The next big thing

The gardens. They are in terrible shape, thanks to the way 2017 was a total bitch.

The biggest project: weeding. We did get a good number of frames set up with weedblock, but the areas along the edges and in the holes punched for the transplants need to be weeded in the worst way. Fortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, just allowing the frames to go fallow and break down more of the composted manure they have in them. Unfortunately, I decided on no fall crops this year, and could not/did not keep up with the weeding. Luckily, we do have a winter, such as it is, and the next few months will be devoted to weeding, replacing the plastic-covered frames with weedblock and positioning the irrigation lines, and getting the sides of the frames that have bowed out back to full vertical and braced.

Now, I know, in my head, that this very big project just means starting with a small corner of it and working through to get it done. But there are also those fleeting moments when I’m looking out on the mess and thinking that it’s just far too big a job – it’s the same feeling I get from looking at the narrative outline here for this book and thinking about how much crazy is in me that I presume this is something I can do.

But in those moments, I just step back, take a deep breath, and remind myself that the elephant is eaten in pieces, not in one big gulp.

Unlike the novel, which I feel like I could write in two weeks with the story so fully developed in my head, the gardens are going to take a tad longer. It’s good exercise, though, and I’ll be able to visualize the plans for spring before the seed catalogs start arriving and it’s time to place my order(s).

Get outside, people. Even if  you’re not pulling weeds or thinking of corrupt cops and drug-distributing biker gangs like I am. There’s a big, wide world out there, and you should sometimes remind yourself that your small piece of it has something – at least one thing – you are grateful for when you look out over it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Let them eat soup

This past weekend was soup time. Why?

Frankly, the diet of shakes and formula and yogurt is, at times, something that just does not satisfy that deep inner craving for food that is…well, more food-like. Normal people food, I call it.

Soups made: broccoli cheese and roasted red pepper. The broccoli cheese went over very well, according to the taste testers, and since that one is nearly gone, today I’ll be making an even larger batch, picking up more of what I need after I finish my appointment with the gut doc.

This past weekend was also the weekend I was going to make hot sauce from the tabasco harvest, but I just never really got there to do it. I’m going to put that back on the list and hopefully be able to cross it off this weekend.

In the meantime, my last feed of the night awaits me: formula, yogurt, and my last round of meds for the day. Night.  Early morning now, I see by the clock.

Speaking of clocks, can I just mention here AGAIN that I cannot stand the end of daylight saving time? I’d rather be like Arizona in this one, particular, specific way: leave the clocks alone. Spring forward and just keep it there. The circumstances for which it was created no longer apply to our world in the 21st century, and like old, obsolete hardware, should be put out of its – and our – misery.

On the writing front: I decided to work on one of the novels for NaNoWriMo this month, while working on one of the other novels in the spaces between that writing and “real” work. This is mainly because the entire plot and story for this NaNoWriMo novel came to me last night rather suddenly and completely. I know exactly how it begins, how exactly it ends, and I know the larger chunks of the material filling in the gulf between those two bookends. I am not quite up to the word count total I should be after two days of working on this novel, but that is only because I had not actually planned to do NaNoWriMo, This is a spur of the moment decision. As an even bigger challenge to myself, I’m setting my goal at over the 50K words that deems anyone a “winner” for NaNoWriMo, and I am also committing myself, here in public, to writing the entire novel, doing all the things that need to be done to get it into publishable form, and publishing it.

Lesson for the day? Make your goals big ones, but make sure your path to that goal is broken into manageable chunks. It’s too easy to have fear invade your mind because you are focusing too much on the giant goal you’ve set, thinking you must do it all at once. You don’t.  There is very little in life that can be accomplished in one fell swoop, but there are a large number of things in life that can be done with consistent, persistent effort, and a map that ultimately leads to the larger goal.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

The art in us

Here we are. November has arrived after an October that seems to have gone far too quickly.

So what are we doing this month? Writing. Every day. On something real – the blogs don’t count, the facebook page update does not count, twitter does not count (although I will be trying to update this and those every day this month as well, even if my author twitter account tweet of the day is just a quote. This is not to say these things do not count in the overall scheme of things, because they do, but these things are not items I’m looking to publish. But novels? Yes. Poetry? Yes. These are the things that are roadmaps to some kind of audience at the other end. These are the things that someone will want to read, I’ve no doubt. There was a quote I discovered back in high school while researching something or another:

“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” (Andre Maurois)

This is true, of course. One need only peruse some reviews at Amazon or GoodReads and see that people love books we ourselves can’t stand, and for every one person who thinks the writing by an author is puerile and careless, there is another for whom the author’s prose sings in their heart. For every one person who thinks a particular book is a poorly done rehash of some other author’s story, there is another who has encountered the underlying story for the very first time and feels the story resonating in their bones. For every one person decrying a book as tedious because it seems to have been stitched together from many pieces of fight scenes just so the author could tag the book a thriller, there is another person who sees that same book as a page-turner of nonstop action that they read in just a few hours because they could not put it down.

And so with this in mind, it makes no sense to listen to that tinny, false voice criticizing every word that makes it to paper, that says no one will want to read any of the pap that’s been written, that says giving up on the writing is the best and honorable thing to do, to save others from having to experience its badness. No: that voice is lying. The words we have matter,  to someone. Making and finishing the art is far better and certainly more honorable than giving in to a voice that does not have our best interests in mind.

Until next time, peeps: Be well. And make your art, whatever that art may be.

Tell me your tale

Back when I was attending the local university, there was a semester where I had about 40 minutes between one class and another. I would generally plop down in the outdoor patio area outside the little food shop and bookstore to either to do some reading for classes or work on papers or whatnot. It never failed that at some point, someone would join me at the table where I was sitting, greet me, and, after I replied, would start talking. They would talk about themselves, and not just relative to the university and classes they happened to be taking, but personal things: surgeries they’ve had, jobs they hold, their kids and partners and parents, where they were from if not from Florida, or if they were, what city/town they were from, broad strokes about their homes and the people in their towns, and virtually any other topic that came to mind.

This is not isolated; I’ve had the same experience in other places as well. I don’t ask them anything about themselves when they sit/stand with me or say “Hi, how are you, why don’t you tell me every single thing you can about yourself in the x minutes we have together in this little dot on the planet we find ourselves sharing.”

No, I generally return the greeting, and then simply wait or glance over whatever it is I’m doing – studying, finding a part in a store, looking over electronic gear the geek in me loves to play with and touch. I would say 80% of the people with whom I come in contact spill their guts to me.

Interestingly enough, this seems to be hereditary. My mother is the queen of people giving her info dumps about themselves, and it’s almost she has something on her forehead written in an invisible ink that only lights up when someone’s talkative aura triggers it, saying “Tell me your life story.”

She was telling me about the people in the waiting room at the hospital – my aunt going in for a procedure, not me: Dora, an elderly lady who never married, who has a bundle of nieces and nephews, and who sleeps in a recliner when any of those nieces or nephews stay over. She stopped smoking 20 years ago, and loaned out a daybed/futon to one of the clan, only to receive it back with the mattress almost destroyed and useless, and the frame disassembled when it was returned to her, which was missing some nuts and bolts when she was attempting to reassemble – so many, in fact, that building it back up would be pointless, so out it went to the road for someone to pick up out of her trash.

She collects these tales wherever she goes, from the grocery store to a medical waiting room of some sort.

I’ve told her to start writing them down and emailing them to me, even if just in a stream of conscience matter, without worrying about punctuation or capitalization or spelling. While we were discussing this, I also came up with a title for a collection of stories told to the unnamed protagonist, to detail how intimately some people can confide into a total stranger – I imagine from a psychological standpoint, it helps to be able to unload the stress or the boasts or the worries or any of the usual life situations to strangers, as there’s no emotional involvement as there would be with their family, immediate or otherwise.

If she sent me those, I could flesh them out, and after compilation, the resulting book could be called Other Peoples’ Stories.

My life with critters

Critters I have rescued from inside my house and relocated back out into the world where they belong:

Honeybees, of course. If you keep bees, you’re going to wind up with some inside here and there.  Fortunately, they generally head for the windows, where they can be captured and let loose outside to head back to their hive. This catch and release does not apply to hornet, wasps, or yellowjackets, all of which have met their demise for their arrogance in invading the house.

Birds. One day while going about my business, I heard an odd fluttering and some soft thumps. After tracking down the sound, a small wren was hanging out under the table we use to fold laundry. That came in handy, as it allowed me to grab a light towel, toss it over the wee thing, and let it back outside. There was a sequel to this, with another wren, but this time he/she evaded capture for about ten minutes, with the chase moving from the dining room to the kitchen to the laundry room until finally I cornered him/her and took her back outside.

Lizards. We have, on several occasions, found lizards using the outside of the house as their fun sexy time pad: on the columns of the front porch. On the gutter downspout in the pool area. On the handle of the fence that someone is about to use. In the gardens. The lizards don’t even have the decency to blush and move away from one another as, say, teenagers would when caught in a delicate situation in a not-well-thought-out location. Nope, nope, nope. They simply stare at you as you move past them, and continue their business that you have rudely interrupted. Luckily, I have not encountered any duos getting it on in the house. Single lizards looking for a good time do sometimes wander in, though. I have to say that attempting to catch the lizards is often frustrating and not entirely effective with a head-on approach. Instead, I use the same technique I used when herding the chickens toward the coop: with my arms spread out to either side, the lizards generally move away in a fairly straight line. This allows me to direct them to an open door and send them back outside. I have caught two with my hands out of sheer luck, but most of the time, it’s a lizard roundup and herding.

Frogs. A number of them. Summer and spring brings out the peepers and tree frogs. I generally use them as a harbinger of when to transplant seedlings from the barn to the gardens: the more frog butts on the windows I can see from my desk, the better, as they are not terribly fond of cold weather. We have that in common, they and I. Most of the time it is tree frogs that must be captured and taken outside. The trick is to get the captured one back out into the wild without allowing another to pop in and take its place. Generally, I capture them with my hands, as it’s much easier than using, say, a tall cup as I do for the bees. To demonstrate their thanks for the rescue so they don’t starve to death in the house and turn into a mummified little body that I have to remove (because my mother and my sister refuse to touch them if we’re all together and we find one), they usually pee on my  hands.

By far, however, the oddest critter I have had to remove from the house is the dragonfly that somehow managed to get inside yesterday. I heard wings and the tinkling of an insect hurling itself at the recessed light bulbs in the kitchen. In the past, that has usually been a wasp or other critter that I am not terribly charitable toward, and is an omen of impending death. Yesterday, however, the dragonfly got tired of that set of bulbs and moved to the ceiling above the dining room fan, and that’s when I realized this was a brand new experience. Using a broom to extend my reach, I crawled up on chairs and tables and tried to urge it to the door that I’d opened in the dining room. It was near dusk, though, and the dragonfly was very confused and continued to bang against the light bulbs. We turned out the lights and tried to push it a bit toward the door, but the light coming in through the windows in the dining room was brighter, and it headed there. That was my big chance! I held the dragonfly down gently with the broom, and softly pushed it into the cup we use to catch bees. I released the dragonfly out in the poolyard, and it flew away without so much as a thank you. Such is life in the wild, I suppose.

That’s all for today, peeps. Until next time: be kind. And be well.

Childhood tales come to life

This is wisteria.

This is Sigmund, a Sea Monster.

I see some definite similarities here, although my personal monster is land-based, not sea-based.

Unchecked, wisteria can rapidly take over its own space and then make designs on the space all around it. It’s great at embracing empty space you have you don’t plan to fill any time soon. At the time I put it in, I didn’t have any grand designs for the front garden area. When I did get those plans in my head, each season involved cutting it back. Severely. Mercilessly.

And it kept coming back, its tentacles running again, either along the ground or hanging on the rabbit fence and pulling it outward as the mass of stems followed along, feeling their way along, looking for something to grasp and to root it before sending out another runner to declare to the next space that more stems would be following in its track.

I’ve done some checking of it, cutting off many of the tentacles reaching out to invade all the other areas of the north garden just to be able to move among the raised beds in the general area where it sits and contemplates how to proceed to eventually become a small planet unto itself. The goal is to remove the entire plant. It would be much less problematic if the flowers held an aroma that was not offensive an smelled like wet, sweaty, mildewy gym clothes that had never been washed. But they do, and although the bumblebees seem to love it, the humans who have to work around it do not.

We have another variety whose flowers hold a scent much more agreeable, and that one will replace this one, without offending the noses of the people attempting to work in peace and harmony beside it. And so it goes at the ranch…

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Hastily written notes

When you’re still working between 2 and 3 AM and have some wild thought occur to you while you’re trying to fight off sleep and succeeding at least some of the time, it would help if you scribbled it down as something someone could decipher. Including yourself.

I think it says “Retrieving boxes/suitcases of beer”. Maybe. Could be “Swap cases” of something. Ah well. If it wants to come back, I’m sure it will. Next time I’ll try to take a moment to be a tiny bit tidier about it. After all, that could be the next blockbuster book.

Speaking of things book-related, my intent today was to spend a few hours writing. But since Tuesdays are hell on earth for us for whatever reason, I spent the whole day doing work work and not the side work. Toss in a blizzard of (entirely unnecessary) emails from the control panel software, which helped freak even more people out than usually turn up in the desk on the day, and it was a zoo. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day, although it will become my today soon enough if I don’t get a little sleep overnight.

Heading for a Fall

We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.

The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit,  and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.

(Two days later…)

Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.

Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of  fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.

The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.

I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.

Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.

Amusement du jour

A spammer, trying to get me to hand over about $200USD – a reduced price! – on how to build an online, automated business that has generated for some unnamed person $20MM. Sorry, spammer, I already know this game: the secret is to get people to pay you for the tools they will then turn around and spam with, telling people they have an unrivaled business plan that is online, automated, and that allowed some unnamed person to get $20MM, and the secret to that is…

I guess this is a bit neater than having to do the in real life, regular pyramid scheme crap where you have to actually talk to people. So it has that going for it.

Fans of the long form

Once again, an unfinished post because I worked (for work work, not book-related work) until the wee hours and then fell into bed.

That aside, I’ve seen rumblings for quite some time from people getting frustrated with the various social media things because it’s simply too difficult to write anything in a long form that will be seen all the time. By “seen” I don’t mean that no one will see the piece, ever, but that the piece will be seen by the intended audience for it. This occurred to me last year: even on Facebook, if you’re following someone, it’s entirely possible Facebook’s strange algorithms will prevent you from seeing everything that person has written unless you are specifically working to check what has been posted by that person. Even if you do see what someone has posted, if it’s long, it will be truncated and a “read more” link given – even for Facebook notes. For authors of the content, that is a bad thing: there are a fair number of people who will not choose to read the entire piece. A couple of paragraphs above the fold will be it, and they’ll toss a like on it, maybe offer a comment, and move on in the cluttered landscape of Facebook.

Twitter? Trying to follow some tweet thread/storm that someone has posted can be an exercise in patience or frustration, depending on how you look at it, as there’s a good chance that while the author is tweeting within the character limit, people may  also be commenting on any number of messages within the thread, disrupting the flow of whatever the author of the tweets is saying. In addition, many people follow hundreds, if not thousands of other people/organizations. It’s terribly easy to miss threads you might otherwise read from someone if you caught it in the firehose of content that is the twitterverse.

The same things go for any of the other social media outlets: sometimes, perhaps even a lot of times, the content creators find they are not reaching all of their followers, and the followers often miss out on what that creator has posted, because it gets buried in some fashion – most of the time, through sheer volume, because people just click “follow” without understanding it simply is not possible to get the content from every single person they’re following without being on the social media platform 24/7.

These things are why I’ve been seeing more and more people go back to basics, resurrecting long-dormant blogs so they can post longer content and ensure that one, their followers can find it, and two, followers can read the entire piece, without any interruptions by ads or “sponsored content” or trying to follow a thread down a rabbit hole. It’s terribly difficult to get the same nuances in long form writing when it’s being done on Facebook or Twitter or wherever else, as they simply do not easily lend themselves to that. There are plugins available that allow content on the blogs to automatically post to the various social media outlets, even if it’s just a quick snapshot of the title or first paragraph or so.

This is not to say I’m against social media. I firmly believe content producers should put their work out via any means possible, and if they manage to get peoples’ eyeballs on it within those social media circle, so much the better. But I am saying as more and more people realize what a time suck  (among other problems) social media is and move away from it (like yours truly) and with more people writing, worrying how much will be truncated by any particular outlet, or how many ads will be posted with it, or how many tweets they’d have to rapid-fire post  to get their content across,  the long form content writing area is coming back around. That, in my book, is an incredibly important -and good – thing.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life