RIP, Neil Armstrong

Apparently I’m the last to know about Neil Armstrong dying, since I’ve been working at the ranch outside almost all day long. RIP, moon man. I was only just past a year old when he piloted the Eagle to Tranquility Base and touched down, but I’ve been fascinated by space forever, and the images beamed back from that first step (and Walter Cronkite’s reaction!) are ingrained on my brain as if I watched it live myself. A true hero, remarkable not just for what he achieved, but for how he handled himself through the years after taking that one small step. We should all be so fortunate to have that kind of character.

Morning on the ranch

Everyone was up and moving around earlier than usual this morning. Mom is off for a week for vacation in the Blue Ridge area, so we packed her up and saw her off (we meaning the dogs and me, along with assorted other critters). It was quite foggy this morning, but started burning off immediately, and it should be a gorgeous day at the ranch. No rain in the forecast, and it hasn’t rained the past couple of days. This is a good thing, as we are absolutely saturated here, and still have some good sized mini lakes scattered around the property. What we really need, and which I hope to be able to do today, is a good mowing, since the grass has taken full advantage of the daily rains we had over the past week and a half. This morning, though, was just for looking around and marveling at the sheer number of spider webs. ‘Tis the season for this sort of thing.

They were everywhere. From the branches of a pear tree in a bucket in the herb garden…

…to the fence around the rear garden…

…to a supremely ambitious, human-sized web by the barn…

…to those seeming to float from their anchors in other places.

The girls were also up and working hard. Eventually, they’ll earn their own keep instead of requiring us to feed them every day to keep them alive. Until there is a good sustained bloom, though, I change out their feeders every day (or every other day, depending on the weather and how much syrup they’re taking).


Snip snip

Last Friday, I had a tooth pulled. To be more precise, ANOTHER tooth pulled. It was the last tooth in my head that had, as yet, not had any work done on it. From the outside, it looked perfect: no cracks, no decay showing, and only a bit crooked in my mouth from the effects of other shifting teeth. A few days before Friday, I suddenly started having issues with that tooth: it hurt to just put pressure on it with a finger. When eating or drinking, anything hitting that tooth cause some white hot agony in my face. A visit to the dentist showed the tooth was finally joining the crowd and heading down the same path: a root canal, followed by a post and build. That is always now followed by a cracking or shearing of the tooth and/or the resin or both, which necessitates another rebuild, followed by a crown prep, and finally a crown. Since my opening is down to 10mm total, getting a brush in my mouth is an amazing achievement by itself; managing to get the brush around enough to do thorough brushing at the gumline is practically impossible (but I make the effort anyway). In the end, each tooth that has been crowned faces the same destiny: eventually decaying at the gumline and then under the crown to the rest of what was left of the tooth. Since by that point there simply isn’t enough tooth left to build on, I go get the thing pulled.

Now, imagine that you do not have dental insurance and that everything you’re paying for procedures on your teeth are being paid out of your own pocket. Imagine further that every single tooth follows this path, from root canal to crown, with one or more rebuilds in between those two processes. At the end of the day, each tooth could conceivably wind up with $800-$1000 of work sunk into it. For this tooth, I decided to skip to the inevitable end of the story, save myself the pain of going through each phase, and save myself about $700: out it came. The tooth pretty much shattered when the oral surgeon grabbed it to pull it out, which then required him repeatedly lifting the tooth and snipping off another piece, because my jawbone refused to give it up peacefully (which, I think, speaks volumes about the general healthiness of my jaws, given that osteonecrosis – bone death – is a very real concern for people who have had their heads/necks blasted with radiation). Then we got to the root, which would not come out at all. That, my friends, is what the drill is for: to drill away a piece of the bone to allow the extraction of the last piece of the root. And that, of course, then required stitches to sew together the flaps of the soft tissue to stop the bleeding. With some gauze shoved down into the socket, the bleeding slowed and then stopped completely within 45 minutes or so of extraction.

Stitches are annoying, especially in the mouth. If later today was not the day of their removal, it’s likely I would be cutting them out myself, much like dogs and cats will pull theirs out if given the chance.

A new season

I’m aiming for another 40′ of cuke seed into one of the frames I converted previously from wood to steel. We’ve been having rain every day for the past four or five days. Not a ton, but anywhere from a quarter to a half inch each day. In and of itself: good. As it relates to already soaked ground that can’t keep up with absorption: not good. As it relates to mosquitoes having lots and lots of babies that grow up into adult bloodsuckers: worse. Luckily, the last visit to Home Depot I picked up more mosquito dunks so I can go toss those into the standing water areas to try to cut down on the wild mosquito sex parties going on out there.

The flats in the barn are still growing strong, and I’m hoping to plant those out in the first week of September. That will hopefully give us just enough time before things start getting dicey to get another harvest out. If I’d thought more about it, I would have put in another flat of jalapenos, to have more of those on hand for new batches of salsa (current inventory: zero). Unfortunately, I didn’t, and by the time I got them germinated and transplanted, it would probably be too late. Still, I could give it a go – what’s the worst that could happen? No harvest. There’s been plenty of that around here even in the regular season, and it is life on the farm, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll line up another flat for that.  It’s also time to check the peanuts out back and see if they’re ready to come out and be cured a bit before going into the freezer for future boiling. I also need to get some carrot, onion, and leek seed in. Overwintered onions and leeks do well here given that we have so few heavy, long-lasting freezes that can cause heaving. We finally found a couple of Haas avocado trees, and they are doing quite well, and we fully intend to baby them in the winter, even though they are supposed to be frost hardy into the 20s – handcart into the garage even though the whiskey barrels we have them in weigh a ton will probably wind up being the plan. In a month or so, we’ll be digging sweet potatoes from the back garden area, including the new growth from those we missed last year, which started popping up again. They’re a bit like peanuts and jerusalem artichokes in that regard, and which we also have found popping up from previous plantings: if you don’t get them all, you’ll find you have them regrowing in a space where you might have planted something else the next season. That can be a little annoying, but it does teach you some lessons about what is really hardy and grows without too much complaint down here.

I’ve also been weeding like a crazy person, beyond my two bag quota per day. I pulled up a bunch yesterday and thought I might skip today since my hands were a bit creaky from the marathon. But, it has to be done, so I got off my ass and pulled five bags worth of weeds today to add to the collection that will cause the yard waste guys to curse us (again) on Friday, with more to come because the weeds never stop.

Only two days to get the stitches out of my face from the tooth extraction. It’s a good thing I can’t move my tongue or I’d be playing with the annoying things all day long like a kid with a loose tooth.


Yesterday, I seeded cucumbers and green beans directly in the frames, so that’s crossed off the list. Next up: more cucumber seeding in one of the rows I’ve converted from wood frames to metal. That, however, has to come after I put all my irrigation driplines back in place down that row. This is key because it helps get the correct spacing, as the dripline has laser drilled holes every six inches, spacing that is fine for cukes. The only other thing I’d have to do for those is put the trellises back in place (and BEFORE the seedlings really get going, as trying to wind them into the netting once they’re six or so inches tall is a massive pain in the ass).

The tomato seedlings in the barn are doing well for the most part. One set was older seed, so the germination is not ideal, but I wanted to use up some of the seed I have lying around instead of tossing it into the compost pile. The broccoli and cauliflower likewise looks good, and if the forecast is to be believed, we should be dropping into the upper 80s for temps instead of the mid 90s – which for here means low 90s versus 100 or so as it’s consistently warmer here than the nearest official weather station.

Current tooth situation: the stitches are bugging the crap out of me right now, rubbing against the inside of my lower lip. It also still feels like someone whapped me with a hammer on the left side of my face. That will pass, and the pain meds make it possible to eat even when food does sometimes get jammed up against that socket and the stitches. The only weird thing I have going on right now is very low blood pressure – this morning is was reading 85 over 57, and that certainly did explain the dizziness when I stood up from some business work and a rushing sound in my ears. I was letting the dogs out and things turned black for a moment and I stumbled into the wall. This, too, shall pass, I’m sure. Or it better. Exercise lowers your blood pressure. Weeding and working in the gardens qualifies as exercise. Not a good combination if the BP is already low. We’ll see how that works out.

In a couple of months, I hope we have a real pickling operation going on at the ranch. If only there was an easier way to chop all the sweet pickles that I’ll be making. I tried the mini food processor I have, as it has a chop function (the other is grind), but it made the pieces more mushy than I would like, so it has to be done by hand chopping for now. Will have to work on this and find a solution.

And lastly: did a lot of research online this morning looking for alternative treatments for trismus and radiation-induced fibrosis that go beyond the passive stretching routine, and found a couple of interesting scholarly articles. Next step: trying to find the right person to talk to about the fibrosis and potential treatments for that, given that it appears to be a clear bunch of fibrous tissue in my cheek that may be causing a great deal of the problem in working on my opening.

Life. Luckily we’re here to enjoy and/or fight with it, right?

Second season

The good thing about living in Florida – even northern Florida – is being able to squeeze two growing seasons into the prime spring/summer months. Because our winters don’t generally arrive until late November, sometimes December, we get a couple of extra months of growing time, usually. What this means for yours truly is an attempt to get another round of growing in: currently, I have a flat of tomato seedlings and two flats of cauliflower and broccoli under the lights in the barn. Today, I’ll be direct seeding more cucumbers, as we’re completely out of relish, and I’m hoping to turn into a regular pickle factory here before the end of the season. In addition, I think another round of green beans may be in order as well if we can stand harvesting and processing them for the freezer.

The garlic: a total loss, from what I’ve dug up so far. Most of it rotted from the two feet of rain dumped on us courtesy of a tropical storm, the small amount that hasn’t rotted is stunted because of the constant high temperatures we’ve endured here. Next time: less garlic. Instead, I’ll put in more beans and peas at the beginning of the season and replace those with heat tolerant herbs as those give out to join the tomatoes and peppers as they go in at the same tie. It’s a plan, anyway.

For the winter: a continuation of frame replacements, and getting another truckload of soil/manure mix from the old dairy farm to top them all off for next year. Since we’re looking into getting a whole house generator that will run on gas, I’ll likely be giving up a portion of the back garden so we can bury a huge tank in that area.

Always something to look forward to on the ranch. Like most of life, it’s a work in progress.

Free tech tip – another in a series

The IRS is not going to send you an email about missed payments, adjusting your returns, refunding overpayments, or anything else. Unless you have the actual .gov email address of an actual person working for the IRS that has actually been verified and that is actually on a matter with which you’ve been working with that actual person, do not click on the links in those emails. Do not provide banking information or your SSN in response to them. Do not open them. Delete them.

The things we see

We see a lot of things around here, dealing with people and what they do to their sites. One of the things we see a lot of are people calling themselves “web designers” who can’t even properly code an a href link to another page on their own site. It’s an added bonus if they’re using a very expensive application to create and update the site. Eve more bonus points if they shove every flashing, blinky thing they can on the site to make it look like they got caught in a whirlpool back in the early 90s and never managed to escape.

This is a torture device

Fun times!

How does it work? You put the mouthpiece in your mouth – or, like me wriggle it in there, since even the foam teeth guards make it wider than I can comfortably open. Gently squeeze the handle as shown above to force the mouth pieces apart, while trying to keep your jaws as relaxed as possible. Hold. Repeat again and again.  This passive stretching will, in theory, help to widen the oral opening when the device is used regularly. I have become quite aggressive in using it, since I haven’t been using it much at all before the last couple of weeks, and because at my last dentist visit, he measured my opening at 10mm (yes, millimeters). Get yourself a ruler or tape measure and measure that amount of opening on your own mouth and you can see how limited that is. Much too limited to be able to get fake teeth in, and that’s going to be very important for me down the road as I reach the tipping point on how many teeth have been pulled versus those remaining. I’d prefer to not have to go on a liquid diet. Boring! The only side effect of all of these intense stretching sessions is that it tends to set off spasms in the left side of my face and into my neck and it is very, very painful. Much as I hate to do it, chronic pain in the mouth is a serious downer and interferes with real life, so from time to time I have to have the antispasm and pain meds to deal with those. I figure it’s a small price to pay to perhaps eventually realize my ultimate goal of widening my opening.

And one more reminder to those of you who find this place based on searches related to oral cancer: even if you’re eating through a tube for nine months like I had to, make sure you keep doing exercises to maintain that oral opening. It will avoid complications down the road for you and make post-treatment life much more pleasant. I wish the medical staffs, as amazing as they were, would have emphasized this more. Or that there was a medical treatment they could use to help it, like slicing through the scar tissue and then just dealing with that recovery. There’s a medical procedure for almost everything. But not this. So keep going with widely opening your mouth  throughout treatment. If you’re getting radiation to the head and neck that makes you look like a survivor of Hiroshima, this is going to hurt. That’s what the pain meds are for: take them, do the exercises. You’ll be happier in the end that you did.