Boss: “We’re a pretzel and chip outfit. What can we do with all the broken pieces that don’t make it through the line?”
Product person: “I have a solution, boss!”
Boss: “That’s a bonus for you!”
Product person: “But wait, there’s more! You know how some of the whole pretzels get knocked out of the sorting line because they’re overcooked?”
Boss: “Yeeeesss. Do you have something in mind for that?”
Product person: “Yes, I do!”
Boss: “Wow, Product Person, you are getting a double bonus for this.”
Product Person looks down, shuffles their feet: “Aw, thanks Boss.”
No disrespect to Unique, which appears to be the brand. Personally, I think this is marketing brilliance. Even if I could eat, I wouldn’t eat either one, but I’m sure others will. I picked up a bag of the “extra dark splits” thing up there, to force my family into taste testing them. Someone around here has to do it, now that I can’t.
Frankly, the diet of shakes and formula and yogurt is, at times, something that just does not satisfy that deep inner craving for food that is…well, more food-like. Normal people food, I call it.
Soups made: broccoli cheese and roasted red pepper. The broccoli cheese went over very well, according to the taste testers, and since that one is nearly gone, today I’ll be making an even larger batch, picking up more of what I need after I finish my appointment with the gut doc.
This past weekend was also the weekend I was going to make hot sauce from the tabasco harvest, but I just never really got there to do it. I’m going to put that back on the list and hopefully be able to cross it off this weekend.
In the meantime, my last feed of the night awaits me: formula, yogurt, and my last round of meds for the day. Night. Early morning now, I see by the clock.
Speaking of clocks, can I just mention here AGAIN that I cannot stand the end of daylight saving time? I’d rather be like Arizona in this one, particular, specific way: leave the clocks alone. Spring forward and just keep it there. The circumstances for which it was created no longer apply to our world in the 21st century, and like old, obsolete hardware, should be put out of its – and our – misery.
On the writing front: I decided to work on one of the novels for NaNoWriMo this month, while working on one of the other novels in the spaces between that writing and “real” work. This is mainly because the entire plot and story for this NaNoWriMo novel came to me last night rather suddenly and completely. I know exactly how it begins, how exactly it ends, and I know the larger chunks of the material filling in the gulf between those two bookends. I am not quite up to the word count total I should be after two days of working on this novel, but that is only because I had not actually planned to do NaNoWriMo, This is a spur of the moment decision. As an even bigger challenge to myself, I’m setting my goal at over the 50K words that deems anyone a “winner” for NaNoWriMo, and I am also committing myself, here in public, to writing the entire novel, doing all the things that need to be done to get it into publishable form, and publishing it.
Lesson for the day? Make your goals big ones, but make sure your path to that goal is broken into manageable chunks. It’s too easy to have fear invade your mind because you are focusing too much on the giant goal you’ve set, thinking you must do it all at once. You don’t. There is very little in life that can be accomplished in one fell swoop, but there are a large number of things in life that can be done with consistent, persistent effort, and a map that ultimately leads to the larger goal.
We may finally be heading toward fall here at the ranch.
The maples have discarded most of their leaves, the water oaks are following suit, and the wind from the north carries with it the promise of our little piece of the planet cooling down just a tad.
(Two days later…)
Our forecast stands, thankfully: cooler weather will definitely help me get the gardens pruned back of weeds and covered for the next few months. And by “me”, I mean I’ll be pulling weeds and my sister will be putting the weedblock down. She hates weeding. And that’s okay, since I’m having her do the heavy lifting – I’ve done something to my shoulder and either damaged my rotator cuff or the labrum. I’m leaning more toward the rotator cuff, because of the clicking and popping and it hurts pretty damned badly to raise my arm. My right arm, I should clarify: my good arm, since the surgery from the (fuck you, cancer!) cancer removed muscle and nerve tissue from my left arm and while I can carry stuff with that arm, mostly, I can’t raise it up over my head like a normal person would. So, two damaged arms. One from surgery. The other probably from throwing the ball for the puppy without being warmed up sufficiently each round. The round where it popped was apparently the one that was trying to my attention and tell me to stop doing the stupid thing.
Cooler weather also brings in the time for making (which sounds like something out of fantasy novel, and who knows, that may very well be somewhere in the fantasy trilogy that’s bouncing around in my head). I can make a huge batch of hot sauce made from tabascos – obviously I can’t just call it “tabasco sauce”, since McIlhenny would probably sue me to death, so I need a name for it. But that’s a thing that needs to be done with all the windows open and fans going, and I still have to wear a mask while making it. The upside is that once made and stored properly, it will not lose a lot of flavor as it ages. It won’t go bad – there’s just vinegar, salt, and tabascos in it, so it’s by far the simplest thing I make as far as processing the harvest goes. But if it’s stored in a warm, hot place, it can lose some flavor.
The other item: some more coffee roasting. We’ve decided that really does have to be done outside, because some of the roasts are darker – I made an absolutely miller batch of columbian/sumatran been mix, roasted dark – but it does smoke a little, making the smoke alarms go off, and the whole house smells like a coffee processing outfit. The latter is not so bad, but the former is annoying. Since the weather is agreeable, I’ll be roasting up some combinations for my taste testers to do some trials. I did a medium roast on some Indonesian beans that my mom really liked, so that will also be on the agenda. Want some? Drop me a comment here, or drop me a note via email (clients: in a ticket is fine, it will reach me). It won’t be packaged in anything fancy, like an actual coffee bag, but we will vacuum pack it. Specify whole beans or ground – I recommend whole bean if you have a grinder, as whole beans retain their flavor longer than ground, but the ground version won’t be so much that you can’t drink it in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, in the beeyard, the swarm I caught last season swarmed away, and one of the new hives had to have killed the queen, made a new one, and absconded. In the newer hives, the queens have one wing clipped so they can’t go anywhere. And since I’ve been ill pretty much constantly this year, including three times in the hospital, I’ve not been able to pay attention to them as I would have liked. But, I did get out there the other day, and did a few quick inspections. Most of the boxes are bursting with bees (yes, I do like some alliteration), with one that’s straggling pretty badly, and I’m thinking that next season I’m probably going to have to commit some regicide and put a new queen in that box.
I also picked up, courtesy of the vast intarwebz, an idea for controlling small hive beetles. These little assholes get into the hives, poop everywhere, go through the comb, ruining the comb AND the honey in it, and are generally a royal pain in the ass. Specialty food/bar prep towels, cut in squares, and laid on the two back edges between two hive bodies has done more to keep the small hive beetles under control than any other non-chemical way I’ve used. The towels are thicker than usual paper towels, and have some tufting to them. The bees will pick at it, because it’s a foreign item in the hive and they want to clean it up and get it out, but more importantly, bees herd the beetles into corners on their own. When they do that without anything in place, the beetles are still alive and they will break themselves out when the beekeeper removes a frame. With these towels in place, the beetles get stuck, very much like velcro, because they have barbs on their legs. Leave the towels in for a couple of weeks, and then change them out for a fesh set. I thought I had a photo of some of the beetles caught in a couple of the hives I tried it in, but I can’t find that, so I’l just take some new pics on my visit to the beeyard tomorrow. I’ll be inspecting a few more hives, feeding the ones who need it, and generally getting them ready for “winter”, such as it is here.
Enough of the almost all word dump that doesn’t even do justice to anything. Until next time, peeps: be well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time right now to post them. But today – a day that was supposed to be all rain, all day, turned into another bum forecast for this area. The large mass of heavy storms burned themselves out before they got to us. We did get about 0.15 inches of rain today, which is just enough to be annoying: can’t mow, can’t work on pulling weeds (because getting all the soil off the roots is a pain), can’t work with the bees, and so on.
It was, though, an excellent day for having my niece and nephew over while my sister took care of a few things, and during a break in the rain we did have, we picked some muscadine grapes from the vine in the herb garden. I also found some caterpillars on the foliage. At first, in my addled, needs-much-more-sleep brain, I thought, hey, monarchs! Then I reminded myself they only use milkweed, which this was not, and their caterpillars have no hairs, as these did. We finally identified them with some help from Stacy (thanks!) as grapeleaf skelentonizer caterpillars – an entirely apt name, because that’s exactly what they do to the leaves on the grapevines. The adult moth they morph into is ugly, too. I counted 15, mostly young ones. Tomorrow, I’ll go on caterpillar patrol and kill them all.
The first round of peppers I harvested the other day is in and drying. By tomorrow morning, they will be fully dried, and I’ll start round two. Given the shape the plants and fruits are in, there will only be two rounds this time. Tomorrow, my sister is coming over, and we will pull the pepper plants that have been chewed away/damaged to nothing, along with the squash and zuke plants the bugs got to. We did manage to get some yellow squash off early from those, and they were delicious. Inattention, however, allows the bugs to take over and destroy things. If only some bright person would come up with a commercially viable solution for leaf-footed bugs and stinkbugs, they’d make a fortune.
Very early this morning, I went to the doc for my annual checkup, even though I had just seen him two weeks ago. All my bloodwork is normal, except for a couple of items that are slightly out of normal range, but not so far out that they’re problematic. Xrays are good, scans are good, and on paper, if someone just looked at these results, they’d pronounce me in fine health indeed. And that, of course, is what I tell people: outside this cancer business (fuck you, cancer!), I’m healthy as a horse – healthier, actually, than most people. I did talk to him about my right shoulder, which I’ve either torn the rotator cuff or the labrum in, most likely. I’m fairly sure I did this months ago, and it’s progressively gotten worse, but I have ha so many things going on this year, it’s taken a seat behind all that. Now, though, it’s time, and it will probably take an mri to figure out what the problem is. Interesting note: my referral to an ortho doc happens to be to the brother of the doc who handled my radiation oncology work back in 2005 for the first cancer round. He also surgically repaired my primary doc’s rotator cuff injury, so he’s definitely the guy I want.
Tomorrow, we are planning to do some honey extraction – about 10 frames, I believe, that I pulled off the bees in the west yard. I really need to do a full round of inspections on the girls, and tomorrow I also need to feed them, as I’m behind a day on that.
And now, it’s back to tame the helldesk, get that cleared, and eventually tonight, get some sleep that is better than last night’s, which was atrocious even for my baseline of sleep habits.
More accurately, the title of this post should be “NOT Touching Yourself”. Or “Wear gloves when working with chiles”. As in, don’t touch your face (or any other area) when you’re working with chiles and not wearing gloves, no matter where they fall on the Scoville scale.
In other news, we had almost an inch of ranch at the ranch this afternoon, with some giant cells moving over us. Huge thunderous roars came from the sky as it opened up on us and provided a light show.
I used Movavi* to do a couple of repeat clips at the end to show it in slow motion and then again in super slow motion. Very lucky to catch it, and it is awesome.
*No, Movavi does not pay me, and that is not an affiliate link. I have access to Adobe’s Premiere Pro, and that is a fine product, to be sure. But I don’t really have the time to spend figuring out everything in it when I can just slam some clips into Movavi, do a rough edit, and be done. I also have to redo all our tutorials on the “real” business side, as those are woefully out of date with the design they contain, even though the various functions operate mostly as they used to. Just another item on the todo list, which never goes away.
This weekend: probably more on this server thing, but thankfully that is coming to a close, at least as far as our involvement goes.
Other plans: pepper picking time! The cayennes and paprikas are nice and red – I noticed while getting some mowing time in. That means harvesting, washing, splitting, and drying. It also means a house full of the smell of drying peppers, which is usually not that bad, although there are times when the smell – of that or any other food – is nauseating to me.
I’ll also be making broccoli cheese soup, because I am getting kind of tired of shakes and formula. If things (like my back) hold up, I might even make some cheesy potato soup (with crispy ham!) as well.
And another trip to the NOC, to set up a machine for someone who is upgrading his existing server to a big dog machine, so that is one ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty and even more sleep deprived than usual week.
On a completely other note, meteorology really is one of the few jobs that you can be consistently wrong and still have a job. Today’s forecast: no rain, at all. Literally, a 0% forecast. Then a nice cell rolled right over us and brought about .2 inches of rain. Not a lot, and better than none.
Also on the menu for this weekend: taking stock of my sad, sad tomatoes, seeing what can be recovered, going through my seeds and finding some short maturity varieties to start another flat, and, of course, weeding. The weeds are not as bad in the frames where we’ve gotten the plastic or the weedblock down, but the edges are a nightmare because of the bowing of the frame edges (to be fixed in the fall, because that’s a heavy duty job). It’s also time to feed the bees again: the other day, I added additional brood boxes to two of them, so they are making progress.
Right now: more database wrangling, and then a brief stop for a nap before getting back up and doing more.
Day five of server cleanup. At least we’re now to the point where I’m porting over massive amounts of data, now that all the database have been repaired. I should get hazard pay.
Some days, you just want a do over. Today is that day. A horribly bad night of sleep and bathroom runs (haha, runs, get it?) and a late night still working on aforementioned server equals feeling in the morning like laying in bed all day. Alas, a followup with my primary care doc thanks to my brief stint in the hospital called, so off I went.
And as I drove, I promptly had: spasms in my left side that came and went and came and went (plus they came and went there waiting for him, seeing him, and driving back), a coughing fit that turned into a sneezing fit, which made me forever grateful that I always have kleenex in my car now, and the realization that my left hip is absolutely killing me at the back of my pelvic bone. That feels almost bruised, although I have not looked at my ass in the mirror today to see if it is actually so. That might be an item for later, and I can check what I think was that bite on my ass at the same time. One check, one butt view, since those are both on the left. How efficient.
Ah, the pleasures of manually rebuilding a compromised server for someone and having them ask if the accounts have been recreated with random passwords. This is one of the joys of my life, really.
Blood work results are back: my cholesterol is well within normal range – remarkable, since not too long ago the doc put me on statins, each variety of which made me feel like crap and which I stopped taking. I suppose eating formula through a tube for most of your meals has that effect. On the downside, eating formula through a tube, balanced though it may be, can also lead to slightly oddball numbers in other areas, because when you think about it, it’s a slightly malnourished state of being. Fortunately, in my case, the blood work shows nothing so far out of range that’s something to worry about, so I’m not going to. I’m just going to keep pumping shakes and formula down the hatch (whichever one it may be), try to get my weight back up, and then get this stupid tube removed as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, I’ve written nothing this week, thanks to the server issue above. I’m hoping today will be the end of that, though, so I can return to my plans, delayed by a mere week.
A rare double post day! And a break from the tech stuff that weighs on my brain.
This is why red bell peppers are a) grown in greenhouses, primarily, and b) are more expensive (they take longer to mature to red from green; anywhere from 20-30 days). Outside, in Florida, in summer, the peppers are prone to rot, wilt, and scald, and it’s damned hard to get a bell pepper from green to red here growing them outside.
The chiles, on the other hand, generally have no issues with the heat and humidity, and usually when I lose a few of those fruits, it’s because I didn’t pick them in a timely manner. So far, they all look quite good.
The cayennes: very dependable variety here, called Cheyenne. I dry these and then grind them to make my own bottles of cayenne pepper powder for various things – bbq rub and sauce, my honey-soy shrimp, a dash into my roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup, beef stew, etc. It’s very handy to have on hand.
The jalapenos this year are a “gigante” version. I chose the larger ones since one of my sisters likes to make jalapeno poppers, and larger equals easier to stuff with whatever needs to go in them.
Poblanos: these are also good stuffed (chile rellenos, anyone?) as is, but most of these I’ll wind up drying, at which point they will become anchos. One of the weirder transmorgrifications, I think.
Finally: tabascos. I still have a bunch in the freezer from last year to make my own tabasco-based sauce. The last batch I made two years ago is almost gone, as everyone uses it for everything. Between last year’s harvest and this year’s, it’s going to be a huge batch of sauce. When I make it, I have to open all the windows, turn the fans up to high, and wear a mask. It’s why I don’t process them into sauce until fall, but last fall, I was sick throughout and the sauce making just wasn’t happening. This year, it will happen – and primarily because my mother keeps reminding me she’s down to her last bottle. Yes, mom.
It’s been an excellent pepper season so far. The tomatoes, though. Heavy sigh. Far too much rain in June here, and they are a sad lot indeed.
No, not those kinds of hotties, you pervs – get your mind out of the gutter!
I’m referring to this sort:
This was just before 3 PM local time, with a temp of 93F and a heat index of 110F. You know that phrase “It isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”? This week has matched that phrase. This morning I popped out to the beeyard to check a few hives to see who needed a second brood box and to generally make sure there were a good number of bees and stores in those hives. At that time, about 9:30 AM, it was already 84F with a heat index of 92F. I was so soaked with sweat when I came in I had to change all my clothes. It was like wearing a swimsuit, and I had to peel all my clothes off my body, they were that soaked – including my socks.
But that’s ok. This is Florida, after all, and while some days are not all that pleasant, I expect this, and I chose to live here. Making it through the summers is my version of climbing Everest: how far can I push myself without keeling over?
I rolled out of bed at about 7:30 this morning, and this is what greeted me:
Foggy morning at the ranch, which turned into a burner of a day. It all burned off by the time I went out to the bees, and then Mother Nature did her thing by bringing the heat.
The gardens are still a work in progress, and there is still more work to be done. However, each year, I keep refining the processes out there, and I think next year will be even better because of the changes I have in mind. That refinement is what I’m trying to do in other areas of life as well, from outdoor work to the helpdesk where a new user accused us of selling his email address to spammers. He had registered a domain, and naturally, since WHOIS information is public, and the spammers watch new domain registrations, he started getting spammed. He also told us this was “very unprofessional”. I counted backwards from five, then pointed this fact out to him and offered to use our masking info for the domain, so that we would get the spam and the phone calls. He took up that offer. Problem solved, and for me, no being pissed off because of the rudeness some people shoot our way for no reason.
I’ve now posted to the blog here daily since the 24th. It’s a start, and helps me get into the groove of making writing a habit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t making writing one of my top priorities, being too busy with the business, doctor visits, and so on. I made the decision to make it a priority, just as the business, my gardens, and my bees are. I had started a web site as a hobby type of thing, tracking deaths in any given week, I realized that was a major timesink, since I had to pick from the lists, then go do research to build the short blurb I’d give to each. That one had to go, because it took away time I wanted to assign over to my writing instead.
There’s another major shift I made that freed up a ton of time. But that’s a story for tomorrow.
Be well, peeps, and I’ll blather more at you soon.
Big mowing day today at the ranch. We’ve had a ton of rain, so there are still areas where it’s flooded and can’t be mowed. There are also places where the water has been absorbed or evaporated enough that the ground is springy, but not under water, so it can be mowed.
The problem with those areas is that they stink: a fetid, dead smell enveloping you as you drive by, cutting grass that’s almost hip high because the area was previously flooded.
In addition, in all of these area, the mosquitoes are heinous, even with the addition of mosquito dunks and granules thrown in to try to keep the larvae to a minimum. The mosquitoes are also gigantic, much like any other pain in the ass annoyance/invasive species down here: giant slugs, giant snakes, giant roaches, etc. I smacked three of them and left a bloody trail where they had landed and immediately tried to bleed me dry. But some of their buddies made it beyond my slapping and got me here and there.
In other news, one of the turtles made an appearance after I’d mowed the front of the property. This is one of the smaller ones. I think there are three living here, one of which is massive and probably quite old.
The kids had a good time crouching down with it, looking it over, and taking pictures. I’m sure the turtle was thinking what a horrible commute it was having.
There was also a small harvest going on: peppers, green beans, and sungold tomatoes. It was raining, so it was a bit of a short harvest, but the bell peppers are doing fantastic, the tabascos are beginning to fruit, the paprikas, anchos, and cayennes are producing crazy amounts, and the giant jalapenos (for stuffing) are just beautiful. There isn’t a ton of bug/critter activity on the peppers, and that’s good since I’ve basically neglected them. I’d love to have some of the green bells to age to red, but down here, leaving them past the green stage is usually an invitation to have the pepper get scalded or go soft. There’s a reason red peppers are generally grown in greenhouses and cost more than greens: they take longer and they need more specialized care.
Of course, once you harvest, you have to wash. There wasn’t much in the way of dirt or anything else on these, but someone loves to wash the veg, so of course…
She did an excellent job, too, even if she was eating every other sungold. Both the soul eating baby (kid, now, I guess) and the monkeyboy ate bell peppers like apples. There’s nothing quite like fresh, right out of the garden veg to get kids to eat their vegetables.