On the bowl games

Finally, some rain. We got 2” yesterday with some real thunder, lightning and hard rain. That’s the first real rain in a couple of months and should have really soak the garden thoroughly. Rain water is not the same as well water when it comes to growing things. I guess there are nutrients embedded in the rain that don’t exist in well water but you can sure tell the difference in growth rate. Of course the downside to a storm this time of year is that it’s caused by a cold front moving down from International Falls and within a day or so our temps will drop dramatically.

They got me. A few months back I decided to take advantage of then current low interest rates by refinancing the house. All went well until the new bank said that, per FEMA, we needed flood insurance. When we took out the original mortgage in 2003, Chase required flood insurance which cost us $250/year. No big deal. When we refinanced (with Chase) in 2008, the requirement for flood insurance went away. Nice. Now the new bank said that FEMA once again required flood insurance. We had to produce what’s called an elevation certificate and based on that, we ended up with the insurance that cost $500/year. We came close to pulling the plug on the refinance when the estimate first came in at $2000 until we produced the elevation certificate. A month after closing I get a call from the insurance company saying FEMA took another look at the elevation certificate and determined that we needed a $2000 policy, not the $500 one we agreed to. Well that’s not exactly true – what FEMA said was that for the quoted $500, the house is only insured for $19,000. That would be ok with me but not for the bank. At this point there is no recourse – I can’t back out of the refi because it closed and we have a new mortgage. I can’t change insurance companies simply because they simply act as an agent for FEMA and it will be the same for all insurance companies. I checked on that and it’s true. And to add insult to injury, I have to have the surveyor come back and resurvey the property. As if the property moved or something. Lucky for me the original survey company still exists so it will only cost me $250 for the resurvey. It seems clear to me that FEMA is broke by virtue of Katrina etc so they decided to just reach into my pocket. My house hasn’t moved so it’s in no more flood danger today than it was 10 years ago or 3 years ago. I guess I could just pay off the mortgage and tell them to jam their insurance scam but that wasn’t the way I wanted to roll on into the future. Too bad they don’t send the FEMA guy to the house so I could ………………………..

One tradition that seems to me has been trashed over the years is the college bowl game season. Used to be that all the games were played on New Years day in warm places. You knew who the teams were and cared about the results. That has been completely devalued with loads of games throughout the month of December and among teams that were barely able to put together a winning season. What’s the San Francisco Bowl, the Take a Homeless Person to Lunch Bowl? Where Portland A&T plays Iowa T&A and the best part of the game is the half time show. Bowl games you never heard of among teams you never heard of. I guess it’s just as well they’re all on ESPN instead of regular network TV. Real men don’t watch football on cable or satellite. We’re antenna on the roof kind of guys. At least they had a little respect and put the Florida – Penn State game on a regular channel.

Bridge champ

Congratulations are in order for my bride. She won the 2010 Crescent City Bridge Club player of the year award. Somehow in bridge they keep track of the games played and points awarded throughout the year. She, obviously, had the highest point count in 2010. Wonder what it’s going to be like living with a champion?

Well today I can answer a burning question – how long does it take a potato plant to break the surface after planting the tuber piece. I am not at all calibrated on that process so after a couple of weeks I start to get nervous that maybe nothing is happening underground. Not to worry, 25 days later out popped the first sign of green. The interesting thing is that unlike germinating a seed where a tiny, barely visible thrip of a leaf makes an appearance anywhere from 3 to 10 days after planting, the leaves that pop out from the potato plant are heavy, deep green and quite robust. I do remember from last season that it seemed to take forever so I don’t think the colder than usual weather has slowed the process. I planted the cut pieces onto a bed of leaf mulch and then overtopped them with another 4-6” of leaf mulch. My thought is that this provided a warmer bed than a soil bed and better protection from the cold. Right now I have half the designated row planted in little red potatoes. The other half is about 75% available with two heads of cabbage remaining to clear it totally. Those will be picked next week at the latest and the first batch of Yukon Gold’s planted. I checked on the ones I pilfered from Nancy’s stash and they have started sprouting nicely.

I thought for sure that I’d be growing bananas by now since this global warming thing has been going on now for quite some time. Instead I’m studying catalogs seeing what the next level of frost protection cloth is going to run and how much additional protection I can get. Instead, my one banana plant looks belly up for sure this time. I’m thinking about digging it up and shipping it off to Al Gore.

Our Eagle Scout

Had a first time experience last night. Simon became an Eagle Scout and we attended the induction or award ceremony. I’m glad he has that behind him now. He worked hard and was go go go up until about 2 years ago then seemed to lose interest. I hated the idea that he had put so much into scouting and then at the pinnacle, backed off. He fooled me and came back to complete the requirements and get the job done.

I was a bit surprised at the number of people in attendance and just how many people really cared about Simon’s achievement. I learned at the ceremony that only 2% of the kids that enter scouting achieve the Eagle rank. The ceremony itself was a nice combination of formality and personal touches. Tom had prepared a slide show of photo’s taken from Simon’s first scouting experiences, through various award ceremonies, camping trips and ending with his Eagle project. Brought back lots of memories. One thing that surprised me was that he was awarded an American Flag that had been flown for a day over the Capitol building in Washington. Apparently that’s something that’s done by the state’s senior senator, Bill Nelson. All in all it was a night I’ll never forget.

We’ve had a straight week of nice weather and a few more days ahead before it gets cold again – although not as cold as we experienced a few weeks back. It really shows in the garden. The cold weather we had didn’t kill anything but it set the whole garden back quite a bit in terms of growth. Now it’s going gang busters again and starting to look like a real garden. We’ve been picking more than we can eat so the quilt group and bridge crowd are benefitting accordingly. Whenever we’re invited to an event we volunteer to bring the cole slaw. Not sure what vitamins you get from cabbage but whatever it is, we probably have an overdose going. Some broccoli going on and within the next couple of weeks we’ll be rolling in lettuce of several varieties and cauliflower – assuming that we don’t revert to the deep freeze.

Still lookin’ for the spec’s. All my hot spots are now dry spots.

Happy New Year

This was an interesting New Years season. We went to Tom’s NY eve party and enjoyed meeting Some of Tom’s students and co-workers along with seeing the Richardson’s again. And meeting Kelly, Tommy’s girl friend. Then on New Years day, Kassem dropped by for the evening with his fiancee. It was really special to meet all the young ladies in these guys lives, Kelly, Jackie, and Julia, Simon’s girl friend. They were very much alike in that they are all in college, very engaging personalities, and all cute. Kelly shares the co-host role with Tommy on the Missouri university radio station. We’ve heard her often so it’s nice to be able to put a face behind the voice. Jackie has a degree in Psychology and continuing on in Radiology; Julia is a budding Journalist at Florida. Of course seeing kassem again was the highlight. He’s completed two tours as a marine in Afghanistan and we are so happy to have him back here safe and sound. He has another 6 months or so and then plans to go back to college and pursue a teaching career. That seems to be the path this generation of Sheronik’s have chosen and we’re proud of all of them. We had one funny moment when Kassem first came into the house. It had been 5 years since he’d seen his cousins and when Olivia walked up to him, he introduced himself – “hi, I’m Kassem”. He simply did not recognize her. When he saw her last she was a little girl, now she’s becoming a beautiful young lady. We all cracked up to see the shock on his face.

And we were again treated to a smoker feast. Tom smoked 16 chicken quarters and, as before, they were incredible. You absolutely won’t find any better smoked barbecue than he fixes up. It was perfectly side matched with our latest cole slaw mix – blends of cabbage and carrots. This time it was Derby Day and Early Jersey Wakefield along with Nantes carrots. I think this may be the best blend yet.

Need I mention the crowning glory of a Florida win over Penn State or the total devastation wreaked on the Big 10 conference. The SEC dominance was not a big surprise to me but I truly enjoyed watching TCU down Wisconsin.

So all in all, this is one of the best New Year’s in quite a while.

Low Lake Pic’s

Had another otter happening. I was out in the boat trolling for specs, hearing this strange sound. Sounded like someone noisily eating with loud chomps intermixed with sneezes. I’m trying to figure what in the world I’m hearing when I catch sight of movement in the lilly pads and up on a stump. It was a big otter chowing down on something. When he spotted me, he slipped off the stump and headed right towards the boat, spitting and sneezing with his head and neck way above the water line. I quickly reeled in since I was afraid he would get tangled up in the lines, a potential disaster. Then I spotted a second, smaller otter back in the pads. So I think I must have been too close to a nest and the big guy was warning me away. He followed me for quite a bit and was within about 25′ of the boat so he clearly wasn’t the least bit afraid of me. He then headed back to the area where I first spotted them. I did a big loop then headed back towards that same spot and sure enough, he swam out to greet me again. Bet in a couple of months there will be a few more little otters swimming around. Several years back there was a family of 5 swimming around in the spring. They were there all the time and then one day just disappeared so it seems that they make the appearance at the start of winter and then head for other waters when the time’s right. What was also neat was a couple of owls flitting around in the trees in the same general area. Big guys too. I frequently hear owls but it’s not too common to actually see them flying around during the day. Probably has something to do with the weather.

The pictures are intended to give you an idea of the water level at the dock. It’s now within a few inches of an all time low from our perspective. My neighbor says it’s the lowest since he’s been here – 1984.
The pic that shows the base of the cypress tree is interesting since that tree normally sits in 2-3′ of water.