The big feast

Olivia voted in favor of an Italian Easter this year which meant a lake event. As it turned out we’ll be celebrating both the Christian Easter and the Greek Orthodox Easter with the Italian feast part happening with the Greeks. Tom and Tina hosted the traditional Easter gathering in Lake Mary this year. Nancy and I decided to go for a big event and have ravioli instead of something simpler like baked ziti which we discussed. Every couple of years we get up the courage to do a big ravioli feast which means making it all from scratch – right from the basic flour. We’ve done it often enough now that we have it down to a science and work together like a finely oiled machine. We’re expecting 10-12 for dinner so we targeted 50 ravioli but actually made 67. It’s not an exact science but we ended up with almost an even match between the pasta dough and the filling. Along with meatballs, braciola, and pork ribs, we’ve got the makings for a large antipasto and Tina is bringing Tiramisu for dessert. Tom is picking up ciabatta rolls so we’re dago from start to finish. Nancy made the sauce a week ago to give it plenty of time to blend and the ravioli were done a day in advance. So the only thing remaining is to boil the pasta, heat the sauce, and construct the antipasto. When we were younger and so much less clever, we would do it all on the day of the feast and be totally worn out and frazzled by eating time. This way we have to smooze with the guests and still turn out a fantastic meal.

The other great thing about this year is that Simon is coming up and planning to stay here for a week of heavy duty fishing. Bass fishing, snook fishing, surf fishing, crabbing – you name it and we’ll be casting for it. He’s bringing the VW camper into which we’ll shoehorn two kayaks and our gear. I’m stoked about that.

Living with the critters

Had to get involved in one of my least favored tasks – fixing the sprinkler system. My system has 3 independent circuits and I noticed that on two of the circuits, the longest circuits, the pressure had dropped so that at the end of the string of sprinklers, there was barely enough pressure to lift the sprinkler head. Since it was on two independent circuits, my logic was that it was something at the pump or worse. But on inspection, looked like plenty of pressure at the pump end. I took on the simpler circuit and found that there was no water at all coming from the last 6 heads. Aha, clogged line. Wrong, turned out to be 6 clogged heads, no line problem at all. So I headed over to the second circuit and found no such luck. The last sprinkler on the string was gushing water out the sides of the sprinkler so I guessed the sprinkler was history. Installed a new one – same problem. So I decided to just let it run and see if I could find a spot along the run that was saturated because the only possibility was a line break somewhere in the 200′ length of buried pipe. Sure enough, I found a spot where water was bubbling to the surface. The actual break was about 4′ from the spot where the water surfaced but once found, easily fixed. Easily if you have all the pieces you need to build a splice. I happen to have it all and within a half hour, oila, fixed. The beauty of dealing with sprinkler systems in Florida compared to my experience in Texas and Utah is that it’s infinitely simpler to dig into the Florida sand. In Texas it was rock hard clay and in Utah it was rocks. A job like this would have taken half a day at least in Utah; an hour here at most.

Today’s harvest was a beautiful cabbage, the first cucumber and first zucchini. I think there are two more cabbages and two cauliflowers but beyond that, all summer stuff. At this point the big garden question mark is going to be the corn. I’ve never done well with corn before which really bugs me because it takes so much space. If it’s not a success this year, it gets scratched off the list forever. I think it’s a big farm crop and not something for us back yard guys. We have plenty of roadside stands loaded with really nice corn so……………….. At this point it’s the challenge that keeps me trying. Did have a setback when one tomato plant was attacked by nematodes and crashed overnight. That’s one out of 12 so I have to assume that I was just a little sloppy with that particular plant in terms of ground prep. It’s also a good reminder to me that the little rascals are always there waiting for me to screw up. I had started thinking that perhaps once you overcame them, they were gone for good. Wrong. I haven’t pulled the plant yet to examine the roots and I guess it’s possible something else happened but it sure looks familiar.

Have another thing to put on my “check once a week” list. I lifted the hood on the Toyota, the car we drive almost every day, to check the oil and found the start of a squirrel nest along with a pile of acorns. It was built right on the engine block just as it was on the Mercury last year. Interestingly, when I removed it the bottom of the nest was blackened by the engine heat. I guess it doesn’t get hot enough to burst into flame but it sure has that potential. So let’s see – in the past month I caught a mouse in a trap in the trunk of the Merc and removed a squirrel nest from the Toyota. I guess these guys are smart enough to vacate before the engine starts, at least I hope so. What a mess that would be.

I was thinking Obama was toast when gas topped $3; burnt toast above $4; burnt toast crumbs above $5. He said he wanted higher prices many times so it’s hard now to back away from it. I guess he can appoint a committee to look into it. In his defense, we’re actually pumping more oil than ever – oh wait, that’s based on new production started 5 years ago when the evil Bush was in charge.

From beach to garden

From beach to garden. Got home and found that George had picked all the potatoes. I knew they were about ready so wasn’t too surprised. Good thing too. I had ordered sweet potato slips and they were supposed to be shipped April 25, more or less when I expected to pick the regular potatoes. But they were shipped early so picking the others a few days early turned out to be a good thing. We ended up getting in the neighborhood of 30 pounds of potatoes so I have to rank that as a total success.

Another piece of good news is that when I started tilling the row where the potatoes had grown, I found it loaded with earth worms. That’s a significant sign that the soil is rich and heavily organic. Up until this point, there were zero worms and I was fairly well convinced that I’d have to buy some to prime the pump. I still might do that because the worms I have now are really skinny worms and not the kind you can fish with. I was going to add some big, juicy variety when I was confident the soil would support them – I am now.

At this point the garden is full – no available space for planting. The only “old” crop still producing are the brussels. I give them another 2 weeks at most and that row will quickly be converted to okra. The plants under the insect/frost covers seem to be doing just fine, we’ve started picking squash and the first cucumber hits the salad bowl this week. No doubt about it, the garden is producing at a much higher rate than at this same time last year. Unless something happens, and it always can, we are about to be overwhelmed with squash and tomatoes. The corn is looking good – 2′ tall and growing fast. Ditto the pole beans. I’m guessing we’ll be into both by early June. Green peppers of several varieties by mid May.

Reprieve

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Finally broke the ice. The headless guy in the pic is me, promise. Caught 3 and lost that many so it was a good afternoon. So I broke in the new rod on a high note which bodes well for it's future. It would have forever been a suspicious outfit had the first fish been a catfish but a nice blue………………… Starting to see some mullet in the surf and that usually means the blues will be following in closely.

What I love about the beach is that people move to a different rhythm. I think it's tidal; Or for some it's wave height; or wind direction. But for sure not on the standard 60 minute, 24 hour clock. When are we going to eat? About two hours after high tide. Some people are high tide people and some are low tide. Some only move when the surf is big and booming. We had an early breakfast, 2 hours before high tide to be exact, and sat in the pier restaurant looking out at the surfers riding the boomers. Late yesterday afternoon the wind was blowing strongly from the south, right along the coast and that brought out the sail/parachute surfers. What a show. It's a good thing I grew up before all the surfing stuff arrived on the scene or I'd probably have turned out totally different. I don't see how I ever could have fit in school or work.

Good news,bad news

Good news, bad news

The good news is I’m not using much bait; the bad news is I’m not using much bait. I’m taking solace in the fact that nobody else is catching anything, that I’m getting lots of nice beach walks, that my tackle is working flawlessly, nice tan without burning. I guess I could include a picture of me not catching anything.

Humiliated

Humiliated. I was up early fishing for blues and catching nothing. About two hours into it, an osprey dived about 50′ from me and came up with a bluefish that looked to be about 2 pounds. I’m saying to myself, ok, the fish are moving in, hang onto the rod tighter. Still nothing. About a half hour later, another osprey pulls the exact same move on me. Both times, my bait was within 50′ of where the osprey picked off the blues. I know they’re fishing for a living but still……………….
new-deck-at-the-beach-place
The pic shows the new deck extension on the upstairs apartment. I’m showing that pic because I don’t have any fish pics. Everything is perfect – the weather, the surf, water temp- all perfect but no fish. No bites, no baits lost. It’s not just me. All the fishermen I talk to say the same thing. Even tried last night after dark. With night fishing you just walk towards the ocean and stop when your feet hit the water then cast out as far as you can. No problem. Getting back up and finding the stairway up the dunes is a bit more challenging. No bugs so it was really nice. Not sure what I would have done if I had caught one and had to deal with it in the pitch black. If I do that again, I’ll bring a flashlight.

We hit our second favorite brunch spot yesterday and Nancy had the Kahlua French toast again. Then she went off to play bridge in Palm Coast and I beached. Her partner from Crescent City came over and they won first place in both the A and B divisions. Sounded like some hustlers coming over and fleecing the locals to me.

Beach house changes

According to the fishing column in the paper the blues are “thick” in the surf. Wouldn’t you take that to mean there were lots of them? So far I would be saying “thin” or “few and far between”. That’s after my first hour and with the wind blowing hard from the south so it may be too soon to reach any conclusions. One of the neighbors here that I’ve come to know walked down to the surf to greet me and said they’ve been banging them hard at high tide in the early evening – but that was before the wind started blowing. He’s convinced me that before it’s over, I’ll have loaded up the cooler. Even so, the first evening was a success. Managed to catch a couple of whiting and test the new outfit. It exceeded every expectation. I can cast it a mile – helped that the wind was at my back – and it didn’t wear me out. Exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I know that it will be cranking in some serious blues this week.

The place itself has changed a bit. The owners have moved to Atlanta and converted the upstairs, where they lived, into another rental. They built a really nice large deck as part of the upstairs renovation and put all new living room furniture down. It’s always been nice and comfortable but now even more so. They changed the password to access the internet but we overcame that rather quickly – and they switched to Bright House so the internet is quite a bit faster. We know all the neighbors by now so it’s like coming home. Even the neighborhood beach dogs come running up and jump on me. One of our favorite restaurants, JT’s, added an early bird-happy hour from 3 to 6PM, so that will be giving Flagler Fish Company some competition for our business. Our local breakfast place added oatmeal-raisin pancakes to the menu so I had to give it a try. Very tasty but one goes a long way!

And the iPod does well on the beach so I can be totally zoned out while fishing or walking the beach. I have this overriding concern that somehow it will end up in the ocean before the week’s over but this is exactly the reason I have it so…………….. The FM radio feature works well. It doesn’t pick-up anything at home but here there’s several local stations – not the XM Coffee House but listenable.

Brand new Great Great Niece. Megan had her first last night and Nancy tells me all is well. The baby’s name is Allie Marie – what a pretty name.