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Submitted by John on Tue, 10/17/2023 - 17:55

I’m back in the ER, this time it’s for me. (Had a spate of kids needing emergency medical care recently, in part because some of them don’t have the decency to get sick when the Urgent Care is open).

This is the first time for me in I’m not sure how long. And it’s certainly the first time I’ve had a hallway bed instead of a room.

All I have to say about it is being in the hallway feels like being in the middle of an ongoing HIPAA violation. I know so many medical details of the people around me. I saw some of them walk into their rooms so I know what they look like. I just hope I never run into any of them ever again. (Or failing that, that I can forget all about it before I see them again!)

Also, there’s a lot of screaming going on. Lots of confused, frightened, mentally confused patients today. If I was in a room I might not notice as much but in the hallway I can hear a lot.

More garden work today

Submitted by John on Fri, 05/26/2023 - 23:04

Today I excavated the pile of sticks and poles that is part of my tomato support system. If you imagine the stump in my plot, the sticks and poles are in a heap on and around the stump.

First I cleared out a bunch of old weeds and branches I’ve been throwing on the pile for the past 6 months. Then I slowly untangled each stick and pole from itself and from the weeds growing around them. Last year I did not use the full system, I did some weird angular madness based on central poles, along with traditional tomato cages. 

I set aside the wooden poles, and only placed the metal poles in the ground.

This year I packed the tomatoes in far tighter than I normally do, so I am missing three metal poles. Also I am already having misgivings about how tightly these tomatoes will be packed together once they are fully grown. 

But at least I got all of the metal poles pounded in. Next step is to use twine to affix the wooden poles to the metal stakes. I need some replacement wooden poles as well, since the ones I have are falling apart after years of being exposed out to the elements. 

Since I had excavated around the stump, I decided to do some more intensive weed removal. Then I planted my 4 remaining Thai chili pepper plants, as well as my two remaining sweet red chili pepper plants, in, on, and around the stump itself. Then I watered the whole stump really good for 10-15 minutes. I also watered everything else (the cucumbers were looking especially peaky.)


More fishing

Submitted by John on Thu, 05/25/2023 - 23:35

Today we went fishing at a nearby lake, and an old Black lady was there with a minnow setup. She graciously shared some of her minnows, and as we haven't really fished with any minnows yet, she showed us how to put them on and what size hook to use. By the time we left the dock she had caught three of the biggest crappies I have ever seen.

The kids weren't too keen on the minnows, but I think I got a good idea on how to go about it. I still haven't picked up my fishing license yet, so until I do, I can't put a pole in the water. All I can do is help the kids out. The kids can fish without a license until they turn 16. But tonight, tonight I was super jealous and wanted to put in a few minnows myself. 

I know I can get a fishing license online. But I want to go in person to get the booklet with this years fishing regulations. 

Now, we have fished with minnows once last year. That was a different person lending us minnows, on a different lake, fishing for larger fish with larger minnows. The way he put the minnows on the hooks was also completely different. I'm glad I've gotten to see a couple of different ways of using minnows so far, so I feel confident enough to experiment, instead of just getting stuck in "there's only one right way, the way I know how to do it" before I even get started. 


New garden plants

Submitted by John on Wed, 05/24/2023 - 22:31

Today I went on my lunch break and picked up some plants for my garden.

I was going to plant them after work and take a picture of them in the ground, but it took so long, there was no light left to get the photo. 

Then I was going to try to just draw a diagram, I fought with some diagramming software, then I said, "this is dumb, I can draw a picture", and by the time I drew the picture and annnotated it, it still didn't look great. So I decided to just explain what's going on with words. 

I have a garden plot that is 40 feet by 9 and a half feet. There is a 20 foot chunk in the front that is straight dirt. Then a 10 foot by 9.5 foot chunk that is the old tree stump that is slowly decomposing. Then another 10 foot by 9.5 foot chunk that is the back half of the garden. This back half can't be plowed, so I do hand tilling only.

I have a small asparagus patch back here, and recently I have been planting garlic. This is nice because I can plant the garlic in the fall, throw a bunch of leaves on it, and occasionally weed it, and it all works out, it's a lot easier than trying to hand till the whole thing for tomatoes or something. Lots of thistles grow back here, after we got a bad batch of compost that mostly made it back to this corner of the garden only.

The thistles are deeply annoying. I used to try to get them out by the root but this part of the garden is far more clay than dirt, the slightest tug and the thistles break off just under the soil surface. So I would have to get a shovel because they form a root 14 - 18 inches down. It just meant massive, massive holes in the garden, hard to deal with once you have established plants, and it took a while to get everything out. Recently I switched to just aggressively hoeing the whole area. It takes a lot less time, and maybe I can slowly starve the roots out. I made the mistake of missing one plant a couple of years ago, so there were a bunch of seeds that escaped so I think I'll be dealing with these for a while.

This year I have some onions around the stump. I might plant some things on the stump, we will see.

With a 20x9.5 foot space, I have experimented with lots of layouts. Zig-zags, gentle curves, grids, but I generally come back to three rows, with two paths between them. Here is what I have planted so far, mostly so I can go back to this later when I have forgotten what is what.

The northernmost row is row number 1, going from east to west (from the entrance to the stump); all plants are 18-36 inches apart.

Row 1:
2 basil plants
8 peppers. The label at the farmers market said "Sweet Cayenne (Jimmy Nardello)", I don't know how accurate it is because I got these from the local Hmong market, and as English is a second language, I've had mixups before. I'm 95 percent sure these are a sweet pepper, but I've gotten "Sweet Cayenne" from this same seller and they definitely were not Jimmy Nardellos in the past. So I'd say 60 percent sure they are real Jimmy Nardellos. 
2 red sweet peppers. These had a picture and she said they were sweet peppers but I didn't write down the variety. I think it's Corno di Toro maybe.

Row 2:
6 Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
3 Federle tomatoes (these 3 tomatoes were the only seeds I started that actually made it and didn't die due to a misadventure with a rough cold stnap right after transplanting them into larger containers)
4 Early Girl tomatoes
2 Striped German tomatoes

Row 3:
4 sweet green peppers. I didn't write down the exact variety, all I know is she said they were delicious when roasted, and that I should pick them when they are green. I think, after some googling, it's Shishito.
2 pickling cucumbers (to grow against the south fence)
4 Bishops hat peppers (supposed to be a thin walled medium hot red pepper)
2 white cucumbers to grow against the fence)
2 Jalapeno
4 Habenero
2 Ghost peppers

I still have 2 Corno di Toro plants that I need to find a place for, and 4 Thai hot purple peppers. 

This year, the kids decided they didn't want to grow Carolina Reapers and Dragons Breath peppers, after two of them tried eating a Dragon's Breath pepper raw with no milk. Didn't do well with ghost peppers last year though, a deer came and grazed the plants to the ground. Hopefully that doesn't happen this year. 

New Hobby

Submitted by John on Tue, 05/23/2023 - 22:43

Every time I get mad or frustrated about AI, I post something to my website. Or edit one of my existing pages, or make some progress on one of my in-progress articles. 

I’m only a few days into this but it seems to be working out.

Sometimes I just post photos. A lot of times I sit there, in front of an empty text box, not knowing what to write. But hey, if the machine can write crap, I can write crap.


Fishing at Bass Ponds

Submitted by John on Sun, 05/21/2023 - 20:54

Against my better judgement (I’m not feeling well) the kids lured me out to go fishing at the nearby national wildlife refuge. Now I’m sitting here getting bit by mosquitoes, listening to frogs as a plane takes off from the nearby anirport every few minutes.

Geese just flew overhead. There is a muskrat that keeps swimming around. And there is a great blue heron I didn’t even see until it majestically took off 20 feet away from me.

Small muskrat swimming

Addendum: on the way home, one of the boys found a frog.

A boy with long hair in a red plaid shirt holding a frog

Exciting city wide garage sales

Submitted by John on Sun, 05/21/2023 - 19:15

This weekend was the city wide garage sales and my kids all kind of went nuts. They did some chores and spent money and did more chores to get more money, and one kid even did a koolaid stand to get even more money. 

One sale went down to "25 cents for everything" and they had a whole bunch of giant plastic kid toys so now my house is filled to the brim with giant plastic things. Workbenches and race tracks and what looks like an aircraft carrier. 

The youngest child now has no less than five Elmos, two of which are Tickle Me Elmo, because the older kids kept buying him Elmos. 

A block down they had a "Guy Sale" instead of a "Garage Sale" with fishing lures, tools, all kinds of manly things (there was a sign for it on the corner by our house. But because of work, and other commitments, I wasn't able to get down to it until the last hour. The lures were all fairly picked over (which I know because my kids came home with some great stuff on Friday) and there were no knives by the time I got there.

I did get 8 bucks worth of lures (one of which has already nearly caught a fish for one of the kids) but the star of the show was an external frame backpack (7 dollars, it's in great shape if a bit outdated) and a free gas grill. I was just looking at the backpack and they wanted 10 dollars for it and I was waffling but she said make an offer so I offered 7 and they took it. When I got home I looked it up, it's a Kelty Trekker, but there are a bunch of models from 100 - 250 bucks new. It seems in good shape. 

Today I took the backpack to the Aldi's near the house and came home with 35 pounds of groceries (I weighted it on the new scale that one of the kids got for 50 cents). I just was putting things in the cart but it wound up completely filling the backpack and I had to carry the bread home in my hands (didn't want to squish it). 

And the grill was cheap, cheap, cheap, they wanted 5 dollars, but I was waffling on it and they saw it and said, look its the end of the sale, why don't you just go home and take it (I had 5 of the kids with me and a stroller so I couldn't just take it home.)

Found a spot in the back yard for it. It's my first gas grill. I already did hot dogs and burgers on it and it's a grill, it works, I gotta get used to it instead of charcoal, and it's going to need a deeper cleaning than the first wipe down cleaning I've given it already. But it's so freeing to just fire it up instead of waiting for the charcoal.