Spoke too Soon

You know the old saying about counting chickens before they’re hatched. How about don’t count your corn before it’s picked. Turns out that 16” of rain and wind at 25 mph is not a good thing for corn. I mentioned a potential problem with storing all the corn – problem solved. Total rainfall out of this week’s storms – 16” Very impressive and greatly appreciated- well half of it was greatly appreciated. We got less rain from many hurricanes and this came without all the power outages and downed trees. It was just steady, Seattle kind of rain – days without sunshine. I run out between storms and check the garden. So far the only visible casualty is the corn but unless the water drains rapidly once it stops coming down, I anticipate much more in the loss column. They interviewed a potato farmer on the news and he estimated his losses at $500K. I’m guessing my losses won’t reach that level but then again, I don’t have crop insurance.

The lake is now open for swimming and diving off the dock. I threw some fish feed off the dock and the bream attacked voraciously so maybe that bodes well for the bass. I estimate it’s up about 2′ from where it was last week.

Another thing that impressed me was the fact that my neighbors – the skiers – were out skiing almost continuously all week. They must have some big tournaments coming up or are practicing for a new reality show. A couple of times when I was young, I got caught skiing in the rain and remember it was like skiing through a nettle patch. It wasn’t something you wanted to do for very long but these folks were voluntarily hitting it hard all week.

I was pleased to note that the garden drained fairly well and never really puddled up or left the goodies in standing water. The importance of that is that last year when we had the horrendous rains, much of the garden sat in water for days and it killed off a good bit of the residents.

bad sleep, clock radio, weather alarms.

I do think I know why all the rain. It’s not the rain dances, not global warming, not climate change. A few months back I canceled my flood insurance since it never floods here. Now I’m thinking that act of defiance has brought on the rain. My first call this morning will be to the Insurance company to get it reinstated. That should stop it. I need to appease the rain gods.

So what am I missing? The gov’t takes over the auto companies and gives themt to the workers. Isn’t that classic Socialism/Communism? Sure glad I bought Ford stock a few months ago. And does it come as a surprise to anyone that the most liberal of the left coast states is officially a basket case? If the fed’s start pumping tax money into CA, does that mean the fed’s own CA or visa versa? I love it that the voters in CA voted down adding new taxes so now we’ll watch the state add new “fees” regardless of how the voting went. Is there another recall vote in the making? Will the Terminator be terminated?

The Corn Crop

Finally some rain. It’s been ultra dry since last November and the lake is down 4′ from the high at that point. We picked up 5 1/2” between 8PM Sunday and 8AM Tuesday with the forecast for that kind of rain all week long. Maybe I should have planted rice. The summer pattern has started.

I mentioned a few posts back that the corn in the garden had been nailed by some bugs. I estimated that maybe 30% of the crop could be history. Looks like I was wrong. The corn seems to have grown right through it and is now topping 6′ tall with tassels and ears starting to form. Two weeks ago it was under 4′ so you can literally see it grow. I started with roughly 100 plants and assumed that would be reduced to 70 or so with an average of 1.5 to 1.75 ears per stalk. That got me to slightly over 100 ears. What I’m seeing now is more likely 90% survival and the average well over 2 per. In fact I’m blown away by the number of stalks showing 4 ears. Some of the tiny ears already have silk poppingout. We’re still weeks away from actually eating some but things are certainly looking up. Two weeks ago I was writing the crop off and thinking I was done trying to grow corn; now, not so sure.

The other interesting thing is that the corn stalks are not uniform in size. That’s been the case from the get go but I assumed that the runts would either go through a growth spurt and catch up or just die off. My theory is that the difference in size has to do with location – some areas have more compost underlying than other areas. Just a theory. But the small stalks are getting tassels the same as the big stalks and sprouting little ears as well. So it’s more a time thing than a size thing. Don’t know if small plants will have small ears or what. This is a new variety – new to me – called Brocade from a grower in upstate NY. It’s a bicolor, extra-sweet variety. Last year I planted 3 different varieties and think perhaps that resulted in a less than spectacular crop. Corn pollinates by the wind and having 3 different varieties in such a small space might have created pollination problems. In a few weeks we’ll have all the answers. Except 1 – what the hell will we do with all the corn. Our freezer is already full of veggies and it’s only mid May.

Turns out that certain varieties of Woodpeckers are migratory. All of a sudden we are loaded with giant, pileated Woodpeckers. No mistaking the difference between these guys and the garden variety we have all year. They are huge. It’s hard to judge a bird’s body size but they are at least 2′ top to bottom. Bright, bright colors. Red head, white shoulders, black body. Aside from the size, the colors, and the banging noise, you can’t mistake the style of flying which is totally different than other birds – except for Kingfishers. They look like missiles sailing through the air- a series of quick wing flaps then cruise. Nothing really graceful about it but very distinctive. And if you can’t see them, there is no mistaking the sounds. Really noisy with a loud, cacophonous sound. If you’ve ever seen a Woody the Woodpecker cartoon, the creators did a fair job of recreating the sounds.

And I guess Whippoorwill’s are migratory too. No sounds all winter and then one evening you hear the “whip poor will” at sunset. I was sitting out last night and between the whippoorwills, the woodpeckers, and the owls – it was surprisingly noisy. I guess it’s not so quiet here but much mo betta than cars, horns and sirens.

Can anybody think of anything more stupid than pissing off the CIA? I’m really enjoying watching Nancy Pelosi digging herself in deeper and deeper. And I’m also happy to see the Pres getting more realistic regarding dealing with the bad guys in Guantanamo. My fear was that he had dug himself into a big hole with no good way to deal with the situations but it looks like he’s not too rigid or proud to change course when the facts on the ground are different than he thought.

Saving Jane Neal

Well I saved Jane Neal. A little background. When we moved to San Antonio back in 1976 our next door neighbor was Jane Neal. She lived with her daughter and quickly became as close to us as family. Jane had a really special angel wing begonia that she had grown for years. We took some cuttings and between us and Joey, kept the lineage alive ever since. We refer to the plants as “Jane Neal”. We trusted Jane with the boys when I took Nancy to the hospital to have Chris and she gave Joey his first driving lesson – I think he was 13. Jane passed away way too soon back in about 1980 but we all feel like we’re still connected with the Begonia. Unfortunately in the several freezes we had this winter I thought we had lost all the ones we had and was hoping that Joey’s had managed to survive in the slightly warmer weather where he lives. The loss really hurt. I felt terrible because I should have remembered to bring it in or cover it but it had survived freezes in the past and I was just negligent. But this week I was walking in our jungle down by the lake and I spotted the familiar angel wing leaves. No mistaking the shape and color. I carefully cleared away the brush and sure enough, a potted plant with several nice strong shoots popping out. I apologized first then brought it up to the house, gave it a big drink, some new potting soil, and a dose of special fertilizer. Looking good Jane.

I was fishing in the lake out of the poke boat earlier this week. The poke boat is a kayak like craft that is very light, agile, and operates just fine in a few inches of water. I can move along fishing in the stealthiest fashion, usually with pretty good results. There was a slight breeze moving me along so only occasionally did I have to dip the paddle in for a bit of steerage. I was about 30′ from the shoreline and popping my Devil’s horse into every nook and cranny. I glanced up ahead to see what was coming up and noticed something move on a beach area about 100′ ahead of me. It looked about the size of a raccoon, maybe a little bigger, and the coloring wasn’t quite right – too much red. It spotted me when I got to within about 50′ and just loped off into the underbrush. I was almost positive it was a bobcat. About that time I saw a second one another 100′ up the beach. He spotted me a little sooner than the first guy and just as casually moved off into the brush. I can’t tell you how rare it is to see a bobcat but to see a young pair was really exciting.

On that same poke boat adventure, I found a canoe. It must have drifted away from shore on the other side of the lake. Very unusual – it was a 10′ aluminum canoe that had been jerry rigged to sport an electric motor on the rear end and a battery. It was pushed up against some tree and taking on a little water from waves. I was able to drag it out and brought it over to the beach on our property and then start calling around the lake to see if it had an owner. All the people I called are of the wealthy variety so I was pretty sure it didn’t belong to any of them but perhaps one of their farm hands. I told them all that I was pulling it up on the beach to keep it safe but if anybody found the owner, to let them know. It sat there for a few days but was gone today so I’m guessing it’s back home safe and sound.
Bye bye Chrysler! Think about it, Chrysler will be 55% owned by the UAW; 35% by Fiat, the perennial auto basket case of Europe; and 10% by the Fed’s. I get a mental image of a Board of Directors that includes folks from the Dept’s of Energy, Labor, and Transportation; the EPA, OSHA and who knows what other Gov’t organization. I’m guessing 2 years absolute max before Chrysler just evaporates away from America. It’s been in the cards for quite a while but what I hate is that by going totally against the law by nuking secured creditors, the Fed’s have probably sealed the fate of GM as well. I can’t imagine conventional financing sources – commercial paper, bonds etc – will be available to GM. I think it will take a bit longer for GM to close it’s doors because they have plenty of assets – such as foreign owned auto companies – to unload, but eventually they fade away too. To me that says Ford will be the only viable American car company. The big problem for Ford is that they have quite a large debt load and plan to pay it down the old fashioned way – with money. That’s going to make it tougher for them to compete initially for cost structure reasons but in the long run, they’ll have access to more financing. That will enable them to make the tough decisions along the way. I never owned a Chrysler product so have no personal attachments but it’s going to be tough for me in a world without Pontiac.

Post beach garden update

The garden survived while we were away- in fact it thrived. Before we left I stripped all the snow peas and figured that was that for the season. Not so – the bush was loaded again. I picked another couple pounds of snow peas and then pulled the plants even though there were still a few blossoms. That’s the last of the cool weather crops. Zucchini and bell pepper bushes were also loaded with pickable veggies. The remarkable thing about the peppers is that I’m picking from bushes that were planted last July and are loaded with new peppers and blossoms. I nursed these 2 bushes through a few freezes but had no idea they could actually last this long. I’m wondering if this is typical or if I somehow ended up with a super species. Some critter attacked the corn plants but there are still a good number looking good. Some are 5′ tall and sporting top silk.

I was a bit concerned because it hasn’t started raining yet but the heat is coming on. Our famously high humidity just hasn’t happened and we’re typically now in the mid 30% range – for Florida, that’s desert levels. I have a couple of battery powered sprinkler timers but there are still lots of things that can go wrong. So I breathed a sigh of relief when all was green and much of it double the size pre-beach.

A couple of years ago I picked up a couple of the battery powered sprinkler timers at Costco. I was surprised to find they were from Bountiful, UT – actually they are marketed by Orbit in Bountiful but manufactured in China. After a year or so, a couple of the solenoid units crashed but they were replaced quickly with just a phone call to Bountiful. A couple of months ago both of the control heads failed. I called Orbit to see if it made sense to send them back for repair and was told that they had a 6 year warranty and would just be replaced. Now that’s what I call a warranty. I’m guessing these units would hold up well in Utah but year round operation in Florida is a tough assignment. I learned to seal up all holes and crevises because it took bugs only a few days to find their way inside the unit and a month or so to totally fill it with nest material. And the internal battery contacts rust over with our pervasive humidity. This time around I’ve engineered a container for the control head to give it another level of protection so maybe I can nurse the new units along for a few years.

Planted some Okra. We had fried okra as an appetizer the other night so it seemed like a good idea to bring it home to the garden/kitchen. Tried some last year but no luck. I forget exactly what happened but this year will be totally different, I hope. I picked an award winning variety – Red Cajun – and will leave nothing to chance. I use a fishing line called Cajun Red and it works great so the Okra will surely be a hit. So far I’m amazed that several seeds germinated in just three days.

So far so good on the nematode control. We started picking zucchini which I’d planted in an old firepit. I planted the same variety in that same spot last year and the nematodes nailed it within a couple of weeks and even those plants that survived did poorly. I stoked up the soil there with compost for the winter crops. That crop started out good but then the rabbits got them and those that survived did poorly. Stoked with more compost and planted the summer stuff in late March along with all the nematode remedies. Everything has grown really great and we’re picking squash on a daily basis now. I’m not ready to declare victory but it’s light years ahead of where it was this time last year so I know I’m on the right track. Also noted some small green tomatoes and loads of blossoms on several plants. I think I have 6 different varieties going at this time with the first to produce a variety called Solar Fire developed by UF to deal with the Florida heat and humidity. I had surrounded all the tomato plants with those Guardian Marigolds which have grown really tall and strong. No flowers yet but they are already much bigger than I had guessed and in most cases actually taller than the tomatoes. I just know the roots are down there nailing nematodes.

Back from the Beach

Great week at the beach. The fishing was awesome; the catching was lousy. We had persistent east winds from the time we got there until the Thursday before we came home. The strong winds created strong rip currents, big waves, and stirred up the sand for low visibility in the water. On thursday the winds slacked off and I managed to catch a few – some whiting and a couple of small sharks. Lots of sun and I was a crispy critter after the second day.

I’ve become friends with the guy who lives next door to the place we rent on the beach. He fishes so we spend a fair amount of time together on the beach. Up until last Nov., he had a great dog that was mostly German Shepherd. Roxie was really old but loved to run in the surf and was really a pleasure to watch. She died right before we came last Nov. and you could tell Mike was fairly broken up about it. Well this year I spotted a new dog on his porch. It was colored very similar to Roxie but more of a husky look to it. Turns out he got it as a rescue dog and couldn’t resist that it looked so much like Roxie. She’s only a year old so still a pup with all the energy that entails. On Thursday I was fishing low tide. There was a trough running parallel to the shore and then a sand bar on the other side of the trough. The trough was about 30′ wide and the outside sandbar, maybe 150′. At high tide the trough was not visible so the trick was to cast into it for the most action. At low tide you waded across the trough and onto the sandbar to cast to the deeper outside water. I was doing that and landed a bonnet shark that was about 30” long. Nothing remarkable about it at all. I unhooked it and put it in the trough. There was a runout a few hundred yards down the beach so I figured the shark would follow the current down to the runout and back to the deep sea. Instead, he decided to cut across the sandbar where the water was only an inch or two deep. Bad move. He made it about halfway when Skylar, the new dog, spotted it and bound across the trough onto the sandbar and nailed the shark. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go but it became obvious that the shark was no match for the dog. He would grab it and toss it in the air and eventually worked it back to the trough. I thought that would change the odds in the sharks favor but the dog leaped right in after it and grabbed it underwater. The trough was about 3′ deep and the dog was maybe 30” tall so he was having to swim from time to time. But in the end he managed to drag it up on the beach and finish it off. Bonnet sharks are bottom feeders so they’re not much concern for people and there has to be a jillion of them so I wasn’t broken up by the loss of the shark. In fact I was kind of impressed with how the dog handled herself. Mike said Roxie did the same thing and then ate the sharks. He said he would pass up any fish Mike caught except for the sharks. I found that to be interesting that both dogs operated the same with respect to sharks. Must be something instinctive.

Two new restaurants to report on. One is a little shack called the Taco Shack – a tiny place with a very limited Mexican menu and only outside eating on a couple of picnic tables or take out. Tom had alerted me to the quality of the fishg taco’s so we gave it a try. He was right – excellent. We ate there twice – first day we had shrimp taco’s and fish taco’s; next time I had nacho’s. Very fresh ingredients. On the way home we always stop at an Italian Deli in Palm Coast to pick up sausage and other deli goods. We asked the lady who runs it if she knew of a good place for breakfast. She steered us to Strathmore Bagels. It’s a big, Jewish New York Deli and restaurant – breakfast and lunch. Incredible bakery along with it. Nancy introduced me to something call Bialys (not sure of the spelling – sounds like bee al eese). Bialy’s are a very thin round roll about twice the size of an English muffin. I had never heard of them so stuck with the traditional bagel. Big mistake – the bagels were great but her’s was way better. What I like about them is the crust to bread ratio is very high so if you are more into the crust than the soft stuff – which I am – they are perfect.

One thing for sure, we eat good at the beach. The Flagler Fish Company was awesome as ever. We missed happy hour at Rossi’s though – too much else to do and we just ran out of time.