Wild turkeys

I think I’ve mentioned that one of my regular chores now is hanging out the clothes. I’d like to say this is the way we are reducing our carbon footprint but that would be total baloney. We hang out clothes, and always have, because we like the way they feel and smell. Still, it’s a nice arrow to have in the quiver when somebody starts giving me the environmental pitch and I ask them if they hang out their clothes or still use a, ugh, dryer. Shuts them down fairly quickly. Sort of like asking Al Gore which SUV he drove to his private plane this morning.

Doing it has created an awareness of clothes hanging technique and since out here in the country most people hang their clothes, I have a chance to study technique. For example, I can always tell when the family is Mexican. They have a different way of hanging out clothes. Maybe it’s a cultural thing and I can’t be sure whether it’s a Mexican culture, a generic Hispanic culture, or a Pierson Hispanic culture. First, they don’t use clothes pins; just drape the clothes over the line. I kind of like that and started doing that myself with sheets. Second, they can use anything that simulates a line. Most commonly that would be a fence. Even if there’s a clothes line available, certain things hang on the fence. So if you’re riding around Pierson and see a fence draped with clothing, you know the occupants are Hispanic. There’s one family across from the post office that adds a nice touch. Each day they remove the clothes to be worn that day and when the last items go, out comes a new load. In the rainy season, the clothes may be rinsed several times in rain water. You can tell the size of a family, the age breakdown – diapers are a dead giveaway. One thing I do know – they wear nice clean clothes. I suggested this idea to Nancy but was turned down cold. Maybe this is a German – Italian clash.
Saw something really interesting (to me) yesterday. I was going out onto the porch to check on a grilling meat loaf and noticed a flock of 8 wild turkeys in my neighbors yard. I was no more than 25′ from them. I’ve seen a couple of turkeys before but never that many and never that close. The first thing that struck me was how big they are – maybe 4′ tall At first glance I honestly thought it was a flock of sandhill cranes but the coloring was wrong. And the color. From a distance turkeys have always looked black but up close they’re a very shiny reddish – bronze colo. When they heard me, they quickly started running off and then all took flight. What a wing span! I was blown away by how well they flew and how quickly they gained altitude. I’ve only seen turkeys on the ground and never appreciated how well they could fly. I was under the impression that they were awkward flyers but these guys were literally soaring and executing sharp,hard spirals while at the same time gaining enough altitude to clear some tall pines. Very impressive.

I think the reason I’m so excited about seeing turkeys is that I knew lots of guys who were avid turkey hunters 30,40 years ago. I never heard them ever actually shooting one and they would talk about how wiley they were. Seems they almost never got to see one and would talk about hearing them as a big deal. Each had a turkey caller and instead of bragging about the turkeys they actually got, they’d brag about how they almost got one to follow their call. Eventually they switched over to hunting turkeys with bows and black powder guns. Never got any that way either but I think it was better for their ego to not get one using antique techniques rather than with the latest Italian shot gun. When we first got back to Florida I saw a few while driving which was incredible to me. With the first couple of sightings, I assumed it was my imagination and that they were some kind of unfamiliar buzzard. Now it’s common at a dinner party for somebody to say they saw a flock of 50. I still don’t believe much of that talk but will have to admit that I’m personally seeing them more often and in bigger flocks. So if times really get tough, maybe we can add wild turkey to our squirrel and possum larder. My guess is the reason there are so many of them is that the hunters woke up to the realization that the store bought variety were just better eating.

Fire Weed

It didn’t take long, 8 days, before I had to make a call to Vizio about the new TV. As predicted it had to do with the remote. One of us, really could have been either one, put the remote into a mode in which it wouldn’t control anything except the volume. You couldn’t even turn it off. I did all the obvious stuff – changed batteries in the remote, turned the power off with the wall plug and let it sit for a while before repowering it. None of that worked. Hell, I even read the manual – not a clue. It wasn’t a total disaster because all the normal buttons on the set worked so we could change channels that way. That would be a bummer if we were on cable or satellite with 1000 channels but as over the airwave purists we can zip through in a minute and in the back recesses of my mind, I was already adjusting to life without a remote.

Since I hadn’t bothered to send in the registration card, I was reluctant to try customer service. Then I noticed in the manual it said you could register online. Great. That meant I could register and then call, all within a couple of minutes or hours depending on how the dial up service was and how gigantic and fancy the Vizio site was. Even doing the online registration brought a surprise. The site brought up the usual registration form with all those fields to be filled in, some identified as mandatory, some optional. There was one unusual mandatory field – purchase price, not including sales tax. I’m thinking this is the manufacturer’s way of learning exactly what the retailers are charging. I filled in $800 which was very, very close to what I actually paid. My registration attempt was rejected with a note saying that there was invalid data in the form. I looked closely at all the complex fields – such as the 300 digit serial number field – working my way down the form to the purchase price field which was flagged for invalid data. I changed the data to $799.99 and the registration went right through. I would never have guessed that the manufacturer and the retailer were that tightly hooked on price.

Registration complete, I called tech support. I was fairly sure it was going to be an American support operation since they worked regular peope hours in Pacific Time and sure enough, a gal named Bobbi came on fairly quickly to help. I explained the problem and she said “don’t you just hate it when stuff like that happens”. I was instantly gratified that this was not going to be one of those tough tech support calls. She walked me through a series of steps and suggestions and eventually we got it working. Turns out that there are two eeny teeny buttons on the remote with exactly the same label. One in the upper right hand corner and one in the lower right hand corner. The lower right hand corner button is in with all the DVD controls. I had never noticed the lower one and honestly, even if i had, wouldn’t have pushed it. Turns out that button selects “TV” from among a selection of other devices and I guess one of us had inadvertenly pushed that when we picked up the remote. I had pushed the upper button labeled TV since I suspected that was the problem. Bobbi did tell me something the manual didn’t – better if you use the bottom button instead of the top one. Bad engineering/programming. So we’re back in business.
After pulling out a harvested broccoli plant yesterday, I spotted a large weed in the garden. When I touched it I got a stinging sensation on my finger. I pulled back my hand quickly and reassessed the weed – must be a stinging nettle of some kind but I had never seen one like this. The weed had to go so I worked my fingers under the surface and grabbed it by the root and yanked it out. My fingers still stung from the first encounter. When I pulled it out I noticed a small, low growing weed remaining. It had been hidden from sight by the bigger guy. I grabbed him and quickly learned that it was not the big weed but this little guy who was the stinger. I had fairly well wrapped my hand around it so my whole hand was instantly on fire with thousands of needle pricks or fireant bites. I ran in the house and soaked my hand in alcohol. That was at 10AM. Would you believe that my hand was still hurting at 10PM? I have never encountered anything like that before. George called it Fire Weed; Joey called it thorny nettle; can’t write what i call it.

Freeze report

You remember the groundhog who jumped back in his hole? I have a mental image of him bumping into Al Gore on the way down the hole.

We had 3 days of serious, freezing weather. Not sure exactly how long the temps were below freezing but I got up at 5AM Thursday and the thermometer on the front porch was 32 and a pan of water on the deck had a thin layer of ice. The fields around us were white with frost. By 10AM, it was nice and sunny but the thermometer was still reading 32 and the ice had not melted.

I uncovered the garden on Friday afternoon mentally prepared for a total disaster. Amazingly, no problems. Not the first sign of any damage so the frost covers really did work. I hope that’s the last time I’ll have to use them this year. Today I’ll plant some lettuce starts and onion sets.

Won’t know about the fruit trees for a while. They look ok but you can’t always tell right away. Might just lose a few leaves or might lose next seasons fruit. It’s even possible the tree dies off but don’t think that happened. They normally blossom in March so that will tell the story. I have four trees so my guess is that it will be a mixed bag – some ok, some will lose a season.

The big loser is the lake. The farmers pumped for 3 days and pulled it down another x inches. The problem that gives me is twofold. First when I lower the boat, it’s a real circus act getting in and out. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that at some point I’ll end up in the drink. Good news is that the water will only be a few inches deep so I’m not likely to drown. The other problem is that I had calibrated everything down to a gnat’s ass with respect to trolling for specs. My hot area was about 6′ deep, a nice grassy bottom, and I had found the exact right lures, the perfect distance to troll behind the boat and the right trolling speed to keep the bait at fish level without catching onto the grass. Drop the water a foot and the whole thing goes down the tubes. The lure hooks the grass at exactly the wrong place. Increasing trolling speed lifts the lure a bit shallower but moves the bait too fast for the fish. Decreasing the distance from the boat could help but it gets the lure too close to the boat and motor for my liking. I’m thinking my spec days are over until next November. Another couple of inches – normal for this time of year – and I won’t be able to use the boat. I can live with that because I use a kayak for bass anyway.

Speaking of spec’s, Joey and Mark came over yesterday for a fish dinner. They love cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower so Nancy made cole slaw, brccoli-cauliflower salad (using purple cauliflower) and fried cabbage to complement the beer batter fried specs. They worked for their dinner. Helped me get the frost covers off the garden, mowed the grass/weeds, chain sawed some branches that were hanging over the dock, and removed pine needles from the roof. It took the three of us a couple of hours but would have taken me a full day and the pine needles would still be on the roof.

Super cold

It’s switched over from cold to damn cold. Gore you’re a jerk.

The frost blankets are getting quite a workout this year. With them we’ve been able to keep a steady stream of tomatoes and green peppers all winter long. I really didn’t expect that, especially the peppers. I suspect this batch of artic air will take out all but the hardiest and maybe even those. When we planted the winter garden, I really never gave too much thought to frost protection, assuming that the tender stuff would be history in December most likely; in January for sure. Next year, I’ll revise the layout making it easier to get the tender stuff covered. and locate the tall stuff totally away from low stuff. This year I didn’t give any of that much consideration and made my life a little tougher than need be. Live and learn. I was too focused on nematodes to worry about frost.

One of my favorite cold weather stories – I have several – came in the early 90’s. Our friends, the Sherlin’s, were visiting from California over the Christmas season and I had picked up tickets to see a Ute basketball game. They were having a great season. We were having a stretch of weather that was unusual, even by Utah standards – days and days on end with temperatures hovering around zero. A few years prior to that my brother in law had visited Russia and brought me back a great fur hat. I wore it regularly and the kids all made fun of me, as did co-workers, wives etc. If I took Chris anywhere wearing the hat he would walk about 10′ or so ahead or behind me and wear an expression saying that he had no idea who the guy with the hat was. But it kept me warm and I can deal with harrassment. I was wearing it on the night of the game. We ended up having to park a couple hundred yards from the arena in a parking lot that was piled 8′ high in snow and the temp -10 degrees. When we got out of the car, I started worrying that Chris would get too cold so I offered him my hat. No way, what if somebody saw him wearing it. By the time we were halfway to the arena, he meekly asked if my offer was still good and he joyfully put the hat on. When we got within 10′ of the doors, he took the hat off and handed it to me – did not want to risk somebody in the crowd spotting him. We watched the game and then left. Within 10′ of leaving the building Chris asked for the hat. I gave it to him of course, but we pulled his chain about it the whole way to the car. I knew then that in a pinch, Chris’s common sense would prevail over outward appearances.

If we have another freeze, I’ll come up with a new cold weather story. I’m hoping we hit warm weather before I run out of stories.

I was walking up the road this morning to get the paper when a piece of pine bark hit me on the shoulder. I looked up and, sure enough, there were a couple of woodpeckers chopping away up top of a 50’+ pine tree. I also noticed that the tree was dead. And while staring up I noticed that a very large branch of an adjacent Live Oak was also dead. Both the pine and the oak limb are directly across from the carport and sheds on one side and the spot where I have my truck and boat parked on the other. If either the tree of the branch came down unexpectedly, chances are something would be cratered. Living in the jungle, I have the name of a tree guy at the top of the phone list so I called to get him here to bring these guys down in a safe manner. I also have an old, nearly dead, Bay tree hanging over the dock – a disaster waiting to happen too. My man Milton came right over and gave me an estimate of $500 to take care of the whole thing. I do have a chain saw but my track record of dropping trees accurately is poor – I dropped one on top of myself a few years back and was trapped for about 10 minutes trying to crawl out from under it. No doubt that a bad fellilng of the pine could cause about $5000 in damage so I guess the $500 is a sensible move. So I made the deal and alerted my neighbor George that there was a firewood windfall coming his way. George had just taken down 3 old, dead oaks at the top end of the property yesterday but is burning his fireplace at a rate of about 1 tree per day. The dead pine is worth about 3 regular size trees so he’ll probably have enough to make it a couple more weeks. I’d like to think he’ll have enough for the rest of the winter.

New TV

Cruise ships and Ice Breakers trapped in the St Lawrence Seaway with 3-4′ thick ice. Wonder what’s happening to the Artic ice flow and those ice bergs that were disappearing? Wonder if the Polar bears are happy campers or hoping for a little Global warming? Haven’t heard a word about it so I guess we only hear when the weather’s warm. Sort of like the opening in the ozone layer that just kind of went away, never to be heard from again. Sure glad I have my frost blankets for the garden.

Good Eatin’. Nancy made spec’s in a beer batter the other night. Man was that good. And we have so much broccoli that she made a broccoli-cheese soup. Wow! Served that with a salad that had been residing in the garden an hour before. With spec season shutting down, I need to be sure we’re stocked. After the next full moon, they will shut down until next November. Then it’s back to bream, bass, whiting and pompano with maybe a couple bluefish in the next month or so.

We attended Joey’s graduation from Jetblue U Wednesday. Not sure how many graduations of his we’ve attended starting with his pre-school grad but this one was certainly different. Lots of spirit and rah rah rah. If these graduates live up to the instructions given by the commencement speakers, flying Jetblue should be a pleasant experience – maybe even a return to the 70’s flying experience instead of the Greyhound bus atmosphere that developed. He had a checkout flight Thursday night to Ponce, Puerto Rico and then went onto reserve status – which means no defined flight schedule. Reserves are used to fill in for slots opened by illness, vacations etc etc. The first call came Saturday at 8 AM for a 10 AM flight to Santa Domingo so it didn’t take long to be pressed into service.

We took the leap and bought a flat panel TV. Nothing at all wrong with the one we had but the digital transition was causing some grief watching the set in the bedroom. We have the digital converter box and it works just fine – better picture and more channels – but the downside is that the physical size of the picture is shrunk because of the difference in the format. The set in the bedroom was a 26” set and we are about 15′ from it. That was fine when the world was analog but with the smaller digital format, it became difficult to read any of the trailers or the details of weather maps and the like. The lowest cost solution was to move the 32” set in the living room to the bedroom and replace the living room set with a new digital model. I knew this was coming so had been watching Costco for a particular set to hit my price target. We happened to stop at Costco on our way home from the graduation to pick up a few things and they had just made the reduction to the TV that hit my goal. When we arrived at Costco there were 5 sets; an hour later there were only 2 so we pulled the trigger. Truly a coincidence that the Super Bowl is on Sunday.

I had measured everything so knew my switchout plan would work but I hadn’t even come close to estimating how much the living room set weighed. George and I were able to get it into the bedroom without heart attacks but could not get it up to the level where it would be perched. We called his brother Rick and the 3 of us managed to get it into position. The only casualty was the giant remote control Tom had gotten for his mother. It doesn’t work with the new set which means she’s stuck using the new remote with the micro keys and micro – micro printing. So occasionally when trying to change channels or adjust the volume she sends the set off into never never land and we have to try to figure out which buttons she hit and how to get back to a normal picture.