Tag Archives: weather

Calling the season

After much thought – thinking on it for days and days, really – I decided to call it a season, garden-wise. I didn’t want to, and it pains me greatly to technically classify this as another lost season (i.e., a failure), but there has simply been far too many things going on, and I haven’t been well enough to keep on top of it.  I’ve elected to not do another round of tomatoes and cukes, as I had planned, and in fact, will not be doing any new rounds of anything at all, even brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower, which are much easier to maintain as they have fewer pests than other plants.

The peppers are doing well, as are the squash, so those will stay until they have run their course, because harvesting those and processing them is not terribly onerous, although it is time consuming to dry the chiles so they can be stored until the end of the season, nature-wise, in order to grind them into their respective powders.

There are two factors at work here: one, of course, and as my handful of readers know, is my health. I am still recovering from the rounds of pneumonia, and I have a lump on my neck no one seems to know what to do with. I also desperately need to gain some weight, which is a difficult task for me even under normal conditions. Thus far, every gain I’ve made this season is knocked back by work in the gardens – a vicious circle that has to be stopped if I’m ever to gain back even a fraction of what I’ve lost since last November through the various illnesses. When I’m healthy, of course, my body is not trying to burn calories to heal and burn calories for the grunt work that are the gardens here at the ranch. That double whammy is too stressful on my system, and beyond just gaining back weight, puts the removal of this feeding tube further out of reach.

The second factor? Time. I already gave up on the social media time sinks, just popping on to twitter briefly now and again, freeing up large chunks of time. But this season in the gardens, it has been taking me twice as long to do the things that are necessary and second nature to me than they do when I am healthy: I tire more easily, and since my lungs in particular have taken a beating, I can’t catch my wind well, as we say down here. For those of you not well versed in Southern-ese, it means I have a hard time catching my breath during exertion. Thus, the time that has gone into doing all the things that need to be done in the gardens, from starting and maintaining flats, to transplanting, to weeding, to bug patrol has skyrocketed, eating into time I need for other things.

So, the plan: the tomatoes are history, beaten down by too much rain in June, and too much pest and weed burden. Those plants will be pulled for the compost heap and the frames stripped of weeds. The frames where I had cukes and beans will be stripped, weeded, and covered as well. Where we don’t have commercial weedblock already in place, we’ll be putting down heavy mil black plastic to solarize the frames and kill off whatever still lurks in the top inches of the soil – pests and weeds both. The rows of tomatoes have weedblock in place, so will just need covering in the places the holes were punched for the plants.

When the peppers and squash have run their course, those plants will be pulled for the compost pile as well. The rows where the peppers are plants have weedblock, so it will simply be a matter of covering those holes as with the tomatoes. The asparagus rows need to be weeded, but those will not be covered; instead, we’ll use thick layers of straw there, to try to keep the weeds down. Ditto for the strawberries.

And so the rows will lie fallow this season, giving them a break from the constant use we’ve had going for the past however many years. In a month or so, we’ll pull back the cover, and put in some soil-feeding crop – some vetch, oats and winter peas is a good combination that I’ve used before, and I may put in some buckwheat and perhaps some clover as well. After those come up solidly, I’ll cut them off at the soil line, leave the cuttings right in place, and cover the rows up once more, letting it all die off. Before the spring, we’ll pull the covers back, top off the rows with soil and manure, and cover them once again. The rows where we only have plastic down we’ll swap out for weedblock right before transplanting begins. The rows that have bowed out sides from the pressure of soil have to be righted and braced better; that’s a cool weather job, as the edges have to be dug away so the sides can be returned to vertical and braced.

The time I’d otherwise spend in the gardens this season will instead go into the writing bank. I’ve been planning to work on this first book (of about 20, now) in my head since last year’s NaNoWriMo in November, but that got thrown out the window by illness and a bout with pancreatitis (note: the latter is painful as hell). So, I said, “I’ll start in December.” That also was derailed for the same reasons (note again: pancreatitis is a bitch!). I’d lost about 15 pounds over those two months, and headed into January swearing that 2017 would be better, and I’d be able to work on my writing. Enter the pneumonias, the surgeries, the ongoing issue with my neck, the further weight loss, and the time eating monster all of that created when I wanted to get the gardens going this year. The result: a big fat zero on the writing front.

I figure that by next year, when it’s time to get the gardens going once more, I will have regained some weight, which will help the overall health issues, especially when it comes to help keep something like pneumonia from landing me in a hospital bed with IVs in my arms, because my body will be in a better position to help fight stuff like that instead of trying to fight that sort of thing with little to no reserves available. That will also make keeping up the gardens not carve out huge chunks of time and instead return that to the more normal work time I associate with the gardens, leaving pools of time available for writing. This is the goal I’m working toward, and I do believe it is, ultimately, an attainable goal.

My next step from here is to continue to try to adjust my schedule properly in order to get the novel work done first thing in the mornings. Without the worries and constant “I shoulds” intrusions, about the gardens, my mind be free of the stress and guilt over that, which will help my mindset on the writing front. I’ll still be writing here, too, of course, as this writing supports other writing and vice versa. It all also helps continue building and reinforcing the habit of writing on a daily basis: mornings for the main work in progress, afternoons for things like blogging, fleshing out the ideas that pop into my head for other novels, working on poems, and so on.

So that’s the plan, peeps. I hope you’ll continue to follow along for my musings – even if I’m not working gardens this year, I’ll still be thinking/writing about the things that we will be doing out there this year, my thoughts about what to plant next year (and where and why), and of course I’ll still be working my bees.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Storm watch at the ranch

I live in Florida. This is no secret, nor is it a secret that Florida can have some incredibly odd weather, in addition to some incredibly odd people (some of whom could kill you)  and some incredibly odd bugs and plants and animals (some of which could kill you). At times, I think of it like Australia because of the flora and fauna oddities, but not particularly because of the people. This is because every person I’ve ever encountered who is from there  – admittedly, not a huge number of people – has been a) rather nice, and b) quite normal, in a human kind of way that does not involve getting high on bath salts and eating someone’s face.

But here, we have Florida Man and Florida Woman, and, of course, Florida weather.

Regular readers have already encountered my musings on the vagaries of Florida weather. Right now, because I am a weather geek (complete with a weather station out in the front of the property), I’m watching our own stats while watching the radar on weatherunderground.com, trying to determine if this large storm cell that popped up in the late afternoon/early evening heat is going to charge right over us, or if our strange, Bermuda Triangle-like weather breakwater we seem to have at the ranch will cause it to slide past us as so many have before, maybe giving us a few sprinkles along the way. I watch as the radar updates and the storm spreads out like an amoeba. The reds in some places fade to orange, orange fades to yellow, and yellow goes green as the cell stomps its way across the area toward us, leaving much of the harshness behind it as it travels our way, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

This is not to say the storm will be completely polite and just rain on us. No, as you may have seen in a previous post, there is always the chance that the storm will regroup, or some lightning will come with the rain now falling or after it as the storm continues to roll along, reminding us that while we may be in charge of many things on this planet, in the end, Mother Nature could very well kill us all with a bit of determination.

This does not look like one of those times. The worst of the storm is sliding past us to the south, taking its toys to other people. The arrow points to the location of our weather station.

The lightning is concealed by far too much cloud cover for me to get a shot like I got the other day. I can see bright flashes, but no streaks. On the upside, there will certainly be other storms at other times, and this is not the last chance I’ll ever get.

For now, I’m content to sit inside and watch out the window while the sky lights up in pulses, the storm jamming to its own particular rhythm.

Until next time, peeps. Be well.

 

Sorry we couldn’t deliver your package

On multiple occasions in the past few months, those are the notices I’ve gotten from Amazon. The USPS handles what’s known as the “last mile” delivery for a variety of places, and out here in the boonies that includes us.: Fedex or UPS hands off to the USPS, who then send their rural route carriers out with whatever it happens to be.

The primary reason the USPS “can’t deliver” recently? Rain. I was expecting a package on Friday (that contained a couple of drives, among other things) and the notice from Amazon actually had a report from the USPS that the “address [was] incorrect”. This is complete bullshit, of course – after all, Fedex managed to find us just fine for part of that very same order, going to the very same address, on that very same day.

Miraculously, Saturday, the address was deliverable! Amazing!

The difference between Friday and Saturday? Friday afternoon and into early evening, it was storming, then raining. Both of the parcel lockers in our community mailbox were also taken up with other items for other people. Saturday, people had cleared those out and we got our package.

Today, I received another “Sorry we missed you!” notice from Amazon. What was happening this afternoon, about the time the mail is typically delivered?

Yes, another big storm rolling through. But there was no close lightning as there was when I shot the video for that other post. No, it was just rain, sometimes heavy, sometimes gentle, and sometimes slacking off, as it goes here in the great State of Florida in the summer.

In addition, we have a covered porch out front. They know this. Hell, they could see it from the community mailbox, even though it’s 200 yards away, if it’s someone who has never delivered here before, and all the regular people know our house. But no, it’s apparently too much effort to drive that 200 yards, hop out, and put the package inside the front gate on that porch.

So, hooray for Amazon Prime. Boo for the USPS people who think they’re going to melt or something and can’t be bothered to at least make a token effort to deliver a package because it’s raining.

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.

Hotties

No, not those kinds of hotties, you pervs – get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m referring to this sort:

This was just before 3 PM local time, with a temp of 93F and a heat index of 110F. You know that phrase “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”? This week has matched that phrase. This morning I popped out to the beeyard to check a few hives to see who needed a second brood box and to generally make sure there were a good number of bees and stores in those hives. At that time, about 9:30 AM, it was already 84F with a heat index of 92F. I was so soaked with sweat when I came in I had to change all my clothes. It was like wearing a swimsuit, and I had to peel all my clothes off my body, they were that soaked – including my socks.

But that’s ok. This is Florida, after all, and while some days are not all that pleasant, I expect this, and I chose to live here. Making it through the summers is my version of climbing Everest: how far can I push myself without keeling over?

I rolled out of bed at about 7:30 this morning, and this is what greeted me:

Foggy morning at the ranch, which turned into a burner of a day. It all burned off by the time I went out to the bees, and then Mother Nature did her thing by bringing the heat.

The gardens are still a work in progress, and there is still more work to be done. However, each year, I keep refining the processes out there, and I think next year will be even better because of the changes I have in mind. That refinement is what I’m trying to do in other areas of life as well, from outdoor work to the helpdesk where a new user accused us of selling his email address to spammers. He had registered a domain, and naturally, since WHOIS information is public, and the spammers watch new domain registrations, he started getting spammed. He also told us this was “very unprofessional”. I counted backwards from five, then pointed this fact out to him and offered to use our masking info for the domain, so that we would get the spam and the phone calls. He took up that offer. Problem solved, and for me, no being pissed off because of the rudeness some people shoot our way for no reason.

I’ve now posted to the blog here daily since the 24th. It’s a start, and helps me get into the groove of making writing a habit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t making writing one of my top priorities, being too busy with the business, doctor visits, and so on. I made the decision to make it a priority, just as the business, my gardens, and my bees are. I had started a web site as a hobby type of thing, tracking deaths in any given week, I realized that was a major timesink, since I had to pick from the lists, then go do research to build the short blurb I’d give to each. That one had to go, because it took away time I wanted to assign over to my writing instead.

There’s another major shift I made that freed up a ton of time. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Be well, peeps, and I’ll blather more at you soon.

It was a dark and stormy night

Nah, it wasn’t. That was  late Friday night into Saturday morning. Saturday’s low was forecast to be 27F; we wound up with 26.7F officially by my weather station. This morning just before 1 AM I headed out to make the rounds to open the taps to keep water flowing in the pipes and keep the motor at the well turning on and off to fill the aerator tank as the taps drained some of the water out. I also covered the well bladder, as you’re not supposed to allow it to freeze. It was very windy, but I crated a cover over the wellhead, bladder, and motor, to trap the little heat given off by the motor as it cycled on and off throughout the remainder of the morning. And then: bedtime, finally.

This morning, I headed back out into the still frigid (for us) cold as the temp had ticked up to around 34F. While I don’t particularly like the freezing weather, I do love the patterns of ice formed by water from the taps and also the standing water from the big rain, which had sheeted into thin layers on the plastic we’re using to solarize some of the frames and keep the weeds down.

There would be some images here, but once again, my satellite ISP is croaking, as if the signals between the dish and the satellite are being hampered by the freeze. They’ve been tolerable enough, but as of the first of the year, they have descended into a pit of suck. Images to come in this space…

 

Tonight was much different than last night. This evening, the temp fell off a cliff after 7PM, so I went out and got the taps running, recovered the wellhead with the things that had blown off in the very cold wind blowing around, and took a few pictures of the broccoli plants starting to frost over. Those are on the other camera, rather than my phone camera, so I’ll have to unload those.

By 7:30, it was already 30F and as I type this, it is 27F. On the upside, I will get to go to bed earlier tonight (maybe) than last night/this morning. I’m working on a cup of tea – Sleepytime Echinacea Complete, which I highly recommend. Even though Celestial Seasoning’s original Sleepytime tea holds a place in my heart, I’ve decided this one is even better. Their Cinnamon Apple Spice tea is also fantastic, if you’re a tea person. No, they’re not paying me to say this – they could if they liked, though, or they could stock me up on the Sleepytime Complete, which no one around here seems to sell and which I have to order online. I just saw on their page they have a Caramel Apple Dream tea, too! Note to self: track it down to try it. Ditto for the Watermelon Lime Zinger. That looks interesting, and I do like some of their other zinger teas. I bet it would be a good on ice (even though I prefer my flavored/caffeine free teas hot versus cold). I did also try their Tension Tamer tea – there’s a lot of stress in my life at the moment, after all – but one of the ingredients and my decidedly annoying as hell guts did not get along, so I’m shipping that off to my little bro.

Saved

Our forecasts out here in the boonies, in the winters, are horribly off. In summer, we can simply count on the high temperature being higher than what they say and be done. It’s summer. It’s hot. It doesn’t really matter if the high is forecast to be 94F and it turns out to be 100F, relatively speaking. In winter – what passes for “winter” here – we do count on it being cooler than the forecast, but the measure of cooler-ness varies wildly. That matters, greatly.

Sunday: the forecast was for the low 40s (all temps are F, for those of you in C lands). Here at the ranch, actual overnight low: 31. Half the tomatoes and peppers took hits.

Monday and Tuesday forecasts were for 34F and 37F, respectively. I had decided on Sunday that I was not going to go through the routine of covering any of the second round of plants, because (frankly) it is exhausting, and I actually did not have the things I needed to do it. But, me being me, with my tilting at windmills and all (corn!), Monday morning I decided that I would, in fact, cover them.

The big orange supply store. Two trips. Lots of plastic sheeting. Lots of cursing from me because my body, post-cancer, is not the same body it was – fuck you, cancer! But, with a bit of help from my mom, I got the peppers (40′), broccoli/cauliflower (32′), and one 50′ row of tomatoes covered. The other two row of tomatoes (one 50′, one 32′) were left to their devices, as I was exhausted, having run through all the calories I’d taken in. Since I can’t eat like a normal person any longer, my daily intake is pretty damned small. After Monday’s dusk work to get covers in place, I came in, laid down on the dog bed with the puppy, and promptly fell asleep for an hour.

Actual temps at the ranch overnight Monday and Tuesday: 31F and 29.8F.

I don’t mind that the forecasts are off, but I would love for them to be in the same general vicinity.

As it stands, most of the peppers are unlikely to make it, along with most of the tomatoes – many of both plantings had fruit set on them. The broccoli and cauliflower don’t seem to have minded any of it – there were about a dozen plants that wouldn’t fit in the main rows I had designated, and these were not covered. They’re fine.

In addition, I lost one hive to the freeze. I knew this would happen, as the weather well into October was unsettled, and we still had 90 degree days. There simply were not enough bees in the hive when the weather started to slide, and I had no more bees to give them to populate the box. I looked in it yesterday, and found the queen and her tiny clump of bees frozen on a patch of honey on one of the frames. There are two other hives that are iffy: the late swarm I caught from someone else’s beeyard that clustered in mine, and another one that simply does not have enough bees. A third is on the edge – I killed a ton of yellowjackets trying to rob out that hive, and reduced their entrance to the smallest possible to make things easier to defend with a light load of bees.

Overall, the sum of it pissed me off and made me terribly sad at the same time, and I started beating myself up for not being better at taking care of both of these things. We generally  hold ourselves to higher standards than we do other people, and I think I probably do this to an even higher degree than most – it’s a “perfectionist/you can never fail or have a setback” mindset that I’m working on (not very successfully – ironic).

It’s all a work in progress. I have to remind myself that I am, too.