Highs and lows

Last week had some highs and lows.

We visited the Stetson Mansion which was open to the public for a few weeks. Historically the mansion was built back in the 1880’s by Stetson, the hat guy. Deland was the winter home and they spend about 6 months of the year not too far from here. The mansion is about 8000 SF, 3 stories, and had fallen into a state of disrepair over the years. A couple of guys bought it 2 years ago for $500K and decided to restore and remodel. They elicited the help of the Deland Art Museum and the specialist on interior decorating from the Museum. Key to the project was the idea to solicit suppliers to donate materials and labor in exchange for free advertising. Companies like Hunter fans, Sherwin Williams paints, Anderson Windows, Viking appliances – jumped on to create a showcase which they can use in advertising for a year. The result is mind boggling. The most interesting combination of detailed restoration and totally modern remodeling. To give you an idea of the scope of the project – when it started there was one old timey bathroom; just one in the entire place. The finished product has 11 incredible bathrooms. We were lucky to hear about it before it was closed to the general public. As of today, it’s a personal residence and may be open to the public from time to time as the owners see fit. It sounds like the grounds, a work in process, will be available for special events such as weddings.

Early in the week our great nephew, Sean, called and asked us if we would come to his school’s holiday performance. He plays in a bell group. Not sure if you call that a bell band, bell orchestra or what. We drove over and really enjoyed the concert. Sean is really quite good and was the only bell ringer that played in every piece they did and switched positions from song to song. Melissa told us that the Bell program was so successful they were raising funds to add another octave of bells. I was blown away to learn that was a $7000 investment. She also said that to get a single bell refurbed was $100 so these are no regular Santa Claus bells. Brenna asked us if we’d go to her performance this week so we’re in for another treat this week. Seeing the kids grow up like this is a double edged sword – great to see them developing into such well rounded kids; not so great to realize how much older and bigger they’re getting each year.

So those were the high spots.

The lows were oh so low. I’ve been bragging up my garden and relating how well things are going. Well, unfortunately the zucchini has not been looking all that great for a couple of weeks after a gangbuster start. Turns out we have the feared and dreaded Squash Mosaic Virus. It’s virtually incurable and could also infect other veggie types including the cuc’s, tomatoes, and future crops for years. I called several horticulturists and learned that, more or less, there is nothing I can do once plants are infected. No cure. No chemicals, drugs, no hope. What I learned is that there are some varieties of veggies that are hybrids specially developed with virus resistance and there are sprays which, if you spray prior to the virus hitting, can keep the plants safe. You have to spray as soon as the seeds germinate and the first green sprouts up and then keep up the spraying all the time. The virus is spread by aphids and once an infected aphid, even one, bites into the plant – it’s history. We’ve been picking plenty of cuc’s but all of a sudden the plants are looking piqued and I know they’re doomed. Luckily none of the leafy stuff is impacted and the tomato variety I planted is highly resistant to virus. Twice before I had tried to grow green peppers but within week of planting, they all crashed. All the horticulturists said that green peppers would be most affected and I can verify that.

The other low for the week occurred yesterday. We had a cold front march through about 5 AM which was forecast to bring the threat of tornados. About a year ago I bought a weather radio after some fairly close tornado events. I never used it – in fact never turned it on – and had stored it away. Of course the box with the instructions has been lost in the shuffle so when I retrieved it Saturday night, I found out that there’s more to it than just turning it on. It has to be programmed for a specific region which is a 6 digit coded address. I went ahead and plugged it in and vowed to work on programming it Sunday when I could find the box or otherwise get the instructions for programming. Turns out it has a pre-programmed default which tells it to issue an alarm if a tornado alert is issued anywhere – where I think anywhere means anywhere in Florida. It worked and about 5 AM the major league alarm goes off. We woke up in a flash and couldn’t remember exactly where I had set the radio – in the bathroom where a plug was available. luckily I hadn’t installed batteries so when the power plug was pulled it shut up. We turned on the TV and learned that, sure enough, there was a tornado alert active but it was for somewhere over near Tampa. So the good news was that it worked; the bad news is that I was wide awake at 5 AM on a semi false alarm. Needless to say, I got hold of the area code information and programmed it to only alarm us when Volusia County was in the threat area. I also put in batteries and leaned how to turn off the alarm. I probably won’t remember that part if it goes off 6 months from now and will just yank out the batteries.

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