Skullduggery on Idol

Does anybody think it’s strange that Idol has ended up with two males and two females in the final four? About a month ago there was all kind of turmoil because there were only two females remaining. It’s not believable that the voting pattern just happened to adjust itself to be politically correct. I also find it interesting that the final four include a rocker guy and rocker chick and a country guy and country girl. All good talent although for me, the real talent was eliminated earlier – that would be the jazz and blues performers.

The dry weather we’re having seems to be working ok for the garden. It means that I have to water almost daily but that’s an overall plus. When I water, for the most part I water down at the roots and not too much on the foliage. My theory is that keeping the foliage dry is keeping the insect problems at a minimum. I’m sure not having much of a bug problem in the garden so far and the big difference is that the plants are much drier than normal. I’m seeing virtually no spider webs which, by this time, normally are a real pain. My neighbor insists I don’t water enough. He says that because most other gardeners he tracks are watering like crazy. I asked him if their gardens looked as good as ours or much better and he thought maybe the corn in one of them was taller. Fact is classic Florida gardeners water and fertilize like crazy because they are basically growing in sand. It has no inherent water or nutrient retention properties. At this point our garden is at least 75% of the way toward what could be technically labeled an organic garden. Aside from the nutritional aspects of that, it means that the water retention properties are significantly improved over the native soil and I just don’t have to pump the water to it extensively. Personally, I think that’s why I’m not having bug problems this year.

I’m starting to get optimistic about the corn this year. The stalks are about 4′ tall, strong, and a really rich green. They’re also starting to develop tassels and a few micro sized corn. According to my calculations, we should be picking mid June and so far that looks about right. Seems like I’ve been at this point before only to be disappointed by the end results but this looks better to me. Also the butternuts underplanted in the corn patch are growing vigorously and starting to put out small squashlettes. I remember last year the first few dropped off and assume that will happen this year too.

That seems to be consistent with all the squash I grow – the first several fail to develop but after the plant matures, the squash starts to come regularly. I’ve been seeing that with the summer squash, 4 different varieties, for a few weeks and now starting to pick nice edible fruit. I think I mentioned trying a completely new (to me) variety, Cavili, and it’s producing well beyond my expectations so far. The squash it produces is a light green color so it stand out well in the deep green foliage. I love it best cut up in salad along with tomato, onion, and cucumber but it’s pretty good fried/sauteed as well. It’s a bit more tender than the yellow squash.

The other big growth story are the pole beans. I used 10′ long bamboo canes as the climbing elements on the bean tower and many of the beans are approaching the 10′ level and like the corn, look really strong. No blossoms but the calculations say we’ll be picking in early June. I kind of doubt that and am looking more towards mid June.
I continue putting in new bean seeds, intermixing green and yellow beans so we should have beans on more or less a steady basis for a couple of months. And here’s a bit of bean trivia – you can tell which is the yellow bean and which is the green by looking at the stems. The stems on the yellow variety are definitely yellowish compared to the dark green of the green variety.

The tomatoes are turning pink and I pick a couple everyday for window sill ripening. The process is accelerating so we’ll be deep in Whoppers and San Marzano’s for the foreseeable future. Nancy is heading off for Utah again and I suspect my diet will be heavy in Tomato, cucumber and Squash salad. By the time she gets back we will have to move hard into the sauce prep mode.

Fishing with Simon

We decided to hit the Tomoka again on Thursday but to modify the plan by getting there an hour earlier to beat the late morning wind. Somebody must have leaked the plan to the wind god because it was howling up a gale when we got to the river. We could see tarpon rolling so decided to brave it and let the wind carry us upstream. It only got worse with the wind blowing at least 20 knots straight down the river. Got a single jump out of a tarpon, about 1/3 the size of the Wednesday fish and a smallish ladyfish. Still, it was lots of fun – that is all but having to paddle back to the launch point against the wind and white capped waves. Wow! We made it but we were both fairly well worn out.
We came home and then decided to try the lake about 7PM as a cap to the week. I caught a gar that gave us a bit of a hassle in the boat and Si bagged a nice bass on the Devil’s Horse and had another nice one on. He’s a 100% convert to top water fishing and is a more than adequate caster. His lure moving technique is not perfected yet but that part is simple. One problem he has that will cost him fish is a wandering eye and a lack of attention to what’s going on in the water around him. He studies the trees, the birds, and whatever else is going on around him but not so much what’s going on in the vicinity of his lure. On the Tomoka he had his cell phone with him so that was another huge distraction so I’d be watching tarpon rolling all around him and he’d spot maybe one in 3 or 4. I think that will change with experience. He’s super fun to fish with we both love kayaking the backwaters.

I mentioned that I was going to give sweet potatoes a go this year. Turns out it’s not working out near as well as I’d hoped. First, when I ordered them I was told they’d be delivered the end of March. Turns out it was the end of April. Out of a dozen slips, 4 made it. The others cratered within 2 days. I know enough to know it was nothing I did so I called Burpee with my tale of woe. They were totally gracious and offered to reship or refund me 100%. I opted for reshipment but the next day received a call saying they were not allowed to ship into Florida. Seems the State Dept of Agriculture had put a ban on all potatoes coming into Florida. They said they never should have shipped to me in the first place. California has plenty of bans on plant shipments as does Hawaii, but Florida, not so much. Anyway they issued a refund and I have 4 plants that seem to be surviving. At least I’ll have a test of sorts. I guess I’ll crank up a few new pepper plants or eggplants since both seem to handle the heat ok. Or maybe a couple of cherry tomatoes. I am going to try a variety called tomatoberry which is a tomato that looks like a strawberry.

I pulled the dead tomato plant to examine the roots and confirm that it was, indeed, a nematode attack. Very strange, but the roots were nominally clean. Normally when a plant has been attacked by nematodes, the roots look like strings of pearls with white knots along the length of virtually all the roots. In this case, the only nodule I spotted was a good size one but it was on the largest root, directly dead center in line with the stalk and it was fairly close to the surface as opposed to much deeper in the soil. It, or something, forced that root to almost do a full turn from downward to horizontal with the surface for a few inches and then back downward. It was a large knot but I wouldn’t have thought it nearly large enough to kill the plant. Perhaps tomatoes have a “tap” root along with lots of smaller roots and damage to that particular root is fatal. Usually with nematode damage, when I give the plant a good soaking, it recovers temporarily. In this case, no recovery and 100% gonzo. I thought maybe there was some obstruction under the soil that blocked the root but found absolutely nothing there. Must have been godzillanematode.

Tarpon extravaganza

Have had two great days fishing with Simon but today was really special because the tarpon were thick on the Tomoka River at exactly the spot we put the kayaks in. It’s not easy to get one of these brutes to strike and even more difficult to land one. Landing one is something you’re not sure you want to do in any event because they are so large and so energetic. I got a few hard strikes and had a couple on for a few seconds when finally one really latched on to the jig I was casting. I would have to guess the fish was 30# plus, 4′ long and cleared the water twice in quick succession. Very impressive. He towed the kayak around the river for about 5 minutes before he finally ditched the hook. Relative to Tarpon, I’d say this was as good a day as I’ve seen in years.

The other exciting thing was having our kayaks bumped by manatee. Manatee (sea cows) are certainly gentle giants but having one bump you kayak gets your heart beating rather hard. At one point I think there were two of them between our two boats – close enough that you could just reach out and touch them.

And then the wind came up and made fishing nominally impossible. We would paddle up against the wind and the tide and then drift back through the schools of fish. By the time we had done that a few times, we were both arm weary and my shoulders were starting to revolt from the treatment. I can remember taking Simon fishing when he was little and could barely keep up with me; then we were equal; now I have to keep up with him. I still can – at least kayaking – but he keeps getting bigger and stronger while I’m heading in the opposite direction. I know he’ll be as patient with me as I was with him!!! And everything is ok as long as I’m catching more fish that him.

Move story

The meal came off without a hitch and I think everybody had a good time.

Chris related a funny story from his move. He moved from one upstairs apartment to another using professional movers. I guess they were able to vacate the first apartment without a hitch but found that the couch couldn’t make all the turns getting up to the new one. The mover came to Chris and asked him if he wanted them to just leave it on the curb or what. Then he suggested Dr. Sofa. Dr. Sofa is a company that specializes in taking couches apart for just such situations. Chris is in Jersey City and Dr. Sofa is a Long Island company but 45 minutes later, a 2 man crew is on the job, pulling the couch apart. They got the job done and, $400 later, were on their way back to Long Island. I guess so many of the moves in that area are into and out of apartments, that a specialty like that makes a nice business. I’m guessing Dr. Sofa would starve to death in the greater Barberville – Pierson corridor. Aside from the fact that most places are single story, we have chain saws or machetes for just such unexpected happenings.