Did someone mention cooking?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work…


Cal was right, of course: there does need to be more cooking going on around here, but it’s been a bit weird lately.

Before we get into that any deeper, though, let’s talk about this whole gardening thing, and people who think that conditions must be absolutely perfect and everything must be exactly in season before even thinking about beginning. I suppose it is simpler for you if you don’t bother to try. After all, it does entail a lot less work if you just want to sit around and bitch about how you just can’t have good vegetables in the fall, and how expensive it is to buy summer-type vegetables as the weather turns cooler.

Bah, I say. Work at it, just a little. Pay attention to what you’re doing.

10 AM this morning:

10 PM this evening:

There’s something to be said for a little nurturing.



My cousin Stacy and her husband Cueball…I mean, Troy were down for the weekend, having scored some great seats for the Florida-Georgia game today. They left for the festivities this morning after 10, with gametime at 3:30, in order to enjoy the whole experience. When they returned from a glorious Florida victory over our neighbors to the north – and I don’t mean Canada – here’s what was awaiting them (and everyone else who was here, ready to eat).

Someone take the knife away!

Perfectly baked sweet potatoes.

Add some sweet corn, unfrozen from our summer bushel, and you have dinner.

But wait, there’s more! Two kinds of bread: honey oatmeal loaf (for small sandwiches).

Bread porn!

And more Italian bread.

Bonus bread porn!

‘Til the season for Halloween parties, too. Aubrey was going to go as a compost ball…

…but settled instead on Helen of Troy.

Holy smokes!

Do… Do you know what this is? This is… A lamp!

Oops, sorry, that’s not right at all.

It’s actually lettuce.

Yes, the lettuce has already sprouted. The other day, my mom sowed the peas while I transplanted the broccoli and collards, and tonight, we finally have the rain we’ve been awaiting for three days to give them as deep a soak as they can get for however long this lasts.

What else is sprouting? The zucchini, the leeks, and two of the tomatoes. I’m always amazed by new life.

We also have kumquats ripening on the tree, and I managed to find a place to send a meyer lemon tree here – I also ordered an orange tree and a lime tree from that same place. There are basil leaves drying on a rack in the kitchen, and we used some fresh parsley in the rice pilaf I made earlier this week. I’m very pleased with all this activity popping up around us, but I do have to remind myself to keep things in check so I don’t take over the entire backyard as a garden.

How many times does it take…

…to get to the center of a person’s brain?

Let us say, for the moment, that there has been a significant issue with a server – like a massive hard drive failure – that requires everything on that server to be restored to another server. A newer server. Let us further say that obviously not all the settings on that newer server are going to be identical to the older server. Let us suppose that a web site requires a particular unsecured setting in order to operate, and that setting is no longer the default serverwide – that is, the setting, for security reasons, needs to be made on that one particular site that needs it.

Given all that, do you:

A: Constantly complain about the time it’s taking to get everything restored.
B: Continually update a ticket asking when the restore is going to be completed.
C: Display gross ignorance about anything technical by telling support to “put it all back the way it was”.
D: Complain that customers should be notified about “upgrades”, despite being told multiple times that no such “upgrade” was done on an arbitrary whim – not that the upgrade would have anything to do with the problem you’re having anyway.
E: Repeatedly ignore questions you are asked and the things you are told by support.
F: All of the above.

If you answered F, then you’re absolutely correct and you have identified the actions of clients who make up our own personal hell.

When we’ve been working 20 hours straight to get the server back up, the accounts restored, and cleaning up all the inevitable cleanup things that need to be done, doing all of that is going to make us very, very cranky. And we’ll note for you that it’s rather offensive to imply that we just sit around all day throwing rocks at a server trying to make it crash just to create more work for ourselves because we have nothing else we’d rather be doing or that we did something just to do it to you, personally. Free tip: you are not that important, and the world does not revolve around you, even though you’d like to believe otherwise. You are just like everyone else, except when you engage in F (All of the above): those times, you’re ruder and more unlikeable than everyone else.

But those of you who understand that shit happens, drives fail, and techs work their asses off because they do care: you’re tops in our book, because you use your common sense, even if you don’t understand all the technical mumbo jumbo. Thanks.

Out of season

“So…you’re growing tomatoes.”


“And zucchini.”


“And basil and oregano. And peppers.”


“You know these are all summer crops, right?”


“And you’re growing them organically, with no pesticides, no boosters, no chemical fertilizers.”


“Sorry, but I just don’t think it’s going to work. Seems to me to be a waste of time.”

“Well, maybe it won’t work. Maybe nothing will germinate. Maybe nothing will take root, and I’ll be left with no homegrown vegetables of these sorts in the dead of winter, and no herbs to dry and store. But if it doesn’t work, it won’t be because I didn’t make the effort.”

The first cool evening

What could be better on that first fall evening where the air turns cooler, the sky is clear and the stars are shining, and breathing deeply fills your lungs with impossibly fresh air than a good pot of soup….

…and a fire in the hearth?

Today we sowed no peas, as the errands this morning took longer than expected before I had to begin work. I did manage to turn over the soil, though, so tomorrow will be a good day to pull the clumps of grass, work in some compost, sow the peas, transplant the collards and broccoli, and in general enjoy some more playing in the dirt.

There are some properties on the “to be seen” list, one of which is 40 acres with a house and a workshop, one of which is just under 5 acres with a house and a barn, and a handful of others in between. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to start off the new year?

Getting down and dirty

Tonight we’re seeing the typical schizophrenic weather that Florida exhibits during the change of seasons: Sunday, it was 92 degrees. Monday, the forecast high is 71 degrees, with a dip into the upper 30s by Tuesday evening. There is something reassuring about knowing at some point we’ll see a change of 20 degrees or so from one day to the next at least once during a season.

Saturday afternoon, I decided that since we’re not going to find a piece of property immediately, and since we’re not going to have a greenhouse at our disposal immediately – not a decent sized greenhouse, in any event – it’s time for us to try doing some container gardening (with grow lights and possibly some warmer lights eventually) and to put in some cool/cold weather vegetables. With that in mind, mom and I took ourselves over to Lowe’s and Home Depot to pick up some supplies.

The players: several different types of tomatoes (roma, supersweet 100, red cherry, big boy hybrid), zucchini, a sweet bell pepper (california wonder), jalapeno and cayenne peppers, collards, broccoli, snow peas, two kinds of lettuce (black seed Simpson, Romaine), leeks, bunching onions, and various herbs (sweet basil, oregano, curly parsley, thyme, dill). We also picked up a kumquat tree that is small but laden with fruit, a navel orange tree, and a variegated pink lemon tree (as a whim). I also plan to try some garlic, shallots, and carrots.

That all seems like quite a lot, but at the same time seems like only a little, given that there are only one or two of each. Saturday, I started all the tomatoes and peppers, zucchini, onion, and leek from seed in peat pellets, which are currently sitting warm and toasty in a small greenhouse container on the table outside in the sunroom. Sunday, I transplanted the basil, oregano, and parsley plants into pots from their peat containers, started the lettuce and dill from seed, and watered down everyone to ensure they wouldn’t go thirsty.

By next weekend, if all goes well, we should start seeing a few shoots from our peat pellets as the seeds germinate, and the lettuces ought to be pushing their way skyward as well. I’m hoping to have settled on a compost tumbler by then too, so we can begin recycling the organic matter in addition to the other recycling we do each week already.

Monday is reserved for transplanting the collards into the ground in front of the row where the peas will be sowed – after that row is dug, of course. Our winter is forecast to be pretty mild, and I think with the grow/heat lamps on the containers and the hardier vegetables in the soil, we should see a fairly good harvest in a couple of months. Knowing the zucchini, it will probably try to crawl out of its long container to take over the world, but we’re only starting three seeds to germinate, and will pare down to two plants – so we should have a good fighting chance of not being strangled by any output the plants decide to give. If we do see a heavy load, no doubt we’ll be leaving baskets on the neighbors’ doorsteps, ringing the bell, then running away. That would be a nice problem to have.

It’s good exercise, all of this, although I’m sore as hell just from the work thus far. It’s a good soreness, though, even though it’s painful: it’s the sort of pain that lets you know you’re still alive, still able to face the world, still able to do something different than your usual routine, still able to look with pride on even the small steps you’ve made. Breaking up the things that need to be done into smaller groups allows me to get something accomplished and then go back to my regular work. There’s something to be said for that.

In the meantime, I continue to look for property, and I’m poring over seed catalogues, deciding what to do for spring while seeing what the results of the winter experiments are. And when those first signs of life poke their way through the peat and soil, I’ll have my camera ready.

The stars at night are big and bright


I suppose it is quite easy to forget, sometimes, just how large the country is until you’re driving to someplace further away than the grocery store. It probably seemed even further before the days of cars and trains, when people rode in wagons or rode horses or walked on foot from place to place. I often wonder, even as I’m driving around town here at home, just how modern people would have fared without the assistance of roadways and signs, without concrete ribbons leading us from place to place, with trees all around and only the sky above as maps of the world.

These days, though, there are signs that you have arrived at a particular destination.

And in case you’ve forgotten, Texas is the Lone Star State.

We didn’t dally long at the information center.

I know Montana is technically Big Sky country, but on this trip and on this day, Texas could very lay claim to that title as well.

The scenery along the way was much the same as it had been, with cattle…

…and rice fields.

And one unfortunate trucker, who’d managed to get himself off the road into a slight drainage ditch.

Undaunted, we made it to Houston, home of some spaghetti-like interchanges.

Beyond that, Houston was something we saw only from the highway, and like almost any other large city, seemed to be under heavy construction.

We passed through Sealy, home of the Tigers…

…who were out practicing for their next game…

…and continued onward toward our ultimate destination.

Can you guess where we stopped for gas?

Shortly after this point, we ran into swarms of butterflies, many of whom met their demise as they fluttered across the highway. The swarms were huge clouds over the roadway, making it nearly impossible to get any further shots through the front windshield. But we made it to our Point B anyway.

We found out later that due to the very dry summer in the area, the natural predator of that butterfly was not as active as it normally was, and thus the butterflies were far over their usual population numbers. Ours was not the only vehicle providing a testament to this.

The hotel is a Tuscan-inspired design, and in the outside courtyard area, had a wall of fire within a waterfall/fountain structure.

Inside, the suite was roomy and had a thermostat that could be set to 60 degrees, which meant to normal people it was like an icebox, and to my mom was still too warm for her liking.

We headed out in search of a cold drink…

…then wandered up and down the Riverwalk for a bit, trying to decide on food. Since you can’t go to Texas without trying some Texas barbeque, that was the choice for us.

Baby back ribs.

Beef ribs for mom. I had her hold up a knife to provide a scale and show how huge these were. She had ordered them because the menu said three ribs, not quite understanding just yet that everything is bigger in Texas.

There was a bit of a bite in the barbeque – not one that would tear off the top of your head immediately, but one that snuck in on you as you were finishing a bite, making its presence known. The baby backs were not as tender as I expected them to be, but tasted good enough, and the beef was good. In the mood to give them a try on dessert, and since I’m a sucker for it, we selected apple cobblers.

This was good indeed, and we all ate a healthy portion of the dessert.

Tired from our day of learning about the Atchafalaya Swamp, eating, and battling butterflies, we turned in for the night, happy to have reached our destination, and (for those of us playing tourist) excited about exploring the city and what it had to offer.

The reluctance of idiots

It’s absolutely mindboggling to me that some people will complain about the same problem over and over – despite the fact that it can be shown there is no problem – and then refuse, again and again, to provide even a snippet of the information we require to begin to troubleshoot (even when we know, from checking system logs, that there is no problem) or to find out how they’re going about getting what they need. One would think these people would get the picture eventually, but over and over we have to repeat ourselves. It’s hard to fathom going through life like these people must go through life.

On the road again


Day two dawned with all of us up bright and early – ok, maybe early, but not terribly bright without food or caffeine yet. As we did need sustenance for the road, we took ourselves downstairs for breakfast.

Barb had one typical breakfast: eggs, grits, bacon, toast.

Mom and I both had a more typical Southern style breakfast: biscuits and gravy, with bacon. My portion was a mass of bacon-y goodness, chewy and slightly greasy. Of course, I was unable to eat even a quarter of it, but what I did have was tasty (although both Barb and Mom said the bacon was slightly too salty for their taste – my benefit of screwed up taste buds, I suppose, is that it really does take an extreme in order for some things to seem out of whack to me).

While we were eating, there were seniors appearing for breakfast as well, most of whom were wearing Senior Olympics shirts. Despite my overwhelming curiosity and desire to ask them about it, I refrained and we got our show back on the road.

We crossed over the mighty Mississippi River – the first time I’ve ever crossed it other than in an airplane.

One thing I did not know about Louisiana and Texas was the amount of rice farming done in those states. Louisiana also has a good amount of sugar cane farming.

Of course, oil and gas are huge, and it isn’t strange at all to see working machinery in the midst of what appears to be otherwise arable farm or pastureland.

Along the way, in front of yet another sugarcane field, we saw some workers in very fashionable prison garb.

Since we had no particular time constraints, we made a stop at the Atchafalaya (ah-CHA-fah-lye-ya) information center.

This was still in Louisiana, and is on the eastern side of the Atchafalaya swamp.

We watched a short movie about the swamp – which really is a tourist infomercial, as most of these things are – read up about the area…

…and then pushed on, ever westward.

The map of the swamp shows a myriad of oil and natural gas fields, and the bridge over the swamp reminded me a great deal of the Chesapeake Bridge in Maryland – except with more trees and, you know, swampier.

Driving is hungry work, so we stopped off in Iowa, home of the Yellowjackets, according to the water tower.

Our goal was Big Daddy’s, which we found after driving down the main street in Iowa and then back toward the highway.

Alas, crawfish were not running when we visited, so there were no crawfish to be had. Instead, we had the buffet: fried chicken, corn, beans, mashed potatoes, spicy meatballs, salad, and a couple of desserts (banana pudding and bread pudding).

The chicken was tasty, as were the beans and corn. The meatballs did have a bit of a kick to them, but with the shape my mouth is in, too much for me. The rolls were bought, and the puddings were uninteresting. One of the strangest things we encountered during this trip was the absence of sweet tea. In Louisiana and Texas, very few places at which we ate served sweet tea, and Big Daddy’s was no exception to this. But the meal was satisfying enough and the tea was freshly brewed, and thus sated, we piled back into the car to continue our journey.

Chasing the horizon


The adventure begins, but not without some trepidation. When you own your own business, and that business is a 24/7 operation, and you haven’t actually had a real vacation in many years, and you’re worried about something going wrong that would require your presence when you’re four states and 18 hours away…yep, that adds up to a little bit of worry creeping into the back of your head about whether or not leaving is a good idea after all.

Still, everyone needs a break now and then, and after this past year and a half, I could certainly use one. So, we headed west.

If you should ever find yourself going across the state of Florida for some reason – moving from point A to point B on your map – keep in mind that Florida is really, really flat. And that many parts of Florida, particularly if you are, say, moving west from Jacksonville toward the Panhandle, are still farm and pastureland.

There is a lot of this between here and our destination, all of which just served to whet my appetite for a piece of land somewhere.

A cow, a few chickens, a horse, lots of veggies….but I digress.

After stopping off in Tallahassee for some lunch – Chinese – we were back on the road to Alabama.

We wound our way to Mobile, searching out a restaurant recommended to us by a friend. You can’t miss it, he said. It’s right next to the battleship (the USS Alabama, as it happens). We missed it, having missed the turnoff, so had to backtrack. He couldn’t remember the name of the restaurant, but lo and behold, there it was.

We arrived just as they were setting up for dinner, so there was almost no one in the restaurant. I’m so used to Florida, where smoking in restaurants is verboten, that I was caught offguard for a moment by the question about seating in a smoking area versus a nonsmoking area. In deference to mom, who continues to smoke despite all the nastiness associated with it, we chose the smoking area.

To start: drinks and some fried mushrooms.

Fried platter for Barb (left).

Hearts of palm salad and shrimp cocktail for Mom.

Fried catfish for me.

Since this was, as Barb put it, a culinary journey as much as anything else, we also had dessert: key lime pie and coffee.

All of this was served up by Jim, one of the fastest moving and nicest servers I’ve ever met.

As we left, I took some (non-moving) shots of the heavy gear outside.

We chased the sun as it set.

The sun was always a step ahead of us, beckoning us to follow.

Eventually, it led us into Mississippi.

And stayed with us for a bit more.

Before beginning its final descent.

And bidding us a farewell after a day’s work.

Our work was not yet done, and we continued to make our way toward Louisiana.

With the moon and stars as our guide now…

…we ended our own day’s journey in Baton Rouge.