It’s been a vicious storm of a day for my great state. There were two things I absolutely had to get done: feed the girls, and get some grass knocked down back in the beeyard. Today, I’m pleased to say, I did both, ahead of the massive storm system that hammered down on us and knocked us offline twice (the latter is not especially difficult to do with our provider).
If you want a very quick glimpse at the beeyard, this is the video for you! As it was cloudy and nasty, most of the bees were at home, and some really did not appreciate the vibrations of the tractor as I mowed the yard (and even less so when I drove past their front doors).
Note: there is a fairly loud tractor noise here, so keep that in mind if you don’t want to make your eardrums explode from the sudden cacophony.
One of the most time consuming chores I have is mowing the property. We’re sitting on a bit over four acres, and probably one acre of that is taken up by the house, the gardens, and the well area (the pump, the aeration tank. We also have about a quarter acre at the rear of the property that we left as is: it’s filled with trees, wild muscadine grapes, blackberry bushes, a small depression someone dug out at one point for reasons known only to them, and so forth. There is a small circular path at the front edge of it that I try to mow, but generally, that area is flooded when it rains, so I have to wait for dry weather on that.
We broke our streak of 15 straight days of rain – thanks, Mother Nature! – and I was able to get some mowing in today. I managed to get everything done except the beeyard done on one tank. This is what I had left in the tank as I finished up the chicken yard and the area behind the rear garden.
I was cutting (ha!) it close, but got back to the shed. As I neared the end of the mowing, I felt the breeze pick up, which was good, because it was another sweltering day at the ranch. I also saw the clouds starting to build up.
Now, I don’t mind meteorologists. I don’t. But it seems to be the only job you can be so wrong at and still keep your job. Let’s take my area as an example. When I was getting breakfast down the tube, our forecast said 20% chance of rain. When I came in after three hours of mowing, it had changed to 40%. I mention these two because this is what I saw on the radar when I made it back inside.
See that 90 about center, a little right? That’s my weather station. See all that angry red, orange, and green? That’s a front, across the entire northern part of this state. It does not take a meteorologist to get the wind direction (ours from the NNW as that was captured) and understand this thing was going to roll over us, bringing us more rain. And that’s what it did: pushed right over the ranch, with not a ton of lightning and thunder, but certainly with rain.
That big green/yellow blob at the NW part of that image is now coming our way, as the wind has shifted.
Our forecast – as it was raining – changed to 90% chance of rain. It is now back at 60%. I’m wondering if, in meteorology classes, they had lessons on changing your forecasts to get in tune with what was actually happening at the location for which you were doing forecasts. Do they have a Revisionist History class for the meteorological degree folks?
I’m just kidding, of course. It’s a tough job to really, accurately predict what Mother Nature is going to do with us mere humans on a daily basis. But I could save them some time, and they could copy pasta this forecast for Florida, then hit the pool or beach with a tasty beverage in hand: “Becoming partly cloudy, with afternoon thunderstorms. Highs in the low to mid-90s, lows in the 70s.”
On that note, it’s time for me to get some work work done. The life of a person whose business is in tech: the weekends, at least parts of them, have to be given over to work to get stuff done.
Sometimes you get a swarm in the yard, but it is simply uncatchable.
This is a zoomed-in image of a swarm that was likely from the monster hive #8*, about 50′ up in a water oak near the beeyard. It looks a lot larger than it was, but it was still a nice swarm, and if it had been lower, I’d have made a big effort to get it. As it was, the only thing I could do was set up a bait box about four deep bodies high under the tree, with a touch of lemongrass oil, to try to lure them down. They didn’t go for it. The next day, they were gone. I’d already done two splits from #8, and if this swarm was from that hive, that queen’s genetics are still in that hive, which is what I want: it’s a survivor queen, the last of my bees from 2016-2017, two years lost to chronic, recurring pneumonia.
*I say probably from #8 because that is the largest hive out there. however, #1 was acting a little squirrelly that day, and it may have been from that hive. Weirder still: when the swarm vanished, #1 had an absolute ton of activity going on. I’ve seen swarms return to their home, and if this was from #1, they may have gone right back to the original hive, as we were being pounded by big storms every single day during this period (this pic is from June 1) and hanging out in trees, unprotected, isn’t a good thing.
I’m planning on going into #8 and #1 on Thursday, to see what the girls have to say for themselves, and possibly to make another split from #8 to keep those good genes alive.
Some years ago, when the state and city were blowing up (well, technically, down) the pilings from the original Fuller Warren bridge here in town, I was standing on the roof of a building near the river, capturing it. Those pics are around here somewhere. It was the first (and only) implosion of any structure I’ve ever seen live, and it was pretty cool.
Yesterday, two giant cooling towers from a now-shuttered coal-fired plant were imploded. My brother played hooky a bit from his work to go up and try to see it. Alas, the general public was kept well away from the event, only getting to see the tops of the towers over some buildings and trees. The media and the company’s own cameras, though, got the full show. As always, it’s amazing how quickly something can be brought down, neatly, with proper placement of explosives and detonation timing. Clicking the arrow on the picture in this article will show the video of the towers coming down.
Today, I’ve finished mowing the beeyard and whacked around and under the hives. The new bees have also been fed. I was soaked when I came back in because it is simply hideous out there. It’s the time of the year that I wonder just how in the world the settlers to this place got anything done and made it through to the next season. Were they made of tougher stuff? Maybe. Did some of them give up and go back or move elsewhere? Almost positively, they did. I can’t say I would blame anyone who did on days like today. But there’s still work to be done here at the ranch, and I see out my southern facing window the clouds starting to build. Even if it’s just ten minutes at a time, it’s better to work on something versus nothing.
Until next time, peeps: be well. And if it’s broiling where you are, take care of yourselves and any people or animals for which you are responsible.
Here’s the first day of my “holiday weekend”. For those of you outside the US, today is Memorial Day here. Some years ago, it would signal the official beginning of summer for us here, and we’d have a giant party and feed a bunch of people. The kids (and some of the adults) would go swimming and everyone else would just be visiting with one another. That hasn’t happened in years now because we had a falling out with one group of relatives, and of course I’ve been sick on and off for over two years.
But here’s my day.
0730 Up, take care of the dogs, check their food and water, check the weather
0800 Breakfast and work
0915 Out to gather grass clippings from the beeyard and septic mound to add to my new compost pile
0945 Break for hydration and “work” work
1015 Out to sow the second round of green bean seed
1040 Break for hydration and work
1310 Break for lunch and work
1520 Wake up from falling asleep in my chair
1540 Feed bees and do inspections
1800 Bring in empty bottles and pulled hive bodies, put away tractor, detach wagon, close up shed, make shake with skyr added, meds
1815 Sit down at desk for feeding and work, empty camera memory card to computer
1825 Actually start feeding after playing with the dogs
1838 ACTUALLY start feeding after taking pictures and video of the dogs
1840 Realize just how much my back hurts now that I’m sitting down
1930 Back outside to bag weeds I turned up earlier today, before Alberto pays us a visit
2100 Back inside, treats for the dogs, refill their food and water
2110 Back to the beeyard to close the hive where I left the top propped open a bit, so there’s no chance of getting rain in there
2120 Make a shake, mix my meds, and taking care of business
2221 Power goes out, right when I’m making a response to a ticket, and Alberto hasn’t even arrived yet. Read on my amazon fire to wait it out
2249 Power comes back. Start the tedious task of booting up my system and then getting all my apps started once more, my screen layout in place, and get back to work
At some point doze off in my chair again
2340 Wake up, get some formula and some kefir, set up for another feed, do some more work
Doze off here and there
0130 Have an itching episode on the left side of my neck. Desperately try to scratch an itch that can’t be scratched; down a slug of benadryl before I wind up drawing blood.
In other news, Alberto may be paying us a visit. Not in person, but from some of his hangers-on, the outer bands and what moisture he draws up from south of his center.
We’re going to get some of it tomorrow, and possibly Monday, as well.
This is why I needed to take care of things I took care of today. Wandering around not doing anything in particular is a recipe for disaster here: you have to focus on what needs to be done (a TON of stuff) and how to prioritize it (take care of the bees before anything). And that’s how it went. It was a VERY productive day at the ranch. Tiring, but worth it.
I have a mound of horse poop (courtesy of a neighbor) in the southeastern area of the property that is heating and composting itself, but I wanted something nearer to the front (north) area gardens, so I started a compost pile there as well. It started off with kitchen scraps, paper, some leaves, downed branches I broke down. But now, it also has the grass clipping I mentioned up above, to get a better mix of green/brown material. This is how it looked after that work yesterday.
How the weeded row where the shelling peas and lettuces were, after getting through another weeding session – I literally worked until dark today, which was almost 9 PM.
How it looked in the dark after I had to stop because it was getting too hard to see, so I had to head in.
Another long, busy day in the books. Until next time, peeps: be well.
We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.
He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.
While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.
Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?
Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).
Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and 227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.
Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,
And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this
In just five days.
Things are looking up at the ranch.
One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.
No more. I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.
It appears we are done with “winter”, unless Mother Nature decides to give us the middle finger and gift us with a random freeze.
In the meantime, this is the time for working like an overcaffeinated squirrel on meth to get everything in shape for when we just snap right into summer. The good news is that it’s supposed to be rather balmy and springlike after the next couple of days, and that’s the best time to get some of the larger (sweaty, dirty, annoying) tasks done. Today I got the rest of the bed ready for strawberries and also reset the long side of that particular frame, as it was bowed out quite a bit. It’s amazing what you can do if you paid attention in geometry (angles!) and have some three foot rebar.
Aside: I had been posting daily. Alas, I was sick – again – and that has just started to lift a bit over the last three to four days. Whenever I’d have a scan or xray or whatever and wind up with some Thing that could be addressed with antibiotics, we’d all say, “At least it isn’t cancer!” The past three weeks, after having xrays at the ER and then again at the outpatient center, we say, “At least it isn’t pneumonia!” They both suck. I think this thing on my neck is playing a large part in all this, given that I can express the gunk out through the sublingual salivary gland, and it’s obvious that it’s infected from time to time. Next week, we’re going to a new ENT, referred by my current ENT, who is more of the usual stuff. The new guy specializes in surgical oncology for the ear, nose, throat, and I’m hoping he has some kind of answer for me related to this. It’s annoying.
Back to the gardens: about two weeks ago, I direct sowed shelling peas, carrots, and radishes. Those are up, although the peas have some duds amongst them and need to be resown here and there. In addition to fixing the strawberry frame mentioned up above, I also sowed lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, spinach, and pac choi.
In the barn, there are five flats under the light – all tomatoes and peppers. The tomatoes are up, and I saw the first unfolding green stem of a pepper when I needed to get rebar out of the barn. This week, I’ll get the broccoli and cauliflower into flats under the lights. They can, for the most part, take the wild fluctuating temps, and even temps that hover near freezing if Mother Nature pulls one on us.
I’ve also been fixing the fences around the gardens. Rabbits have been in the gardens, both front and back, based on the evidence.
While I’ve been going around, weeding, shoring up frame sides, doing other things that have been neglected the past couple of years thanks to illness, I’ve found rabbit poop here and there. I’ve also found obvious nests out in the front – among the asparagus, but also (amusingly enough) in the carrots – and in the back, in the vetch I’d thrown down as green manure. I’m not building buffets just for them, so closing holes or openings in pieces of the fence is important.
Tomorrow will be another day. Strawberry planting day, to be precise. They’ll go into their freshly turned frame and into the second frame just west of it, and by June we’ll be getting berries to go with all the other things we’ll be harvesting by then.
Time to finish a tube feed and then hit the sack. Until next time, peeps: be well.
The best thing about gardening is the blank canvas you get to work with at the turn of each new season.
The green at the left in that second frame in the foreground frame is the overwintered carrots.
What cannot – for now – be seen are the new sowing round: in the frame row in the foreground, I’ve added peas, and in the second frame with the overwintered carrots, more carrot seed along with radish seed.
A parade of lights. More accurately, a testing of all the lights before they get rehung over the tables in the barn once more. Several have dead sides entirely, either the tombstones or in the wiring, but I’ll just hang those on the perimeters with the bad sides out – there is a slight loss on the lighting anyway because I don’t have about six more inches of table space available, so it all works out in the end.
I had planned, the day I started this post, to head to the hardware store for some seed starting material, but my body betrayed me again and I tumbled into feeling very crappy. Yesterday was horrible. Today, however, is a new day and although I’m not 100%, at least I don’t feel like death warmed over. It’s grey, chilly, and rainy today, so I’m also not particularly bothered by doing anything other than work today.
The seeds are rolling in, with three of five vendor orders in. Now if this nonsense will exit my head and throat, I can get down to the very serious business of getting things growing.
Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.
Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.
Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.
Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.
I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.
Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.
Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.
There is such a thing. Anyone who lives near or has lived in ranching country knows what that is. For the rest of you: divide a pasture field into a grid. Number the resulting squares, and then have people put money down on a square they think the cattle you let into that pasture will take a dump. The winner gets something as a prize, but the event is generally a fundraiser kind of deal.
Winter in Florida is a lot like cowpie bingo. Every so often, Mother Nature drops by to take a dump on us, just to remind us that while we may be tropical most of the year – and sometimes even all of the year, in some cases – she can and will come down for a short stay, even given her very busy schedule.
We’ve already had six days in a row with freezing overnight temps, with one in the 20s. Then things went back to a rather Florida-like “winter”. Tonight and tomorrow, however, actual winter is back for a two day show, roping us in with the misery it’s creating up north.
Tonight, just before I geared up and went out to turn on a couple of the far taps around 10PM, it was 32F. Two hours later, and it’s dropped to 28F.
The wind has also picked up, as the blue line at the bottom shows. It’s cold. Very cold. And a terrific reminder why I will never live in the northern reaches of the country again. Had enough of that in my childhood, and I’m not anxious for more. We, unlike people in the great north who have to spend a quarter of the year at least playing host to winter, will get right back to our version of it.
In other news….see below the fold, as there’s a pic that may make some people a tad squeamish. If you don’t like blood, don’t go there.