yellow flies and other nasty things

The lake is way down and has been for nine months or so. Down so far that the pump system I have down on the dock was inoperative because the water intake point was high and dry. In fact, the bottom was dry beneath the intake point so even extending it down wouldn’t fix the problem. That would have been too easy anyway. I’m very patient and lived with this for quite a while knowing that I didn’t really need to water anything in the winter and that when spring came the lake would rise up and solve the problem. It hasn’t happened that way and many of the plants I have down by the lake are drying up and dying. That plus the fact that we’re having a party next week and I wanted to power wash the dock but without water, no go.

So I bit the bullet this weekend and decided to correct the problem by moving the water intake point out to deeper water. I could have just moved the pump itself farther out the dock but really like it where it is. If my new plumbing job doesn’t work, that will be my fallback. The job is simple enough on paper. Just add some PVC pipe and couplings. But it had to be run underneath the dock which is a bit trickier and means I would be working in waist deep water and working over my head with a drill to install the pipe hangers. For me that means the certain dropping of hardware and couplers while trying to screw in hangers and hold a 20′ piece of PVC pipe in place; and the real possibility of dropping my drill. Which would really piss me off because it’s my favorite 19V DeWalt. Then assuming I got the pipe hangers installed, I had to cut and glue the various pieces together with all the measurements exactly right. For many guys all this would be a piece of cake. And guess what, the project went flawlessly. Not a dropped part, not a piece missing, not a bad cut or glue job. No trips to the hardware store or even the shed to get that one thing I’d forgotten about. I started the job at 9:30 and was finished by 11 AM. I need to let all the pieces set for 24 hours before firing up the pump so the story is not complete but the nasty part is done and looks very professional (to me). And because it’s located under the dock, I don’t have to worry about critics.

My next project is to assemble and install the yellow fly traps. Now that is a nasty job but the flies have come this year with a vengeance.


I’ve often heard that after a bee stings you, it dies. I hope so. In fact I hope it’s a very painful death. I got my first bee sting this season clearing palmettos and had forgotten just how hard they hit and how nasty the after affects are. I do daily battle with fire ants and give as good as I get but the bees play at a totally different level.

And once again it’s yellow fly season. Yellow flies are like deer flies but yellow in color. They bite hard enough to draw blood and are super persistent. If you are patient enough to let one land and start to chew, you can easily kill them because they won’t let go. Nancy has trouble with that remedy. There is a way to semi control them. Sounds bizarre but they are attracted to black things. So we build traps that use the same principal as fly paper. You blow up a 20” beach ball and paint it black. Then you coat it with this nasty, sticky stuff called “Tacky Foot”. Easier to say than to do since the goop is about consistency of axle or bearing grease but is incredibly sticky. Any place it touches gets this difficult to remove gluey mess. I use latex gloves to apply it and am getting proficient enough that this year I wasn’t totally coated myself.


And for the guys – watching the Dem’s fight over the nomination shows that we have a real problem. If you don’t like Obama, you’re a racist; if you don’t like Hillary, you’re a sexist. Our problem is that we don’t have any kind of “ist” for people who pick on us poor white males. I guess that’s ok for us Republicans since we are used to being called either Racist or Sexist but not sure how you white Democrat males – as few of you as there are – are dealing with having to take on one of the labels and not having some kind of defensive shield to hide behind.

cuc’s and gas prices

It’s getting kind of interesting watching the reaction to ever increasing gas prices and now, rising food prices. I listened to one interview on TV where the person being interviewed was near hysterics and said that she was now having to restrict her grocery shopping to once a week, shopping for the entire week instead of going every day. Another was out of sorts because her kid had to ride the school bus instead of driving her to school every day. Wow, now these are some serious hardships. And having to stay home instead of traveling? Then they show the house – a typical McMansion with a nice pool and yard. Not sure why you’d want to leave it anyway. Or the guy who put up a tent on his lawn so he could still enjoy a night outdoors.

My favorite so far happened yesterday. Nancy was shopping in Publix and I was sitting in the car reading. Publix often hires handicapped people, including mentally challenged people. A great policy I think. I saw this fellow who was probably in his 40’s working the parking lot helping customers unload carts. He came over to help a lady in the car parked next to me and I could hear the conversation as they approached the car. Clearly he was mentally challenged and sounded like someone about 10 years old. He was relating a story about helping another customer who was complaining that she had just paid $4.35 for diesel fuel. The fellow said he really felt sorry for her until they rolled the cart up to a super size Mercedes Benz. He said in such a clear voice – I quit feeling sorry for her when I saw what she was driving. He might be mentally challenged but ……………..

There are some definite plusses from these high prices. Traffic is moving slower on the interstates, particularly those monster 18 wheelers. In the past you were taking your life in your hand if you set the cruise control at the speed limit. Now the traffic just seems to move at that speed except for the occasional jerk. And at the risk of offending some, back in the 60’s and 70’s, flying was an enjoyable experience. It was almost all business travel and the flights were quiet, not jammed, and the stews were friendly and helpful. Of course it was expensive so you just didn’t have the big families, crying, sick kids, and the seats were not jammed together with no knee room. That changed with deregulation and the introduction of low cost airlines. The general public started flying and the whole industry moved to the lowest common denominator – the cattle cars. High fuel prices seem to be reversing these trends. The super low cost guys are being forced out of business and the big guys are cutting capacity. I predict that before too long, we’ll be back to earlier times when most of the travelers were business people and flying was a great experience. And more worker bees will be forced onto mass transit and into carpooling. Why is that good? It will mean that people will have to pay attention to normal working hours and distribute their time more evenly between home and work. It will probably eliminate some of the marginal workers who find it’s more expensive to work than the paycheck justifies. I see that as adding more strength to the family than putting more money into the equation. A return to the 50’s. And way downstream, the current generation will relearn that you can raise a family very nicely, very happily in a 1200-1500 SF home.

So excuse me if the high gas prices don’t give me all that much heartburn. I know quite well that the Europeans have learned to live with expensive energy for 50 years and I have no doubts that we’ll all learn to adjust too. Just a matter of adjusting some priorities and making some life style changes – many of which will be for the better.

Another garden victory. George told me unconditionally that we couldn’t grow green peppers. He had tried and tried and the nematodes would just kill them. On the other hand Nancy was pressuring me to grow peppers because they were so expensive and she uses quite a few. I never had much trouble growing them in Utah so decided to give it a try. I bought half a dozen different varieties and did my usual stagger planting – different times, different locations – to see if I could get something to work. In fact, I planted maybe 5 times as many pepper plants as I would have normally – assuming that if I play a numbers game, I could find something that worked and get enough to quiet Nancy. Not a problem. Suffice it to say that we do have some peppers. Many, many peppers; many many different varieties. Barbara is pickling them; Nancy is making peppered this that and the other thing. Perhaps a nematode or two wouldn’t be all that bad.

The picture is one of the larger cucumbers. This one weighs maybe 3 pounds. The interesting thing is that with this particular variety, even at this size they are great eating. Of course you can only eat so many. Nancy’s bridge club, her quilting group, and all our neighbors are feasting on cucumbers and they just keep coming.

Update – I mentioned earlier that we were close to eating a new variety called Malabar spinach. It’s a vine that’s now taller than 6′ and continuing higher. I just picked a nice load of leaves for Nancy to convert into a big spinach salad today. Very good

New guests

The real shockers in the garden so far are two varieties that I’d never planted. I tried planting spinach all winter long – several different varieties, different locations, different times. Nothing really worked to my satisfaction and the crops ranged from total disaster to marginally acceptable. Tucked away in one of my catalogs was a variety that said it did well in the summer, especially hot, moist summers. It was a climbing, red stemmed variety called Malabar Spinach. I tried it out of desperation. It started slowly, as in 2 weeks before the first sign of any germination and it was more than a month before it got beyond the first two or three leaves. I pretty much forgot about it and chalked it up to another spinach failure. It’s been particularly vexing since spinach is really a no brainer crop. Overnight it seems that climbing spinach took off and within a couple of weeks it has climbed up maybe 5′ on the lines I had optimistically installed. If you didn’t know it was a spinach variety, you’d never guess. The leaves are very thick and have a rubbery feel to them. The garden calculator I designed says that I should have edible leaves in a couple of weeks and I’m starting to believe it’s correct. In fact, if it continues the way it’s going, everybody I know will have edible leaves.

The other shocker is the spaghetti squash. We love it and I’d never grown it before so really didn’t know what to expect. This is as close to a jack in the beanstalk story as I’ve come. I planted 3 seeds and have 3 plants; each with multiple stems. At this point the stems are approaching 8′ in length and the leaves are at least a foot in diameter. It started blossoming a couple of weeks ago and there must be 2 dozen baby squashes so far. And I can only see a bit of the plant since I planted it amongst the corn field just like the Indians did. In fact I planted several different types of squash in the corn and in some cases now the squash is actually taller than the corn – that would be over 5′ tall. Maybe I need to rethink my bug killing strategy and let some survive to help harvest the crop.

Also tried a couple new cucumber varieties. Holy cow!!! We’ve been harvesting a couple a day for the past month from 3 plants and they are ginormous. One day they will be micro – a couple of inches – and within a week they are over a foot long and weighing a couple of pounds. Each one would be equivalent to 3 cuc’s you buy in the store. And they are the most delicious ever. No matter how big they retain the firm, juicy character you’d expect from a baby variety. And they are burpless – no bitter after taste that bothers some people. Considering the price of cucumbers, I honestly think that one crop alone has paid for all the seeds for the rest of the garden. Ditto the zucchini.

By the end of the month we’ll be picking corn, tomatoes, green peppers and jalapeno’s. And actually pulling out the first planting of beans from which we’ve been eating for a month.

New guests – we have a pair of screech owls living in the oaks up by the carport. They are incredible birds and are harassing the squirrels (tree rats) with constant screeching and flying beautifully among the trees. The noise is really mind boggling and you can understand the terror it must strike in the hearts of any small mammals. It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever seen more than one owl at a time and in the middle of the day. The pair was perched on a low branch facing away from me the other day. I was probably within 50′ which is really close. Then both turned their heads to face me directly. No body movement at all, just the head swivel. Is that creepy – but neat. One second you’re looking at the back of the head, the next the face full on. It’s like the head is totally disconnected from the body.

well insured

We recently refinanced our house to take advantage of low interest rates available then. About midway thru the process we were told by Chase, the mortgage bank, that a new appraisal showed that we needed to increase our flood insurance because the replacement costs would be higher now than when the initial mortgage was written. Made sense to me.

A little history – when we originally built the house the surveys showed that we didn’t need Federal Flood Insurance because we were not in a flood plain and the house was elevated far enough above the lake. When it came time to finalize the mortgage, the bank (Chase) disagreed and said we needed flood insurance. I argued a little but we were far along in the process and the insurance was only $264/year and I wasn’t really sure about the lake.

So anyway it wasn’t a big surprise when the bank insisted that we uptick the insurance a bit. Fast foward to this week and we get a letter from Chase saying that we really didn’t need flood insurance at all and if we wanted to cancel it, just use the letter in a communication with the Insurance company. I didn’t jump on it instantly because I wanted to contact our home owner policy and get it exactly right in my mind about what constitutes a flood and to make sure that water damage resulting from blown in windows or roofs was covered by our home owner policy and not considered flooding. Last night Nancy is reading the local paper and hands it over and tells me to read this article on Flood Insurance since it answered all the questions I had. It did that but it also included a chart which showed how many flood insurance policies were in existance in all the communities of Volusia County and also what the average cost of those policies is. I looked down the list and noted that there were 14000+ policies in Daytona and maybe that many in New Symrna and that they cost about $400 on average. Further down the list was Pierson, our location. There was 1, one, uno flood policies in existance in Pierson at an average cost of $264. I cracked up laughing. That had to be us. I can just imagine all the people reading that article wondering who the jerk was in Pierson who had a Flood Insurance policy. Hope they publish the list next year!

Did my first work till exhaustion, jump in the lake today. I was harvesting grape vines and brush from my neighbor’s yard and chipping it into mulch for the garden. Is that over the top or what? I’m so convinced that the success of the garden is directly wired to the addition of mulch that I’m actually spending hours working on the neighbor’s jungle. Man did that lake feel good. Very cool and it brought my body temp down from 200 to 75 in about 5 seconds. Bring on the heat, I’m ready.

Of course the pic is the garden. People have asked for a picture so here it is. I guess everybody knows that you click on the picture to enlarge it but just in case……………

last two weeks

Had lots of fun these last few weeks. We visited Santee State Park with friends for a week. Santee is my favorite bass fishing place and I’ve fished it since the 60’s when my father first took me. The park and the facilities have been well maintained and are as comfortable as ever. I fished every day with my friend Lou while Nancy and Shirley hit every quilt shop within a 75 mile radius so it worked out well for us all. The fishing was fantastic but the catching could have been better. The whole area has changed from a very remote fishing spot to a small town with several golf courses, hotels and restaurants.

We got home Saturday just after noon and started preparing for a week on Flagler Beach. We eat out so no need to pack food and we don’t pack much aside from a few bathing suits and very casual items. The rest of the packing was fishing tackle and sewing needs. The place we stay had been upgraded a bit since last November with a large deck added and new sliding glass doors facing out to the ocean. Again the fishing was fantastic but the catching could have been better. I caught a few each day but nothing to brag about. The real find was an Italian Deli in Palm Coast reminiscent of places in the Northeast. We bought samplers of many items and for sure next time will bring a cooler and load up with goodies. We just have a very relaxing time there and a routine that has us debating which restaurant and which happy hour we plan to hit for the day.

We did have an interesting “small world” experience on the beach. An older gentleman walking the beach picking up seashells stopped and asked me how the fishing was. I told him the fishing was good and asked whether he was a local or visiting. Visiting his daughter; lives in Utah. Interesting, we lived in Utah for 25 years. Where. Near Salt Lake City. I live near Salt Lake too, Bountiful. Really, well we lived in Bountiful just up from the high school. Hmm, I live next to St.. Olaf’s. My wife and kids all went to St. Olaf’s. Well I owned the Conoco station on Orchard and turned it over to my sons to run it in 1984. Your sons are Pat and Mike? Yes. Then you must be Bill Robertson. Right. We were your son’s best customer’s for years, the Carbone’s. Oh, I know who you are. Come on up to the house Bill and say hi to Nancy. He and Nancy chewed the fat for at least a half hour before his daughter, power walking the beach, happened by and saw her father talking to strangers. She was blown away when she learned about the coincidence and remembered meeting Nancy at a Harrah’s night at St. Olaf’s.

Getting back home was good too, with lots of catching up. The garden was bursting with vege’s even though Barbara and George had picked it a few times. The fridge is now chock full of squash, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage and green beans. We’re a couple of weeks away from tomatoes, corn, and green peppers. I’ve staggered plantings so it all doesn’t come in at the same time but even with that, I can see that it will be overwhelming by the end of May. Sooooo different from last year when we got started.

On Sunday we headed for Orlando to see Wicked. I had no idea at all what the story line was since Nancy does all the show picking. We took Olivia so I should have guessed it would be G rated. What a great show. Now I know what was really going on with the Wizard of Oz.

Yesterday I had an unscheduled heart test. I was walking over to George’s and a snake ran/slivered between my feet. Trust me, that takes the beat up a bit!!! In retrospect it was a pretty black snake with a yellow stripe down it’s back but at the time, I wasn’t thinking about the natural beauty. And while on nature, we have a nest of cardinals in the Ruby Red grapefruit tree and some kind of yellow breasted thing in the neighbors newspaper box. She no longer gets a daily paper so I guess the bird figured it was a perfect nesting spot. I peaked in and noticed that a dried up snake skin was being used as part of the nesting material. Since snakes make a living eating bird eggs, the irony of that was amusing.

Lake update – dropping again. No rain for a month so we’re heading down again.