Sunset at the ranch, in the rain.
So….the last time I graced you with my presence, I had been talking about doing some limited gardening this year, to give my raised beds and myself a break.
To be fair, that’s how it started. I got some seed started in flats under the lights in the barn.
Things just snowballed from there. As long as I was growing x, I reasoned, I could just as easily go ahead and grow y as well. So I direct sowed carrot and radishes and cukes and sunflowers and okra and green beans and lima beans and sweet potatoes . I stuck garlic cloves into dirt in a window sill planter and put it in the barn under the grow lights. Before I knew it, I had a fully fledged garden operation going. Again.
And while I was at it, I thought, we should get some more meat birds so we could run them in and out before it got brutally hot. Once summer hits, it’s no fun raising meat birds. They’re hot, you’re hot, nobody’s happy.
So we did. I ordered 25 cornish cross chicks. We lost one the first day, one the next, and I put the other 23 out in the chicken tractor as soon as I could. One of those vanished into thin air, perhaps in the jaws of a rather persistent red fox that’s been visiting the ranch, so at the moment, I have 22 tiny dinosaurs who don’t do much other than eat, sleep, and poop out on pasture.
Then, something got into the main chicken yard and killed all but one of my laying hens – most likely a raccoon, since one was missing a head and raccoons do like chicken heads. That left one lonely chicken I’ve named Bernice. Despite my mother saying no more laying hens, I ordered six new baby layers. They arrived just before I was able to set the meaties out on pasture. Picture 32 chicks, peeping constantly except when they were sleeping, in your garage. Now just he six layer chicks are out there, and foremost on my mind at this very moment is looking for scrap wood tomorrow so I can throw together a small chicken tractor and get them outside – but still have extra protection, as there’s a red-shouldered hawk that likes to hang out in the trees near the chicken yard, and a not-yet ready layer would fit in its talons nicely. The evening temps should also not be in the 50s again after tonight, although with the weirdo weather we’ve been having, I’ll have to have a contingency plan, just in case.
Two days ago, I got in on a bulk order of vanilla beans, which at retail and even some bulk places is worth more than gold right now. I put dibs on 20 ounces of Indonesian Grade A beans at $12/ounce, and if you know anything about vanilla, you know that is a major deal.
Then I lost my mind and wondered if we could grow vanilla here. It’s hot, it’s humid – those are the kind of conditions it prefers. o I ordered a 9″ vanilla orchid cutting to cultivate here. In the “winter” and spring, when it isn’t very humid during the day and the evenings can dip under 50F, I can either put it in the barn, or (more likely) I can build a small greenhouse for it. It requires hand pollination in the very small window of opportunity it presents flowers. Because what’s one more thing to add to the mix here?
I have four pots of bamboo I’m cultivating so in the future I can harvest and use it for projects around the ranch. I have a meyer lemon, ponderosa lemon, persian lime, and a fig tree in pots on my driveway.
There’s a wisteria in the front garden that acts like it was the star of The Blob. It has swallowed and killed half the blackberries along the fenceline, and is trying to move in on the blueberries (which are taking forever to ripen because of the weird weather).
I put 50 strawberry plants in amongst the asaparagus. There are at least 25 more coming, and I think around 30 more asparagus roots as well. The grapes on the western side of the north garden are beginning to fruit, and it’s a race to see who will get them first: disease, birds, or us.
I now have 12 hives in the beeyard, with one split trying to make a queen. For the first time in a couple of years, we’ll have honey to process again. I designed an inner cover with ventilation and a place for a feeding jar for new colonies so I don’t have to put feeders at the front of the hives, which can often put a hive at risk for robbing. This way, the feeder is safely inside, covered by an empty hive body, bu the bees cannot get up into the empty space to draw comb that winds up being a pain. Several of the hives are new, and the queens in those hive are absolutely slamming it – if they don’t produce enough honey for m to take some off after the current nectar flow dries up, they’ll surely have some for the fall flow.
As for me: I’ve been out exactly three times since the first week in March. Two of those were to the post office to pick up birds and bees. One was to the NOC. This is not something I particularly mind, as I’d rather be home (although I do kind of miss wandering around the garden center at the two major hardware big box stores).
I hope all of you are well and not going stir crazy from quarantines.
Until next time, peeps: be well. Stay safe.
Out there in the world, I mean. Some time ago, I stopped following the news. I also ditched social media, for the most part, except for business-related things. I have to say that it was liberating, and has reduced my stress levels quite a bit.
As I type this, the country is basically shutting down, because the incompetence of the current Administration virtually guaranteed that our initial response to COVID-19 would be…..nothing. The first case of COVID-19 showed up here in the US in JANUARY. Despite warnings, the dumbass in chief downplayed the seriousness of COVID-19, and now here we all sit, quarantined, with a finally-reacting government unable (and, truthfully, I think, unwilling) to do a whole lot about it. Our situation here in the US is worse because after deciding that nothing was probably not the correct approach, they’ve moved to the slow, tedious, red-tape filled response level. It has been astonishing, after dipping my toe back into the news, to see the bullshit from the White House about this.
I can only take so much of it, though. As much of an information junkie that I am, I still cannot justify to myself any need to have all the social media crap open in my browsers or on my phone through the day. Is there anything I can do to increase the speed at which our government acts? No. Is there any information I personally have about COVID-19 that would be useful to anyone? No. Do I need to be reminded time and again that stupid people exist and that there are far more people only concerned about themselves (that would be you, spring breakers, telling the news that you had this trip planned for months, and you’re going to party, dammit!) than most people in general realize? Nope, I get enough of that at my day job.
So, I’m just working. Taking care of my dogs and my chickens and my bees. Still no gardening this year. I’ve discovered that years of recurrent pneumonia means I just don’t have the stamina to do it all this year. But next year, I’m planning big things in the garden.
A couple of days ago, I ordered a batch of meat birds. They will ship on the 31st. I’ll raise them up, and then process them at about eight weeks. I also ordered some more layer hens, to get our egg production back in order.
The dogs have an appointment to get their teeth cleaned on the 31st. I was on the edge about canceling that, but they really do need it, as last year they didn’t go. Plus, the interaction I have at the vet for this is much less than a regular visit.
I canceled all my own doctor visits slated for March and April. I don’t think hanging out in areas full of sick people or possibly sick people (given the spread of the virus by asymptomatic people) is the best idea for me. The next appointment on the calendar is for the first week in May, with the ENT who did my laryngectomy. It will be one year since the Big Op, which just amazes me. Time flies and all that.
That’s it for now. Nothing very exciting is happening, and I’m continuing to read a lot of books (and I owe reviews on five or six right now, which I will write up later this morning). I am also discovering lots of new sites and YouTube channels that I probably would not have had it not been for those few forays back into social media. Happy accidents.
Until next time, peeps: be well. Wash your hands. Stay home. We’re a resilient species, and most likely, we’ll get through this one way or another.
I always wondered about “The Three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic” and why they were called The Three Rs when only one of the words begins with an R. Was it a pirate’s turn making up rules that day? Did the pirate work in an office with a bunch of teachers and won the office pool that day? “There’s three arrrrs, I tell you: rrrrreading, wrrrriting, and arrrrithmetic.” Then the pirate slams back a mug of grog and invites everyone to the ship for some rrrrum.
Anyhow, I have been doing quite a bit of reading, as one might tell from the reviews starting to pop up on this here blog. There are some people who will say it’s just refilling the creative well, but really it’s just something I can do between flurries of activity in the server migrations we’re doing. Fortunately, I read incredibly quickly and always have, so I’ve been pounding down books – mostly mysteries, as that’s my jam these days – courtesy of ARCs (advance reading copies) I get from publishers. In return, I do reviews of those books, on Goodreads and on Amazon when the books are released. I figured as long as I’m doing the reviews, I might as well stick them on the blog as well.
No writing: no real time. I know the old “If you want to write, you’ll find the time” but most of the things we’re doing with migrations is all hands on, with just brief periods in between the various things that have to happen to get the migrations of done. Fortunately, as we approach nine months of non-stop migrations, we are reaching the end, so it isn’t as hectic. The next couple of servers we’ll start Monday. Between now and then, I’m working on mail-related stuff. It’s mostly to make my life easier, and give me some time back that would otherwise be spent on mail. Between this and the end of migrations, which is so close I can feel it, and with the addition of not doing a garden this year, I’ll probably be able to have some uninterrupted/unbusy time to get some writing done. I hope.
Arrrrrrithmetic: counting down to when the migrations will be done and over with, really, and counting the number of servers left to migrate. It will be nice to get that number to zero. Then we can sit back and say: we did it.
I hope all is good with you, peeps, and until next time: be well.
The first quarter of 2020 is going to be a cleanup quarter. We’ve been busting ass for six months making our changes that are a result of our vendor’s changes, and boy, how I would love to be done with this by the end of Q1.
We’re also rearranging things at the NOC; another batch will be done tomorrow, and then this weekend a biggie (even though it only involves one switch). I can hear it now: the plaintive cries of people wondering what happened because they didn’t read any of the announcements we posted ahead of time.
It’s fine. We’re used to it.
Thus far, my primary exercise in the new year has been hauling servers around and taking inventory – necessary but tedious things. But I know the maxim is: do the hard thing first. This is the hard thing right now, and the sooner it’s done, the sooner we can move along back to our usual, quiet support levels, and the other things we (I) want to do.
I keep thinking about the garden, and growing peppers, and telling myself to just grow some tabascos in buckets. That way, I don’t have an excuse to go hog wild out there, and while we can buy cayenne and paprika powder at the store, my mom is not a fan of the actual Tabasco brand. She says it has a bit of a metallic taste at the end. So, I think I’m going to slow my roll on getting caught up back in the great outdoors and not letting the gardens or myself rest, and just set up a bucket brigade – peppers, versus water.
I do have some bamboo plants I would like to get in the ground this year, though. I could focus on digging some holes and working in some good soil. Maybe that will quench the need to get my hands really dirty in the great outdoors. I got them oh, maybe four months ago? All but one have generated new growth. They grow incredibly fast, which is good, because the house going up on the lot diagonally to us is not just large, but toward the front of the property, and I’d rather not be looking at that when out on my front porch. Every other house in this limited development, including mine, sits back from the road. Not a fan of where they’ve placed it, although I suspect the neighbor to his west (the eastern lot is not yet developed) is even less of one. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a bamboo trend in the neighborhood. It’s clumping bamboo, not spreading, so never fear, dear readers: I am still a good neighbor in that regard. Next up is blocking out the neighbor to my south along that fenceline so I don’t have to look at his heavy timber trucking equipment when I’m out at the bees or in the rear garden.
First things first, though, and that is to get all the tech stuff that needs to be done, done. It’s been a weird six months, but the one good thing is that I had the Big Op a month and a half before that vendor got crazy. If I’d had to deal with this while immediately recovering from that, it would have been a nightmare.
Forward, ho! And until next time, peeps: be well.
Far too much football and stuff going on to post yesterday.
But from today forward, I’ll be posting daily – mainly to get in the habit of doing it, and also to vaguely complain about shit. I’m kidding. Sort of.
I’m anticipating the good outweighing the bad, although the first quarter will still be migration city, like living on the LA freeways during rush hour for three months.
There are half a dozen books lined up for me to read and review, so I’m using that as my break time to get my head out of the servers for just a short while. Since I read so quickly, I’ll also need to line up the next six, as I’ll finish this first batch by midweek, even with work being nutty. I love Kindle Unlimited and ARCs (advance reading copies), There’s something to be said for being a voracious reader and being able to put together 500-ish words in a review with a short turnaround time for books coming out in just a few months. I’ll admit I’m amazed at some of the stuff that gets published, though, in the very same way I’m amazed that Lifetime can make the same movies over and over (and over and over) and get rave commentary from its base. Someone very cynical could likely create their own cottage industry on the formula for those movies. i wonder how much they pay…..
That’s it for now. i have someone’s PHP script to check and books to read. Until next time, peeps: be well.
People ask “What are your resolutions for the new year?”
I stopped making resolutions a long time ago, and for a long, long time now, greeting the new year has not been anything like turning a corner. It’s just more of the same, with a new date stamped on the calendar. For the past four years, I’ve either been sick, or getting over being sick, at the turn of the new year.
This year, thanks to losing my voice (primarily) and sense of smell via a total laryngectomy, I am healthy (mostly) heading into the new year. Since I’ve been relatively healthy since the end of April, when I had the Big Op, and now, I’ve had time to think about what I’d like to do in 2020. I say relatively, as I’ve had a couple of instances of what my docs call minor pulmonary infections, and what I call lung snot. Fortunately, modern medicine has graced us with antibiotics for these things.
As some of you know, I had wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, as I had a brand new, quite exciting idea to write, back in early May, after I got out of the hospital with a hole in my neck. I knew most of the story, and over the next couple of weeks, I fleshed it out in my head and was confidant that a few other things I needed for it would come by the time November rolled around.
Then, the end of June came, and with that, one of our largest vendors announced a complete and total change to their licensing. That in turn required us to make a huge decision: to stay with it, or make a change of our own. Those of you who are clients will know this already, but we chose the latter. This resulted in an equally huge, and quite sudden amount of work necessary on our part to implement the changes we needed to make.
There is an upside to this, as there is with almost everything: it knocked us out of a bit of complacency, and also resulted in other changes we decided to make in order to make things more efficient and to adjust a couple of our business models.
“What does this have to do with anything, Captain?”
A lot. Because it knocked NaNoWriMo out of the water, and except for a few days’ break here and there, we’ve been steadily implementing the changes we decided to make. When there are hundreds of servers involved, and all the work is hands on to do the migrations and replacements, it means everything else is on hold, because almost every waking hour is devoted to getting this finished. It also means 16-18 hour workdays, every day, with the exception of those few breaks.
Another group of the changes has been at the datacenter level, and we’ve been physically working on those as well – the work is physically demanding (the servers weigh 35-40 pounds each, depending on the model), hot, and dirty – kind of like the gardening I do. It’s interesting how this one change from one vendor has resulted in other changes, like ripples from the boulder they dropped in the water.
While we are still getting through the changes, I expect we’ll be finished by the end of the first quarter 2020. I had decided to not do any gardening in 2020, to give myself and the beds a rest, but I realized that I’d at least need to do tabascos (peppers) as the hot sauce I made back in 2016(?) is almost gone, and the plants I put in back in spring of 2019 were gnawed on by deer and didn’t produce much of anything worthwhile. That led to the realization that we also need cayenne and paprika powders for culinary use, so I need to grow some of those as well, since we’re almost out.
I may toss a couple of cukes in, just for the fam/friends and their salads. And if I’m doing that, I might as well do a few tomatoes (not not over a hundred of them, as I usually do), as well as a couple of other low maintenance items: lettuce, carrots, and so on.
At the end of the day, I do still need to get exercise, and gardening is good for that. I’m just paring it back a bit instead of going full bore out there. So that’s one intention for the new year.
Next up: the bees. I lost colonies in 2019, some because I wasn’t paying attention to them (laryngectomy and recovering) and others for unknown reasons (they had plenty of bees, food, and so forth). I have four in the beeyard. I know two at least will make it through our “winter” with some feeding, and I have four packages coming in the screen. I am changing how they’re set up, though, and will move the two on the wooden stands to sitting on cinder blocks, as the bees on the blocks have done so much better – all the losses we from hives on the wooden stand. My intention for the bees is to better manage them in 2020, since my major health issues are presumably behind me.
Next up: reading. I’ve read 64 books in 2019, and expect to finish another one today for a total of 65 of the 70 I had planned. I want to read more in 2020, and I’ll be setting a goal of 75 for the coming year – nothing crazy, like going from 70 to 100. When people set these types of goals, they can often set themselves up for failure by setting a new goal that is too far above whatever the previous level was. If you’re a couch potato and set a goal of running three marathons in the coming year, that’s probably not going to be realistic. My advice: set something reasonable, and make it concrete. Don’t say you’re going to “lose weight”. Say you’re going to lose 10 pounds in the next 60 days. That’s more reasonable. So, 75 books for 2020.
Next up: food. My intention is to cook for my mom and brother (and one sister who lives nearby, if she wants to come along) more often in 2020. “But Captain,” you say, “didn’t you just tell us to set concrete goals?” I did, thanks for noticing. This one largely depends on my brother’s schedule, though, so it has to be a little fluid. I’m aiming for at least one meal a week for them. That will get me back into the kitchen, where i love to work, and will also feed them, something I also love to do. Everyone wins.
Next up: mind/body. My intent is to continue doing my heavily modified yoga routine. There are things I cannot physically do and never will be able to do, but I can do a lot, and an increase in flexibility and strength is the goal. I’ve also been half-assededly meditating, and that needs to change into an every day thing as well, and that’s my goal: at least five minutes a day, at some point in the day (probably before I finally throw in the towel and go to bed).
Next up: writing. This is the big one. My intention is to write every day, at least two pages a day (to start). This will be difficult, just as it was in 2019, at least for Q1, minimum, since the work that currently pays the bills will still be taking up a huge amount of time. But I’m hopeful by Q2, with a reduced garden load during the season, and a lessened focus need on “work work”, I’ll be able to actually get time in. At this very low rate of writing, I should be able to finish a book at the standard length for my primary genre (mysteries/thrillers), in about four months – doable, and not terribly stressful since there’s enough stress in my life already.
I’m sure there will be other, transitory, things that pop up – life is like that – but These are the things I’m consciously focusing on for the coming year.
That’s all for now. I hope your holidays were grand and the coming year brings you all you want. Until next time, peeps: be well.
Or a corndog.
Everyone should be this happy at least once in their lives.
Ah, yes. Violet the gum chewer who did something stupid at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
While I might not have a three course meal with blueberry pie in gum form, I do have blueberries here at the ranch. Well, potential blueberries.
One of the blueberry bushes is taller than me.
That’s fine, though. I’ll haul a ladder out to pick them if I have to.
We’ll be awash in berries in the very near future. They freeze extremely well, so we won’t lose any of the harvest. I need to prune these back in the fall. They’ve had a wee bit of lack of management over the past few years, for obvious reasons. The same goes for the blackberries and raspberries: their canes need to be cut back after this season. I also need to run another trellis wire on my posts to train those. one more thing on the todo list!
Speaking of todo lists, I have been putting a dent in mine. I transferred all the “work” work stuff into a journal, and I’m working on getting the other items transferred over.
The only thing on my lists I have not gotten to is the reading. By the time I finish doing the normal daily things and some of the items on the lists, I am dog tired. i’m falling asleep at my desk as I try to get this done, so time to wrap it up. Tomorrow is another day filled with possibility. Until next time, peeps: be well.
It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.
This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).
I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.
Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.
One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.
As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.
They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.
The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.
Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.
The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.
One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.
Even the baby ones have long roots.
Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.
That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time: be well.