Tag Archives: Gardening

So much happening

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.

Reading, no writing, and arithmetic

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.

A quarter of cleanup

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.

Intentions: 2020

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.

Communing with nature’s denizens

After a weeding session (and filming some discussion about types of weeds and why I don’t do chop and drops here), I went back into the house only to find a hitchhiker on my shirt.

This is not the first time I’ve carried something back in, but it is the first time said something has decided it wanted to be really up close and personal, if only briefly.

Check your person before coming inside!

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Transitioning back to food

AKA: weaning from tube feeding

While my upcoming, next rather life-changing surgery of a total laryngectomy does have its downside, one of the upsides (beyond not drowning in my own bodily fluids or getting another round of pneumonia) will, hopefully, be the ability to eat by mouth again. This depends on learning to swallow again, courtesy of my reconstructed neck.

Honestly assessing myself here, I feel it is much more likely that I will be able to eat than it is I will be able to speak in any intelligible manner – that is, it will be even worse than my speech is now, because I simply do not have the infrastructure in my mouth for it. I’ve made peace with this even though it’s a bummer. There are all kinds of ways to communicate now, and written has always been my favorite way anyhow.

But now I am neck deep (so to speak) in researching moving off tube feeding and back to normal eating. As I suspected, it’s going to be transitional – after all, my body is not used to real food after years on a tube. The biggest problem that I foresee is water: as I don’t have a lot of spit, eating anything is going to require what will probably be a fairly high volume of water intake with it. There’s a reason doctors tell people on diets to drink a glass of water in the arena of half an hour before they eat. Water fills you. For a normal person, this is fine. For me, it may lead to fewer calorie intake, which in turn can cause me to lose weight I really need to stay on me. We’ll see how that works out.

I don’t know if I can express enough how excited I am by the prospect of eating for real after my throat heals enough for me to relearn swallowing. I used to be a foodie, and I wouldn’t really mind being one again – pretty much anything can be diced up or minced into a piece I could swallow whole with some water, as I won’t have any teeth to chew with. Hell, babies do it all the time, and I’m sure I could as well, at least when or until I’m able to prey my jaws open and get some dentures back in there (preferably with some kind of adhesive that will keep the bottom plate in, even though there’s no good ridgeline on that side thanks to the original, life-changing surgery 14 years ago).

I’m  a little nervous about the whole stoma thing. Will I really be able to go back to all the physically-demanding stuff I do now? This is the biggest question in my head at the moment, and I’ve been hunting around the web for people relating their experiences from the physical side of the equation, post-surgery. The hard part is this: beyond all this cancer and cancer-related bullshit (fuck you, cancer), I’m perfectly healthy, and quite active. It’s a worry for me that I think I can quash just by getting it understood in my head that this is just One More Thing. I overcame the rest, and I can get through this, too.

We are at T-9 days  now. I’m still cramming in all the stuff I need to get done before I take my little vacation (of a day, maybe two, since I’ll have my laptop there, and will probably be able to work once they kick me to a regular room from the ICU, or maybe even in he ICU, who knows). Today when I got up, I was just tired to the bone, and today wound up mostly being a rest type day. I pulled some weeds out of one of the frames in front garden north, and prepped it for being run over with the cultivator. I have two flats remaining in the barn that absolutely need to be kicked out to the rows. It was my plan this morning to get those done, but I did not, because I simply did not have the energy to do it. Today, though (as it’s 0120 on the 16th as I type this), after the preop stuff at the hospital, I’ll be looking to get those done in the afternoon and wipe it off the list.

I also need to do another split from hive #10 in the beeyard, as I found multiple queen cells when I inspected it on Saturday. One of the new packages (#8 hive) swarmed away on Saturday when they released their queen. I saw them up in a tree, about 15 feet off the ground, and while I probably could have gathered them back in without putting myself in danger, I had neither the energy or patience that day to capture them, and even if I had, I had the feeling they would go again anyway, so I let them go. The bees I’ve received from a couple of places have really pissed me off. First the Buckfast hives, and now one of the new packages, which I think was a Carniolan. I’m hoping the others stay put. It isn’t like there’s anything bad in the yard. I have Italians that are chugging right along, after all. They had boxes and wax-coated frames, and feed, but they really did not want to be in their boxes. I have (finally) a good queen whose genetics I like from a survivor bee from 2018, and I’ve already taken two splits so far off that hive (#10), and those daughter hives are banging. We may just be a place where the Italians are best suited.

Time to get some sleep. One of the things the hospital says in the packet they give you is to make sure you get some good rest. That isn’t always a given for me, so we’ll see how tonight goes. Until next time,peeps: be well.

Rest day


It’s been a very busy week at the ranch: an employee on vacation, new bees arriving, someone hosing their server, planting out, along with all the other everyday, normal things that make life tick around here.

The server issue took about 40 hours to recover, plus another 10-ish to iron out little things – it was that bad, from an admin standpoint – so I’ve been running on less sleep than normal. That’s ok. In a couple of weeks I’l be taking a 6-8 nap during the daytime.

I’ve got the broccoli, some of the onions, and a flat of tomatoes out of the barn and into the rows. I intercropped onions and broccoli, and put some carrots (from seed) with the tomatoes. That leaves five flats in the barn and half a flat of onions and leeks hanging out in front garden south, awaiting their places. Plus the seeds I’ll sow directly (cukes) and the flats to start the melons so they can be set out (although I may very well just say screw it, and sow them directly, too).

The Buckfast bees – a variety new to me, as I’ve only had Italians to this point – seem to be super chill bees. They were not particularly bothered by much of anything I was doing, even when I had to shake the packages. Even at that point, some of them didn’t rocket out of the packages to come at me (bro!) and just stayed in the package, hanging out. I’m working on editing video of one of the installs to show that.

This morning, though, the week finally caught me. I was just too exhausted to do anything outside. It didn’t help that it was almost 90F today, and that being short on rest makes me queasy, which itself just piles on top of the queasiness I’m having when pouring food down the tube, which I think is a sign that the balloon has deflated, as it did last time. AND: we had our first heat index day.

This is the earliest date here at the ranch for a heat index day.

Now, though, it’s about an hour-ish until sundown, and it’s cooler (82F and with a light breeze as I type this) and I can hear some distant thunder – a forecast of rain that, as usual, passed us by. I feel much better after just doing some “real” work as needed, and resting inside. I’m thinking about popping out and putting the cuke seed and the zuke/squash seed in. That would be a couple fewer things that need to be done tomorrow.

Losing your voice in 30 days

Last time, I talked about surprises. And I’m going to talk about it again here.

Based on my last visit to my ENT, my surgery would be sometime in May, because of the 6-8 week period that they had patients already slated. People with, I might add, actual cancer in their necks, unlike me and my personal juice-filled neck that wants to kill me in a different way.

Yesterday, the scheduler called, and the surgery has been set for April 25 – about a month before I figured everyone would be on the same page and in the same OR to slice open my neck (I’ve dubbed it N-day).

What this means for me is a giant acceleration of all the things I need to get done before going under the knife, since I’ll be recovering for at least a couple of weeks afterward and won’t be able to/feel like doing anything.

Yesterday, I got all the new blackberry roots into place, in the row on the east side near the driveway, and also in the eastern side of front garden north. The latter meant quite the battle with the wisteria that thinks it should invade the entire garden.

Today: I have five blueberries to get in place, and then it will be time to go samurai on the flats in the barn: everybody gets planted out, whether they’re entirely ready for it or not.

On Wednesday, I received two packages of bees (Italians). Amazingly enough, our postal driver actually delivered them – that’s not generally what they do out here, and I’ve always had to scoot over to our very small PO and pick up the packages no one wants to touch.

They installed well – as well as any other install – but there seemed to be a lot more than three pounds of bees in the second package, the installation video for which is right here:

I have less than a month to get more than a month’s worth of stuff done. Stay tuned.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

On the road to (another) surgery

Sometimes the steps are big, sometimes the steps are small, but they all lead to the same place: the OR.

Another blood draw today, for a comprehensive report, after one last week ordered by my GP, for thyroid levels (result: low, and they sent in an order for a higher dosage, recheck in two months).

The thing about those two months is that we’re looking at surgery in May – two months from now. They have other people with actual (fuck)cancer on the list before me, to which I said: that works out just fine, since I have bees coming next month, and those people need it way more than me right now.

My mom and one sister were in the office today, throwing questions at him. It was a good visit, and everyone is now happy – not happy that it needs to be done, but happy that we are in good hands and what we can expect during the surgery and the healing afterward.

I have a CT slated for Friday, and a visit with the plastic surgeon on April 9.

Bonus: it’s now the next day from when I started this post, and the nurse called us to tell us my calcium is low. So, when I go to pick up my new thyroid meds – because I had that checked last week, and it’s low – I have to look at calcium supps..

I spent quite a bit of time in the gardens today – more on that (with pics! – in the next one.

Until then, peeps: be well.

 

Strawberry fields forever

Fifty strawberries out in the beds a few days ago. You’ll see nothing down the very center of the row: I’ll be putting sunflowers along that line. I have some mammoth gray seed that hopefully the bugs did not get to as it languished int he barn last year to use. Longtime readers of this here blog will have seen those before, towering nine or ten feet above the beds. They are truly impressive (both the longtime readers and the sunflowers, of course).

I cut down some of the cover crop in other rows and threw it into this row to act as a mulching agent. The sides will also be coming off this bed, as with all the others, to make it safe for the kidlets (and sometimes clumsy adults, aka, me, when I slice a finger or hand open on one because I’m not really paying attention).

I have another 25 strawberry crowns that arrived on Friday to put out, but they will go into the next bed (the one with the hoops at the top of the image). We are having a few days of “winter”, which to people in non-southern states might term “fall” or even “spring” because they live in weirdo land where stuff is frozen eight months of the year. I’m waiting for the temps to even out a bit so as to minimize transplant shock, even though strawberries seem not to care all that much. I care, and since it would be me out there in 50 degree temps doing it, what I say goes.

We went with June bearing varieties only in this order, as we like to be able to do the picking and processing all at once for efficiency reasons – because there is enough to pick on a daily basis when the season kicks in without having strawberries be part of that.  I do have some everbearing types still in the rows, so the kidlets – or adults who can eat – will have the chance to find a jewel  here or there and be able to taste a war strawberry, right from the plant.

I’m trying to determine a way to keep the strawberries off the ground that won’t involve spending a fortune on cutesy little plastic bowl type things and that will allow me to remove weeds that pop up. And they do pop up: the weeds had overrun this bed because I’d not gotten down any cover crop in it. Whatever I come up with, I’ll also be putting bird netting over the beds, to stop the birds – who literally have acres of other stuff to eat – from feasting on the berries.

I had the camera rolling while I put these in, but there were no incidents like me lopping off an appendage, so not posting it! All told, according to camera time, it took about half an hour to plant all fifty crowns, pick out the random weeds in the bed, and straighten the irrigation lines from the squirrels and birds walking/hopping through and disturbing the layout.

The above doesn’t look like much, but they now look like they’ve been there forever. Never fear: pics will follow. I didn’t have my phone on me (horrors!) when I was walking through the gardens with all the kidlets that were here the past couple days.

Until next time, peeps: be well.