The Jay has landed

Whenever I go to the garden, the bluebird quickly arrives – often before I’ve even reached it. Usually when I go there I’m picking weeds which stirs up the ground and the critters living there. Apparently that’s Jay food. He will literally come within an arms length and has no fear of me at all. I just know one of these times he’s going to hop onto my shoulder. Hold it, breaking news – I walked over to the garden and he hopped right over on the fence and then on top of my head. Wow! He only stayed on a few seconds, probably because I jerked, but how neat is that. I have a wild pet.

The path job is officially finished – on time and in budget. I had to resort to cutting down a small pine tree to get the last 10’ or so but it was one I’d been planning to cut down soon anyway. Too close to the house. We’re having company this month and probably more before the year ends so I wanted to get it behind me. While I had the saw out I cut down the red grapefruit tree that had died on it’s own over the past couple of years. There’s some kind of nasty citrus disease that is killing off all the citrus without special resistance genes. I’m not going to replant since we can still get all the grapefruit we want from the remaining tree. It to has been afflicted/infected but not to the same extent.

This unusual hot and dry weather continues and is playing hell with anything I put in the garden. I keep restarting seedlings, nursing them up to transplant size and then watching them get scorched. Why not just wait until it’s cool enough? Because if the frosty season comes on schedule, the plants will not be big enough to survive. I need farm bill protection.

I was able to fish in the surf for the first time in almost a month.  It’s just been way too rough to even think about it.   Last week I did a long beach walk at low tide and studied the area where I normally fish to determine the condition and contours of the beach – locate the holes and channels which will attract the fish at high tide.   The beach contours change all the time, especially in the stormy season and you just have to know the topography to be successful and the only way to do that is explore at low tide.  I knew exactly where I wanted to fish so you can imagine my disappointment when I crossed over the berm only to see a guy and his wife fishing in exactly my spot.  Beach etiquette requires me to leave a minimum buffer of 100′ which put me far from the hole I had uncovered.   I had no choice but to get as close as allowed and hope for the best.   Just as expected, I caught nothing while this guy was having more than a little action.

Coconuts on the Beach

Got the last of the tomato and green pepper seedlings planted in the garden. I mentioned earlier that I had lost 3 of the first 4 tomatoes but I was able to bring two of those back to life so the final total is 12. The peppers look good as well. Had an interesting encounter while planting the last of those yesterday. I was down on my hands and knees working up against my plant support poles when a blue jay landed on the structure about 3’ away. He was making little bird noises and keeping an eye on me; I was making little people noises and kept an eye on him. That went on for about 5 minutes and I eventually got up and left. This morning I went out first thing to check on how the newly planted survived the night – which they all did – when the bluejay came back and landed a foot or so away. I’ve never had that close an encounter with a wild bird. After two days and two encounters, I’m ready to declare this a real friendship.

I hit the beach again Friday while Nancy played bridge. The ocean is still way too rough to even consider fishing but fine for walking. This time I started further north than my usual haunt – at Washington Oaks State Park. After just a few yards I spotted something unusual for our beaches – a washed up coconut. Coconuts on the beach are not at all unusual in south and central Florida but I’ve never seen one this far north. As a kid on Cocoa beach it wasn’t at all a surprise to find nuts that had actually sprouted. We’d replant these in the yard and have coconut palms routinely growing. As I walked I saw more and more. These must have come from the Bahamas as a result of hurricane Dorian.

We varied our Friday trip home from the Ormond Beach brewery and the food truck there and decided to try a new one in Ormond by the Sea, Beachside Brewery. It’s a really small place but had good reviews and they also had a food truck stopping by. The beer was really good and the food truck totally on a par with our regular Friday night truck. The brew I settled on was called “Heffy’s Weisen; Nancy picked “Beachin Blond”. The truck was called Mola Miami Grill and had an outstanding menu. We split a Cuban sandwich that was excellent and so big that we ended up taking almost half of it home. Lot’s of exotic seafood items – coconut shrimp, bang-bang shrimp, Blue crab sandwich etc etc etc.

Joey came over Saturday and spent several hours doing yard/jungle work. Big help. He gathered up two very full wheel barrow loads of pine needles – more than enough to finish off the path next week.

Weekend Wedding

I had/have a total of 13 tomato plants about ready for transplant to the garden.   I held off until I was fairly sure the latest storm threat was not to be and started with 4 Early Blue Ribbons.  Three of the four made it overnight so I’m going to do another 4 tomorrow.  The one that didn’t make it was victim to the feared and dreaded cut worm.  The aggravating thing about that is I had put collars around each tomato to avoid cut worms but someone one fund a breach point and did the deed.   I also decided to try starting seeds in the house for more Swiss chard and kale.   That was a couple days ago and still no signs of germination.

Got a windfall on my path to the dock restoration project.   We had lunch in Deland one day at a Chinese place.  Nothing exciting there but I noticed a pile of local penny saver newspapers that had been removed from the stand and were awaiting pickup.  I grabbed a giant stack and used them on the path.   That put me at least a week ahead of schedule and I’m now down to the last 20′.

We went to a wedding Saturday in Pierson.   I think we were the only ones there without credentials going back at least 2 generations.  Most were agriculture folks with roots in the fern business.  The only people we knew were the bride and groom and his mother.  It was in a very small country church of the Lutheran persuasion with a local piano player and wedding singer.  I think Chris could have played better but her heart was certainly in it.   There was a very nice meal afterwards in the meeting room – really southern country featuring fried chicken, collard greens, Mac and cheese, green beans and meat loaf.  Corn bread of course.   I wasn’t hungry but put a couple pieces of fruit on my plate to avoid the wrath of my bride.  The bride and groom were probably in their 50’s so there were grandkids running around – stealing the show.   The bride, groom, and the grandkids were whisked away back to the house party in a horse driven carriage.  A nice touch.   We didn’t attend the after party but I’m sure it was in keeping with the official affair.

Spent today on the beach after the near miss storm while Nancy played bridge.   The tides and waves ate up a little more of the beach but all in all, looks like it survived with only some sand and berm erosion.  It was way, way too rough to even think  about fishing so I just walked a mile or so to survey the damages.

Projects and Progress

My path restoration project – from the end of the driveway circle to the dock – is about 3/4 finished. About 25’ (out of 100’ ) left. I use newspaper as the base, then palmetto fronts over that and overtopped with pine needles. I get 3 newspapers, if you count the two local rags as newspapers, so I have a steady source yielding maybe 10 linear feet per week. The storm helped quite a bit in terms of bringing down pine needles so it will be relatively easy to finish it off in the next couple of weeks. My target is the end of the month and that looks achievable.

The garden is still in a semi inactive mode, a couple of cucumber plants, a couple of zucchinis and a few pole beans. These are all survivors of the storm, 6” of rain in one week with minor garden flooding and then a week of hot and dry. They look ragged but I’m doing my best to bring them back to health. The seedlings I started in the house are all doing well so there’s hope for a good conclusion. I might have mentioned reading an article about a guy that grows swiss chard and says they aren’t bothered by heat. I seriously doubted it but decided to plant a few seeds anyway, just for grins. Well they popped up – 6 plants. I made sun shades for them using palm fronds. I decided to very carefully remove 3 of them from the garden to yogurt cups that I brought onto the porch where I can totally protect them from the weather. Heartened by the fact that they even germinated, today I planted some Tuscan kale seeds and another variety of chard. Last season’s Tuscan kale handled the sun and heat until early June, by which time all the other kale had long since burned up. It would really change the complexion of the garden and the dinner table if these greens really can handle the heat.

The storm raised the lake level a few inches but it would take another 8-10” to overtop the dock. Tom bought a new kayak that was reportedly stable enough to allow standup operation – like a paddle board. He brought it up the lake but it was too late to try it so he just left it here. Joey helped me get it in the lake – too heavy for me to deal with by myself and I gave it a maiden voyage and fishing trip. I really had my doubts about standing up in it but decided to give it a try. I put my rod on the dock so nothing would be lost when I dumped it. Lo and behold, I was able to stand up. I was a little wobbly but after a few minutes stabilized – me not the boat. So I went back to the dock, retrieved my rod and tested the fishability. Bingo, got a nice bass – the nicest in quite some time, on the order of 5#’s. I still like my poke boat better for it’s lightness and ease of use but no doubt this new one is a more serious fishing platform.

Update – All is Good

It’s Monday noon and we’re starting to see just a little pick up in the breeze. Nothing beyond normal but all day yesterday it was dead calm. Yesterday we had a few rain storms pass over but not much – 1/2” total for the whole day. The action should start picking up tomorrow if you believe the party line. That’s only a week off from the projection last week. Can’t help but feel sorry for those poor folks in the Bahamas with the storm just parked right on them with really fierce winds and heavy duty rain. We get an update regarding the path every 6 hours starting at 5AM and it’s been nearly stationary for a few days now. If and when it turns north will determine what it does to us. All the current info looks like we’ll skirt the worst of it and maybe only get tropical storm winds and 6-8” of rain. Joey is much closer to the coast and further south so among us, he’s likely to see the most action. That’s amplified by the fact that he has a major house restoration going on and a boat being built in the back yard. My sister is in the same area as Joey.

I have the dock stuff fully tied down and anything that can fly, put away. I tried something different this time by using a 50’ water hose to tie down all the dock furniture.

Nothing to report from the garden. I transplanted my tomato seedlings over to individual small plastic yogurt containers and have them in the house. They made the first 24 hours without a single loss. That’s better than expected since usually a couple can’t take the shock. So right now I have 12 tomato plants in the queue. Only 5 green pepper seeds have germinated but those usually take a week longer than tomatoes so there’s still a possibility of a few more. None of the herb seeds I planted have germinated. Those have an expected 10-14 day germination cycle so we’re still ok on those. In the main garden, all the rain we are expecting should help unless it’s enough to cause flooding. You just never know and there’s plenty of time for corrections as necessary. There are a couple of good sized eggplants that could get hammered by the wind.

Nancy’s getting a little nervous and jerky since they cancelled the Monday bridge game and it’s starting to look like the Friday game may go the same way. Missing two or three games is really cruel and unusual punishment.

The storm Approaches

It’s Friday, our normal bridge/surf fishing/brewpubcrawl day.   Except we have this storm looming over us.    I figured that the fish would probably be biting big time – stocking up before the storm arrives – but no go.   It’s crowded in Publix with people stocking up last minute so why not the fish in the surf.  The surf was definitely fishable and I gave it about a half hour to prove itself with big, black clouds looming over my back and the distant rumble of thunder in the air.   So I decided to head back to the mainland and wait for Nancy at the library.   Hence this afternoon post.   

I think I have the dock area fairly well tied down.  The boat is tied up to keep it from swinging and the poke boat is tied up in the jungle by the dock, face up to fill with rain.  I cranked up the generator the other day to verify that it was operable – started on the first pull.   I had loaded up all the gas cans at the start of the season, in June, so I have almost 20 gallons on standby.  We tried to fill up the car yesterday but the gas stations were either mad houses or already out of gas.  How crazy is that.   So I got up early this morning, about 6AM and headed for the local filling station.  It was still busy at that hour but within 5 minutes or so, I was back on the road heading for home.  So both cars are full.

We don’t have (yet) a family plan to get together to ride it out but that may happen depending on the path as of Saturday night or Sunday morning.   Tina left for a vacation in Utah before the storm possibly surfaced so Tom may come up here or we may go there.  Joey is coming over tomorrow with plans to help me finish up and then take Nancy shopping.  Olivia is working Sunday night but I’m not sure what after that.   All of this will jell as the weekend passes.   I’m hoping it all just goes away – cross the state down around Miami and then head west into the gulf.   But I don’t get a vote.

Ever hopeful, I planted more seeds in the garden.   If we just get reasonable rain, the timing will be great for seedlings.  If we get a deluge that floods the garden………….     By my reckoning, a foot of rain will put George’s dock under; a foot and a half get’s us.   That’s all in the realm of possibility.  The lake is higher than it should be for this time of year to start with.   The seedlings I germinated inside have been growing outside, still in the original seed starting soil.  Tomorrow I’m going to transfer each one to it’s own pot and bring them in the house to ride out the storm.  That looks like about a dozen tomatoes.   It really doesn’t matter much for the fall garden since there’s plenty of time to start it all over again if necessary .

Starting Storm Prep

Friday was fun. Nancy came in first at the bridge club – second time this week – so she was in a good mood. We decided to retry the brewery in Ormond instead of Moonrise in Palm Coast, mainly based on the food truck we saw last time but didn’t get to try. This is a hard to find brewery, way in the middle of a warehouse with very small signage to get you there. I had a strawberry wheat beer and Nancy had the Ponce Blonde. We sat at the bar instead of a table and met some really interesting people on both sides of us. We were early for the food truck but decided to wait it out. Great decision. The menu was really interesting and we selected Jambalya egg rolls and a grilled cheese brisket sandwich. There were at least 10 items on the menu that sounded great so it was really a “throw at the dart board” selection process. No doubt we’ll be back.

The first of the newly planted seeds to pooch out were the cucumbers. I planted those on the 15th and they popped up on the 23rd. Interestingly, I planted two varieties and both germinated on the same day. Nothing to be seen from the beans, carrots, or squash. The tomatoes I planted inside started germinating on the 25th, less than a week. Nothing from the green peppers but those generally take 10 days to 2 weeks. On the 25th I planted herb seeds inside. That includes parsley, cilantro and Basil. Parsley takes almost 2 weeks whereas Basil is similar to tomatoes. No idea on the cilantro.

One more garden tidbit – I read in the local paper that you can grow swiss chard this time of year if you provide shade. It can handle the heat (supposedly). That’s counter to everything I knew and I normally don’t even consider planting seed until late fall. I have some seeds so I think I’ll go ahead and try.

We have a storm heading towards Florida and it’s already having an impact – the surf was really nasty – big, frequent waves with strong north to south currents. I didn’t bother even trying but went instead to my intracoastal alternate, Washington Oaks State Park. It’s a pleasant place to wile away the hour and occasionally catch a fish. Got a surprise this trip when I spotted a substantial gator cruising along just offshore. I often see manatee there and thought that was what I was seeing but in a few minutes it became obvious that it was an 8’ gator. I saw a family visiting the park with 3 or 4 little kids heading right toward the spot where the gator was lurking about 50’ from shore. I alerted them and they got to see it from a safe distance.

The other storm related tidbit is that a generator becomes a big part of the survival gear. I have one that’s been reliable but not used very often – a couple of times a year. With gasoline engines, it’s always hold your breath time when you crank it up after sitting dormant for a while. Not having a truck any more is also a concern if the generator needs service. I decided to try to start it before the storm and was pleasantly surprised when it started on the first pull. I have plenty of fuel on standby so I’m electrically ready. That probably means the storm will not impact us. If I had trouble with it, for sure the storm would head directly here.