RSS feed/blogroll updates

When I originally put together this page I hacked together a makeshift set of blogroll pages rather than have the list taking up space in the side bars. It worked surprisingly well considering that my PHP knowledge is basically nonexistent. But it’s always had some issues. Among other things, it’ll randomly decide to just not load this or that feed. And when that happens that entire webpage disappears from the blogroll.  Since this leaves me with no way to tell what the problem is (did a link change?  is the RSS down? ) its not cool.

I’ve wanted, for a while, to find a better way to do it, but none of the WordPress blogroll plugins seemed to do what I wanted. Then yesterday I found a plugin by the name of YARSS (Yet Another RSS plugin). Had a minor spot of trouble getting it going, but the guy who programmed it in the first place included his email in the readme and was kind enough to respond to my emails and help me figure out the coding problem. Thanks Alex!

So I’ll be switching those blogroll pages over to the new format over the week or so.  Not sure if anyone besides me actually uses them, if so, be patient with me as I fiddle.

And if anyone reading this is looking to build an RSS feed, either as a page, or as a widget, I can recommend YARSS.  Although you can customize quite a bit by fiddling with the code, you don’t have to in order to use it.

Idiots and wildlife

Washington state resident Idiot2’s son was among the children Idiot1 led toward the elk. Despite safety advisories – and numerous examples of visitors getting gored by bison, mauled by bears and chased by elk – Idiot2 declared herself unafraid of the park’s wildlife. She said she was eager to see a grizzly up close.

“I want to see one right there,” Idiot2 said, pointing to a spot just feet away. “I’d throw it a cookie.”

Quoted article.  Names changed to something more appropriate.

I’d say that this is the result of city folks who’ve never spent time in real life.  But Idiot1 is quoted as calling himself an “experienced hunter” who’s “spent lots of time outdoors”, thus he was quite confident of his ability to judge the situation.  Course, his definition of “experienced” may not jive with anyone elses…….

I have no idea if these incidents are actually increasing, as discussed in the article, or if its a perception issue.  Doesn’t matter IMO.

Garden update

No pictures this time, sorry.

I cooked down another 6 ziplocks of tomatoes yesterday.  1 for ketchup and 5 for sauce.  There’s space in that freezer again!  But I’m sure I’ll be filling it back up with tomatoes in short order.

I’m considering pulling up the cantaloupe vines.  I’ve picked 3 fruit.  Lost the one to the coyote.  And tossed 4 more because the underside was rotten when I picked them.  I’m assuming its a heat issue as I don’t normally have problems with this variety.

I picked two more watermelons, and there’s another 4 or 5 growing.

I actually picked TWO, non-buggy, paprika peppers!  I’m not sure they were 100% ripe, but I don’t care.  They’re in the freezer pending dehydration, hoping I’ll get a few more……

I’ve got about half a ziplock of hot peppers in the freezer for either dehydration or jelly.  A mix of Buena Mulatas and Hungarian Hot Wax.  I’ve picked two Habaneros and both were buggy *sigh*.  The Jalapenos look like the first of them will be along shortly.

Still waiting on the Melon Pear fruit to change color.

The tomato avalanche is still in force.  I’m considering pulling up the Blue Berries.  They’re producing well, and thats kinda the problem.  They are, infact, hugely prolific.  And the fruit is so tiny, and the vines so thick, that picking them all has turned into a huge issue.  I KNOW I’m missing tons of them.  And its not like I NEED those tomatoes…….

Bonus to frozen tomatoes

When I remember to pull them out of the freezer far enough in advance to actually thaw all the way before trying to cook them down I’m able to drain off a TON of clear liquid!  That ought to help with the cook down time quite a bit!

BTW, this now makes 8.5 gallon ziplocks cooked down.  There’s at least that many still in the freezer, and a ton of tomatoes still on the plants in various stages of ripeness!


Speaking of my hands, as I was last post, reminded me that I hadn’t updated.

So, first off, the symptoms in my hands: General joint soreness and stiffness in basically every joint of the hand and wrist.  Stabbing burning pains in the thumb knuckle closest to the palm of the hand (technically the middle joint of the thumb).  This is the same for BOTH hands, though my left is worse, possibly because the pain is worse when I’m attempting to do things requiring either fine motor control and/or extended hand-strength grip and I tend to be right handed and so hold things with my left.  I’ve recently noticed some issues with extension of the pointer finger (right hand), notably when I’m typing.  Its really obvious when I’m typing and I’m constantly struggling to hit certain keys anyway.

So, I have now seen a total of four doctors (besides my primary care doc) in an attempt to figure out whats going on with my hands.

The first was a hand & nerve reconstruction specialist, back in 2009, who told me it wasn’t ligament or tendon damage, and since my bloodwork was normal it wasn’t rheumatoid.  He said it was probably the sort of thing that happens when you abuse your joints the way I have.  Basically mild arthritis.

The second doctor was the first rheumatologist (2015).  Who decided that even though my bloodwork was normal, once they compared xrays to the 2009 ones he decided that there was signs of bone erosion (which means rheumatoid) in most of the joints of both hands.  But then declined to discuss it.

The second rheumatologist did more bloodwork, said there’s no way its rheumatoid, your blood work is to normal.  It’s probably the sort of thing that happens when you abuse your joints.  I’ll send you to an ortho hand specialist, maybe he can find something that’ll help you.

The ortho specialist looked at everything, poked at my hands in various spots, asked me more questions.  He said there’s some mild arthritis buildup in the joint at the base of the thumb (this joint is basically at the wrist, in case you were curious), but nothing that would explain my symptoms.  But gosh, it sure sounds like rheumatoid, are they SURE you’re not rheumatoid?  After some additional discussion he prescribed some braces that support the thumb joints on the theory that it wouldn’t hurt and might help.

So thats where things currently stand.  Two votes for “the sort of thing that happens when you abuse your joints” and two votes for “are they sure you’re not rheumatoid?”.  Sigh.  I’ve got an appointment to see the rheumatologist in another 6 months, just to make sure nothing changes.  The braces do seem to help, at least a little, with the pain in my thumb joint, so I guess thats not a waste.  It’d probably help if I wore them more, but I’m still getting used to them.

As for my ankles.  The orthotics, once I got used to them, made a significant difference in the amount of pain I was in.  I’m not going to say I was pain free (cause I wasn’t) but the difference was night and day.  For the first two months.  Three months after getting the orthotics I realized the pain in my ankles was increasing again.  Three months is an awfully short period of time to have worn out the orthotics, especially since I’m rotating between two pairs.  In addition I started having issues with my left knee (which is the weak one anyway due to prior issues).  When I started wearing a support brace on that knee, stabilizing it, I found myself rolling my left foot/ankle outwards.  All of which makes me suspect that I need higher arch supports.  I have an appointment this week with the ankle specialist, so we’ll see what he says.


Since I have an abundance of tomatoes this year I thought I’d try my hand at making ketchup, especially since Husband eats it by the trailer load.  The recipe I used is in THIS cookbook.  Btw, if you’re looking for a series of decent cookbooks for yourself or for giving, I have really liked these America’s Test Kitchen books, at least the ones I’ve picked up so far (I understand the pressure cooking one isn’t so great, but the others I’ve picked up I’ve liked).

The final step of the recipe is to smush the puree through a fine mesh strainer.  I got about halfway through that when it occurred to me that the food mill might have been a better option for my hands (the left hand in particular, which was holding the strainer, was really unhappy with me), but even after switching over my hands were still very unhappy.  I still hurt this morning.  After I griped about it on Facebook my mother offered to buy us a crank food strainer as an anniversary gift.  I won’t be doing ketchup again till that arrives.

Simmering down it didn’t smell all that great to me, but I don’t eat ketchup anyway (and absolutely can’t stand the smell of cloves).  Husband, on the other hand, eats ketchup on damn near everything, and thought it smelled divine.  Final results: he says it needs to be a bit sweeter (easy enough), and, as much as he loves the Black Plums and their smoky flavor in the ketchup, he’s missing that acid bite of the usual tomatoes (he said he’d absolutely eat it as it is though, so it must not be too far off!).  So next batch I’ll add in some of the Blue Berries (maybe 1/4 of the tomatoes?), and see how that goes.


Update: after the ketchup sat for a while, and was then properly shook up before he put it on his burger last night, he now says not to change a thing and its perfect the way it is.  I’ll take it!


Note: all Amazon links go to Amazon via my Amazon Affiliates account.  If you buy something on Amazon after clicking through one of the above links I might earn a few pennies.

Garden update

Buena Mulata peppers:


They started as these spindly little plants that could barely hold themselves up and turned into this!  And covered in peppers too.  For anyone else growing these my husband says that if they’re less than fully ripe they taste very “green” (and not in a good way), but as long as they’re fully ripe they’re both very hot and very tasty.

The Chocolate Habaneros are happy this year too:


Usually these plants get barely a foot high for me (if that tall, often they’re less than a foot), but this year, they’re huge, the tallest are pushing two feet!  I assume thanks to the heat, since hot peppers are considered a hot climate plant.  They’re covered in very large habaneros too.

Some more pictures of the Blue Berries tomatoes:

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Their final color is determined by how much sunlight they get, so that red one is mostly shaded while the darker ones in the bottom photo are mostly in the sun.  What I find amusing is that a not insignificant number of them are coming in yellow and blue instead of red and blue:


The farm that produces this particular hybrid also has a Golden Berries tomato, and clearly they’re related!

I brought some of the Black Plum tomatoes into work with me to share with a couple co-workers.  I might have converted them.  One asked me to tell him when I’m starting my seedlings in the spring, he’ll pay me the same fee he pays to buy his usual plants at the store.  The other asked me where I get my seeds from.

The Black Plums are still our favorite of all the tomatoes.  As cool as the White Cherrys and the Blue Berries are I don’t know that I’ll bother to grow them again next year.  The Black Icicles I might though.  The flavor is similar to the Black Plums, though higher acid, and as a paste tomato they’ll help thicken the tomato sauce up with less simmering.

BTW, I’ve weighed a few of the gallon ziplocks and so far they’re all coming in at over 4lbs each.  I’ve lost track of how many are in the freezer.  Tomatoes aren’t halfway done yet.  I’ve cooked up 4.5 ziplocks worth of tomatoes so far…..

I picked three watermelons last weekend, and took one, and a bunch of mixed tomatoes, over to my north side neighbor (the one who’s husband died), since I remembered that she liked watermelon.  She was delighted, and came over Wednesday to admire my garden and tell me that the watermelon was one of the better ones she’s ever had (there’s a reason I grow them!).

I picked another cantaloupe Wednesday, and will hopefully be picking two more today (if not I’ll have to see if I can chicken wire those tires for the night).

I treated all the peppers for caterpillars again.  Though the worst by far is the paprika peppers.  I’m not actually sure I’m getting any paprikas this year, every time I check the plants I end up pitching more peppers for ‘pillar damage!

Last weekend I spooked an itsy bitsy (barely big enough to be out of the nest) bunny out from under the cantaloupe vines (sigh).  Gosh they’re adorable at that stage.  Especially when they’re so spooked that they trip themselves and literally end up tumbling ass over ears in their panic.  I so wished I could have caught it on video.  Then I went back inside and got my bottle of repellent and re-treated the entire garden…..

One of my hibiscus is blooming.



This is the one next to the rain barrels, and so it gets more water than my other ones.  The others do have buds on them though, so they’ll be along eventually!

Sunflowers are also going strong:

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I am, overall, quite happy with my garden this year!

All good

We made it through the storms yesterday with no major damage here.  There’s a Facebook photo circulating of what looks like a funnel cloud on the west end of the lake I live near, and news reports of a funnel cloud further north of that, but no reports of actual tornado touch down that I can find.

Yesterday, since I made it home from work before the storms hit I ran out to the garden and snatched as many of the ripe tomatoes as I could before the storms hit.  In the 10 minutes or so I was out there the sky went from blue and sunny with some pretty white clouds, to dark and nasty with black clouds.  So I gave up and went back in.  I still picked another 3 gallon ziplocks worth of tomatoes though before giving up:


I was worried the winds would knock over the tomatoes (the storm Saturday knocked a couple over though they were salvageable with only minor damage).  A check this morning and the garden doesn’t look seriously worse for wear, though I’ll need to do some new tying down of cages as some are leaning hard.

At one point the water was coming down so hard and heavy that the water shooting out the downspouts was shooting OVER the rain barrels (which were over-flowing anyway, guess I need to redo those overflow pipes so at least that water will be directed where I want better in heavy rain like this).

Today looks to be a very nice day, weather wise, so hopefully I can catch up on some of the yard and garden work I’ve been putting off!

Dear Mother Nature: you can stop screwing with us now

We’ve had a painfully hot and dry summer this year.  The region (a lot of it technically a flood zone and/or with high water table) has been pushing drought.  Water restrictions have been popping up, and at least one area announced that if we didn’t get rain soon they were going to run out of water in their reservoir.

Normally we have a soaking wet spring, that only marginally dries out for the early summer.  I might have to start watering in July, and almost definitely will by mid-August, but rarely earlier than that.  Last summer was a bit screwy that way too, but not this bad.

This year?  If it wasn’t for the rain barrels and the soaker hoses my garden would either be D-E-D dead or we’d have one hell of a water bill from all the running of the sprinkler.

So now it’s mid-August.  EVERYONE I talked to said they figured our chances of serious rain in August is pretty darn small.  Maybe in September.

But apparently mother nature isn’t done screwing with us.

Saturday evening a line of thunderstorms roared through.  No actual tornadoes that I’m aware of, but plenty of damage without them.  Plus at least an inch of rain.

Here’s today’s radar weather map as of 8:30am:



We’ve had a nice little sprinkle of rain this morning.  But they’re talking violent thunderstorms and even possibly tornadoes for later today.

We lost power here Saturday evening for a couple hours, but were lucky and got power back before bedtime.  An awful lot of folks didn’t.

Looking at this and I’m seriously considering telling Husband we’re buying a generator today, my work has a bunch……..

(yes, we need a generator regardless, but for various reasons we’ve let it sink down the “really ought to buy now” list……)

Harvest basket

One of the downsides to this year’s bountiful garden is my ability to harvest it easily.  I’ve generally used one of the kitchen strainer baskets to hold stuff as I wander around the garden picking.  It was handy for a few reasons, including the ability to plop it into the sink to rinse everything.  Previous years this has generally worked fine for most of the garden.

This year?  Not so much.


Yesterday I picked two strainer fulls of tomatoes and left more on the vines that I could have picked but would be ok for another couple days.

So earlier this week I went looking at various options and ideas for harvesting baskets.  Found lots of:


Really big gaps that my little tomatoes would fall out of.

Awkward to use.



Ran across this one, which struck me as really cool, but gosh, do I really have to spend $50?  I’m sure it’s worth it, but money…….

The more I looked at that last one the more I thought I could build something comparable.  I’d have to go buy some cedar board, but I already have 1/2″ hardware cloth left over from another project……


Bonus: mine has feet to hold the contents out of the dirt!

The mesh and staples used to hold it on will probably eventually deteriorate, but the wood is cedar and the screws are exterior grade, so at whatever point the mesh dies I can reuse the frame.

Of course, it won’t fit in the sink, but I can rinse stuff off with the hose if need be and not worry about it!

It holds just, you know, one or two tomatoes…..



Interior dimensions are approx 5.5″ deep, 8″ wide, 16.6″ long