Tag Archives: Homestead

Me against the lima beans

I am not a fan of lima beans. Never have been. Never will be – especially now, for reasons I’ll get into in a post down the road somewhere kind of soon.

Despite some attempts by people to disguise lima beans by calling them butter beans, the fact remains that they are still lima beans, and thus unworthy of appreciation by me as an eater.

However.

There are these weirdo people in my family who like them. A lot. Particularly in my mother’s Brunswick stew – which has, among its numerous ingredients, some of my pulled pork in it!

But back to these beans. I’m a big fan of other beans: navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, garbanzos. Beans! Lot of beans!

Not limas. There’s just something about the way they smell and taste that makes me want to barf. It ranks slightly below liver as a never-ever-ever food for me. Just because I won’t eat them, though, does not mean I won’t grow them for others. Or try to, anyhow.

Because limas are a lot like corn for me, for some reason, except instead of being overrun by armyworms, the limas just don’t do…..anything.

The first year I grew limas at the ranch, I picked a pole bean variety. Easy, right? Same as black-eyed peas. Throw them in the ground, get the trellis up, and basically forget them until they’re ready to go. That variety produced a lot of greenery, but not a lot of flowers, and just a handful of pods. The next couple of years, I tried bush varieties. These flowered like mad, but never produced anything. I never got around to them the past couple of years because I was sick almost constantly, but this year I found two more bush varieties and decided to give them a go. Again.

They’ve germinated. Again. We’ll just have to wait and see if they give us – or, rather, the people who eat these yucky beans – a bountiful harvest. In the frame on the left, both rows are limas. In the frame on the right, sugar snap peas and green beans – neither of which I view as anything other than delicious.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

What season is it?

Pollen season, of course.

It appears we are done with “winter”, unless Mother Nature decides to give us the middle finger and gift us with a random freeze.

In the meantime, this is the time for working like an overcaffeinated squirrel on meth to get everything in shape for when we just snap right into summer. The good news is that it’s supposed to be rather balmy and springlike after the next couple of days, and that’s the best time to get some of the larger (sweaty, dirty, annoying) tasks done. Today I got the rest of the bed ready for strawberries and also reset the long side of that particular frame, as it was bowed out quite a bit. It’s amazing what you can do if you paid attention in geometry (angles!) and have some three foot rebar.

Aside: I had been posting daily. Alas, I was sick – again – and that has just started to lift a bit over the last three to four days. Whenever I’d have a scan or xray or whatever and wind up with some Thing that could be addressed with antibiotics, we’d all say, “At least it isn’t cancer!” The past three weeks, after having xrays at the ER and then again at the outpatient center, we say, “At least it isn’t pneumonia!” They both suck. I think this thing on my neck is playing a large part in all this, given that I can express the gunk out through the sublingual salivary gland, and it’s obvious that it’s infected from time to time. Next week, we’re going to a new ENT, referred by my current ENT, who is more of the usual stuff. The new guy specializes in surgical oncology for the ear, nose, throat, and I’m hoping he has some kind of answer for me related to this. It’s annoying.

Back to the gardens: about two weeks ago, I direct sowed shelling peas, carrots, and radishes. Those are up, although the peas have some duds amongst them and need to be resown here and there. In addition to fixing the strawberry frame mentioned up above, I also sowed lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, and pac choi.

In the barn, there are five flats under the light – all tomatoes and peppers. The tomatoes are up, and I saw the first unfolding green stem of a pepper when I needed to get rebar out of the barn. This week, I’ll get the broccoli and cauliflower into flats under the lights. They can, for the most part, take the wild fluctuating temps, and even temps that hover near freezing if Mother Nature pulls one on us.

I’ve also been fixing the fences around the gardens. Rabbits have been in the gardens, both front and back, based on the evidence.

Wabbits

While I’ve been going around, weeding, shoring up frame sides, doing other things that have been neglected the past couple of years thanks to illness, I’ve found rabbit poop here and there. I’ve also found obvious nests out in the front – among the asparagus, but also (amusingly enough) in the carrots – and in the back, in the vetch I’d thrown down as green manure. I’m not building buffets just for them, so closing holes or openings in pieces of the fence is important.

Tomorrow will be another day. Strawberry planting day, to be precise. They’ll go into their freshly turned frame and into the second frame just west of it, and by June we’ll be getting berries to go with all the other things we’ll be harvesting by then.

Time to finish a tube feed and then hit the sack. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Blank canvas

The best thing about gardening is the blank canvas you get to work with at the turn of each new season.

The green at the left in that second frame in the foreground frame is the overwintered carrots.

What cannot – for now – be seen are the new sowing round: in the frame row in the foreground,  I’ve added peas, and in the second frame with the overwintered carrots, more carrot seed along with radish seed.

A parade of lights. More accurately, a testing of all the lights before they get rehung over the tables in the barn once more. Several have dead sides entirely, either the tombstones or in the wiring, but I’ll just hang those on the perimeters with the bad sides out – there is a slight loss on the lighting anyway because I don’t have about six more inches of table space available, so it all works out in the end.

I had planned, the day I started this post, to head to the hardware store for some seed starting material, but my body betrayed me again and I tumbled into feeling very crappy. Yesterday was horrible. Today, however, is a new day and although I’m not 100%, at least I don’t feel like death warmed over. It’s grey, chilly, and rainy today, so I’m also not particularly bothered by doing anything other than work today.

The seeds are rolling in, with three of five vendor orders in. Now if this nonsense will exit my head and throat, I can get down to the very serious business of getting things growing.

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year

Not quite exactly, as it happens. Last year, our redneck neighbor people were pretty quiet on all the “Let’s light fuses on gigantic, big boom fireworks, and oh yeah, the ones that make tiny sounds but have lots of color, and the whirly ones that sound like a drunken piccolo player.”

It seems, however, that redneck neighbor people saved up their pennies from the ass end of 2015 to the ass end of this year, as they are setting off some mammoth (and probably illegal in Florida) booms over there. On the other neighbor side, they are having a new year’s eve party to which they invited people plus all the folks in the neighborhood. The invite said there would be live entertainment. Because we can hear the bass thanks to the amps over there, and because I had to let one of the dogs out, it seems the live entertainment is a mediocre cover band. I suppose in the long run, that’s better than hookers and blow performing the live entertainment.

I don’t make new year’s resolutions because resolutions are basically an every day sort of thing to me, given that I’m fairly constantly berating myself for not doing the things I really need to get done. That makes the first day of the new year just like any other day to me except it has a lot of football games on.

In other news, the beeyard is officially down to two hives. The larger one is doing well, so I left that one in place. They have plenty of bees to keep warm as we move into cold cold weather, not Florida cold weather when it’s 53F outside and we’re wearing jackets.

At some point in the past few days, the rain chances were at the times the temps would be freezing or lower. Alas, now those are gone, and it probably will not happen.

Earlier today:

Now:

The front is sinking down us and WHY CAN’T YOU PEOPLE UP NORTH CONTAIN YOUR INVASIVENESS?

Ahem.

I am not a fan of cold, and neither are my bees or plants. The dogs don’t seem to care as long as there are treats in the house.

Speaking of bees , the smaller hive that has made it through this season absolutely would not make it this week in the beeyard. While there are bees in the hive, the population is too low.  So I thought about it for about 80 seconds and decided I’d overwinter them either in the shed or in the barn. The barn won out simply because it’s a smaller space in which I can run a heater, and there wasn’t anything that needed to be moved in the barn to get a good setup. Now, we have barn bees.

The trees around them are lemons and limes I picked up on Friday. All of them are in bloom, as they are generally everbearing down here, and I didn’t want them out in the deep freeze. I figure I’ll keep them inside for the remainder of the spring, and since I already have grow lights in the barn for the seedling flats, I’ll be able to give the trees an the bees some sun-like light.

The fireworks are going off pretty regularly here now, so I guess it’s time to put my headphones on, jam out to some music and do something or other that needs to be done.

Happy new year, peeps, and may 2018 be a better year than 2017 aspired to be. Be well.

 

 

 

 

Merry what?

I’m not that big on holidays – although in the past, I’ve loved cooking for them – and christmas is no different. I’m also not really good about birthdays, either. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy them per se. I’m not the Grinch, after all. I think once some people (like me) reach a certain age and a certain level of having stuff, I’d rather just take a pass. This most recent thanksgiving, I did take a pass and only made some food to go to the place, without taking myself to the place. Some of that was because I’d have had to wear a mask while I sat and watched other people eat since one, groups of people + kids = germs, and two, I can’t eat like a regular person. So, best to avoid the whole thing. They all had fun, I enjoyed the quiet, and everyone came out a winner.

This year, I even toyed with the idea of not bothering with a tree at all, but (as my mother rightly pointed out) I do have a very young nephew and an even younger niece, and the holiday is for them anyhow. I had to get a followup xray, and after that, I popped over to the Home Depot near it only to find they didn’t have a single christmas tree there.  I did, however, find that they had a very good assortment of citrus trees available. THAT got me excited. I’ll be heading over there to pick up several of them and bring them back to the ranch.

The tree: luckily, it not only ’tis the season for christmas trees, it is also the season where stores are trying to dump their christmas stuff, from trees to wrapping paper to lights. Now, we have a tree that will last for many years – probably well past the time of my own demise – and real tree prices being what they are, will pay for itself next year. It even came with lights, although one is broken in its socket, so I need to do a bit of DIY and get that light out of the socket and get it replaced. It looks pretty good, for an artificial tree. I’ve had them here and there over the years, and christmas tree technology, such as it is, has improved a bit.

Sparkling!

What else is happening at the ranch? Not a whole lot, since your humble narrator has been forced to the sidelines for much of the year. The year has been horrendous in the beeyard, and I’ll be lucky to have three hives when spring/summer ramps up next year. My internal odds are telling me I’ll probably only have one. I did order package bees, with queens, from a place in Georgia, and they’ll likely arrive in May sometime. I’m hoping 2018 will be much less disastrous from a health standpoint, and I’ll actually be able to manage them better in the coming year than I was this year.

The gardens lie silent, waiting. I still haven’t put together a seed order, but I plan to do that over the next couple of days. For 2018, I’m just going to (trying to) stick to core staples and not get a bunch of new/exotic stuff. We’ll see how that works out, because anyone who gardens knows seed catalogs are like crack.

Speaking of the health front, as of yesterday, my latest round of pneumo has hit the road finally and my lungs are totally clear. This time, six weeks to clear. We’re not loving that. Goal for 2018: unsubscribe from that crap. I’ve been wearing a mask when I have to go to places like the grocery store, Home Depot, etc. Anywhere there are a fair amount of people, and those people are touching everything, the mask goes on.  It also keeps me from touching my face while I’m wandering around, and when I get back to my car, I have to wipe my hands down with those germ-killing towels before I can take off the mask. It’s kind of a pain in the ass way to live,  annoying, and probably looks strange to people, but it beats picking up some random bug somewhere thanks to a compromised immune system. Another point: I’m planning to have the feeding tube removed in early 2018. I weighed in at 122 with all my clothes/boots on at the doc’s office, which means 118-119 without them, and that’s about where I was around Halloween 2016, before the first round of pancreatitis hit. It’s enough to give me a bump in the reserve I need in the event I do pick up some malady, and enough that my gastro guy will agree to pull out the tube.

All the news that’s fit to update! Until next time, peeps: be well. And be safe.

Wait a moment!

Me, crushing up a Tums from the “assorted fruit flavor” bottle to mix with some water and swallow down thanks to the sheer amount of food I’m trying to get in myself:

According to the bottle, the green ones are supposed to be lime. I’m not terribly sure about that, and they may indeed need a little ripening.

Speaking of green things, I encountered this guy/gal one afternoon, hanging around one of the plants on the front porch.

“Ugh. Humans.”

Now, there are lizards all over the place here at the ranch. Usually, I just say hello to them or gently urge them to get out of the way when I’m trying to do something. This one caught my eye because of something I saw on its tail.

Green lizard with a forked tail
“I didn’t say forked tongue, I said forked TAIL.”

To be more accurate, it wasn’t something on its tail, but the tail itself: it looked as though it may have injured its tail at some point and this is how it healed.

It was pretty chill about the whole thing, to the point of allowing me to invade its space to have a better look.

Chilled out lizard
“It’s cool.”

After our little chat, we parted ways, as of course it had things to do, just as I had.

The fact that we even have lizards and frogs and squirrels and birds and snakes around here is directly related to all the backbreaking work I’ve done on the property over the years. When I first moved in, there was no grass, and there was no soil in which most things could be grown. It looked like a house plopped down on a white, fine sand beach. The builders had scraped all the topsoil off and sold it – that’s what they do. With a lot of rehab, the ranch has really come to life in the critter category.

Social media note: another day without twitter. Today I didn’t really even think about popping on to it at all. That’s progress of the good variety.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Return to discipline

Again.

It’s hard as hell reading about what’s going on in this country today. We all know, and as I’ve said, I try to avoid politics here. But – and I don’t think I’d be alone in saying this, even for people whose political bents are 180 degrees opposite mine – I don’t think there has been a failure in the government of this country larger or more profound  than what we’re seen since January. It’s stressful and disheartening, and it is going to take us years to recover.

That’s one of the reasons I shut down my personal facebook page, creating another profile just to manage a page that I need to maintain. I got tired of the nonsense, and even more tired of realizing how much of the finite time I have left on this earth it was ticking away. The only reason I visit fb these days is to update that page, or to view some funny video someone thinks I’ll find amusing. I can safely say I have not missed it. I had turned more to twitter, thinking I could just scan through it, post a couple of things, and not have it wind up as a massive timesink or add anything bad – like stress – to my life.

Wrong.

Continue reading Return to discipline

The next big thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, peeps: be well.

My life with critters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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