Ant Attack

Yesterday afternoon, in preparation for the cold spell, we brought in Nancy’s orchids. They don’t deal at all with cold weather so we collect them from hanging under the grapefruit tree and rehang them in the guest bathroom. Unbeknownst to us, hidden in the plants were big old carpenter ants and a few miscellaneous palmetto roaches. Not just a few ants, but zillions. So last night we’re watching TV and Nancy walks into the kitchen and noted that there were a few ants crawling around. She followed the trail to the bathroom and let out a blood curdling screech. I jump up knowing something bad has happened. There are ants everywhere. I ran for the home bug spray and sprayed down the plants and the whole room. We returned to our pre infestation spots in front of the TV. That was about 5:30. Then about 9 PM we looked down, well Nancy looked down, and saw a second wave of ants invading the living room. The both of us were running around stomping ants like we were stomping wine grapes. Nancy followed them to a self standing lamp and started banging hard around the base and twisting it around to get to the ones who were scooting under the lamp base. In the process, the base of the lamp unscrewed from the pole and the whole thing came toppling down. We eventually got it all under control but in the future, the orchids will have to fend for themselves. Tough it out. Darwin will prevail. The silver lining to the cold is that the bug problem is noticeably down.

Rabbit update – I mentioned that they had an affinity for peas. Apparently that was their first choice. The fire pit garden, without a barrier, was loaded up with cauliflower and broccoli plants that had gone untouched and growing beautifully. Not any more. Looks like a buzz saw went thru and mowed them down. Interestingly, the day before I had sprayed them with Sevin dust, which is a really nasty insect dust. Apparently the rabbits didn’t find it objectionable and the only solace I can take is that maybe they’re off in their hole dying of toxic poisoning or maybe becoming super rabbit in which case I’m in big trouble. Although the horse is out of the barn, so to speak, we put up a 4′ wire fence around that section of garden. I had gone to Lowes to see if there was some kind of rabbit repellant I could spray and the salesperson told me the only thing that worked was a robotic owl. It was battery powered and had a motion sensor so that it hooted and moved when it detected motion. $40. I don’t think so. Plus, last night I heard the real thing hooting close to the house so maybe mother nature is coming to my rescue.

Overall, the garden is producing more than we can handle now. We’ve had our fill of squash and still pick an occasional green pepper but the switch to winter veggies is coming on strong. Lettuce every day and a few leaves of swiss chard to spice up a salad; a couple of heads of broccoli every week, always radishes; cabbages about ready. I have several varieties of cabbage planted this year including red cabbage, chinese cabbage and a cone head variety plus the standard round style. Of course the kohlrabi is in full harvest mode. Next month will be snow peas and cauliflower. There are 5 varieties of lettuce so we mix that up. We love them all but one in particular, sylvesta, is particularly delicious. Down the road, beets and carrots. Without a doubt, it’s way more productive this year than last – a trained gardener this time around.

Gator etiquette. A while back Nancy bought me a pair of gator undershorts. I don’t recall if it was for an occasion or just a deal she couldn’t pass up. The question I have is should I wear them on game day? Or the day after? And if the day after, after a win or only after a loss? After the Alabama game, I think it’s important that I get it right for the national championship game. Should I wear them nonstop between the SEC championship game and the national championship game? And I guess I’ll be pulling for Utah to win the SugarBowl although it’s tough for me to break the habit of pulling for whatever SEC team is in a game. If it wasn’t that Boise State beat Oklahoma last year, I wouldn’t give Utah much of a chance but you never know.

Christmas boat parade season

I think I did a post awhile back describing how I purchased what I thought was parsley plants only to find out later that they were celery plants. Vowing not to have that happen again, I started some parsley plants and some celery plants from seed. Let me tell you, had I not carefully labeled the containers, at this point I couldn’t tell them apart. If you look at some kind of development tree, bet they come from common roots. The parsley germinated a few days faster, although both took 2-3 weeks, and after 6 weeks the parsley is noticeably bigger, but beyond that, they would appear identical to the casual observer.

December is the boat parade season on the St. Johns River. We have invitations to view a parade in Astor from a friends home on the river Dec 6 and another in Welaka on the 13th. Two years ago we froze our cookies off watching one parade from the Wharf, a watering hole and restaurant on the St. Johns at Deland but last year we enjoyed the one in Welaka sipping drinks on lawn chairs in shirt sleeve weather. I remember the first one we attended about 3 years ago. We had spent the day in Daytona watching Olivia at a cheerleading competition. When that ended we rushed back to Astor and finished off a fun day. That was fairly cold as I recall and we were dressed for the beach, not the tundra. The fun thing about that one was the announcer who kept a steady commentary going as each boat went by. He had a large glass of bourbon in front of him and as the evening and boats went by, he refilled the glass a few times. By the tail end of the parade I thought he was going to dive in and chase them. You couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Nobody enjoyed the parade like he did. Last year Joey and Mark entered a boat parade at Cocoa Village and we rode along in that. We had a great time but I think there were only 4 boats including a canoe with a candle mounted up front. For whatever reason they decided not to participate this year. The problem this year is a conflict with the Fla-Ala game. It starts around 4PM and the parade starts at 6:30. If Ala is blowing out Fla, it’s parade time. Other than that…………………

Last month we set out on a crabbing trip with some old friends from our Altamonte Springs days. Our destination was the Bulow Sugar Plantation State Park and we agreed to meet up in a Publix parking lot about 2 miles from the final destination. We drove the truck. We got to Publix about 15 minutes before the Sloboda’s so Nancy took the opportunity for a quick shopping trip. By the time she finished and we set out for the park, about 30 minutes had transpired. We were on Old King’s Highway for about a mile and then turned on to Bulow Plantation Blvd, a single lane dirt road. I was in the lead and got about a 100yds before the “check engine” light came on and the truck died. Of course within 2 minutes there was someone leaving the park and I had the road blocked. Three of us pushed the truck a couple hundred feet to a wide spot so traffic could pass by. I tried several times to restart the truck but no go. Plenty of battery to turn over the starter but no ignition at all. I called AAA for a tow and took Nancy, Bob and Dottie down to the river so they could continue the crabbing trip. AAA showed up in about 45 minutes during which I tried several times to restart . We loaded it on the truck, I gave instructions where to take it, and heading back to the crabbing fields. We drove home later that evening with a good load of crabs. The next morning I called the mechanic and he said it had started just fine and added that this often happens after being bounced around on the tow truck. He had no idea why it had been dropped off and had been running tests all morning trying to figure out why it was there at all. I told him what happened and he decided to just run it a few hours. It did die that day and he determined that there was no spark at all. To make a long story short, they eventually diagnosed it as a distributor and a week later I picked it up. Now for the interesting stuff. About 6 months ago, one of the fuel sensors crapped out. The truck has two fuel tanks and the gauge worked fine on one tank but read empty on the other. Since one worked and I knew how many miles I got on a tank, I figured I would just live with the situation rather than get involved with removing the fuel tank etc. So when i got the truck back I noticed that the gauge showed half a tank which was about where it was when I left it. So I guessed that they had been running it all that time on the other tank so I would have no idea how far I could actually go on that tank. I headed around the corner to a gas station and filled both tanks for a fresh start. The gauge read full so I switched to the other tank – it read full also. I switched back and forth several times on the way home and it seems that the tank gauges now work. I can’t imagine the distributor problem could have anyway effected the fuel sensor but I got a bonus fix out of the whole thing. There must have been a loose wire somewhere in the system that was reseated with all the messing around in the electrical system. So the whole experience ended on a positive note.

Closing with some football comments – How is it that Ala is #1 in the nation by every poll but Florida is favored to win the game today by 8 points or so? Seems to me that the number one team should be favored over any team they play, especially if they’re playing a team ranked #4. Doesn’t #1 mean you’re the best in the country? Makes the ranking thing kind of worthless. And I plan to watch the Missouri – Oklahoma game. I want little Tommy’s team to end the season on a big positive – kind of doubt it but stranger things have happened.


We had a great Thanksgiving event this year and a lot to gives thanks to. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday of the year and this was even better because we celebrated Tommy’s birthday and his homecoming. We did the birthday festivities on Wed with a big Italian feast and then on Thursday, the traditional turkey with a group of 20 family and friends. I found out belatedly that a good friend in North Carolina celebrated the birth of a grand daughter on the 26th – same as Tommy’s. So we’ll never forget Emma Claire’s birthday and will toast her along with little Tommy next year.

In my quest for an ever better garden, I have a new source of soil enrichment. Well it’s not new but I have a new source. Turns out that about a mile down the road is a small ranch that runs about 20 Angus cows. My neighbor George happened by the ranch and asked the rancher if he’ could spare a few patties. The guy told him to come and take all he wanted. So we loaded up George’s golf cart and a small trailer onto a big trailer and headed to the ranch. We picked up a few hundred pounds and loaded them into large baskets. Brought them home and ran them through the chipper and onto the mulch pile. Of course when you grind them up, they don’t offer much volume but it still must be a few hundred pounds. The thing I hadn’t counted on was that probably 50 pounds of the total were fire ants. I was a mass of hives from wrist to elbow by the time we finished the chipping. We stopped every now and then to broadcast a layer of Andro fire ant killer onto the pile to finish off those (jillions) that made it through the chipper. I hope it proves worth the agony and effort.

I really hate how the media is soooo negative about everything. I was watching the Today show, that’s NBC news, this morning and the news was that retail sales for Black Friday were up 3% over last year. That after week long forecasts by all the news pundits that sales were going to be down. They quickly that this was only because of deep discounting and meant that retail sales for the rest of the season were likely to be down. I guess they didn’t have big discounts on black Friday last year. They then switched to a travel report that started with showing clear roads and uncrowded airports. And said the bad news was that people were not driving or flying. Whoa, that’s bad news? I seem to remember last year shots of airports totally jammed with people having to sleep on the floor of the terminals and other horrible travel stories. Maybe lots of people have decided that it’s not worth the hassle. It’s certainly not gas prices, although you can bet your bottom dollar that had gas prices still been $4 it would have received 100% of the blame. The problem with the media is that they no longer just report the news, they try to analyze or spin it. Please, just report and let us do the analysis.

If the Globe is really warming, which I don’t believe, then I have a theory why. People. Not people using fossil fuels but people just being alive. Think about it. I think there are about 6 billion people on earth compared to maybe 1M in 10,000BC and 790M in 1750. Each of these people is a mass at 98.6 degrees – that would be 5 billion x 100 lb masses radiating heat. Even when it’s cold, warm blooded animals radiate thousands of calories of energy daily. It would seem to make sense to me that all that heat being generated would warm things up. Wonder what the total world population is of warm blooded animals? Think about all the cows, horses, chickens, sheep, turkeys, pigs etc etc that are grown to feed all those people. It just makes sense that there must be many, many more non human warm blooded animals than there were hundreds of years ago. I read somewhere that some theoritician had calculated the gas discharge from cows and postulated that this put out more methane than all the power generation facilities in the world. If that was even put out as a theory, wonder why nobody has calculated the total giga calories of heat put out by warm blooded critters in toto.

Here’s some interesting local lib thinking. UCF apparently has a problem with student drinking. Solution: loosen the penalties on smoking pot. That way more kids will use pot instead of drinking. Just think of all the places you could apply that same logic. Make the yellow lights last longer to cut down on red light running. Stuff like that. How bout adding an “E” to the grading system so there wouldn’t be as many “F”s.