Tag Archives: Life in general

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.

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

Best laid plans

The actual quote behind “best laid plans” is from Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, in his poem “To a Mouse: On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough“, written in 1785:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!
This comes toward the end of the poem. Of course the phrase has morphed over the years, and by now all one has to say is “Best laid plans…” in order to allow others to understand that something has gone awry.
Coincidentally, and probably not of interest to anyone but me,  but John Steinbeck took the title of his book “Of Mice and Men” from that very same poem.
I wasn’t sure where I was going with this – it’s been several hours since I began this post before getting bogged down in work, but I think it’s going to be a twofer: one, writing progress. Two, dealing with assholes.
The first bit should probably be called lack of progress. I should have known better than to even attempt to believe Tuesday would cut us a break and not be insane, as they normally are. So yesterday, no writing, to bed at about 4AM this morning. Back up at 8:30 as my sister and the Soul Eating Baby came over, and of course, work work work. It’s pretty quiet now, so I’m going to get some writing in after I post this. “Why not do it before you post this?” you may ask.
Eating. Plus, getting warmed up before writing. (Note: this has not worked, as that very sentence was left hanging while dealing with someone’s DNS issue.) Summary: no writing yesterday, no writing today. It’s quite annoying.
Second bit: assholes who don’t pay their bills for five months beginning late LAST year, and who were termed early THIS year, having the audacity to show up a year later whining about their stuff, claiming that they were thisclose, on the cusp, on the edge, almost about to write a no doubt best-selling book and need that one domain for it, and why is that no longer theirs and what have I been paying you for.
You know what that gets you? A timeout. Also a bullshit notice, internally, because look, if you’re serious about your stuff and you have been around for years, and you’ve been billed the same way, at the same time, every month for years, it might occur to you to wonder a bit about how it’s odd that no charges from us have appeared. Or that the site was suspended. Or that the domain wasn’t working. Or, you know, you might show up a lot sooner than a whole YEAR LATER, asking what the issue is. That is, if it was actually important, and not some magically coincidental lie. Because we’ve read THAT book before. And it blows.
So there you have it. Another day in paradise. Until the next day in paradise, peeps: be well.

Random

I just saw an ad for the Winter Olympics.  I suppose that makes sense since the opening is exactly three months from now.

There are few things that bother me more than ungrateful people, and that means to anyone. If someone helps you with something, a simple “thanks” will do loads to improve their day. If everyone was a tad more free with expressing their gratitude for something – anything – the world would be a better place. Even if it starts with just a small corner of it. It’s why I always thank the people at Publix for whatever they’ve done, and mean it. Mindlessly blurting out anything from “thanks” to “have a nice day” to “thank you for your service”  doesn’t mean anything. It may just be because I’m a writer that I think these words and the way they are given to others should matter just as much as anything else people think are important. Or I may just be cranky. Who knows?

I’m not feeling particularly insightful or profound right now, thanks to the latest bout of pneumonia I’ve managed to get, and I did think this was going to be very random (like the fact that the Seahawks are wearing neon green uniforms that make them look a lot like the Oregon college team and their ever-changing, eye-popping unis).

 

Walmart will never convince me that they have some cheerful, personal shopper for you who will go gather All The Things, bag them up, and take them to your car. Or that they’ll have a bunch of xmas-festooned clerks keeping an eye on the lines and opening a new checkout when the lines are starting to snake back into the store. And I wish they would stop using music I like in their ads.

A cool front is making its way to us. The winds are swirling around on the front and back porches, giving a deep voice to the wind chimes as they move with the wind, bumping into one another.  Even when the wind has let up, their tones continue until the last vibrations of the chimes have run their course.

I’m always casting about to find new things to read, especially mysteries and more especially mysteries with series characters. This means that I read a lot of blurbs and reviews on Amazon during my hunt, and sometimes the things they suggest are not strictly mysteries, but more like thrillers. I’m not averse to reading those, and today while searching I found an author with more than a dozen books in three series, featuring the usual thriller-type main character: ex special forces or spy, very nearly indestructible, who prefers to work alone, usually pissed off at their previous employer and betrayed by their fellow agents or their employer, or both. Reading through the material on them, I found three that were pretty much the plots of movies – ex spy gets insulted or otherwise chewed out by a dumbass sheriff in a small town, takes to the mountains and has to be hunted down (Rambo). Or, ex spy finds a young boy who has witnessed a murder, sees the crooked cop in a picture as the ex spy is about to go to the police, and the ex spy takes the kid and hides out in a nearby community that prefers their own company to the world at large (Witness). Or, ex spy is pregnant, betrayed by her team and her handler, gets left for dead, recovers, vows revenge, heads off to Hong Kong, and starts taking out the other members of the team, and even uses a samurai sword at one point. Did I mention she has lung cancer, a year to live, does all the murderous rampage, is actually named Beatrix, and finds her kid? (Kill Bill). I know that there is nothing terribly new or original under the sun and writers are basically rewriting all the stories all the time, but when a lot of the scenes in the books are exact replicas of scenes in the movies, that’s a bit too close.

And I guess I’ll wrap up with this. I hear some nyquil calling my name. Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

Plugging away

It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to weed the walkways in the gardens so you can get to the frames to weed THEM.

But that’s how it goes when you’re out of the field for most of the year, and you didn’t get enough done to get some plastic down to solarize the frames and kill off the crap you don’t want so things will be ready when you’re about to put in things you do want.

I suppose I should be beating myself up about it, or feel guilty about how the non-frame plants – the berries, grapes, fruit and nut trees – haven’t been taken care of, either, but that’s useless and unproductive. Instead, it makes more sense to plan out what I need to do: set off the watering for those on a consistent basis, and continue to pull weeds one area, one bag at a time.

Persistence. Focus. Determination. These are the words I am using to replace the words like “should” when such thoughts pop up in my head. One way is forward. One way is spinning my wheels in one spot, unable to break out of the rut.  The latter is not just bad, but unfair – after all, I can’t control if or when I get ill. It’s just the way things go sometimes. The former is much better on the psyche.

Speaking of medical-related things,  I had a visit with my gut doc to check the feeding tube and make sure I’m gaining weight. He would like to see me gain 10 pounds over the next three months, and I’m not entirely sure that’s doable, given that my food intake consists of shakes with weight gain powder (by mouth) and formula via the tube. I think if I can get close, and then demonstrate to him that I can keep my weight stable, we can all agree the tube can be removed, perhaps around my birthday next March. It will be difficult to reach that goal, but I’m willing to give it a go if it results in losing the medical attachment in my abdomen.

That’s all for now, peeps. Until next time, be well.

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.

The art in us

Here we are. November has arrived after an October that seems to have gone far too quickly.

So what are we doing this month? Writing. Every day. On something real – the blogs don’t count, the facebook page update does not count, twitter does not count (although I will be trying to update this and those every day this month as well, even if my author twitter account tweet of the day is just a quote. This is not to say these things do not count in the overall scheme of things, because they do, but these things are not items I’m looking to publish. But novels? Yes. Poetry? Yes. These are the things that are roadmaps to some kind of audience at the other end. These are the things that someone will want to read, I’ve no doubt. There was a quote I discovered back in high school while researching something or another:

“In literature as in love, we are astonished at what is chosen by others.” (Andre Maurois)

This is true, of course. One need only peruse some reviews at Amazon or GoodReads and see that people love books we ourselves can’t stand, and for every one person who thinks the writing by an author is puerile and careless, there is another for whom the author’s prose sings in their heart. For every one person who thinks a particular book is a poorly done rehash of some other author’s story, there is another who has encountered the underlying story for the very first time and feels the story resonating in their bones. For every one person decrying a book as tedious because it seems to have been stitched together from many pieces of fight scenes just so the author could tag the book a thriller, there is another person who sees that same book as a page-turner of nonstop action that they read in just a few hours because they could not put it down.

And so with this in mind, it makes no sense to listen to that tinny, false voice criticizing every word that makes it to paper, that says no one will want to read any of the pap that’s been written, that says giving up on the writing is the best and honorable thing to do, to save others from having to experience its badness. No: that voice is lying. The words we have matter,  to someone. Making and finishing the art is far better and certainly more honorable than giving in to a voice that does not have our best interests in mind.

Until next time, peeps: Be well. And make your art, whatever that art may be.

Hastily written notes

When you’re still working between 2 and 3 AM and have some wild thought occur to you while you’re trying to fight off sleep and succeeding at least some of the time, it would help if you scribbled it down as something someone could decipher. Including yourself.

I think it says “Retrieving boxes/suitcases of beer”. Maybe. Could be “Swap cases” of something. Ah well. If it wants to come back, I’m sure it will. Next time I’ll try to take a moment to be a tiny bit tidier about it. After all, that could be the next blockbuster book.

Speaking of things book-related, my intent today was to spend a few hours writing. But since Tuesdays are hell on earth for us for whatever reason, I spent the whole day doing work work and not the side work. Toss in a blizzard of (entirely unnecessary) emails from the control panel software, which helped freak even more people out than usually turn up in the desk on the day, and it was a zoo. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day, although it will become my today soon enough if I don’t get a little sleep overnight.

Heading for a Fall

We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.

The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit,  and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.

(Two days later…)

Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.

Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of  fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.

The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.

Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.

I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.

Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.