birds, gardens and things

Wow, did we have a hot week. The silver lining is that it seems to have put down the mosquitos. It’s noticeably cooler – not so hot – down on the dock where we’ve had a consistent breeze. It feels at least 10 degrees cooler there than at the house, 150′ away. So my routine now is to get all my yard and garden work done between 8 and 11 AM. Then dive in the lake, dry off on the dock listening to XM, fish with a large bait fish so I’m not bothered with too much action, and reading a mystery novel. By about 2 PM it’s even too hot on the dock so I wimp out to the A/C.

Our pair of wood ducks that show up every spring is now a family of 5. I saw something interesting last week when the duck family started off across the lake. It takes them maybe 5 minutes to get across and when they were about halfway, an eagle took off and headed for them. I figured I was going to see a disaster of some sort especially when the eagle did a narrow circle about 50′ over the ducks. He then swooped down and scooped up a fish very close to the ducks and took his catch back to the trees. The thing that amazed me was that the ducks did not seem phased at all so maybe eagles don’t bother wood ducks and they knew it.

Our migratory birds from Mexico are here in big numbers. I know they’re from Mexico because they call out “burrito, burrito”. We also have some feathered visitors from New York. They call out “here, here” but say it with a NY accent – “heah, heah”. I have no idea what kind of birds all of these are – just their place of origin.

The garden got clobbered big time in the last month with all the rain. According to the weather guru’s, we’ve had over 300% of normal in the past month and it fairly well wiped me out. According to others, we did fairly well. A good onion crop, nice cucumbers, and about half the peppers survived. The squash nominally rotted on the vine and the tomatoes have not fared much better. We probably got 30% of the corn to harvest. It was really good, just not enough of it. But all the local family gardens and small farms were wiped out 100%. I have to admit that I have always opposed big farm subsidies but now I’m on their side. You can work your heart out and one good storm or a couple weeks of unusual weather and you’re history.

One crop that made it big time was the Guardian Marigolds. This is a variety I planted specifically for nematode control The instructions on the seed packet said to plant densely and I did. I’ve seen lots of marigolds and grown varieties advertised as “giant”. That has always meant about 2′ tall. Turns out that Guardians grow 4′-5′ tall. Not only that they grow twice as fast as anything else so it’s realistic to say that they have taken over the garden. I have chopped and chopped to allow the other veggies to get a shot at some sunlight but in a few days, the Guardians have taken over again. They do seem to be working in that I haven’t seen any signs of nematodes this season but next season I need to scale way back on the density. I’m taking the greenery to the compost pile as I chop at it and will till the roots in place. My hope is that this will give me protection next time with fewer live plants.

Another accidental success was a faux spinach called Malabar Spinach. I planted it last year and it was a semi success. It grew well all summer long but only George and I really liked it. It grows as a vine with deep green thick leaves, red, red vine stems, and quick, white flowers and seeds. I found, well actually Nancy’s friend Wilma found, that you can eat the leaves, stems, and the flowers. Nancy didn’t really care for the thick leaves or the “slimy” texture inside the leaves. The nematodes ended the crop last year but while it was going it was luxurious. I decided not to plant it again since neither Nancy nor Barbara cared for it but as it turns out, it’s a self seeding variety. Self seeding in a big way. I kept pulling out the renegades but missed a few. Now I’ve got several strong plants climbing up the tomato trellis. I pull a few leaves every day and put them on sandwiches and Nancy asked me to pick a pile so she could see how it worked in spinach dip. The dip was well received and nobody noticed that it wasn’t regular spinach so based on that, I’m going to increase the crop a bit and plan on this variety as a good summer plant in Florida.

Another crop that is looking pretty good – survived the rains and producing are the egg plants. Eggplant are something I really like to grow but don’t eat myself. Seems like everybody else likes it ok and the plants really dress up the garden so I persist trying to find a variety or recipe that I like. I’m going to try one when these mature. The recipe calls for slicing the eggplant in half, coating it with Italian dressing and grilling. The variety is called Lavender Touch and is a very light white/purple color that the seed catalog says is a great variety for grilling.

Why I think maybe my garden didn’t get totally wiped out is that over the past two years I have continually added organic matter. I’ve done that to improve the quality of the soil but in the process, it’s added quite a large mass so that the garden generally is sitting almost 2′ higher than the surrounding ground level. That means the garden has better drainage than it would as a ground level garden and is probably the reason I had some survivors. I’m going to test that theory by implementing a “till and hill” approach to laying out the garden. By that I mean I’ll create elevated rows that are over 2′ high relative to the garden level. I’m thinking that will give me at least another foot of drainage or dry root zone. That involves quite a bit more manual labor but if it works, ………………………. Elevating rows and hilling is common practice in many places but I figured I could get away without the added labor. Proving the old adage that nothing’s ever easy.

Anyway – aside from the failures to date, I’m going to try a few new plantings. Not too much since I suspect the summer heat and humidity here will not be conducive to a good summer crop.
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I think I figured out part of my problem with understanding Obama’s positions. In a speech the other day concerning Iran, he said he was “appalled and outraged”. Trouble is that he said it with exactly the same voice tonation and facial expressions he used to be “concerned” or “gravely concerned”. He could have replaced the word outraged with happy and it would have sounded the same. If you are expressing outrage, you have to shout it and bang your fist on the table or something that punctuates the words. He uses exactly the same tone of voice regardless of what he’s discussing or whether he’s positive or negative on a subject. On the other hand when you watch the Iranian leader, for example, you have no idea what he’s saying but you can just look at him and tell when he’s really pissed. Think about it – when your significant other is mad at you, there’s no doubt about it. If she or he was speaking Martian, you would still know that you had screwed up and exactly how badly. You can tell if this is something that will be over and done with in 10 minutes or if you’re in deep dooky for days. You could even turn the sound down – you can’t of course, but just say you could – and by looking into her/his eyes and looking at their face and body language, you understand the depth of the anger. With Obama, without hearing the words, you wouldn’t know if he was talking about his daughter’s birthday or the North Korean’s setting off another A-bomb.

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