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Monday, September 22, 2014

Growing tomatoes, Killing Mice and No Mula

This is a story about growing tomatoes, killing mice, No Mula and a bit of luck.
I have a pretty good life. I don't have to get up and slug it out at a day job anymore. I have earned that privilege by doing a lot of things right. I don't make any apologies for that. But nevertheless, I am appreciative and I know I have it good compared to those who do still have to slug it out and pay the bills. I am certainly grateful and to some extent I'm sure I am pretty lucky.
I did work hard. For sure. For many years. It wasn't only luck. But, luck always plays some part no matter how smart, well intentioned or good you are at something.
The reality is though, currently, I don't have to do anything all day, if I don't want to. I can watch horse races, porn, or a whole season of Mad Men. Or.....Not. I can do anything. I can do nothing. Or, I can do something. I choose to do something. Anything that interests me.
 
This is a pic of my tomato patch in front. The tomatoes are growing, but are still green and the plants are not very tall.

One of the things I have always wanted to do was grow my own fruits and vegetables. Being the kind of person that likes a challenge, I didn't take the easy road when I set out to do that. I didn't hire anybody to help, I didn't really ask for advice (I'm not that great at taking it anyway) and I didn't do it the conventional way that many do. I will take satisfaction in making it work and getting a bounty knowing that I did everything right in my own way, worked hard and fought through the failures.
And oh, there were failures. 
 
From all the plants I got last year, I ended up with two peppers. Both small. The tiny one was the size of a pinky ring. Yes, I failed miserably.
Last year, I did what I thought was right. I saved the seeds from the peppers and tomatoes I bought at the store, all winter, and then I planted the seeds and hoped for the best. That didn't work out at all, really. I got one very small pepper just before the frost, and no tomatoes. In fact, my tomato plants barely even sprouted at all. I planted some melon seeds, and I got seedlings but they all died also. I was much too late planting those as well.
Above is the one pepper I got plus one very tiny one from last year that made a nice picture, but was not really anything to fill my stomach with. 
This year, I thought I did it right. I prepared all winter. I studied how others did it online and I watched their videos. I fixed up the soil before the winter so I could plant as early as possible. I made sure I planted early when the weather warmed up, and I again had my seeds saved up, cleaned, stored and ready to go when it came time to plant. I should have been very successful.
And, I guess I am. I do have quite a few tomato plants growing, and have gotten a few good tomatoes from that. I likely will get a decent bounty and harvest before the frost comes. That is in spite of a very poor growing season, due to the very cool summer we had this year. There is nothing I can really do about that. That is simply the luck of the draw. Farmers know all about the luck factor. Just as bettors of horse races do. More about that later. 
 
My melon plants along the fence. Came in very good this year. The melons are small, as you might be able to see from this picture.
I planted my melon seeds along the fence, as they say you should. That way, when they grow taller, the plants knit themselves to the fence so that the melons, which are heavy, will have something to hang on as they grow. That has worked out great. I will get quite a few decent melons, although they will be smaller, again because of the poor weather we had this summer. At least my seedlings amounted to something this year. Live and learn, and get better each year. That has been my motto in life, and just about everything I do is based on always improving.

My one very tall tomato plant along the fence.  It is actually taller than the fence,  and higher than any other tomato plants or melon plants. Still growing, but if the frost holds off, I will get lots of tomatoes from this one.
But, I noticed something funny along the way this year. I was careful to separate my seeds, but somehow, I noticed that some of the plants didn't look like melon plants. I thought maybe it was a mutation. But, it wasn't.
As the plants became tall, it became clear that two of the plants were tomato plants, and another was a pepper plant. The pepper plant grew tall, but it hasn't sprouted any vegetables. Similar to all the peppers this year. The tomato plants have been the opposite. They have grown very tall, and I will get the most tomatoes from these two plants of all plants I planted elsewhere this year. 

Two smaller pepper plants. Late blooming but might give me some peppers before the frost comes.
And...I didn't even intend on growing any tomatoes along that fence. Somehow, a few tomato seeds got in that mix and they grew the best, without me doing anything to try and make that happen. Sometimes, it's just luck and you have to roll with it. You can't rely on luck, but you can accept good luck when it comes your way, and realize bad luck and shit happens too. 

So far, my one really good tomato. From the front, and it was the first bud as well.
When I am not growing food in the backyard, and I am not playing The Farmer I certainly still have plenty of time left over in my day.
Since I have all this time for myself, due to the good fortune of not having to work, as I said before, it's probably a good thing. Why? Because we have a mice problem in this house. And this is after we solved the squirrel in the attic problem last winter and this spring. It just never seems to end. Most homeowners reading this know where I am coming from here.
We have had a mice problem in this house for a while. And, apparently, these are pretty smart mice. They know how to take food out of the trap and not get their heads snapped off. That certainly makes it tough to catch and kill them. 
 
The mice love to hide in the top drawer. They get in from behind the counter. They are cagey.
So, I have taken upon myself to trap and kill them, the old fashioned way. Kind of like a cat would. I stalk them, I bait them into going where I want so I can pounce on them and kill them. That has sort of worked out. Mice aren't particularly smart, and are very predictable. Much like some people. But, I digress.
Anyway, I have gotten most of them, thinned the herd and the problem is very minor at this point. Just a few remained to be a bother. But, the ones that were left were very tough to get.
There were two or three in particular that were very pesky and evasive.
 
The smarter mice like to run into the burner and through the hole in the center. That worked for a while.
Behind the stove. In the stove, behind the fridge, in the drawer, in the vents. Along the walls. They found ways to stay alive and make it tough for you to hunt and kill them.
I tried everything. But I couldn't get them. I knew they were there, and I knew they would take the bait, but if I was there, they seemed to be able to get away, and hide. I suppose that is why they survived while others didn't. Some of the others were very easy to catch and kill. They would come right up to you, and then freeze while you smacked them and then they were easy to kill. Not these.

Until I got the idea to cover the burners with the tops of the pots. That trapped them in the stove and there was no escape this time.
Of the pesky ones, one was very bright. If you cornered it, it would wait you out, and then run into the holes in the stove burners and hide in there until you went to bed, and then it would make an escape. For some reason, it took me a while to figure out I could just cover the holes and trap it there. Once I did that, I tried to get that one to come out and I would kill it then. But that mouse was still really smart. So, I just left it in there, turned on the stove, and it died from the heat. Got that one. But he or she was very tough.
Another one got very hungry and took a dumb risk by walking across the middle of the kitchen floor. While he was eating, in a brief moment of stupid risk taking that eventually led to his or her ultimate demise, I smacked it once with its back to me. It never saw it coming and died happy, with a full stomach and an instant end.
But, there was one more. And I couldn't get this one. I suspect he or she had been there the whole summer,  and maybe even from the previous winter. It was a big sucker. It might have been the main one, the one that was breeding all the others and making more. I had to get this one. But, I couldn't. It was that cagey.

The smartest mouse liked to hide behind the Microwave where I couldn't get him. So, I put the microwave tight to the stove, and made it come out. And the burners were covered. No escape this time.
Then, the other night, after another day of futile mouse hunting, I was on my way to bed at about 2am. I had no intention of chasing, hunting or killing mice. As I went by the kitchen, I heard a noise. The mouse was on his rounds, and he heard me. He went running off along the wall by the counter and hid behind the microwave. I had him trapped. He knew it. For whatever reason, he froze. I had the stove blocked off now. He couldn't run in there if he was one that had before. There was nowhere to go. He seemed to know that. I waited him out, and he seemed resigned to his fate. He moved out enough and froze, just enough for me to whack him, and stun him. Then I killed him. Just like that. He fell right into my lap, when I least expected it, and then he just gave it up. Much like my tomatoes, for all my effort, planning, and hard work, I got this one by accident. Much like betting sometimes.  Now, that story, to conclude this blog.
When you bet horses, most of us have a theory. We scan the program, look for angles or good plays. We watch replays. We study the horses. The breeding. Anything we can and think is relevant so we can pick value winners. It's a big rush when you do that. I do it all the time. But I know, for all that I do, some horses you can't play, and many horses will continue to beat you if you do.
Horses are like that. Some horses just have your number.
Waasmula is just such a horse for me. I call her "No Mula" because I can never bet her and have her win, but when I give up and play against her, she beats me. She has my number. For sure. I have just grown to accept that.
Burnin Money is another. I always say he is aptly named, because he does burn your money. He rarely wins, and he loses when it seems he should win. As a percentage winner, he is very low percentage. So, I refuse to bet him, even if I do like him on that night and my handicapping and data tells me he is a good bet. This year, he has not disappointed me. He has lost every race he should have won, and he has not burned any of my money.
Then you have a mare like Smarty Pants. Horses that simply refuse to win, no matter how much the odds are stacked in her favor. She is the type you can play against with confidence.
All 3 of these horses, and many others over the course of my lifetime, you simply can't get them when they win and you will die in vain trying. So, I don't. I accept that.
But, otherwise, you plot, you scheme, you figure out, you wait, and you hope that you will get it right and make the score. It's the core of what we do as serious, skilled and educated gamblers and handicappers.
And then...there is.....the....Other times.
Other times, you pick up the program, you look it over for 10 seconds, you pick the one you like, and then it wins. Easy. At good odds.
It's Crazy. Crazy, Wow. Yup. And to me, it seems to be all in the names. 


Literally, last Thursday, I was watching Monticello and trying to find a live play there, and I was wondering where they were at on the Little Brown Jug card. I hadn't looked at the entries, the program, the horses or anything. And then I saw it. An entry of Walter White and Pinkman. Takter and Gingras. And I was getting 3-1. On an entry. Of 2 year old trotters on a half mile track. Small field. So, I made the bet. And by post time, I now had 5-1. And as they left, the rail horse ran, and I had the 2 hole trip the whole way on the favorites back with Pinkman. Too fucking good to be true. And then Walter White pulled first up and ran at the favorite. Either way, if anything was beating Crazy Wow (the heavy favorite), it was one of those two. And as they hit the stretch, even though it hadn't happened yet, I just knew Pinkman was going to tip out and take Crazy Wow. And he did.
And why did I pick these horses, out of the blue, just like that? Because I loved Breaking Bad and those two characters. I just happened to stumble onto them and this race like the old days, when you walked into the track, got the program, had 2 minutes to bet the first race and had no clue about any of the horses or any form. So, you threw a bet down, on something that caught your eye, and hit a 10-1 shot. Then spent the rest of the card studying the program intently and losing every cent you made on the first race.
And, for all my plotting, handicapping, data collection and video watching, I just got 5-1 on a race I didn't even look at.
So, killing mice, and growing vegetables is like betting horses sometimes. For all you try to do, sometimes you just get lucky. 
Killing mice is like betting horses. And sometimes like growing tomatoes.
Right place, right time, right Karma. Nothing you can do other than be happy you can get those to even out the ones that don't work out that way.
Like all my pepper plants, and most of the bets I made last week. 

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