picnic tables and yellow flies and snakes

Have a bit of a dilemma. Last night I went out to do the last garden check of the day and noticed there was a coral snake adjacent to the compost pile. As I started over in that direction, it slithered into the pile. So now I don’t know if that’s his new home or was he just hiding out on a temporary basis. This is a newer pile so it’s not very decomposed at this point and needs to be turned once a week to keep it properly aerated. So how do I approach the turning process knowing that this killer may be lurking deep inside? What I need is a long handled turning fork – maybe a 10′ handle. It would be a much more dire situation if it were a small rattler but coral snakes are passive and not likely to charge me. Probably the biggest worry is having a heart attack if I see him climbing up the fork.

I mentioned that our old picnic table had fallen apart. It was a really nice table 8 years ago and I was disappointed that I had let it sit unused and unattended for so long. It’s an octagon shaped table with the seats attached in a spoke arrangement so individuals can sit down and get up without disturbing anyone else at the table. I knew it had deteriorated a bit and when I bought the deck lumber picked up a couple extra 2×4’s to do the repairs. When the extent of the damaged area became obvious, basically the entire under support structure, I threw the fix it idea away. But I kept coming back to it and studying just how tough it would be to rebuild all the damaged area and decided to give it a go. The table surface itself was in good shape as were all the seats. The problem was everywhere it touched the ground, it was completely rotted away. On a scale of 1-10, my carpentry is a 2. It would be lower but I do have some basic tools so that lifted my score off the bottom. The tools I had were one’s I had bought in 1970 to do a remodel job on our Altamonte Springs house. One thing I knew for sure is that the tools were not worn out. I attacked one of the 8 sections to see if I could accomplish anything and maybe work out some methodology. That section took me about 2 hours but ended up structurally pretty good and not all that ugly to look at. After that section, I knew exactly how to go about the others and completed the job in 6 more hours. I’m sure a modestly competent carpenter with decent tools could have done the whole thing in an hour but I am ever so personally proud of actually having done the job myself and with no injuries, just a stiff back. I set it on concrete stepping stones, filled the area level with 6 wheelbarrow loads of dirt, covered it with leaf mulch, and put on a couple coats of wood sealer. It’s back in service so along with the new one on the dock we have a long position in picnic tables and comfortable seating for 14 to eat. Doesn’t sound like much but it took me a full week of full days to get it ready for use. My neighbor is going to flight test it with a biker party of 50 on Memorial Day so we’ll have it broken in for Simon’s graduation party the next weekend.

Have never seen the yellow flies as numerous and as ferocious as this year. I’m working outside lots with all these projects and the only protection is covering up. None of the conventional repellants come close to working. So as hot as it is, long pants, thick socks and long sleeve shirts are the only answer. Nice. I started weighing myself in the morning before working the projects and then again at the end of the work day to see how much water I dripped out. It’s been consistently 3-5 pounds. After the work day I rehydrate and put the weight back on but still, losing that much water via sweat is incredible. I had all the materials on hand to make yellow fly traps – that would be beach balls, black paint, and a sticky substance called Tangle Foot. It’s a totally nasty job to construct the traps but something had to be done or it will be impossible to use the dock and the new picnic tables. I made four 16” traps and hung them in strategic locations around the dock. They are really effective and I was being swarmed as I was hanging them. Within an hour there were dozens stuck to the traps and by the end of the next day, literally hundreds were history. I used disposable latex gloves to protect myself from the tangle foot but even with the gloves, it will take a week for the stuff to wear off my hands where it touched skin. The only good news about yellow flies is that they have a short season and normally last only a month or so. Not sure what happens to them after that and really never asked.

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