Beach bound

Heading for a week at the beach. Got my surf gear oiled and set hard on “GO”. Over the past 6 months I’ve picked up a few items here and there to try, mostly hoping for Bluefish. It’s a bit early, I prefer late November, but each year is different and if the Blue’s are not in, that would make whiting and pompano more likely. And of course there are always bonnet and other sharks to keep me on my toes. I’ll bring the camera in hopes I can post some fish pictures but maybe it will just be showing how nice the beach is. We’ll be hitting our favorite beach restaurants and loading up on seafood.

We voted early so no need to return to our home base for that purpose. There are so many interesting races this time that I’m anticipating election night and watching the liberal media squirm as their candidates melt away. What I’m really watching for is to see who will be first to blame racism for the results. Since I don’t watch CNN, MSNBC or other lib networks, I’m not likely to actually see the first anchor ask that question to a black pundit or politician but I’m sure it will happen before Tuesday ends. In Florida we have two losers running for Governor and it’s nip and tuck as to which is ahead in the polls. The only other race I have any interest in is seeing if my man Shrek gets re-elected. Stranger things have happened.

And clearly, I’m a big deal in this election. How I know that is based on the guys who have called to explain their position to me. I don’t mean the locals, but this week I got calls from Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, and Mike Huckabee. I even heard from Sarah Palin. None of these folks let me get a word in edgewise but I thought it was nice of them to think about me at all. It does give me some concern about going to the beach. What if somebody like John McCain decides to call and I’m not here?

You’re probably wondering who’s going to look after the garden when I’m at the beach. So am I. I’ve planted a couple dozen new plants this week and it’s likely that a few won’t make it – whether I’m here or not. At his point I’m close to running out of space until the late summer/early fall stuff crashes. I’m programmed for that to happen around Thanksgiving. If my planning is on target, we switch from cucumber salads to lettuce salads; from zucchini and green beans to cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. In a perfect world, that will be a seamless transition. In Pierson……………?

Citrus coming on

<img src="×225.jpg&quot; alt="tangerine-tree" title="tangerine-tree" width="300"

Had one event on the NC trip that I debated mentioning but as a fair and balanced kind of guy……………….. I packed for the trip in a single carry on size bag. Nancy said she had packed my meds, shaving cream, tooth paste and brush while my responsibility was the clothing. When I unpacked at the hotel I noticed that there was no comb or razor. Since it was a college campus kind of tour, I didn't think either of the missing items rose to emergency level and could wait until we hit a drug store. Tom had his toothpaste confiscated by TSA at the airport so he too needed a stop although I told him I had enough. When I awoke the first morning it was groggy out and I stumbled into the bathroom, loaded up the toothbrush and started the morning activities. It tasted horrible and looked kind of funny too. Here it comes. Nancy had “accidentally” packed prep H instead of toothpaste. I too can see the humor in that, but at the time……………. She swears it was a total accident and I know she didn't have her glasses on but …….. Was my mouth all puckered up for the day? Couldn't wait for that first cup or ten of coffee. If we lived in Iran, this would be one of those stoning offenses, a caning in Singapore but here, I think she's going to beat the charges.

Had another veggie conversion deal. I had to have a couple pair of pants taken in and one of Nancy's bridge buddies is an incredible seamstress. She also loves anything from the garden. Oila, the pants fit again and we're down a couple of cucumbers, a zucchini or two and a handful of green beans. My only concern is that if I'm not careful, I'll forget to report all these trade deals on my 1040. I'll have to check with my tax consultant, Texas Todd.

I've mentioned the pole beans in earlier posts but they need revisiting. The variety is Smereldo and they are incredible. I'm picking them when they're about a foot long and 1-2” wide. You'd think they'd be tough or stringy at that size but they're tender and exceptionally tasty. And prolific – I can pick a meal's worth in about 2 minutes and they seem to just keep coming. When I mentioned above giving a handful of beans to Wilma, a handful is about a pound of beans. I've always grown bush beans but those days are over. I did screw up on the engineering by building a bamboo teepee like structure. They've overtopped the structure and it's really difficult to get to the top or harvest the inside hanging beans. I've got a new design on paper based on what I saw at Stone Barn Farms in NY this summer and now appreciate why they did it the way they did.

As the pic's show, no shortage of citrus this year. The pic's are the tangerine tree and the Marsh grapefruit. The Ruby Red grapefruit tree is also loaded and the Satsuma tree has a reasonable crop, the largest ever for this small tree. Without a doubt the Satsuma's are the favorites. They must be a cross between a tangerine and an orange since they peel even better than a tangerine but with more of an orange taste. The tree lost more than half it's leaves during last year's coldest snap but it didn't seem to effect the fruit production. Haven't picked a Red grapefruit yet but judging by the pinkish tinge on the skin, they are ready for action. Just in time for my niece's visit this weekend.


Trip to NC

I’ve always been ok with birds but having some doubts. I went out this AM to check the garden as usual and found that my parsley plants were pulled out; ditto some onions and holes pecked into the lettuce rows. Since the parsley and lettuce are behind a wire fence, no doubt it was birds. Found the pellet gun. I hope it’s some ugly kind of bird because I hate the idea of blowing away a cardinal.

Had a great trip to NC with Tom. We left on Thursday and returned on Sunday; flew into Greensboro. The only hard event was Tom addressing a class of CS students at Duke. Other than that it was play time. We decided to do Western NC and the mountains on Thursday, the Duke event was on Friday, and the outer banks on Saturday. On the way we hit several campuses {or is that campi) including UNC, Wake Forest, and Appalachian State, located in Boone. Each campus had it’s own character but Duke is the real standout. A large, stone building laden campus with few students. If you didn’t know it was in NC, you’d think you were at Oxford or some ancient, European campus. I think Tom put plenty of photo’s and comments on his Facebook for those who care. The outer bank session turned out to be great for me since it happens to be surf fishing season and we found a great tackle shop laden with interesting bluefish rigs – several of which are now residing in my tackle box. We had intended to end the day at Kitty Hawk but simply ran out of time. Coming to the banks from the south and heading north involves two ferry trips that eat up over 3 hours, not counting wait time. We hit some fine eateries along the way, my favorite being a place called Macado’s (or something like that) in Boone. An awesome menu of specialty sandwiches and incredible brews – my idea of the kind of food that is routinely served in Heaven.

I really enjoyed listening to Tom give his lecture and interacting with the students. Believe it or not, I actually understood the concepts he was discussing and never felt lost in the esoterics of it. The next level down in detail would have lost me for sure but I learned a few things and actually had a few of my ideas about how things worked, confirmed. So that was nice.

The only negative was that the newly planted onions dried out so it’s back to the seed pack for a new start. Also lost maybe 50% of the lettuce but had planted enough spares to cover us on that front. Other than that, the garden kept on producing and it’s becoming clear that November is going to be an overflow month with beans and squash. At least my neighbor will be back to help on the consumption side.

Got a new keyboard and traded in the mouse for a track pad. I think I’m going to love it. The old keyboard is one that I’ve had since the beginning of time and I suspect the mouse is of the same vintage. Somewhere between the keyboard and the mouse, there must be an intermittent short such that the mouse occasionally won’t move the cursor. For the past couple of months I kept thinking the computer was locking up due to some internet interaction with Virgin Mobile and would restart it. The setup we have is a laptop operated with an external monitor and keyboard so the computer is just sitting there with a closed lid acting like a desktop. To restart, I had to lift the lid on the laptop and push the on/off button. I guess in the process of moving things around to get to the button, the mouse/keyboard would reconnect and be working when the machine rebooted. So I never put the frozen cursor together with some mouse/keyboard problem. By chance last time it happened, I brushed the scratch pad on the laptop and saw the cursor move as it’s supposed to. I then unplugged the mouse and plugged it back in. Worked fine. I couldn’t consistently make the problem occur but I could consistently fix it by messing with the USB connector attaching the keyboard/mouse. I didn’t know the trackpad is wireless and have zero experience with blue tooth technology but it seemed to hook up flawlessly.

Politics – I had to laugh last night watching both Obama and Biden campaigning for the Democrat senate candidate in Delaware. The guy is way, way waaaaaaaay out in front of this young, tea party chicky. The only reason they could conceivably be there “helping” is that when it’s all over they can point to Delaware as proof that they did help somewhere. I love to see them running around to colleges trying to get kids behind them. When I was in college, the voting age was 21 but even if it had been 18, I can’t imagine I would have had a clue that there even was an election going on yet alone, actually thinking about it or actually pulling a lever somewhere. At the time, I thought all this politic stuff was so much BS. Then I went through a period where I thought it was real and important; back to the BS position.

Enjoying Nancy’s birthday

Brush clippers one, Joe’s little finger Zero.

It’s been Nancy’s birthday week which means we’ve been eating high on the hog. On Saturday Tom and Tina took us to the International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT. That’s an annual event where kiosks representing different countries set up and sell samples of their local food. I would guess there are 20 plus such kiosks and it took us almost 3 hours to make the rounds. In addition to taking us and picking up the tabs, they bought us a pass that lets us into EPCOT after 4 PM on an unlimited basis for a year so I imagine we’ll be hitting a couple more such events before the passes expire.

On Monday Eileen came over and took us out to lunch at a new place in downtown Deland and on Wednesday, we’re being taken out to one of our favorite spots in Port Orange by Joey and Mark. So all in all this has been a good week for us. I’m traveling to North Carolina the end of the week with Tom where he has a speaking engagement at Duke. Nancy will make a tour of more quilt shops with her quilt buddies here.

I’ve sure learned my lesson this year about using old seed. With many vegetables, a seed pack contains literally hundreds of seeds and there’s no way you can use them all. A typical pack of lettuce seed, for example, will have 500 seeds. So I use what I need and put them away for next season. Turns out two seasons are fine, three, not so fine. In the case of my lettuce seed, where I had half a dozen different varieties, they fell off the cliff in terms of germination. From nearly 100% last year to approximately zero this year. I did read the fine print on one of the packs and sure enough it said good for three years max.

How’s this for ultimate recycling – I’m recycling dirt. When I decide to plant in an older section of the garden, I dig shovel loads of dirt out of the garden and spread it on a working compost pile. Then refill the hole with 100% compost from the cooked and ready pile. In building a compost pile, it’s normal to add a layer of soil every now and again so that’s the justification for my recycle.

Big harvests

Bit of a dilemma. Watching the Georgia – Vanderbilt game they introduced the new Georgia mascot UGA VIII. His name is Bruce. With the Gators on a steep slide downward and a mascot named Bruce, where am I going to be for the Georgia – Florida game. I do take some solace from the fact that the big kahuna gator, Steve Spurrier, is finally have some success at USC (that would be the real USC, not the SoCal imitator).

I’ve mentioned that many of the plants in the garden seem to be growing faster and bigger than forecast. Aside from the fact that the ground is much more heavily loaded with organic material, compost, the other difference in what I’ve been doing is sprinkling some epson salts and some bone meal underneath the new plants when starting out. Wonder if that combination has something to do with the results I’m seeing? I’ve kept up a regimen of culling the butternuts that seem wimpy and the remaining ones seem to be adding size daily and some are even starting to turn from green to yellowish.

Here’s a picture of today’s pick of jalapenos and grape tomatoes. This will be the end of the jalapenos since I pulled the plants this time. They were still putting out but I need the space for winter stuff and we have been giving away 100% of them for months. I could pick about this size container of tomatoes every third day and have been for quite a while. The plants are still loaded with green tomatoes and blossoms so I guess this will continue until the first frost.

Planting the winter stuff now heavily. Three rows of onions, a couple rows of radishes, 4 varieties of lettuce mixed in a wide row and a couple of Italian parsley plants. I already have two varieties of cabbage in the garden with two more varieties a week or so away; broccoli in and more coming; collard greens – first time attempting these – and Brussels sprouts. I tried Brussels last winter with reasonable success so doubling up on those this season. The collards and the Brussels are for my bride. I’m not much for either. I’m fairly certain that I have the largest variety thriving in the garden that I’ve ever had at one time. I’ll wait another month before considering spinach, beets or peas since they really need cooler soil to get started.

One thing I’m starting to appreciate is just how much plantable space I’ve added this season. I did the main expansion but in addition cultivated space inside the original boundaries that had been left dormant due to a lack of enough compost to create good soil. Last year I had decided to mound up rows for reasons stated in previous posts which left a sizable area unplanted
. Over the next 12 months as I created yards and yards of compost, I created new rows in those areas. By my reckoning, I’ve added a total of maybe 250 SF, a 25% increase over this time last year. Where I’m feeling it now is trying to fill up the whole garden with edibles and spacing things out so they don’t overlap and create surpluses followed by voids. I start most items on the back porch so I have the garden going and a ton of new starts on standby.


major beans

major beans
major beans

Transplanted celery today from a seed starting container, aka Publix blueberry package, into an 18 position plant flat. They are still micro celeries and will spend at least another month in the flat under the protection of the back porch screen. I transferred about half of the total started and will leave the balance in the seedling bed until I’m sure the ones transplanted make it. Or I decide that we really need another 18 celeries. I love to grow celery but it does take a long, long time. Along with onions, I think Nancy prefers me growing celery because we use a fair amount and on a frequent basis so it’s very convenient just to go out and pull a couple onions or cut a few stalks of celery. Personally I lean toward broccoli, cauliflower etc because it yields higher $$$/ square foot.

Check out the size of the green beans. I put a couple alongside a cucumber and a couple of squashes on a 12” x 16” cutting board for perspective. The variety is called Kwintus and the beans are very tender and tasty. So tender and tasty that we’re cutting them up raw in salads rather than cooking. The bad news is that I planted about 50 Kwintus seeds and only one germinated – the seed was a couple years old and questionable to start with. So a couple of weeks after planting, when I was certain the seed was bad, I replanted with another variety called smeraldo. If you remember the picture of the bean tower, that is 98% smeraldo and that variety is just now blossoming. In the catalog pictures, the two varieties look the same so I’m hoping the smeraldo look and taste as good as the kwintus. We’ll know in a couple of weeks.

With my neighbors gone away all summer on vacation, I’m getting to do one thing I’ve not been able to do in the past. Actually count the number of squash I get from one plant. With two families picking randomly in the garden, no way to get a real count so I decided to use this opportunity to gather the data. I’m doing one Cougar yellow squash bush, that’s a Cougar in the picture, and the history to date is that I planted the seed 8/17, picked the first squash 9/23 and as of 10/15 have picked 11 squash. There are still 5 squash in various stages on the bush plus it’s loaded with blossoms so no telling how many more we’ll get before it crashes.

Here’s one for you. Before I transplant to the garden, I usually set the plant in the garden location where it will reside still in the container for a day or so to harden it off and make sure the location works for the plant. Sometimes a plant will wilt quickly letting me know that it’s not quite ready for transplanting. A couple nights back I set 7 plants in styrofoam coffee cup containers out in the garden as usual, 6 in one location, the 7th in another. I had pre-dug the holes where the plants would eventually reside and set the cups into the holes. The next morning I went out to check how they did overnight and found the 6 cauliflower looking good but the 7th, a cabbage plant, was sitting ok where I’d left it but sans styrofoam cup. Something had taken the plant out of the cup and made off with the cup. Luckily the plant was just sitting there in the hole, roots not really disturbed, so I just went ahead and planted it. I looked around for the cup and it was gone. Later in the day I was picking cherry tomatoes down low in the plant and way back underneath was the cup, looking no worse for wear. So some critter literally removed the plant, left it unharmed in it’s designated spot and moved the cup to a hideaway for later examination or use. Is that bizarre or what? I have to suspect a tree rat, aka squirrel, but I have no real proof.

garden innovation

I know you’re getting tired of reading about my butternut squash but since we’re on the edge of greatness here and events change daily, I think you need to be kept current. I really got down into the plant today and noticed that there is not just the single vine but rather 4 vines that split off some time back. End to end the length is now 18′ so that would be four 18′ long vines. In the last couple of days, many of the squash have started putting on some heft so it’s easy to spot the ones who are going to make it and the ones who probably won’t. Note to my Arcadia field consultant – I took your advice and start cutting off the runts of the litter. Today that meant culling about a dozen squashlettes. I’m actually starting to think there are some butternuts heading for the table this year. I planted the seeds August 10 and my home grown garden calculator program is telling me not to expect squash before Nov 23 but I’m betting I beat that by a couple of weeks. Not the first sign of any nematode action which by now should have made their presence well noticed.

Another garden innovation – where innovation means something I’ve never tried before but probably read about somewhere. I’m taking one gallon milk jugs, although any one gallon plastic container would probably work just as well, drilling a few tiny holes in the bottom and burying them with the top 20% above ground in the center of groups of four plants. The idea is to get water to the roots only by filling the jug occasionally with water and letting it seep out about a foot down. I could occasionally mix in water soluble fertilizer as well if the plants start looking motley. I’ll do a dozen or so and compare as the season to progresses to see if this approach is any better. I know if we were paying for water, it would be the way to keep watering totally under control. My sister last year tried growing some tomatoes and her water bill went totally out of sight.

The weather is nice enough to actually go out fishing in the middle of the day. I took the boat out and decided to just troll around dragging for anything that might feel like hitting my lures, not really expecting anything – just a lazy, peaceful afternoon. I actually caught a decent bass, nice enough to consider grilling whole on the Holland. We’re probably 6 weeks early for the spec’s to start but an occasional bass is not all that bad. One thing quite noticeable is that the lake has dropped about a foot in the past month – don’t think we’ve had a drop of rain in about that long. The bad news is that we’re entering the dry season with the lake already down whereas normally it’s peaking this time of year. Not only didn’t we have anything resembling a hurricane or tropical storm or depression, we just didn’t get much in the way of good old frog pleasing hard rains. Bummer. This time last year my concern was too much water in the garden and I was vowing to elevate all the rows to keep the roots high and dry this year. Not to worry – high and dry and burying milk containers to water the roots.

New watering system
New watering system