Tag Archives: Gardening

Moving forward

Everyone is always after results: test results, harvest results, weather results, sports results. The results we received from the oncologist were, I must admit, those I had suspected would be the case. The sample was negative for the markers for which it was tested, as I knew it would be – after all, if the primary sample had tested positive for those same markers at the time, it would have been quite simple to point to an actual cause of the original occurrence rather than it being a grand mystery. But it didn’t, and neither did this one, which leaves us in the same position with this one as with the first. No one knows why someone with no risk factors at all amongst the various possibilities wound up with not one but two rare (for my category of risk) cancers.

Our next step, after meeting up with the radiation oncologist who developed the treatment plan for the first episode, is another PET scan. A baseline, if you will, of the state of my system,¬† post-surgery, to make sure that everything that needed to be cut out was cut out, and that no other hot spots appear. That will be next week, and I have to say that I’m not looking forward to it. Not because the procedure itself is scary or painful, but because you can’t eat anything for a period before the test. During my week in the hospital, I lost about eight pounds, leaving me tipping the scale dial right at about a hundred pounds. Trying to maintain that, much less put anything back on, is a daily struggle, and the way a healing body burns through calories, not eating for at least eight hours is going to be a tough road to take, and the end result will be a queasy and cranky Captain. I plan to stuff a cooler in the car with something to immediately boost my blood sugar as soon as the test is finished and they turn me loose.

The week after that, back to the oncologist, as the results of the PET will be back by then, and at least we’ll have something concrete there to look at and see where we stand.

Recovery continues, slowly. Weight maintenance/gain is the single largest issue right now, followed closely by range of motion/strength rebuilding in the affected area. I have this nasty dry cough thing going on, which aggravates every muscle they cut through during surgery, along with the ribs they spread apart to get a good view of the lung. Try coughing without involving any abdominal or back muscle. Doesn’t work very well. On the plus side, I’m not coughing up any blood, and it’s probably related to the fact that I spend the vast majority of my time inside in the air conditioning rather than splitting my time between being inside and being in the great outdoors. It’s simply too hot and humid right now to be outside doing anything much of consequence other than stepping out from time to time, as it’s difficult to breathe the heavy, humid, still air without starting to gasp like a fish unceremoniously dumped out of the bowl. Since our fall won’t arrive for a couple of months yet, the most I can hope for is periodic trips outside without doing anything strenuous (like pull weeds) and that the weather modulates just a tad to something more bearable so I can start getting back outside here and there, even for a short walk around the gardens that are going to hell.

Planning around

The great rice experiment of 2010 is a bust. We had thought it would be fun to try to grow our own rice, and set up a couple of bins with some dirt, flooded them, then tossed wild rice in one and brown rice in the other. A few days ago, during a lull in the nonstop rains when we had several clear, very hot days of no rain in a row, I noticed the wild rice bin was dry. I filled it again, and it looked fine, but two days ago, we noticed it was once again dry. The culprit? A leak, not previously noticed, allowing the water to slowly and sneakily drain out. The other bin has no hole, but is looking a little fetid – the problem with not having a large, open-air area with natural breezes and circulation, I suppose. There is, however, a solution to both problems: a new bin sans leaks for one, and a small recirculation system for both, akin to a fishtank aerator setup. Just enough to keep things bubbling along and keep the water from getting scummy. That will have to wait until after the hospital.

Speaking of, I went today for the pre-op ordeal, which is less than an ordeal than it is an exercise in patience. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork: a consent form for the hospital. A consent form for the doctor. A privacy advisement. Yet another questionnaire about general health, diseases, and meds I’m taking. I notice that the doctors carry their own liability insurance (I suppose so the hospital doesn’t bear the entire responsibility for whatever lawsuits might arise from something or another). A sheet of instructions about the day of the surgery. All of these things are things I’ve seen multiple times before at this point, so I’m talking along with the nurse who is rattling off the same things I’ve heard before.

Then they took four tubes of blood from me and made me pee in a cup. The latter is, I think, another way of covering their butts to make sure I am not pregnant although I have already told them I’m not.

Barring anything strange, we’re on for the 6th, where yours truly is to arrive four hours prior to the scheduled operation time, in order to sign more consent forms and to get prepped for a procedure the surgeon estimates will take about 45 minutes or so. Then they will hold me hostage for several days unless someone manages to smuggle a file in my jello so I can escape. I am not counting on this, as everyone seems to think it would be grand for me to be in forced inactivity for at least a few days.

The upshot of all of this, as we rocket toward surgery, is that I have a massive number of things to do, and little time to do them. Although the rice experiment do-over can wait, there is something else that cannot: the flats of seedlings that are rapidly becoming too large or their starter flats, and which need to be planted out in the frames. Since the seedlings have been outside since they were started, I’m thinking they should be fine in the great outdoors, but I am still leery of putting them out without being able to be here to keep an eye on them and take preventative action (like partially shading them if necessary, assuming the sun ever comes back, from the worst of direct sunlight until they’ve settled themselves). On the other hand, I know that another week plus in the flats is probably not the best thing for them. It’s something I think on while getting some new servers set up and installed so they will be ready before I head in for my version of a vacation.

Today I picked a beefsteak type tomato called Steak Sandwich (Burpee, hybrid), and sliced it open. It smelled, as most tomatoes fresh off the vine smell, like a tomato, with undertones of green vine. It was juicy, with nice, small define pockets of gel and seed, and not grainy at all, as some can be. According to my taste tester, this one could benefit from a touch of salt, unlike the Cherokee Purples we got before they gave up and died on us. Still, it was great to pick a beefsteak, long season tomato before July 4, given all the issues we’ve had around here.

And now, back to work, to continue the server setups and get as much in order as possible before I’m forcibly separated from my laptop and cell phone.

Breathe deeply

I am certain that my half dozen faithful readers are wondering what cliff I fell off, given my complete lack of maintenance here on ye olde blog front. What, they ask, is she doing? Lolling around, eating bonbons, instead of planting things, cooking goodies, and the like?

I’m not much on bonbons. At least for myself, not these days.

No, dear readers, yours truly has actually been doing things like whipping up batches of pizza dough for the freezer, babying plants along and harvesting goodies (six pounds of cukes the other day!), making bread and butter pickles and foisting them off on anyone within arm’s reach, cooking up some homemade french onion soup (delicious!), and pulling weeds (a losing battle).

But I’ve also been undergoing yet another round of tests, from an x-ray to a CAT scan to a PET scan to a biopsy, and on the 6th your intermittent blogger will be back in the hospital, this time to remove a wedge of lung that has a suspicious lesion on it, along with a lymph node hanging out near the trachea that also looks suspicious. None of this is good news other than the fact that a) it’s very small, and b) it’s very early, so given my overall good health, my total lack of smoking, ever (which makes it all the more ironic this second time around, having some crap I absolutely should not have),¬† and my relatively young age, should be not as big a deal as it would be were I a two pack a day puffer with cardiac issues and high blood pressure.

Still, it’s no fun, and I’ve had enough of medical stuff these past five years to last me a lifetime – in fact, it seems like I’m making up for a lifetime of not a whole lot of medical anything, doesn’t it? And still, the same people ask the same question over and over again: smoker? The only thing I smoke is bbq on my Bradley, thanks. They’re always surprised, and I suppose given their professions, they should be, since it still surprises the hell out of us here that me, of all the people in this family, should be receiving these diagnoses. On the plus side, I’m probably the healthiest person in the family, so my odds are a lot better for recovery than most everyone else’s.

The doctor says a 4-7 day stay in the hospital (let’s aim for four here), and then six weeks for recovery (too long for me), which will put us at the beginning of planning stages for the fall garden. Once again, it seems another prime season has been lost in some fashion, this year from a late start due to an extended illness and death in the family a few months ago, and now an interruption in the height of the season due to surgery and recovery. One of these days, we will have all the pieces together for an actual, planned, well-begun, well-managed season.

The tomatoes are soldiering along as well as they can, although the heirloom Cherokee Purples went down to blight due to an extraordinary run of rain we had. The paprikas, the stars of last year’s garden, and the bell peppers are both a major source of disappointment this year, as neither are producing. The latter is especially discouraging, as I wanted to stash plenty of roasted red peppers in the freezer for those times when I want to make soup. On the plus side, as we’ve been going through all this testing/scanning nonsense, I did get some more flats started, and put in (I think) about 36 starts of a bell pepper called Fat N Sassy. If there is a more appropriate name for a pepper that should be perfect for roasting, I don’t know what it is. On the downside, these will be ready to go out into the garden proper in the next couple of weeks, and I’ll be directing traffic instead of participating fully, what with all the mother hens hovering.

The peanuts are going gangbusters, and we’ve already enjoyed zucchini, green beans, filet beans, and okra from the garden, along with the aforementioned cukes. I have kidney beans, another round of green beans, and limas popping up out of the soil – once again, score one for getting these things in before surgery time!

This coming week I”ll be working like an over-caffeinated squirrel trying to get things in order before I go down for the count. The upside is that I’ll have time, sitting around on my ass, to post some of the pictures that I’ve been taking here and there. One thing I will say is that french onion soup, delicious though it is when homemade, is not very photogenic. It surely was tasty, though.

How you bean?

Just fine, thanks.

Beans May 2 2010

Snap (green) beans, lima beans (ugh), and a test round of shelling peas. The latter are unlikely to make it, as today was yet another 90+ degree day., and the trend looks to be continuing through the week. I had originally intended these frames to hold the corn once more, and had carried each top frame up from the rear garden area. Luckily for me, I had not tied the frames together, because ultimately I decided to go ahead and put the beans in place. The day I had sown these seeds was one where we were supposed to have had rain that evening. The rain never materialized, and now the original drip lines look fairly tacky draped as they are across the top of a double frame where there is only a single frame in place. Eventually, I will double these. For now, though, I have to carry all of them back to the rear once more, where they can be used to build out more rows there for more planting – including another round of corn.

The herb garden is coming along. I had hoped to complete the work there today, but with only one of me, the brutal heat, and looking out over my little empire that actually pays the bills right now (and one day, hopefully, the ranch will start generating an income stream), I did not quite finish what I had planned. Still, I completed some things, and anything that gets us closer to the end of the job is better than nothing.

One of the things about working in such hideous heat conditions, at least for me, is that I really do not feel like eating at all when I’m hot – and sometimes, not even for quite awhile after I’ve cooled down. This afternoon, after finally calling it quits (temperature out front, according to my weather station: 94.8), I finally cooled down to the point where I realized I was very hungry. After casting about for ideas on having my sister bring something in for me, I further realized that in reality, while it may do in a pinch where I really don’t feel like cooking anything, the food out there is not only bad, nutritionally, but also crap. So I cooked.

Calzone May 2 2010
Calzone, anyone?

I finished almost the entire thing, a major accomplishment for me. Then, back to work, on the other business side of things, plugging away at trimming down the list of things to do there. It is not a bad routine, really, although there never seems to be enough time to make significant progress – there is no eureka moment, heralding a fantastic breakthrough that catapults things into a new realm. Instead, it is sticking with the things that need to be done, and doing the things I can to get them done, no matter what the conditions at which I might be looking.

And now, a picture of a pooped out puppy.

Einstein May 2 2010

That’s about how I feel at this point. And while I was typing this, that stupid SunnyD commercial came on – the one where Martina McBride is singing¬† those oh-so-difficult to remember lyrics: “Shine on.”

Tomorrow’s goals for outside: getting the trench dug out and refilled with dirt and compost and getting the thornless blackberry canes out there in the ground. Scoping out an area to dig holes for the buckets that will hold my horseradish roots. I did manage to cross off “cut the bottoms off the buckets” from my todo list one day last week, and I consider that progress. And then: moving dirt and poop around to fill frames. Among many other things.

The good ache, part two

When planning out the raised beds for the garden – since the soil is crap and will be for years while I work on it – we decided on 49 to 51 4×4 raised beds. Alone, that would be somewhere north of 800 square feet in planted beds just for things we intend to eat and provide to others.

That, my friends, is a lot of frames.

The frames themselves, though, are not the hard part. The hard part is filling them. Think about this: each frame is made of four foot sections of 1 x 6 x 8 lumber. Those of you who recall your volume measurement formulas can do the math. In our scenario, that equals 4 cu ft of peat moss, 50 pounds of chicken manure, 80 pounds of cow manure, and coarse vermiculite sufficient enough to give us the consistency we’re after – per two frames. That is quite a lot of mixing and more animal poo than most people will handle in their lifetime.

The other day, we went out and filled almost six frames (I say almost, as one of the vermiculite bags was fine rather than coarse, so the levels were a bit off).

Frames

A little out of alignment on the left, which will be fixed. The frames get knocked about a bit because of the weight of the dumping process. Which, by the way, means mixing half, dumping, mixing another half, dumping, and on and on. Heavy, sweaty, dirty work that leaves you sore and tired, but in the best possible way because you’ve spent some time working outside in the fresh air.

Dirty

That streak on my right leg? Chicken poop, from a bag that got wet.

It’s also a lot of each part of the mix, given the rather largescale plans we have. That’s ok, though, because this particular backbreaking part only has to be done once unless we decide to move the frames around. I don’t think that’s in the plans for any time in the foreseeable future.

Last fall, I threw down some seeds from a butterfly/bee mix in an area around one of the hoses, just to have something in the ground when spring came. Winter was so mild, with only a couple of severe freezes, that we’ve had flowers almost all winter.

Pretty flowers

They’ve been maintenance-free, too, chugging along on their own with nothing special from us.

Flowers

The good ache, part one

It had rained – a lot – but we had a break in the weather and it was time to do some layouts and cleanup, as well as check the progress of some of the things growing out in the beds.

Carrot tops are popping up, and the carrots will probably be ready to pull next month.

Carrots

The garlic continues to look robust, but I’m worried about it rotting in the ground because the rains decide to come in huge storms that dump a couple of inches at a time rather than something a bit more gentle.

Garlic

We managed to get a small burn pile going even though things were still fairly wet.

Fire

Some prep on the ground and the layout of (some) of the frames.

Frames

In the foreground by the chair is a frame with snow peas, thyme, rosemary, and catnip, along with another round of carrots. The snow peas are erupting and since we know how quickly they can get out of hand, my goal in the next day or so is to get the trellis in place. Shortly after we wrapped up for the day, the weather turned stormy once more, with another three and a half inches of rain before it subsided. Nice for our water shortage around here, but not so good for the remaining areas on the property that need to be filled and leveled.

Death and life and death and life

It isn’t just animals that die, of course. People can (and do) die both suddenly and not so suddenly.

Case in point: one of our customers, who had been with us since almost the very first, died unexpectedly early in February of a heart attack. We did not discover this until late in the month when one of his clients contacted us directly. While it probably will not be the last time we have to do this, it is a bit odd and sad to have to make arrangements for the disposition of his client accounts with us, as the rest of his family knows nothing about what he was doing and has no idea how to provide hosting support to those clients. I’ve been working on notices to those clients, straddling the line between breaking news they may not know and yet being businesslike enough to make sure that they understand what has to be done.

But life carries on, no matter what happens to us. It may be difficult, it may strain the people left behind (one of my chief concerns should anything happen to me), but on it goes.

Peas, please

Another case in point: one of my mom’s old long-term neighbors (Jo, in case those of you reading this knew her) died in February as well, the same week Boots did. She had been receiving treatment for cancer that had invaded her brain, and they found out it had spread to her liver. She’d been in the hospital for a bit, but when there was nothing more they could do, they brought her home with Hospice care. She died that same night, around midnight.

But again, life carries on, and we move on with it.

Peepers

I knew someone once who was incredibly anguished about all the bad things that happen in life, and dwelt constantly on that aspect: wasn’t it horrible, life is unfair, it all seems such a waste, how can we possibly go through all this, and the same, ad nauseum, with no break of sunshine, ever.

Meyer lemon buds

How can we go through all this? How can we not?

Gunk is bad

I’ve been sick for about a week now. This in and of itself wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the incessant coughing, some of which is so hard that it feels like I’ve pulled muscles. There’s also been so much coughing that the constant flexing of the abs has led to a severe ache, like overdoing situps or going a few rounds with a boxer.

My mom forced me to go to the doctor, which I did. Since I was coughing up and blowing out green gunk, they gave me a scrip for some anti-robotics…I mean, antibiotics: something very cool, and suited for me, since I can’t swallow pills and crushing them up all the time is nasty (and makes me not want to take them). It’s called Zmax, a one dose, extended release antibiotic that, as a bonus, comes in an oral suspension. Perfect for those of us with pill issues. How well it works remains to be seen. I can say that the smell (cherry/banana) is not bad. The taste, however, is, as it tastes like roasted ass. Or at least bad fish, something with which I’m a bit more familiar. Unfortunately, it isn’t for cough, and that’s what’s just killing me here. It makes it very difficult to sleep, makes my throat hurt, my ribs hurt, hell, I think I even almost pulled a groin muscle coughing so hard last night. There is only so much Nyquil one can take, and it tastes horrible anyway.

I’m hopeful that this is not going to hang around for three weeks(!), the length of time the doc said most people have been seeing this last. My ribs and abs can’t take it, and I’m anxious to get back out in the yard and get some more things in gear for the impending chicken arrival and the arrival of less schizophrenic weather so we can get our seedlings out of captivity and into the semi-wild of the garden.

Surivival of the seedlings

That might make a good title for a b-grade horror/sci-fi flick.

The seed flats that were blown over and crashed on the ground appear to be surviving, and even thriving. I did not get any photos today since I spent the bulk of the early part of the day in bed wishing away the nastiness that has infected me. Tomorrow, though, some pictures and hopes of sorting out what is where in one seed flat, given that my layout doesn’t match any longer. It wouldn’t be bad to be surprised by any or all of it, but it would help to know what’s what when we prep them to move to the frames. Also on th list: order more chicken and worm poop – our worms are about ready for their next tray, it seems, so eventually, we should be self-sufficient on that. I’m not sure how much poop three chickens will put out, but whatever they give will be cured and then added to the outside compost pile to add to the party. Heather tells us that our chicks will be ready probably the first week o March – only a couple of weeks away, so we need to get cracking (ha – get it?) on a coop for those critters.

Signs of life

Spring has sprung. Maybe not by the calendar, but there are signs. Tiny signs. Portents of things to come.

Broccoli, starting.

Seedling

A cuke (Beth Alpha), trying to unfold.

Beth Alpha cuke

I have a quarter flat started with sungold tomatoes, and the rest with other tomatoes, peppers, other cukes, and so on and on and on. I’m hoping that this week we’ll be able to get the mixes going and get some other frames in place. People like to remind us that it’s only February, and to that I say: it’s spring. Must be. Has to be.