Thursday, July 29, 2010

Connectivity Restored

If it's not one thing, it's another these days.  We have been dealing with 'connectivity' issues the past day or two, but they are finally resolved.  What we initially thought was our satellite provider's fault turned out to be our wireless router giving up the ghost.   I spent over an hour of phone time with Wildblue's technical support agents Tuesday evening to rule out any problem on their end, and another hour picking the brains of my geek friends in Icechat to narrow the problem down to the router.  Yeoldfurt came to the rescue, he went out yesterday and got us a new wireless router.   He had everything hooked up and back online by the time I got home from work.  That's my 'Furt!

Needless to say, Tuesday was frustrating with all that hold time waiting for a Wildblue agent to come online and even more frustrating when it didn't turn out to be their problem.   But some good did come out of it.  We've been with Wildblue for over three years and have been considering shopping around to see if there might be a better deal out there.  Part of our motivation for shopping around was that we had been having some connectivity issues lately and didn't yet know that our router was the real problem.  But, in general, I think it's a good idea to shop the 'necessary evils' like insurance and internet providers every few years anyway.  So, at the end of my conversation with Wildblue, I asked if we had fulfilled our contract with them and what the procedure was to cancel if we decided to go with another provider.  The agent had been very professional and polite throughout the call and asked if she could put me on hold for a few moments while she reviewed our account options.  When she came back to the line, she said they did not want to lose us as a customer and offered us two months FREE.  We spend approximately $84/month for the service so two months free is a significant savings ...what a deal!  Of course, the new router Yeoldfurt bought for us yesterday was $87 with tax, but we're still over $80 ahead.  I guess the little bit of phone frustration was worth it after all. 

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Overtime Over, Now the Real Work Begins

A lot gets put on the back burner when you work two and a half months of overtime.  What has to get done, gets done ...what can wait, gets put off.  Yeoldfurt took up the slack for me with the day to day stuff.  Most days when I got home, he had dinner ready or very nearly ready.  He usually had the outside chores done too.  Most of the men I've known would complain if they were pulling kitchen duty for ten straight weeks, but Yeoldfurt was a trooper.  I'm very blessed!

Now that overtime is finished, it's time to tackle the long list of things that I need to catch up on.  The spring garden is done except for cucumbers and a few straggler green beans.  We planted chard a few weeks ago, but grasshoppers or some other little critter wiped out all but eight of the twenty we planted.  We are babying those eight plants and hope to have our first fresh chard with dinner in a week or two.  The cucumbers are going wild.  I picked about a dozen of the biggest ones a week or so ago and made bread and butter pickles with them last weekend.  It was hard to estimate how many jars I would need as some of the cucumbers were the size of a small zucchini.  I cut the bigger ones into spears and the smaller ones into chips but still had to cut the chips into quarters to fit them into the wide-mouth jars.  I ended up with eleven pints of pickles from those dozen cucumbers.  There's another dozen or so in the fridge and twice that many babies still on the vine.  I don't think we'll need to buy pickles for several years! 

We are re-working the raised beds for the next several weeks to make ready for the fall planting.  The soil needs to be turned, some fresh soil and compost added, and every visible weed removed.  When each bed is clean and prepped, we'll cover them with a tarp until time to replant.  Covering the beds will keep windblown seeds out and any weed seeds we might have missed will hopefully be baked out by the July and August sun on the tarps.  Weeding is the hardest part of gardening.  Anything we can do to keep weeds to a minimum is worth it to me.

In September, we will replant with green beans, chard, lettuce, sweet peppers, hot peppers, bell peppers, broccoli and onions.  I want to can the green beans and chard so the majority of the garden will be planted with those.  What broccoli we don't eat fresh, we will freeze or use to make broccoli cheese soup which we will then process in the canner.  What peppers we don't eat fresh, we will pickle, dehydrate or can and add them to the inventory.

I'm not a rank novice to gardening or canning, but I'm new enough to still be learn a little something with each project.  What I took from my efforts in canning those eleven pints of pickles was that organization at the outset is the key.  My kitchen is adequate for most of the cooking I do, but there is very little counter space.  When you have very little of anything, you have to be extra careful how you utilize it.  I was using three of the four burners on my stove and realized just before I was ready to start putting cucumbers in jars that I had arranged all my pots on the different burners all wrong.  I had to back up a step, rearrange things more efficiently and then wait for things to heat up again.  A learning process.  By the time I placed the second batch of jars in the canner, I was on a roll.

I also pick up tips from others that I read regularly.  Just this week, I found a useful little tip at one of my favorite gardening blogs, Country Living in a Cariboo Valley, in her post on Mulching Pathways.  If you are interested in gardening or self-sustained living, check out Annie's blog.  You will find her on my blog roll, or by clicking the link to her Mulching Pathways post above.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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