Tis the season

Well it’s that time of year again. Storm season. So this morning I got up and started getting prepared. Brought out the generator and cranked it up to make sure it would run when needed. Then topped off all my garden equipment with the remaining gas from my stocks and took the empties to the gas station to load up. As it turns out, I have 20 gallons of external storage and over the past year I used every last drop – counting today’s top off. That means I use 20 gallons a year with the mower and chipper since the only time I used the generator all year was to start it once every few months to make sure it was running. I think the generator runs for 10-12 hours on For those of you who have never experienced hurricane season, one of the things that happens is that you lose electricity which shuts down gas stations. So part of everybody’s prep is to be sure your gas tanks are full. If you wait until a couple of days before a storm hits, the stations are mob scenes so I just get it done early and forget about it. Ditto propane so we can grill for a couple of weeks if need be. Beyond that about the only thing we do is tie down all the dock stuff and get anything that could fly fastened down or put away. Move the chain saw up to the house in case we have to cut our way out. That sounds bad but our driveway is a few hundred feet long with jungle on both sides. Big storm wind invariably brings down a couple of big branches if not whole trees and we just anticipate the likelihood of having to clear a path. Right now we’re planning a 10 trip to visit Dallas, Columbia MO, and Rock Hill SC but we’ll be keeping a close eye on the tropics and be ready to abort as weather conditions dictate.

Hey, want to hear a bizarre one. Nancy learned about a quilt shop in Alachua, Fl. We entered the address in the GPS and off she went. The GPS took her to an empty lot. So she called the shop and was directed there verbally. Interestingly the place had the same address as was plugged into the GPS, xxxxx N Main St. Turns out that the house is an old, historic house that was moved to this location and renovated and in Florida if the house is over 100 years old and moved, it has to retain the same house number as it did originally. So even though the house number is totally out of sequence with it’s neighbors, that’s the rule.
On healthcare – One provision in one of the house health care bills that’s catching lots of heat is the provision for end of life counseling. Some see it as leading to state sponsored euthanasia; some see it as a simple counseling service being added to medicare. Here’s my concern – since when does it take an act of congress to add a simple benefit to medicare? What’s covered or not covered changes all the time and I don’t ever recall hearing about congressional debates. The other thing that bothers me is why it takes 10 pages in a 1000 page bill to add a counseling service. Seems like if it’s that innocuous, it would be done in 10 sentences, even by politicians. Nah, something more to this than meets the eye.

And with no tort reform, liability reform on the table – the whole idea that this is health reform is a joke. Legal costs add about 3% to the cost of healthcare and 3 out of 4 suits brought are fraudulent. And it’s not even open for discussion.

What about the 47M people who are uninsured. Almost half of those could be insured but choose not to buy insurance. 9M are illegal immigrants. Whittle the big scary number down and you get to something more manageable. In fact the number I’ve read for those legal citizens who aren’t covered but would like to be is 9M. What the feds want to do is add all those who are opting out of the insurance system as payers. Most of these folks are young, healthy folks who just don’t think anything is going to happen to them. And mostly they’re right. And that’s exactly who the gov’t wants – people that pay but do not get sick. Can’t blame them for that. Somebody has to pay. But freedom of choice is fairly basic to Americans and that’s what’s stirring up so much anxiety. Most people have made their choice and are happy with it.

But if you just stand back from the whole thing, you know that you are not going to add a bunch of people and have total costs go down. Even to remain $$ neutral, you either have to add money – read taxes – or cut back on services to those currently covered – read senior citizens. It’s simply dishonest to say we’re going to do more for less money. And if you use the argument I’ve heard that as much as half of the new costs could be covered by eliminating fraud and waste from medicare and medicaid – my answer to that is if you can do it, just go ahead and do it. You sure as hell don’t need a new healthcare bill to get rid of waste and fraud. And the fact that there’s that much in the current system is reason alone not to give the gov’t even more control.

My suggestion is to set a handful of objectives, plainly stated, that the big majority can get behind. Things like not allowing insurance companies to drop coverage or not insure because of pre-exisiting conditions. Tort reform to reduce legal costs to medical providers. Create a branch of the FBI that does nothing but go after medicare/medicaid fraud. Not many people would argue with any of these improvements and should not result in higher costs for anybody.

Take anything that smells like Socialized medicine or moral issues, read abortion, off the table.

And how’s this for an idea – open a few Medical Universities in the mold of the military academies. Selective entry, free education, a 5 year commitment to practice at a public health venue – maybe VA hospitals or one of the fully integrated medical clinics sauch as Mayo or Cleveland clinic. Crank out medical professionals to boost the supply and turn them out without the huge debt most graduate with now. I can’t help but think that will help hold costs down.

Solarizing the garden

Going to try something new in the garden. It’s called solarization. I read an article in the paper and then went online to find more information. I ended up on a website called Floridagardener.com or something like that. They had a big dissertation on solarizing the garden and how it was the only way to succeed with a garden in Florida.

The theory is that you heat the garden soil which kills off lots of fungus, bacteria, and critters. When the solarization process is complete, supposedly you are working with nearly sterile soil – still all the nutrients but none of the evil stuff. You do it in July and maybe August. Last year I had decided to just walk away from the garden in those months – but didn’t remember I had made that decision this year. But this new find gives me the impetus to follow through and use the summer to cook the ground. What you do is cover it with clear plastic, 1-6 mil. and let it sit for 6 weeks or so. According to the person who wrote the article, the surface temp could reach as high as 140 degrees and up to 100 degrees 18” deep. But I’m not so sure it’s going to work in my garden. It has to do with the level of the lake and, in turn, the ground water level. The lake is as high as it’s been since 2004 when we had back to back wet hurricanes in a matter of weeks. The lake was maybe 6” higher then than now. Years ago George had sunk some concrete filled 4” pvc pipes into the ground as supports for part of his pigeon coop. When we removed the coop and turned that area into a garden, we left 6 of those posts in, thinking maybe they would be good supports for frost cloth or something. Well they kind of get in the way so I pulled them out. They were sunk about 3′ down and had been in for at least 20 years so it was tough to get them out. It nearly killed me but I managed to wrestle them out of the ground. The holes they left quickly filled up with water so it was easy to see the ground water level. It was about 10” down which explains why plants with roots longer than 10” were dying off. But my concern is that with the water level that close to the surface will the soil ever heat much or am I fighting a giant heat sink. Still, I’ve to to try.

So I hit Lowes to find out what kind of investment it was going to take for enough plastic to cover the garden. Turns out the 1 mil stuff is really cheap. I picked up 10’x20′ rolls for $3 and set out spreading it over the dormant areas of the garden. I clipped back the Golden Guardian marigold to ground level, leaving the roots in place to keep warding off the nematodes then laid the plastic over top. So that should be a combination of poisoning them and cooking them – all organic and natural of course. Of course as soon as I had the first two sheets laid down, it rained 2” in an hour so the whole thing was underwater. My plan is to leave it in place until mid Sept. At that time and assuming no big storms pending, I’ll replant the fall stuff.

This same site told me that now is the time to start my fall seeds – brocolli, onions, celery and stuff like that. In the past I had not done that until mid Sept but based on this input, I’ll change my strategy and start earlier. I guess the worst that can happen is that it’s too hot for the little seedlings and I start again in mid Sept when I usually do.

And a question for the serious gardener – if you sprinkle Ambro fire ant killer in the garden, will the plants take some of it up and protect you from fire ant bites? Since you’re going only after fire ants can you still call the garden organic? yeah, I think so.

I thought it was just a bit strange when Sarah Palin resigned before her term was over. I think it is just a bit strange that Mel Martinez resigned before his term was over. Now the mayor of Eustis resigns. Wonder if something’s going on? When asked why, both gave really nebulous, fuzzy answers. Neither of these politicians was in any trouble; no health issues. I mean personally, I wouldn’t take either of the jobs if it was handed to me on a silver platter. Can you imagine going to work every day and know that you might have to interface with guys like Chuck Schumer or Nancy Pelosi, or Henry, nostrils, Waxman? But folks who get as far up the political food chain as these two, have really big egos and strong stomachs so you wouldn’t think they’d jump from active politics to a staff position in the RNC or something. With Palin, I could see where the gov’t job was cutting into her salmon fishing time but to the best of my knowledge, Martinez isn’t a fisherman. Is it possible that the Castro brothers have made him an offer he can’t refuse? nah. I thought maybe Martinez and our Gov, Charlie Crist, had made some kind of deal where Charlie would run for the senate and Mel would run for Gov. nah. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see where this goes. I’m very, very suspicious.

vitamin D

I’d sure like to see a real analysis of the cash for clunkers program. The Feds pop out either $3500 or $4500 but how much of it comes back to gov’ts – local and federal- in terms of sales tax, income tax, registration fees etc etc. Then what about gross employment impact – employment at dealers, manufacturers, and the bars where the car salesmen go after having a killer day. Count the savings in unemployment costs and the taxes all those folks pay. And what about the chain that starts with the clunker itself. Car crushers – is there enough steel being recycled to mean anything? The crunched cars have to be moved to a melt down facility and eventually poured into real, useable steel. It’s always been my understanding that reclaimed steel is less expensive to manufacture than steel from raw ore. Bet this one be an interesting Ph.D. project for some business school guy or guyette. I know it’s really popped my Ford stock. Two of the top five cars being purchased from Clunker deals are Fords. But I just wonder, if it wasn’t for the fact that the fed’s now own GM, would there be a cash for clunkers program at all? If they had taken over Whirlpool, would it be a cash for appliances program? What about a cash for air conditioner program? Wait, I’ve got it – how about a big tax rebate and you could spend it on anything you wanted but – you would be required to actually spend it on goods – couldn’t pay down mortgages or credit cards. I just don’t think the cash for pot hole thing makes any sense.

Did you hear the latest medical finding that there is widespread vitamin D deficiencies? Duh – you get lots of vitamin D from the sun but not if you are slathered up with SPF 50. Turns out it’s hard to get it from diets and supplements. For example you’d have to drink a quart of milk a day to get the minimum recommended amount – the same as 15 minutes in the sun.

Seems this vitamin deficiency causes or contributes to diabetes, high blood pressure, and weak bones. So maybe the whole increase in childhood diabetes is related to not getting enough sun, Is it possible then that the large increase in juvenile diabetes is not because of chubby kids, but kids that have been protected from or avoid the sun’s rays. You know, just not getting outside and playing like they used to. The whole sun thing never made much sense to me anyway. Fifty years ago everybody knew the sun was good for you. Logically, if the sun was bad, humans would have died out somewhere along the way or maybe evolved with hairy bodies or scales or something. Especially when you think that it’s only in the last few decades that people became paranoid about sun exposure. Of course in later life you have to worry about skin problems and do annual visits to a dermatologist to burn things off your body. I’m not totally convinced it’s because of sun exposure but at least you made it to old age and didn’t die early from a lack of sun exposure. The dermatologist we go to is a poster boy for using sun block in moderation. This guy must bathe in SPF 80 a couple times a day. He wears white doctors gear and his skin basically blends into his uni. Every time he asks me if I use sunblock, I am oh so tempted to say “no, because then I’d look like you”. But I don’t. I do use sunblock on my face when I’m going to the beach. Particularly lip stuff and nose coating but other than that……………. When we were teeners, we’d sometimes use a mix of baby oil and iodine. Not sure if that was SPF 1 or what but it was strictly done so you’d get brown rather than red. I think if you have red hair and freckles, that’s God’s way of telling you to use sunblock. For the rest of us – just take it easy and work into it over the season.

Nancy and I felt a vitamin D deficiency coming on yesterday so we quick hit the beach for half a day. As I stood there in the surf with my new rod, I could just feel those D hormones creeping into my body and recharging my battery. Caught about a dozen small whiting too so that didn’t hurt any. When I say small, I mean 10 fish to the pound. If it were bluefish season, they would have been bait. And one other beach comment – for whatever reason the water is way cooler than normal. It seems to me to be about mid November kind of cool; beginning of the bluefish run cool Didn’t hurt the fishing but caused the sand fleas to dig deep and me to buy shrimp. That’s very unusual in the summer.
One more D comment – got me to wondering if liberal disease is caused by a vitamin D deficiency. I had always considered it a neurological disease associated with a lack of sunshine. I came to that conclusion by noting that statistically those areas of the country with the highest density of liberals was also the sun deprived areas. Think NE, NW and basically the whole belt from Washington DC on the East to San Francisco on the West coast. So perhaps instead of it being neurologically based, it is actually hormonal – vitamin D is a hormone – true fact.