Stimulus plan

I keep hearing about a stimulus plan but it all sounds like bunk to me. Do you know any road construction people? I heard about a big tax cut for corporations so they would take the money saved and hire people and build new plants. Hey guys, corporations hire and build if business is good, not because they have lower taxes. When business is bad, it wouldn’t make any sense to hire or build and they already pay lower taxes by virtue of having lower profits. So I devised a surefire stimulus plan and most importantly, it would solve the biggest problem – housing. The gov’t mortgage agencies, Freddie and Fannie, will offer a loan auction plan. They will offer thirty year mortgages on existing inventory for zero per cent interest. I would define existing inventory as any home on the market and ready for occupancy the first of January 2009. I might consider a one month grace period so that homes close to completion would be eligible. Each month the interest rate increases by one point. I would be ok letting the total amount of any single loan be $350K. One loan per customer. My thinking is that this plan would suck up the available inventory quickly and jump start the home construction business. The regular banks and mortgage companies would sit on the sidelines until they were ready to jump in – say in 5 months when the gov’t rate reached 5%. That caps the duration of the program. Buyers would have to be qualified buyers – no loosened credit requirements. I might consider a refinancing program along the same lines- offering zero point, no cost, refinancing starting at 3% to increase 1 point per quarter phased out in one year. That would put money in people’s hand quickly and permanently. It would also take the sting out of an underwater mortgage because in affect, people would have a monthly payment equivalent to a much lower principal value. That would help stem the foreclosure rate for many people just walking away from upside down mortgages. With this approach, I’m thinking the housing problem is history in 6 months and mostly done in 4. The gov’t sells off all the loans it originates at a 2-3% discount from face value so the program cost is more or less defined by the discount and is contained in short order.

Don’t know whether i mentioned that Nancy got me a new filet knife for Christmas. It’s a Cutco boning knife which means two things – very expensive and very sharp. It’s like cleaning a fish with a razor so I have to be extra careful and count my fingers with each fish I do. The blade slices thru fish with almost no pressure at all which translate into really high quality filets (compared to my usual chop job) and cuts the cleaning time significantly.

Not sure how much longer I’ll be able to get into the boat from the dock. One of the factors that comes with freezing weather is a dramatic drop in the lake level. You know when you see on TV how the farmers and nurseries put a blanket of water/ice over the plants to insulate them from temperatures under 32. Well we’re surrounded by ferneries and orange groves and the farmers pump water from the lake to protect their crops. These pumps, I think there are 4 of them, are giant diesel driven pumps with 2′ intake pipes and they run basically all night when a freeze is expected. In the past 3 days they’ve probably pump 24 hours and dropped the lake a foot. The lake is 60 acres so a foot of water is an awesome amount. Plus this is our dry season so we’re not likely to see much replenishment until May or June. In my quest for scientific knowledge, I wondered if the spec’s would be impacted by so dramatic a change in their environment. The only way to really tell would be to go fishing so I sucked it up and went again today. No problem. Got a dozen or so in a couple of hours.

Added a new ingredient to the compost pile, Elephant Ears. Around here they grow wild and get as large as 8′ tall with 4 ‘ wide leaves. The only thing that controls them is an occasional freeze and since we haven’t had one in several years, they were taking over. The leaves and stalks are mostly water – which is why a freeze is so devastating to them – so a 6′ tall pile shrinks down to nearly nothing -but really moistens the pile. The freeze also brought down the few remaining maple leaves so it finally looks like winter here.

One plant variety that I thought for sure was gone were the Bromiliads. These are airplants with succulent leaves which I thought marked them for disaster. But they all seemed to make it just fine. Boston fern hammered – good riddance to another out of control plant.

freeze survival report

Had an exciting morning Thursday. We had our first hard freeze in 5 years overnight and woke up to find we had no water. We had forgotten to leave water running overnight – a basic precaution and a real bone head move on my part. So I bundled up and headed to the pump. That’s the only place where we have exposed pipe and the most likely source of the trouble. No obvious split or broken pipe so I brought out the hair dryer and started heating the pump and the plumbing. Within about a minute I spotted a drop of water on a valve I had exercised and then the water started flowing. Dodged a bullet on that one. I’ll hit Lowes today and get some insulation to wrap the pipes but for sure, we’ll leave some water running tonight.

I did a quick walkaround to assess the plant damage. The really tender stuff was nailed big time. That would be items like Elephant Ears, Impatiens, and the Mexican Honeysuckle. I was surprised that the Lantana was hammered. The large viburnum hedge that shields the big bathroom windows looked pathetic. I expected that because they had contracted some kind of fungus or something that caused them to drop leaves and start new growth. My game plan was to cut them down dramatically in March so that will be much easier to do with all the foliage gone. No guess on the garden since it will have to remain covered for another day or two. I did peak under one corner and saw green so maybe some things will survive.

Final – I waited until Friday aft to post so that I could fully assess the freeze damage in the garden. One pepper plant and the basil are history and 3 tomato plants were burned but still may survive. Everything else came through unscathed. We had quite a bit of frost 3 days running and below freezing temps 2 of the last 3 days so the frost covering did it’s job. The cover cost $70 so it paid for itself with this one usage in terms of the crop saved. The forecast is for 70+ degrees for the next 7 days and without a doubt we’ll pick $70 in veggies over that span.

I wonder what the microbes are thinking – the ones in the compost pile. The compost pile holds a sea of microbes who’s job it is to convert the leaves and sticks into rich, garden soil. I got to thinking about the wide variety of food they encounter in our pile. At certain times of the year it’s jungle clippings, at other times, leaves. Recently it included cow paddies. For the past month or so, it’s been seeing a heavy dose of garden and kitchen castoffs. You cut off the head of a cauliflower or broccoli and the rest of it goes in the compost pile. Ditto radish tops, carrot tops, beet tops – whatever we pick, a fair share goes directly into the compost pile. A steady diet of egg shells and coffee grounds – some first class gourmet coffees. This past week I loaded on a couple bushels of grapefruit rinds and yesterday George added to the pile with a couple bushels of orange rinds. So one day a microbe is chomping on a maple leaf; the next, a cabbage leaf; and now a heavy duty load of citrus. I have a mental image of a microbe sending out a signal to his buddies that he found a stash of Dunkin Donut coffee grounds. Bet they hate it when we dump a load of fireplace ashes in with the tasty stuff.

If the mix is high in woody material, it can take 6 months to break down. In the case of garden waste, it’s gone in under a month. The surprising thing is that it never smells. You’d think it would have a landfill aroma but somehow the critters render it quickly into an odorless pile of sweetness. I never toss in any fish parts – those are directly buried in the garden, maybe to feed or kill the nematodes, who knows. If I were a nematode used to eating on the roots of squash and tomato plants and you dropped in a fish carcass, I’d head to some other garden. The other thing that kind of surprises me is that when the compost is ready for distribution in the garden, there are loads of red worms in the mix. Where did they come from? I’m talking about a compost pile that is roughly 12′ x 6′ x 3’H that a few months prior was alive and well. We create and use about that much compost twice a year so as you might guess the garden is getting deeper and deeper in organic material – in affect, it’s changing from a ground level garden to a raised garden.

deep freeze

Still catching spec’s – the biggest I have ever caught anywhere. Several have been in the 2 lb range which, for me, are huge. These fish are so big, I actually think I have a bass on the line for the first few moments. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was trying out a new line, Cajun Red. I haven’t caught enough (yet) to be statistically significant but if anything, the red line is out fishing the clear line 2:1. As cold as it is, I’m still putting in the time on the lake to answer this important question. Then I’ll move on to warm weather tests. Tough job but somebody has to do it.

After 4 days of near freeze I removed the covers from the garden. No apparent damage at all. I was mentally prepared for the worst but was certainly pleased to find that we had dodged the first serious cold bullet. The weather guys are predicting another cold spell starting tonight so I’m hoping my official frost blanket is up to the job. I bought a roll of cover that’s supposed to protect down to 28 degrees. A serious roll – 30’x100′. Nancy and I cut it into two parts that totally cover the garden and 3 more 10×15′ pieces for spot coverage if needed. That was fun if you can imagine dealing with a piece of light cloth 30’x100′ in a 30 mph wind. At one point it was as if we were connected to a parachute and I thought we were heading for a takeoff or that the cover would be taking heading for another county. We managed to corral it but it was a close call. Before the cold hits we should be picking another half dozen broccoli’s, that much lettuce, three or four cabbages and a couple of tomatoes. It was even more fun this afternoon when George and I actually covered it – again in 30 mph winds. We got it covered but it is billowing about and looks like a big cloud bouncing around. I’m sure hoping the wind lays down a bit later or shifts to a more favorable direction. Now it’s just a matter of waiting a few days to see if the covering works or if it’s time to till it all under and start thinking about spring planting. If it really gets as cold as forecast, I’m afraid no cover will do the job.

No complaints this year but I’m guessing there’s total panic at Global Warming headquarters. The latest science shows that we’re actually cooling. Big surprise. My grandson Simon gave me a book to read about hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s by Bill Bryson and I highly recommend it. Bryson mixes his personal story of hiking the trail along with geological and historical insights that make it fascinating reading. There was one chapter that I found fascinating and read twice. It discussed the geological history of the Delaware Water Gap in NE Penn. According to Bryson’s research, we are coming out of an ice age, of which there have been dozens. At it’s peak, the ice at the Gap was 2000′ thick – imagine an ice wall nearly half a mile high. Contrast that with the multiple times that the Arctic and Antarctic regions have been tropical jungles to appreciate the scope of change the earth has endured over time. The current theory is that coming out of an ice age sets the stage for the next ice age. Warming forces more moisture in the atmosphere resulting in heavier cloud cover which prevents snow and ice from melting and evaporating. So even though it’s relatively warmer, snow and ice start to accumulate and after a million years or so, you are covered with ice again and start a new thawing cycle when there is no more moisture laden cloud cover. So the global warming the enviro nazi’s are so up tight about actually started 10,000 years ago and is nearing the end if not already there. Nothing to do with folks burning coal or driving their cars. Personally I’d rather live with a tropical Arctic than a mountain of ice.

Nancy got home from her cruise, happy and totally worn out. I don’t get that. Seems like 8 days of R&R would have her wide awake but she sat in the chair last night about 8:15 to watch TV and woke up only long enough to make it to the bedroom where she slept until 8:30 AM. So now there’s adult supervision back at 234 Purdom Cemetery Road.

We had a surprise visit Sunday. Little Tommy, all 6′ of him, drove up to the lake before he headed back to Missouri. It was great just having him alone for a few hours and here all the stories from his first semester. He met all his Dad’s grade point requirements and thinks he can do even better this coming term. He’s loving every minute of it and plans to stay in Missouri this summer to establish residency which means a large drop in tuition. We haven’t talked about it but maybe if he has an open schedule this summer, we’ll take a trip up to see him.

onions and grapefruit

Fall gardening is a tricky proposition. In one sense it’s much easier than summer gardening – way fewer bugs, more temperate weather – code for not oppressively hot and humid – a wider, more interesting set of veggies to try. But in another sense, it’s more of a gamble. You have to fit it in between two unpredictable events – the end of hurricanes and a hard freeze. We can go years with neither a hurricane or a freeze but it is possible to have a hurricane in November and a freeze in November. More likely we have between mid October and mid December. Also because you’re dealing with shortened days, from a sunshine standpoint, crops that would normally take 50 days from plant to harvest, can take 70 days. So you just go into it knowing that there’s a possibility of a total wipeout and rationalize that the cost of the seeds is cheap. This year we were clear of storms after Faye dropped 1000 inches of rain in mid Sept and the ultra cold we’re getting in mid January. . So we had a good long season and harvested plenty of great veggies. I’ll cover up the most susceptible plants and just hope for modest damage to the hardier plants. Sure wish I could amp up this global warming thing – maybe I’ll just drive my gas guzzling F-150 around the garden a few times.

The other thing I’ve had to do in preparation for the pending freeze is strip the grapefruit trees. I’ve been picking these more or less one at a time and eating them within 5 minutes of picking. I pick one on the way to the boat so I can get my vitamin C while trolling in the lake getting my vitamin D from the sunlight. I guess you could even stretch it to say I’m trolling for omega 3 fatty acids in the form of speckled perch. But this was different and I reckoned that I still had about 4 bushels remaining between the pink and white trees. So I spent about half a day juicing – something Nancy and I usually do together but she’s on the cruise so……… I filled every juice container I could find – a couple gallons probably – and then put about 3 bushels in the shed for future distribution and juicing. So if anybody reading this and within range of the lake wants some grapefruit, I’ve got you covered.

If you look at the garden you’d think I was raising a crop of sheets. We’re in the midst of a 4 day stretch of uber cold so I bit the bullet and covered the whole thing. I had almost enough old sheets between my stash and George’s but fell short about 2 king sizes. Nancy’s on this cruise so………………… 100% coverage.

Actually I’m planning ahead now for the spring plantings. Seems early but we put out tomatoes and the like by the end of March which means you start them from seed indoors about mid February – a month from now. But what forced my planning cycle was a casual comment from Nancy last week as she perused the Publix ad. “Why don’t you grow onions. I use lots of them and the good ones are expensive.” I’ve grown garlic and scallions before in Utah but never real onions. My rationale was that they are too cheap to waste the garden space. I had roughly laid out a planting plan that used 100% of the space and did not include onions. So either I had to enlarge the garden or drop some other goody. The garden had a slight irregularity which has bothered me a little. Not enough to correct but not geometrically clean. If I corrected the flaw, it would at the same time add about 30 SF of garden space. More than enough for 100+ onions. Looked like a couple hours of work which subsequently turned into about double that. Then I break out the seed catalog to pick the variety I thought she’d like. I found out that there’s more to onions than meets the eye. Turns out that varieties are categorized by latitude. Some catalogs actually tell you that a particular variety is good between 38 and 42 degrees etc. Other catalogs separate them into long day, short day, and intermediate day onions. It seems that the amount of sunlight received is a big deal with onions. We happen to be in the short day zone although several intermediates will work here. Also turns out that you can buy seeds, or “sets”, or plants. In some cases a variety will be available in all three but most often one or the other. Seeds are the cheapest and take the longest to get to harvest; sets are small onions and more expensive but faster. I liked the sounds of that but they were not available in the varieties I had selected. Plants are the most expensive but produce the fastest. The other downside with plants is that you have to get them in the ground quickly after you receive them whereas with the seeds or sets, you can put them in at your leisure. Since I had just added the garden space, I could plant whenever the plants arrived so that was not a problem. So we’ll see. I’m in for 120 plants – sweet red, sweet white, and sweet yellow and according to the horticulturist at Park Seed, they’ll ship mid Feb. He said the exact date is zip code dependent. Glad he didn’t ask my exact latitude.

Politics – I’m wondering exactly what the deal is on Bill Richardson? Obama threw him under the bus without a bit of hesitation but he’s standing behind the Treasury guy who clearly is a tax evader and had an illegal in his employ. I seem to remember a couple of Clinton appointee’s who were crucified for similar offenses. So Richardson must have a real problem because he was one of the big names that early on dropped out and threw in with Obama instead of Hillary. I wondered at the time what he was offered to make that switch and was not surprised at all to hear about his appointment. But I’m guessing now that it was not an appointment he would have made without a prior deal so he cut him loose as soon as he could.

I’ve been ok with Obama so far but really question a couple of his appointments. Browner is a Socialist, no ambiguity there. After the crash of the Soviet Union, most Socialists and Communists took cover in the “green” movement. And Panetta for CIA Director. He’s been a political hack his entire career and shudder to think of him headiing up our spy programs. And Holder was the guy who pardoned Mark Rich who had been #2 on the FBI’s most wanted list for fraud and embezzelment. And oh, by the way, had been trading oil with Iran at the same time they were holding the American hostages and while trading was prohibited by virtue of a Carter embargo. Not to mention pardoning the Purerto Rican terrorists.These appointments have my stomach turning over. I’ve got a gut feeling that before this one is over we’re going to yearning for Guantanamo and a few water boards.

Who’s #2

Nematode update. Since I first mentioned the nematode problem, I’ve been religiously implementing the sugar solution. And I’ve had no nematode problems. I do have a nagging concern that the reason I’m having no problems is that the kind of veggies I’m growing now are fundamentally different and maybe not subject to nematode attack, sugar or no sugar. I get that every time I pull out one of my winter plants and notice that the root structures are more fine, hair like clumps rather than the long, thicker roots of tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. Those are the crops that I’ve really had problems with and will be planting again in a couple of months. But I got an interesting input yesterday while scanning a seed catalog for the spring garden planting. There on the marigold page in large bold red letters were the words – natural nematode control. I had read somewhere that marigolds kept pest insects in check but my own experience had blown a hole in that. I usually plant marigolds and have still had plenty of nematode problems. But as I read on the catalog said that not all marigolds are created equal and in fact, one particular strain of French marigolds is the real killer. The variety is called Golden Guardian which even sounds right. They recommend planting densely and it’s the only variety I saw with nice discounts for large seed purchases – suggesting to me that people must buy these in bigger quantities. They go on to say that even after the marigolds die off, just till under the plants because the (nematode) poison they contain keeps working. I’m stoked now and can’t wait to launch an underground attack with sugar and a surface attack with Golden Guardians.

Nancy left for her annual quilt cruise last Thursday. It’s an 8 day cruise into the SE Caribbean so she should be quilted out by the time it’s over. I have no plans at all but you can just guess that there will be plenty of fishing. I called a meeting of the rules committee last night and rescinded quite a few executive orders such as shaving every day, wearing shoes in the house, picking up papers off the floor, and issued a blanket amnesty just in case I forgot any specific rules.

Joey decided to go back to work. The cruise business has been down and there are plenty of locals who can fill in for him to help Mark. He signed up with Jet Blue and will be home based in Orlando. Jet Blue was hiring language qualified flight attendants for new routes into Central and South America. I think he wants the salary to get back into the real estate investment business while prices are so low. The cruise business just hasn’t generate enough excess cash to buy and remodel new properties. Jet Blue has a training facility at the Orlando airport, Jet Blue University. He started there on the 7th of this month and will actually start flying by the 28th, I think.

Hey, I keep hearing trash about who’s #1. Seems to me we know the answer to that and the real question is who are 2 – 5. The championship game paired #1 and #2. Obviously the winner is #1 but is the loser not equally as obviously #2? Why would the winner of a game pitting 4 and 5 or 3 and 6 or whatever other combination exists, feel they should be number 1 by virtue of that final game? Not only do they not fit into the #1 place but I wonder if they fit into the #2 spot by any reckoning. Here’s my top 5. #2 goes to Utah. They had a good season and beat a pretty good SEC team in the Sugar Bowl. The 3 spot goes to USC. They were unfortunately paired against a Big 10 team so no way they could get much higher in my ranking system. Texas pulls down #4. They too played a Big 10 team but managed to win only on a squeaker. If they had blasted Ohio State, they could have been #3. Okla holds onto the #4 spot. Winning the Big 12 conference is enough to get my vote and they probably could have beaten anyone else in the Championship game except Florida. The coveted 5 position goes to Mississippi. They had a great second half of their season including a one point victory over Florida. They capped it with a win over highly regarded Texas Tech.

Gators and Spec Angels

GO GATORS – chomp chomp. Great game. I was concerned during the first half but convinced very early in the second that Fla had things under control. Very impressive defense. Not sure but I think Fla was the only team this year to beat 2 teams that were ranked #1 in the nation when Florida played them. That’s an important distinction – if you beat a team that at some time in the season was ranked #1 but was ranked lower when you played them, that’s not the same as beating the number one team in the nation. Florida did that twice. And it seemed strange to me that in both of those games Florida was favored to win even though they were ranked lower. What’s that all about? I’ve read that Texas, USC, and Utah all think they should be #1. Question – during the regular season, did any of these teams beat a team that was ranked higher than them at the time they played them? I know they beat teams that were ranked in the top 20 at the time they beat them but not sure about the relative rankings. And bringing in the lawyers? Come on Utah, get over it. Yes, you had a 13-0 season, congrats. So did Seminole High, congrats to them. They were the 6A state champs. There was also a 5A champ, a 4A champ etc. and no, they didn’t play each other for a grand championship. Probably the 5A champs could beat many 6A teams and even a 1A school could come up with a team that would beat the 6A teams but year in and year out, the classifications are made to keep overall balance in games. I happen to think Utah would do well in the Pac-10 conference where year in and year out they would be up against UCLA, USC etc. Strength of schedule does matter.

And how did Tebow compare to Bradford. Looked to me like Bradford was a better passer but Tebow was a better quarterback. No doubt in my mind he played the second half in a commanding fashion and made all the difference. Not much in the first half but Tebow came out smokin’ after the break. So is the Heisman for the most accurate, most effective passer or for the best overall player? Game – Tebow.

What about my Gator undershorts? Should I wear them full time until there’s a new National Champion or should I retire this pair, frame them, and hang them on the wall in a prominent position? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I had a great flashback the other day when fishing for spec’s. Took me back almost 40 years and I could remember every detail vividly. I’ve probably fished for spec’s a jillion times but this one trip is the only one I can recall with so much color.

My friend, Luke Manies, and I decided to try Fairy Lake in Longwood. At that time Fairy lake was behind an ABC liquor store on 17/92 and was barely visible from the highway. There were no homes on the lake and only a narrow dirt road around the back side to launch a car top boat. We had never fished it before but had heard rumors that it was a good spec lake. I had a 10′ aluminum jonboat that I cartopped to get to those hard to get to places. As I recall it was a Sears. A boat that size has about a 500 lb weight limit and when loaded like that, you have maybe a couple of inches freeboard. Any movement that rocks the boat risks taking on water. Luke wanted to bring his son Paul, which was fine with me. Paul was probably 8-10 at the time with a slight build. Between the three of us, we probably weighed 400 pounds and a battery and electric trolling motor got us close to the weight limit. But the lake was totally still and we felt ok about it. It was super cold that morning, so probably January or February, the peak of spec season. We decided that if we didn’t catch some fish fairly quickly, we would hang it up and try again when it was warmer.

We had half a dozen bamboo cane poles and a bucket of minnows. We set out all the rods and then drifted slowly around the lake hoping to find a nice school of fish. We lucked on the mother of all schools and instantly all 6 poles dipped. We had discussed how we would deal with this to make sure Paul wouldn’t over react and flip the boat. He didn’t and we started hauling in fish. Paul wanted to be in charge of the stringer and it became pretty much a full time job. I’m not sure how many fish we had but the stringer was filling which meant we had nearly 50 fish. Luke caught another nice one and handed it to Paul to string. Paul got this look of horror on his face and started to cry. The stringer was gone. Luckily, I was sitting between Luke and Paul so he couldn’t reach him and also had the presence of mind not to try to stand up or make a lunge. Either of those would have dumped us. I thanked Paul and said that I had been dreading having to clean so many fish and started laughing. That cut the moment and we all started laughing about it. As I recall we had enough minnows left to catch another dozen or so and call it a day.

What brought it all to mind was that I had a nice stringer of spec’s yesterday and thought I had secured them fairly well. All of a sudden they jerked and the stringer started heading over the side. Luckily the metal end of the stringer got hung up on something in the boat and I was able to get to it before it went over. The whole story about Paul came flooding into my head. Paul passed away some years back so he’s my spec angel and we both got another good laugh out of it. While I’m on specs, I’m tuning up my spec gear. Not that I’m having trouble catching them but the tackle I’m using is not properly matched for the task at hand. They’re set up more for bass than spec’s. That boils down to the line being too heavy to effectively cast the tiny lures the spec’s are gobbling – 1/16 oz. On all my major tackle, I’ve switched over to Power Pro, a carbon filament braided line and I love it. Small diameter, limp, no stretch, and strong. But expensive. Too expensive for spec’s. I had planned to respool my light spinning rods with maybe 6# test Stren or trilene monofilament but there was no such stuff at my local Wal Mart. What caught my eye was a line called Cajun Red. I had seen it advertised and a couple guys I know swear by it. It was also on sale – 300 yds of 8# test for $4.37. That’s very cheap for line of that quality. In addition to being super limp and with quite a small diameter, it’s bright red which supposedly makes it invisible beneath 3′ of water. So I picked it up and loaded it onto 2 light outfits. I tested both as far as castability and found them to be vastly improved relative to the 10# Trilene I had been using. As soon as the wind lays down, I’ll enter the exhaustive fishing test phase.

Bowl games

I just love college football, particularly the bowl games.

I think I’ll do this post before the Florida-Oklahoma game since that could color my view. Big congrats to Utah. I knew they had a reasonable shot at beating Alabama since they play a style of game similar to Florida and to me, Alabama had been overrated all season long. I also thought Mississippi could beat Texas Tech since they were the only team that beat Florida and had gotten only better as the season progressed. I had hoped for Tommy’s sake that his Missouri Tigers would beat Northwestern but didn’t expect it to be such a squeaker. No surprise in USC winning the Rose Bowl. The Pac 10 has a great thing going by only playing a Big 10 team in the Rose Bowl. Kind of like squirrels playing with tree stumps. I’d love to see the Mountain West and the Pac 10 merge to create a nice BCS conference with a championship game. Recruit Boise state into the conference.

I have a list of top 5 teams I love to hate. I root for whichever team these guys are playing. The list does change from time to time but not by much. Top of my list is Ohio State. So it was really great to see Texas treat them to another bowl game loss. Next on my list is Michigan, who unfortunately didn’t make the bowl games this year. Rounding out the quintet is USC, that would be Southern Cal, Notre Dame, and Alabama. I think the reason I dislike these teams is that they are always ranked highly in the preseason and then hang out in the top 10 unless they really prove awful. In earlier times my list included Miami and FSU but I’ve mellowed out on them – well at least FSU. About that time I had Nebraska and Oklahoma in the top 10 bad guys for the same reasons. Seemed like all they had to do was field 11 guys to make the top 10. I’ve had an up-down relationship with Illinois. I had a boss at GD who was an Illinois grad and a Big 10 conference nazi. I eased off them when I noted that they wore Orange and Blue but fell off again when they denounced their long time mascot for political correctness. I think that is symbolic of fielding a weak team; not politically correct to really beat up on the opponent. I can’t imagine an FSU without the chop or the warrior riding around the playing field waving the spear.

Made an interesting (to me) observation relative to Spec’s. I cleaned a couple to see what they were eating and was surprised to see baby bream being digested. Some were 3”-4” long, quite a bit larger than I would have thought a spec capable of eating. Then I went back and checked out their mouth and noticed that indeed, a small spec can open his mouth quite wide. It means that I could fish with lures that imitate bream as well as the tiny minnow imitations I’m using now. I read somewhere that spec’s ate minnows and other fish to keep them away from the eggs rather than for food. I really doubt that but maybe it works out favorably for them by accident. My guess is that spec’s spawn before bass and bream so their fry have plenty of food when they hatch.

The spec’s are biting

We had a nice Christmas season this year. Aside from the normal family festivities, we spent time with old friends; one evening with some old high school friends; a night with our old Altamonte Springs neighbors; dinner at Karlings with a couple we’ve known since Dynatronics; and an evening with a friend from Texas and two of his daughters. Add the boat parade party and we’ve done more socializing this year than any in recent memory. The other nice thing this season has been the weather. Absolutely perfect – low 80’s during the day, low 60’s at night. November was on and off cold and I thought it would continue into an even colder December. No connection. We capped it off at Tom and Tina’s New Year’s party. Over the years we’ve gotten to know several of their friends and neighbors and enjoy seeing them again and catching up. We didn’t stay for the ball dropping but had a great time and an early bed time.

Ate something new from the garden. A variety of cabbage with cone shaped heads instead of the familiar round head. Last year I found a good recipe for fried cabbage so we christened the cabbage season with fried cabbage. It was a tossup between that and cole slaw but we forgot to get the coleslaw dressing makings. What I can report is that the cone shape tastes exactly like the round shape. It does dress up the garden a bit and generates lots of comments from spectators. Last night we did the coleslaw but used Chinese cabbage from the garden for something different. Really good – a totally different taste. We’re just about to go into a veggie overload which means Nancy’s bridge and quilt friends start cashing in.

I’ve mentioned in the past that our Satsuma tree produced the finest tasting oranges ever. The tree is small and this was the first year it produced so the total crop amounted to maybe three or four dozen oranges. I had worked them down one at a time until there were only half a dozen or so left. For some reason I left the lowest hanging fruit until last – maybe because I could get the others without bending over. I went out this morning to pick one of the remaining oranges and noticed immediately that there were peels under the tree. Not pieces of peel but half or almost whole orange peels. There were still a few hanging on the tree but when I went to pick one, I saw that it was just a peel hanging by it’s stem and that it’s insides had been carefully removed – totally removed. I have to suspect that it was a raccoon who literally peeled the oranges and ate the fruit. I would never have imagined an animal taking such care and having the dexterity to eat an orange in that fashion. I’m sorry I lost the fruit but am glad I got the experience to see such a thing – once. I plan to trim the tree in a couple of months and remove all those low hanging branches.

Ok, we can all quit worrying. The speckled perch, ADA black crappie, are finally biting. As my dear friend Cliff Lewis would say – “Boy Howdy, are they biting!” Spec’s are seasonal in that they gather into schools starting in November and stay together until February. Obviously they are in the lake year round but for some reason the only time you catch them is during the winter. That’s fine because the bass have usually quit biting about the time the spec’s start. Spec’s are the best eating fish in the lake and the easiest to clean but are not strong fighters. Still, they’re tricky to land because they have a paper thin mouth and if you strike to hard or horse them in, they rip off the hook. I got my first 3 about a week ago which followed my neighbor catching one a couple of days before. Yesterday I kept a dozen in about 2 hours fishing. I troll with small rubber minnow imitations behind a spinner on one rod and a minnow imitation with no spinner on another. On several occasions I had two on at the same time which gets a bit exciting. Last season was almost a wipeout – very few fish and the ones we did catch were small. I was concerned that somehow they had died off or something and our lake would be specless. So the fact that these are exceptionally large shouldn’t be too surprising since we certainly didn’t cut into the population last season. So my strategy is to catch enough for a meal and then switch over to bass fishing. The spec’s were quite large – two make a full meal for Nancy and I. We eat them same day so I never worry about freezing them for the future. Ok, I did freeze some after yesterday’s catch but also gave away some to my neighbor, May. With the spec’s biting, the nice thing is that we can eat spec’s one day, bream another day, and bass on yet another day. Sounds good but of course with the spec’s being such excellent table fare, who needs bream or bass?

Of course I bury the carcasses in the garden.