Of Life Events and Gardens

It has been a rather long and rather eventful month here at Transient Ranch (I should explain that I briefly considered calling it Mustang Ranch, but the implications were…less than ideal). People in the hospital, friends and family with relationships ending and beginning, legal issues that demanded our attention and the myriad of everyday things we call “life” all conspired to keep me away from the keyboard, though not from acquiring more projects. Anyway, I’m back and I want to share the progress of one of those ongoing projects with you.

The garden is in, finally, and it doesn’t look, at this point, as if we’re likely to lose anything with the possible exception of the asparagus.

Last year, I did not plant a fall garden, so the beds were a little overgrown when I started work on them for this spring. As you can tell, everything was left in the beds from last year, including the landscaping cloth and stakes for some of last year’s plants. They looked like this:

Needs work

Needs work

After cutting grass and weeds and removing the leftover stuff from last year, it was time to lay down new landscape cloth in the beds and mulch the walkways in between them. You’ll note that except for two smaller beds at the top left hand side of the picture, the beds run the full length of the garden. That makes them 34 feet long.


Here it is, the walkways almost all mulched and with every bed ready to receive plants and its own mulch.


Finally done, or close to it (still need to mulch that area to the left side of the garden). Plants in and homemade tomato cages in place.


In a few days, I’ll go through and weed even the walkways and place the pavers, both for aesthetics and to keep my feet from getting quite so muddy if I have to go out there right after watering or rain.

A few other things. So far, I have placed 2 cubic yards of mulch in the garden and walkways. I estimate another yard will provide the cover I need as I add it to thin spots and “mulch out” a walkway on the left hand side of the garden. This year I purchased a new, state of the art, mulch transportation and delivery device. It’s been very useful.


The pavers that will go in, shortly.


Last year we grew, well, a lot varieties of everything, especially tomatoes and cucumbers. We discovered that as much as we like Italian food, we can’t grow enough Roma tomatoes to make sauce and adding other varieties to the sauce makes it far too wet. When it comes to cucumbers, the non pickling varieties are also too wet. This year, we are being more selective and limiting our varieties. Our plant selection looks like this:

  • Black or Russian Krim tomatoes x 9
  • Red Brandywine tomato x1
  • Boston Pickling cucumbers x 8
  • Black Beauty zucchini x 2
  • Crook Neck squash x 2
  • Serrano, jalapeno, ancho/poblano, Anaheim, cayenne and bell peppers x 2 of each
  • Hale’s Best cantaloupe x 2
  • Asparagus x 18
  • Carrots, lettuce varieties, arugula, spinach and kale x a lot of each (we have rabbits, okay?)

Now comes the hard part…waiting for harvest.

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Of Life Postponed

As an Executive Life Coach there are some things I emphasize to a lot of my clients: The power of choice, the importance of accepting responsibility and accountability as the keys to being truly free and the absolute necessity of knowing what matters to you and what you’re all about if you are to truly live your life. Some get it and some do not, much like the population in general. Many times, we fear doing what we want and, in fact, need to do. We abandon what often truly matters for the illusion of security. A friend of mine, who enjoyed a very high-paying position is a multinational corporation noted that “all positions are temporary.” He understood that security, especially absolute security, is an illusion. While it has certainly been misused, the oft quoted words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

With due regard to Franklin and the context in which he wrote those words in 1755, I nevertheless find the words force me to ask myself what I have given up to purchase some temporary safety (security).

Sometimes, I find it necessary to examine my own life and see if I have been taking my own advice. What do I need to do? What risks have I avoided, or from which risks have I fled, in the interest of a position of security that is temporary at best? How much of my life have I postponed?

I’ve recently written several posts about travel and boats, here, here and here. The need to travel, and more, to live in a vibrant and vital way, grows with every passing day. While it may take a while to realize, the dream, I understand, will not go away until it is either fulfilled or I die filled with regret about what the things I did not do.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do, than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)

Sterling Hayden put it this way.

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of “security.” And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

What is it you need to do? What dream calls to you? What is that thing that will not leave you alone, that wakes you in the middle of the night. What is it, the very idea of which fills you with both unspeakable dread and an almost palpable anticipation?

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What Kind of Boat do I Need?

It’s a nice, balmy 29 degrees as I write this. That’s too cold for me to be outside working on the projects I need to finish, so I’m thinking about my recently resurfaced boat obsession, instead. Recently, I’ve written about travel and boats, here and here. I did some searching on iboats.com and discovered something amazing. It is possible to buy a used sailboat, equipped and ready for living aboard and cruising the Great Loop, for $10-15K. That’s amazing! Since I’ve written about houseboats, before, I thought I’d try to list the relative advantages and disadvantages of houseboats vs sailboats. Of course, these are written from my perspective, so there is almost certainly some degree of bias.

  • Space. Lots of space. Tons of space, especially for a boat, where space is typically at a premium. Depending on the size of the boat, a houseboat can have in excess of 1000 square feet of interior living space.
  • Stable ride. While some designs can pound a bit in water that’s a little rough, the boats are designed for comfort. This “stable” ride comes at a cost (more on that, later)
  • Shallow draft. Many, perhaps even most, houseboats are designed to let you go into the shallows. Some are even designed to be “nosed” into shore so you can hop off and continue your fun, ashore.
  • Most are not designed for living aboard, full time. While there are exceptions, my admittedly limited experience has been that the furniture and finish is more along RV than home lines. This means that with constant use the furnishings show wear and tear pretty quickly.
  • Not seaworthy in any kind of significant sea state. The hulls aren’t designed to withstand the rather significant stresses of being underway in truly harsh weather. The same seems typically true of the “superstructure” of houseboat. I’ve been offshore in nasty weather in a variety of vessels designed for it. Taking green water over the bow was not a huge deal. The boats were solidly built and had a number of water tight compartments. That’s not the case with most houseboats and idea of taking a significant amount of water over the bow of a houseboat is the stuff of nightmares. Those expansive sliding glass or french doors that give such a beautiful view of your surroundings would shatter, letting all that water fill the inside. We call that NOT GOOD.
  • Poor stability. Wait a minute. Didn’t I just say houseboats have a stable ride? I did, indeed. Here’s that cost I mentioned. All boats have their own unique stability characteristics, and it’s important to understand stability if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on boats. Without going into a lot of detail, some boats are more stable in their initial resistance to rolling or even capsizing. This initial stability can be seen when we compare a round-bottomed canoe with a pontoon boat. The canoe tends to roll quite a bit with very little movement by the person in it. A pontoon vessel, on the other hand, doesn’t move much at all. Secondary stability is the resistance it has to rolling even further and potentially capsizing (turning upside down). Many canoes have great secondary stability. Pontoon vessels that roll beyond a certain point have very little (not all houseboats are pontoon boats). While there is more to stability than this, the point is that the hulls of most houseboats, whether pontoon or barge hulls, are not suited to windy weather and the larger swells and waves the wind can produce. Every boat has a point beyond which any further rolling will cause it to capsize. Boats on pontoon and barge hulls reach that point much sooner than some other designs.
  • Difficult to maneuver in the wind. The amount of boat, including hull and superstructure, above the waterline provides something for the wind to blow and is sometimes called the “sail area” because it catches the wind much like a sail. The greater the sail area, the more difficult it can be to maneuver the vessel, especially in tight quarters.
  • Most economical under engine power. Think about this: the hull of a sailboat is designed so the boat will move simply from wind power. When under engine power, this means it takes less power (and less fuel) to move the vessel. Whereas some motor vessels may drink fuel at the rate of 5 or 6 gallons per hour (gph), it is possible for some sailboats to move and consume only 0.4-0.8 gph.
  • Able to move without engines (duh). When solely under sail, the boat uses no fuel at all.
  • Very stable when the wind blows. The design and function of sailboats is such that when sailing, the wind will often tend to make the boat roll less, rather than more, especially if it is a relatively heavy boat for its size.
  • Limited space. Very limited space. Because of their design, space is at more of a premium than on other types of boats.
  • Slow. Unless you’re sailing a racing boat in the right wind, sailboats don’t go very fast. Of course, if you’re a “take your time” and “it’s about the journey, not the destination” kind of person this might be an advantage.

What I’m thinking is that despite all the creature comforts offered by houseboats, a sailboat may be the way to go for a person who wants to do more than simply motor about a bit in protected waters. Certainly, if one desires to complete the Great Loop, or journey to the Bahamas by boat, a houseboat is simply not an option. Now, to find the sailboat for the purpose. Oh, and I should probably learn to sail…

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Of Boats, Travel and Wanderlust

I’ve mentioned before that I really like boats. Apparently, it’s genetic. About two days ago, my oldest son called me to let me know he’s considering

  1. Joining the Merchant Marine
  2. Staying in long enough to gain his First Mate certification, and
  3. Buying his own sailboat/motorsailer and both liveaboard and charter

Apparently, wanderlust and the desire to travel has not skipped a generation.

All of which has me considering boats, yet again, especially motorsailers. That’s a pretty dramatic departure from houseboats. Why would I do that? Blame it on my time living on one coast or island or another. As much as there is to explore, just on the Mississippi River system (about 15k miles of shoreline), the world has a whole lot more. And, as much as I could really enjoy spending my days cruising up and down the Mississippi and its tributaries, the fact is houseboats are designed for protected waters and the idea of being on a boat but still being effectively landlocked bothers me. Think about this: It is possible to cruise the Mississippi River system, enter the Great Lakes, work your way across the Northeast, transit down the eastern seaboard, cruise about the tip of Florida and eventually work your way back to the Mississippi. It’s called the Great Loop…but you can’t reasonably (or safely) do it in a houseboat because of the time spent in the Great Lakes and offshore. But, with a motorsailer, especially one equipped with modern wind, solar and hydro generators, there is almost nowhere one couldn’t theoretically head. Combine that with building an online business and suddenly it becomes much more than theoretical.

Boats are freedom

Boats are freedom

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Garden Planning Update…Starter Boxes

WordPress likes me, today, so I was able to upload a couple of pics of the concrete forms I’m re-purposing as starter boxes. With 5 of them, I probably have more than I need, still, it’s nice to know I’ll be able to start everything without having to worry about containers.

5 starter boxes for the garden.

5 starter boxes for the garden.

They’re pretty big. Outside dimensions are 96″ x 16″. Inside, after taking the inner divisions into account, I wind up with about 88″ x 13.5″ of usable space in each one. With 5 boxes, that means I have 5940 sq inches. Wow! The 3/4″ plywood bottoms make them sorta heavy, but that’s okay. They aren’t likely to fall apart any time soon.

Inside a starter box

Inside a starter box

Later today, hopefully, I’ll be buying my seed starting mix and tomorrow the fun begins.

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Garden Planning…WooHoo!*

I like fresh fruits and vegetables. The colors, smells and tastes add so much to a meal that you simply can’t get any other way. Then, of course, there’s the nutritional value. We all need the nutrients that veggies contain along with things like the antioxidant and fiber benefits of some veggies. Good taste and health benefits all rolled into a single package. What’s not to like. There are only two ways of which I’m aware to get fresh fruits and vegetables, buying them from a store or growing them yourself. I much prefer to grow them myself.

When I was a kid, my mom had a garden whenever she could (with all of our moving, it wasn’t always possible). I remember how much she and my dad seemed to delight in making and maintaining the garden and how much more they enjoyed harvesting, preparing and eating what came out of it. Now, you have to understand that as much as my parents loved fresh veggies, I was most emphatically not a convert. I disliked them immensely. Then, one day, I discovered raw vegetables and I was hooked. After that, my parents would eat theirs cooked and I had mine raw. It was several years before I discovered the reason for my preference. It was both simple and sad. I loved my mom. Cooking was simply not her forte’. The one thing you could be sure of when my mom cooked something, anything really, was that it was done. It was well done and had been well done for a while before it was served. Then, one day, I discovered vegetables that were cooked but not overcooked. Vegetables that were properly seasoned. Wow! What a difference!

Several years ago, I began planting my own vegetable gardens. Then, for a few years, I stopped. Life was really busy and something had to give. Gardening was one of the things I let go. Two years ago, I started again. The veggies are nice. Like I said, I like eating them. More than that, though, I like the experience of planning a garden. Prepping and amending the soil. Planting. Weeding (okay, not so much with the weeding). Watering. And, of course, harvesting and eating. Add to that the fulfillment I get from canning the excess. It’s a special kind of gratifying to eat something, knowing it’s not only tasty, but healthy and that you grew it yourself. And, if done properly, it’s much less expensive than buying your vegetables from the store. I guess you could say I find gardening rewarding (reasonably priced food), relaxing (you can’t really hurry the natural life cycle of a tomato) and very fulfilling (I grew this).

When I was a kid, everyone I knew planted their gardens the same way – in long rows spaced about 18″-24″ apart. Last year, for the very first time ever, I put in raised beds with my own version of square foot gardening. I don’t know that I will ever grow a garden any other way, ever again. This weekend, hopefully, I’ll start my seeds in some wooden boxes I’ve re-purposed. Originally, they were concrete forms used by a neighbor, but this year they’ll be dedicated to a nobler purpose (I had planned to post pics of the boxes but can’t upload them right now. I’ll try later.)

If you like fresh vegetables, if you’re looking for a rewarding way to relax, why not plant a garden?

* Originally, I had planned on using the word “w00t” but I’ve been asked to stop embracing my inner nerd.

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“Night Will Fall”

Typically, I reserve my more serious and far less fun stuff for my other blog. Today, I am making an exception for which I hope you will forgive me. Tomorrow, January 27, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Tomorrow, HBO will air “Night Will Fall” which will largely feature footage from Hitchcock’s documentary documenting what was learned when the Allies liberated some of the Nazi death camps. It is unfortunate that for political reasons Hitchcock’s documentary, and the shocking images it contained, was shelved. Man’s inhumanity to man should not, must not, be glossed over, ignored or treated as “that’s just the way things are.” Some things, I submit, are too evil to be ignored, tolerated or forgotten.

You can read a much more insightful and far better written post about the documentary at Bayou Renaissance Man’s blog, here.

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A Travel Idea

I should preface this with an admission. My family of origin is from the coast of North Carolina. Before that, my dad’s branch was from the coast of Scotland. One uncle was in the Navy and another in the Coast Guard. I was in both. The result? I like boats. I like boats a lot. When I travel, if I have the time, I like to explore. It doesn’t usually matter how far I go in a day if I get to explore and look around. All of which brings me to the subject of houseboats. Yes, houseboats. Those ubiquitous and often horribly ugly floating hometels found on many lakes and rivers, sometimes captained by people unable to read navigation charts or follow the rules of the road for ships and boats (I know I’m biased, but several years in the Coast Guard will do that to you).

The Mississippi River System comprises not just the Mississippi River. It also includes portions of the Cumberland, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri Rivers, as well. All together, it encompasses about 15,000 miles of commercially navigable water (I note commercially because many smaller recreational vessels can navigate waters that aren’t viable for commercial traffic). That’s a lot to explore, even without considering the possibilities opened by using a boat that draws far less water than a commercial tug or barge. Think of it this way:

  • The Mississippi River is navigable from Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN all the way to New Orleans, LA
  • The Missouri River is navigable from Sioux City, IA to St. Louis, MO
  • The Cumberland River is navigable for some 190 miles, from its mouth on the Ohio RIver
  • The Ohio River is navigable from its mouth at Cairo, IL all the way to Pittsburgh, PA
  • The Tennessee River is navigable from its mouth near Paducah, KY to Knoxville, TN
  • The Illinois River and Waterway is navigable from Lake Michigan to its mouth in Grafton, IL
  • The Arkansas River (along with the Verdigris River) is navigable from its mouth on the Mississippi to Tulsa, OK

Again, that’s a lot to explore. So, here’s the idea with which I’m toying for a few years from now:

  • Liquidate as much “stuff” as possible
  • Buy and rebuild (or build new) a houseboat
  • Equip it for a home office
  • Explore, explore, explore

Now, to convince my wife…

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Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays to all!

Peanuts Christmas

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Abandoned Church

A few weeks ago my wife and I were making one of our “hey, let’s go exploring” drives. In Santa Anna, TX we came across this abandoned church building. It seemed to shout “Hey, look at me! Take my picture before I’m gone.” We took a lot of pictures, but only two of them seemed worth including here. I would have loved to explore the inside. Sadly, the building is posted “no trespassing.” I’m not sure why old abandoned buildings fascinate us so. I only know they do.

Old and abandoned, but so fascinating

Old and abandoned, but so fascinating

I thought boarding it up, with the presumably unintentional formation of a cross over this window was worth its own shot. It’s my favorite picture of the building.

An unintentional cross?

An unintentional cross?

That was about all we saw in Santa Anna. There’ll be more coming. Texas is filled with little towns that have abandoned buildings from bygone eras. I wonder how many we’ll get to see.

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