News from our Journalist

Our neighbors are going away for a summer long camping trip so it’ll be quiet here and I’ll be flying without a safety net on my projects. George is usually around to bail me out when I get over my head with some mechanical difficulty. They’re heading out West with another couple, each in pickup truck style campers. If all goes according to schedule, they’ll be back mid October. What blows me away is the thought of spending 4 months in a truck bed camper. Nancy and I would be overwhelmed with too much togetherness after xxxxxxx hours??? Let alone days or weeks. A month of this much up close and personal would send us both to a loony bin.

Talked to little Tommy this week and he really seems excited about his life in Journalism school. He got the position as a Sports writer on the Missourian newspaper – that’s the Columbia, MO paper – which is exactly the job he had hoped for. His experience prior to this has been mostly in the Music and Entertainment field so this is going to be a nice change. Between that, two regular, earn money kind of jobs, and just the daily grind of living he has a full, dawn to midnight kind of existence and it really feels good when he finds a few minutes to call us. I feel more comfortable every time I talk to him that he’s made that transition from full dependance to almost full independence smoothly. His transition was more difficult than mine because I was only a couple hours from home and for the first year or so, could scoot home easily to get my clothes done and load up with food and go fishing with my dad. So I didn’t have that hard transition to the real world that both Chris and now little Tommy have had.

Politics – don’t read if you’re a Yobama fan.

Read a couple of interesting opinion pieces, one in the WSJ and one in the Washington Post. Combined they put into graphic descriptions exactly what I’d been grasping for and unable to articulate. The WSJ article pointed out that Yobama is the only pres we’ve ever had that isn’t a fisherman. He is an inner city guy and has no hook to anything not of a city venue. The other, by a decidedly lefty journalist, designated Yobama as our first female president. That would be in the same vein as when Clinton was designated our first black president. It has to do with his thought processes and deliberative processes being more in line with female approaches than male. Discuss, discuss, ask lots of questions, analyze, analyze, dramatize and only make decisions that seem to have the most votes from his circle of advisers. Sarah Palin would be more an alpha male type than Yobama and you can understand that imagery when you think about the goings on in the gulf. Nobody would expect Palin to do anything other than don a pair of chest waders and be in the marsh hauling on one of the booms with the rest of the guys. And she would have been there on the first day of the spill. Not that it would have made much difference in the end but that’s what an action guy does – jump into the fray and be ready to mix it up. You know she would have waived the Jones Act (as Bush did after Katrina) in a day after finding out it existed where Yobama did a couple of partial waivers months into the disaster because his first concerns were for his union constituents, not the folks along the gulf coast. Yobama simply has zero connection to anything going on down there other than knowing it’s a political nightmare and trying to figure how he can turn this to his advantage in terms of getting drilling stopped or an energy bill passed. Kind of like Afghanistan where he’s trying to figure how to tell half the people he’s really in it and the other half that we’re really going to leave quick quick. He hasn’t figured out yet that nobody believes him, whatever he says. And it will be that way so long as he’s not able to separate doing from politicking. He’s an inner city guy who understands street hoops, inner city gang wars and the like but wouldn’t be caught dead in a Louisiana bayou. When he was elected I caught the first whiffs of another Jimmy Carter but now the smell is enough to gag me.

Project Grass

A big advantage to soccer is that the half time is short because they don’t have many highlights to knock around. A penalty is a highlight with instant replays of the ref handing a player a yellow card. What else do you need to know? I did have a lot of fun kidding Simon and Eric since they are both soccer fans.

I was surprised this morning with a news story – but I honestly don’t know why. ABC said that a new report from some authentic sounding scientific or government authority found that childhood obesity rates have been dropping for the past 10 years. Dropping. Am I wacko or haven’t we been flooded with concerns about childhood obesity for the past couple of years? Isn’t this exactly the same as learning that the earth’s temperatures have actually been dropping for the past 10 years among continuous reports that it’s rising? Wonder if they’ll keep hounding McDonald’s about the Happy Meals? Is the media being led around by the nose and totally unable to distinguish fact from utter speculation?? duh. I have some ideas on how to cut the budget deficit.

Started closing down the garden big time. We got a goodly amount of veggies but it’s mostly run it’s course. Still a couple rows of beans coming on, plenty of peppers and eggplant but the real space eaters are done. I was anxious to pull the tomatoes to see if the nematodes had invaded, and if so, to what extent. I pulled out half the plants and found basically no nematode damage at all. Pulled a couple of zucchini squash plants with the same result. That’s a major victory. What I wonder is if once eliminated, they stay gone or can they reinvade? I’ll let most of the garden go dormant now for a few months using a clear plastic covering over certain areas to solarize the soil. Then replant in late Sept/early Oct from seeds started indoors mid – late August. I’m thinking that I’ll stay with all the extra steps I took to ward off the evil nematodes but play around with the pesticides and the fertilizer to see if I can increase the productivity. On the pesticides, I’m going to abandon the liquid chems and go with Sevin dust; with the fertilizer, going to supplement with a good dose of epson salts to add more trace metals to the soil. I’ve got two large batches of compost cooking that should be ready for prime time by the end of mid Sept. That should be maybe 5-6 cubic yards of organic goodness.

My current project is restoring the grass out the back door. I’m not a grass guy and have learned to live in harmony with the weeds but this particular area has gotten embarrassingly barren with really nasty looking weeds. This is a good time of the year to replant grass because of the frequent, afternoon rains. It’s tough going because of the heat and humidity but the grass takes off under these conditions. What we call grass in Fla is called crabgrass elsewhere and pulled out. Our St. Augustine grass is one of the only types of grass that can live in our climate so that’s what we have to work with. Fifty years ago when you bought a house, you had a sand/dirt yard and you sprigged or plugged it with St Augustine and then nursed it along as the runners spread fairly quickly and put down new roots every few inches. At some point people became lazier and wealthier such that instead of sprigging and plugging, you had an entire lawn put in using sod. In the morning there was a dirt yard; in the afternoon a full lawn carpet. Trouble is that the roots on the sod really never got down too deep and the runners are never able to put down new anchor roots so to maintain a decent lawn requires frequent application of fertilizer and pesticides. That means a lawn service.

Still, it’s much, much easier. I’m personally not a sod fan and wanted to do this the old fashion, tried and true way so I decided to tackle it a bit at a time rather than a broad, back breaking attack. I target an area of about 150-200 sf, weed it thoroughly by hand, till it and pitch in a few handfuls of fertilizer, then put in sod plugs every foot or so. I have to be sure it get’s plenty of water and hoe out invader weeds before the runners fill in but the end result is good and strong. I started this about a month ago and the first plot is maybe 50% covered and looking good. I’ve even had to mow it once to keep the growth horizontal (adding roots) instead of vertical. My objective is to have the back area looking decent by the end of the summer and not to have melted away in the process. I think the sweat dripping off my bod helps water and fertilizer the new plugs – another part of the process that is missing when a lawn is carpet sodded. I will admit that 50 years ago I would have sprigged instead of plugged but the challenge of starting with nothing but runners was more than I cared to undertake.

Me and the boys

Day 3 began with surf fishing and ended with lake swimming. The beach was awesome even though the fishing lacked much excitement – except for right when we started. I had rigged up for whiting and pompano with sand fleas for bait. There was a cross current that made holding difficult so I quickly decided to switch from conventional pyramid style weights to claw style that grab into the sand. I was reeling in the sand flea rig and got fairly close to shore when something came out of nowhere and nabbed the bait. After a nice fight I landed a medium size bluefish. Who ever heard of catching a bluefish on a sand flea while reeling in. So I have to figure that the water is full of ravenous blues and changed over to a killer bluefish lure. Turns out that one blue was it for the day. Did get a small whiting a couple hours later but all in all, the catching was poor. Still we had a great time – the water was the perfect temp so you could stay cool no matter how hot the sun. Eric had never fished before but it wasn’t long before he was casting like a champ.

We stopped for lunch at a really, run down drive-in that has the best fish sandwiches on the globe – if not the best then at least the biggest. The boys can really chow down so I wanted to see them handle these sandwiches which are just too much for either Nancy or me. They did a 95% job but nobody touched a fry or the coleslaw. Then back to the lake for the afternoon swimming. Eric had never been able to dive and wanted to learn so he focused on that and is doing a credible job after only 2 days and a few nasty belly flops. And he caught his first fish – a tiny bream but a fish nonetheless. It’s fun to watch him learn things that Simon and Tommy were doing when they were little kids.

Day 4 included a little wilderness kayaking at a State Park on Pellicer Creek. It’s a salt water marsh area reported to be a good redfish fishery. By the time we got there, it was hot, hot, and even hotter. Plus the wind was blowing fairly well making kayaking a tough go. We toughed it out for a couple of hours and then headed for cooler haunts – that would be back to the lake and the dock.

On the last day, today, the boys decided that they were in internet withdrawal, needed to see the world cup match with Ghana and wanted to spend more time swimming in the lake. I was ok with all of that since Saturday’s tend to be crowded at all the standard recreation areas. Nancy is scheduled home by mid afternoon so we have an hour or so to get some semblance of organization back into the house.

Had my first hiccup with the Virgin Mobile. I’m not sure what happened since someone else was manning the computer but the screen popped up with a message that the device (the modem) was not activated. It was kind enough to give me a phone number to call and a reference number but I was surprised to find that to talk to a human I had to call after 6AM Pacific time. Pacific Time?? What’s that all about? The phone message of course said I could get all kind of good info on the web site but duh, how can I get to the web site if the system is not activated. I did finally hook with the service tech and he got me back working but it sounds like maybe a recurring problem that has to do with the synchronization of equipment at the tower. He explained that there’s a receiving antenna and then a data transmitting antenna and occasional there could be a synchronization problem between them. It’s a nominally simple routine to get things back together and I wrote it all down. He asked me how many bars of signal I had and I told him one. He said that was pretty bad and I told him I was proud to see even one and that somehow that one bar had been carrying me for a couple of weeks.

Hangin’ with the boys

Back in May, Tom had planned a camping trip to the Smokey Mountains with Simon and his best friend Eric. I was invited to join. Tom ran into a medical issue that changed the plans so Simon and Eric are going to spend most of this week with me at the lake. When we planned the camping trip, Nancy and a friend planned a quilt tour in Georgia, so it will be just the boys and I for a few days. How great is that!!! The game plan is not to head off any distance but rather to use this place as a home base and do day trips – a day crabbing, a day surf fishing, a couple of days kayaking jungle rivers, a day at Ponce DeLeon springs and fun things like that. Both boys are 17 so it’s not like watching little kids and I’m really looking forward to having them all by myself – no adult supervision, so to speak.

The adventure for the first day with the boys was a crabbing trip. Simon and Nancy love crabs so we figured on the one day overlap while they were both here, we’d go crabbing. That way she was here to cook them too. A few years back we had found Bulow Plantation State Park to be a great place to crab so that’s where we headed. It was closed. Big sign said closed Tuesday and Wednesday and to make certain, they had a giant gate across the road. I knew of several other spots but so did lots of other folks. We did find a spot with a small path down to the creek that turned into a nice little beach area so we set up for business. The crabbing was nominally hot at first then dried up as the tide dropped. We tried several other spots but the best we could muster was half a dozen keepers. Lots of tiny ones that kept us hopping but sparse pickings for the big ones. Still, it was a fun day and we drove by the ocean to check out the prospects for surf fishing later in the week. The ocean is nice and clean, not rough, and the couple of fisherman we talked to said it was pretty good fishing earlier in the day. I spotted plenty of sand fleas in the surf so no doubt we’ll be back in a couple of days. Within an hour of our return home, Nancy, Simon and Eric were having crab appetizers before dinner. I watched over them with a nice red cab.

Day 2 the boys headed off for Deleon Springs, about 5 miles from the house. The Springs are a great place to cool off with a year round water temp of 72. That’s a little chilly for me so I gave them the day to themselves. Turns out the Springs were loaded with bus loads of kids from Flagler County so they were home in a couple of hours. We just moved the center of op’s to the dock and concentrated on teaching Eric to dive.

I think everyone’s familiar with the concept behind Hamburger Helper. I’ve taken it to a new level. Awhile back I mentioned that I had a leaf mulcher attachment for the Shop Vac and that it did a really great job of finely shredding oak leaves. I think I also mentioned that we had a world record crop of dead oak leaves that eventually were converted into a dozen or so 50 gallon garbage bags of mulch. I’m still using that mulch, months later and it played a prominent role in landscaping the new dock entryways. A product that I go through in larger quantities that you might guess is Miracle Gro potting soil. I usually pick up a 55 qt bag or two at Costco where it’s way cheaper than other retailers but with Costco, you’re never sure it will be in stock so I needed a way to stretch it. Enter Miracle Gro Helper which had heretofore been known only as oak leaf mulch. I do a 50/50 mix and it actually seems to enhance the performance over the straight, undiluted product. For sure it doesn’t seem to hurt it. I’m not going to patent it so feel free to jump all over this idea.

father’s day

Just finished the first 10 days on the Virgin Mobile 3G internet system and it did all I had hoped. I tried the connection in several locations inside and out and never had any problems so I’m satisfied that technically, we have a solution. We started with a 100mbyte, 10 day top off card to get a feel for just how much usage that is compared to what we normally expend. All the satellite based systems plans I had looked at give you a limit in terms of megabytes and I really didn’t have a clue as to what those numbers meant in terms of our actual needs. Relatively speaking, I’m sure we’re light users – a daily check of email, a peak at the market for me; some FaceBook and quilt site surfing for Nancy. We ended up using the 100mbytes but actually surfed more than usual the last couple of days to use up what we were going to lose. We probably used an extra few bytes making the transition from AOL to Gmail. Still hit the library wi-fi one day and will continue that to do the heavy loads such as downloading software upgrades or Nancy spending hours trying to find a 25000 mile frequent flyer ticket to Salt Lake. Some of those downloads could suck up the whole month’s worth. I had purchased a 1Gbyte card to check the next 30 days but it looks like that’s a large overkill for us so at this point my thinking is to get 300 mbyte/30 day cards. I’m reckoning that some months that will be totally adequate and some months it may run out sooner but on average, 8-10 mbytes/day is where we are.

Tom and the family came up to the lake for Father’s day. Lots of swimming, computer tuneups, and pleasant chatter. Nancy cooked Rigatoni featuring garden fresh sauce and Tina brought up a Hummingbird cake – reported to be the most asked for recipe of Southern Living magazine. As usual, we ate well. Simon described an interesting gardening class he’s taking where the Prof encourages the students to bring along guests for lectures. Not only encourages, but he would get to drop his lowest test score if he brings a guest to class. I’m sure I’ll be a guest at least once and wonder if the prof will change his policy after having me there. The other gator news is that Simon landed a coveted position to get football tickets. Student tickets are offered in a lottery system and it’s nearly impossible for a freshman to win a lottery spot but Simon did.

gator gone

Found out that once again we are ahead of our time. We were watching GMA the other morning and one of the expert talking heads described this new way to get something great for free. She said you can get an antenna for your TV and totally do away with the cable or satellite systems. Her explanation was that since the conversion from analog to digital signals, TV is now free if you just install a simple antenna. She explained how she gets 40 channels for free. She said an outside, specialized antenna will do even better. Wow! You can get free TV with an antenna. What will they think of next?

Got to fire up the generator this week. We came home to find a wide area power outage as a result of a big electrical storm. At first the power company was predicting we’d be back on by 8PM but subsequently called and moved the time to midnight. With that later info they added that they were still trying to find the problem so we decided to crank up the generator. We had never used the generator for actual power supply since we bought it a few years back. I had fired it up a few times a year just to make sure it would start when needed and it started on the first pull. I went through all the procedures I could remember to hook up the house but popped the breaker on the generator about a second after throwing the switch. I threw the house breakers on everything I thought might have put on too big a startup load and tried again. Success. Then I brought the heavier loading items on sequentially with no problems at all. I can pretty much run the whole house sans A/C and hot water. I think if I had turned off the dehumidifiers in the sheds before loading the generator, I would have been fine. We ran for a couple of hours so I feel pretty good about going into the storm season.

Started another garden experiment. I had decided to let things go dormant for a few months after the spring crop ran out of gas. My history in doing anything in July or August has been disastrous due to the combination of heat, humidity, and bugs. Well I’m backing off that just a bit and trying a couple of grape tomatoes. Of all the tomato types I’ve dealt with, cherry/grape tomatoes seem to be the most tolerant of the heat and humidity and if I start blasting them with insecticides, relentlessly from the get go, maybe we’ll keep some red in the salad in late summer. I’m also removing one of my nematode remedies, the sugar. I’ve planted the tomatoes in a row I recently built 100% from compost – no native soil at all. I think that’s the real key to beating the nematodes. The other thing I’m doing a bit different is that I sprinkled a handful of epson salts in the hole before planting. I’ve had some problem this season with tomatoes rotting on the vine and I know it’s not a watering issue. Could be some tiny insect that hit a month ago and planted something inside the tomato or could be a lack of some trace metal; ergo the epson salts. Simon signed up for an elective class in gardening starting in Sept. so I’m going to have some expert overseeing in the future. He’s also taking a class called Seeds of Change which has something to do with genetically altering seeds. So I guess I could be playing with tomato flavored cucumbers or cucumber flavored tomatoes next season.

A while back I mentioned spotting a gator in the lake and also a lure that had been hung in a tree to attract it to that location. I took a kayak down to that spot today and the lure is gone. It was a ripe chicken hanging by a heavy rope attached to a thick branch so there’s no missing it. I guess that means it did it’s job and the folks who placed it also removed it. For sure, I haven’t spotted the gator since late May which is a pretty good sign that it’s no longer sailing in these waters.

If anybody had any questions about how screwed up the gov’t is or rather, how inept it is at handling any sort of emergency situation, you need only look at the oil spill in the gulf. Between the Coast Guard, the EPA, OSHA, DOE and whatever agency has a finger in the pie, it’s a complete joke. It would seem to even the most casual observer that the one lesson that should have been learned from Katrina is that there needs to be one person put in charge that trumps all these unhooked and competing agencies. Two months into it and they’re still fighting the Jones Act, a maritime union job protector. Yeah, let’s let the fed’s run healthcare.

cucumbers to beef conversion

Several people have asked me how it feels to be 70. Do you feel any different? For the record, the answer is yes. It’s really been hot. I was never this hot when I was 69. In fact I remember at 69 I was often cold. I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle 71.

It’s so hot I’ve reverted to full summer mode a month or two ahead of schedule. Full summer mode means an end to all outdoor projects and a switch from shorts to bathing suit as a daily uniform. Good thing the heat killed off the yellow flies. I gather up my goodies – book, soduko, laptop – and head down to the dock early in the day. It’s usually 10-15 degrees cooler with a nice breeze off the lake and with an occasional jump in the lake for an instant cool down, I can be nice and comfortable all day long. I just leave my XM radio on full time down at the dock tuned to The Coffee House channel with an occasional short switch to Fox News to make sure the rest of the world is still there. Now that I have that wireless internet critter hanging on the laptop, I could even check my email if I gave a damn. This will probably be my mode now until October.

Good news on the big 12 front. Texas decided not to go west to the Pac 10. Hopefully Oklahoma will make the same decision. I’m guessing Texas and Oklahoma have been closely coordinating on it and agreed to stick together. I never liked Nebraska anyway but do hate to see Colorado break away. I would have been better with Colorado joining the Mountain West to strengthen that conference and join Colorado State and Air Force.

As I’ve mentioned, we’re getting more veggies out of the garden now than we can consume. Of course we could freeze or can the excess but the reality is that we have garden stuff available 9-10 months a year so there really is no compelling reason to preserve. So we end up giving away a fair amount, mostly to family or to Nancy’s friends at Bridge and Quilting. That’s not always a one way street since we get an occasional box of blueberries, eggs and yesterday some beef. One of the recipients of our harvests raises cattle so she reciprocated in kind – steak for cucumbers.

So far this Virgin Mobile thing seems to be working out ok. I don’t know what the actual speeds are but it seems consistent with the wi-fi networks we’ve been hooking to. Never not had coverage and our usage pattern seems consistent with the cost I was looking for. Five days into it, we’ve used 30Mbytes against the 100 Mbyte, 10 day top off card I started with. I’ve also purchased a $40 card/1Gbyte/30 day card to give us a full month to home in on our usage rate. What I’d love to find is that the right amount for us is the $20/300Mbyte/30day card but my gut tells me that they cleverly avoid offering the sweet spot at $30 for 500 Mbyte. Perhaps the winning formula will be to sign up for a regular 300 Mbyte plan and keep a few of the $10 top off cards handy just in case.