Tag Archives: Life in general

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.

Out with the old

…and in with the new.

It’s very easy to let the blog sit, idling like a giant pickup full of guilt. I started this post on the 1st, and here we are at the 3rd. My goal was to turn this into Blogtober, posting something – anything – every day. That’s mainly to get myself used to prioritizing writing and to create a habit, both of which I desperately need. Yesterday, I had finally gotten to bed somewhere between 4:30 and 5 AM, woke up a couple of times, and then was shocked out of that just after 8:00 AM by the arrival of my sister and the soul eating baby, who is now a soul-eating princess. I got a nap in, but I need to start getting to bed at a more reasonable hour (even quasi-reasonable, for me) to try to get maybe 3-4 hours of continuous sleep. Last night, I finally made it to bed before midnight, but woke up every couple of hours. The last one was between 5 and 6, and that last one until 9 was solid. The last one also had the most crazy dream, too.

Anyhow, this is the first post in my own little Blogtober. It’s been fairly quiet, work-wise, and my intent was to get up, shut off my internet connection, get my coffee and shake breakfast, and then write, first thing. But I got up suffering from the dizzies, and got sucked into dealing with some work-work, so here we are, shortly before 2 PM. I expect to be able to do the “write first thing in the morning” routine at some point (or at least I hope so). I’ve read you should do the hardest things on your agenda first, and while the actual writing is not hard – I write quickly, because a lot of the time, the scenes are in my head – getting myself started writing even when those scenes are so clear in my head, is. So I’m thinking if I can throw these words here on ye olde blogge into the void when there’s nothing particularly planned or in order, it will give me a boost on writing up the real stuff (not that this isn’t real, it’s just real in another way) as well.

It is incredibly windy out today.  We had a noreaster for a coupe of days that brought rain and wind, but we seem to have settled in for just wind at this point. I don’t like working the bees when it’s really windy like this, because the bees are getting blown around on the frames and it make them a bit frenetic. It (the wind) also makes my ears hurt when it’s rocking like today, and it’s too warm to wear my hat with earflaps. But they seem to be thriving even with my rather benign neglect from all the health issues this year – including yet another round of pneumonia last month, plus yet another hospital stay – so I reckon they can hold themselves another day or so before I bring out new feed and have a look in some of the boxes.

The gardens are just an overwhelming mess. We’re starting to see the days in the low to mid 80s, and with this trend, I’ll be able to get back out there and start slogging through the things that need to be done so we’ll be ready to go next spring – and with a better battle plan next season, with the number one item being “Don’t get sick, dumbass!” on the list. Three hospital stays so far this year is a record, as is six rounds of pneumonia so far, and I’d prefer those be kept to a minimum of zero. The latter probably won’t, just because the swallowing issues mean I’m always a candidate for aspiration pneumonia, but I’d like to start monitoring myself a bit more closely to catch them early if at all possible. What’s that? Anything is possible? From a literal standpoint, this is, of course, complete nonsense. From a hopeful one, it is. I’ll focus on that one.

Until tomorrow, peeps: be well.

Lovey, lovey

Checked up on the girls today. It was a (mostly) good day for them to be flying off, foraging for nectar. Usually, this time of year is a real dearth for the bees: it’s too hot, not enough rain, and nothing is blooming. This year, though, we’ve had quite a bit of rain, and it hasn’t run up to 100F+ every single day for weeks at a time as it has in the past.

They’re doing nicely, although I believe one hive may have gone queenless. I stole a frame with capped brood, larvae, and eggs, and put it in that box, and hopefully they will go about their business of making a new queen. As we head toward fall, we will have another nectar flow – one good thing about Florida that  counteracts at least some of Florida Man’s escapades.

In other news, another item to restore your faith in humanity(ish). Lovebirds who have a genetic condition that causes them to lose their feathers. Not only is this video aww-worthy, you can really see the dinosaur ancestors of these little birds.

Lovebirds video

Nice things

Time for more restoring your faith in humanity (RYFIH), rancherinos.

After that scumbag nazi crap up in VA, we could all use some happynicetime, I think.

Today I went out to the beeyard early to feed the bees and check up on a couple to see if they needed another box. It was mostly sunny, and they were waking up, stretching, and getting ready to go about their day, so they were only mildly ticked to have me stomping around and checking them out. There are a couple of them lagging behind their sister hives in growth, but the season is long here, and there is time for them to get to a comfortable size before “winter” comes.

Speaking of bees….honey! It’s a nice division of labor: the bees make the honey. I manage the bees to make sure they’re healthy, fed through the dearth, and are otherwise ok through the year. When it’s time, I pull honey off the bees and bring it out of the yard and into the garage for processing. My sister does most of the uncapping and extraction (when it’s a big pull, we both do some uncapping and get the frames into the extractor). We let the extractor do its work – I have to say here that the larger, motorized extractor is one of the better purchases I’ve made, and has already paid for itself in time – and get the extracted honey into buckets. From there, mom is the primary  bottler of the honey. We had a bit of an issue with the gate on one bucket leaking, so had to transfer the batch into another bucket.

Lovely, dark honey

Next task, after letting the honey sit for awhile to let any bubbles (and pollen) come to the top: bottling.

Before you know it, you have a bunch of bottles to label and sell:

Pure, raw honey

We do not pasteurize our honey. It’s raw, strained only through a medium coarse strainer to catch things like wax and dead bees, while allowing any pollen through and into the jar. Best honey on earth! (Or at least our little part of it.)

That’s it for now, in another post that has taken two days to write. Until next time, peeps, be well.

 

Pictures, we got pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

A better question

In fact, a much better, and necessary question: is there any intelligent life amongst  the GOP? Because this guy doesn’t have any.

Those of you who blunder in here like moths to a light due to this comment: save it. I don’t usually go into politics here, but with GOP science deniers on committees specifically concerned with science and GOPers scoffing at climate change even when presented with evidence, and so on, it’s a perfectly valid question, in my opinion.