The next round of antivampire planting

The new seed garlic has arrived – all 71 pounds of it.

This year, as last year, the seed garlic is from Big John’s Garlic. The bulbs this year are much larger than last year’s.

Our seed stock this year is Chesnok Red, Inchelium Red, Metechi, and Lorz Italian. I had thought I’d not ordered the latter, but apparently I did, as five pounds of it is in the boxes. By far the most we will be planting are the first two, at 30 pounds each. I’ll leave it to the math majors to figure out how many pounds of Metechi that means we have.

This is also a lot more garlic than we planted last year, so should be interesting to see how many frames it takes to devote to getting it all out. If next year cooperates and it doesn’t go from mid-70s to near 100 in the span of a week, our harvest should stay on track and give us enough goodly sized bulbs that we can save the largest bulbs for replanting next fall. Not that I mind ordering from Big John’s, but it takes an awful lot of garlic to keep us supplied here between what we use and what we provide to family, so we do need a decent amount of seed stock over and above what we will consume.

Garden and ranch journal, Sept 19, 2011

Weather: high around 85, intermittent drizzle, nothing significant. Unfortunately, the nor’easter seems to be blowing itself out by the time it makes its way all the way inland to us.

Plants: The cucumbers replanted where the black eyed peas had been are all up: adam gherkin, homemade pickles, and american slicer. It’s time to sow another round of shelling peas. Big, fat bumblebees spotted on the flowers near the front walk.

Done: A light day, since the bulk of the morning was spent having blood drawn and getting a chest xray and the afternoon on the business. The remainder of the garlic we pulled in August has been processed and stored.

The answer to the question

The question being: why do so many people get the hell out of tech? This is why.

User: Mail from (IP) is being blocked.

Us: What is the reject message?

User: It says at this link that (IP) is listed at (some obscure spam list).

Us: What is the reject message? The (IP) is not the mail server IP address, and is not what the outside world sees when mail is sent out. There is no indication in the mail logs of any rejects from (obscure spam list).

In between: we look through the logs on the server, and check out 54 different spam listings for the actual, server IP – the one the outside world sees – and find nothing at all. No one else on the same server reports any rejected mail anywhere.

User: It says at this other link that (IP) is listed at (some obscure spam list).

US: Once again, we need the actual reject message for the mail. The IP (IP) has nothing to do with mail delivery. Only the server IP is seen by the outside world when handing off mail. Places that are rejecting mail will do so with a reject message. That is what we need.

User: (Copying us on a whine to his webmaster): Interesting “customer support”. Find me another host, I’m not spending another dime with these rude people, and I don’t care if the server is blocked or not.

Us: Asking for specific information is rude? We’re trying to investigate an issue you claim exists when we can’t find any indication there is one. We asked for the reject message, and got another listing that has no bearing on this issue. Clearly, further explanation was required about what we needed, and that’s what we did. Since you haven’t provided a reject message and we can’t find any evidence mail is being rejected to anywhere from that server, we’re considering the issue closed.

User: Close this ticket. Your customer support is amazing.

Brilliant riposte. You really got us with that one. Thanks for wasting our time chasing down a nonissue. Guess mail from that server really isn’t being rejected anywhere after all.

And that is why people eventually leave the tech field. The insistence of problems where there are none and the refusal to follow the simplest of instructions combine over time to form a thousand little stabs into the soul of the tech that has to deal with your asshattery.

Garden and ranch journal, Sept 18 2011

Weather: about 80 as a high, no rain through this evening.

Plants: Tomatoes, peppers, mints, onions, and brassicas in the flats near the back garden seem to be doing well, complete with tiny frog hanging out in the peppers. The tomatoes, brassicas,  and peppers need to be transplanted this week; onions can wait; mints need to go into pots rather than to frames. Olive seeds did not germinate.

Done: Weeded out and fertilized seven of the frames to be planted with garlic. Unloaded lumber destined to be built into two more doubled frames in the middle of the front garden. Cleaned up various junk from the long week of work on the gardens.

Let the games bee-gin

Low-hanging fruit, that title, I know.

On Saturday, my sister and I attended a short course beekeeping class offered twice a year by UF/IFAS. We had missed the spring class by a week or so, but found the fall (such as it is) date early enough and got ourselves registered. I was a bit concerned about the class going forward, as the registration form indicated if less than 20 people registered, the class would be cancelled. That worry was for naught, as by my count there were almost 30 people in attendance, split evenly between men and women. There were several people from the Northeast Florida Honeybee Association in attendance as well: all older men, all incredibly friendly, and all hilarious.

We’ve discussed having bees on the ranch several times over the years, and now we’re ready to move forward. The class itself covered various aspects of keeping bees, from hive structure to honeybee activity, splitting hives, and diseases and pests. Most of the things under discussion were things I already knew from prior research, but it was great to be able to hear from real, live beekeepers instead of reading about things in a book or from the web.

The Clay County IFAS office keeps bees on the fairgrounds, and has a honey house on the property as well. It was there that they had set a demonstration hive with open, paned sides back in April during the fair, and the bees were still there, still alive, and we had a chance to see the activity – and spot the (unmarked) queen.

After a full day of class, we’re more ready than even to get some bees around here. I’m hoping it will improve some of the plant-related issues we’ve been having, particularly with things like melons and squashes, and of course there is the potential for honey to be robbed from the hive. We were excited enough to consider adding bees now, but it appears that almost everyone has no bees for sale during the fall. Waiting until spring seems to be the only option, but that will allow us to get all the equipment we need and have it on hand for the big day when that day arrives.

Slow burn

Every year in this area, we have at least one fire. This past summer was no different, but this time around there were multiple fires and one about two miles away.

For the past few days, we’ve had smoke drifting in and hanging around from a fire on the Florida/Georgia border – and naturally, all the tropical storms/hurricane activity has bypassed us and it, and still it burns. Since there has been virtually no wind here at all, the smoke lingers well into the afternoon, making work outside challenging. But work needs to be done regardless of this, and yesterday was yet another highly productive day: various irrigation lines repaired and extended, mulch delivered and started to be spread, and the rear garden now receiving the same treatment as the front, with the fence partially pulled, plastic laid, and the fence reconfigured. Still much more to be done, but that is always the case on the ranch.

Berries of blue

One of the additions we made this spring to the ranch was berries. I’d never really considered small fruits before, beyond the wild blackberries that grow all around the property, but while I was wandering around the garden center one day, there they were. At first, we had picked up two, but went back for four more. All went into the front garden area and then we waited.

Well worth the wait, I must say. This was just one of many harvest rounds – the smaller harvests didn’t actually make it into the house at all, between my mother and my nephew. Although I can no longer eat blueberries that way, they are still spectacular in muffins, pancakes, and my shakes.

Honest labor

Yesterday, we had some additional labor on the ranch. Today, we did not – not much of a surprise, as the sheer physicality of much of what we do is not something that most people enjoy or can do, even if there is money involved. That’s fine: never underestimate girl power in the realm of Getting Things Done. Today we finished laying down the rest of the plastic around the front garden, reset the fence (and I added three more gates while we did this), started trenching for the edging around that, did finish the edging around the herb garden, weeded, hauled trash out, mowed, watered, cleaned up all the detritus and tools from our work, and generally worked from sunrise, took a break during the high temp hours, and continued until sunset. The moon rose as we put up the last of the tools.

It reminded me quite a bit of this.

Why? Because the females of the hive are the worker bees. That’s how it turned out for us today.

Speaking of bees, my sister and I will be taking a beekeeping course this Saturday, as I want to get things in motion to have bees next spring. I don’t each much honey straight off – I don’t drink tea any longer, and honey alone is a bit too acidic for my mouth – but I do a lot of cooking with honey, and other members of the family use honey on a regular basis, so I thought it would be cool to add that to the list of things we produce (or gather, as it may be) on the homestead. We would get the added benefit of having pollinators on the ranch so as not to have to rely so much on the incidental pollinators we get around here.

Butternut squash soup tonight for dinner, with onions and garlic right from the ranch. It will be just as good tomorrow for breakfast before diving back into the work that never ends.

Friends in the garden

A little help in the garden is always a good thing. Sometimes, though, you need helpers who can dig and pull and mow and do other things besides eat bugs and hang out on the bean trellis. Not that such hanging out is not helpful in and of itself: when we first moved in to the property, it was like living in a house on the beach. All the topsoil had been scraped off and sold, there was no sod or attempt to  do anything with the white sandy stuff that was left, but at least they left some of the scrub/water oaks. There were also no critters: no lizards, frogs, dragonflies, spiders, squirrels, snakes, nothing.

To combat this poor ecosystem, the past four years have seen a ton of work go into making the place less like a desert and more like a homestead. Granted, it will be a long, long time before the ground is rehabilitated and amended enough to plant things directly in the ground on a wide basis – hence all the raised beds around here – but if there is one thing gardening on any scale will teach, it is patience. Today, we have all sorts of critters on the grounds, and found a great (albeit sad) result of all the work that went into making the homestead…homey: a giant orb weaver spider  had a dragonfly hung up in her web on the side of the house. And the little guy above, along with a lot of extended family members, hangs out waiting for the next snack.

But as I said, there are times when you need bigger help than this. We decided to redo a few things around the place. The first step was to dig out a four foot circle around both almond trees, about two inches deep, and replace that clay with compost and topsoil, with a layer of a pasture grass mix, alfalfa, and buckwheat. That’s a lot of soil to move (twice). It was a necessary task, though, as nothing is taking hold in the clay around the trees, and without anything in the surrounding area, the trees will not be very productive. Enter James, the grandson of a friend of the family, who wanted and needed to work at something while he attends night school and waits for his temporary IT contract to renew. I was assisting with the digout, but rapidly found after several minutes of banging away on the hard clay that a) that motion was traveling right into my face and making all that dental work from yesterday ache like hell and b) that said motion also made that same dental work start bleeding. So, he dug, I seeded the circles, and we both spread the compost and topsoil. A fair division of labor.

In the meantime, my mom was working along the fence in the front garden, and we joined her in that effort after completing the great dirt haulout. We had decided to revamp the garden areas a bit, because it looked a little unkempt with the grass growing up around the edges of the fence. The plan was to pull up the fence, roll back the edge of the plastic that had been put down as a base to solarize the grass we’d previously got going after moving in (when this garden was still in the back), and mow along the line. With that done, we started laying another line of plastic to extend slightly beyond where the fence will be, so we can mulch and edge that area to make it more presentable. The fence is up, the mowing is done, and half of the plastic is laid in place. That’s where we stopped for the day, after just over four hours of backbreaking work.

Tomorrow, we will pick up where we left off, although I’m hoping to get a bit of the refencing started this evening. The biggest concern I have is the stake hammering triggering another round of bleeding. When you don’t have a lot of spit, it’s difficult to keep your mouth clear. When the front garden is complete, we’ll do the same thing in the back garden. That should be a bit easier than the front, and even if it isn’t easier, it will be shorter work: there are only three sides to redo, as the fourth side butts up against the pool fence.

There are other projects we’ll be having James help with, as well: the house trim needs to be touched up, and I’m hoping to repaint the barn this fall (about three and a half years in the Florida sun takes a toll), among other things. My sister will be lending a hand, too. It’s our own microeconomy here on the ranch.

Work funnies: today, compliments from several of the handful of clients who have contacted us for something: “You’re great, I’m never leaving!”, “Your support is awesome.”, and so on. That makes up for the occasional person who thinks they need to be a complete ass for no particular reason.