I’m back to hitting the treadmill, but decided to leave off the “working it out” titles on posts, since I wind up including other things in those posts, and you, Dear Reader, should not be fooled into thinking there will be just some boring story about exercise and elect to skip it. Instead, I’ll get to pull you in, unsuspecting, to regale you with tales of my not-terribly-exciting life that (from the looks of the archives) seem to follow a most Groundhog Day-like annual routine. For instance, at this time last year, I was doing the same thing I am doing today and have been doing the past few: getting all the seed information into a spreadsheet to decide what to buy and where to buy it.

Let me just say that 2015 was, from a farming aspect, terrible. Too many sicknesses and other things going on made the year a grind. On the plus side, we have all made it out the other end of the year, waiting to greet 2016 as it slides in and gets it feet under it.

It took Mother Nature a long time to get out of summer mode here. Last week, this week’s forecast looked as if she was just going to drop winter on us like and anvil in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Now, it looks more like fall (or fall-ish, as the case may be).

New year forecast

Since she is treating us so magnanimously, I decided to see if we could get a late year/early year crop in: I put in some carrots and radishes over the weekend, and today added some lettuces to that same row. My intent was to put in spinach as well, but the rains came – welcome rain, as we’d had none for weeks. Even without that rain, some of the radish seed I’d put in was already poking up through the soil, and today’s rain (and the rains to come) will help those along.

For the exercise bit: during the first bowl game today, I went out to check on and feed the bees. During halftime of the second, I hit the treadmill once more. I’m also planning another treadmill session during this last game of the night.

Currently reading:  A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow



Working it out, Dec 30, 2015

Today’s plan of action: a treadmill session during halftime of each bowl game today!

First round: done. Just under 16 minutes during halftime of the Birmingham Bowl.

Second round: done. Sixteen minutes during halftime of the Belk Bowl.

Third round: done. Seventeen minutes, seventeen seconds during halftime of the Music City Bowl.

Fourth and final round: done. Eleven minutes at the beginning of the Holiday Bowl, as sleep is circling me like a shark, sensing the chum of my yawns. I kind of didn’t feel like doing that last round, but I did it anyway.

Finished reading: Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves. Rating: it was ok. I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5, mainly for the primary characters. The whodunit part I’d only give 2 out of 5, as information the reader would need to figure it out wasn’t given (and it would have taken a wild assed guess based on not much data to make the link that would have made the link to the killer).

Being your own guinea pig

I am a tinkerer, in various arenas. That includes on myself: testing which way to sit while working that entails the least aching, pain, or nerve sensation in the left of my neck, for instance. Trying to which position allows me to raise my left arm the highest. Taking meds on schedules, but in different combinations, to minimize the gut-related things that an ever-present side effect from having to crush up everything I swallow (by the way, some of these things are horribly bitter, just as an FYI). Tasting something to see if my mouth freaks out about it as if I finished radiation treatments yesterday versus ten years ago.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking the treadmill twice a day, and generally at least once a day if I’ve also had to work the bees. I made some notes about things like energy levels, how my guts felt, and so on. I’ve spent the past couple of days not walking, but have worked with the bees to prep for the upcoming cooler weather. Comparing the two systems, I’ve come to this conclusion: walking helps. It helps quite a bit, as it happens. So, tomorrow, I will return to the walking routine for at least one session per day, depending on whether or not the bees need attention, and if the better feeling/energy levels kick up, I’ll get in two a day regardless of the bees.

And now, back to the list making for next year’s seed order. The time is almost upon us to set up flats in the barn under the lights and wait out a couple of months of winter.

Death of a hive

It isn’t quite Death of a Salesman, but it’s still a little sad. The small swarm I captured late in the season, which I was, for months, trying to keep alive to the point of combining it with the remaining bees and queen from hive #11 that absconded is dead. That’s the way things go sometimes, I suppose. Doesn’t make it any easier. I took the frames from those boxes and left them out yesterday afternoon for the girls from the other hives to clean. Late in the day toward sundown, I put them into a couple of hive bodies to avoid having them get rained on or collect dew. After a few more days, I’ll go out and collect those frames and boxes and store them in the shed until spring arrives.

In other news, yesterday was a bee day only, exercise-wise. We’ve had record breaking temperatures here and insanely high humidity. I did manage to get through the remaining hives I had not yet inspected and do all the things that needed to be done with #11. The other hives all seem to be going about their business normally. Hives #13 and #14, which are package bees from May of this year, never really built up to the level I would have liked to have seen out of them. Poorly mated queens can cause that, so those two in particular will require some watching next season to make sure the queens get themselves in gear to build up the colony – if they don’t, the bees themselves may decide to replace their queens as unproductive, a process known as supercedure. This would be fine with me, as it’s how I’ve let the other hives manage themselves.

As we did last year, we will be doing an end of year/beginning of year harvest of honey. The youngsters cleaned the extractor (thanks!), and will be ready for me whenever I’m ready for it. Generally, we wouldn’t be harvesting honey at this point, but the weird weather has this unexpected bonus round.

The first of the year is supposed to bring much cooler, winter-like weather to us here, but no freezes in the forecast as of right now. That’s good, as it will allow the girls to recognize that it’s time to slow down a little, and I’ll be able to focus more on clearing the beds for the upcoming season, checking the grow lights in the barn, doing some minor repairs here and there, and in general getting the soil ready for when it’s warm enough to start planting out.

Here’s to 2016 being a much, much better growing and harvesting year than 2015.

A day’s work

Merry christmas, my smattering of readers!

So, you may ask, just where were YOU yesterday when you failed to post anything to this here blog?

Glad you asked: because I had a very productive day yesterday, and it takes me back to about a year and half ago when my energy levels were not being sucked dry by the most mundane of tasks. All this adjustment of meds and forcing myself to work through that fatigue and weakness is working rather well, I do believe.

My day started with an MRI on my brain (so they can tell me there is nothing there, yuk yuk), and I have to tell you this: if you must have something like this done, it is absolutely a terrific idea to have it very early on christmas eve, especially if the trip begins at the ranch and requires that you head into the city. There was virtually no traffic there or back, the MRI department was not backed up (thanks to a 0745 scan time for yours truly), and everyone was in a festive mood over and above their usual good humor. This particular scan takes about 40 minutes, but with that out of the way, I was able to get on with the rest of things.

Those things included another trip to the beeyard. Winter will come, eventually, and from the forecast it appears it’s just going to change from summer to winter overnight. This is not entirely unsurprising, as it’s generally the way our seasons move from one to another: overnight and with a rather stunning immediacy. The bees, however, need to be put into the best situation for them to get through the periods where it will be too cold for them to fly, and that usually means swapping hive bodies from top to bottom, as they generally tend to move upward in the hive. With the swap, they’re back on the bottom, and as they eat through stores in the lower level, they’ll migrate to the top to continue waiting for spring. Unlike most places, we do have a lot of days in “winter” where the bees will be flying, but unless winter switches off suddenly and gives us back our warmer weather, it’s unlikely they’ll find that things are blooming as they are right now with the lingering summer. The job of the beekeeper is to make sure they have stores in place to eat, and to feed them if they don’t. Having them in the lower level of the hive will help them regulate their hive temperature on the coldest nights. I try not to open the hives very often during winter, to avoid allowing heat to escape, but since it’s pretty mild here most of the time, I’ll probably get a peek or two at them during the period.

Hives 3 and 4 got swapped yesterday. I found the queens in each box, and they both have outstanding stores of honey – enough, in fact, to be a bit nervous about if they don’t eat enough in the winter, because come spring, being honeybound will itself create swarm conditions. When a hive is honeybound, the queen has nowhere left to lay eggs, which turns on the little “let’s get someplace roomy!” light in their brains. If I’m able to get into the hives over the next couple of months on good days, I can check their progress at working through their stores to make sure as we head into spring we’re in good shape. This is why we had a honey harvest in January of this year, in fact. While the harvest was not huge, the girls were tremendously productive and the weather warmed so quickly that we were already seeing blooms in February. They got busy and started loading cells with nectar without the winter stores being depleted. Lucky us, given that the late honey run (the end of last year) is the dark honey that a lot of the fam and friends enjoy.

After some fun with the bees, I headed out to the front gardens to sow some carrots and radishes. I figured if the weather is going to stay rather temperate, we could take advantage of that a bit. Before I was able to sow seed, I had to do some weeding to clear the row, and put the black plastic back down on half of it where it had been blown off by the winds. The plastic is supposed to lend me a hand and keep weeding chores down a bit, but it doesn’t do much good if it isn’t in place. But, the row is fully weeded, the irrigation lines back in place, and two types of carrots and two types of radishes are now out there, lurking.

Still not quite done for the day, I jumped on the treadmill for close to 15 minutes, walking and continuing to read toward the finish line of the book currently occupying the lead spot on my Fire. Yes, it is still Vera Stanhope, but I’m getting closer to the end with each walking session – and the thing about this is that my reading is done while walking. So, if I get in two sessions, that’s about 20-30 minutes of reading time, and since I read incredibly quickly, I get a good pace to completion at the same time I get in a nicely-paced walk.

The rest of the evening was spent hunting down peoples’ out of date scripts, deleting bogus files, editing trojan-injected files to remove the bad code and cleaning the spam from affected servers, answering the few tickets that made their way in, and listening to a bunch of holiday music, the youtube links for which I posted to facebook.

No writing. Still. I did come across some commentary about the little voice in one’s head that tells you everything you do sucks. Not from a professional writer or a shrink or any of those sorts. Just a guy I happened to stumble on. His talk raised an interesting point about not fighting with that little voice for me: instead of trying to duel with it, what would happen if we (I) were to grab it, shake it out, and see what’s wrapped up in it that’s causing such stress, preventing you (me) from Getting Shit Done? Naturally, this does not only apply to writing or any other singular thing. It’s as equally applicable to writing as it is to, say, losing ten pounds, or getting a painting into the works, or getting that list of chores done. That is what I am pondering this quiet evening now that the christmas carnage phase is over and we’re drifting into the holiday weekend.

All the best, Faithful Readers. Be well.


Project you: Dec 23, 2015

How is your Project You going, peeps? As usual, I’ll start with myself.

I told myself I would post on ye olde blogge every day. Thus far (because I tend to update late in the evening as I am up late in the evening and it’s quieter then) I have technically missed two days. Solution: keep an eye on the clock later in the evening if I haven’t posted to it, since the time I post probably isn’t going to change much on an overall basis unless I want to write up an experience or what amount to notes for myself (about the bees, for instance) soon after completing a task. I expect I’ll be posting more earlier when it’s time to start seeding flats, transplanting seedlings, and getting back to the farming (ok, gardening, but you know, it feels like old-school farming some days because pretty much nothing is automated).

That was one. Number two: the fiction writing. Not so hot on this front. I started an outline for what would be the first in a (particular mystery) series. I subsequently threw it away. I can’t say it was horrid, but even as an outline I couldn’t stand it, so I am not sure what’s going on there. The story itself is interesting – at least according to those who have read snippets of what I’ve written on the actual work – and the outline is basically just a series of scenes that will eventually comprise the book, not those terrible Roman numeral-type outlines that bind you like a straightjacket. It’s more like sitting down with someone and having them tell you a story, which appeals to me in a sort-of-outline thing. I’ll be working again to get something in place as a map, which can then be fleshed out into actual chapters into an actual book. I figure if I can get through this process once, it will be easier the next time around.

I read an interesting comment (actually heard it, but whatever) from a very famous and prolific writer who says he doesn’t write down the ideas that come to him. He lets them stew in his brain, and if the ideas hang around long enough, he supposes those must be pretty good ideas, so he then takes them out and examines them a little, maybe making some notes around them here and there until he gets to them. On the other side is another very famous, but not quite so prolific, author who says shes writes down everything, as otherwise she sometimes has issues on the current work because of the ideas pinging around in her brain. After thinking on it a bit, I’m leaning more toward the latter – not that this will keep the things from invading the space in my head (because my mind is stuffed full of all sorts of things), but because at least they will be there if I want to add anything to them that comes to me during the course of doing something else.

Number three: the treadmill sessions. This has morphed into a general exercise item between walking and lifting heavy things, which is fine, because the point is to get some kind of physical activity in per day. I’ve only missed a couple of days of nothing particularly physical thanks to medically-related things, and that’s fine, too. Not every day is perfect,  despite the little perfectionist voice in my head that I’d like to swat out of the air. Or at least out of my head.

And there you have it. I’m hoping you’ve implemented some kind of plan to get to where or what you want to be or do, and that you’ve taken steps – no matter how small – on the path to getting there. The old adage about a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step is an old adage for a reason. It’s true.

Until next time, peeps! Be well. Do your thing, whatever that thing may be.

Working it out, Dec 23, 2015

Nothing today. No bees (too cloudy, too windy, too much of a pain on a day like this for deep inspections with the girls staying home). No treadmill (too many medical issues combining to make it a bad day, the details of which I will spare everyone because they are gross).

So, today turned out to be a rest day, because I’ve done virtually nothing of use except a few updates, some actual “work” work, and have been randomly watching videos.

Just a reminder that there will be down days – they will pass.

Bees. Beez. Bezz. Bzzz.

I started keeping notes on the hives back in October, when it was clear this was necessary to keep track of each hive and to remind me of what I was doing as we headed toward winter and started to wind things down. This has been a great help, given that winter does not appear to be in an hurry to arrive, and allows me to keep track of which hives I’ve swapped top and bottom boxes, which hives I’ve found the queens and larvae (or both), how many bees I’m observing in each hive, and all the other million little things that go along with keeping bees versus having bees.

Yesterday, after finding an abandoned queen, I took the small swarm I caught and combined it with the box where the queen remained, newspaper between the boxes so the new bees could get used to the new queen’s pheromones. Today’s visit to the beeyard including checking that combined hive, and there was no queen (at least I couldn’t find her) and very few bees . I’ve been nursing this small group of bees along for months, trying to get them to produce their own queen, and they simply haven’t gotten it down. I left the setup out there for now, but I’m probably going to have to write this one down as a loss.

The other hives I checked today, and where I swapped boxes, seem to be doing well: found the queens in a couple, found some larvae, found a good base population of bees, and found lots and lots of honey. So much honey that I’ll probably need to take some off so the girls don’t get any bright ideas about possibly swarming out because the amount of empty comb real estate is running out quickly. As with everything else in life, every day is a learning experience, and some days raise more questions than answers – right now, those mostly revolve around the weather and the extraordinarily high temperatures we’ve been having, since that means the girls remain active, foraging, drawing comb, and finding nectar and pollen to store.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back out to the hives and check a few more and get another great workout from moving heavy things, until all have been inspected as this month winds down. Who knows what 2016 will bring? Other than the need to determine the timing for making splits to form new hives when the existing hives start ramping up after winter, that is. If winter ever arrives.

Merry happy everything from Florida

‘Tis the season to have Mother Nature completely out of whack. The flowers keep blooming, the weeds keep growing (grrrr), many of the trees still have not shed their leaves, the grassy areas at the ranch are probably going to need another mowing session, and the bees keep right on going as if it’s still spring/summer. Today out there it feels like May heading into June, not late December heading into January.

Merry/happy everything, folks.

2015 xmas in Florida