Tag Archives: Gardening

The big C and its effect on the human body

Well, rancherinos, it’s been another glorious week of remembering the always-there aftereffects of a couple of bouts of cancer and the attending treatment (namely, chemo and radiation) that churn up in the wake of that horrible ship that passes through your life.

This past week – technically, last weekend, I suppose – I started feeling a bit “off” and then got a horrid, watery cough, and then started coughing up some crap out of my face and we decided it was xray time. My back to school gift was apparently a raging case of pneumonia. Everybody else got pencil boxes (does anyone remember those?) and I got this. Rip off.

Still, I saw my doctor, I got an xray, and I got my antibiotics without spending a dime: thanks to February’s adventure, I blasted through my out of pocket limit before this year really got rolling, and that’s a good thing, since this is the third serious bout of pneumo, two of which involved hospital stays.

What have I been up to? Beyond hauling myself out to feed the bees and working, not much. I have definitely been doing nothing to clean up the gardens, which are desperate to be cleaned, because one, it’s way too hot here right now, two, my energy reserves just are not back to where they need to be, and three, did I mention it’s fucking hot? It is. I’ve also not been writing much even though the attitude is there to do it – fighting off things that make you cough almost uncontrollably every ten minutes, which then take you another five to recover from are not really conducive to that. It’s made worse by coughing fits that threaten to swell the throat, and with someone with an already limited opening, can cause a tinge of panic that there’s going to have to be a 911 call in there somewhere. Fortunately, I’ve been concentrating on staying calm after the fit passes and letting things get back to as normal as they can be.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading more books this year, and just finished one that made so little sense, plot-wise, and took away from a series character everything that made him what he is right up to that book, that I almost didn’t finish it. But I did because I am apparently a glutton for punishment. I’m now back to the Lucas Davenport series by John Sandford (currently reading #11), which I left off late last year because it was time for a break from that series. I’m having a hard time finding another series to have on my list that I would like to read – the ultra-jingoistic right wing nutjob novels are not my thing, and some series I found intriguing only have a couple of books in them, which I could read in a day – I read incredibly quickly, which is why libraries were always my thing when I was young and why Kindle Unlimited is fantastic for me now: I can read quite a number of books without bankrupting myself.

The downside to Kindle Unlimited is while there are tons of bad self-published books out there in general, KU is absolutely a giant mountain of them. This is not a ding against self-publishing. It’s where I’ll be starting at first because I don’t want to wait out the usual timeframe it takes to find an agent, and then for that agent to find a publisher, and then for that publisher to get the goods out the door. Do I want some traditionally-published work at some point? Sure, why not. They have budgets and editors and cover designers and PR people that I do not. But if I can show an agent/a publisher that I have a track record and a platform (I hate that fucking term, let me tell you), I think that would help in getting to the traditional route.

College football started today, in the same way restaurants have soft openings: a handful of games, spread throughout the day, not a whole lot of gotta-see games, although OR State versus CO State turned from a neck and neck game into an obliteration by COST thanks to turnovers by ORST.  Later tonight: Stanford (ranked team) versus Rice, from Australia.

And lastly, the weight thing: I’ve been trying to put on some weight in order to improve my overall quality of life and increase my “reserve” (as the medical people say) and to get the feeding tube removed, and have been pounding that as much as I can. I’m now hovering around 100 pounds, something I consider not too bad, considering that I left the hospital back in February at 92 pounds.

Today? Raining, off and on, making it a lousy day to get things done outside even if I were able to do it. Nope, hanging out, doing work stuff, reading in the breaks, and right now getting a shake and coffee down the hole in my face to keep those intake calories going.

So there we have it, folks. Battles being fought between the evil forces of infection who want to kill me and the white hat of modern pharmacology. Seems to me the good guys are once again winning this round.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Pictures, we got pictures

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.

It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they  morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.

The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.

Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.

Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.

And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

Tuesdays are hell

In our corner of the world, anyway. For some reason, Tuesdays bring out the crazy. My guess, or just idle supposition, is that people are back to work, they’ve done whatever their boss has assigned them (or gotten through the day, or have it in progress, or whatever) and Tuesdays, they’re back to leeching off their employers’ Internet connection once more. It’s a theory.

Yesterday was productive, though, at least for yours truly: more peppers harvested and washed, ready for the start of the drying process (which will start after this is done). Alas, due to my illness and neglect, the squash plants are history, and the paprikas, harvested previously, gave themselves over to the bugs. The bells are not much better. About a third of the cayennes are still looking pretty spry, and the tabascos…well, nothing seems to bother them very much except leaving the fruits on the plants too long after they have ripened to red, leaving me to think maybe a little tabasco-based pepper sauce is something to be spritzing on the leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs that are having their parties out there.

In any case, having called the season for what it is – a fail – I’m not more disappointed than I already am at the total lack of output. It’s the way things go sometimes, and I can’t change it, so there is no sense beating myself up over it. It has, however, led to some more tweaks to be laid out next season, and as with every process, continues to evolve. The one nagging factor is me: can I refrain from catching some bug during the early part of the season that takes me out of the game for weeks or months at a time? That process is also evolving: I’ll have to start wearing a mask most places I go. I’ll have to carry antiseptic towels in the car for when I go anywhere, to wipe down my hands and anything I’ve touched (phone, car door, etc.) while out. It’s annoying, but better to be in the habit of doing that than not to keep things on the ball here.

In other news, my little brother is moving back to the homestead, and bringing his cat.  While the big guy probably won’t care all that much – he was smart enough not to tangle with my cats (RIP, all) when I moved out here – the puppy is either not as smart or allows his curiosity to get the better of him. My mother votes for option one. I, of course, vote for option two. It’s going to be interesting for a bit. On the plus side, I’ll have someone around a lot of times to do heavy lifting, which is damn hard for me with a feeding tube strapped to my abdomen – what a pain in the ass that is sometimes. I recommend not getting one, if you can help it.

Until later, peeps (I almost typed “peppers” there!): be well.

Another week, another disaster

Disaster may be too strong a word, really. After all, everyone is alive, and healthy (well, not me, entirely, but I am alive, so fuck you, cancer aftereffects). It’s been a mighty weird week and to top it off, we got three inches of rain yesterday, flooding out some of the areas on the property. That mainly means the lower lying areas, but also includes the areas I’ve not yet worked on rehabbing that are mostly clay and hardpan a few feet down.  Those are the areas you can walk through when there is water and have your footprints stay as the water evaporates – sort of your own personal archaeological site to play in, if you’re of a mind to do so.

After that rain moved past us, it turned into a wonderfully cooler, breezy day, without the horrid humidity that plagues us during this time of year. Today is a lovely day and would have been a nice day to be working outside if I’d not had yet another meeting with an ENT to look at this lump in my neck. I think we’re all on the same page that it is most likely within the submandibular salivary gland, and at this point, the only real option would be some exploratory surgery to open up my neck, and either remove whatever the lump is, or remove that gland completely. The latter is  a difficult choice: radiation to the head and neck do a hard tango on the salivary glands, and I’m already missing the sublingual gland on the left side from the original surgery, so this is one of the few remaining, even if it isn’t working properly right now. In addition, the even more worrisome part is not actually the surgery, but the wound healing: the skin on my neck is not a good candidate for rebuilding the area post-removal, because of said radiation – even though the original cancer was all on the left side, the radiation treatment for it involved blasts to both left and right on my neck. So that rebuild procedure would involve taking skin from another area of my body, and since I do not exactly have, shall we say, as much padding as other people, I’d likely have to have balloons put in whatever area we decided would make the best place to grow what would be skin grafts for my neck. It’s a bundle of very serious choices. The easiest choice? Leave it alone, and I keep draining the thing of pus via whatever method it takes: either expressing it via that sublingual gland when the swelling is higher on my neck, or draining it wherever it pools up lower on my neck by opening it (or having it open spontaneously). This time, I opened it my own by puncturing my neck where it seemed the weakest point was – that is, where the pressure of the drainage is building up the most is where I cut it open when it gets too large and painful. Note: I do not recommend DYI doctoring, so don’t take this as medical advice. I’ve been through this enough to know what I’m doing and not break anything else in my neck, and when it’s too bad or I can get a lock on where the best place to open it is, I go to the doctor.

On another note, I’m pretty sure I tore the rotator cuff in my right shoulder some months ago. Probably from chucking the ball for the puppy – I have to keep in mind I’m no longer a 16-18 year old catcher trying to nail a base stealer. It’s quite painful, but with the gardens to have to deal with, I’m hoping some rest and ice will help it heal versus having to go through surgery on that front. For now I have two half working arms. That’s better than none, so we make do with what we have to get through, I suppose.

On yet another note, I participated in, but did not finish, Camp Nano this month. It has been a miserable failure of a month on the writing front. However, tomorrow brings the promise of a new day and a new month, and tomorrow and for all the days following, I write. This determination has come to me after reading two mysteries by the same author where the bad guy really appears out of nowhere in the last or next to last chapter, which is always irksome to me. Unless you’re writing an unreliable narrator like Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, this is not fair to the reader. And if you ARE writing an unreliable narrator, it had better be damn well done – I’ve read enough attempts people have made to not yet find anything remotely touching Christie’s adroitness. Obviously, I don’t expect anyone to actually match her in this, but I think it is entirely possible to do it well enough without it being so hokey as to defy the suspension of disbelief by the reader.

I have pictures to get moved from my phone, which is randomly rebooting itself, to my computer to upload them here, and hope to get to that soon(ish). It’s on my rather lengthy todo list, which resembles in practice like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstopper: it never seems to get smaller.

Until next time, peeps – and I promise to get back on the every day posting routine, no matter how mundane my life is, because it’s still good practice – be well.

Calling the season

After much thought – thinking on it for days and days, really – I decided to call it a season, garden-wise. I didn’t want to, and it pains me greatly to technically classify this as another lost season (i.e., a failure), but there has simply been far too many things going on, and I haven’t been well enough to keep on top of it.  I’ve elected to not do another round of tomatoes and cukes, as I had planned, and in fact, will not be doing any new rounds of anything at all, even brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, which are much easier to maintain as they have fewer pests than other plants.

The peppers are doing well, as are the squash, so those will stay until they have run their course, because harvesting those and processing them is not terribly onerous, although it is time consuming to dry the chiles so they can be stored until the end of the season, nature-wise, in order to grind them into their respective powders.

There are two factors at work here: one, of course, and as my handful of readers know, is my health. I am still recovering from the rounds of pneumonia, and I have a lump on my neck no one seems to know what to do with. I also desperately need to gain some weight, which is a difficult task for me even under normal conditions. Thus far, every gain I’ve made this season is knocked back by work in the gardens – a vicious circle that has to be stopped if I’m ever to gain back even a fraction of what I’ve lost since last November through the various illnesses. When I’m healthy, of course, my body is not trying to burn calories to heal and burn calories for the grunt work that are the gardens here at the ranch. That double whammy is too stressful on my system, and beyond just gaining back weight, puts the removal of this feeding tube further out of reach.

The second factor? Time. I already gave up on the social media time sinks, just popping on to twitter briefly now and again, freeing up large chunks of time. But this season in the gardens, it has been taking me twice as long to do the things that are necessary and second nature to me than they do when I am healthy: I tire more easily, and since my lungs in particular have taken a beating, I can’t catch my wind well, as we say down here. For those of you not well versed in Southern-ese, it means I have a hard time catching my breath during exertion. Thus, the time that has gone into doing all the things that need to be done in the gardens, from starting and maintaining flats, to transplanting, to weeding, to bug patrol has skyrocketed, eating into time I need for other things.

So, the plan: the tomatoes are history, beaten down by too much rain in June, and too much pest and weed burden. Those plants will be pulled for the compost heap and the frames stripped of weeds. The frames where I had cukes and beans will be stripped, weeded, and covered as well. Where we don’t have commercial weedblock already in place, we’ll be putting down heavy mil black plastic to solarize the frames and kill off whatever still lurks in the top inches of the soil – pests and weeds both. The rows of tomatoes have weedblock in place, so will just need covering in the places the holes were punched for the plants.

When the peppers and squash have run their course, those plants will be pulled for the compost pile as well. The rows where the peppers are plants have weedblock, so it will simply be a matter of covering those holes as with the tomatoes. The asparagus rows need to be weeded, but those will not be covered; instead, we’ll use thick layers of straw there, to try to keep the weeds down. Ditto for the strawberries.

And so the rows will lie fallow this season, giving them a break from the constant use we’ve had going for the past however many years. In a month or so, we’ll pull back the cover, and put in some soil-feeding crop – some vetch, oats and winter peas is a good combination that I’ve used before, and I may put in some buckwheat and perhaps some clover as well. After those come up solidly, I’ll cut them off at the soil line, leave the cuttings right in place, and cover the rows up once more, letting it all die off. Before the spring, we’ll pull the covers back, top off the rows with soil and manure, and cover them once again. The rows where we only have plastic down we’ll swap out for weedblock right before transplanting begins. The rows that have bowed out sides from the pressure of soil have to be righted and braced better; that’s a cool weather job, as the edges have to be dug away so the sides can be returned to vertical and braced.

The time I’d otherwise spend in the gardens this season will instead go into the writing bank. I’ve been planning to work on this first book (of about 20, now) in my head since last year’s NaNoWriMo in November, but that got thrown out the window by illness and a bout with pancreatitis (note: the latter is painful as hell). So, I said, “I’ll start in December.” That also was derailed for the same reasons (note again: pancreatitis is a bitch!). I’d lost about 15 pounds over those two months, and headed into January swearing that 2017 would be better, and I’d be able to work on my writing. Enter the pneumonias, the surgeries, the ongoing issue with my neck, the further weight loss, and the time eating monster all of that created when I wanted to get the gardens going this year. The result: a big fat zero on the writing front.

I figure that by next year, when it’s time to get the gardens going once more, I will have regained some weight, which will help the overall health issues, especially when it comes to help keep something like pneumonia from landing me in a hospital bed with IVs in my arms, because my body will be in a better position to help fight stuff like that instead of trying to fight that sort of thing with little to no reserves available. That will also make keeping up the gardens not carve out huge chunks of time and instead return that to the more normal work time I associate with the gardens, leaving pools of time available for writing. This is the goal I’m working toward, and I do believe it is, ultimately, an attainable goal.

My next step from here is to continue to try to adjust my schedule properly in order to get the novel work done first thing in the mornings. Without the worries and constant “I shoulds” intrusions, about the gardens, my mind be free of the stress and guilt over that, which will help my mindset on the writing front. I’ll still be writing here, too, of course, as this writing supports other writing and vice versa. It all also helps continue building and reinforcing the habit of writing on a daily basis: mornings for the main work in progress, afternoons for things like blogging, fleshing out the ideas that pop into my head for other novels, working on poems, and so on.

So that’s the plan, peeps. I hope you’ll continue to follow along for my musings – even if I’m not working gardens this year, I’ll still be thinking/writing about the things that we will be doing out there this year, my thoughts about what to plant next year (and where and why), and of course I’ll still be working my bees.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Touching yourself

That should bring the pr0n spammers around.

More accurately, the title of this post should be “NOT Touching Yourself”. Or “Wear gloves when working with chiles”. As in, don’t touch your face (or any other area) when you’re working with chiles and not wearing gloves, no matter where they fall on the Scoville scale.

In other news, we had almost an inch of ranch at the ranch this afternoon, with some giant cells moving over us. Huge thunderous roars came from the sky as it opened up on us and provided a light show.

I used Movavi* to do a couple of repeat clips at the end to show it in slow motion and then again in super slow motion. Very lucky to catch it, and it is awesome.

*No, Movavi does not pay me, and that is not an affiliate link. I have access to Adobe’s Premiere Pro, and that is a fine product, to be sure. But I don’t really have the time to spend figuring out everything in it when I can just slam some clips into Movavi, do a rough edit, and be done. I also have to redo all our tutorials on the “real” business side, as those are woefully out of date with the design they contain, even though the various functions operate mostly as they used to. Just another item on the todo list, which never goes away.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Plans, we got ’em

This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.

Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red  – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.

I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.

And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.

On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.

Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.

Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Peppers, peppers, everywhere

Nor any piece to eat*

Not for me, anyhow.

A rare double post day! And a break from the tech stuff that weighs on my brain.

This is why red bell peppers are a) grown in greenhouses, primarily, and b) are more expensive (they take longer to mature to red from green; anywhere from 20-30 days). Outside, in Florida, in summer, the peppers are prone to rot, wilt, and scald, and it’s damned hard to get a bell pepper from green to red here growing them outside.

The chiles, on the other hand, generally have no issues with the heat and humidity, and usually when I lose a few of those fruits, it’s because I didn’t pick them in a timely manner. So far, they all look quite good.

The cayennes: very dependable variety here, called Cheyenne. I dry these and then grind them to make my own bottles of cayenne pepper powder for various things – bbq rub and sauce, my honey-soy shrimp, a dash into my roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup, beef stew, etc. It’s very handy to have on hand.

The jalapenos this year are a “gigante” version. I chose the larger ones since one of my sisters likes to make jalapeno poppers, and larger equals easier to stuff with whatever needs to go in them.

Poblanos: these are also good stuffed (chile rellenos, anyone?) as is, but most of these I’ll wind up drying, at which point they will become anchos. One of the weirder transmorgrifications, I think.

Finally: tabascos. I still have a bunch in the freezer from last year to make my own tabasco-based sauce. The last batch I made two years ago is almost gone, as everyone uses it for everything. Between last year’s harvest and this year’s, it’s going to be a huge batch of sauce. When I make it, I have to open all the windows, turn the fans up to high, and wear a mask. It’s why I don’t process them into sauce until fall, but last fall, I was sick throughout and the sauce making just wasn’t happening. This year, it will happen – and primarily because my mother keeps reminding me she’s down to her last bottle. Yes, mom.

It’s been an excellent pepper season so far. The tomatoes, though. Heavy sigh. Far too much rain in June here, and they are a sad lot indeed.

*What, you never read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? For shame!

More later, peeps. Be well.

Critters

Big mowing day today at the ranch. We’ve had a ton of rain, so there are still areas where it’s flooded and can’t be mowed. There are also places where the water has been absorbed or evaporated enough that the ground is springy, but not under water, so it can be mowed.

The problem with those areas is that they stink: a fetid, dead smell enveloping you as you drive by, cutting grass that’s almost hip high because the area was previously flooded.

In addition, in all of these area, the mosquitoes are heinous, even with the addition of mosquito dunks and granules thrown in to try to keep the larvae to a minimum. The mosquitoes are also gigantic, much like any other pain in the ass annoyance/invasive species down here: giant slugs, giant snakes, giant roaches, etc. I smacked three of them and left a bloody trail where they had landed and immediately tried to bleed me dry. But some of their buddies made it beyond my slapping and got me here and there.

In other news, one of the turtles made an appearance after I’d mowed the front of the property. This is one of the smaller ones. I think there are three living here, one of which is massive and probably quite old.

The kids had a good time crouching down with it, looking it over, and taking pictures. I’m sure the turtle was thinking what a horrible commute it was having.

There was also a small harvest going on: peppers, green beans, and sungold tomatoes. It was raining, so it was a bit of a short harvest, but the bell peppers are doing fantastic, the tabascos are beginning to fruit, the paprikas, anchos, and cayennes are producing crazy amounts, and the giant jalapenos (for stuffing) are just beautiful. There isn’t a ton of bug/critter activity on the peppers, and that’s good since I’ve basically neglected them. I’d love to have some of the green bells to age to red, but down here, leaving them past the green stage is usually an invitation to have the pepper get scalded or go soft. There’s a reason red peppers are generally grown in greenhouses and cost more than greens: they take longer and they need more specialized care.

Of course, once you harvest, you have to wash. There wasn’t much in the way of dirt or anything else on these, but someone loves to wash the veg, so of course…

She did an excellent job, too, even if she was eating every other sungold. Both the soul eating baby (kid, now, I guess) and the monkeyboy ate bell peppers like apples. There’s nothing quite like fresh, right out of the garden veg to get kids to eat their vegetables.