31 January 2010

Seedling Update

Today we moved the sweet pepper seedlings out of the little starting greenhouse and into an uncovered tray. Still waiting on anything to happen with the eggplant and poblano seeds we planted this weekend. And tonight we'll be putting four kinds of tomatoes in the dirt. We have a fifth on order. It's going to be good eats at our house this summer, I can tell you that.

Most of the ice melted today; it got warmer than the weather service was predicting, not that I'm complaining. I'll be back out in the yard again tomorrow.

30 January 2010

Random Old Photos

Well, the promised snow didn't exactly happen, but we got plenty of sleet and ice, and are homebound because of the ice right now. Tomorrow when it's sunny I'll take a picture. I was going to post a little fiction I've been working on, but didn't really do any work on it as I'd intended. Instead Smittywife and I went through some old pictures to see which ones we might blow up to put on the walls in the living room. This here is one of them.

We have a nice painting of an acacia tree on the mantle and were hoping to add more, since I have all these photos from my trip to Africa a few years ago. We picked five or six we like. I'm particularly fond of this one.

While I was going through old pictures I came across this one from several years ago, a winter in Kyrgyzstan when I was deployed with the Air Force. You never see snowflakes like this. We certainly don't get them here in South Carolina. It was cold enough that winter, too, that the snowflakes didn't really melt, so for several days the top inch or two of snow was these perfect little snowflakes. It was fascinating.

That's all for today. Maybe I'll do some writing this evening to post tomorrow.

29 January 2010

Seedling Update

I was going to post updates on our little seedlings for the garden. I love germinating seeds, it's so much fun to watch them. On my way to the mud room to take the picture, I stopped and grabbed a snack. I had pie. It occurred to me that I had a picture of this pie on my camera. Smittywife made it this past weekend, cherry-cheesecake pie. She made fat free cheesecake, and we canned the cherries ourselves over the summer. This is good pie. I've had it for breakfast a couple times this week...

And while I'm posting pictures, take a look at the flowers on our little calamansi tree. We have to keep it indoors this time of year (this summer I'm building a greenhouse, I swear) along with the key lime and... all of the other tropical plants we moved up here with from Florida. Oy. Mangoes, avocados, plumerias, jasmines, they're great but they take up a lot of space in the back of the house. But then one of them goes and bursts into flower like this here. They smell like a mix of jasmine and orange blossoms, and there are six times as many buds on the tree as there are open flowers right now. We won't need air freshener in the living room for a week.

Okay, here are the actual seedlings! On the right are five cilantro plants. The ten plants on the left are lemon wallflowers. Side note: am I the only person who remembers that there was a Batman villain called The Wallflower? I mean, it's not like I was even alive during the Adam West era, which is when that villain came up, but there are zero references to it on the web apart from commentary on a Venture Bros. episode. Weird. I'd have thought, the Adam West Batman series being such a cult thing, there'd be pages devoted to every one-off character that ever appeared, like how every Pokemon in existence has a full page on Wikipedia longer than most biographies of the kings of England.
Anyway, some of the sweet peppers are sprouting at last. Took them two weeks; this is why you start things indoors. We have a tray of poblano peppers and eggplants going, too, but no activity there yet. This weekend we should be planting a whole bunch of stuff.


The picture at the top of this blog is my winter picture. It was taken on March 1st of last year, which is only winter technically; I think March is spring. But we had five inches of snowfall last year overnight between the 28th and 1st and so that's when I took that picture. I may get to update it if the weather forecasts come true.

Living here, the possibility--even if remote--of snow always means lines at the store. I don't know what people are thinking. I went in there to buy some almond milk, which we were out of. They had like nine cashiers working plus the self-checkout lines and there were four or five people in each one of the lines. Buying bread, milk, eggs, giant bags of dog food, tortilla chips, soda... what are these people thinking is going to happen? I realize it's a Friday, but it was ten o'clock in the morning! Nobody had gotten their paycheck yet. This was just panic buying.

I love the people who buy milk and eggs and such. Aren't you afraid the power's going to go out? That's what usually happens here, because snow becomes ice, ice makes trees fall down, and power lines get cut. So all that milk you bought to stock up is going to sour in the fridge anyway. (Yes, I bought milk too, but I would have bought it regardless of the weather forecast because we needed it.) And how long are people expecting this to last? We're talking two days, max; by Sunday it's supposed to be sunny and warm again.

In any event I used the weather--which by the way hasn't actually arrived yet--as an excuse to mostly stay inside and work on a couple of writing projects. Yep, I'm a real farmer; when it's below 42 I don't do outdoor work.

28 January 2010

Vegetable Beds are for Vegetables

I built the second bed today, but there is much more dirt to put in it. I would have finished it but I decided it was time to go through the stack of old lumber in our shed and figure out how many boards and what sizes we actually had so I knew how many beds I could build. Yesterday I was looking at an amorphous pile of wood and thinking there was no way I had enough to build all the beds we'd planned. Once organized it turned out the pile was in fact much larger.

Now of course I'm rethinking where I want to put all the beds. Last year I dug a bed at the edge of our parking area (a large gravel patch in front of the house) where I thought at the time everything would get enough sun to be productive without getting so much sun that it would all dry out.

Then last year went on to be the wettest one of the decade, and the shade level was much too high. Gardeners will appreciate this: despite having three healthy plants, we never got one single zucchini. Really! This year I tried to pick sunnier sites, but I find myself doubting a few of my selections. The bed I built today is just under 2/3 the size of what I had planned to put in that location--eleven feet long instead of the planned 16. What do you know, I had no 16 foot boards. Do they even cut 16 foot lumber any more? Anyway, I shifted it to the sunnier side of the 16 feet, so I think I've got a good bed. But I wonder about the other three, the Oak Beds on the other side of the yard. The one in front of the woodpile should be fine, but the rest... I don't know. I have to call in Smittywife for an opinion.

I also continued mucking out the chicken coops, which is as disgusting as you assume it is. I had the wheelbarrow about 3/4 full of shit when it got unbalanced and tipped over. I was inside the coop at the time so it didn't get all over me at least, but it meant I had to scoop the same shit twice. Oy.

The real problem is this: vegetable beds are for vegetables. I noticed this afternoon when I went to add the last few scoops of dirt to yesterday's bed that the barn cats had explored the bed last night. At least they didn't do anything in it, but it was full of paw prints. Then I go around the side of the garage to count boards, come back, and the dogs are both in the bed, digging, eating chicken poop (a canine delicacy to judge by their attitudes), having a high old time. They got chased out and I relocated their tie-down farther away. Then I let the chickens out of the coop to roam while I was counting lumber. Again I come back around the garage and there are five chickens in my vegetable bed. The hens had made themselves little nests in there. It was ridiculous. Of course it smells like their coop so I can't blame them, and a little extra fertilizer never hurts, but they shouldn't be nesting in there. Sheesh.

Someday I'll Finish

This morning I painted the edge of the ceiling in the bathroom again, a second coat. Didn't take terribly long, although painting the edge of a ceiling when there's furniture and plumbing fixtures to work around--I have to put the ladder in the bathtub to finish the job--isn't exactly child's play. Nonetheless, it felt like an accomplishment, like I'd finally finished something in this house after a year and a half.

Of course then I remembered we still have plinth blocks and corner moulding to put around the door. Granted, that's another half-hour job, but the knowledge that it needed to be done--when I remembered around ten-thirty or so--rained out my mental tickertape parade. Oh well. I guess the truth is when you set out to renovate a house you're never really done.

27 January 2010

First Bed Finished

Today I finally built the first raised bed, and mucked the first full wheelbarrow-full of, well, muck, out of the chicken coops. Farm work is definitely work. I wish I could call this a farm, but I think I need livestock, and poultry doesn’t count. Perhaps I could get the barn cats rated as a herd.

We were planning… well, I drew out five raised beds, scraped the earth clean of grass and weeds and marked them out. Most of them were much too large; I think the biggest was nine feet by twelve. How are you supposed to pick tomatoes growing in the middle of a 9x12 bed if you aren’t supposed to walk in the bed? I don’t know if I was thinking about that. Sometimes with menial work like scraping the weed layer, you just go forth and scrape and stop thinking about it much, or think about other things entirely. I haven’t yet arrived at that point where I can truly be mindful in all menial tasks. I’m good at it with dishes, and okay with laundry (especially folding), but yardwork still gets my mind wandering. I suppose that’s okay.

Anyway, we planned five raised beds. One of them had a lot of large tree roots, and while they’re raised, so the roots would be a problem, with so many beds we just decided to eliminate that fifth one. I split the 9x12 bed in two, so there are still technically five. There are two Fig Beds, and three Oak Beds. Granted, the Fig Beds are near an oak tree, too, but the Oak Beds are not near a fig tree. Everything in the yard is near an oak tree.

I think the Fig Beds are in the more fertile area so I’m building those first. The one I finished today is four by eleven or so. I put eight barrowsfull of dirt in there and one of chicken crap and it still needs about three or four more, but that’s what tomorrow is for. But it looks nice! I’ll build the other Fig Bed tomorrow, and maybe take a before picture. If it gets above freezing before ten-thirty, that is.

So this morning I finally finished painting the bathroom ceiling, since I sure wasn’t going out to work in sub-freezing temperatures. Frankly sub-40 is too cold. I still have Florida blood, can’t help that. That bathroom has been a work in progress since we moved in, but since getting the vent fan installed this autumn the little things that remain to be done have been more obvious. Painted the door and door trim just before Christmas, and today I finally got the line at the edge of ceiling done. The whole ceiling is now the same color! Yaay! And having filled in the two holes remaining from the fan installation it actually feels like it might be done.

Holy crap! The bathroom’s done! (Pause for comments about what still needs to be done.)

So all in all a productive day. Welcome to Smitty’s Farm.

Who is Smitty?

Smitty is a man. Yes! Has all the requisite parts and everything.

Smitty does not have a job, however, which makes him feel like less of a man. This has been going on for some time. From the government’s perspective, Smitty has withdrawn from the labor force and is no longer included in economic statistics. He is among the Long-Term Unemployed, something he never thought he’d be.
Smitty is a college graduate, and a former Air Force officer. He is qualified to fly airplanes, but for most other jobs he is either over- or under-qualified, and, as a long-term unemployed non-statistic has trouble finding employers who will take him seriously. This is a primary source of frustration. He has trouble getting his value across on paper and prefers the interview.

Smitty is in his 30s. He is healthy but not in good shape and misses regular exercise.

Smitty lives in South Carolina, in a rural part of the upstate, but within shopping distance of two of the region’s four major cities.

Smitty has two acres, of which he is in full command of at most four-fifths of one. He hopes to acquire more land, and dreams of adding a breeding pair of sheep to the current farmstead/menagerie.

Smitty is very happily married and has no children.

Smitty wants you to know that if he met you, he’d buy you a beer and share an hour’s conversation with you. And if he already knows you, the offer is open.

25 January 2010

Piling On

I’ve been sitting on this all season.
In the last couple of weeks, particularly over the last week, leading up to the NFC Championship game, we’ve had to endure the premature canonization of Brett Favre. The arguments about how winning another Super Bowl with a different team at age 40 would be just about the most amazing thing the football universe has ever seen never stopped; every show, every hour, there was discussion about where Brett would rank on the list of best quarterbacks if he could pull off what, to every commentator I heard, already seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
And now, the morning after his second interception in his final play of an NFC Championship game in three years, what discussion do we already have to endure? What question occupied the minds of the football chattering class from March on in 2009?
Will Brett come back for another year?
And if so, where?

Give it a rest, already. And give Favre a rest, too.
I’m certainly not going to claim the man can’t play the game, or that he isn’t one of the top quarterbacks in history (and even at present). He is a stellar talent, a remarkable player, exciting to watch.
He is absolutely NOT Christ in His second coming. Why do we have to put up with this characterization?
It is only too perfect that in the game that the football media told us could prove Favre one of the greatest of all time, he instead proved the truth behind the old complaint about him: he’s high reward, but high risk. Who but Brett Favre, on a play where he needed to toss a three yard screen to keep possession and get into field goal range to put the game away, would toss a long lob and have it intercepted by the NFL’s oldest punch line? Brett Favre literally threw that game away. There’s no other way to say.
He’s great. Yeah, he is. But sometimes, the most remarkable thing about Brett Favre is the way he throws things away.
Like the way he threw away the love and adulation of an entire state, the way he turned his back not just on a team (a team that was ready to move forward and not get jerked around by a guy who literally does not know when to quit) but on a city and legions of fans, just to stick it to a couple guys he didn’t like and didn’t agree with.
That was what bothered me the most in lead-up to Farve’s latest pick of infamy—the lionization of his potentially leading two different teams to the Super Bowl. Some folks get traded, that happens. But I’m an old-school Cal Ripken guy: I like a player who stays in one place, or at least isn’t in control of his trading. I realize that’s not the world we live in any more, but shoot, Favre played a full and successful career in one city, so clearly it can be done. It’s this second career of his that he’s started, first expecting his old team to put their entire future on hold while he dithered about whether to retire, then spurning them for a Jets team who he clearly didn’t really want to play for and weren’t able to protect him, and then moving to his Packers’ arch-rivals just to have the chance to beat them and prove his point.
You know who Brett Favre reminds me of? Not the everyman, Wrangler-wearing joe-sixpack his marketing agents want us to see him as. No. Brett Favre is Michael Jordan. All he really wants to do is get back at everybody who ever said anything bad about him. When he’s inducted into the hall of fame—as there is no doubt he deserves to be—Favre is going to stand up there and call out the guys in the Packers organization who he’ll still be carrying a grudge against. And we’ll all say, what a shame it is.