Infrastructure Week at the lake

This has been infrastructure week at the lake. Our window awnings have been gradually degrading from the intense Florida UV load and high humidity so we decided it was time to have them recovered – probably 2-3 years overdue. We almost had it done a couple of years ago but the folks who did the original installation were totally swamped with business from hurricane Mathew. It’s been quiet here for quite a while now and we tried again – success. The view is really different without the awnings. I like it better without them but they block the sun well and really reduce the heat load. The color and pattern we had was no longer available so we picked something else. Should be 2-3 weeks for the reinstall.

It became obvious at the mother’s day lake festivities that the dock is showing it’s age. Simon poked through the planks at one point and the ladder rungs broke. Johnny was available and agreed to do the carpentry work so he came up and did an overnight. We worked a couple hours on Tuesday – until it really became hot – and then finished up on Wednesday morning. It really looks nice and feels more secure. Finished it off with some appropriate landscaping – river rock and local bromiliads plus an aloe plant. Instant sunburn repair.  I think we put the dock in about 15 years ago so it really has held up well and the understructure and pilings look like the day we put them in. I’ve got an idea how to fix the (George built) ladder but if that doesn’t work Joey found a good commercial replacement and I also have a spare home made ladder that will do in a pinch. So one way or another, we’ll have a functional ladder and be ready for the summer swimming season. It should be great this year because the lake level is so high. That may be a problem in Sept-Oct but right now, it’s great.

Another casualty was the picnic table – the one on the dock addition section.  It was a cheap table and survived almost 10 years out in the elements but a leg broke somehow. I turned it over and decided to try fixing it – not something I have had much success with in the past. I had some extra pieces of decking from the fixit job described above so put together some new leg bracing underneath the table. Oila! It worked and I now have a functioning table again. At the same time, Lowes had a sale this weekend on cheap picnic tables so I got Tom to pick one up for me – (since I no longer have a pickup truck). The original picnic table was a cyprus wood octagon shape table with attached seats. That’s been repaired several times but after almost 20 years, it’s ready for the burn pile. It’s actually dangerous if anyone tries to sit at it. I’ve left it up just for holding tools etc while I’m working in the jungle so I’ll probably place the old one I just repaired in it’s place – maybe for a couple more years.

No Operation for Nancy

Nancy visited the Neuro Doc about the leg pain she’s been experiencing for quite a while- actually over a year.   Been thru shots, acupuncture, and physical therapy with no improvement.    The most recent diagnosis was that she had pinched nerves in the lumbar and a reasonably simple operation would correct the problem and relief would be nearly instantaneous.  We actually know a few people who have been thru it with great success.  Before doing it, the doc required more imagining including a “dynamic X-ray which would show what was going on in various positions.   That test showed she had some bones moving around that would require screws, rods and a 4 hour operation with two doctors working it.  Further it would involve a 3 -4 month rehab and all the risks that come with the surgery.  He recommended against it as long as the quality of her life was pretty good and wants to try a nerve medication in lieu of surgery.  Nancy agreed.   That all happened yesterday.  We got the prescription filled and she took the first one last night at bedtime.  Usually the leg pain is what wakes her up in the morning but not this morning.  So far, so good.  

After all the partying this past weekend, the dock suffered a bit.   A couple of the deck planks rotted thru and the swim ladder broke.   The deck planks are easily replaced but the ladder is a bit more problematic and renders the dock unusable for swimming until it’s fixed or replaced.   Johnny B.  Is on board to do the carpentry so I’m confident it will be done well.   Johnny has some medical issues which has left him unemployed and picking up handy man jobs, many at Tommy’s.  Hope he can fit us in sooner rather than later.

Nothing new in the garden.  Picking (and eating) lots of green beans and the tomato plants all look healthy.  I’m managing to salvage enough of last season’s greens to keep my smoothies coming but they can’t hold up much longer.   Green Tomato smoothies????    I don’t think so.

Pre and Post Mother’s Day

The garden is officially a summer garden now.  The greens are playing out and having trouble with the heat.   That means I shift the green smoothie from kale or swiss chard to the New Zealand spinach which returns year after year no matter how I try to pull it out.   I also picked the first of the green beans and they look incredible.   Blossoms on the cucumbers and loaded with eggplant – still from last year- cherry tomatoes, also from last year and green peppers, ditto.   

Nancy and I were sitting on the dock yesterday when I noticed that the pontoon boat from down the end of the bay was scooting past with 2 gals paddling as hard as they could to go against the wind.   They were losing the battle and getting farther from home and their dock by the minute.   I yelled over and they said their battery had run out and they needed help.   I hopped in our jon boat and headed over – not sure if I would have enough power to pull their boat against the wind.   It was touch and go – I’d gain some and then lose some but eventually I got them back home.   

For a change we decided to do lunch at Karlings.   For whatever reason, we hadn’t been there in quite a while.   They have the main restaurant and then a secondary house that they’ve converted into a breakfast/lunch place.   Just as expected the food was excellent;  the coffee too.   We had a Ruben which is what we had last time and again, it was as good a Ruben as I can remember anywhere.   We’ll have to remember and keep it on the front burner.    The luckiest part of it was that we could see it darkening on the way home and were not sure we would make it before the sky opened in a giant downpour.   We pulled into the carport in the dark and made it into the house just as the first drops were hitting.  Big time rain – good for the garden and luckily I had time to get my newest seedlings back on the porch.  This would have washed them away.   It dropped over 3” and takes away a worry I had about leaving the garden unwatered for a week.   The garden was totally flooded and won’t need water for several days at least.  

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Big break from the blog so count this as an independent post.   The big break was the result of a trip with Tom and Tina to the panhandle/Big Bend of Florida – Carrabelle/Apalachicola to be more specific.   That area is famous for seafood, particularly oysters which is right up Tom and Nancy’s alley.   We dragged his boat up there so we could try out the salty water fishing in the area.   The air BNB place that Tom found turned out to be luxurious including a 3 floor elevator and main suite with an olympic sized bath tub.   It was right on the Carabelle River so it was fairly easy to pull the boat in and out when we went fishing a couple of days. 

Fishing was fun – catching no so much.  Between us we caught a trout, a redfish and a flounder.  Nothing trophy size.  Enough said about that.   We did find a super brewery called Oyster City Brewery which featured a two hour happy hour with $3 beers.   Never seen a brewery with that kind of pricing and with an excellent brew to boot.   Nancy usually opts for a “blonde” and so she tried the Oyster City Dirty Blonde.  It was so good that both Tom and I ordered the same.  (and then again just to make sure).

Everything was going along great until I developed some sort of a gastric disorder of the bloody kind forcing us to cut the trip short by a few hours.  We wanted to get to the Deland hospital in case this was an extended problem.   They released me from the Emergency room with a caution to keep tabs on it and see a GI guy.   We left there and went to Persimmon Hollow where two blood orange wheat beers were prescribed -seemed appropriate.  No real problems since then so I guess the prescription did the job.  We hooked up with Simon and Amy at Persimmon.   They were on the final leg of their honeymoon to Key West, planning to spend a couple days with us before returning to Alabama.   The  next day Tom and his family came back up and brought all the food for a day at the lake. Joey and Mark came up to do some much appreciated yard and house repairs and trimming.   Olivia was there so we had proper medical attention if needed.  Ditto on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s day – Joey and Mark were replaced with Johnny B. We really had a great time over the entire weekend.   This time Tom and Tina brought smoked ribs and we provided the sides, mostly from the garden.  Tina made another fantastic cake.  Great week, great weekend, great mother’s day.

Vacation?

My turn to cook so I decided on spiraled zucchini, fried lightly in olive oil with garlic and then coated with home made pasta sauce. Of course this is a 100% garden meal. At least it was until Nancy decided we needed to grill a few links of Italian sausage. We had picked up some from a new butcher shop in Deland and were anxious to see if it would be any good. Well it wasn’t all that great – the sausage I mean. This was a learning meal for me and next time it will be a little better planned and executed. Spiraling the squash, cooking it just the right amount of time ( I did about 4 minutes) and getting the sauce ready all at the same time is a little tricky since each element is done quickly and in parallel. I chose ribbon shape on the squash spiral and think maybe the “linguini” blade would have been a better choice in this application. Having that all done at the same time as the sausage was really tricky for an amateur. I had two frying pans and the microwave all going at the same time. It was tasty but I can do better next time. I’m nominally a one pan cook and most things I cook take more than half an hour – not time critical.

Nancy had an appointment with the back Dr. He checked the results of the physical therapy and decided that surgery was really the only answer. He ordered a set of X-rays and MRI’s and to our surprise they were able to schedule them for the next day. Our experience is usually that there are several weeks between the dr appointment and the imaging. I think the actual surgery will happen in a couple of weeks and will most likely involve one or two nights in the hospital. He’s very confident that she’ll see a 90% improvement quickly so she’s anxious to get on with it.

We’ve got to get ready for a trip next week to the Florida pan handle for a vacation with Tom and Tina. We’ve gone together and rented a house right on the water reportedly loaded with fish. This area is famous for seafood – particularly oysters – so we’re looking forward to that. We’ll have the surgery scheduled for right after we get back.

Up to 31 bags of marble chips on my driveway restoration project. I think I’ll stop for a while and let it settle out. It’s much smoother than when I started.

What a Great Wedding

Got a new project. Our gravel driveway is getting a little bumpy as it settles, as tree roots grow, and as moles and armadillo’s dig into it. You’d think 4” of interlocking quartz chips would hold up longer than 20 years. My project is to fill in the dips with more quartz. I found I could buy bags of rocks at Lowes so added a Lowes stop on my twice weekly trips to Palm Coast for Nancy’s bridge game. Each bag is about 50 pounds so not fun to handle but manageable if I buy 5-6 bags each trip. My target is to have the project done by the fourth of July. The only negative, so far, is that the chips are bright white so the patches stand out. I’m fairly sure that as the Florida humidity attacks them, they’ll turn black or a moldy brown. Plus I can count on loads of falling oak leaves to help. Nancy’s eyesight problems are taking some of the pressure off me since I know the new color spots would bother her much, much more than it does me.

What a great wedding. Simon, Amy and all the folks putting it together did a fabulous job – best wedding I can remember. Met lots of new people and had a perfect opportunity to refresh friendships from years ago – particularly with Tina’s western families and with Simon’s old high school and college friends. Many were kids the last time we saw them and now they’re full fledged adults with families of their own. Wow. We met many of Simon’s co-workers who we knew in name only. The facility itself, the 4-H Coosa River Center, was was absolutely perfect. Most of the family stayed right at the facility in really comfortable, roomy accommodations. The outdoor chapel where the ceremony took place was perfect, the weather was perfect and the celebration party was perfect. I was bitten by the dance bug and had a ball. The highlight of that was dancing with Lindsay and Olivia. I do the old guy dances and they were sports enough to stay with me. Another highlight was Joey and Mark providing all the transportation services and making sure the whole trip was seamless. If we had to do all the airline travel things ourselves, I’m sure we would have opted to make the 10 hour drive instead. Congrat’s to all those folks who put it together – the hard work showed.

Easter Prep

This was a busy week. We’re sandwiching physical therapy for Nancy twice a week into our otherwise tight schedule. Between doc’s and bridge – not much real slack time. This week was a bit complicated at the end because of a major storm front moving through on Friday. Nancy’s bridge partner decided we should move the Friday game to Thursday to avoid the storm – turned out to be a good decision. We lost power for a few hours and the driveway was littered with large downed branches. It would have been nasty driving in the rain and then encountering the obstacles on the driveway.

Doing Easter this year at Tom and Tina’s. The head count is now at 12 including friends and family. We’re bring the salads which includes copper penny salad, a carrot based salad; Dutch coleslaw which, in my version, includes two varieties of cabbage, green pepper, and shredded carrots; broccoli, cheddar and bacon salad; macaroni salad. All of these incorporate fresh veggies (as in minutes from garden to kitchen) material from the garden. I think the only item we didn’t grow was the macaroni – still looking for a macaroni plant. We had a busy Saturday making all this – peeling, shredding, mixing – since they require overnight marination for best flavor.

I casually asked Nancy if she thought this wedding thing was a coat and tie deal and she surprised me by saying “of course it is” Oops. I haven’t been to a coat kind of thing in a very, very long time and I kind of doubted I had anything that came close to fitting. The only thing that could save me is that I had bought formal business clothes about 30 years ago on several different occasions in Hong Kong so there was a reasonable chance they covered a range of sizes. Sure enough I found a suit jacket that would work and luckily it was a neutral color. I also found a couple pair of slacks that could probably be tailored to take out a few inches in the waist. I did find a dark pinstripe suit that fits fairly well but wouldn’t work in the wedding environment. I think I last wore it at a funeral 15 years ago.

 

Fashion Issue

I took a walk on the wild side in the garden. Cleaned out a row of broccoli which left me with a 12’x4’ row ready to plant. I had plenty of small tomato seedlings looking for a home in the garden. Nothing wild about that but I decided to center the tomato plants in the row, 3’ apart and then at the edges of the row plant a row of green beans on one edge and a row of carrots on the other. Like a vegetable border. I’ve never planted carrots this late in the season but I have the seeds and the space so why not give it a try. Supposedly planting carrots and tomatoes together is a good thing for both in terms of soil nutrients I’m just not sure they can handle the spring/summer heat. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I now have 8 tomato plants in the garden, 8 ready to go to the garden and 5 in large containers. The container tomatoes are varieties that can’t handle nematodes. I think we’re well covered with tomatoes this year. I probably should have cut way back since the freezer is over flowing with tomato sauce from this past season. If this last season is any indicator, I should have cut back on everything. We’ve been in veggie overload mode for the last couple of months and with George out of the picture, my biggest customer is gone. Ditto Nancy’s Crescent City bridge ladies since she dropped out of the Wednesday club. Funny the Crescent City ladies are all cooks that love fresh veggies – country girls – whereas her Palm Coast associates are wealthy city gals who wouldn’t know how to make a pot of greens if they had to. The crochet ladies are in between but there’s fewer of them and she only meets with them every other week, not enough to keep up with normal growth. Oh well, their loss is the compost pile’s gain.

It’s blueberry season again. Last year we bought 20 pounds which I guessed would last me a year. I nominally eat a handful every morning in my cereal and maybe sprinkle a few now and then in a cake or bread Nancy makes. My guess was close so there’s maybe 4-5 pounds still in the freezer. I called our blueberry guy in Crescent City and he said they were excellent this year. So I ordered 15 pounds. They’re $4 a pound if I pick them or $5 if they pick them. I opted for “them pick” instead of “you pick”.

Remember I mentioned having a baby pineapple on the way – update – make that 5.

I have a bit of a fashion quandary. Is it OK to wear a Guy Harvey shirt with a largemouth bass when surf fishing or do I need to have a saltwater fish? I’m mostly concerned about the impact on the fish rather than on the other fishermen and beach goers. I don’t think Guy has produced a Whiting or pompano shirt which are the fish I mostly catch but I have a redfish, a snook, and several deep sea versions. Catfish or shark would surely send the wrong message to both the fish and the beach denizens plus I doubt those are on the drawing board at Harvey headquarters.