fall garden – already

The last garden started out with a bang but never came close to meeting expectations. We were concerned about the quality of the soil going into it. In an earlier life George had a pigeon coop overtop the area which became the garden. One possible thought was that with all the pigeon droppings, the soil would be very fertile. Counteracting that was the fact that George had liberally used lye and asundry chemicals to kill fungi and other pigeon related critters. In the end the garden turned out spotty – some ok patches and some sterile patches. We had a good broccolli crop, good green beans in some spots, japapeno’s and banana peppers. But the tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash were a big disappointment. The one good thing that we accomplished was to till up the soil and remove tons of rock and gravel that had rimmed the coop.

Knowing that the soil was seriously deficient, we started a significant mulch/compost pile – 4’x3′ x 3’h – and picked up 40 forty pound bags of manure at a sale midway through the season. So in preparation of a fall garden I started cleaning out areas of the garden – that means pulling out the weeds. I turned it all over by shovel and then worked in several loads of compost and several bags of manure into each area. Took about 4 hours to do the first third of the area I intend to work so I’m projecting having it all ready for planting by this weekend. Certain areas we planted before were so disastrous, I’m going to leave alone. Those areas are so hostile that even the weeds were unable to grow there and will be a project for the future. I suspect we’ll literally have to shovel out that sand and replace with top soil – more than I’m interested in attacking now. For the time being, I’m guessing the planting area will be maybe 300 sf.

Before we took off on vacation, I planted some seeds in starter containers. We were gone 10 days and the seeds were mostly sprouted by our return. I transplanted them from the starter trays into larger containers and plan to move those to the garden in a couple of weeks. I want to get just a bit further into the storm season until I’m confident we’re in the clear. I’ve started tomatoes, jalapenos, cabbage, and broccolli. Those along with bush bean, squash and cucumber seeds that will go in directly, should fill up most of the garden. Towards the end of October, I’ll plant spinach, peas, beets, carrots and lettuce seed and probably more broccolli. These late plantings should do ok through our coldest weather.

And I refilled the mulch/compost pile. That’s a fairly easy thing to do here. I just roll up my chipper to the front of the compost bin and start clipping and trimming trees and bushes.
A few hours of cutting and chipping restored the pile to it’s original volume. That pile will season over fall and winter and be ready for use next spring. For the area that is totally devoid of nutrients, the plan is a bit more radical. George has a 2 acre grass/weed field that gets mowed every month or so. The John Deere mower has two humongous grass catching bags. The plan is to dump those bags onto the sterile area every time he mows and then cut it all in next spring. I’m guessing that will result in a 6′ high pile of grass clippings. Maybe it will take a couple of years but I’m determined to get it all working.

A Ferry nice trip

Just got back from a 10 day visit to New Jersey. We decided to take a different route than usual. Rather than using Interstate 95 all the way, we exited just inside the VA border and headed east to the coast. There we crossed the Chesapeake Bay using a 25 mile bridge and tunnel system. Staying along the coast, we ended up in Lewes Delaware where we caught the ferry to Cape May New Jersey and on up the Garden State Parkway to Lavelette. The ferry is an 80 minute ride across the Delaware River Bay on a boat that holds about 100 cars and is equipped with several bars, lounges, and decks for viewing the sights. Very relaxing, especially when compared to driving the interstate through DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. I think the trip may be a couple of hours shorter this way assuming normal traffic conditions on 95 and when we arrived, we were totally relaxed and not worn out from fighting it.

We spent 4 days with Nancy’s cousin on the beach. Fred and I went surf fishing every day about a block from the house. Unfortunately I can’t confirm that fish live in that particular part of the ocean. Nancy and Martha shopped. The weather was perfect, the food great – all in all a good vacation. The one thing I always hate is that the pizza and deli’s are so good there, that it takes me at least 6 months before I can eat here again and enjoy it. As much as I dislike the NE in general, I have to admit – there’s no place better for Italian food and there’s no food I like better than Italian food. If I lived there I’d weigh 300 pounds in a heartbeat.

We decided on a very relaxed trip back. I have always wanted to drive on the outer Banks in NC – see Kitty Hawk, Nag’s Head, Cape Hatteras, Ocrakoke Island. And Nancy had a grundle of quilt shops from Delaware on thru the Carolinas. We got underway about 8AM to make the 10:30 ferry from Cape May. As we found from the first ferry trip, you absolutely need to make reservations. The boats were full and those that try to wing it, end up having to wait 2-3 hours for the next ferry, assuming they can get on the that one. The Delaware end is Lewes, which markets itself as the “first city in the first state”. It’s a historic little town with great restaurants and, I guess, a great quilt shop. Next trip we’ll plan to spend a full day there. From Lewes we drove to Kitty Hawk and spent the night. We got up the next morning and visited the Wright Brothers National monument where I really gained a greater appreciation for just what an accomplishment that first flight was. We stopped at the famous Hatteras lighthouse and then caught a free ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke Island. No doubt Ocracoke needs a return visit. It’s a walk around town with so much to see that no way you could do it in a day. And it was raining so walking around would have been a bit uncomfortable. From there we took a ferry to Cedar Island. That’s a 2+ hour ferry ride across Pamlico Sound. We spent that night in Morehead City NC and found a great restaurant on the beach.

The next day was scheduled to be a big quilt shop day in Jacksonville and Wilmington NC with a plan to end in Charleston. The procedure is that we find the address in Nancy’s quilt shop book which normally includes a small map. Then she goes in for 30-60 minutes and finds stuff that she’s been looking for forever. The problems arise when we try to find some of these very obscure shops using the little maplets included in the book. The maps leave much to be desired and we often end up totally lost. After a few hours of frustration, I decided we needed to stop this hunting around and get ourselves a navigation system. I called Tom and he found a Best Buy with just the model we needed. As it turned out, there was a Costco in the same shopping center as Best Buy and we elected to pick up a different navigator there. What a difference. Although we had some cockpit troubles learning the equipment, still we were able to have it get us to whatever address we plugged in flawlessly. It absolutely made the rest of the trip a dream. If you spend most of the time on Interstates, no big deal. But if you get off and do the local towns or use back roads, the GPS system is a Godsend. We normally have maybe 100 navigation arguments per trip. We were on target to beat that until we got the Magellan. Not one after that. That alone was worth the $350.

We ended up not getting as far as Charleston but rather made it south of Myrtle Beach at a place called Pawley’s Island. Pawley’s Island is famous for having a shop that makes world class hammocks. We found that shop in a little village of shops. Didn’t buy a hammock but Nancy found a quilt shop which more than made up for it. We got to Charleston about noon and decided to spend the rest of the day doing the tourist thing. We ate a great lunch at the Noisy Oyster and then browsed through the old Slave Market. Finally we took a horse carriage ride to see the sights.

We got up Saturday morning and made it back to the lake just in time to catch the kickoff of the Gator game. What a great finish to a great week.

In summary, without a doubt this was the most relaxing drive we’ve had going from Fla to NJ. Keeping off the Interstates and using the ferries just removed so much stress. Traffic moves just a bit slower and there is generally no traffic to contend with. And no trucks. They are all on the Interstate. The ferries and bridge/tunnel system are expensive but I think it saves gas and prices off the Interstates are lower. Next trip up we’ll plan to spend a day in Lewes and maybe 2 or 3 on Ocracoke Island.


One of my most important tools here is Roundup. I guess you can call it a tool since it replaces pulling weeds. Let me explain why I’ve become so up close and personal with Roundup. We have a gravel driveway from the road to the house and then a circular area for turnabouts. To scope it for you, the driveway is about 500′ long, 10′ wide, and 4” deep. The circle has a diameter of about 30′ which is equivalent to nearly another 100′. The problem is that even with 4” of gravel, the weeds find a way to pop up and if left alone for a summer, the driveway would turn into a weed field. Picking the weeds by hand is not an option. In the summer, new ones are sprouting at just higher than my maximum pick rate so it’s a losing battle. So every few weeks I have to hit it with Roundup. Actually Roundup is very expensive so I hit it with a commercial generic that, if anything, is slightly more potent. Pierson is the Fern Capital of the World so we have a major league fernery supply store catering to the local farmers. I went there and explained my need and they happen to have a super potent, stronger than Roundup, concentrate. Concentrate means 5 tablespoons for every gallon of water. The smallest size is 5 gallons so I’m thinking one purchase is a lifetime supply. I bought a sanctioned 2 gallon Roundup spray dispenser so I’m set up properly. I recognized right away that pouring a tablespoon of this highly potent, toxic stuff from a 5 gallon container was just not so simple so I came up with a great idea. Nancy buys her liquid detergent in a 2 gallon plastic jug that has a push button spout that just happens to dispense about 1 tablespoon per push. I transfer the herbicide to the detergent container and totally have that problem under control. Just set the Rounder spray bottle under the dispenser and pop the button 10-12 times. Very slick. All was bliss for about 3 months and then gradually the spray got weaker and weaker until it just dribbled out. It would take an hour or more to do the driveway. I disassembled the Roundup jug and blew out all the hoses with an air pump; cleaned out the nozzle with hot soapy water. Then it would work just fine. Maybe not quite as good as new, but much mo betta. I’d get maybe half the driveway done and it would start sputtering. So I either had to work at an incredibly slow pace or stop every 50′ and blow out the pipes. I lived with this situation for a couple of years because I kept fairly well on top of the weeds and it wasn’t worth it to buy a new bottle. But I got behind in the past few months and after we finally got some rain, the weeds were quickly taking over. I decided to maybe take a drill and ream out whatever was clogging this thing at the risk of destroying it. I had looked at a power unit recently and thought maybe it was time to step up the game. So I took it apart one last time and then tried to get into the nozzle itself. Low and behold, it came apart in a place I never thought separated and there was a filter – totally clogged. Apparently when I blew out the tubes, I would temporarily move the crud from the filter but it would eventually works it’s way back. I swear now it works better than it’s maiden voyage. After each treatment, I take the nozzle apart and sure enough the filter is starting to accumulate crud. I’m so happy that I have nailed the driveway twice this week and may go next door and do my neighbors driveway just for the thrill of it.

The reason I’m putting this out there is that a couple weekends ago a friend visited and in casual conversation she mentioned that she hated to spray the herbicide because her Roundup dispenser just sputtered and dribbled no matter how hard she tried to clean it. I showed her how to access the filter and she was blown away. I’m sure I have a permanent place in her prayers now and I know for sure that I wasn’t the only dumb dumb who hadn’t found that filter.