Hooray for help! My sister is coming over tomorrow to help me disassemble more of the wood frames and get the boards loaded in the dumpster, and will be back Saturday for more. This weekend, my brother will also be up, to help with getting up the crap we gathered from when we put up the first run of a fence up between us and Redneck Neighbor, including digging out some mystery equipment that’s half buried back there – it looks like a piece of an engine, to be honest, but really, since people used the back of the property as a general dump, it could be anything. It’s like a treasure hunt, except it’s all crap and not worth anything. When my other brother was here a few years ago, he and I filled two dumpsters with junk we collected from the back end of the property. You name it, it was there: car doors, bikes, used baby diapers, broken dishes. We found the bottom spring frame for a bed back there, but it was buried so deeply, and in such an odd location, that we weren’t able to get it out. Looking at what I’ve done by myself thus far, we may need the dumpster folks to haul this one off and drop another for us: you never really realize just how much space you’ve devoted to gardening in raised frames ad how much original material there is until you start tearing them down to rebuild them with better material.
Once all the wood frames are removed – and I have to say that I’m looking forward to the first instance of a Florida wood roach crawling out as we’re pulling frames and hearing my sister scream like a girl – the metal frames will go up in their place. Then: time to top them all off with a mixture of topsoil and cow shit from the two mountains that we had dumped by the rear garden. Alas, I think we probably won’t reach the start of that point by the end of the weekend, given everything else, but I have two months before the season really starts here, and I, with or without help, should be able to top everything and get my irrigation lines relaid before it’s time to transplant.
Guess who has some potential good news about getting their jaws pried apart? Me. After waiting three weeks to get an appointment with the original ENT who did my surgery, and then waiting an hour and a half past my appointment time to see him today, we talked to him about options to do something about the horrible trismus – going on over seven years now. The beauty of having been operated on by the most respected and senior fellow in his department at that hospital: the ability to be walked personally, by him, up a floor to talk to the surgeons there, and be put into the hands of another maxillofacial surgeon who took about three minutes to suggest a surgery I’d read about some time ago, but which everyone else seemed to think was probably not worth doing: coronoidectomy. He couldn’t guarantee this would solve the problem, of course. But at this point, having an oral opening down to 12mm, which is 2mm lost in the past year alone, I’m willing to try anything – even though it means being intubated through the nose and more PT afterward to keep working on getting back to some semblance of normal (and hopefully wide enough to get teeth in, given the rate at which they’re crumbling under the aftereffects of the radiation). So, they’ve put it in with their scheduler, who will call us with some dates and we’ll go do this thing to see if it will help. No one looks forward to surgery, but I am, as they say, cautiously optimistic.
This afternoon, we received a very official looking form (and instructions for said form) from an outfit calling themselves Compliance Services. The form and instructions are an attempt to scam $125 from unsuspecting business owners who do not a) know the law or b) do not read closely enough, since these scammers do their best to hide the fact that this is not official paperwork. Although the envelope itself says “THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT”, the form has the look and feel of the typical government type documents that all of us who run businesses are overly familiar with, having to wade through them all the time.
These people have been at this a long time, based on a search. Some states have already been hit by these assholes. Other states have large warnings about them, and include restraining orders against them for their mailings. There are lots and lots and lots and lots of complaints/warnings about this scam. In fact, National Research Corp has a handy (and long) list about this annual minutes scam. Don’t fall for it. Definitely do not send them any money.
Finally! Purveyors of chicken jerky treats for dogs are voluntarily recalling products based on antibiotic residue found in chicken jerky treats coming from China.
“Milo’s Kitchen® today announced that it is voluntarily recalling its Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats from retailer shelves nationally. No other Milo’s Kitchen® products are affected. ”
“Nestle Purina PetCare Company and its wholly owned subsidiary Waggin’ Train, LLC today announced it is voluntarily withdrawing its Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats sold in the United States until further notice. ”
Of course, at the ranch, we make our own, so we know what’s in them: chicken. No glycerol, no antibiotics, no anything else. Grind it, put it in the jerky gun my aunt Susi kindly gave me for xmas, and stuff them in a low oven to dry. The salmon jerky was way smellier, but they seemed to love the stuff, so another batch of that will be in the offing as well.
Such as it is – or isn’t. We had a couple of days of lows in the 20s, but that’s what passes for winter here. Today, we maxed out at 88 in the sun in the front garden. Each year is getting hotter than the last, and still people deny that global warming is an actual event, occurring in their lifetimes.
Much of my winter will be spent redoing the frames around the farm, to get rid of the wood that takes a beating and then warps or otherwise falls apart with roofing metal that will probably outlive me. This week, I spent two days redoing the herb garden frames after spending three days viciously ill with some kind of crap. After two days, the frames themselves are completed, and now need to be finished off by topping them with a good soil mix, relaying the irrigation lines, and bringing in some fresh mulch to freshen what’s there and cover the now bare spots left by the rearrangement. Oh, and putting some seed in, because while we may get a couple of random days of freeze between now and spring, it looks like it’s going to be more springlike than winterlike for us moving forward.
We had one hive of bees abscond, but the other two are well, for now. I’ve ordered up two new packages for the spring (to be delivered in May), and will need to build a new set of brood boxes for the second package since we have the now empty brood boxes for the other package. I burned the frames from the vanished hive as a precautionary measure. After the flames were out and I was scraping up the ash and pins from the frames, I saw some bees flying around the pools of solidified beeswax.
For now, I’m ill with what seems to be a relapse of whatever I had earlier in the week. I’ve had the flu vaccine because my doctor always bugs me about it – I’m now in the “at risk” group thanks to (fuck!) cancer and the effects of radiation and chemo – but it surely feels like the flu. Maybe I’m in that 35% where it turns out it isn’t effective. Whatever it is, it needs to go, because there’s a lot of work to be done, seeds to start, and a season to prepare for, even if the season appears to already be here.
Something fun I got for mom for xmas: a coffee roaster and an assortment of green beans (two guatemalan, one mexican, two colombian). When it first starts roasting it smells quite a bit like roasting corn. As the coffee rests and degasses, the aroma starts to change, and often deepen – it reminds me a lot of tasting wines, except only with the nose: periodically giving the beans a shake in the jar and then sticking your nose in as far as it will go, you can track how the beans progress. This particular roaster is a middling type, not the cheapest, not the most expensive, but I can see the time coming when we’ll be upgrading to one of the larger models. Thus far, all the roasts have degassed and then been used in a drip coffee machine. My next task is to figure out a roast suitable for my moka pot. The pictures: green beans first in the roaster, toward the end of the roast when they’ve changed colors (this was at the first crack stage), in the jar to breathe and degas, and the upper chamber, where the chaff ends up.
Before the last deep freeze invaded our area, I hustled out and pulled every decent sized tomato off the vines of the late sets I had going. It looked like this.
I was a bit concerned that they would not ripen from their green state, and I’d have to haul them all out to the compost where they would serve a useful, if less tasty, purpose. I’m happy to report that my fears were misplaced, as I have a nice multicolor table going on.
This baby is a Cherokee purple, one of the finest tasting tomatoes I’ve ever had, and an heirloom to boot. In the images of all the tomatoes, these are the darkest green, with an almost black coloration at the shoulders.
Fresh tomatoes in December? Why, I don’t mind if I do.
People coming to the ranch for the holiday: xmas day dinner will be around noonish, and we’re having mexican this year: taco night (even though it won’t be night), enchiladas and quesadillas if you like. That also means no huge xmas morning breakfast as we usually do, since we’ll be eating earlier than usual. If you have a menu request for the x number of days you’ll be staying before xmas day, let me know.
Winter (or what passes for winter here) project: replacing all the remaining wooden frames with metal. That’s about 90 frames or so to redo. And fill with good soil mixed with cow poop. Yesterday we ordered a bunch of material for delivery from Home Depot, and picked up the miscellaneous other items we needed so we can plow through (so to speak) to have it all done by March when it will be time to start peas and beans. Bro #2 will be assisting by cutting the metal to size for me and also getting the supports cut down for bracing. Then yours truly will begin the laborious process of replacing the existing frames and topping them with the good, poopy dirt from an old dairy farm, which we will have delivered this week, most likely, so it can age out a bit. If anyone wants a bunch of 1″ x 6″ x 8′ boards, you’re welcome to them for free – but you have to come pick them up. There will also be some 1″ x 6″ x 4′ boards as well, although some of those are in only fair condition because they’ve been out the longest.
We went to the market today, my mom, my sister, my nephew, and I, walking amongst the vendors set up under the Fuller Warren bridge, the shade from which, combined with the stiff breeze from the river, making it much cooler than it was in the direct sun. Wandering up and down the lanes, we – or, rather, they – sampled wares from some of the vendors, pored over photos and paintings, and marveled at (and petted!) the large numbers of dogs people had brought to mingle with the crowd. The aromas from the food stalls, closest to the river, wafted over everything, a tumbling mixture of pizza and fish and sausage and various meats on a stick. Music floated in from different corners of the market, growing louder or softer depending on which direction you moved next. As we walked about, picking up some veggies and cheese here, some milk and meat there, what was I thinking?
Not the work that awaited me on my return, not the horrendous events in Connecticut yesterday, not my uncle’s sudden death, not bills or health or cleaning out the fridge or any of the million other mundane tasks that consume our lives at some point.
And it was one of the better outings I’ve ever had.