Olivia’s week

This was Olivia’s week with us. So as you might guess Nana played a bigger overall part than I did but we managed plenty of excitement. On the first night I introduced her to the pet bass. I would catch a bream, flip it to where I knew the bass would be and she would squeal with delight as he gobbled it up. After a dozen or so, she wanted to be the one who tossed the bream to the bass. Believe it or not, he grabbed 18 bream for a new all time record. We know it was the same fish because you can watch him grab the bream and then retake his position beside the ladder. The low water is quite clear now and I’m sure the bass is in the 7 pound range. The next night was quite a bit different. Olivia wanted to actually catch the bream herself, take them off the hook, and feed the bass. I was totally out of the loop except as a score keeper. Oh, and it was not ok to just call it a pet bass, it needed a name. We agreed on Barney. So henceforth we called it Barney. On the second night, Barney ate 11 bream. It’s really hard to imagine the fish could still swim with 18 on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. Monday was a repeat with 13; Tuesday, 10. I’m sure we could have done more on Tuesday but George and Rick took out their kayaks and banged into the dock, scaring Barney into hiding. Wednesday we didn’t get home until quite late so the week’s tally was a phenomenal 52 bream in 4 days. Oh, and by Monday, Olivia was kissing the bream goodbye before feeding them to Barney.

Monday she and I went crabbing in Bulow Creek. Simon and I had caught 18 on our last visit which I thought was a fairly high hurdle. We got off to a slow start – plenty of crabs but Olivia was having trouble with the long net so we switched off and she became the line person and I took over netting duties. We managed 4 lines and several times had 3 going at the same time. We lost track and when I asked if she was ready to quit, she wanted to know how many I thought we had. Until I could definitively tell her we had more than 18, she was staying. As it turns out we got 24. Nancy had the water boiling by the time we got home so she and Olivia enjoyed another crab feast.

As I said, she actually spent most of her time here with Nancy. They squeezed in two shopping trips so her birthday next week is covered. On Sunday, after shopping, they worked on a quilt and finished it Sunday night. Olivia actually did the block placement so the design is hers. On Tuesday she went to Nancy’s quilt group meeting and along with another gal her age, sorted through 7 boxes of fabric recently acquired from a friend in Salt Lake City. On Wednesday she went to the Duplicate Bridge club in Crescent City. She watched closely for the first half and then actually got to help in playing a hand after lunch.

The other big activities were working on a 750 piece jigsaw puzzle – still not completed and watching a few episodes of Northern Exposure from Netflix between our evening fishing trip, a shower to get rid of the fish smell, and crashing to sleep. The week flew by so I know I had a good time. Next time she comes, I need to take her surf fishing. Just not enough time to do it all!!!


I surf fish quite often and in the summer combine surf fishing with blue crab catching. That’s because of the proximity of the crabbing grounds with the ocean. One of the principle tools of the surf fisherman is the 5 gallon bucket. In fact if you see a guy fishing in the surf who doesn’t have a 5 gallon bucket, he’s probably an amateur. The bucket is used to carry bait, hold the catch, sunblock, beer – whatever. It also doubles as a seat if configured with a lid. I added a new high tech gadget to my bucket that replaces a simple lid with a tackle holding lid. Right up there with the cell phone in terms of great ideas. Still the ultimate simplicity of a 5 gallon bucket limits it’s utility. Invariably I end up with water in the bucket which screws up my tools lying on the bottom of the bucket – that would be pliers, bait knife, fillet knife, crab twine, and a rubber mallet for banging in the sand spikes, beach umbrella and the like. It becomes a real problem when the bucket doubles as a crab container and you have to dump live blue crabs on top of the tools. And we’re still faced with having to carry quite a bit of other gear to the beach. Ideally you’d like to be able to carry everything – tackle, rods, sand spikes, tackle, bucket, bait etc etc all in one trip from the truck to the fishing spot. Life is complicated by things like chairs and beach umbrellas which, some would argue, are pure luxury. When I go by myself, I just have to plan on two trips. When Nancy is with me, I have to plan on only being able to fish close to the stairs since she’s not big on walking too far down the beach to a prime spot.

So I decided that the 5 gallon bucket needs some customization to allow the tools to be stored in a fashion that protects them from water and blue crabs; that allows the sand spikes to be carried as part of the bucket; and allows pre-made rigs to be carried in a fashion where they don’t get tangled up. An objective was to totally eliminate the need to carry a separate tackle box. With my new work shop and scads of new tools, I was certain that I could create something to meet many of my objectives. So with a saw, a drill, and a pop rivet gun I attached four 4” pieces of 1” PVC pipe along the outside perimeter of the bucket and two pieces of 3/4” PVC pipe on the inside of the bucket. So now I can carry 2 sand spikes, the rubber mallet, and the fillet knife on the outside of the bucket and my pliers and bait knife inside. I attached a wide strip of foam on the inside for hooking rigs and installed a hook to hang my leader dispenser. As best I can tell, it’s a masterpiece of design engineering but the real proof will be in the field trials. I’m thinking a 3 week intensive field program of surf fishing and crabbing is needed to fully valildate the design and the workmanship. Olivia is coming tomorrow and will be with us for most of the week so she and I will do the first field tests.

Another shop project – design and build an adapter that would let me use my new wet/dry shop vac to clean the drain pipe of the air conditioner. The intake hose on the vac is roughly 1.5”; the A/C drain is 3/4”. So I needed some kind of reducing scheme that would be tight enough to allow the vac to work. If it wasn’t tight at both ends, there wouldn’t be enough vacume to pull the water from the A/C. I won’t go into the design details but suffice it to say, the adapter is a thing of beauty and works like a world champ. I pulled about a pint of water in about 15 seconds.

Do I smell patents?? Nobel prizes??

A new valuation??

All in all most of last week was boring. I pretty much finished up the tough yard work and we’re in good shape now for a few months. The chipper has been the big enabler. My friend Bill Dentel and I picked it up when we first started clearing the property and it’s been a real work horse. With a 10HP engine, this machine can really eat up the yard trash and spit out mulch. It runs about 2 hours on a tank of gas and I’ve run through 3 tanks of gas in the past 3 weeks. That’s some serious chipping. I also took advantage of the low, low lake level and cleaned out logs and trash along the beach and constructed a new bottom step for the dock ladder. Under normal conditions there were plenty of steps but with the drop in lake level, that last step was a long way from the bottom and required a gymnast – or at least someone under 60 – to climb up from the water.

The weekend was R and R time for sure. On Saturday we went out for a lunch cruise on Joey’s boat and took our old friend Betty Tighe along. It’s the first time she’d been out on it and was of course blown away by the whole experience. After the boat we did Margharita’s at Grill’s and topped it off with a few cold drafts at the Sanford Boat works. Sunday was Father’s day and Tom’s family came up. Eileen came too so we had a nice family get together complete with swimming in the lake and feeding the pet bass. Tina brought all the food so it was a nice relaxing day for Nancy too.

Got a bit of a shock today. Across the lake from us is a mobile home. It’s on a nice piece of property and recently a for sale sign went up. A few people have asked us to let them know if anything on the lake ever comes up for sale so we drove by today to pick up a realtor brochure. The property is 5 acres with 270 feet on the lake. The mobile home is a 1972 vintage that has been completely refurbished inside and out. It’s 1370 sf of living space and a 700sf screen porch. The brochure says it has 4 (micro) bedrooms and 2 baths. The road to it is dirt and gravel – a bit windy and probably seasonally a bit nasty. I had guessed they would ask about $350K and take under $300K if it was offered. Guess again Joe. They’re asking $495K. I sure hope they get it!!! I can’t imagine the structure itself is worth $100K which would mean they think the property is worth about $80K/acre. I personally thinks that over the top. There’s a 40 acre piece for sale at $2M, $50K/acre and a 15 acre piece on lake Diaz – a nicer body of water but not so private – for $60K/acre.

On the garden front – the action has moved from here to Simon’s garden. The garden here is played out except for a few green tomatoes and big egg plants. We’ll till in as much organic mulch as we can round up and then let it sit and cook for a few months. Simon decided he needed a pumpkin patch and has started one in his back yard in Lake Mary. He made the initial planting last Monday and reported nearly 100% germination by yesterday. His game plan is to thin out the plants leaving the 12 strongest plants to produce for Halloween 2007. Other than watering, fertilizing and keeping the dogs out of the patch, the next step is probably designing face cutouts for the jack’o Lanterns.

Simon’s week


Simon stayed with us this week. It was another combination of fun and work but maybe a bit more on the fun side this time. Over the past six months or so lots of dead branches had come down from the trees but with a fire ban in place, the piles just kept getting higher. We finally got some rain and the ban was lifted so Si and I did a major burn of our own. He mowed the lawn one day and between us we ran another 12 gauge circuit from the generator area up by the carport to the house. I had put in a single circuit last year just before hurricane season and it worked fairly well but had some limitations. By running another circuit the capacity will be doubled and should eliminate some of the shortcomings from last season. We did a few light chores in the garden, mostly picking beans but also buried some fish carcasses to fertilize. Si was in charge of catching and I was in charge of burying. We also got some power washing done – cleaning off the kayaks. Bees kept us from cutting jungle but we did set some bee traps and wiped out two nests – at least 50 yellow jackets between two sites.

Simon brought his kayak up with him so we had to make sure it performed well in some of my favorite fishing spots. We did a day on Strickland Creek and a day on the Tomoka River. Both of these waterways are on the coast so we were fishing for salt water fish. The fishing was great – the catching was lousy. Undeterred, we tried our hand at surf fishing and crabbing on two days. On Tuesday we struck out on the beach but caught 14 blue crabs. Before driving home we called Nancy and told her to put the pot on for some crabs. The picture is Simon and Nancy doing the first day’s catch. We went again on Friday and this time made a decent catch in the surf – two nice whiting, a pompano, and a small shark. It was sweet because people fishing next to us got zip, even fishing with 4 rods. The secret was the bait. We were using sand fleas and the competition was using shrimp. They tried to catch sand fleas but just didn’t have that touch. We could tell it was driving them crazy and Simon wanted me to go show them how to catch sand fleas. I don’t think so! When we left he gave them the ones we hadn’t used so he felt better. From the beach we hit Bulow creek where we’d scored well on crabs earlier. We caught 18 this time. Interestingly, the places where we caught the crabs were totally new to me in terms of trying to crab so I have a nice collection of hot spots now and feel fairly confident that one place or the other will produce all summer long. We ate the fish for dinner on Saturday and Simon took the crabs home with him on Sunday – cooked of course.

Each evening we fished off the dock for a couple of hours. We caught a few bass, the biggest maybe 4 pounds; a couple of mudfish which ended up in the garden as fertilizer; a large soft shell turtle; and hundreds of bait size bluegill. Si would catch the bait for me and then feed the pet bass who lives under the dock with the overage. On Thursday night the bass nabbed 8 bream; 7 on Friday; and an unbelievable 10 on Saturday. The fish must hear us on the dock and gets into position next to the ladder. Nearly each time Simon would catch a bream and drop him on the fish – splash, bam, he’s gone. A couple of times he nearly caught the bream in the air. It looks to be about 5 pounds already. I’m guessing he’s in withdrawal now that Simon has gone home.

We had an interesting wildlife sighting a couple of evenings. A pack of 4 baby armadillos has nested right near the house. They are little bitty pinkish miniatures and have no fear of us at all. I had been seeing a large one for a few evenings last week and that must be the mother.

All in all it was a great week. Between Tommy and Simon, I plan on resting up for a few days- they wore me to a frazzle. Having them both to help enabled me to totally catch up on all the backlog of work I had and got me back on track kayaking on the coast.


We survived Barry just fine. It’s great that the news and weather people are so on top of the storms because if they weren’t we probably wouldn’t have known we were in one. We’d have all just thought it was a normal, regular old go to hell Florida summer storm. I think giving them names now instead of just telling you it’s going to rain is a nice touch. But I am concerned that predicting a number of storms for a season gives rise to premature naming. It’s fun watching the weather guys pointing out or trying to point out some “rotation” which is synonymous with tropical storms and hurricanes. They point out an area somewhere in the middle of the gulf and say something like “the center of rotation is now located at xxyyzz” and then draw a circle around an area that looks absolutely like the rest of the cloud cover. To the casual observer there is no rotation at all. I also like it when they start flying the hurricane planes and report that they found a spot where the winds were 35 mph so it’s now getting a name. The next day they can’t find the spot with winds that high but the storm remains named. And the planes quit flying after that one “naming” flight. So I guess if you can find a cloud bank that looks like it is rotating and a blast of wind at 35 mph, however short in duration, you can officially give it a name and uphold the reputation of the forecasters who forecast an active season.

For a while they were calling this a “subtropical storm”. I’m wondering if that’s the same as a tropical sub storm which is a more apt description of both “Axxxx”, (already forgotten the first storm) which died somewhere the day after it was named, and Barry.

Don’t get me wrong, the rain was really appreciated but can you really with a straight face cover a storm for two days that dumps a total of about 2” of rain? 2″ in one hour is not a reportable event in Florida; 10″ maybe, 2″, I don’t think so. I watched the local NBC channel tonight and they start the broadcast saying they have 5 reporters stationed at key locations to report on Barry. The first guy is on the beach in rain gear. All around him are normal beach people in bathing suits waving at the camera; then they switch to a guy in Ocala who is pointing at some dark clouds and saying how bad the clouds look. Of course it’s dry and sunny where he’s standing and he proclaims how amazing it is that you can see storm clouds and clear blue sky at the same time. I’m impressed that they can do it without cracking up. I empathize for the poor reporter in the field who knows he looks like a total jerk trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. But my favorite was the footage of the 8′ gator being captured in a field – there because of the storm. In almost every newscast for the past couple of months there has been footage of gators moving about on land attributed to the drought or to mating season. But this one was moving because of the storm. Give me a break. Wait, wait I have a new favorite. This reporter is standing in a large puddle caused by a clogged drain in Orlando. She is ankle deep but reports that the puddle is 2′ deep. Either this is one strangely built reporter or she doesn’t understand the difference between 2″ and 2′. It might have worked if she had been standing on the curb instead of in the middle of the puddle – but wait, even the curb is only 6″ high.

What a crock!!!! My concern is that people will actually pay attention to all this and become total storm wimps. Hello, this is Florida. We get nasty thunder storms all summer long and consider that totally normal. We’re down about a foot of rain statewide, even more in South Florida. Hopefully we’ll have a couple of nice rainy hurricanes this year to bring it all back to normal.