Eddy, we’ll miss you

Just poured myself a very tall scotch which is something I don’t do much anymore. Got news that a family member was killed in an accident and it’s left me really broken up. Eddy Bradley was a cousin-in-law, which, when you say it doesn’t sound like much, and in most cases, a cousin-in-law just isn’t very much. But Eddy was the kind of guy you instantly liked/loved and I think I’d feel the same way if I’d only met him once a hundred years ago in a bar. Even his name – Eddy Bradley – conjures up the image of a guy you’d like to know, to pal around with. As it is, we got to see him every few years and even vacationed one year in the mountains of Idaho. Never, ever, ever will forget the fun we had with a born and bred, died in the wool New Yorker coping with the wilderness. And supposing you don’t know Eddy at all but would like to form a mental picture, conjure up a typical Irishman with a great sense of humor and a button-popping proud father, not ashamed to show it. He would be your best friend. It’s going to be very, very difficult for Marie and the kids to get through this next few years without him – hard for the rest of us too.

New Approach to ratting

I mentioned that I was going to place the rat poison such that larger animals couldn’t get at it. I pushed the poison about a foot under the shed and then blocked the entrance so only a critter that lived there or was small enough to crawl under from another entry point could get to it. Sure enough, and unexpectedly, the poison was gone – both chunks, each in a different spot. So now I’m back to rats being the bad guy. I could see mice nibbling the poison but these are substantial chunks. So I’m going to try to find a fourth poison formulation or buy some more of one I’ve been using. Nancy’s has that as a secondary task on her quilting day.

OK, she tried a new feed store. This time in DeLeon Springs. The same feed store where I get the Bigeloil – the horse liniment we use to ease aching muscles. They had the same stuff the last feed store had and told her this was the best stuff to use. But the real find was that the proprietor told her to insert the bait inside a piece of PVC pipe to make sure that only rats and mice can get to it. I just happened to have a 3′ piece of 2” PVC so placed the piece under the shed and inserted the bait about halfway along the pipe. In order to get at the bait, a critter would either have to pick it up and dump it out or be small enough to crawl inside. Very clever idea – even better than my blocking the entrance although I do think that worked too. First night, nothing touched the bait. Maybe a 2” pipe is too small so let’s try a 3” pipe. Bingo, the bait was gone. So the critter is small enough to get into a 3” pipe but maybe too big for the 2” one – rat.

You’ve no doubt seen the story of the kid who was shot in Sanford by the neighborhood watch guy. Turns out that we have a semi family member who was on the scene – one of the Sanford policemen called to the scene and was the guy who actually put the cuffs on the shooter and accompanied him to the police station. He’s my niece Joanne’s son in law or ex son in law, not exactly sure on the status of all that. He was in the video showing the action at the police station. So we’ve got the scoop right from the horses mouth – obviously more credible than big Al Sharpton or the reverend Jesse. The station house video was taken after Zimmerman was cleaned up and looked after by EMT’s – ergo, no blood on the video.

Smoked Pork and Shrimp Pizza

The smoked pork worked out well. It was 4 pounds and to be cooked at 90 minutes per pound (6 hours) at 225 degrees. It was also forecast to be done at 190 degrees internal temp. About an hour before the time was to expire, it looked to me that it wouldn’t get up to temp so I popped the heat up to 235 and sure enough, the internal probe read 190 right at 4:30. I wrapped it in foil and drove down to Tom’s for the big pulled pork event. Tina made some of my favorite sides and the meat was great. Seems like Nancy and Tom had a fun time watching baseball, hitting the local eateries, and doing quilt shops. The next happening on the schedule is Easter which I learned is going to be at the lake this year and Tom is going to cure and smoke a fresh ham. That’ll be a first.

Trying an experiment with the rat poison that should tell me whether something larger than a rat is actually getting the poison. I’ve been placing the poison about 6” back underneath the shed next to the carport. It looks like a natural place for rats to live and the bait has been consistently taken. What I did differently was to place the poison in the regular spot but then blocked the entrance so that only a small critter or one that had made residence under the shed could reach it. I think it should eliminate possums and raccoons as possible doers.

Doing a layered compost pile this time around. We’ve accumulated a giant pile of oak leaves, a large pile of lake bottom goop, a substantial amount of wood ash, and a steady and bounteous batch of fresh stuff coming from the garden. Just the Brussels I’m pulling out presents quite a load of green material. So I put down a layer of oak leaves 3-4” thick, then a layer of green, a layer of ash, and top it off with a layer of muck. In a few weeks layers of field grass clippings will be added to the mix. Tasty. Since there will be very little woody material to decompose, this should be a fast, soft pile. I’m programming it for July but wouldn’t be surprised to be using it in June.

We made another unique pizza – this time three key ingredients that separate our pizza from Domino or Papa John’s are shrimp, swiss chard, and broccoli. We’ve run out of the 6 grain crust we love so on this one we tried a cheesy herb crust. Turned out to be a great combination

Happy birthday Tom

What Gator.

Going down to Tom’s this evening to pick up Nancy and celebrate Tom’s birthday. They have one last game today and should pull in to Lake Mary about 6PM. I somehow got the job of smoking a piece of pork for a pulled pork happening there. I put it on at 10:15 AM with the expectation of it being done by 4:30. This will be the first time I’ve used the smoker’s meat temperature probe which is supposed to get to 190 degrees for this meal. I’ll wrap it up in aluminum foil and bring it down for the pull meister to do his thing.

Something that’s been missing in the garden from the get go are worms. Worms are a sign of good, rich, organic soil so no wonder they were nowhere to be found. I’ve been noticing that the muck I’m digging up from the lake bottom has a goodly population of worms so I know I’ve been transferring them, more or less, to the garden soil. What I don’t know is if this particular variety can survive in the drier soil compared to the wet, gooey stuff they’ve been populating. I went down to the shoreline with a fork and started digging around the edges and sure enough came up with plenty of worms in a short order. I brought them up and started a few colonies at various locations. George tells me that about 20 years ago he was raising worms in a bed down by the lakeside but it fell apart or something and he lost them all. I wonder if these are the ancestors of that colony or an indigenous variety? It’ll be interesting to see if a year from now I have them roaming amongst the beans and tomatoes etc just doing their little worm things to the soil. Or will the armadillos sniff them out and gorge to some easy pickings?

I’m getting bad vibes about this coming summer. The mosquitoes are already worse than I can ever remember here, the rats, and now I’m spotting rabbits – one in particular this evening was eyeballing the garden. I’m thinking the rabbits and the rats are some signal that whatever predator is supposed to deal with these critters has left the scene.
If I see one of these fur balls actually working the garden, I’m breaking out the pellet gun pronto. Rabbits are fairly stupid and I can probably reduce the population to zero fairly quickly – that is assuming they’re not an endangered species.

Dressing up the garden

Go Gators!

Timmy and the Jets – that’s so wrong. I keep waiting to here about a trade between the Jets and the Jags – where else does it make sense for Tebow to end up?

Got up early this AM to take Nancy to Lake Mary for her and Tom’s annual baseball tour. This year they’re going over to the west coast to take in games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So I’m a bachelor again. On Sunday I go back down with a smoked pork roast ready to become part of a pulled pork barbecue there. Nancy just loves this trip and looks forward to being with Tommy all year long.

While she’s gone I decided to take the big leap and move the Mercury back under the carport and cover it. I’ve been feeding the rats (or whatever) there for about 3 weeks now with a variety of poisons and even though the poison is gone every morning, I have to think maybe something else beside rats are making off with it. Fingers crossed!

The beans and the corn I planted last week have started popping out in earnest. Still too soon to judge the level of germination but so far, so good. I also put in a dozen or so Inca marigolds to dress up the garden. Inca’s are primo marigolds and I get all kinds of ooh’s and aah’s from visitors. Also starting some zinnias which will likewise be sprinkled around the garden in a few weeks.

Taken the next step with the sweet potatoes – removed several of the new stems which are 8-10” long and growing a fine load of leaves. Put those in a glass of water intending to root them. If history serves, that will happen in a week or so. In two weeks, they’ll be set in the garden and doing their thing in the real world. It means I have to give up on several Brussels Sprout plants which are looking great but simply not putting out any fruit. George is convinced it’s because the soil is too good, too rich. He might be right but I’m thinking there’s something missing in the soil. I did try a new variety because the one I had grown successfully for the previous two years is no longer available at seed companies. I went with an old, tried and true called Long Island Brussels and planted them in an area of the garden where I hadn’t grown them in the past – you know the crop rotation thing so that’s another change factor. Nothing’s ever easy.

Fun week

Had company from California the past few days – the Burmeisters – so we’ve been busy, busy, busy. Managed to squeeze in a party at Tom’s, a trip to Gainesville to see Simon, and a surf fishing trip. Lot’s of fun

On the way home from Gainesville we stopped at a feed store on the road across the forest. I figured that the rat poison we’d get there might be different and more potent than what I’ve been feeding them from ACE hardware. It was definitely different, sort of a bar of poison that is broken into large chunks, as opposed to the small pellets I’ve been using for the past few weeks. Interestingly, it stated in big, bold letters that it was effective on Warfarin resistant Norway rats. One of the two other poisons I’ve been dispensing is loaded with Warfarin so maybe these particular rats have the gene that neutralizes it and this new one will nail them. I missed a couple of days feeding them and then broke out the new stuff. The first night I put out 3 chunks – next morning still had three chunks untouched. What does that tell me? Are they gone? Do they not like the new stuff? On the second night, one of the chunks disappeared; on the third night, all three chunks were gone. So I know I’m feeding something. Haven’t seen any squirrels falling from the trees so…………………
The large patch summer planting is done for a few months – both corn and beans in. This will be a real test of the lake bottom muck since I planted both crops in a 2-3” thick layer of the goop. The beans are mix of green and yellow romano beans – a flat Italian variety. I have 5 more tomato plants waiting in the wings to be planted in the next couple of days and that finishes off those. The first ones that hit the garden under the water wall protectors back in January are sporting blossoms and a couple of micro tomatoes so potentially from those on to the ones about to go in, we’ll see the continuous supply of tomatoes I’ve not been able to produce consistently in past years.

A while back I mentioned setting 3 sweet potatoes in a water container to sprout. Those are really looking good and I’m thinking I’ll take the next step on those next week. That is to carefully remove the individual shoots and root them, still in a water vase. When they root, then off to the garden. So within a month, I’ll have both Idaho and sweet potatoes going. I learned last year that as the sweet potatoes grow, I can clip off pieces of the foliage, root them, and start a new plant in the garden. I don’t see any reason why I can’t just keep doing that all summer and have a steady stream of potatoes without an end-of-season overload.

What Bee Shortage?

Nancy got the other eye done and all went well. She reports things are much brighter. She goes back for a check-up next week and then gets a prescription for glasses as her new eyes dictate – just fine readers.

One really nice resource I have here that would not be available to the general public is a couple of stands of bamboo. I use bamboo for plant stakes, to make trellises, and even used a couple to make clothes props – wonder how many people nowadays even know what a clothes prop is? I’m going to construct a pole bean tower in a few weeks – when the spot in the garden becomes available.

Got the corn in. I had to weave it around some late season lettuce but I just couldn’t bring myself to pull it out. The variety I’m trying is called Florida Stay Sweet Hybrid. It’s a super sweet – that’s an actual technical term to describe a type of corn. I went to a yellow corn instead of the bi-color’s I’ve planted in the past. So it’s all different this year and I hope the results are likewise different. I mentioned before that I was planning to intermix some butternut squash with the corn so I rationalized that I’ll just plant the squash where the lettuce plants are currently residing. Lettuce matures quite rapidly so another 2 weeks should do it and you’re not supposed to plant the squash until the corn is about a foot tall. Sounds like clockwork to me.

I think everyone has heard and worried about the shortage of bees necessary to pollinate the crops. Some kind of bee virus or parasite or something. Quit worrying – I found them or rather they found the citrus trees. You definitely have to give the trees wide berth. These are really big, fat bumble bees just working their little hearts out flitting from blossom to blossom. There are also a couple of monarch looking butterflies doing the same thing and they seem to be getting along with the bees just fine.

I guess it should be no big surprise that Santorum is doing so well – but it is. From the get go, Gingrich was too burdened by history to ever win and Romney could never do well in the South. But still, Santorum is a poor candidate – another House of Rep, wheeler dealer guy from the NE. Pundits are coming around to the brokered convention possibility which, in my mind, has been the likely outcome all along. No one (but me) thinks another candidate will come out of the convention.

Insect protection

A little news. Simon got a summer job in the Smokey Mountains working as a camp counselor at a place called the Tremont Institute. I checked it out online and it’s a facility that people send their kids to for summer camp. Lots of hiking, kayaking, and all the generic things you do at camp in the mountains. The job description fit him like a glove so not surprised that he was selected. Simon put in applications for three jobs; Yellowstone Park, NOC, a white water outdoor center also in the Smokies; and Tremont. He was offered jobs at all three but the Tremont position was the one he really wanted.

Switched to a different rat poison but everything seems the same – I put it out and they eat it at night. Assuming the poison is working, I just have to assume that something gobbles up the dead or dying critter since there’s never any bad odors. We have lots of possum, beaucoup raccoons, and an occasional fox but, other than the fox, not sure if those other guys would eat a (dead) rat. We’ve decided to give it another week or so and then start parking the cars back under the carport. Then just be vigilant in checking under the hood every couple of days.

Looks like we have the potential for a large, large citrus crop next fall. The grapefruit and tangerine trees are absolutely loaded with blossoms. Last year the grapefruit blossom was minimal so we didn’t overload on grapefruit juice this year; tangerines yes, grapefruit no. Interestingly rats don’t like grapefruit so if you’re ever faced with that question, now you know. I wonder if they’re repelled by grapefruit – as in what if I put a grapefruit under the car? They’ve pretty much cleaned the tangerine tree except for a few that are way out on small branches they just can’t get to so at least that part of the problem is behind us.

Over the next two weeks, all the winter crops should be out (except for the Brussels) and replaced with summer goodies. I bought a light weight row cover for insect protection that I’ve never used before. Squash is really vulnerable to an array of insect attacks so that’s my primary target. Supposedly this material is light enough that it won’t trap heat but I really have my doubts about that – in Florida. I’d like to cover the cucumbers too but since those grow on a trellis, I haven’t figured out how to deal with that. There are bush type cuc’s which could be covered but the kind we really love are a long, climbing variety.

Downed tree gone

Everybody is familiar with the switch from Standard time to daylight savings time but lesser known is the switch from winter pizza to summer pizza. We have another month of green based pizza – that would be pizza loaded with broccoli, or spinach, or swiss chard in many combinations – to light colored pizza such as eggplant or zucchini parmesan with slices of fresh tomato and green pepper toppings.

Took care of the trees downed by the mini tornado that lashed us last week. It’s now future fire wood and will eventually end up as ash in the compost pile. This oak was right at the entrance to the path down to the lake so I’m really not too sorry to see it go. You wouldn’t have known it from looking at the tree growing but it was rotted inside and broke off right at ground level – perfect. The tree to which the clothesline is tied at the other end is obviously dead so I’ll just take this opportunity to whack that down and come with a totally new route.

Nancy has the cataract in her right eye taken care of on the 14th. Since we know what to expect on this, it’s not as worrisome as it was the first time. Had a funny experience at the eye doctor’s yesterday. Nancy had an appointment to check on the left eye and take one last map of the right eye before the surgery. When we walked in I saw another patient in the waiting room who looked familiar but I just couldn’t place where I knew her from. She spotted us when we walked in and smiled but nothing else. I just figured it was my magnetic personality that attracted the smile. Then they called the name of the patient and she walked by and the lights went on – it was an old friend from 30+ years ago but before I could say anything she was gone. Nancy and I looked at each other and said at the same time, “that was Mimi”. Nancy was called about 5 minutes later and after that Mimi came out. I called over to her and then it was old home week. She said she thought she knew us but couldn’t recollect exactly from where. Turned out that Mimi also had a cataract removed – on the same day as Nancy last time, a couple hour earlier, and she was in to set up for the second cataract which was scheduled for 2 hours prior to Nancy again. Same doctor. Is that bizarre or what?

Back home and catchin’ up

Back from the fishing/camping trip 2 days early. I really enjoyed spending the time one on one with Tom but the fishing was bad. Wind, wind, and more wind. It was more or less continuous from when we got there until we left at 25 mph with gusts to 35. In addition, fishing out of the fold boat was tough on my back and legs so I was beat. The boat and motor performed well and we got to try out the electric motor too but it’s just too cramped for days of fishing. Ok for a few hours; longer for younger backs. I hope we get another shot at it before the summer heat arrives. Usually April is a good month on the Tomoka so I’ll be keeping a close eye on that action.

Still feeding/poisoning the rats on a daily basis. Nancy kept up the duty while I was gone, filling the cups every evening and seeing them emptied the next morning. She bought a different kind from the Pierson ACE – I’ve been patronizing the Deleon Springs ACE – so maybe we’ll see more dramatic action out of the new formulation. There are only a few tangerines left on the tree so the natural source of food will be depleted in the next few days. Maybe they’ll leave on their own at that point.

I’ve decided to take a risk in the garden and plant a few summer squash a month early. Seeds are cheap so there’s really not much to lose even if winter returns and the upside is getting squash before the bugs and heat take over. Ditto cucumbers. I have space available, all ready with muck and newly minted compost. The first year of Florida gardening I tried a variety of zucchini that had been really great in Utah but totally bombed here. I’m going to give it another try since I don’t know if the problem the first time was poor soil or just the climate here. For sure I’ll plant other varieties that I have more confidence in but have my fingers crossed that Gold Rush will come on as strong as I remember.

Started three different types of eggplant; the old standard, Lavender Touch, that I’ve had so much success with; a slender, green variety called Raveena; and a slender purple Chinese variety call PingTung. Several people have asked for seedlings so I’ve started plenty. Last year I had several Lavender Touch plants spring up from seed in the soil from the season before – we call them volunteers or renegades – and I expect that to happen again but I’ll pull most if not all. Last year I just let nature take it’s course and I had way, way too many eggplants. Going to pop three or four of these guys in plus a half dozen green pepper plants as well so by the end of this week I’ll be heavily committed to the spring/summer crops – 2 weeks ahead of the Ag Dept’s recommendation.