Columbine

The columbine flowers are blooming here on the Chandler Ranch in southwestern Oregon.

columbine in bloom

I like how this photo turned out – the black in the background makes it pop.


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Garden – progress report – Just getting started, really

Thought I would take some photos and share with friends/family our raised bed garden.


Seedlings, waiting to go into the ground as we get the beds completed. We got the seeds from Territorial Seed in Cottage Grove.

The four apple trees planted about ten years ago, which were pruned back in January by Justin Rotter (Good Job!) have bloomed and are thriving. This is the first year we can expect to get more than a handful of apples, come harvest time.

We’ve had Tom Walker working on the garden path down the hill to the garden from the house. The steps were in a sorry state of disrepair, so we had him put stepping blocks in place to make it easier to get up and down the hill.

The first bed – it has broccoli, caluliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage — and a few peas.

Second bed has carrots, beats and beans and peas. Marie says the little blue tractor seat on wheels keep her back from hurting from leaning over weeding, setting up the little drip watering system heads, etc. Some assembly was required on the cart, and we may have over-tightened things a bit. It’s a little “stiff” — impossible to steer if you’re sitting on it.

Bed 4 has onions and tomatoes in it.

Bed 6 had corn in it last year, which did very poorly. This year, we’ve planted broccoli, celery, onions and eggplant. We’ll see how it does.

Five new beds, two by two feet. The center one is for flowers to attract bees. The other four are for squash, and we have some old grid shelving we are going to use to let the squash climb on. We use the yellow cart for weeding and miscellaneous stuff. It’s easier than the wheelbarrow for Marie to use: the sides latch up and drop down so it’s easy to get to the stuff in it.
raised beds for squash
A couple of days later… we put up the recycled “grid shelving” and moved in our benches, and planted the squash.

Two three-by-three foot potato beds. These will get higher as we add dirt and siding, to encourage the potatoes to go higher!

This bed is for sunflowers.
baby sunflowers in raised bed
A couple of days later… these are the baby sunflowers at 3 weeks since the seeds were poked in the ground.

There are now 4 of these arches going from one raised bed to another. They are made from 12-foot fencing panels, and they are high enough to walk under and pick the peas and beans that will be growing on them soon.

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Storm Clouds

I love discovering photos left on my Pentax K10 Camera. Here’s one I took in late December of last year, after wandering around under some worrisome storm clouds. (If I were still living in Texas I would have had the storm cellar door open when I took this.)

The Pentax catches a range of things that our little Nikon (which weighs in at about 1/10th the weight of the much bigger Pentax) just can’t retain.

If you click the photo here, it should open up as a larger photo of about 2 MB (1319 x 1970 pixels) and fill your screen.


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Google hasn’t killed off SEO

My answer to an SEO colleague who basically asked me a version of the “Is SEO really dead this time?” question.


Google hasn’t killed SEO. They’ve just killed off some of SEO’s illegitimate children, namely link building of most kinds and article marketing. Personally I’m not sorry to see either of those go away.

The only recent link building I’ve seen that is apparently still working, is:

    Registering a site with a few of the top directories, slowly, over time. And really, only a few of these kinds of links are needed. dir.yahoo.com, dmoz.org, galaxy.com, and bestoftheweb.com are the minimum that would make a difference (as far as I can tell).

Regular on-page SEO is still very important. But it has morphed a lot over the last couple of years. It is no longer all about stuffing keywords in every available slot on a page. Now it is about making sure that the content sounds natural, that the keywords are addressed, and that one does NOT use the same two or three-word phrase over and over on the page.

Siloing (aka “page rank sculpting”) is still very important for SEO of large sites. We have sites ranking very well for a bunch of search terms (some of them very high volume) because of siloing.

Great content (RELEVANT TEXT!) is important for SEO.

The User Interface (UI) is important for SEO. What does the site DO with its visitors? If they bounce back to Google because the content doesn’t grab them, or the UI is confusing because there is more than one thing to choose, for example, or if the site is obviously NOT optimized for mobile users, then that page isn’t going to do as well in the rankings at Google.

Authorship is important for SEO.

Micro Formats (schema.org) is important for SEO.

Social Media marketing (getting likes and shares) is worthwhile for SEO. I’m not sure HOW Google is using those kinds of connections, but they apparently are using it, despite Matt Cutt’s protestations to the contrary.

Freshness of content is a factor in SEO, but so is having lots of older content. I assume that Google just wants to see that the site is still being worked on and hasn’t been abandoned.

Using WordPress or Joomla as content management systems no longer gives a site any edge at all in the rankings at Google, if it ever did.

Careful monitoring of all outbound links is important to SEO. Most of them should have the rel=”nofollow” attribute.

In my experience, if a site has:

1. Good content

2. At least a few links incoming

3. A few links outgoing, so it is not a dead end

4. Some social media mentions on a regular basis (likes, shares, etc)

5. Proper siloing

6. Proper search term indexing ( = lack of keyword stuffing)

7. Proper user interface, including good mobile layout, not confusing

8. Authorship (meaning a page at Google Plus about the author, that links back to the site, and then a byline on the page where authorship is desired, which byline links to the Google Plus page)

9. Schema.org (or open graph) micro formats on relevant data such as locations, events, and so on

10. A lack of other technical problems (broken links, slow load time, unavailability to Googlebot, bad sitemaps, proper canonicalization, no unnatural linking, not new domain, no site-wide links out to another site, not cloaking, no duplicate content, headers as they should be, no 302 redirects, etc. — all the standard SEO technical things)

Then it has a good chance of ranking very well at Google, as many of my client sites do.

I can only use my own clients and anecdotal evidence to prove this, because that is all Google gives us any more. I don’t believe half of the info coming out of Jon Mueller and Matt Cutts, and I take all data from various SEO celebrities with a large dose of salt.

I’ve been quietly doing my own thing in SEO for 18 years now, and my clients are doing well, in terms of the traffic they are getting from Google. We also do very well managing Google AdWords advertising for our clients.

Best,

Jere Matlock


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Cold walks and an ice garden

The walks I am taking in the morning now require that I bundle up to stay warm. It was 18 degrees (F) when I went out a couple of days ago. It requires long johns and insulated pants and shoes and gloves and hat, and even with all that it is a struggle to keep my fingers warm enough.

Our pond is partly frozen. There’s a buried pipe, where runoff water from a spring above splashes into the pond year-round, and the splashes from that little waterfall have frozen into a chaotic ice sculpture. Every blade of grass and leaf is coated with ice. It’s lovely:

ice on pond

ice on pond

(Click to see larger image)

We lost our household water supply to frozen pipes for a couple of days, but everything thawed out yesterday and we are now back to having water again.

We soaked up as much sun as we could today — it was a very simple pleasure.


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Fall colors

This maple tree clings to the top of a large rock on the side of its hill. I see it every morning when I walk out Charlie Rock Road, and it is currently bright yellow with its fall foliage. Click to see larger image.



maple tree in fall colors


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Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the Chandler Ranch.

spider web - happy halloween


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Walking through fog

As I write this, it is foggy here on the Chandler Ranch in southwest Oregon. My dog and I walked up the hill to the 8.5 mile marker, which is a mile from the house and about 400 feet higher, so it is pretty well uphill all the way. The fog lasted only until we were at Hell’s Half Acre, our oak savannah, which is above the landing where the radios that connect us to the internet are located. Above that, we were in the clear. With the sun coming up through the top of the fog layer at Hell’s Half Acre, I took this photo of one of our madrone trees with rays of light coming through it. Five minutes later, the fog had burned off there.

Walking two miles a day no longer seems exhausting — it is invigorating. I look forward to it.

Fog, sun rays, madrone

(Click image for larger image)


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Walking every day

As part of my cardiac rehab (see previous post about being happy to be alive), I have been walking every day since my open heart surgery. For about the first 8 weeks, I could not do much more than walk on my driveway, which is fairly flat. The idea of walking uphill was overwhelming, in part due to anemia, which results in shortness of breath. Now, at eleven weeks since the surgery (nearly 3 months) I am happy to report I am walking about a mile every morning, and half of that is up a pretty steep hill. I am walking up to the “landing” behind our house, where we have our internet relay station that we built a couple of years ago.

I bring a camera with me: sometimes the view is spectacular from the landing. Click image for a bigger view – it’s worth it.


Fall on Chandler Ranch, 2013


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Happy to be Alive

On a personal note: on July 24th 2013, I went to the Emergency Room of our local hospital in Coquille, Oregon, with some moderate and strange chest pain. It turns out I was dying and didn’t know it. I was in the middle of experiencing an “aortic disection”, where the inner lining of the main descending aorta separates from the outer wall. That “disection” also affected the big valve at the top of the heart that keeps the blood flowing in one direction into that aorta. That heart valve was kind of hanging down out of place and not functioning well. So, after some miraculous medical diagnostic work on the part of the radiologist who caught what was happening, a dramatic (and expensive) “life flight” to Sacred Heart hospital in Eugene, and some awesome work on the part of Dr. Koh, a very nice heart surgeon, early on July 25th I went under the knife for open heart surgery. They replaced the problematic valve with a mechanical valve, and did some work to shore up the inside of the aorta where it attaches to the heart. (Duct tape?)

Open Heart Surgery is not an experience I would recommend for anyone, but it is better than the alternative, which would be attending one’s own funeral. Without it, I would have been dead on 26 July.

The kindness and professionalism of the EMTs, nurses and doctors and physician’s assistants and all the administrative personnel at Coquille Valley Hospital and the Life Flight crew, and at Sacred Heart/Peace Health in Eugene has been overwhelming and unexpected.

I spent the next week after surgery recuperating in hospital, then they kicked me out and sent me home, back to the ranch on August 1st.

It’s now been 7 weeks since the surgery, and I am recuperating well, attending weekly cardio rehab sessions in Coos Bay, monitoring my blood closely for things I never cared about before, and taking all kinds of drugs for blood pressure, clotting factors, etc.

The moral of my story is: Don’t ignore warnings about high blood pressure. If I’d been taking the blood pressure drugs I should have been taking for the last 20 years, and hadn’t been smoking cigars for that whole period, and hadn’t had a genetic predisposition toward an aortic disection and a faulty heart valve, then I’d have possibly avoided this open heart surgery. But maybe not; it’s quite possible that despite taking blood pressure meds and not smoking for 20 years, I’d have had this happen anyway. The surgeon couldn’t really say that I could have done anything different to avoid having this happen.

So, having survived a near brush with death, and been given another chance at life, I am happy to be alive and very thankful to my family for “circling the wagons” and helping me get through this.


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