updates all around

Finally some rain. We had about 4” so far this week but will still fall far short for the month of June. The lake popped up a tad and the level should accelerate as the ground runoff kicks in when it starts saturating. It’s the typical late afternoon thunder bumper with hard, hard rain for maybe an hour. We Floridians love it because it means no more lawn watering and cooler afternoons; ie lower power bills. So my new pump installation has done it’s job – got the rains going.

Phase 1 of the summer garden is about winding down. There’s a few more tomato and watermelon plants close to giving up their fruit but within the next two weeks I should be able to clear out maybe 30% of the currently planted area and get it ready for a second summer crop. Getting it ready means adding a heavy load of mulch that’s been cooking for a couple of months and tilling it all in. We’ve decided to plant the area in corn, cucumbers, and of course, more tomatoes. We’ll cut way back on the squash which practically took over the whole garden at one point. That was the lesson learned this go round – don’t plant too many squash plants.

Joey had his PET scan yesterday and is scheduled for a consultation with the doctors next Tuesday. He has an indication from the nurse that most likely the port for the chemo will be installed next week too. He got a clarification of the chemo treatments. He was originally under the impression that the chemo treatments were a mixture of 4 chemicals administered every two weeks. So 6 treatments meant 12 weeks. In fact each treatment is only 2 of the 4 so a complete treatment cycle is 2 treatments, 4 weeks; Ergo, 6 months for the total 6 treatments. What the doctors don’t know is that Nancy made a special batch of spaghetti sauce from the garden with miraculous curative properties. No meat, no fat – all veggie, fresh from the garden. The magic ingredient is shredded carrots. It also contained green, yellow, and orange Bell pepper. Patent and FDA approval pending. I doubt the medical profession will shorten the chemo cycle based on this but …………….

The project for the week was redoing the entry way to the dock. The picture above shows the end result. The structure of the dock is unfinished, pressure treated 2” x lumber – 2×4, 2×6, 2×8, and even 2×10”. I kept the scrap pieces and made them into a parquet like entry way for the dock. The first time I didn’t do that great a job and over the past couple of years it has gradually become uneven and maybe even a bit dangerous. I didn’t realize it until we started having parties recently and I noticed people stumbling a bit. So I pulled it all up and started over again. I had planned on a one morning job, a full day at the most. Actually, at my pace, it turned into two days. But for sure I did a better job and tightened up the blocks quite a bit. In fact I think it qualifies me to enter the wood mason hall of fame.

Bad news

We got some bad news last week but I waited a week for more information prior to posting. Joey went to an ear, nose and throat guy last week with a lump in his neck. The doc removed a lymph node which was subsequently – this week – diagnosed as Hodgkin’s disease – a cancer of the lymph nodes. He met with an oncologist today, so we’re happy with the rapid response. Joey has several good friends and customers among the doctors at the hospital and has donated cruises there for over a year so he’s a known entity rather than just a name. His doctor is Guisseppe Palermo so he’s a blood brother. I told him to be sure to tell him Uncle Tony from Jersey City was watching over his shoulder. He likes the doctor, a Sicilian with a real life Italian accent and a good sense of humor. At the meeting today they took a bone marrow sample which he said was unpleasant – not painful but you could hear the bone crunching as they poked in. Next week they do a full body PET scan and install a port for the chemo. Although the results from both the PET scan and the bone marrow analysis will take about 2 weeks, the treatment is fixed as to type of chemo that will be used. If I understood it correctly, it’s a combination of 4 chemicals referred to as something like ABVD. I’m guessing that’s the initials for unpronounceable chemicals. That may not be totally accurate but you get the picture. He will get a treatment every two weeks with each treatment being from 2-6 hours long. That is where the results of the testing comes in – if the disease is advanced, the treatment will be towards 6 hours; shorter if it’s at an earlier stage. After 8 treatments they retest and if the results are good, that’s it. If not, 4 more treatments – that means a treatment cycle of 16-24 weeks. If the chemo gets the job done, good. If not, then radiation follows. So it’s not a given that he will get both chemo and radiation. He’ll lose his hair with the first treatment which in his case is not a big loss. The Dr. told him that the good news is that when it comes back it will be thick and curly. Nancy says he has a nice head and that he’ll look just fine with no hair.

So we’ll probably be wearing out a path between here and Cocoa for the next few months. I know there’s not a damn thing we can do but …………………
On to more pleasant news. We have a great sunflower crop. I have to give my bride credit for this one. She has bugged me for years to grow sunflowers and I have steadfastly resisted. This year she even bought the seeds so I relented and planted them alongside the corn. They did well – 7′ stalks with 8” diameter flowers. Now the flowers have peaked and the seeds are popping through. I have to do a little research to determine if you just eat them right off the flower or have to roast them or something but for sure we have a nice crop ahead of us. Thanks Nancy.

Watermelons. We’ve got half a dozen or so and they are getting close to ready. I guess. We have meetings to decide whether they’re ready or not. Lots of thumping and sniffing but no one is willing to step up to the bar and say “pick it”. The plant biologists need to develop a variety with one of those pop up things you get with turkeys that tell you when it’s done. Hell if they figured out how to grow turkeys like that, why not melons. I built a spreadsheet calculator that provides an estimated harvest date based on planting date and the number of days to harvest listed on the seed pack. According to that, July 1 is the magic day. I’d like to say my calculator is always right or even that it is consistently wrong in one direction but that’s not the case. Even so, I think in the end we’ll use that date in lieu of thumping since it will be easier to blame the computer than any human who puts forth a go.

And it’s finally started raining. Not the same big storms as the rest of the state seems to be getting but at least something has started. Last night we got a 1” downpour- the biggest in about 4 months. That sounds like a big rain but we could use one of those every day or so for a couple of months. Right now the lake is the lowest I’ve personally ever seen it so it will take a really wet season to get to anything like normal. Better this than Cedar Rapids.

spaghetti sauce

The spaghetti sauce production line is fully open now. I planted more than a few tomato plants including both regular round eating kind and the plum type that is used in making salsa and sauces. A little tomato education: there are two general types of tomato; determinate and indeterminate. I always saw that designation in the seed catalogs but never paid much attention to it, figuring it had something to do with disease resistance. Turns out that determinate means that the the tomatoes ripen more or less at the same time; indeterminate means that you can have a continuous stream with new blossoms at the same time you are picking fruit. The varieties I planted first are determinate so we’re getting loads of fruit all at once. I can go out and pick 8-10 lbs every day which means you have to have a plan to get rid of 8-10 lbs every day. In Utah we got one crop a year and converted 90% of it into spaghetti sauce which we froze and used throughout the year. Here we will have a continuous crop through November so I can see our freezer filling long before the last tomato is picked.

We’ve also been picking corn for a few weeks and I learned that there’s a bit I didn’t know about growing corn. With most crops you put in the seeds, water, fertilize and pick. With corn, it matters how you plant it. I mean the shape and density of the planting. Corn is not pollinated by bees or insects but by the wind. The pollen comes out of the top of the plant and sprinkles down onto the silk of the corn. So if you plant a row of corn and the wind blows, it’s likely all the pollen will blow away from the corn and the ears will grow with no kernels. If you plant two rows side by side, there is a higher chance that the pollen from row one will blow down on row two and visa versa. The best thing is to plant it in squares or big rectangles so that no matter how the wind blows, the pollen will drop within the planted area. I didn’t know that – but I do now! I think what screwed us up was that for about two weeks at the time the pollen was forming, we had 25 mph winds out of the west and it blew the corn pollen onto the tomatoes or somewhere other than where it belonged. So much for my ethanol crop.

Speaking of ethanol – I guess the current midwest flooding dramatically points out the foolishness of using food for fuel. I never cease to be amazed at how stupid some people are and how tragic it is that they get into positions of power and decision making. All of this no drilling for oil crap that the enviro wackies have sold is coming home to roost. The real irony is that the Chinese, Cubans and Venezuelans are drilling off our shore – legally – but our own oil companies are not allowed to drill in the same places. Go figure.


Last week we were lucky to have Simon spend a few days. We went surf fishing one day and bass fishing in the lake on another. He cleaned my clock at the beach but I recaptured my dignity with a decisive win on the lake. He was a big help with a couple of projects including the design and manufacture of a filter for the new pump. I was afraid the 1” intake would suck up debris and even small fish into the pump so we capped the end with a 6” x 2” dia extension drilled with 1/4” holes. Simon worked through the math to determine how many holes we needed to drill o match the original 1” opening then he drilled them. We also started reworking the dock and deck furniture which was rusting. Unfortunately his trip was too short due to commitments with the Lake Mary High Marching Band. We took him home on father’s day and had a great day in the pool playing volley ball. I hadn’t done that in 100 years and was sure I’d be stiff and sore for a month. No problem – not an ache or a pain.

New Pump

Great weekend with all of little Tom’s graduation festivities. The graduation was in the same arena where the Magic play and beyond the normal speechifyiing, culminated in a full blast fireworks show and dropped balloons in the school colors. Very well done technically. On Friday we hosted all the out of towners – Utah, Idaho, and California – to a day at the lake which was fun even with the lake level approaching an all time low. We went back to Tom’s house on Saturday for the official party which was maybe half family and half Tommy’s school friends. The kids played volley ball in the pool and were all very well behaved. The most interesting thing was the diversity of the crowd. In the pool were people of every shade from pure white to dark black with every gradation in between. Orientals, Indians, Latino’s, and a few I couldn’t identify but would guess maybe an Arab or two; from really studly looking guys, hotties, to world class nerds. We commented among ourselves how different the mix would have been if the party were held at a Utah graduation – or Florida in 1960 for that matter. We had told Tom and the kids that they would be far more diversified in Florida than Utah but even I had no idea how true that would be.
It turns out that the dock pump project mentioned in an earlier posting was only partially successful. The old pump I was using is rated for a 10′ rise. That means that it can only lift water a maximum of 10′ from the water surface level to the outlet point for the hose. The lake level has dropped a few more inches and now exceeds the 10′ limit – which was more likely 8′ anyway. The only solutions were to wait for the rains to come and raise the level of the lake or get a stronger pump. Last week I priced pumps at Lowes, Sears and Tractor Supply but found that we’re talking a minimum of $250 for the pump vs the $50 I was looking for. Waiting for the rains seemed the best option.

Then a few days ago I got a flyer from Harbor Freight advertising a parking lot sale with a 3/4 HP shallow well pump for $69 – regular $119. It had a lift of 25′ and was wired for 110V operation at 4A. I have my doubts about the 4A and bet it’s really closer to 6 but even so, the circuit to the dock can handle that ok. This new pump comes with a 5 gallon storage tank with an internal pressurized bladder so it should be just like having an instant water source right there. Don’t think I’m of the opinion that the $69 made in China, Harbor Freight pump is the same quality as the $250 ones and for sure I wouldn’t use it as a primary house pump but the lake pump only operates occasionally so it should have no stress at all. Naturally the plumbing will have to be changed a bit since the two pumps are totally different physically but all the under dock work I did should be just fine and I think splicing into the existing plumbing should be a piece of cake. I’m writing this pre – installation and will finish up with the final results. Maybe even a picture if in fact it works!
The pump installation is a piece of plumbing artwork. If there’s a plumbing hall of fame, I’m a shoe-in. And beyond that, it works like a world champ, throwing a giant stream of water. It’s far more water than the old pump handled with 40 PSI pressure so it will be more than adequate to run the power washer and sprinkler down there. What I expect now is that the tropical rains will start falling. This was an insurance policy – kind of like a rain dance. I bought a generator and we’ve never had a hurricane since; so now that we have water at the dock, it should start raining as normal.

country livin’

Living in the country does have it’s moments. We’re scheduled to have a lake party tomorrow in celebration of Little Tommy’s high school graduation. So we’ve been getting everything ready and finished up some last minute dock cleanup this evening and came back in the house just at dark. Nancy headed for the back to get her bath and a minute later announced that we had no water. Of course that sends tremors through the system because of the party. We’re on a well and of late the power company has been playing games so I immediately figured that the pump could have burned up due to low voltage but went about the troubleshooting systematically. Breakers ok at the house so out to the well. Dead, zero pressure. I have a megawatt spot light and noticed a procession of ants crawling up the power line into the control box. Hmm, seen this before a year ago when something decided to nest in the control box and fried. I removed the top and sure enough a big palmetto roach had gotten across the 220V lines and fried. The ants were feasting on roast roach. I removed the corpse and manually activated the pressure contacts. Oila! a few sparks and the pump built up pressure in just a few minutes. I’ll go out there after the party and see if there’s not some way to seal the box better but it can’t be so tight that you can’t get into it quickly. Oh well.

The graduation was fun and causes a few reflections. How can I have a grandson ready for college? Sort of like: “I’m going to be a father”; “I am a father”; “I have a kid old enough to go to college”; “I have a grandson”; and now a grandson going to college. How is all that possible in such a short time. I see Tommy and Simon with very cute girl friends and think – “is it possible I could eventually be a great grandfather?” New fishing buddies?? Why was I so concerned about a fried roach when there are such really big things happening? Get a grip Joe.