Sunday, September 9, 2018

Saffron Saturday

It's good to have friends who have big dreams. Even huge crazy dreams. This is why I spent most of Saturday planting a chunk of a 1/2 acre with saffron bulbs.

I have a history of being carried along on crazy quests. And here's the thing -- they almost always turn out to be a ton of fun and give me something else to think about for a while. So when Noah & Elisabeth invited me to help plant saffron bulbs at the rented farm, I said sure, why not?

In case you didn't know (and I'm not even going to pretend that I didn't just look up the wikipedia entry), saffron comes from a species of crocus. I knew the spice came from part of the flower and I spent the day making flower penis jokes because I'm super mature when I'm semi-delirious with heat stroke, but the joke's on me because it's actually the stigmas and styles (aka, the "female" part of the flower) and not the stamen (the "male" part).

The farm is in the middle of a suburb in West Sacramento, so I drove out there early in the morning (ahem, because I'm such a good friend!).  The dirt had been tilled (or whatever is done with dirt to loosen it up and hey, I wasn't the one planning this whole thing so don't make fun of my lack of farming knowledge) and there were rows of mounds about a yard wide with furrows in between. There were eighteen rows that were about fifty feet long.

We had ten people there at various points during the day which should tell you what wonderful people Noah and Elisabeth are, because they know a bunch of people who are willing to spend a Saturday planting bulbs for fun.

Noah had built this clever contraption that would drop six bulbs across at intervals as the thing was pulled through the dirt. Pulled through the dirt by people. In action looked a bit like we were trying to plow using people instead of oxen. I'm kind of surprised the neighbors weren't lined up on the street taking pictures. I wouldn't be shocked if it showed up online somewhere.

So five people were working with the human-powered bulb-o-matic and the rest of us were hand planting. Noah carefully explained that we were aiming for 6 inches deep, with 6 bulbs across the width of each row and four inches (center to center) between the ones on each side. We had yard sticks. We had markings on trowels. I think there may have been just the tiniest discrepancy between the plan and the reality.

Anyhow we grabbed one of the boxes of bulbs, and with Jen on one side of our row and me on the other, we dug down with a trowel, shifted the dirt out of the way long enough to shove a bulb down -- hairy side up, just like a troll doll -- three times, then moved over four inches and repeated the process.

We did this for about an hour before we took a water break and I looked around and realized that we were only a couple feet from the beginning of the row and we couldn't see the end. The bulb-o-matic had its own problems -- the tubes kept clogging I think -- so they weren't too much farther ahead in their row. Then I realized there were twice as many boxes of bulbs as I'd thought there was. The delirium set in.

A really old guy tottered by with his Chihuahua. He didn't speak English, but my two years of Duolingo Spanish were enough for me to tell him that no, it is not onion, it is... (here I had to look up the word for saffron)... azafrán. (And yes, that was in present tense because I don't take my lessons very seriously so I have not progressed to any other tense.) He didn't seem to understand what azafrán meant, but I give it equal odds that my pronunciation was terrible or he just didn't know what saffron was.

It got hotter. Jen and I discussed a variety of things as we moved along, including our plans for NaNoWriMo, and the fact that we would starve to death if we had to depend on our planting skills to eat. The hotter it got, the lower the threshold for jokes. By the end of the afternoon we finally got through our entire box of bulbs and I went to steal some from another box. I used the front of my t-shirt to hold them, then we almost died laughing when I told Jen I didn't need a box to hold them because I was going to use my "shirt bucket". At the time I said it I was completely serious about "shirt bucket" being a real thing.

Anyhow, I think at least one or two of the many, many bulbs I planted were at the correct depth.
As a group we finished four rows, so if you, too, want a saffron planting experience in the next week or so I can hook you up.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Well-trained, My A**

I took the dogs on a walk along Putah Creek this morning both to get some exercise and to get some photos of them.

I'd forgotten that being in a new place means that all training acquired in the past is invalid, so every time I told the dogs to stay and then crouched down to get a picture on their level (which, after many years of truly terrible pictures, I have learned is very important), both dogs would rush toward me. So I have a series of pictures that have vaguely dog-like blobs in them. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Here are the best of the bunch:

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Second Worst New Hobby

Recently I installed a geocaching app on my phone. You know geocaching -- people hide a box with a log book and then other people get the coordinates and go find the box and sign the log book. I've been feeling very lump-like lately since it's been too hot and smoky to run for about six weeks and I've been using the extra time to eat more.

So I decided to try geocaching. When I told my friends my plan one said "Do people still do that?", which is just further proof that I am the sign that a given fad is over.

Anyhow, instead of eating more ice cream for breakfast this morning, I grabbed the dogs and headed for a local spot. It wasn't that far away, just on the edge of town due south from me, and there's a park nearby, so I figured it would be a good one to start on. Also, the difficulty was listed as easy.

It wouldn't surprise me if someone pointed out a cache box in the background.

I probably should have picked a different cache when I read the past comment that said "clever hiding spot!". I'm the world's most unobservant person. Even wearing my glasses I could miss something in plain sight. And something cleverly hidden? Lost cause.

I looked around for a while. I'm a little surprised nobody called the cops. I never found the cache. The app said I was in the right area, but there weren't any more directions. So I took a couple pictures of my dogs and then I was going to take a picture of the sign at the end of the road but half an hour of GPS usage on my phone had killed the battery. Besides, it was getting hot. And I was trying not to get frustrated by my new "hobby".

Should we take bets on how many locations I can visit before I find a cache?

(It's still only the second worst new hobby because of the whole Pokemon-go fiasco a few years ago.)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Online Dating (Just Kidding) (Sort of)

One of my goals for August, yes, this August, is to start querying my novel with agents.

In a perfect world, this is the sequence:
1) I send a query to multiple agents describing my book.
2) One or more of them offer to represent me.
3) I carefully pick the one who will be the best for my writing career.
4) My super agent queries the book with editors at publishing houses.
5) The publishing houses get into a bidding war.
6) I get a seven figure advance.

In reality this is what will happen:
1) I send a query to multiple agents describing my book.
2) Half of them eventual send a form reply, the other half never respond, leaving me to wonder how long I should wait before I consider it a rejection.
3) I obsessively tweak the query and send it out to the next group of agents.
4) Goto step 2.
(See also, Dijkstra's "Go To Statement Considered Harmful")
5) Eventually I run out of agents to query.
6) I either self-publish or put the book in a digital trunk and forget it ever happened.

So yeah, good times ahead.

Today I was trying to figure out which agents to put in the first batch and I realized it's a lot like online dating. You start with a huge list of agents. You filter out the ones that accept the right genre and then you're down to something under 200. Now you have to prioritize them.

Do they have any clients you recognize? Do they have any clients at all?

Are there comments from other writers saying "Agents at this agency seem to last about two months and then disappear"?

Are they famous? Because maybe you'll have a better chance attracting the attention of a newer agent. Except the newer agent won't have the contacts that a more established agent would. But will an established agent even have time for a new writer?

Anyhow, I'm just going to be looking for an agent who's interested in what I have to offer and won't leave me buried in a shallow grave in a national forest.

That's not too much to ask, right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Not Yet Funny

Related to this, I got this notice today:

Fingers crossed that Crow the cat does relatively well for another week...

Friday, July 20, 2018

Some Day This Will Be Hilarious

I currently have four cats and they all started as my bottle babies when I was in vet school, so they're all in their teens now. If you know anything about cats that information is enough to tell you they are well into the lymphoma years.

Crow the cat didn't eat anything last night and didn't eat anything this morning, so I took her in to find out what specific form of badness she has going on and whether it's something we can treat for a while. (Jury is still out on that part -- it's looking like either the bad form of lymphoma or the worse form of lymphoma, plus something else that is making her jaundiced.)

 Crow the cat, "helping" me write

While she was at hospital number one (before transferring to hospital number two), she bit one of the technicians putting her IV catheter in.

If that wasn't bad enough, she is two months overdue on her rabies vaccination. I mean, she's an inside cat, I haven't seen any dead bats in the house, and she's probably well-protected from all the vaccinations she's had in the past, but still.

If she dies within the next ten days (which I give pretty good odds on at this point), legally they need to cut off her head and send it to the state to test for rabies.

So, yeah, someday this is going to be really funny. Just not so much today.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Marshmallow Toasting Has Been Cancelled

Apparently massive fires are the new normal for summers here. This map has the current satellite data for what started as the "Guinda Fire" and then became called "County Fire". (I'm not sure why it got the latter name since it's now in three counties, but I'm sure there's a reason.) When I went to bed last night it was estimated at 45,000 acres. When I got up seven hours later that had gone up to 70,000. It's only 5% contained which is just a step up from "Run For Your Lives!". The clear area in the middle of the orange/red oval is where it already burned over the weekend.

I live over on the east in Woodland. I think there's enough agricultural land that can be flooded that the fire won't get this far, but I'm not basing that on anything CalFire has said so I might be completely wrong. CalFire has their staging camp half a mile away from my house, though, so I suspect they don't think it's likely to burn either.

I have friends who are in evacuation zones and my social media is filled with people needing or offering transport and accommodation for horses and livestock in the affected area.

All I'm saying is that if I end up with a herd of goats in my back yard it's really not my fault...