cuc with child

The experimental cuc is with child. So that answers the question – if you break off your cuc during planting, can you regrow the stem and get cucumbers? I guess it’s remotely possible that it will have lost it’s hybrid characteristics and taste differently but I kind of doubt it. I’ll know in a couple of weeks.

I read something on the internet that gave me pause regarding the use of peat pots. Some commenters were reporting losses after planting due to the peat pot wicking water away from the roots of the contained plant. I lost an unusually high number of tomato plants and have had to really nurse along the other starts with frequent soaking. I have also noted after pulling up older plants that have finished their course, that the peat pot has not totally disintegrated – something I thought happened within a couple weeks of planting. I went out and did a close inspection of the peat pots I had planted and I suspect I may have been part of the problem. It looks to me like if the top rim of the pot is exposed to the air, it quickly dries out and probably does wick the moisture from the soil inside the pot. I never thought of that and wasn’t at all concerned if some of the rim was exposed. I’ve got about 20 pots left so when I use those I’ll be sure to break down the rim and make sure the entire pot is buried. Other folks complained about the cost of the pots, which I too have thought a bit high. If you buy them in lots of 100, they run between 10 and 15 cents each. Among those that had gone away from the peat pots, several recommended styrofoam coffee cups so I decided to give that a try. It involves removing the plant from the styrofoam container when transplanting but I think I’ll try that on the next batch of seedlings which are scheduled to get started today. The equivalent size styrofoam cup costs about 1 cent. Another group recommended making the pots from newspaper. I certainly have enough paper to make a jillion of so pots but reading the instructions does make it sound like a craft slightly above my dexterity level. Maybe I can interest my bride in the challenge.

We visited Simon to celebrate his 18th birthday and to give Nancy an opportunity to see his dorm room and other campus highlights. The last time she had visited the campus was sometime back in the late 60’s or early 70’s. It’s an hour and a half, portal to portal and a very nice, easy drive on a Sunday morning. His favorite dining hall was transitioning from breakfast to lunch so we each had exactly what we wanted. Simon seems to be loving the food and eating plenty but not putting on any weight – a couple of inches of altitude but no fat. He lives on the third floor so running up and down those stairs plus biking across campus several times a day is burning all the extra calories the goodies could be adding. One thing comes across loud and clear – he’s loving it.

All of a sudden we’re in the 80’s and getting some rain. That means I can remove the palmetto sun screens I have set beside most of the young plants and it means a shift in garden occupants – adding cauliflower and Chinese cabbage soon. Personally I’m ok with the sun shades but I do admit it makes the garden look a bit weird. The risk I took planting carrots, broccoli, and cabbage a week ago seems to have been a good bet. Assuming no weather surprises, this year the transition from hot weather crops to cool weather crops should be seamless with at least a month of overlap and great variety. The great thing is that with the expanded area, I still have almost 100SF unplanted so I can continue to add new plants gradually, setting up a continuous stream of goodies.

Political comment – I think it’s obscene that Obama has moved his campaigning onto college campuses. Trying to rally the most innocent, least political savvy group to vote for Democrats is shameful. This is a group that mostly has no concept at all of taxes, economics, earning a living or of many of the realities they’ll face in 10 years and sadly they will have been party to electing the very group that will suck them dry in the future. I honestly don’t see much difference between this and the cons that prey on the elderly – except that one is called a crime. The voting age used to be 21 and there was a good reason for that. Same logic as restricting sale of alcohol and tobacco to age 21. Young folks just don’t have the life experience to appreciate how destructive these early decisions can be on the rest of their lives. I’m not sure that thirty’s not an even better requirement. I think I was at least that and probably more like forty before I started understanding what the tax burdens and government regulations were really all about.

Picking squash

Correction – that gator was 17‘ long, 1025 lb. She was using spinning tackle with a snatch hook. Can you imagine snagging a 17′ gator. If I even saw that while fishing, I’d be easing out of the area hoping I hadn’t somehow pissed it off. I heard her on Fox News and she said they had the meat processed and the whole skin will decorate a wall in their house. I’m falling in love. I’m trying to visualize the conversation with Nancy if I suggested hanging a gator hide on the wall. What else is weird about this is that she’s a Yankee.

Finally a break in the summer heat. We’re approaching the perfect situation for the garden with daytime temps at or below 90 and afternoon clouds and maybe showers. Should be picking cucumbers and squash before the end of the month, a couple of weeks earlier than my master plan.

I am actually within a day or two of picking the first zucchini squash from the late summer planting. This is remarkable because it’s about 2 weeks earlier than I anticipated. In this case, that’s 30% faster. I literally planted the seeds 8/17 in a peat pot; It germinated in less than a week and I moved it into the garden 8/25. So it’s gone from seed to harvest in just over a month which is a big surprise to me. There are at least 6 more fruit on the same plant. The variety is called Cougar. It’s a yellow, bush variety and I selected it because it’s a hybrid and supposedly very disease resistant. I also chose it because it has a scheduled time to fruit of 49 days which, in my mind, meant I could get some fruit from it before the nematodes found the roots. Interestingly, there’s a companion green variety called Tigress which I planted at exactly the same time. Germination was the same and I moved both to the garden at the same time but the Tigress is following the planned schedule and just now popping out a few micro zucchinis so I’ll be picking from that plant right on schedule.

Invented another eggplant recipe last night. The good thing was that grape tomatoes were another key ingredient. I sauteed chopped onion, celery, and green pepper. Only the green pepper came from the garden. Then added an eggplant, also chopped and continued the cooking. About 10 minutes later I added a large handful of halved grape tomatoes and finished it all off for another 5 minutes. Really good. The next melange will incorporate the first of this season’s zucchini mentioned above. It looks like that combo will be possible for the next month or two since there are more blossoms still coming on all the main ingredients.

Updating the experimental cucumber – I moved it to the main garden yesterday and it looks strong one day later. The interesting thing about that is that when I put it in the peat pot after a week or so in water, it had sprouted a couple of roots that were shorter than 2”. Yesterday when I planted it, the roots were actually poking through the peat pot. In my mind, that’s a spectacular rate of growth. I planted it away from the other cucumbers so I can track it separately but at this point, I’m anticipating it will perform exactly like it’s siblings in terms of cucumber production. As it looks now, us, Nancy’s quilt club, and her bridge clubs will be overdosing on cucumbers within 2-3 weeks. I counted 15 micro cuc’s on one bush this morning – and there’s 9 more plants following right behind. I’m going to try to do a better job of picking this season to see if I can extend the harvest right up to the first freeze.

A new hero

I think the only thing saving the Gators this year is the schedule. Glad it’s Kentucky next week and not Alabama. Tennessee is for sure an SEC team but they are in a bigger rebuilding mode than even the Gators. Still, they’re a big, strong team and it was good to see the Gators able to hang in nicely. I was most disappointed to see that after three games the center is still having trouble getting the ball to the quarterback. Seems like that’s the most fundamental part of the game. And too bad about losing another starter to the law. Not sure how it is that guys like that aren’t washed out in the recruiting process. Back when FSU was kickin’ butt, we used to call them the Criminoles. Maybe you have to have a few violent felons on the team to push it over the top.

One of my favorite garden tools gave it up today. I mentioned a while back that I had acquired a leaf mulching attachment for a Shop Vac and that did an awesome job of converting leaves into chopped up mulch. My driveway was loading with leaves again so I broke it out after letting it sit idle for the last 6 months. I did about four large batches when it nominally blew up – at least it sounded like it was coming apart at the seams. I got to the power switch within a few microseconds and removed the mulching top from the bucket where I saw a large, hard plastic part that was obviously part of the machine’s innards. I’m not generally a big fix-it guy but decided to take this one on and after an hour or so wrestling with it, I managed to get the motor removed and to the shattered impeller. It’s a 4 bladed. hard plastic impeller from which one of the four blades had broken off. I was amazed at how badly chewed up the remaining 3 blades were considering that the machine still did a good job sucking up and shredding leaves. I will admit that it’s seen it’s share of pebbles and twigs going along with the leaves so I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a few dings but these blades were fairly mutilated. I had no trouble at all finding the spare part on line and was pleased to see the unit has a 2 year warranty but I give it slim odds that I actually have the proof of purchase that is likely required to exercise the warranty. I won’t give them much trouble in any event since I’m sure the designers had no intention of it grinding anything but leaves. I’m kind of hoping they have a stainless steel replacement as an option. If it’s not too expensive a part, I think I’ll buy a couple spares. Now that I know how to disassemble the unit, I can get to the impeller in about 5 minutes compared to the hour it took the first time – 4 screws to remove instead of the 15 or so I removed this time. It’ll take me about 10 minutes to get it back together when I get the new impeller. I shouldn’t need it until the end of the year when the maple starts shedding.

I have a new female hero. The gal in South Carolina who took on a huge Gator and won. She was actually hunting gators and came on to this 13′, 900 lb. monster. She caught it with a hook and line and got it close enough to dispatch it with a few gunshots. The report also said there was some stabbing in the final kill but I take that as media hype. Sounds a little gruesome but I’m ok with thinning out the gator population. The last time I was fishing in South Carolina, I did see some of the largest gators I had ever seen anywhere so it didn’t surprise me that such critters were indeed swimming around in SC. I think this sweet pea should tryout for a spot on the Gator cheerleading squad. A natural. When she did the Gator chomp, it would be the real thing.

Cucumber experiment

I am once again a temporary bachelor. Nancy is making her trek to Utah for heavy duty bridge, quilting and yakkety yak. I don’t have anything special planned but one thing I don’t have to worry about is eating. Nancy stuffs the refrigerator with leftovers and does everything but place a post-it note on each to make sure I eat them on the proper date and at the proper time. My job is to make sure they’re all gone by the time she gets back, one way or the other. I made sure we had finished all the normal Netflix selections so that my special blend starts arriving today. I’ll breeze through season 2 of Deadwood and maybe a couple of Tarantino movies. Other than that, just tend the garden and double down on the fishing. Tough, but I think I can deal with it. I did have a bachelor party the other night with John Bachmann and my neighbor Rick. We grilled wings, burgers and put away a few libations. The dancing girls never showed up and my 90 year old neighbor, Mae, wouldn’t sub.

While on the garden – holy cow, I’ve created a grape tomato monster. I mentioned earlier that the plants were growing bigger and bigger and now they’re loading up with grape tomatoes. I’ve been pretty much a bust at growing regular tomatoes this year but I’m making up for it with grapes. Thinking ahead, how about sprinkling grape tomatoes on my cereal instead of strawberries; grape tomato wraps for lunch; sauteed grape tomatoes and eggplant as a main dinner entree; a vanilla ice cream and tomato sundae. OK, problem solved. By the time Nancy gets back my complexion will be somewhere between pink and red.

I’m in the midst of a cucumber experiment that could be a breakthrough. A couple weeks back Tom called and said he had accidentally broken off one of his cucumber plants right at the base. I sympathized with him and two days later did the exact same thing on one of my cucumbers. I decided to try something and took the broken piece inside into a cup full of water, wondering if perhaps it could root. It sure looked dead but never looked worse than in the first day and after a week, the tip perked up and actually looked alive. The rest of the leaves were green but dead looking and I expected they would eventually drop off. A couple did fall off but the majority held on. Now all of the leaves look alive, the tip is showing new growth and I can actually see roots growing. My plan is to plant it in potting soil on the screened porch to protect it from direct sunlight and, if it takes, transplant it in the garden to see if it will actually produce cucumbers.

I was really disappointed in one result from Tuesday’s elections – the mayor of Washington DC went down in flames. That means the school superintendent, Michelle Rhee, will be history as well. She was making great progress in turning around the worst public school system in the nation but stepped on union toes to do so. The folks in Washington deserve exactly what comes. I’m sure Ms. Rhee will have job offers galore to grab hold of failing school districts elsewhere.

Strong stomach garden season

Igor?

For those of the Gator persuasion, this is going to be a longggggggggggg season.

In Utah we often had an abundance of zucchini and our friends were the recipients of loaves of zucchini bread from time to time. Now it’s Eggplant parmesan. Nancy makes it in large batches and then freezes it in throwaway aluminum loaf pans. Some friends get the raw eggplant to do with as they wish; others get the parm. Tomorrow I’m making a batch of my zucchini-eggplant dish with a new twist – adding rice. Here in the south, not too many people do eggplant but I noticed up in the northeast, it was a prominent vege in the farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and featured at every Italian restaurant in Little Italy. So it’s definitely an ethnic, Mediterranean favorite.

I mentioned replanting the pole beans with a new variety after the Kwintus failure. Wow – three days after planting the seeds, they popped out of the ground and it seems as if you can watch them grow on an hourly basis. They’re advertised as a 55 day variety with vines growing up to 8′ so I guess if you do the math, you should expect almost 2” per day. So far the sun isn’t intimidating them at all and maybe they’ll wrap their tentacles around any attacking grasshoppers.

Have I mentioned that you really need a strong stomach (a weak mind helps) to try to start things going in the garden in late summer? The young plants just get hit with the hot, direct sunlight right out of the chute. In the spring, it’s nominally cool when the plants hit the garden and they have months to acclimate before the sun gets really brutal and by then, many have already produced and gone off to plant heaven. And if the sun doesn’t get them, the voracious grasshoppers do. You just have to be able to deal with watching a young plant get to where it’s looking good and then bingo, a few hours later it’s been chopped off just above ground level. If you start to see leaves getting chewed on, you have time to spring into action but a chewed through stem is a trip to the plant morgue. I’m even running out of spares. You keep telling yourself that if anything at all survives, you’re ahead of the game plus there’s only a month or so until it cools off.

Lots of action going on with the 5 acre lot up at the corner. A year or so ago the tree filled, retired nursery was sold and cleared except for a few decorative oaks and an open pole barn. In our opinion the new owner converted a beautiful piece of property into an eyesore. His plan was to create a palm tree nursery. It sat dormant for about 6 months then he had a serious fence installed – a chain link fence with a few strands of barbwire on top – and loaded some small palm trees in the pole barn. The field grew up with tall, ugly weeds until last month when he hired someone to cut it. In addition to cutting it, the guy must have sprayed roundup because it was a totally brown field with no signs of the regrowth you’d normally see with a cut field. Last week he unloaded two dump trucks of compost and placed out stakes on 20′ centers. The compost was distributed with a pile set beside each stake. My neighbor talked to the worker who told him the next step was to plant palm trees at each stake point so I guess it’s really going to happen. Right now I have no idea what kind of palms he’ll be growing but I guess all the mysteries will cleared within the next few months.

Is Shrek a congressman in Florida?

I never thought I’d say it but I miss the car dealer ads on TV. Between David Maus and Bob Dance we used to see car ads on a saturation basis. But about 6 months ago the politicians bought up all the available ad space and since then it’s been almost nothing but election ads. For the primaries, the ads were all negative. I mean all and I mean negative. Now we’re into the fall election campaigns and the ads so far have been sickeningly sweet and wall to wall. I’m totally over it.

One of the most sickening is for a congressmen who is probably the biggest jerk ever to represent a District in Florida if not the whole nation. In fact I’ve been voting for almost 50 years and would put this wacko in first place over that span. That would include Florida, California, Texas and Utah. I mean California has a serious collection of losers but I’m putting our man up against all of them in the kook department. I don’t know what district he represents but know it’s not the one where I vote but he’s an embarrassment for all of us. I can only hope that the voters in whatever district he represents do the right thing this time and chalk it all up to a big mistake. The good news is that this character won’t have to worry about unemployment when he’s dumped. I would have to guess he comes from whatever district includes Disney World and would be welcomed back into his Goofy costume as a walk around character in the park. He has all the moves down pat so I would have to guess that was his profession before the folks in his district had a collective brain seizure. Nancy thinks he looks like Shrek and I do see the resemblance. I’m not naming this kook because it’s possible someone reading this blog actually voted for this character. I’m assuming they see the error of their ways, done their penance and will vote the opposition this one time.

Time for a garden update. Last season’s crop is down to eggplants, grape tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and basil, none of which is showing any signs of diminishing. With respect to the items I’ve been planting since mid August, it’s a mixed bag. This is the toughest time to do a garden in Florida since it’s peak critter season and the period of peak sun intensity. I try hard to prepare the soil, condition the plants before setting them out in the garden, and then shading and spraying them. And I start plenty of spare seeds to account for the fallout. With the exception of the spaghetti squash, all other varieties are doing well. I did lose a couple but had spares to fill the gap and those seem to be making it. That includes zucchini, butternut, and acorn squash. Two of the three cucumbers are looking good; the third one is on life support. I also put in a couple cantaloups against a background of bad history with melons in general. The plants do look good but I’m not holding my breath. So far so good.

So much for the good news. I knew the tomatoes were going to be problematic and I am down to 5 plants from 12 started. Two or three cratered the day following transplantation; the rest crashed after a week or so. I’m really not sure what’s getting them since they just roll over and give it up. I also had a 100% failure with my Kwintus pole beans. In that case I was working with old seed – I seem to recall buying them 2 years ago and planting half the pack back then – so somewhere along the line, they were damaged. Luckily I had a fresh packet of replacement pole beans, a variety called Smeraldo, so we still have a chance to supply the Thanksgiving green bean casserole.

Next up to hit the garden are green peppers and another round of cucumbers. I’ll give them another week in the peat pots with a daily increase in sun exposure – the mistake I think I made with the tomatoes. I have some cabbage and broccoli seeds in the germination stage which should be ready for the big time in early October. Other seeds in process include parsley, onions, and celery. These three have really hard, really tiny seeds that take forever to germinate and then grow very slowly. All are 120 day crops and won’t be ready for transplant to the garden until November.

Another observation regarding seed germination. I’ve noticed that when I start a row of hybrid seeds indoors, the seeds germinate literally within hours of each other. When I start a row of heritage, non hybrids, the germination can vary by days, if not weeks, from seed to seed. This was really noticeable with the cabbage seeds noted above. I had a row of hybrids and a row of non hybrids. I went to bed the other night and none had germinated; in the morning the entire row of hybrids had germinated. Over the following week, the non hybrids have popped up in what seems to be a totally random fashion. I’m guessing that means that after planting, in the case of the hybrids they will mature at about the same date making them good for bulk picking whereas the heritage variety will mature over a longer period and not create a cabbage overload.

What’s a Hermine?

Disaster struck on the computer front. For the past couple of weeks I had noticed that occasionally the machine froze and at other times it was incredibly slow. This was offline and had nothing to do with my internet connection. It felt suspiciously like a degrading disk drive or a spreading corruption so I ran a built in disk utility. After a few minutes it starting listing problems – in red so you know they are serious. At that point I decided to check in with the IT dept and get an appointment to visit the Genius bar at the closest Apple store. The one lucky thing was that when I first experienced a freeze I made mental note that I was very close to the one year warranty point and tried to sign up for a 2 year Apple Care agreement. The agreement didn’t arrive before we left for NY so I wasn’t sure I would be able to register the agreement or not. It did take a couple of phone calls but they registered the service agreement on Friday, just before my Saturday appointment with Apple.

The Genius ran a few tests and agreed with our diagnosis that the hard drive was cratering. In the 30 years I’ve been screwing around with computers, nothing strikes terror in my heart like having a disk drive crash. It seems like I can never get back to where I was when the crash occurred and I inevitably lose data, no matter how religiously I back up. In this case, I was relying on a backup program built into the Mac OS called Time Machine and an external disk drive. In my heart of hearts I knew that the claims of some simple it would be to restore were bogus. The Genius told me all I had to do was connect the external drive and follow the prompts that popped up on the screen, one of which was to transfer data from a Time Machine backup. It went off flawlessly with only a couple of decision points and hitches and a last minute call to Apple but, as if by magic, I am back 100% with even the same disorganizations on the screen that I seem to always have. Thanks Time Machine, I owe you. I’m so happy I’m going to buy one of those new Apple Touch pads to replace my mouse. Since I thought the repair was going to end up costing money, I can rationalize the touch pad as a free gift from Apple. I won’t try to explain the logic to my bride.

The late summer garden is nominally planted out now. I check daily and still have an occasional casualty. In most cases I have a backup growing in a container on the porch but at this point I’m about done with the backups. It’s reasonable to expect about 25% of the new plants will attract some sort of predator who bores a tiny hole in the stem or just starts chewing from the top down. I spray, dust, and pick them off by hand but still, they take their toll and I just have to plan on some fallout. In the end I still suspect we’ll have more than we can eat so…………………

So we’re approaching the peak of hurricane season. It used to be that hurricanes had female names but I guess somewhere along the way the politically correct crowd decided that there was maybe a negative connotation to that and they changed the rules so that half the names are male. I really don’t care but it would seem that if you double the pool of names, you wouldn’t have to create names out of thin air. Hermine? What kind of name is that? Has anybody or anybody you know ever heard of a human being named Hermine? How about a dog or cat named Hermine? Is it possibly a misspelling of Hermione? or Herman? Is it male or female? And isn’t the National Weather Service, an American Institution? Gaston? If the French were popping some money into the pool, ok with Gaston but again, has anybody ever known of a person named Gaston outside of a character in Beauty and the Beast? Maybe Hermine is a French name. Who knows but it sure isn’t a plain old, go to hell American name, that’s for sure. What a great place for a budget cut. Don’t you just know there are several meetings and loads of memo’s floating around each season coming up with the list of names. That’s probably what they do between hurricane seasons.