At the Beach

The pic is the tangerine tree I’ve mentioned as being loaded with ripe fruit way early. I decided to try one, expecting it to be fairly sour, but surprise, it was pretty good. We can’t begin to keep up with them but this year I’m going to aggressively juice them. That uses lots of fruit which otherwise end up dropping, rotting, and eventually hitting the compost pile.
early-tangerines

As of the end of October, the garden is planted out except for 20SF. There’s about 100 more SF that will be plantable by the end of next month or sooner if we had a surprise early frost that kills off the eggplant and peppers. I’m really feeling good about the season because there is a wide variety of veggies and lots of time spacing so the eating season will be much better than past seasons. It’s way too soon to opine the final count or quality but I still have small seedlings in the works for December planting so I should be able to keep the table full on through July. October has been more or less perfect in terms of temp and overcast skies so the percentage of transplants that made it is higher than usual.

First beach report – Saturday. Tom came up with us and basically moved all the stuff from the car up to the house. That made this the easiest trip ever. The surf is rough, the wind is blowing and the Gators lost. What else is there? Chicken was good at the Pantry. I can tell already I’m going to have to work hard at it – just getting the bait to sit still in the water is going to be a task. Bring it on.

Sunday AM – The surf is about as rough as I’ve seen it – right up to the berm and suds blowing face high. There is no “wading” in the surf and you have to keep one eye open for flotsam (or maybe it’s jetsam) ramming through the water. I made a few dozen casts to no avail. The wind is coming directly onshore at 25 mph at least So it’s really tough to get any distance at all. If this was an offshore breeze, I’d be casting to Portugal. I’m ok with the rough water so as soon as the wind abates, I’ll be pounding it hard. What you don’t want is your spoon hooking up on one of those flotsam guys. I know if I do hook a fish it will be a big one. Only a big one could swim in this surf.
rough-surfsuds

Occupy Barberville

Went to join the “Occupy Barberville” movement but there isn’t one. So I drove on to Pierson – nope. I don’t get it – are the people in Barberville and Pierson not concerned about the greedy whatevers? I wasn’t much concerned about greed but am really upset about the fact that the lake level is still too low and wanted to protest that. I was planning to expand the protest and join in with any group protesting greedy nematodes – nobody. I bet if I stood on the corner (the only corner) in Barbersville and had a big sign that said “Occupy Barberville” somebody (in a pickup truck) would stop and offer me a cold brew. Or maybe they’d drive by and throw the empty bottle at me. Too risky so I’m going to “Occupy the Dock” tomorrow.

A few posts back I mentioned an experiment with a San Marzano, pruning it severely to give it a new start. It didn’t. So I yanked it out to see if nematodes had attacked the roots but they were clean so whatever got the plant was something different. I guess that’s partly good news. Basically all the Marzano’s in that cohort crashed with the same visible symptoms and they were spaced around the garden so it was either the weather or a flying critter that did the deed as opposed to a localized soil condition. Personally, I think I planted them just a month or so too early so they were maturing in the worst possible time – as it turns out.

I thinned the beets using the scissor technique described in an earlier post. Supposedly this is good for the remaining plants since their roots are not disturbed by pulling out adjacent plants. The timing on this was extremely critical. Nothing to do with the plants but rather getting the small scissors. Nancy, being a quilter, has a long position on scissors so you’d think me borrowing a pair for a good cause would be a no-brainer. Wrong – these scissors are not intended to clip beets. I know that these small beet stems are much, much softer than any thread and no way could this application have an adverse affect on the stainless steel blades but quilting tools are quilting tools and garden tools are garden tools. So I had to wait until she was out of the house for a while to pull it off with no controversy. If I visit the issue again, it will be when we’re eating the beets, and I’ll ease into the topic softly. In another week or so I’ll repeat the process on the carrots.

I mentioned a while back that O’Brians, one of our favorite breakfast spots, had closed and a sign forecasting the “Swamp Shack” was posted. I opined that this was going to be a juke joint but it looks like it might reopen as a restaurant. The sign says “swamp cuisine”. Maybe this is a clue as to where the missing bears and gators are ending up. I haven’t seen a drop off in the number of armadillos around so maybe that’s not classic swamp fare. I haven’t checked out the menu yet so this is all speculation but you have to know gator, turtle, and swamp cabbage would feature high on the entree list. How about a rack of raccoon; possum and squirrel stew?

A new favorite pie

Starting to get excited about our beach week coming up the first of November. I’m feeling better and positive I will be able to fish my little heart out. With the particular ailment I have, just wading a little deeper in the surf could make it all work out just fine. All the fishing reports say the blues have moved into the surf and are the biggest in years – lots of 5 and 7 pound fish being caught on spoons. I’m all over that. The weather guys are predicting a storm next weekend and I’m not sure how to feel about that. First these guys are wrong so often that a storm prediction could mean a likely chance of good weather. On the other hand, a storm usually roughs up the surf which is a good thing for blues. One thing for sure, I’ve dealt with it all before and have whatever tackle and fortitude it takes.

Tried a little internet research to determine whether Yeungling or a cheap, red cab was more likely a curative for an ailing prostate. Apparently there’s been no serious research on the subject so I guess that leaves it up to me. I’m still not 100%, using pre-surgery as the 100% mark. I’d say maybe I’m 75% and getting more comfortable every day. Still a little sore, nothing to slow me down, but you really don’t want to be far from a bathroom or equivalent – like alone in the jungle or wading in the surf. Right after the catheter was removed, I had maybe 2 seconds warning – not enough. At this point, with one week past, I have more like 15 seconds. Still not much but, if you move like lightning, ok. I have a close out meeting with the doc on the 27th and hope he tells me this is all transient.

I have a new, all time favorite pie. At the aforementioned birthday bash on Sunday, along with the carrot cake there was a rhubarb pie brought by Paul and Francesca. The carrot cake was cut and was all the dessert we could handle so the pie was cut and distributed for take home eating later. I’ve always known rhubarb pie existed but never tasted it – something about a veggie pie never appealed to me when sitting besides an apple or key lime pie. Last night I polished off the take home piece and can honestly say I’ve missed it all my life and need to make up for lost time. It had exactly that tartness that makes me a fan of cranberry and pomegranate anything.

One thing that has exceeded my expectations are the patio tomato plants. I planted 3 (in one planter) on a lark after getting a free packet of seeds and after the marigolds that had been growing there had played out. I think I’ll pick up another half dozen large planter boxes and use them for flowers early on and then switch to warm weather veggies next fall. It should be easy enough to use the hand truck and roll these guys in and out when the weather demands – usually we have half a dozen or so nights that get too cold. My thought is that green peppers would be ideal since they don’t get too tall and are something we use on, more or less, a continuous basis year round. That plus they get really expensive in January. Basil would be another candidate. You probably wonder why I don’t just go out and do it this year – simple, the planters have all been put away and replaced with Christmas goodies and won’t reappear on the shelves until next spring. Should I mention my plan to Nancy or just assume she’ll be ok when I wheel the planters into the living room? Yeah, she’ll be ok with it – why rock the boat now.

Ate a few Sweet potatoes

We were invited out to a “light lunch” on Sunday. I didn’t think too much about it but on 3 or 4 separate occasions, the inviter mentioned the “light lunch” so I got to wondering what is a “light lunch” exactly and how do you prepare for that. Do you eat a giant breakfast. It was scheduled to occur at 2-3PM which further added to the planning difficulty. Should we wait until about 10AM to have breakfast and then take out stuff for a supper when we get home? When I grew up, a Sunday supper often occurred at 2-3PM – not sure what label we gave it other than “dinner” but we ate breakfast as usual, skipped the regular lunch and then had a big meal mid afternoon. If you got hungry at 8PM, you could make yourself a sandwich, maybe from the leftovers, or maybe there was some cake. You can handle all that in your own place but a mid afternoon “light lunch away from home is more problematic.

Not to worry. We had a really great time and the term “light” must have referred to calories since we had plenty to eat – a grilled piece of salmon on a bed of mixed greens and an excellent Greekish, side salad. Who’d have guessed Mark was such a chef. Then it was topped off with a home made carrot cake, perhaps the best I’ve ever had. Oh, and to start off we sat around drinking fine adult beverages and munching on home made German pretzels. Could not have been better.

I’m not sure what was more impressive – the eats or the incredible remodeling job that was done on the back porch. The last time I saw it, it was one each standard Florida screen porch attachment. Now it’s magazine quality. The great part of it was that it was all done creatively using existing things that might have been pitched out by less thoughtful remodelers. Hat’s off to Joey and Mark for the job they’ve done in changing a 50’s style, nothing special house into a real showplace, and for putting together exactly what would work for us in an enjoyable afternoon.

After letting the sweet potatoes dry out for 10 days, we decided to try them. Tasted just like store bought sweet potatoes to me; Nancy thought they were sweeter so they probably are. All in all, I’m calling the experiment a success. Not sure I’m going to do it again though. Mainly because they really take up lots of garden space. On the other hand, they do well in August and September when most other things have crashed so I’ll have to take that into consideration. I think there might be varieties that have more bush like characteristics as contrasted to vining so I’ll do some research before I completely close the door. It would be nice to ping pong between white potatoes and sweet potatoes as the season dictates and with both species, I seem to have broken the code.

Starting the root crops

Damn armadillos got into my newly planted chard and chinese cabbage last night. They’re not after the plants per se but it seems that a newly planted area just attracts their attention. It must be that I mix fertilizer in with the soil and they are attracted to that somehow. Maybe the planting attracts ants which pulls in the armadillos. It’s not near as big a disaster now since I semi-expect it and start plenty of spares.

Thinned out 5 rows of radishes this morning. I interplant radishes and carrots which I guess is fairly standard practice. Carrots take a while to germinate so it’s recommended that you plant radish seed adjacent to carrot seed because the radishes germinate much faster and mark the row. That plus they loosen the soil to enhance carrot growth. Radish seeds are cheap and small, not as small as carrot seed, but small. So I double plant to make up for seed germination issues and then thin wherever multiple radishes pop up together. The next part of my process is inexplicable. As I noted radish seeds are cheap and they grow well so what most people do is just yank out the wimpiest or where multiples occur. I try to ease them out gently and replant somewhere else. That takes time and effort for not much return and I know that in advance – but yet I try to save as many as I can. So a 10 minute job takes me over an hour.

A note on the carrots – I planted predominately one variety using standard seeds but did a small row using pelleted seed. Not sure where I got that seed – it might have been a bonus thrown in by a seed company as a reward for ordering – but I’ve always been dubious about pelleted seed. The big advantage with the pelleted seed is that it’s much, much easier to deal with. The pellets are about the size of a BB as compared to normal carrot seed which is about 10 seeds in the same size. So in planting carrots, with the pelleted seed it’s easy to space the pellets correctly and thus, eliminate the thinning task. The part that has surprised me is that the pelletized seed has germinated in about the same time as the non-pelleted seed and with about the same germination rate. So next time I buy carrot seed, years from now, I’ll probably go with the pelleted seed.

I was also surprised to see that the beets I planted on Tuesday had started germination by Friday. I did soak the seeds for about 8 hours prior to planting and it looks like that’s the trick. I routinely soak spinach seed to speed up germination but it seems to work just as well with beets. Beets also presents a thinning challenge because each seed contains the makings for multiple plants. What I’ve read is that I shouldn’t try to gently separate the seedlings and replant- exactly what I’ve done in the past. Apparently doing that disturbs the roots of both the one being removed and the one remaining which results in stunted growth. The recommended approach is to take a tiny pair of scissors and clip off all but one from the cluster. I’m going to religiously use that approach this season and see if I can break the jinx I have with beets.

Fire Ants on the rise

I was still not quite over all the after affects of the cryo happening and was glad when the Surgery Center called this morning as a follow-up to see if I was having any difficulties or had any questions. It was an automatic system which prompted me to leave a message if I had any needs or questions and that the doctor or equivalent would follow up. I thought that was very efficient – except I never heard from them. By 5PM I decided to call on Dr. Yeungling – currently residing in the fridge – and see if there was an organic malt solution to my problem. Sure enough, my instincts were right and I was rewarded with a flow of goodness. So, if things got better with one adult beverage doesn’t it make sense that two would be twice as good?

I’ve never seen fire ants as we’re having this year. There are more mounds, bigger mounds, and the ants themselves seem more animated and aggressive. If you happen on a mound they are on you in a fraction of a second and chomping down hard and often. It must have something to do with the dry weather we had up until this month and then the recent storms. I have a giant economy size bag of fire ant killer and am doing my best to keep the garden ant free. That’s where I’m most vulnerable, kneeling down and working in the soil. Most recently I study the area I’m going to work carefully and don’t get down until I’m fairly sure my feet or knees won’t be in a danger zone. And I put on a pair of vinyl gloves with longer sleeves. But if I let me guard down, wham they have me. I’ve heard that pouring gasoline on a mound will do the job but hate to pour gasoline in the garden but if the Amdro isn’t up to the job, I’ll float them in gas in a heartbeat.

Up until yesterday, I wasn’t taking Herman Cain too seriously. I can’t mentally get past the national sales tax he likes. Then I heard him sing a rendition of the old Beatles song, “Imagine”, where he inserted the key line “Imagine there’s no pizza” and I was won over. I have to think congress would gut the sales tax part of his plan. If he would pick up Ron Paul’s plan to shut down about half the gov’t agencies, he’d have me hooked for sure.

I keep hearing that there are millions of jobs available that require technical skills but too few people interested in gaining those skills. Here’s my plan: free tuition to all kids in engineering and science curricula; paid for by doubling tuition for all kids in liberal arts majors. Maybe triple tuition for law school and political science majors. Or automatic payoff of student loans for those kids who have degrees in engineering or science or business. No Pell Grants for those planning on a degree in 17th century French literature.

Back in the garden

Nancy is a car locker; I’m not. We have a 15 year old Toyota approaching 200K mileage. I honestly don’t care if someone steals it. So we’re in a restaurant and it starts raining cats and dogs, no umbrella, and Nancy has locked the car. Who should be the one who goes out and unlocks it? Seems pretty straight forward to me.

The peas, onions and radishes that we planted last weekend have popped out and seem to be doing just fine. This cooler weather and an occasional shower are getting the job done. The carrots have yet to pop but they normally take a couple of weeks so no concern yet. I’m going to push forward under the assumption that this cool weather is here to stay and plant beets. How’s that for a gutsy move. For whatever reasons, I have bent my pick on beets here. We got a few last year but certainly nothing compared to the number planted or the loving care and attention I gave them. I’ve also taken advantage of the fall weather to fill in open spaces among the cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce with spares. It’s very normal that I lose a few here and there after planting and I always start some backup seeds just to fill in as needed. Sometimes the sun proves too much but more often one of the critters – four legged or insecta – take their share. Actually that’s not so bad because the fill in spares mature a bit later so the overall crop is extended and more spread out for the table.

Got a tomato experiment going. My San Marzano’s just haven’t done as well as a fall crop as they did as a Spring crop. I’m fairly sure it has to do with the critters gnawing away, day after day. Next time I try this I’ll hold off a month more so that the crop comes ready in November instead of September. I did start several tomato plants, not San Marzano’s, 6 weeks later and those are just now coming to blossom and look just fine – even a few green tomatoes. Too soon to label them successful since the San Marzano’s also looked good at the point where they started producing blossoms. The experiment is that I took one plant that was in particularly bad shape and trimmed it substantially. Maybe trimmed is an understatement – butchered is closer to the actual condition of the plant. Not a leaf or a twig left on the bush – nothing but a thick stem and a few bare branches. Will it recover and generate all new, fresh foliage? If yes, will it produce tomatoes? My expectations are that it will produce new foliage but won’t have time to produce fruit before it gets too cold. But you never know, we could have an unusually warm winter and be feasting on bonus tomatoes in January.

I’m back to adding a little space to the garden. Generally what has limited expansion is the availability of compost as apposed to actual space. I’ve created an incredible amount of compost over the past 3-4 years but most of it has gone to increasing the depth of the plantable space rather than increasing the areal dimensions. I’ve used the width of the trenches between growing rows as a variable – making the trench narrower as I have enough compost to widen a planting row. Today I filled in another 20 SF and by the end of December will add about that much again. If you think about a garden of 1000SF, another 20 or 40 SF seems hardly worth concerning yourself about but if you consider that, on average, plants require about 1 SF – then the added space means 20-40 more cabbages, broccolis, or whatever. If you think about root crops – carrots, onions, beets, radishes – I plant these about 10-12 per SF so 20 SF produces more onions than you would use in a year. For me it’s not as much about the quantity that can be produced but the ability to experiment with techniques or varieties with no concern about the end result. It also lets me do a much better job of time spacing to keep a more continuous flow of goodies.