Capturing lightning

I’m a big fan of storms (minus any loss of life, of course). I love the smell of the air just after it starts raining. I love almost-blinding flashes of light followed by deep, rumbling thunder. I love the wind kissing the chimes, their perfectly-tuned tones resonating long after the initial strike. I love the sound of rain, especially if it varies in intensity based on which part of the storm is moving over us.

Because we get near daily storms, I’m always trying to capture some lightning with one of the cameras. Most of the time, I put the Canon on a tripod and stick it on the front or back porch, set it off, and hope I get something.

The other afternoon, I captured not one but two images of cloud to cloud lightning in the storm that made itself known to us. I got the editing done on that video of the first capture: in real time initially, and then slowed down to 25% so it could be seen better. I hope you enjoy it.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Adversity

As you, dear readers, know, I’ve had my share of adversity lo these 13 recent years. This morning, one of those annoyances made their appearance: a nasty headache. I managed to get up, then thought it would probably be better if I could get a little more sleep and not endure the worst of it.

Did not work out. Part of that was because I’m an insomniac even at the best of times, and it takes me forever to fall asleep anyway unless I am totally beat. The other part was because my brain wouldn’t shut up with scenes for the current novel, ideas for the next one or two or ten, snatches of dialogue, the things I needed to get done today, and the things I had planned to do today.

So I got back up and used tylenol and caffeine to deal with it. That has worked out okay, but it’s like a small piece of my brain noggin is on an acid trip (or what I imagine it would be, since I’m not into that sort of thing): a little out of myself. No hallucinations, thankfully. I almost  blew off today’s blog, because let’s face it, who is reading this? But I reminded myself that this is more me than anyone else, and it warms me up nicely for the other writing I need to do. Thanks, Brain!

One of the things I needed to get done was to feed the bees. We’re heading into the next nectar flow, and they’ll probably only need this week before they’ll be able to forage what’s blooming in the area. They’ll likely be able to fend for themselves through August and September, and perhaps (if this year is like last year) into October. It’s kind of a dicey time for a beekeeper: if  you get a swarm going in October, that’s probably a death sentence for the swarm and the hive it came from, even if October is warm, as it was last year (in fact, this is how I lost a hive last year: they thought it would be a good idea to swarm in October, when it was in the 80s, only to have October turn into fall and be substantially cooler). I captured the swarm, but they died and the original hive died as well. So, that’s going to take at least weekly inspections, during the muggiest, swampiest time of the year for us here. It was brutally nasty when I fed them today AND I got stung, twice, on my right quad while getting some rainwater out of one of the feed holders on a hive. Bitches.

Last night I went outside to get some audio of the peepers because they were SO LOUD. As I was coming in, i did the usual check for frogs, to try to keep them on the outside, where they belong, instead of the inside, where they sometimes die and mummify, leaving us to find them in the weirdest spots – and then yours truly has to clean those up, because no one else likes to. Sissies.

Here’s the video from last night: the Green Frog Rescue Follies. The two with hair on them were the ones I kicked out of the house as I went outside to get that audio.

Until next time, peeps: be well. And be on the lookout for tiny green frogs.

Consistency

As of yesterday, I had posted to the blog nine days in a row. Today makes ten. Go me.

At first, I thought I might just do something short and silly, like type the date and call it done. Interesting enough, I’ve found something to talk about, even if it’s of interest only to me. And even if it is only me interested, I’m okay with that.

I’ve also written – actual writing on the novel front – for five days in a row. As with the blog, at first I thought I might not have a whole lot to write toward the story – or at least, nothing that I’d be proud to point to and say, “This is not total shit.”

As with this here blog, though, it seems to be not terrible – the act of getting the words down or the words themselves. There will be things to fix, of course, and I can handle that. But if you never write it, it can never be really fixed, even if you think it’s perfect in your head. Excelsior!

I’ll leave you with two pics of a mystery bird my mom caught in the top of one of the trees in the rear of the property. It’s obviously some kind of heron, with that neck extension.

And here is the mystery bird leaving the ranch, neck retracted.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Tuesdays are the worst

I’m not sure what it is about Tuesdays in tech. They are absolutely the worst day of the week, with weirdo requests and people not bothering to take in anything you’re telling them. For instance: we’ve just told someone how to set his email client so he can actually, you know, GET HIS MAIL. He’s decided to leave everything alone  and only change if it becomes a problem. Sir, it already is a problem, so perhaps taking our instructions would be beneficial to your email operations completing properly. These things don’t magically cure themselves.

I have a theory about this phenomenon: I think people get back to work on Monday, blow through whatever it is they have to do, and by Tuesday are once again slacking off and leeching off their employers’ internet connections to do stuff related to their sites. It’s the only thing that makes sense given the sheer number of tickets on Tuesday versus other days of the week. Not that I’m knocking slacking off – if whatever you have to do is done, slack away.  I have a suspicion that some people have not completed their work when they indulge their slackiness. Shame on them.

I don’t recall ever seeing this specific issue in the non-tech, in real life jobs I’ve had in the past. It may be that those jobs were just hellish all the time. Certainly the retail jobs I’ve held were pure hell, every day.

If this is as bad as it gets, user-wise, on otherwise normal days (no server crashes, network issues, etc.) then I guess it isn’t too terribly bad on this end. We could still dowith a little relief from the folks who are not inclined to take instructions to heart, though, regardless of the day.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chick prep week: day one

Today was going to be the buying all the chicken tractor things and building the chicken tractor for the meat birds. Off to the big box store we go:

Said big box store did not have two of the fittings necessary to build the frame. They claimed to have one of the parts at a “nearby” store, 90 miles away. Somehow, I think their definition of “nearby” is a tad different than my own. Fortunately, you can buy pretty much anything online these days, so I ordered those fittings plus a double wye connector to make my vertical feeder. The layers will have the vertical feeder. The meat birds will get fed in a trough. The reason I came up with a vertical feeder is simple: chickens are messy eaters, and will scratch food out of their feeders to the ground – where they will rarely touch it. It’s a space- and food-saving design.

All the birds, however, will have a nipple-accessible water supply, rather than an open one. There are a handful of reasons for this, but the most important one for the waterer AND the food can be boiled down to one word: poop.

Chickens will happily sit or stand on top of their waterers or feeders and just as happily poop all over them and their contents. Two of the waterers will be hanging, without enough room for them to sit on top. The third will be set on cinder blocks to keep it off the ground, and will have a cone-shaped top to make things uncomfortable for chicken butts.

No chicken butts atop the waterer

I have some giant boxes (thanks, amazon!) to use as brooders for the chicks. While the meat birds will grow quickly enough to be kicked out into their tractor after just a couple of weeks, the layers will need a bit more time before being put out to pasture. It is necessary to clean out the brood boxes pretty frequently, unless one enjoys the smell of chicken poop (nope!).  For that, I’ll line the bottom of the box with non-skid shelf liner, and then have some puppy pads on top of that. That way, when it’s cleaning time, the puppy pads can just be rolled up and tossed.

The flaps of the boxes I’ll stand upright and duct tape together, so the sides will be high enough they can’t fly out when they realize they have winds. On the top, some 1/8th inch hardware cloth for ventilation and to keep out snakes – as the chicks will likely be out back on the patio, this is necessary to keep the snakes from eating the tasty wee chicks – and then a heat lamp for each brooder, so the chicks can warm themselves if they get chilled.

The chicks are due next week, and I still have quite a bit to do to finish prepping for them. My brother is very handy, and he’s going to be building me a mobile coop when the guy who created it releases his plans for the 2.0 version, which is lighter and better balanced than his prototype. Half the layers will go into the mobile coop, and I’ll take them around the areas of the property that still need work. They’ll scratch, peck, and (most importantly) poop in these areas, which will help the building of the soil in those places. The other half will go into the chickenyard we used for the OG chickens. All the meat birds will go into the chicken tractor to live out their short but happy lives. They’ll get fresh grass and bugs and such, but they will not be ranging – they get large very quickly and they’re unable to run into a coop if a predator circles around. They also do not scratch and peck while foraging as the layers do. But – as always, the most important thing – they will be pooping, wherever they are, and that will be good for my soil.

At the end of the gardening season, I plan to design a way to let the mobile layers into the gardens themselves, to clean up whatever is in the rows – and, of course, poop everywhere – as we head into winter. They can’t be trusted in a production garden, as they will peck at pretty much anything, including fruit still on the plants and stomp all over the plants themselves. This plan is still a work in progress.

Until next time, poops – I mean, peeps: be well.

 

New tools

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you just cannot seem to get started on that Thing you really, really want to do, and if you do get started, you don’t carry forward with it.

Now, having things that must be done so something else doesn’t die – managing the bees, for instance, or feeding the dogs, or making sure the chickens are ok – makes it much easier to do those things. Other activities, that hurt no one and nothing (except maybe your psyche) are easier to rationalize when you don’t do them. Writing is one of those things, for me, mainly because in my justifying-energy-use head it just doesn’t seem to be as important as everything else in my life, when in reality, it’s absolutely quite important, according to my “what do I want to be when I grow up, what is it I do best, what’s the most fun thing to do” brain.

I’ve read tons of tips and books and watched scores of videos about procrastination, getting out of your own way, naming the importance of what you want to pursue, and all that other stuff that goes along with not doing the Thing you tell yourself you want to do.

But the other day, via a video (that I was watching more for fun than anything else), I heard about Focusmate.com. The theory behind it is one of an accountability partner – which, as plenty of people know, helps when you’re trying to do something like write or paint or sculpt or practice the piano, or anything else. You create an account, then book a session for whatever time you like. They pair you with someone, and at the designated time, you launch the session, and both you and your partner for that session are on webcams, doing your work and watching (out of the corner of your eye, if your screen is set up correctly) one another.  It’s like being there in person with one another, except without the travel or noise of whatever environment you might been in had you gotten together in real life.

Even though my internet connection sucks on the best of days, and because there is no way I’m meeting up in real life with a person or persons at a coffee shop or anywhere else, it seemed like something worthy of at least a try. So I ordered myself a cheap little webcam that is now hanging atop my monitor like The Raven, eyeing me, and today signed up for a session at 2, with another upcoming at 6. The sessions last 50 minutes – about the time of the typical session with a shrink or analyst, and I imagine that is not by accident. You log in, launch the session with whoever you’ve been paired with, exchange greetings and what you’re working on/hope to get done, and off you go, doing whatever it is you are respectively doing. In the early session, I was paired with a guy working on some computer science-related material; as I type this, it’s about half an hour or so from the second session I booked. I’m happy to report that in that earlier 50 minute session, I pounded out 968 words, according to Scrivener.

You’ll also get notices from the site when the next session is starting if you log in via your phone – I discovered this by accident because our internet connection went down about 40 minutes before the start of the 2 PM session I had booked. A notice popped up on my phone 30 minutes before I was due to launch the session on my desktop. That was nice, although I thought I was going to have to cancel that session thanks to my sucktacular ISP. Luckily, they got themselves going again, and I was able to complete the session without a problem.

So, if you’re looking to do something – even doing some reading you’ve been wanting to get to, I imagine – and like me, can’t get yourself to do it because you have ten million other things you need to do, you might want to give Focusmate a try. It’s free, and the only things you need are a camera, mic, and a computer with an internet connection available.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Feeding before the storm

It’s been a vicious storm of a day for my great state. There were two things I absolutely had to get done: feed the girls, and get some grass knocked down back in the beeyard. Today, I’m pleased to say, I did both, ahead of the massive storm system that hammered down on us and knocked us offline twice (the latter is not especially difficult to do with our provider).

If you want a very quick glimpse at the beeyard, this is the video for you! As it was cloudy and nasty, most of the bees were at home, and some really did not appreciate the vibrations of the tractor as I mowed the yard (and even less so when I drove past their front doors).

Note: there is a fairly loud tractor noise here, so keep that in mind if you don’t want to make your eardrums explode from the sudden cacophony.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Chores

One of the most time consuming chores I have is mowing the property. We’re sitting on a bit over four acres, and probably one acre of that is taken up by the house, the gardens, and the well area (the pump, the aeration tank.  We also have about a quarter acre at the rear of the property that we left as is: it’s filled with trees, wild muscadine grapes, blackberry bushes, a small depression someone dug out at one point for reasons known only to them, and so forth. There is a small circular path at the front edge of it that I try to mow, but generally, that area is flooded when it rains, so I have to wait for dry weather on that.

We broke our streak of 15 straight days of rain – thanks, Mother Nature! – and I was able to get some mowing in today. I managed to get everything done except the beeyard done on one tank. This is what I had left in the tank as I finished up the chicken yard and the area behind the rear garden.

I was cutting (ha!) it close, but got back to the shed. As I neared the end of the mowing, I felt the breeze pick up, which was good, because it was another sweltering day at the ranch. I also saw the clouds starting to build up.

Now, I don’t mind meteorologists. I don’t. But it seems to be the only job you can be so wrong at and still keep your job. Let’s take my area as an example. When I was getting breakfast down the tube, our forecast said 20% chance of rain. When I came in after three hours of mowing, it had changed to 40%. I mention these two because this is what I saw on the radar when I made it back inside.

See that 90 about center, a little right? That’s my weather station. See all that angry red, orange, and green? That’s a front, across the entire northern part of this state. It does not take a meteorologist to get the wind direction (ours from the NNW as that was captured) and understand this thing was going to roll over us, bringing us more rain. And that’s what it did: pushed right over the ranch, with not a ton of lightning and thunder, but certainly with rain.

That big green/yellow blob at the NW part of that image is now coming our way, as the wind has shifted.

Our forecast – as it was raining – changed to 90% chance of rain. It is now back at 60%. I’m wondering if, in meteorology classes, they had lessons on changing your forecasts to get in tune with what was actually happening at the location for which you were doing forecasts. Do they have a Revisionist History class for the meteorological degree folks?

I’m just kidding, of course. It’s a tough job to really, accurately predict what Mother Nature is going to do with us mere humans on a daily basis. But I could save them some time, and they could copy pasta this forecast for Florida, then hit the pool or beach with a tasty beverage in hand: “Becoming partly cloudy, with afternoon thunderstorms. Highs in the low to mid-90s, lows in the 70s.”

On that note, it’s time for me to get some work work done. The life of a person whose business is in tech: the weekends, at least parts of them, have to be given over to work to get stuff done.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

Chicken prep

It’s been years since we had chickens at the ranch. When we did, we only had layers (not meat) birds. My mom was quite fond of them, and rejected my suggestion of culling the layers who had passed their prime and were not giving much production as they aged.

We lost one to a hawk or other aerial hunter – all that was left was a pile of feathers. We had one killed by a raccoon – raccoons apparently love brains, just like zombies, and one had ripped the head off one of the chickens as they stuck their head through the fence. Did I mention chickens are not terribly bright?

Of the others, one was lost to a mystery ailment, and the rest to redneck neighbor guy’s dogs. I had to dispatch the ill one and one of the chickens that had been attacked by (but not killed) by said dogs. I buried all of them on the property. Since the last one died, we’ve not had chickens back.

Moving out of the past and to the now: we are going to have chickens once again! This time, however, we are going to have meat birds in addition to layers. I ordered 10 meat birds. Because members of my family are too squeamish to  participate in the actual butchering, that part of the process will be mine, alone. However, once the birds are dispatched, plucked, eviscerated, and washed, they’re perfectly willing to bag and weigh them before the dressed birds go into the freezer. That’s good enough for me.

I was making a list of all the things that need to be done, and there certainly are a lot of things on that list. But next week is clear of any appointments for me and the dogs, so we’ll be able to get it done, no doubt. And there will be pictures!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life