Quick Update

Quick update since I know you are on the edge of your chair waiting to find out how the garden made out in the deep freeze last night.   Everything looked just fine when I removed the covers.  Even the smallest, newly germinated, seedlings.    I would have preferred leaving them on for another cold night but the various weather guru’s were forecasting  possible rain and wet covers would have crushed the plants underneath.  And they were forecasting the temps to be a few degrees warmer tonight and then back to normal for the next 10 days.   Normal means low’s in the 50’s.

Deep Freeze

For some totally unfathomable reason, I can’t post my blog on the desktop.  Ok on the laptop, but not the desktop.   I really do hate computers.

We’re dealing with another round of winter.  This time it’s really supposed to drop off cold.   It was 40 this AM and is forecast to be 31 tomorrow morning.   I made a great call to cover the garden as best I could yesterday.   It was warmer and not windy so spreading the sheets over the tomato and pepper plants was a job I could handle myself.   Had I waited until today, no way.   Besides being a bit colder, the wind is blowing at 20mph directly out of the north.  Under those conditions the sheets turn into sails and are just unmanageable for one person.   But it’s done and I’m only hoping that it’s adequate.   The bushes are loaded with unripe fruit and I hate to lose it.   I also covered seedlings that have germinated in the garden and that I haven’t transplanted to final locations.   The seedlings that I have transplanted are on their own.  They’re all veggies that’s should be able to handle some cold – radishes, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi and lettuce.   I’d also like just a little breeze coming over the lake.   That picks up a little warmth in the air.      

We’re eating and loading up friends with the hearty greens – kale, chard and lettuce.   I created a pizza masterpiece using Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes last night.   The base sauce was the season’s first batch from the garden tomatoes so even if my protection fails, we can say we got one (10-pints) batch.

Yesterday was a bridge day for Nancy so I got up early and did the covering mentioned above.  I dropped her off at the game and decided to take my 3 mile walk on the beach, northbound from Flagler.   I stepped down onto the beach and noticed right away that I was the only person in sight.   Could have been the cold, could have been the stiff wind blowing right out of the north.  I hesitated but decided I could handle it and would quickly warm up as I walked.  Also,I was going into the wind and figured it would be really easy coming back with the wind behind me.  I got about 1/4 mile before I gave out.  My chest was banging because of the cold air I was breathing so I decided it was totally crazy to continue on.   Normally I would have just driven back to the mainland and hit the library but, being MLK day, the library was closed.  The only other option was to hit my Monday watering hole, Houligans, a little earlier and expand my one beer stop into a two beer stop.  I mean what other option did I have?  That worked out just fine. 

Heavy on Beets

Beets.   I’ve had only on and off kind of performance with beets in the garden but I decided to give it one more chance.   Beets are a good “gifting” veggie because you get the whole thing – greens and roots and I’ve noticed that the same person does either one or the other – not both.  They’re also great for smoothies because I use both the greens and the tuber.   I planted a row rather densely, anticipating weak germination due to the age of the seeds.  Wrong, they germinated quickly and strongly so I have at least triple the number of seedlings needing attention.   I have to find a new spot in the garden for the overflow from thinning – in about 2 weeks.   I’m picking quite a bit of the lettuce so that’s the most likely place for a beet patch.  

Solved the ABC TV station problem – not necessarily solved but found the explanation.   Turns out channel 9 shut down their main transmitter and moved it to a location about 30 miles south of where they had been.  That was just enough to be beyond our range.   The good news is that they go back to the old location with new equipment in January.   I had talked to neighbors and found they all were having the same problem – each of us thought it was something with our own antenna installation.    

We’re having a few days of winter.   Winter enough that I decided to cover the tomatoes and peppers, a real pain in the butt job.  The forecasters said there was a possibility of frost two days in a row and those plants are loaded with unripe fruit.   Either  what I did worked or we didn’t actually experience frost but everything looks just fine.  The two week forecast is for warm weather with just enough rain to make everything happy.

And I’m declaring the seed planting season over and done with.   Every time I get a new seed catalog I’m duped into buying a few new varieties.   I don’t have the space in the garden for anything more but I still fall for it.   I couldn’t resist a new Burpee catalog with two new (to me) Kale varieties, a new kohlrabi and new purple radishes.   One of the kales has giant leaves that look like elephant ears.  That was interesting but when I read the fine print and learned that it was “perfect” for green smoothies, I was hooked.   Since it doesn’t make sense to order just one packet of seeds because of the high shipping cost………….     A thing I don’t understand about the seed business is that the smallest packet you can buy is still 10x what you need.   The small pack of kohlrabi seeds contained 1000 seeds; the kale 500.   Who in the world needs that much kohlrabi in their back yard garden.  Commercial growers get a different catalog and each of these varieties is available in giant packs.   

Breaking news flash – picked the first cherry tomatoes. 

Hat in the ring

Picking tomatoes. That came as a surprise since all I was seeing were small green ones. I happened to bend over to pick a weed that was peaking out from one of the tomato bushes and spotted just a bit of red color in the center of the plant. Sure enough it was a ripe tomato and there were half a dozen others deep in the interior of the shrubbery. Normally the foliage is not that dense but for whatever reason, this season is different. So now we have all the salad ingredients together – lettuce, green pepper, and tomatoes. The other surprise this AM was some of the celery seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago germinated overnight. I had pretty much given up on them. I’m happy about this development since I read in one of the catalogs that the right way to harvest celery is a stalk at a time rather than cutting the whole plant. Apparently this way the plant just keep producing new stalks and you can get by with fewer plants. I’m probably 3 months away from having that situation.

Ever wonder what happens when your Roomba mixes it up with a ball of yarn and a crochet project? The yarn wins.

I’m thinking about throwing my hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential race. I have a one item platform that I think is a real winner. I’m going to change the dates of certain holidays so that they always occur on Sunday. So Christmas day and New Years day will not have a fixed date but rather be the last Sunday in December and the first Sunday in January respectively. Perhaps reposition Thanksgiving to the last Sunday in November. Easter is ok – always Sunday. I noticed that the way it is now, you totally lose track of the days of the week and that it takes a while to reset your head around the calendar. I thought it was just me – aging and all – but I’ve heard the same from people of all age groups and disciplines. Total strangers I meet on the beach invariably mention that they’re having a hard time keeping track of what day it is. It might be that you mentally hook big dinner events with Sunday meals when you were a kid. If New Year’s eve was on Saturday, by Monday you would be totally recovered. Ditto Christmas. I’m guessing that the gain in productivity would more than pay for having to redo calendars. Like today. It’s Wednesday (I think) and there’s a college football game on the tube this afternoon. College games mean Saturday; pro games mean Sunday.

Something has changed and we no longer get ABC on the TV. Whatever! We watch very little on ABC but it just so happened that the Alabama – Michigan Bowl game was broadcast on ABC and I really wanted to watch that game. Sounds like a sports bar brewery would solve the problem – i.e. Persimmon Hollow. Not really a sport bar but they do have a couple TV’s going and usually tuned to sports events. I had forgotten that when we were there for the bingo game I tried a new brew – cranberry creme and only noticed it after ordering our standards. We had plenty of time and finished up with the cranberry, my new favorite.

The Festivities

Open with some garden news. Picked a couple green peppers. More often than not, they don’t make it this late in December. They’re very sensitive to temp and it’s fairly normal to have a light frost by this time that dooms them. We actually bought a couple last week and they were outrageously priced at $3/pepper. So at this point we’re totally supplied in lettuce, peppers, kale and parsley; oregano and rosemary in the herb department. Made the first green smoothie of the season using White Russian Kale and home grown pineapple as the main ingredients. And made the first “little old lady” lettuce delivery to one of Nancy’s bridge partners in Palm Coast. Started two new seed beds – Spinach and Celery. The spinach will probably do just fine but maybe not so much the celery. That’s based on prior history. Without a doubt the celery seed is the tiniest of anything else I plant. It really looks more like dust than seeds. The closest to that is parsley. Carrot seed is micro but seems quite large compared to either parsley or celery. I can buy pelletized carrot and lettuce seed but haven’t found celery – sorely needed.

Reading a “new book” that deserves mention. Simon and Amy put me onto “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens last month when they visited. I looked for it at the Flagler county library but no luck. This past week Nancy’s friend that usually takes her to crocheting had to cancel and I picked up the duty. It was too early for Persimmon Hollow so I dropped her off and drove a few blocks to the Volusia County library where I found it quickly. I decided to read a few pages to see if it was something I’d like – I’m kind of a CJ Box Joe Pickett guy or a Jack Reacher guy and this definitely sounded softer. After the first page I was hooked. I’m a few chapters deep into it now and have stayed hooked – maybe deeper. To top it off, Chris always gets me a couple books for Christmas. Guess what one of the selections was this time so I quickly returned the book to the library and picked up reading my own brand new one.

We had great house guests for the Christmas events. Chris came home and brought two friends with him, Vic and Vic’s brother Versage. The program was for us to host a Christmas eve dinner with Tom’s local family, Joey and Mark. We did a turkey on the Holland grill and I made fresh cranberry sauce. Then Chris and the guys did all the sides. They’re all great cooks so we were in for some specials including a pumpkin soup. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Pumpkin Soup but Wow! It was incredible as were the carrots and green bean dishes they prepared. Real gourmet cooking. Tina made the most fantastic chocolate cake you’ve ever seen. I’m sure there are plenty of pics of it on her Facebook page. The events moved to Tom’s on Christmas where the turkey was replaced with prime Rib. We had a repeat of the oven problem from Thanksgiving but Tom was prepared to use the smoker and it couldn’t have turned out better. I think the roast was 18 pounds – a serious piece of meat – and it was done to perfection. For me the most interesting dish was something I thought was cole slaw but turned out to be a creation of Tina’s using shredded Brussel Sprouts and turnips. The original recipe called for Jicama but she couldn’t find that so decided to substitute the turnips. I put that right there with the pumpkin soup for outstanding new eats.

Lot’s of great gifts. Nancy got a new robot sweeper that is a “wet mop”. We gave it a test run today, the 29th, and it worked as advertised. So now she can run the original roomba to get the dust and sand off and follow it with a wet mop of the tile area. I got one of those “heavy” blankets. You’re supposed to be able to sleep much better but I really had my doubts. The first night I tried it, I had it draped over the side of the bed and some time after midnight it slid off onto the floor pulling me with it. I tried it again the next night and had a full uninterrupted 8 hours of sound sleep. That’s really unusual for me. I’ve repeated the same for the following two nights so I’m sold on it.
The other “event” was an introduction to a male friend of Olivia’s, aka her boyfriend. Nancy and I both had an opportunity to talk with him and learned that his family lived in the same neighborhood as us in Altamonte back in the 70’s. And Nancy learned that his grandmother plays bridge in Maitland so what more could she ask for. Seemed like a really nice guy.

Christmas letter

Tom thought I should post our Christmas letter on the blog.   So here it is:

The social highlight for the year was Simon and Amy’s wedding in April. It was well planned and executed at the 4 H center in Alabama. Lot’s of family and friends from all over the country; some we knew well, others we met for the first time. Couldn’t have been better.

Our kids are all doing just fine. Joey and Mark are remodeling/rebuilding a house that they’ve owned for 20+ years as a rental and plan to move into in early 2020. In parallel they’re finishing the boat, a 35’ catamaran, which should be launched in the next 6 months. The house is just a short walk from the Marina where the boat will be moored. How convenient is that? The only thing left to do is some finish up painting and electronic installations.

Tom is kept busy bouncing between UCF where he “professes” and Iron Galaxy where he manages a game development studio. Bouncing includes frequent trips to the home office in Chicago and trips to Europe for conferences. Since little Tommy lives in Chicago, they all spend a fair amount of time there throughout the year. Tina is the hostess with the mostest. Events that we used to host at the lake have gradually moved to Tom and Tina’s and much of the work involved now falls under the capable supervision of Tina.

Olivia has been accepted into PA school in Knoxville Tn and starts next fall. It’s a 30 month program. She still works as a medical scribe at Advent Hospital so the transition back to school will be super smooth. I’m sure there are a few trips to Tennessee in our future.

Chris keeps moving up the ladder at Estee Lauder in NYC. His new job expands that to the entire NE. And he’s loving his new apt in Summit New Jersey. He’s jumped back into the whole music/ theater scene that he loved so much from the time he was a kid in Utah so there seems to be no slack time at all. He, Vic, and Vic’s brother will be joining the Christmas/birthday festivities with us in Florida before taking off for a vacation in Hawaii. Tough life.

Nancy is still banging out charity quilts and crocheted blankets. I am a bit in that loop now, cutting binding strips and threading needles. She plays bridge in a club at Palm Coast twice a week and is quite competitive. I think it must cause some anxiety among a few life masters when they get routinely beaten by someone who is legally blind. While Nancy plays bridge, I usually go fishing somewhere nearby – either in the surf or the intracoastal waterway. I do more walking than fishing but I love it. And I still spend a good bit of my time in the vegetable garden. It was tough going this year with an exceptionally hot, dry October. The seedlings I usually put in the ground in October just couldn’t handle the heat. November/December has been perfect so fingers crossed for another great crop. Lot’s of the produce will go to the bridge ladies and the crochet ladies so I can’t allow a failure. Too much social pressure.

Have a great 2020.

Lot’s of Shots

I have gone thru total shock, depression and now mourning. I went online to track down a recipe I remembered from the Holland Grill cook book only to find that the Holland Grill Company closed down in 2018. We’ve never been without one since 1992. Our first one still lives on in Utah where we left it with a close friend when we moved to Florida. We bought one as soon as we set up homestead in Florida. It lasted about 10 years then rusted out – too humid in Florida. The one we have now is stainless steel and used at least once a week, more often 2 to 3 times. So far this week we had a steak, baked potato, broccoli meal and a baby back ribs with Acorn squash meal. The grill is very basic and built like a tank so I’m sure we’ll have it for a goodly time. I sure wish I had disassembled the one that rusted out and saved all the other parts. As it is, I did save the grate.

Hit a garden milestone today. First lettuce makes it on a sandwich at lunch and in a salad for dinner. Nancy made the sandwich and I picked a few leaves, washed them off and popped them directly on the sandwich. It was so fast the lettuce still thought it was in the garden. Fresh lettuce like that is incredibly soft so unless you actually grow it, you really don’t know what the texture is. It toughens up quickly after picked. In case you’re interested, this lettuce is called black seeded Simpson and was selected because it has good heat tolerance. The fact that it came up so nicely, as hot as our October was, is due to that characteristic. The next pick will be a couple of swiss chard leaves for the salad tonight. My looming problem is where to put all the seedlings I have going on the porch. I’ll give a few plants to Nancy’s friends that want them but I will still end up with a dozen each – broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Not 100% fixed on where those 36 plants will go but 8-10 will fill holes where something didn’t make it. And at the same time I must have 30+ new lettuce seedlings that just broke ground in a specially prepared bed in the garden. Within 2 weeks I’ll have to thin them and find a permanent home for those I thin. They don’t all make it but I’m scratching my head now thinking about homes for them. I’ve thinned all the carrots now and can’t begin to tell you how many made it thru the process and are growing beautifully. Literally hundreds. I’ve also ordered some celery seeds. Right now I’m thinking that by the time they germinate on the porch and put on a few leaves, there should be space in the lettuce patch. I’m not too worried about that because I really haven’t had great luck with celery in the past. The only reason I decided to try it again was the write up in the seed catalog touting this new variety, Tango. Sounded like anybody could grow this variety.

Nancy had a tough week – lots of shots. B-12 on Tuesday; 25 pain shots on Wednesday; eye shot on Friday. We wouldn’t have been too surprised if she spouted water after taking a big drink. On the plus side, she came in second at the bridge club on Thursday – 17 table game. There are a lot of life masters in that club and you know it must frost them to be blitzed by an old blind lady!!! It made up for all those shots!!!