Tag Archives: Homestead

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.

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.

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.

It builds character

Stressful/rough times. Isn’t that what “they” say, whoever “they” are?

Day four of server recovery. Every single tool we generally use, whether main or fallback (and I’m talking about actual scripted code for processing) is hosed.  So, once again: no writing. Instead I will be manually creating a server’s worth of accounts on a new server, then manually creating archives of user content, database, mail, mailing lists, forwarders, and every single other thing that an account requires, porting those over to the new server, and manually unpacking everything.

Fortunately, a little bash know-how allows me to set off a series of commands to, say, crunch all the /home directories of the users without me having to babysit that or having to do them one by one myself. Ditto for databases. The most tedious part is going to be to recreate the database users to add them back to each user’s databases based on the config scripts I’ll have to manually track down within their site files.

It’s going to be a long day. And a day when I could be outside working, too – mowing, pulling weeds. We got about .3 inches of rain late yesterday afternoon, so that was good, but naturally it starting coming down when I’d already decided to water the gardens. Today through Saturday, it’s supposed to be clear, or at least partly cloudy. Guess I’ll try to get some outside time tomorrow and Friday, mainly for mowing. The chicken yard and the west yard desperately need a trim, as it’s now been three weeks. And then by the time I get those done, it will be time to start all over again in the front, which I mowed last Friday. The grass down here doesn’t need a ton of TLC to use any bit of rain plus the dew every morning to shoot up like a teenager going through puberty.

But I’m hoping to get some writing on those mornings while waiting for the grass to dry so it can be mowed. Cutting wet grass is really a no-no and shouldn’t be done unless there’s some urgent need to do it. Back to the point: this morning on my third natural wakeup call from my insomnia, I hauled myself out of bed. That was at 6:30 AM, within my target/plan of getting up anywhere from 4:30 to 6/6:30 or somewhere in there. That new habit forming routine is underway well, I think.

More later, 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.

What’s that smell?

“Your upper lip.”

That was a joke in my family that, as kids, we found vastly amusing. Another one that was equally giggle-worthy to our pre-teen brains was when someone said “excuse me”, and someone else would say “There’s no excuse for you!”

Kids are silly.

The smell was not, as it happens, my upper lip. Today was round one of mowing. It’s rare that I will do all the mowing on the property in one go, because it takes about three hours plus change to do that on a regular-size growth of the areas that need to be mowed. Because I’d been in the hospital, I missed my mowing date earlier this week, and things were a bit higher than usual. In addition, all the areas that had flooded with the daily rains we received in June are now dry – because we haven’t received any rain of significance since July 1. Such is Florida. Those areas could not be mowed while they were under water, and the grass in those areas today was almost up to my hip. Today’s session of three parts of the first group of areas I usually do in a batch took almost three hours by itself.

One of those areas is outside the gates of our tiny development here. We don’t have a HOA (how I hate them!), which is terrific, but that also means when something needs to be done, like a fix for the gate, someone has to organize it, then divvy up and collect everyone’s share of the cost to fix it. No problem for me on that; there’s a guy down the road who handles those sorts of things.

It also means we don’t have a HOA to hire a lawn service to deal with the hedges at the gates or the grass that we are responsible for, from the gates to the main road. For awhile, the guy across the street from us – the guy who has a garage mahal that’s almost as large as his house – had a lawn service, and they would mow out there. He dumped them at some point, and a couple of times he did the mowing outside the gates, then for some reason, he stopped. Since it needed to be done then, and needs to be done now, I’m doing it.

Today was one of the few days that the county doing their mowing jobs of the strips on the sides of the roads and in the ditches/swales coincided with my mowing, something that doesn’t happen often. They, of course, are in air conditioned cabs. Yours truly is on a lawn tractor, without a shade. As I started my run out there by the road, I noticed they’d missed a spot at the end of their responsible area. No big deal, I figured, I’ll just run over it and it will be done, too.

As I neared that spot, mowing around the telephone/electric pole in that side of the of the outer gate area, the breeze kicked up and I got a snootful of the most horrid smell, but one I know: death. For awhile now, I’ve been wearing a mask as I mow, as it isn’t good for my lungs to be inhaling all the things that get kicked up during that mowing time, but some of the odor managed to get through then and a few times as I went back and forth on that side of the areas outside the gates.

I thought, ugh, something has died, fairly recently, and the wind is bringing it to us. I got up on the spot the mowers had “missed” and found that the wind was bringing that smell from much closer than I imagined: there was a dead raccoon at the edge of the road there, baking in the Florida sun (it was 96F when I went out to mow). How did I know its death was fairly recent? I’ll tell you:

First, the body was pretty intact. A lot of times around here, when something dies near the road, they’re usually run over a few times. This poor creature wasn’t.

Second, it wasn’t bloated (yet). If something sits long enough in our heat, it starts to bloat as the insides get hotter and hotter. It didn’t look too much bigger than a regular sized raccoon to me.

Third, and finally: nature’s clean up crew had not yet arrived to start dealing with it. We have tons, and I mean TONS, of turkey vultures around here. Last weekend when I went to the store, I saw not one but two individual examples of those birds at work. Today, as I was mowing, I’d not seen any on that raccoon, hopping around as they jockeyed for the power of having the first go, and there were none circling above in the sky. That tells me the raccoon’s death was recent: they had not gotten to it at that point.

I had to stop after just those three sections for a few reasons: almost three hours bouncing around was eating into time I was supposed to be on the helpdesk, I’d used almost a full tank of gas on the tractor (that one tankful usually allows me to finish four or five sections in this particular area group), I was getting hungry, and I was sweating so much that my hands were slipping on the wheel, no matter how often I was wiping them on my equally sweaty and wet shirt.

It was a bit windy, as I mentioned, everything is quite dry from no rain, and I was filthy, covered in dirt from head to toe. After getting the tractor cleaned and back in the shed, I got a shower, had some lunch, and worked.

And now, I’m eating again, a bit sleepy, planning my day tomorrow, but planning to write this evening despite the fatigue as my “real” work slows down for the weekend, since that’s the time I have for it. Between Wednesday evening and this morning, I had four more ideas for stories involving the main character in the book I’m working on. Clearly, I don’t lack for ideas, as one of the previous posts showed. Some are more fleshed out than others, and I thought of a title for one of the new ones last night when I was trying to get to sleep, and just as clearly as being overflowing with ideas, I need to write faster. Much faster, and much more regularly. Getting the writing in each day can be a struggle, as of course the “real” work is often unpredictable, given the nature of it, but it’s time to take what I can get, when I can get it, and, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

That’s it for this one, peeps. More later, as always. 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.

Where there’s a will

The thing about owning old-style crafted anything – like desks, for instance – is that when it comes to repair and you don’t have a full woodworking studio and all the tools that come with it, sometimes you have to improvise.

One of the drawers has been sticking, badly, and I finally got fed up with it tonight. I unloaded it and found the sides of the drawer were bowing out of their joints at the front. There are no nails or screws in the construction of the drawers except in the handles: the sides were simply groove cut in a tight fit and glued. So, to get them back in order, I brought out my handy wood glue. On a tangent here,I also use the glue on the joints of the bee frames when I’m building those, as well, to supplement the staples, as the bees propolize everything and the top joints get the most pressure when you’re trying to get them out for inspection. Tangent over.

I reglued the joints and then used some heavy things I happen to have around instead of going outside for (wet) bricks. Books, of course. After this dries, I’ll turn it over to do the other side, using the same weights. There’s a notch toward the front so a metal frame for folders can be placed, but the frame joints are 1/4 inch, and the notches are slightly smaller than that – no doubt this is what has caused the tops portions of the sides of the drawer to lose their grip and not seat firmly in their joints. Luckily, I do have a 1/4 inch wood chisel to open those notches just a hair in order to get the metal frame to sit evenly.

Once this is repaired, it won’t be such an ordeal to get the drawer open and then closed once more, and that is a Good Thing.