittles – Steven Tyler. Dream on! A

CBS ads for its various shows. NR

Ron Rivera is correct: the refs should be catching this stuff.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – from Michael Bay. It surely won’t be overdone with explosions and car crashes, etc. No way. What actors think this is good for their career? NR

T-mobile – “Verizon got it wrong, not me!” It wasn’t that funny the first time around. C

Hyundai – When you’re distracted by Ryan Reynolds, the car will stop you from running him over. Backdrop music “What a Man”. A

Luke Kuechly is a beast of a linebacker.

Special teams mistakes can really kill you.

OIC – Poor guy. But funny ad, and true. A

Persil – Snooze. C

Ad for The Good Wife, which I don’t watch. NR

Turnover by the Panthers. Are they trying to make it even more difficult for themselves? Prop bets were odds on for Panthers to score the first TD of the game (Broncos did, on a Panthers fumble) and go into halftime +3. Doesn’t look promising on that.

Coke – The Incredible Hulk drinks with his pinky up. Who knew? A

WeatherTek – Made in the USA.  B

NFL – Super Bowl babies again. NR

Gigantic Panthers defender intercepts Manning with one hand – he Odell’d it! Who knew ads could be so prescient?

Independence Day redux –  Randy Quaid won’t be around for this one, naturally, but Jeff Goldblum is back. NR

Prius – “How hard is it to catch a Prius?” Haha. Sweet driving by the stunt drivers. And sneaking through sleeping cops.  A

Terrific catch by Funches.

CBS – We’ve been here forever. NR

CBS – Our late night shows. One of our dramas in a hospital, with a bunch of impossibly sexy doctors and nurses. Every one of them.

Local ad.

Jimmy Johns – I hate the fucking yelling they do, and I don’t care how fast you are. C

Venus Swimwear – sexy models in swimsuits. They’re actually based here in Jax. NR

Halftime report as they get set up for the halftime show. Now to make coffee and a shake.

CBS – more of their shows.

Terrific halftime show. No complaints about Coldplay, Bruno Mars, or Beyonce, and a very nice tribute to past acts (plus RIPs to those no longer here to share their talents with the world).

Ad for Beyonce’s new tour.

Amazon echo – Missy Elliot gets the last laugh on Alec Baldwin and Dan Marino, A

Jeep – We’ve been everywhere. A

Domestic violence awareness – Yes. There is a confidential 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic violence. A+

CBS, CBS, CBS – watch our shows.

Krystal – fine for post-drinking and hangovers. B

Thrivent – no inappropriate casual Friday attired robots here! A

WalMart – Blegh. I won’t rate them because I hate them.

Krystal again – shrimp po’ boys. But those were crab pots on that fishing vessel. B

Doritoes – dogs like Doritos! A

Mini Cooper – Defy labels, indeed. A

TurboTax – Sir Anthony Hopkins is not selling out! It’s free! A

Pokemon – I can do that. Yes, you can. A

IBS ad by Xifaxan – a walking intestine is creepy. And I don’t like drug ads. C

LG – Liam Neeson is a badass, and it doesn’t matter what he’s selling. B

X-Men Apocalypse – They will save the world. NR

Death Wish Coffee/Intuit – nothing wrong with strong coffee! A

Butterfinger – Bolder than bold! And don’t mind Mom saying you’ll ruin your appetite for dinner. A

Showtime ads for their shows and online on demand.

Holy crap what a catch.

Fitbit – nice transition between every day travels/duties and exercising. B

Wix – using Kung Fu Panda, echoing other classic ads. Meh.  C

Heinz – weinerdogs! A

Honda – Sheep singing Queen. Awesome! A+

Budweiser – American beer (but company actually owned by a foreign entity). C

NFL – Super Bowl kids with Seal, with actual Super Bowl babies singing, too. A

Lexus – You could get used to a hefty car payment. B

xfinity – who I would get service from if they had service out here in the boonies because HughesNet sucks. B

Zaxby’s – not a new ad. NR

My current MVP candidates for this game: McManus, Miller, Kuechly.

Jeep – Fun 4×4 ad.  A

Schick – razors duking it out in the bathroom. B

Axe – good ad, but I hate the smell of that stuff. B

Missed pass interference call by the refs.

Jublia – toenail fungus. I guess the target audience suffers from OIC, IBS, and now toenail fungus? But Phil Seeeeems was in it, so that’s perfect. B

Kia – Christopher Walken is terrific. But no cowbell. A

“Pressure” as things head to the ad break. Cool.

T-Mobile – funny, but when I had their service, it sucked, so even Drake can’t fix that. B

No team has ever won a Super Bowl without an offensive touchdown. Will this be the one?

Budweiser: AWESOME DAME HELEN MIRREN AD.  Don’t be a pillock. Don’t drive drunk, assholes. A+

Remember when I said HughesNet sucks? They took this opportunity to go out. Total downtime: seven minutes.  Asshats.

Cam Newton didn’t bother to go for that ball he fumbled. WTF is up with that?

The Secret Life of Pets – OK, legitimately funny movie ad. NR

Colgate – save the water. B

SunTrust – we will make you happy and help you breathe. No idea what their product actually is. C

I’m perfectly OK with the Broncos winning this Super Bowl, especially if Manning retires before he gets himself killed on the field.

My vote for MVP: Von Miller.

Blah blah blah, postgame interviews. No, Manning is not going to say if he is retiring right after the game. Duh. But apparently he is going to give a shout out to Budweiser (bleh). No Disney World trips this year.

Esurance – first ad post-game, but didn’t see a single one during the game.

Super Bowl MVP: Von Miller. Terrific game.

And that is a wrap for Super Bowl 50. Hope y’all had as much fun as I did!

 

First flats out

Finally, the first flats are out to the barn under the lights: three tomato flats, three pepper flats. Tomorrow, more flats, this time with the brassicas. A long day of mixing seed starting soil, packing the flats, seeding, covering, watering under the seeds (not on top – avoid damping off!), and hauling to the barn.

Beyond the brassicas – which sounds either like a cool book title or a garage band name – the weekend will be spent doing tons of weeding. A necessary evil as the season creeps up, but not bad for thinking or musing over plot points.

Doing the math

“I was told there would be no math!”

You were misinformed. All that stuff back in high school you’d thought you’d never use becomes quite handy when making plans.

2016 Planning

These particular plans involve mapping out the gardens, figuring up linear foot lengths, and calculating how much of any X can go into Y.

It’s heady stuff, really, although probably only exciting to farming nerds like me.

Still, it’s a useful exercise to know how much room you have. If we (I) planted out on a one plant per foot basis to fill all the linear feet in the rear, front north, and front south gardens (not including the herb garden), we could put in 2992 individual plants. If we ran the plants out on an 18″ basis, we could fit in 2157 individual plants.

Obviously, this is not something we will be doing. Each set of plants has an area it needs that we’ve seen be beneficial to it. Peppers and tomatoes? Eighteen inches. Summer squash and zucchini? They need about three feet, because they are gigantic. Carrots, onions, spinach, and some varieties of lettuce? Six inches.  When you plant, you have to know what kind of space to give something so they don’t crowd each other out fighting for resources and so there is adequate airflow between them, to avoid things like fungus or rot. The spacing also helps with things like worm control, as it makes it more difficult for them to move from one plant to the next without a good deal of effort.

The aim, overall, is to make as efficient use of the available space as possible, and account for both pulling of spent plants (determinate tomatoes, primarily) and rotating where you plant things not just year to year, but from one part of the season to the next, at least here since our season is long. And that, rancherinos, is why you need to be able to do math and strategically plan the things you want to do.