Azalea project

When we got the new shed I decided it was time to landscape that general area – general area means the area between the carport and the upper road. My reason for not doing that area previously was the problem with watering which was solved with my new battery powered orbit sprinkler system. Since I’ve had good luck with azaleas and since that area is well shaded and with lots of oak leaf mulch instantly and continuously available, I decided to do the job with half a dozen or so azaleas. The last time we purchased azaleas they were $5-$6 and we had found a great nursery in Ocala – Porter’s.

Our first setback was that Porter’s has moved from Ocala to the Villages. We learned that after wasting a day traisping around Ocala. Decided to try more local nurseries only to learn that the locals were too proud of their inventory – $10 proud. So I opted for a fallback – start my own from cuttings. I have plenty of good stock and they were a bit leggy so it seemed natural to kill a few birds with one stone. My history with starting new azaleas has been spotty, maybe one out of four actually happen. So I decided to add a bit of science to the project and see if I could home in on a higher yield approach. My expectation is that within 6-8 weeks the starts would either have taken or be deadwood.

I started the cuttings on July 3 in an open (not potted) shaded area where it would be easy to maintain consistent watering. I ended up with 10 starts. All used a growth hormone stimulant since past experience has proved that worthwhile. I did 3 starts using a technique I coined “long branch”. These were starts from cuttings about 2′ long with sparse upper greenery. I scraped about a foot of the woody and coated with the hormone then buried it mostly horizontally. My thought was that the more area with the hormone, the more possible root formation surface.

Five starts were my conventional approach – cut about 6” below a branching point and plant up to the branch. These cuttings were fully leafed.

Two starts were bare wood, about 8” long, with no leaves. Just sticks in the soil with the growth hormone applied.

Three weeks into the project there are some interesting results. The leaves on the five multi-branched starts all turned droopy within the first week. Some worse than others but all looked significantly wilted. I expected that the leaves would all fall based on that start but they are still hanging on, looking poorly, but hanging on and still green(ish).

The long branch starts look much better; two have some visible droop but one, the one with the longest branch, has shown no signs of wilting at all and looks about the same as the day I planted it.

The most interesting is the plain sticks. They have started budding out new leaves – very tiny, but leaves.

So at this point in the project, I would start speculating that the long branch and stick approach seem to be the most successful. Of course I can’t tell what’s going on under the soil so I’m only speculating. It does look like my old approach is the saddest which would support my 75% failure history. Also at this point there is zero pressure to produce since my friend Jess Hayes found 6 nice plants for me at $5 each and I found 3 nice Hydrangeas to complete the landscaping in the uplot area. So at this point, any success in the cutting project is pure bonus and in the interest of science.

old reels

refurb'd reels

I got my shed all fixed up with a workbench, lighting, shelves and a pegboard for my tools. I needed a project to try it all out so I decided to see If I could make some old fishing reels useable. All of these were ‘60’s vintage; the 5000C’s were late 50’s – so these are all classics. I had my Dad’s and some I had personally retired about 30 years ago – 9 reels in all. They included one of those old brown Ted Williams Ambassadeur knock-off’s; a black Daiwa Millioniare (another Ambassadeur knock-off); 3 of the original Ambassadeur 5000C’s (the classics from which all others are measured), a 5000D (a poor man’s 5000C), a 4500 (narrow spool version of the 5000C), and a mini, stripped down ABU 2650. Also an old Pfleuger. The Millionaire, a 5000C and the 4500 were my dad’s. Working on them sure brought back lots of old, fond memories.

I don’t ever recall seeing a 4500 before so that was a new one on me. I can say that with some confidence because I would have preferred it to the 5000C and no doubt bought one. I was pretty much out of the reel buying mode from about 1972-85 so maybe it hatched in that stretch. My guess is that it’s likely the newest reel of the bunch.but it’s the same as the 5000C – silver rather than red and with a narrower spool. Has a stardrag. As best I can tell the parts are totally interchangeable except for the narrow spool which should make it a lighter, more castable reel.

The reels were for the most part totally frozen – no drag, spool locked tight. Covered with crud. I could crank the spool on a couple – but really stiff and totally unuseable. Some looked like they were growing there was so much grib and mold on them. Maybe I could get a couple working by interchanging parts. I started by taking them apart one at a time and soaking the pieces in Liquid Wrench to dissolve the dried grease and kill the growth. Nothing was rusted beyond repair, badly pitted but not structurally problematic and they all cleaned up nicely after a bit of soaking and coaxing. Encouraged, I oiled, greased and put them back together. I started with a 5000C since I used to know those things inside and out. It took me a couple of times breaking down and putting together before I figured it out again and learned the old spring loaded traps again. After that, all the 5000C’s, the Millionaire, and the Ted Williams were a piece of cake. They are identical reel inside.

The 5000D was one of those cheaper, green models. No star drag so it came apart and went together easier. I remember customizing that reel – exchanging plastic gears for metal ones – high speed buzz gears – and exchanging a one knob, balanced high speed handle for the two knob version that came with it. My thought was that without a star drag, the reel would be nice and light and still have the great bearing system of the 5000C. I was right and don’t think I ever used a C again.

The 2650 was a very small reel. It was quite flimsy and cheap but very light and cast like a dream. I remember searching far and wide to find a good freespool reel that wasn’t heavy and this was the answer. It also turned out to be cheap. I caught hell for using such a cheap reel when they were all into the big buck 5000C’s. I had forgotten it had a push button freespool on the handle so that mechanism stopped me for a minute or two during this refurb operation. Somewhere along the way the handle had gotten bent badly and it was more or less a mess. I held this one till the end since I figured it was never going to happen and I have zero spare parts for this particular model.

I remember using the 500D and the 2650 almost exclusively after I acquired them. I was hung up on light weight since a good deal of my fishing was wading where I’d be out for 10 hours with no place to set down and more or less casting the entire time. You’d be surprised how much difference a few ounces makes. It turned out that the 5000D was a great reel for buzzing over the grass since it had a fast, smooth retrieve. I used the 2650 exclusively for top water since I could cast lighter lures and retrieval speed was not an issue. All my buddies fished exclusively with 5000C’s and I know at the end of the day, I’d made many more casts than them due to the light weight of my rigs compared to theirs. I know I also caught more fish because I could fish smaller lures, farther from the boat. I gave up the star drag for pure thumb control but don’t ever remember that being a problem with bass.

Believe it or not, after 3 days, I have 6 working perfectly. Haven’t messed with the pfleuger yet since I never really liked that reel anyway. It has a really wide spool which makes it hard to thumb control. It’s a stronger reel than the 5000’s with a better drag system so I used it on snook and tarpon but cursed it a thousand times a day when using it. I have rods for all of them. Oldies but goodies.

After the refurb operation I took them all down to the dock for a flight test. It’s one thing to have them spin ok on dry land but the proof is in the casting. Beautiful – they cast like a dream and I immediately remembered why I loved that 2650 and the 5000D better than the 5000C’s. As I indicated, neither of these reels have a drag system which adds quite a bit of weight – maybe half the weight for the 2650 – and the spools are much, much freer. I could cast them a country mile and they retrieve with much less drag. You know I now have some fairly expensive Shimano reels with a jillion ball bearings and all the magnetic and super centrifugal spool controls but these newly fixed reels are just smoother. The new reels have centrifugal control with 6 slider weights – these have two; the new reels have 6-10 bearings, these have none or two at most. I have no doubts the new reels are easier to use, especially for a beginner, but these old reels sure feel good to me. I need to change the line since they are currently strung with stuff that looks like rope compared to the new lines but I’m really, really happy with how it all turned out. Next step is to see how well they fish. I know they were trained properly so I’m anxious to see if they still remember all the tricks.

another great weekend

Another great weekend – this one extended by the fourth of July holiday. We attended one of Olivia’s birthday parties on Sunday. In her case she doesn’t really have a birthday but rather a “birthmonth”. I was personally lucky enough to attend two – the Sunday party and the party on the fourth. Nancy took Olivia shopping for her presents and we were treated to a long fashion show of the results. I got to spend my birthday gift card – Bass Pro Shops – and loaded up on new sinko style worms which Si and I had depleted on our previously reported trips.

After the party, Olivia came back to the lake with us for a mini vacation. On Monday she and I took off in the kayaks for a lake fishing trip. I was casting for bass and she was trailing behind, mostly, while I fished. At one point she crept ahead of me – exactly at the point where a fish grabbed my worm. The fish was jumping but I couldn’t see it because it was right next to her kayak – what a hoot it would have been if it had jumped into her boat. We finished off the day a little later with the three of us swimming in the lake.

The grand finale was the fourth celebration in Cocoa. We took the boat – the good ship Double Shaafted, down to the missile launch area to have a picnic and get up close and personal to the space shuttle Discovery launch. The kids spent most of the time in the water, cannon balling off the roof – that would be maybe a 10′ platform. Simon dove down at one point and brought up a live sponge. The launch itself was spectacular. I’ve been closer to launches before but not the shuttle. It just couldn’t have been more perfect. On the trip home we were occasionally tracked by dolphins, so close you could see the blow holes and eyeballs! Back at the dock we celebrated yet another birthmonth party for Olivia. The traditional cake was this time replaced with a giant chocolate chip cookie – more than enough for a dozen people. It was without a doubt the sweetest thing I ever tried to eat in my life – had to be kilocalories per bite.