A day like today

I do not, as a general rule, sleep well or much. My family knows this because they have to put up with my oddball hours. Friends and clients know this because it is not rare for them to receive an email from me at some horrible, zombie-like hour where I, fresh from about three hours of sleep, have logged on to see what is happening in my little corner of the world.

Most of the time, this does not bother me overly much. After all, I have a great deal many more hours at my disposal than most people, meaning I can come up with grandiose plans about various things, and also cement the reputation I have garnered of being a robot rather than a human being. Since the radiation from the cancer treatments still has not brought me any real superpowers, I suppose it’s as close as I will ever get, although I won’t be doing this anytime soon.

Some days, though, the lack of sleep brings out the cranky, especially if I am also not feeling well. Like today. This makes me want to kick someone’s ass right off the planet for tossing a nonsensical legal threat our way about information in a domain registration that she provided, even though we have pointed out what she is saying means nothing and she readily admits she doesn’t understand the “jargon” – and by “jargon”, I mean English. Apparently, she is simply terrified that one of her “fans” (she is an actress, apparently) will find out her address from a years-old cached pieced of information on google, something that we do not control, last time I checked, and do some stalker-like thing, or kill her, or both. Or something. This is the time when I want to state it flat out for people: you are just not that important. You are not fodder for the next American Justice where some crazed, obsessed person hunts you down and kills you. You may tell yourself, actress aspiring to be famous, that someone would care that much, but let’s face it here: you provided your own biographical information to IMDB which is quite handily on your own web site, and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist or some weirdo even slightly off their meds to find you. I know: I tracked down someone, including their name, date of birth, current residence, current hobbies, other web sites they visit, and the fact that they coached little league from a single piece of information (an IP address attached to a comment they left on a blog we host). With all the information you have provided on your own, deranged psychos could track you down if they wanted. They haven’t. This should tell you something about your place in the greater universe.

A day where you think it would be nice to be able to eat and drink the way you used to. That an icy cold beer and a pile of wings would be great after sweating off a couple of pounds working on the ranch, except that you can no longer drink alcohol due to the radiation burning off the lining of your mouth and you really can’t eat wings any more because the chewing issues make it virtually impossible. That it would be great to settle in with a margarita and a blackened chicken burrito with extra sweet and hot chile sauce, but the spicy foods are offlimit now for the same reason alcohol is, and you know even as you sow the seeds in the garden that you’re unlikely to ever be able to eat habaneros or even jalapenos again any time soon, if ever.

On the other hand, on a day like today, where I’m having some trouble catching my breath and generally feeling like crap – oh, not to mention having a slight bout of anxiety over the fact that the doctor wants me to have a chest CT because of something they saw on the chest x-ray they wanted before I started hyperbaric dives after having yet another tooth pulled – it’s nice to Get Shit Done. Like sow the cukes from seed that I’ve wanted to do for several days now, for a total of about 140 seeds planted, with a little overflow from my nephew helper, who put half a dozen seeds in several holes while I tried to convince him that really, one was all that was required. I also directly sowed some more tomatoes and peppers, because let’s face it: there are rarely enough, and we intend to do a lot of preserving this year. If we have the space, I want to fill it with something. That includes the newest 8 x 4 frame I polished off today in the herb garden, with a little assist by my sister, who hauled a load of dirt and poop for me amongst the five others that I brought over and mixed in. Tomorrow, while we wrangle a scheduled CT from the hospital people and I stay out of the hyperbaric chamber until we determine what the hell is going on – and if I have walking pneumonia, I will, as I have told several people, be pissed – I will begin work on the final 8 x 4 frame for the herb garden. Tonight, I may just go ahead and sow some things in flats that really want the much hotter weather we will no doubt be heading into very soon, and set them up on the heat mats in the garage, turning on the lights for them in the morning.

It’s a day where you also get nice, chatty mails from certain clients, about their newest projects, and about being a test case who found a bad link on our site. Or from someone who understands the information (some of it erroneous) at some random, invisible data mining company is not the end of the world as we know it, which then leads in a roundabout sort of way to a discussion about critters and gardening/sustainability. Or from someone who congratulates us on ten years of putting up with all of this. Or where a pooped out puppy sleeps on the back of the couch while you work from home on a laptop, ass planted on the couch yourself, his tail slapping against the cushion now and then, his nose crinkling as he sniffs out a rabbit or turtle or whatever populates puppy dreams, every now and again his paws wiggling manically, chasing down a bird he will never catch, growling and then squeaking out what would be a bark were he awake. Or where you watch as your nephew, having discarded his swimming diaper at some point, stands on the patio in the shade, fresh from the pool, with only his water wings on, downing saltines with a slab of cheese between them, crumbs falling from his mouth and sticking to his wet chest. Or where you decide, apropos of nothing, that Saturday would be a great  time for a spaghetti dinner night, and that homemade pork/beef/veal meatballs in homemade sauce, with homemade Italian bread as a vehicle for carrying butter and garlic, would be a rather fine thing indeed, even as you muse about the possibility of making homemade pasta, just to top it all off.

Or where, in general, despite never having as much time as you think even though you don’t sleep, berating yourself for not writing nearly as much as you would want to (or anything at all, for that matter), and having a list of todo items that is constantly expanding, you think this is a pretty damned good life, overall, and that you wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.

Forced downtime

Three consecutive days of dentist/oral surgeon visits have resulted in forced downtime for me on the ranch. On Wednesday, a visit to the dentist to address the broken tooth slated for a crown. While much of the shearing off was the buildup, some of it was the actual tooth, and what was left after that was one little stub, resulting in yet another unrestorable tooth. Luckily, we had already made an appointment with the oral surgeon for Thursday, because I could tell what was coming: an extraction of what was left.

And that’s what we did on Thursday: appointment at 10, and by 11:20 I was walking out the door, my mouth yet one more tooth lighter. This was a bit more difficult an extraction, as the top stub broke of and he wound up using forceps to dig in and grab the root, but he managed to pull the root out in one piece. No cutting! Gauze, the usual prescriptions, and off I went back to the house. Because of the additional rooting around (no pun intended) this one hurt quite a bit more than the last one, and my lower jaw started to swell fairly immediately. I also felt quite a bit more nauseated this time than last, but sleep plus the various drugs made it all slide down the list of my concerns, even if it did put me behind on various things and make me a bit foggy throughout the evening. My oral surgeon – Dr. Tayapongsak, by the way, if you’re ever in this area and need a very good one – also mentioned to me something I resigned myself to three years ago as I began the never-ending dental work: eventually, all my teeth will probably have to come out. For now, though, I’d like to retain what I can.

Friday, back to the dentist for what was actually my scheduled appointment for crown preps, now on a single tooth instead of two. That didn’t make it hurt any less, as my jaw had swollen further through the evening, but I went ahead with this appointment to avoid having the other tooth meet the same fate as the one requiring extraction. As he shaved away the buildup and shaped the remainder of the tooth, of course some of that work wound up going right along the gumline. Ouch. Then the impressions, and me trying to open my mouth widely enough to get the trays in, which were then jammed up against the teeth and held there for several minutes. Then the even greater challenge of getting the trays out through my limited opening, without destroying what we’d just managed to create. Then the temporary crown, on the tooth, off the tooth for shaping, over and over again, every time jammed up against and into the gumline until it was shaped properly.

After that adventure, off to the hospital and an EKG and a chest xray, so I can begin hyperbaric dives on Monday to promote the healing of the socket where the root had been. While I was in xray, getting lined up for the second shot, a code blue in MRI comes over the intercom. Such is the ebb and flow of the medical world.

All of this adds up to no work outside since Wednesday. My face is still swollen today, although less so than yesterday, and there is no heavy lifting permitted anyway for a day or so after the extraction, to avoid the potential of dislodging the (very nice) blood clot that formed in the empty tooth socket. Since I feel like someone has been beating me with a lead pipe – and look a bit that way, too – this is disappointing, but sort of welcome at the same time.

Tomorrow, though: full steam ahead. Lots to do. Not many people to do it. It’s time to really start ramping things up here on the ranch.

You say tomato

Make that tomatoes, plural.

This is Stupice, a Czech early variety. It is also one of the handful of transplants that survived being put out.

Poor planning on my part and poor weather on Mother Nature’s part conspired to kill off or stunt many of the stunningly healthy transplants that had been started in the garage just before the new year kicked in. Next time, I will keep two things in mind: first, in addition to the other care I gave the seedlings in their sheltered quarters, they need a little opposition as well, to help toughen them. A fan to force strength into their stems is going to be a requirement, not an afterthought. Second, they really do need a proper hardening off period, no matter how much the weather outside seems to be cooperating when I make the decision to put them out. It may seem to be overcast and mild enough to put them in the frames and let them be, but it would be better to have the babies mobile enough to be able to bring them back in before, say, a massive windstorm or two straight days of pounding rain come along.

After that, though, they’re fair game for the elements.

In the morning, a visit to the oral surgeon, at which point he will probably decide to go ahead and pull this one tooth right then and there. Since my emergency visit with the dentist today interrupted my day, no work outside for me. Tomorrow, after what will be a difficult pull, it’s likely I won’t be working outside, either, which could get bad as the rain that we’ve had is going away for awhile, and there is irrigation to be worked on out there. Friday morning, back to the regular dentist, for the crown prep on the companion tooth to the one being yanked out – so far, that second tooth is hanging in there, with no cracking, shearing, or other disintegration before my eyes. Lucky me. To top things off, I’ll have to do ten hyperbaric dives after this pull, to help the healing process, which will further interrupt my early morning hours and is likely to leave me low on energy, putting me even further behind in the work that I need to get done.

Will it all ever end?

Getting corny

It rained today. Usually, in Florida during the summer, this is not exactly newsworthy. After all, for all the years, off and on, that I’ve lived in Florida, summers typically have the same forecast: partly cloudy, highs in the mid-90s, afternoon thunderstorms.

Then I moved out of the city and into this very strange, Bermuda Triangle-like plot of country only to find that if the forecast calls for anything under 50%, it can generally be ignored, because the rain will blow itself apart before it gets to us, or slide off to the north or south, leaving not a drop here. The other extreme, of course, is the tropical storms that come and hang out for a week, dumping two feet or more of water around the property. Most of the time, it’s the former rather than the latter.

Still, it rained today, this afternoon, which meant I hauled myself outside very quickly this morning and managed to get straw put down around the garlic – one variety of which is turning into a tremendous disappointment – as well as move almost 1300 pounds of dirt and poo. Keep in mind that here on the ranch, almost nothing is mechanized. That’s right: hauling this sort of stuff around is done by human power, not machine power. By the time I think a tractor is worth the investment, it won’t be necessary because all the work for which it was intended to be used will be done. While I’m sweating out the latest activity, I sometimes wonder if this is what it was like for the earliest settlers, although I have the benefit of being able to escape into more comfortable quarters for a break or before the rains come (after battening things down against the storm).

The good thing about the rain is that it makes the irrigation line running less of an issue. That’s good news for the silver queen corn, which currently occupies three frames of an incomplete six frame row. Even though I made good progress today on the remaining frames in that row, I can’t run the lines until they’re complete, and that means hand watering. Unless it rains.

As with most of the rest of the planting, this was delayed by family issues. The vendor had stamped an 85% germination rate on the pack, so I overplanted the rows, planning for a less than optimal germination. As it stands, it looks to me more like 95%. I consider that a good thing, and I am ever hopeful that we may actually harvest corn this year instead of losing it to deer romping through it (not an issue now with the fencing) or to bizarre weather that flattens it to the point of nonrecovery or alternately drowns it/droughts it.

I also put in another variety as a test: Vision F1.

This planting went in earlier than the silver queen, and is a sugary yellow variety, slightly shorter on harvest time than silver queen. Corn really has turned out to be my personal windmill here on the ranch, a la Don Quixote, and it would be nice to see some through from seed to harvest.

My dental saga continues apace. I’ve had four teeth pulled recently, and it looks like another one is going to have to go: cracked down the middle of where the temporary build was done, awaiting a crown – ironically enough, the prep date was supposed to be this Friday – and the actual tooth part is loose in the socket. No sense capping something that is going to fall out or snap on its own, so it’s time to call the dentist to see if he can work me in for ten minutes to give me a thumbs up on the pull of that one, and I’m thinking we might as well pull the opposing tooth, also slated to be crowned. The oral surgeon will love me as much as the dentist by the time all is said and done. Radiation and chemo are hellish things. Eventually, I will probably end up with all my teeth pulled, which would mean dentures – and that means I have to really get going with the torture device meant to help stretch the scar tissue created by the treatments and assist with the trismus. The only problem with this is when I have one or more teeth that need attention: I need to use the device in order to help with dental treatment and try to hold on to my teeth, but it is quite difficult to use it when I have teeth that require attention. Yet another lingering gift from the big C.

The world needs ditch diggers, too

If there were none, things like this would never get done.

Trench May 3 2010

The wild blackberries all over the property seem to be just fine with the clay, popping up wherever the birds happen to poop out the seeds from the berries they’ve eaten. This trench, and another one just like it, though, are for a batch of new canes we ordered: a thornless variety that we want to actively cultivate instead of passively collecting the wild berries wherever they happen to come up. After digging out the trench, I mixed up some soil and cow poop (composted, of course) and refilled the trench. The canes that had survived their long, drawn out visit in the garage, pending me getting around to them in the todo list. After discarding the ones not quite strong enough for the wait, I still wound up with a good number of canes.

Blackberries May 3 2010

With any luck, these will begin bearing next year.

And that knocks yet another item off my todo list.

How you bean?

Just fine, thanks.

Beans May 2 2010

Snap (green) beans, lima beans (ugh), and a test round of shelling peas. The latter are unlikely to make it, as today was yet another 90+ degree day., and the trend looks to be continuing through the week. I had originally intended these frames to hold the corn once more, and had carried each top frame up from the rear garden area. Luckily for me, I had not tied the frames together, because ultimately I decided to go ahead and put the beans in place. The day I had sown these seeds was one where we were supposed to have had rain that evening. The rain never materialized, and now the original drip lines look fairly tacky draped as they are across the top of a double frame where there is only a single frame in place. Eventually, I will double these. For now, though, I have to carry all of them back to the rear once more, where they can be used to build out more rows there for more planting – including another round of corn.

The herb garden is coming along. I had hoped to complete the work there today, but with only one of me, the brutal heat, and looking out over my little empire that actually pays the bills right now (and one day, hopefully, the ranch will start generating an income stream), I did not quite finish what I had planned. Still, I completed some things, and anything that gets us closer to the end of the job is better than nothing.

One of the things about working in such hideous heat conditions, at least for me, is that I really do not feel like eating at all when I’m hot – and sometimes, not even for quite awhile after I’ve cooled down. This afternoon, after finally calling it quits (temperature out front, according to my weather station: 94.8), I finally cooled down to the point where I realized I was very hungry. After casting about for ideas on having my sister bring something in for me, I further realized that in reality, while it may do in a pinch where I really don’t feel like cooking anything, the food out there is not only bad, nutritionally, but also crap. So I cooked.

Calzone May 2 2010
Calzone, anyone?

I finished almost the entire thing, a major accomplishment for me. Then, back to work, on the other business side of things, plugging away at trimming down the list of things to do there. It is not a bad routine, really, although there never seems to be enough time to make significant progress – there is no eureka moment, heralding a fantastic breakthrough that catapults things into a new realm. Instead, it is sticking with the things that need to be done, and doing the things I can to get them done, no matter what the conditions at which I might be looking.

And now, a picture of a pooped out puppy.

Einstein May 2 2010

That’s about how I feel at this point. And while I was typing this, that stupid SunnyD commercial came on – the one where Martina McBride is singing  those oh-so-difficult to remember lyrics: “Shine on.”

Tomorrow’s goals for outside: getting the trench dug out and refilled with dirt and compost and getting the thornless blackberry canes out there in the ground. Scoping out an area to dig holes for the buckets that will hold my horseradish roots. I did manage to cross off “cut the bottoms off the buckets” from my todo list one day last week, and I consider that progress. And then: moving dirt and poop around to fill frames. Among many other things.

Visualizing whirled peas

I pulled the peas today – both the sugar snaps and the snow peas.

Peas in the compost

It’s difficult to pull up plants that you’ve fed and watered and looked after and babied for months, but you do have to know when it is time (or past time) to take them out and send them on their way to completing the next cycle of what they provide beyond the food they give: compost. They had, as we say in the tech world, reached end of life.

We harvested and shelled quite a lot of peas from these plants, and those are all safely resting in the freezer, awaiting their turn in the pot on some future date.

Technically, by the calendar, it is still spring. Today, though, was what would be a typical summer day for us: hot, humid, and simply taking the step off the threshold and onto the porch was enough to draw the breath from your body involuntarily. Still, there is always work to do around the ranch. Today, that meant pulling the peas above and then beginning the second layer of framing on the frames where those peas had been. We have moved to double frames not only in the rear (now main) garden, but also in the very front garden, which at one time was in the rear of the property. After pulling the peas, and taking a break, I went back for round two, taking down the trellises and hauling lumber from the barn area, the sweat simply rolling down my entire body, from the top of my head to the sheen that covered my legs.

After one such trip in the middle of the afternoon, I thought for a few panicked moments that I was going to pass out or puke – or both – while toting an armful of lumber. This would not have been good, naturally, since the tiny bit of shade from the tree under which I was walking was beginning to shift as the sun sank off to the southwest, and I envisioned frying there in the sun, with no one else at home to wonder where I was after awhile. Luckily, I made it back to the house, managed to get some water, and had a seat, allowing the heat to fade.

After getting the roast I’d pulled out seared and into the oven for a braise, I headed back out into the heat to do the framing. The beauty of braising, like any other slow cooking, is that you can set it off, go do all the myriad other things that need to be done, and in the end, have a fantastic, and, in this case, hearty meal waiting to restore you.

Dinner May 1 2010

The nine frames topped off, it was time to move into the herb garden.  My goal was to complete this area today, but I found a visitor in the black plastic I had left out in the rain yesterday: a snake a few feet long, curled up in one of the rolls, who slithered back and forth through the pools of water on the plastic, preventing me from getting a good grip on him. I took one of the shovels and boosted him outside the fence, but unfortunately, he refused to take the hint, turning back at me and slithering right back through the fence, shaking his tail as if he had rattles and trying to show me poisonous fangs, dripping with venom that did not exist. While I knew he wasn’t poisonous, I also knew that if he latched on to my legs, or on to one of the dogs, it was going to be painful. He squirmed too much for me to get him on the shovel and carry him all the way across the property to a safer place for him to reside, so there was only one thing to do.

Snake May 1 2010

With the snake dispatched and thrown into the wilder underbrush area for nature’s cleanup crew to deal with, I moved some mulch and laid some plastic around the perimeter of the herb garden before calling it a day. According to the scale, I lost just under two pounds today, and I’m certain all the sweat I dripped all over the property accounted for that.

And now, I return to my todo list, which never seems to shrink, and plan my assault on filling the frames I topped today so cucumbers can be started where the peas once were. This is in addition to filling the last three 8 x 4 frames in the rear garden to finish off the sixth row so the next row can be started.

“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.” – Samuel Johnson