New York News

You’ve probably heard about the steam pipe explosion in New York City on Wednesday. We caught it on the evening news and got concerned when the location was identified as next to Grand Central Station. Chris was recently named manager of the Grand Central store and we knew he was there. He finally called about 8:00 PM and said he was safe but had been right there when it blew. He had just walked out of the station and was less than a small city block from the action. He said it sounded like train coming through and the ground was rumbling. He said it looked and sounded exactly like the 9-11 World Trade Center collapse and he started running with the masses. He said he was totally covered in debris and people were staring at him when he got on board the subway for home. To make it more interesting the guy across the subway from him was a middle easterner wearing a large backpack. Nobody on the train knew anything about the explosion and he said he just knew that the train was the next target.

Overall his day was exciting. As I said, he had become manager of the Grand Central store within the past few weeks. Grand Central is the highest grossing store in the New York District. For six months prior to that he had been manager of the Flatiron store, which is the largest and flagship NY store. There were some personnel changes just above his pay grade and he ended up with a new District Manager who came in from Philadelpia. The new DM brought along a store manager who took over the Flatiron store when Chris moved to Grand Central Station- a nice promotion for both of them. Managing either of these store is a big deal in the District. Chris said that he was getting frequent calls from employees at Flatiron complaining about irregularities with the new manager. It all came to a head Wednesday – about the same time the steam line was blowing – and the new guy was summarily fired. When Chris, who was still running from the explosion, managed to get a call through to the regional manager to alert them about the explosion, she told him they were in a meeting and would call him back in a few minutes. When they called, it was to tell him that he was going to manage both the Flatiron and Grand Central stores until Labor Day and that he would be acting New York District Manager for the next week – the DM was going on a long planned vacation.

The bottom line to us is that Chris’s vacation to visit Florida next month is off the table!! He said he’ll be doing seven 12’s for the next month or so.

Florida Flower Hall of Fame

For the thousands of you who haven’t written in to learn about the Florida Flower Hall of Fame, this scribbling is for you. I have two flowers that I have installed onto the pedestle as Hall of Famers. These are flowers, not bushes. I differentiate by whether or not the stems turn woody. Not sure how regular biologists would handle the distinction. To make my list there are a few requirements. Individually the requirements are not too tough but collectively, the list of candidates dwindle rapidly. That’s why only two made it.

First requirement is that they have nearly constant, very colorful, very profilic blooms. So anything that last only a month or two or six is out of the running from the get go. Second, they must be virtually carefree. If you have to dawdle over them – water, fertilizer, mulch – they’re scrubbed. They have to be tough and survive through floods, droughts, heat, and cold in the essentially barren Florida soil. And finally, they have to self propogate so you only have to plant them once. Self propogate means they either seed themselves or you can break off a stem, stick it in the ground and have it grow a new plant. You have to admit that’s a tough set of criteria.

Two plants made it through the hurdles. One does best in the sun; one does best in the shade. So between the two, you can cover all the bases. The sun lover is called a Periwinkle in Florida – Vinca elsewhere. They come in dozens of colors and shades. Each plant will support loads of flowers almost constantly and they reseed so easily that you just have to look around to see a new seedling and move it to a new spot. If a single plant outgrows it’s particular spot, you can trim it back, stick the clippings in the ground and oila!, a new plant. I never worry about whether or not they’re getting enough or too much water, wonder if they need fertilizer – they don’t- or whether the bugs are eating them. I have to assume they taste bad or something.

The shade lover is, of course, the Impatiens. Everything I said about the periwinkle is true for the Impatiens. It is a little more cold sensitive but in my 4 year experience, because they are planted in shady, sheltered spots, they tend to survive a killing frost. And if the plant does crater, it has dropped enough seeds in the same spot to replicate itself quickly.

With both of these flowers you an plant them directly into the ground or use them in hanging baskets and planters. Both have an incredible range of color selections so you can literally make a one time purchase of the colors you want and then just move the progeny around from spot to spot as they appear to change the look of the landscaping. Start with a couple 18 plant flats filled with a variety of colors and you’re set for life. Try that with your petunias! Some varieties of marigolds come close I will admit, but so far, none I’ve tried reach perfection. I’d love to find one that does since alas, no yellow or orange Periwinkles or Impatiens.

week of the 4th

The week of the 4th has been a great one. The drought has given in to the normal tropical rains. We were extremely dry thru June but this week – Monday thru Friday – 3.5” in the rain gauge. That’s great for the lake which is noticeably higher – still very low but heading in the right direction. The rain of course adds water but it also stops the fern growers from pumping irrigation water from the lake. The downside to the rain is that the grass grows like crazy. I’m now in the two mows per week mode. What’s bad about that is that timing is critical. You can’t mow in the morning when it’s cool because the grass is so wet it clogs up any mower, even the riding mowers. By the time it drys out around noon, it’s way hot but if you wait until late afternoon, there’s a high chance that you’ve experience afternoon thunderstorms and it’s too wet again. So as dumb as it sounds, you more or less have to mow at the hottest time of the day.

On the 4th we headed over to Joey’s boat with our friend Betty Tighe. Joey had invited a few friends and Tom’s family showed up. I think Tom was there too but he spent most of the day studying some programming book deep in the interior of the boat so he was only sort of there. The day was perfect – a bit overcast to hold the temperature down and a slight breeze. The company was great, food was great, and the wine was exceptional.

On Thursday we went to Simon’s scout camp where he had spent the past week earning his lifeguard creds. It was family day and we joined him for dinner. I don’t know yet for sure if he got the badges since his final exam and testing was on Friday. He sounded confident and we met a couple of his instructors and they seemed very positive that he had it nailed. His next hurdle is Eagle which he’ll probably earn right after the first of the year. He was having a great time and the only hitch seemed to be wildlife encounters. Several times his tent was invaded by a racoon which carried off his backpack. He had sequestered some beef jerky inside and I guess the aroma called in the critters. He managed to retrieve his backpack each time but the coon was actually smart enough to unzip the compartment and drag out the contents.

I ran an experiment with Barney the bass. He’s very predictably under the dock at 7 pm and hungry. I’ve always wondered how well they’d enjoy the giant grasshoppers we grow here. These hoppers are great yellow critters 3-4” in length and can strip a tree in minutes. Voracious feeders. But they’re slow and can’t really fly so they’re easy to catch. On 3 consecutive nights I captured big juicy ones and dropped them in front of Barney. Each time he came up and gave it a good look then swam away. This is the same Barney that leaps out of the water to catch a Bream similarly dropped from the dock. So clearly, grasshoppers are not preferred eating.

Nice wildlife sighting on Friday. Mid afternoon I was looking out the front window and spotted a red fox maybe 50′ away. He very casually walked up and got to within 10′ of me. I called Nancy and as soon as he heard me he scooted away. I’ve seen foxes in the field next door usually early in the morning or early evening but this is the closest I’ve been to one in the wild.

On the project front I completed a job that I’d been meaning to do for about 40 years. I had accumulated misc hardware – nuts, bolts, washers, brackets etc etc – in a set of old coffee cans. Typically I could find something to do most jobs by dumping out a can, spending 1/2 hour sorting thru and then dumping it all back in the can. When I’d actually have to buy hardware, I’d buy packages and then dump the left overs into the coffee cans. As of Monday I had 4 cans full to the brim so you can get a feel for the magnitude of the collection. There was absolutely no pre – sort – each can contained whatever it was that I had tossed in over the years. A year ago or so I bought a set of plastic drawers designed to go on a workbench and hold hardware. But it was such a daunting task that it had very low priority on my “to do” list. Well this week my list is current and it was time to quit procrastinating and do the job. It took 2 rainy days but it’s done. I am now officially organized. I didn’t really do it as well as possible – like organizing by size. Rather I have 3 categories of most things – small, medium and large. So I have nuts, washers, wood screws, machine screws, and bolts – each sorted in the small, medium large category. Springs, knobs, brackets and weird stuff that I have no idea about each get a drawer. Lots of picture hanging stuff and all manner of wallboard fasteners. Wire nuts, pipe straps and scads of nails and tacks. I left the nails in several jars and didn’t put them in the drawers. I know this is all hard to believe but get used to me being organized!