Tomatoberry is history

Finally we’re at college football season. You might be surprised to know that this is good news to Nancy as well. Since I’m glued to the tube Saturday afternoons, she’s able to do the Ormond Beach bridge game guilt free. It’s almost a public service duty for her. I’m not expecting much this year from the gators but am anxious to see how the new coaching staff performs. It’s also scary that FSU is projected to have such a great team again. Next year we get some form of college football right here in Deland when Stetson fields a team. They’re in a non-scholarship league so I’m expecting the caliber of play to be maybe a bit up from high school. Still, it will be an option not previously available.

The second corn crop seems to be picking up and most stalks are approaching 2‘ tall, some even taller. I had planted it amongst the butternut squash but it seemed like the squash leaves blocked too much sun for the corn and they looked wimpy. They finally broke through and are trying to make up for lost time. A good corn crop would be another big surprise for the fall. I’m also impressed with the 3 San Marzano tomato plants that have survived and, apparently, thrived. Actually have green tomatoes on all three. At the same time I had planted 3 Whoppers, a variety that produced incredibly last spring. No survivors from the heat. I have a few seedlings, three different tomato varieties, that I’m holding off for a couple more weeks in hopes it will cool down just a few degrees where they can handle it.

Yanked out the Tomatoberry plant. It grew beautifully and produced loads and loads of blossoms but not the first tomato. Clearly something missing from the soil. Here’s the interesting part – it was located at the end of the row where the sweet potatoes were planted. At the other end of the row are the Ghost peppers with almost the same story – nice growth, plenty of blossoms, and virtually no peppers. So everything in that row grew well and produced zero veggies. It also just so happens that this is a totally new row that didn’t exist last year so it’s 100% compost with no natural soil. In a few weeks that row is scheduled to be loaded up with new cabbage plants and since the vegetation for both the sweets and the tomato did just fine, I expect the leafy veggies to do well there. Still, I’m going to pump the row up with a fertilizer light in nitrogen and high in the P’s – that’s phosphorous and potassium. Maybe even buy a few bags of top soil to layer onto the compost base.

Storm aftermath

Hurricane Irene is driving me crazy. Chris and Jamie are in it; the Burmeister’s are in it; the Bradley’s are in it – all hurricane amateurs – and I’m stuck here in Florida. I just heard a TV personality telling viewers that the eye of the hurricane just made landfall, just offshore NC. Either it made landfall or it’s offshore – can’t be both!!! Should be soon seeing the obligatory reporter on the beach, in a yellow rain jacket, bent over nearly doubled showing us all how hard the wind is blowing. Since the storm track is right up the coast, we’ll be seeing this guy and his counterparts in every state along the way. I was ok yesterday when I had a mental image of Chris’s new place being a few hundred feet above the water until I found out he’s nominally at sea level. His last place was in Jersey City Heights whereas his new place is just Jersey City. At least he doesn’t have a car to worry about and he does live on the second floor. I also know the Bradley’s can’t be very high above sea level, if at all, but it drives me crazy not knowing exactly how high they are or how far they are from the water. I’m hoping they all headed for the Pocono mountains. At least when it was headed our way I had plenty to do getting ready but now all I can do is watch the tube and worry. Is it asking too much to expect all these folks to call me every couple hours to check in??

Updates – Chris is just fine. Never lost electricity. His store was closed over the weekend but opened for business as usual Monday morning. Took the transit system into work as usual. No word yet from the Burmeisters. I know they moved from the Jersey shore to an inland location but maybe that was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Not even windy

Looks like the hurricane passed us by with a bit of wind and not enough rain to talk about. If I’m O’bama, I’m getting concerned. An earthquake hits Washington and a hurricane is heading to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s one thing to be in a dead heat with Ron Paul but being chased down by Mother nature………………

CAT scan and bone scan all came out fine. The interpretation of that is the problem resides in the prostate, which is exactly what the Dr. had expected. In two weeks, a saturation biopsy, which doesn’t sound like a fun thing, but at least they have the common courtesy to put me out. This biopsy does 100+ samples spaced at about 5mm so they can find small tumors with good accuracy. Jumping ahead to say he’s right and that the PSA rise is not from some other, extraneous cause, the recommended path forward is a cryogenic approach that freezes the bad spots.

Not sure what I would do if I lived in a condo. Today’s events included clipping a few palmettos that had grown in the lake path, tied up a few loose pieces on the dock just in case the winds from Irene prove a little more than projected, sprayed the house inside and out for bugs with Ortho Home Defense, power washed the truck, power washed porch and dock chair cushions and picked a few eggplants and peppers. Power washing is great therapy. Oh yeah, started seedlings for more winter crops – cauliflower, collards, kale, and brussels. When listed it looks like a hard day’s work but I just kind of putz along and never work up a good sweat with this kind of day and have plenty of time to read the Wallpaper and the second Stieg Larsson book. I’m pretty sure I’d go stir crazy in a condo unless it was directly on the beach.

A family friend put me onto a product that, according to him, gives a good energy boost. It’s a powder similar to Crystal Lite which you mix into a bottle of spring water. He also said that if you put a little coffee creamer in the mix, it takes on the flavor of a creamcicle (not sure of the spelling on that but you know what I’m aiming at). If you lay the list of contents along side a general multi purpose vitamin, it lines up with about the same stuff but in lesser amounts. It does have a goodly amount of B-12 and contains caffeine – supposedly from a natural source. I trust the guy who put me on to it so we picked up a pack of 30 multi flavor capsules at Costco. I worked outside for a bit in the heat and was drooping off rapidly so I gave the stuff a try. I think maybe it worked because I was outside cranking away again in about 30 minutes. Certainly tasted good, even with a bit of coffee creamer added. We bought a 30 pack so by the time I’ve worked my way through it, should have a better feel for it but so far, so good. Oh yeah, the stuff is called Zipfizz.

Hurricane coming?

The louvered vent covering the attic fan started falling apart a month or so back. I tried to repair it and did a credible job but the plastic was just worn out and continued to break. I was able to buy a replacement part that was close to fitting but required a bit more carpentry than I was able to handle. The fact that the vent was up about 16′ up made it virtually impossible for me to really attack. Joey and Mark, mostly Mark, to the rescue. They came up early yesterday and within an hour the new one was in place. They then attacked the rest of the exterior – spraying bleach, power washing, mowing and just generally doing all those things that we have to do in Florida every six months. Place looks like new. The question posed is “if you spray bleach on your camo pants, have you ruined them or made them more camo like”? The logic that I am now more camouflaged seems unassailable to me – but not to everybody.

Here’s a story to show the persistence of nature. We have a screened porch which, in Florida, would be called a pool enclosure. It’s roughly 25′ x 35′ with a sloping screened roof that slopes from 8′ to 20′ over the 25′ span. The structure is made of aluminum extrusions and then covered with screen mesh. Very conventional. About 5 years ago I noticed that at one of the structures where a vertical piece met one of the roof pieces that a small oak had sprouted. I thought it was strange to see a small tree sprouting 8′ up in the air and onto an aluminum joint where there’s no soil. I watched it for a few years wondering how big it could grow before it ran out of whatever was sustaining it. When it looked like maybe that wasn’t going to happen – maybe the tree was getting enough sustenance to survive from the rain water – I decided to cut it out before it did any structural damage. Fast forward to yesterday and I noticed that in the exact spot where the oak sprouted, there is now a pine tree about 8” tall. There are 4 similar structure joining spots but only this one seems to promote tree growth. I wonder if I’m violating some EPA rule or Florida Wildlife Preservation law while protecting the screen porch? The variety of trees that are growing may be quite rare and protected. They look like garden variety oak and pine but maybe there’s something special about them. What if I let them grow and they take on a religiously meaningful form – I’d really be in trouble.

We’re eating cucumbers. Very unusual for August. In the past we were pretty much finished with cucumbers by May but this year we’re loaded. So I guess we can add cucumbers to the summer mix – eggplant, okra and peppers. One slight difference between May and August product is a few boring worms. They bore into the cucumber an inch or so and might bother some folks but they don’t seem to ruin the host, just eating the teeny, tiniest bits. Right now I’m thinking I’d rather cut out those spots than spray insecticide.

Looks like maybe a hurricane is heading our way. We’re way, way overdue. I think the last one was about 5 years ago. Ideally it will pass about a 100 miles offshore and dump 6” of water on us. I’m going to assume much worse and take this week to tie up all the deck equipment and anything else that might turn into a missile. I have 3 empty gas cans that I’ll fill to run the generator as necessary.

Mostly politics

Tommy came up for a couple of days before heading back to Missouri. We managed a day at the beach surf fishing and just covering all the bases. He’s got a big year coming up as editor of a magazine on campus, working two jobs, and getting to graduation in one piece. He leaves today (Saturday) as does Simon so Tom’s house will be a quiet place tomorrow. We’ve already got hotel reservations for the graduation.

Perry just cemented his lead with me when he said that he didn’t believe in man made global warming. I’ve got a plan for him when he takes over. Phase 1 – cut the EPA and Dept of Energy budget by 90% and allow them to operate or have regulatory powers only on the West Coast and Northeast. Those folks love the agencies. In those same regions, mandate the amount of ethanol in gasoline to 25% minimum and remove the mandates totally for the rest of us. Tack on a large energy tax in those regions to fund their windmills and solar panels and to make sure the ethanol folks are healthy. The folks living in those areas that are unhappy, move out; those outside those regions that like the agencies, move in. Legalize drug sales in those special regions to supplement tax collections. Maybe stiffen drug penalties outside those areas to keep it more contained. Phase 2 – Study and analyze the performance of these special regions in terms of quality of life. That would include air and water quality, employment rate, and cost of living. It might be informative to keep track of population trends. It could be that those folks on the coast would be so healthy and happy that we’d all want a piece of it. Phase 2 would continue for 25 years or until the special regions either fill up or empty out. I’d be ok with letting other states opt in/out at the 10 year mark when the data would be firm enough to see where it’s all going.

I don’t get it. If the pres has a new plan to improve the economy, why is he waiting until after Labor Day? Why wouldn’t you just move on it quick, quick, quick? Maybe it’s not 100% done but surely most of it must be and wouldn’t there be improvements if you implemented the pieces as they are developed rather than dragging it out waiting for the whole thing. As many plans as have been generated in the past year, you would think it would just be a matter of picking a few from each plan. If he wanted to make a really smart move he should pick up the Simpson-Bowles plan that he dumped so quickly when it offended the left, buff it a bit, and put his name to it as his plan. It was bipartisan, produced by some very respected people, and solved some of the problems. But best of all, he could say he was actually putting forth a plan and put an end to all the critics saying he has never put forth a serious plan to attack the economic problems facing the country – which he hasn’t. I think after 2 1/2 years he may finally be recognizing that debt and jobs are really a problem and have been for about 3 years. He doesn’t have a clue how to deal with them which is why he should just grab up that original plan and run with it.

Grilled Okra

Did the second of the three torture tests, the bone scan. Another ho hum. You go in and get a shot then cool your heels four hours, while the injected radioactive chemicals invade your body. We went over to the library during the hold to download software upgrades. I’ve learned that some of the upgrades can be humongous and my slow, byte limited internet connection is not the way to go. The test itself is just a passive, lay still for 20 minute kind of scan. It’s possible I even dozed off. I’ll find out the results of all this next Wednesday. Also when in the library letting the computer load, I picked up a nice tid bit of info browsing through a gardening book – planting okra next to pepper plants to provide a windbreak. I’ve certainly noticed that pepper plants are fairly brittle and tend to suffer in a strong wind but never thought about a natural windbreak. I’ll have to try that next season – if I can remember.

Grilled okra last night on the Holland grill. No doubt the plumper Star of David variety is superior for grilling. It’s not a good idea to be grilling both varieties together because the dimensional difference means that when the Star’s are grilled to perfection, the thinner Annie Oakly’s are over cooked. I purposely let them grow a bit large to see if they got too woody/fibrous. On the oaklys, the largest were tending in that direction but the Stars were nice and tender.

Although this season in the garden continues to please and surprise, it’s not without failures – just not as many as I expected. The summer squash just crashed without producing much at all. The main stem must have been invaded by some boring critter and it just rotted. It did handle the heat just fine so perhaps if I had launched a spraying program early on, it would have worked. The two cherry tomato plants seem to be crashing as well without producing even one tomato. There has been loads of blossoms for a couple of months, but not the first tomato. My prognosis on this is that the summer heat has put down the bees so no pollination. That was also my answer to why no ghost peppers showed up after the blossoms but that theory is blasted away with the appearance of the peppers. I still have my fingers crossed on the cucumbers. There are plenty of baby cuc’s on the vines and the vines themselves look fine. They haven’t made it to the table yet but lookin’ good.

Why I can’t vote for Michelle Bachmann – her background is in the House of Representatives. We’ve learned about that haven’t we? There is some reason for me to think harder about Michelle. Her husband’s cousin is a good friend of ours so it’s kind of like a family connection. We see John Bachmann a few times a month and he joins us on most of the major holidays. I could probably finesse it by voting for her in the primary, secure in the knowledge that she’ll most likely lose in that election.

Test #1 done

Well I drank the first of the Berry Smoothies last night. It would classify as the worst Berry Smoothie in the galaxy but it wasn’t nasty. That’s good because I had another one to put down in a few hours. It would really have been cruel and unusual punishment if it was killer bad and you had 8 hours between doses to fret about it. As to the CAT scan itself, nothing terrible. They inject some iodine into the blood stream which is simple enough and then move you in and out of a machine. I think the whole thing took about 20 minutes and is very ho hum.

There has been a silver lining to all this testing. When we first moved here we found a truck stop that defined the term greasy spoon. But the food and service were great. It was a regular spot for us until it was forced out of business a few years back due to a lease issue the owner of the building wanted to sell the property. A few hundred feet away was a Waffle House that went belly up about the same time and after a 6 month hiatus, Big Rig took over the Waffle House and reopened as Big Rig 2. We jumped right back in and found that while shut down, all the great employees that worked together like a finely oiled machine, had scattered and the newby’s were simply not up to the task. We tried it twice more with about 3 months between each trial but alas, it never returned to anything close to it’s Big Rig roots. Fast forward to a month or so ago when I started on this torture test circuit. One of the tests was early in the AM and required two days of a liquid diet. We have a favorite breakfast restaurant near the test facility but forgot that it was closed on Monday. Since we were only a few minutes from Rig 2 and since we had been seeing an ever fuller parking lot, we decided to give it another chance. Back to greatness! Aside from the fact that it’s located about 2 minutes from the hospital, the anticipation of a meal there takes the sting out of having to visit the doc’s.

Politics – What I like most about Rick Perry is that he didn’t attend an Ivey League school; what bothers me the most is why would anyone in their right mind want to move from Austin to Washington. Found it interesting that Warren Buffet and George Soros, both very rich libs, think that the rich should pay more taxes. I think each of those guys are worth something on the order of $40B so if they really believe what they’re saying, why don’t they just donate 99% of their wealth to the Treasury? That would still leave them with $400M for their remaining few years on earth. Sure they both give plenty to charity, and get the tax break for that, but why not just turn it over to the Feds? They could get the super rich Hollywood and Silicon Valley crowd to join in and among them, really put a dent in the national debt.

Got Ghost peppers

Hard to believe but I’m starting my seedlings for the winter crop already. Got started with cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels. This season I’m going to try to remain disciplined as far as planting fewer seeds at any one time but more continuously over the season. It’s kind of a guessing game in terms of when space will become available since much of that is determined more by weather than clock. An extra warm, extra long fall makes for less space for early planting of winter crops so I end up with seedlings but no place to plant them; a cold, short fall generates lots of space by killing off the later summer crops but the space goes unused if there are no seedlings available to plant. The saving grace is that seeds are cheap so I just plant and start things assuming ma nature is going to cooperate and take my lumps as she dishes out a dose of reality.

It’s also a fact that I have more plantable space this year than last. I haven’t increased the size of the garden perimeter but have increased the width of the individual planting rows. When I first recognized that my problems were soil related a few years back, I organized the garden in rows where the width of the plantable area and the width of the walking rows was determined by the amount of good soil I had. I was limited by the amount of compost I was making which, prodigious by any standards, was still only a finite amount. My focus was on soil depth, making the planting rows higher, so there was good soil and good drainage deep down. Once I was satisfied with soil quality in any given row, I start widening the planting area and shrinking the walking space between rows. As an example, last winter my planting rows probably averaged 30” wide whereas the space between rows was more like 40”. The season before that the planting rows were more like 2‘ wide. By using the compost to widen rows throughout last spring and this summer, those widths are about reversed and in some areas, the space between the growing rows is down to 2′. Doesn’t sound like much but it’s the difference between planting a row of cabbage 2 plants across vs 3 plants – 50% more plants per row. Some of the rows were wide enough for 1 plant whereas now all will handle at least 2. It’s hell being an engineer and breaking everything down into a design calculation.

Finally some Ghost peppers. I started the seeds in March and put the plants in April 24. With most pepper varieties I’m familiar with, we should have been picking by the end of June or early July. These will probably be mature in September. I don’t plan to test them for heat or flavor but rather ship them off to the hot pepper fanatics in the family. Anybody that wants a sample, let me know.

So the first of my test sequence is a CAT scan. By itself that seems fairly passive but to spice it up, they give you a bottle of guacum to drink the night before and another for an hour before the scan. The bottle is labeled “berry smoothie” and the label actually sports a picture of a cornucopia spilling over with mixed berries; very attractive. If it was really a berry smoothie don’t you think they’d have just given me a chit for a smoothie at McDonalds? Each bottle is 450ML, whatever the hell an ML is in regular people measurements. It looks way too much to chug. Be nice if they offered it in both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic version. The only directions on the bottle are to shake well. Nothing about mixing with gin or vodka or a recommended chaser. It doesn’t say not to though. I’d look it up on the internet but I’m afraid I’d read all kinds of nasty potential side affects like those commercials for drugs on TV.

Glad this week is over

Talk about a bad week. Yeah, we all lost it big time in the market – welcome to Obama world. But there’s way more to it. I found out that if your PSA starts to rise again after you’ve completed radiation treatments, there is a whole new world of torture tests out there waiting. More to come. This morning ended the week in the same fashion it has progressed all week. I made a list of things to do which started with spraying round-up on the driveway to kill the weeds. I use a very concentrated version that is available to commercial growers which I get here in nursery land. I bought a gallon about 5 years ago and transferred it into one of those plastic Tide soap jugs that has a push button top to to allow easy measurement. The jug sits on it’s side and I just bring the spray bottle up under the top, and give it 10 pops on the push button. Each tap of the button is a tablespoon so I give it 10 taps into the spray bottle, add 2 gallons of water, and spray away. This morning the top broke off after the 2nd push on the button. I’d guess the container was half full of the toxic goop and, if I’m lucky, only half of it spilled out on the porch. Cleaning up that mess set me back half an hour. In the middle of all that Nancy said she was leaving, bridge day, and that there was a load of freshly washed clothes in the basket and would I be a prince and hang them on the line. My niece is visiting this weekend and she loves freshly washed and sun dried sheets. I got the load all hung when the clothesline broke. The line is probably 5 years old, maybe the same age as the Tide jug. So the market broke, I broke, the Tide jug broke, and the clothesline broke. The market will come back, I can get a new clothesline and Tide jug, so that all bodes well for me too. In retrospect, I’m wondering if this string of bad things didn’t start last winter when the spec’s quit biting.

I’m really concerned for those folks who are blaming the Tea Party for the current financial disasters unfolding. If I have it right, the Dem’s were in control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first two years and the White House plus the Senate ever since. And I think I’m right when I say that there were only 75 Republicans elected to the house this past election who were supported by the Tea Party – that would be fewer than 20% of the total membership; Sixty freshman representatives. So how is it that such a small group in the lower house can really be blamed for anything? What the Fed was saying when they decided to keep interest rates near zero for 2 more years is that nothing much is going to happen to make things economically better until after the election and a new cast of characters enters the stage. Makes sense to me.

And personally, I’m happy to see Rick Perry enter the race. I think one of the big roots of this country’s financial problems and employment problems can be traced to the Obama energy policy. He focused like a laser on basically shutting down the fossil fuel industry in this country and threw billions of stimulus dollars at flakey energy policies – chasing the wind and sun rays. And converting food into fuel. I don’t much care what else Rick Perry promotes, for sure he will jump on the energy issue and get us back drilling. Drilling in Alaska, drilling offshore and fracking shale. He understands the relationship between energy and the economy -the current group is clueless. I really believe that if energy is cheap and abundant, everything else falls in line.

Beared again

Got beared again last night but I’m chalking this one up to a victory for the home team. We heard lots of dogs barking last night and had speculated that the bear was roaming around. Sure enough my trash can was up-ended again. But surprise, it was empty. Our trash is picked up on Monday and we didn’t have anything to put in it so it was empty. I didn’t put it in the shed as I have been for a week or so for just that reason. I guess that tells me that the bear is not smelling something that tickles his fancy but rather doing a sight thing. Based on that, I guess hiding it in the shed has been successful.

Moving on to phase 2 of my fire pit revival project. I planted it this spring and got pathetic results so started loading it with organics in May, layer after layer of leaves, grass clippings and a wide variety of other yard debris. Yesterday I tilled it all in and created 4 rows. The rows are now elevated nearly a foot above last season’s surface and the tilled organics are at least 18” deep. The rows are 8′ long by 3′ wide and the plan is to put in two tomatoes in one row to start the experiment. The actual transplant will take place circa September 1, the tomatoes being 6 weeks along at that point. I have been saving gallon jugs for deep root watering and planted the first one in the designated tomato row. What I do is drill holes along the bottom of the jug then bury it such that the neck and fill hole is a few inches above the surface. I can then fill the jug with water or even a few spoons of soluble fertilizer which insures that the moisture and goodies are distributed down by the deeper roots of the plant. Next I dug holes about a foot deep exactly where I plan to put the tomatoes and liberally sprinkled them with sugar, my first line of nematode defense. Once a day for the next month I’ll fill each of the holes with scalding water, sun baked in the hose -my second line of nematode defense. Last for now, I crumbled a couple of egg shells into the bottom of the hole to provide calcium to the plants. Supposedly that prevents tomato bottom rot, a typical tomato problem. About a week before planting, I’ll sprinkle each hole with a good dose of special fertilizer then overtop that with very well prepared compost. I don’t need the tomatoes at all since there will be more than enough planted in the main garden so no great loss if all these preparations prove for naught.

Haven’t decided yet what I’m going to plant in the remaining rows but for sure nothing before September. I’m leaning towards maybe trying some early cabbage plants.

Oh yeah, understand why they call if Star of David okra. When you cut it, the inside cavity is exactly star shaped. Both varieties were tender and delicious. Going to have to be very vigilant in terms of harvesting. The okra is colored the same as the stems so it’s tricky spotting them inside the foliage. Not sure about these particular varieties but if they get too large, they are totally inedible. Maybe I should let a couple get big just to experiment and see if perhaps these never get woody. That would really be a big deal.