Urban is history

This week we broke low temperature records dating back to 1937 and now we’re hearing that next week is really going to be cold so I’m not going to bother removing the covers even though we’re warming back up into the low 70’s with night time lows over 50 for the next few days. It’s not only unusually cold for so early in the season, it’s also unusual to have a series of cold snaps so close together. You’re probably wondering how the garden made out under the blankets. So was I; so I lifted up one side enough to let me crawl under. What I found was that the two tomato plants that had triple covers look fine but the plant with only one cover was hammered. That gives me a hint that we probably did get below the freezing point but not dramatically so. The winter crops did great which was expected. I was actually surprised to find that it was downright toasty under the double covered areas. I’ve got some onion starts and potato chunks that I’d like to get in the ground but will probably wait until this next cold spell passes. Both can handle cold but why get them off to a chilly start when it’s not really necessary. By then I might also have some new cabbages, cauliflowers, and lettuce plants ready for the garden.

The seed catalogs are rolling in so my thoughts automatically switch to next season’s crops even though there are still plenty of winter crops to go. I actually start some of the warm weather stuff indoors in January for garden transplant in March so this is the right time to be selecting seeds. Since it appears that maybe I have the garden soil under better control, I’m going to stretch out and try a couple of new items that would have been impossible a year ago. How about Tomatoberry’s. These are cherry tomatoes shaped like large strawberries – according to the catalog, this is the latest rage. The newly enlarged garden has me ready to give corn another try. Corn takes a large chunk of the garden so it really hurts the whole program if you have a crop failure. I tried twice earlier with poor results and decided not to waste my time or space last summer. I had such great success with the Butternut squash this past season, that I’m going to plant a few within the corn patch so that space will have a double shot at producing – if one crop crashes, the space can still be productive. I’m also buying a different variety of Okra than I’ve tried in the past. My problem has been that the okra I’ve grown gets woody too soon and after three attempts, still near zero success. I talked to the horticulturist at one of the seed companies to find out what I’m doing wrong and he suggested using a particular variety that I had not tried, Annie Oakley II. It’s a no brainer to try because Okra does well in the extreme heat that kills most everything else and the worst thing that can happen is that we do without okra again.

The Urban era is over – again. My biggest concern is that the incoming recruits hold tight so it’s important that a new coach be named quickly and that it be a recognizable name. My first choice would be Bob Stoops, followed by John Gruden, followed by Bill Mullins, followed by Simon. It would be fun for tweaking purposes if the Missouri or Utah coach got the nod but with the big 12 conference falling apart, my money is on Stoops. He was a great coach at Florida before and certainly has done well at OU. Kind of interesting that both Florida and Miami are in the coach hunt at the same time.


Simon and I have this common love of funny commercials. Our taste is very similar so if I see one that tweaks me, I know it will tweak him. Over the weekend I saw a Bud Light commercial called Sticky Fingers that I knew he would love. I almost called but hate to interrupt his studying. But last night he called and said he wanted to tell me about a commercial he saw over the weekend. I said “say no more” and asked if it was the Sticky Finger Bud Light commercial. Dead on. We analyzed the subtle points like a couple of professionals. I love it that we both thought of each other at the same time. Great minds…………………

The other thing I thought about immediately when he called was that Chris and I had that exact same connection when he was a kidling. Every year we would go to the Planetarium in Salt Lake to watch the Cleo awards – those are the Academy of Awards for commercials. It was a big event for both of us and we looked forward to it. Some of the European commercials were a bit risque but we laughed sometimes till tears flowed.

I’ve always paid enough attention to commercials to see if there’s anything special going on. It’s fascinated me how creative a production has to be to get a message across in just a few seconds. People who skip through commercials miss some of the most creative moments in a day. Granted, most are pure drivel but sometimes it’s worth wading through the mess to find that gem that makes you laugh. And while on the subject of commercials, I have to confess to being hooked on one in a strange way. You’ve seen those little shoebox looking Japanese cars, I think one is called the Soul or something. The commercial shows one being driven around town by a couple of giant hamsters. Very stupid but every time I see one pass, I just have to look to see if the hamsters are driving and I’m always surprised when it’s just a human at the wheel. Yesterday Nancy and I were sitting in Publix sharing a sandwich and one drove by. I cracked up when she said that she always expected to see a hamster driving. I bet Simon and Chris do to.

One last word on this cold snap – picked bushels and bushels of fruit just before dark. I’m about 50-50 whether it will get cold enough to freeze the fruit on the tree but hate to lose it now. Nancy sends most of it to friends outside of Florida and we squeeze gallons of juice with the rest. We walk that fine line where the fruit sweetens if exposed to cold weather but just a bit too much ruins it. The forecasters used the feared and dreaded term “hard freeze” and that spurred me on to action even though I seriously doubt it will happen here on Carbone Acres. The term “hard freeze” refers to the duration of freezing temp. I think anything longer than 4 hours is a “hard freeze”. Looks like the old time country folk are right about this winter being a tough one. They were saying a month ago that it would be bad based on an over abundant acorn crop. This is the first time I’ve ever seen them totally covering the driveway and the word is, that portends an extra cold winter. At least it’s bright and sunny out so with the right clothes, it can be downright pleasant to be out in it. Now if the wind will only stop, the water should be cold enough to have the spec’s chomping.

All covered up

We’ve got a 3 day stretch of serious cold coming up so I have to move to defense in the garden. The media says this is the earliest, longest stretch of cold weather ever. Ever’s certainly a long time and I kind of doubt the accuracy of that estimate but it’s for sure waaaayyyyyyy too cold. A couple years ago I bought a roll – 150‘x50′ – of light weight thermal covering and it’s done a pretty good job so far. I cut the roll into 2 large pieces that can cover the whole garden and 3 smaller pieces that can cover a 4 x 10′ row or wrap around a large tomato plant. My game plan is to protect 3 tomato plants and 6 pepper plants with a double cover and the rest of the garden with a single layer. I could literally do a double cover over the whole garden but don’t think that will be necessary. I really hate to lose the tomatoes since they are loaded with green fruit and are just now starting to turn. I’ve picked most of the peppers so losing those plants will not be that big a loss. I’ll give them a large drink before covering them and then just keep my fingers crossed for a few days. The cloth is very light so it does allow good light transmission and supposedly gives me about 4 degrees of temperature protection. Doesn’t sound like much but it’s been adequate so far and I’m not hearing of any lower than the upper 20’s. Being so close to the lake, we’re usually a few degrees warmer than most locations especially with wind coming over the water. The tough part is spreading a 30′ x 50′ sheet in windy the conditions which usually accompany a cold front as it moves in. The forecast is for 15 mph NW winds which turns the cover into a parachute. That can be a real challenge. The pic’s show the tomatoes covered and then the whole garden. In the end, the forecast became even more dire so we did put both top covers, giving us a triple cover over the tomatoes.

Finally finished off the cherry/grape tomatoes. It’s hard to imagine how many tomatoes we got from just two plants since September but in closing them out, we picked two large bowls full. I saw them in Publix the other day in clear plastic packages, maybe 4” x 8” x 4”. at $4 per box. Based on that, we picked about $40 in this closeout action and have no idea what the season total could have been. What do you do with that many grape tomatoes – put them in the blender along with the Viva paste tomatoes and convert it all into spaghetti sauce. That is all the tomatoes except the ones set aside for salads over the next two weeks. Best news of all was that when I pulled the plants up to examine the roots, they were healthy and clean – no nematodes worth mentioning. That wasn’t a big surprise because they grew so healthy and for such a long time and also because I planted them in a new garden section in 100% home made compost – no native soil at all. I actually would have been surprised and totally bummed if somehow the nematodes had cracked the code and successfully invaded the area.

I’ll grow them again next season but with some changes in the support structure. These guys simply get too big and sprawling to stake in the traditional fashion. They need to be grown along side something like a 6-8” section of fencing and then trained both vertically and horizontally. As many as we managed to pick, I would speculate that we lost that many simply by them being hidden deep inside the bushes of falling over onto the ground. I’ll do two plants again but space them 6′ apart instead of the 3′ spacing I used this time.

Single wrap on tomatoes
Single wrap on tomatoes
full cover
full cover

Job done

Finished the path cutting and it almost did me in. Took 3 full days and half of Sunday to complete the cleanup. It took 2 solid hours of chipping to get through the pile of fronds and I ended up with an overflow in the burn pile for the stuff too big to chip. These pic’s are proof that the job is done. If you notice the green color of the pathway, that’s the shredded fronds.

Burn pile
Burn pile

Nancy’s Christmas present almost ready

Global cooling came hard and fast this year. I actually have frost kill in the garden – the zucchini finally gave it up – and we lost power this morning for a few hours. The power outage was very local – our house and our two neighbors. The power fixers showed up about 2 hours after the event. Turned out to be a tree-power line problem. Not a tree falling but rather the cold weather tightened the lines to where one touched an overhanging tree limb. It literally burned about halfway through the limb before breakers popped. To fix it, they added a splice that lengthened the line, creating sag. My guess is that come July when we’re back in global warming, it will sag so much it will hit the limb beneath it. When I suggested that to the fixer guy, he said he was in the line fix dept. not the tree trimming dept.

Can’t wait to try a grapefruit now that they’ve had the requisite shot of cold weather.

With Nancy out of the picture for 4 days, I have enough time to complete her Christmas present. As of Friday, I’m about 3/4 finished so unless I run into a snag, I’ll meet the deadline. It’s not a present I can hide so she’s getting it a few weeks early which is always dangerous. She could say something like, it’s nice but not what I wanted for Christmas. Then what? It’s not like I can take it back. For years she’s been asking me to clear a wide swath through the palmettos so she can have a view of the lake while sewing. She also requested one so she can see the lake while sitting on the back porch or laying in bed. Clearing a wide swath through palmettos is not something to be taken lightly or done without a chain saw but I decided to give it a go, at least for the porch view cut. My plan was to do that job and calibrate on how long it took and how much juice it took out of me. It took most of one day and I was still able to walk afterwards and better yet, was able to get up out of bed the next day with no particularly troublesome aches and pains. Thanks Bigeloil. The chain saw behaved and I have all my limbs intact.

So I charged into the second swath the next morning. For those of you who have never cleared jungle, sometimes it really goes smoothly, other times not so much. You can’t tell when you start just what you’re going to run into because you can’t see more than a couple of feet ahead of you. Turns out the second job was a booger bear and took two full days. And that doesn’t really complete the job. I have a humongous pile of palmetto fronds still to deal with. I’ll run this through the chipper which will take most of a day and then spread the shredded fronds on top of the newly cut swath to level it out and fill in the deeper depressions between the roots. The last time I got into this sort of work was 10 years ago when we were clearing the property for the first time. I guess it’s possible that this particular section is tougher than average but then again it may be that I’m 10 years older.

My recuperation plan includes a hot bath in the jacuzzi, liberally dosed with a muscle soothing bath salt Chris sent, two large glasses of cab, two Aleves, and a major slathering of Bigeloil. When I was doing this same job 10 years ago, I would retreat to my friends, Pat and Bill, who had the hot tub and wine on standby. I would enter the hot tub knowing it was probably my last soak and leave totally ready for another jungle day. Here’s hoping my 2010 version of the treatment is nearly as successful.

Let me see if I have the sequence of events right. A couple weeks back Obama goes to S Korea expecting to come home with a free trade agreement but gets stiffed. A few days after that the NK’s bombard the SK’s. The US sends an aircraft carrier to the region and flies around with the SK air force. Within a couple of days, the S. Korean’s agree to a free trade deal. I guess if that’s what it takes…………………….

I’m really trying to understand why we still have this Congressional lame duck session thing in this day and age. I understand it historically but seems to me that there’s not a really good reason not to start with the new guys the day after the elections in this day and age. I guess if you’re a psychologist you get a good time to study humans in an end game strategy.

Winter already?

A bachelor again. Nancy and one of her quilt buddies is off to Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida to attend some kind of quilt seminar. There’s this quilt guru who has a show on PBS and, I guess, does seminars on location. She’s a prime example of why congress should defund PBS. She has the most obnoxious voice you can ever imagine. When Nancy puts on her show I have to get up and leave quickly to avoid throwing up right there in the living room. Her speech pattern is exactly the same as a mother speaking to her 3 year old – make that her retarded 3 year old -and it drives me up the wall. If the seminar was being held in this house I’d have to burn it down so I can’t imagine anyone driving 3 or 4 hours to spend 3 days with this woman. I’m not sure what to expect from Nancy after this exposure but she may have to sleep out on the dock for a couple days to come back to earth.

Can you believe I’m covering the tomatoes and peppers to protect from a potential frost? What’s that all about.? My tomatoes are oh so close to ripening and I’ve actually picked half a dozen or so this week but the bushes are heavily loaded with big green ones. I need to google “green tomato recipes” just in case. I soooooo want to believe in global warming – at least for the next 2-3 weeks – but nights like this really shake my faith. Bout fell off my stool when I read that big Al Gore is saying that the ethanol program doesn’t make any sense. duhhhhhhhhhh. Next thing he’s going to be saying is that the globe really isn’t warming. Or that the polar bear population is rising. Or that Joe’s tomatoes are going to freeze. So I’m going into full winter garb as of Dec 2. That means lined jeans, wool socks, and long sleeve wool shirts. Maybe even a polartec hoody but for sure, a down vest. I don’t think it’s actually going to freeze but close enough to spur me on to action.

Another generational observation – went to the doctor today for a blood test and observed that the average age of the customers was about 150 and not one person was sitting there diddling with a cell phone. If that was a sub-50 crowd, the clicking and clacking of keyboards along with the weird ring tones would have been deafening.

Getting another shot at a more reasonable internet package for us. Virgin Mobile and Walmart are doing a joint promo that sells 1GB of data per month for $20. Perfect. We seem to use 20-25 mbytes per day and I expect that to drop a bit over the course of a month where we typically have a couple of days with no use at all. I sure hope they keep the promo going for a while or at least do it from time to time. The $40 unlimited plan may be a better deal on paper but for us it’s like sitting down to an all you can eat wings deal for $10 when we can only eat $5 worth.