Gone campin’

I still haven’t killed off all the rats. I know that because every night I put out poison and every morning it’s gone. Also, every morning there are eaten tangerines on the ground. – not one or two but as many as a dozen. I pick up the peels, deposit them in the compost pile and carefully note that there are no more all day long so I know they’re still climbing the trees and feeding at night. Either the poison simply isn’t working or there are more than I thought. The proprietor at ACE tells me they are all over and causing trouble. His brother lives about 30 miles away in a high $$ neighborhood, Victoria Park, and overnight rats ate the brake lines on his SUV parked in the driveway. That makes me think the exceptionally warm, dry winter we had has fostered a rat bloom. Assuming the poison is working, I wonder if each lid full I place is eaten by only one rat? I had envisioned a communal feeding frenzy but that’s probably not what’s going on. Whoever finds it, gobbles it all. Twice now when I do the morning check, the lid is actually missing. I found it both times, the last time about 15′ from where I placed it and close to the nest we destroyed by the firewood. I’m guessing that when the tree is cleaned of fruit, they’ll disburse and find some other food source. Uh oh, zucchini?

I’m taking a 4 day sabbatical fishing with Tom down in the Stuart area- camping out and everything. That means Nancy will have to take over the rat patrol. She doesn’t seem too interested in the training program I’ve planned. I’m making a wild guess that she won’t crank up the chain saw and remove that tree and fix the clothesline while I’m gone.

Saved by the generator

Make that 16 tomato plants growing. I took the water walls off and found one had suffered the curse of STC. My bad.

About 5AM I was awoken by a serious storm. About that same time we lost power and appeared to be inside as strong a hurricane as we’ve ever experienced. The forecast was for severe thunder storms but this seemed a bit more than that. Lots of lightning but no thunder – kind of strange. The good news is it was all over in about 15 minutes. I got up when there was enough light to see and did a quick damage survey. Lost an oak tree and an old dead pine down by the dock. It was not just any oak tree but the one that held up the clothes line. It’ll take a day or two to get that all cleaned up – actually considering I’m going camping tomorrow, it’ll take a week. I went down to the dock and found several pieces of dock furniture in the lake. The good news is that with the low lake level, I could just wade out and retrieve it. The Poke boat, which had been laying upside down a few feet from the water’s edge was halfway in the lake. About that time, George showed up in the golf cart and we did a neighborhood tour. We must have had a mini tornado or micro burst because the place on the other side of George’s had a fairly large shed totally destroyed. In fact the metal roof was up in the trees. We called the power company and they reported we’d be out until 1PM. The last time we had a report of 5 hours, it turned out to be 12 hours so I cranked up the generator. Very slick. A few hick ups with too many refrigerators and freezers to start simultaneously but after sequencing through them, all was fine. Turns out the power outage was caused by that shed roof up in the trees along with power lines running through the same trees. We were back on line about 11AM. Sure glad we had the generator – else no morning coffee.

Nancy is making a new recipe courtesy of the west coast. It has kale (maybe a yuk), Feta Cheese and Italian sausage. I love Feta cheese and sausage so how bad can it be. Well, it wasn’t great but it was edible – once.

Nancy has been bugging me for a while about putting up a few more shelves for food storage. I am always very reluctant to add storage space because no matter how much you have, it’s never enough and is filled quickly. My answer is not to carry so much inventory. That was my line when running a manufacturing operation and that’s my line with Nancy too. Also, as simple as adding shelf space sounds, it just never turns out as easy as it first looks. I finally capitulated and sure enough, it turned out to be a bit more complex than the guy at Lowes made it sound. Actually it would have been just fine except that the design depends on the wall studs to be uniformly spaced at either 16” or 24”. I found the center stud quickly after only drilling 3 teeny weeny, nobody can see them holes. From that point you mount a horizontal bracket and then use the predrilled holes to secure the bracket to the wall. Guess what, the predrilled holes do not line up with the studs in my house. So I removed the bracket and tried to find the studs (lots of teeny weeny holes) only to learn that on one side of center, the stud was 20” removed and something like 21” on the other side. The bottom line was that if you line up the center point with the stud, all other securing hardware would miss studs. I was able to scrounge up some wall board inserts and alternate hardware to make it all work. It does look just fine and seems sturdy so all it took was about three times as long to install as advertised.

Corn and Tomatoes

Pulled out the remaining broccoli plants to make room for the corn crop. I checked my records and this broccoli was started from seed in August and September and moved to the garden late September and October. So we really do get a long season and a continuous harvest from December through February. I used 3 different varieties with different maturation points so the main heads were staggered out and side shoots from all were prolific the last two months. For what it’s worth, I liked a variety called Calabrese which is an old, heritage variety. It took longer than the more modern hybrids and grew much taller which is probably a negative for many gardens. Also the florets were not as tight but I thought tastier and more tender. I unloaded 4 wheel barrel loads of lake bottom muck over top of the broccoli roots and will probably overtop that with a shallow layer of compost. If the weather holds, I’ll probably plant the corn seed in mid March. The only thing holding me up is a dozen or so lettuce plants right in the middle of the planned corn patch. Those will be gone within the next few weeks – one way or the other.

Corn is one of those crops that has to be planted in a substantial block. You can’t just grow a few corn plants but need at least 50 plants and the more, the better. That’s because it pollinates by the wind so if you just have a few plants, the pollen could/will most likely totally miss the target. I’ll end up with maybe 100 plants in a 15‘x20′ area. I’ve decided to try the “three sisters” method again. I didn’t have much luck doing that 3 years ago but then I didn’t have much luck doing anything 3 years ago. The 3 sisters are corn, squash, and pole beans. The technique is to plant the corn and when it’s a foot or so tall, plant long vined squash plants – I use butternut – and then 3-4 pole bean seeds around the corn plant. The technology here is that the squash, with large leaves, shades the roots of the corn and keeps them from drying out in the hot summer sun. The pole beans fix nitrogen, that’s what peas and beans do, so they actually provide living fertilizer to the corn. The pole beans wrap around and climb up the corn, not enough to bother the corn. The technique supposedly goes back to American Indians way, way back.

I now have 17 tomato plants growing – not counting the 2 patio plants. Is that over the top? Well if all 17 make it and produce as advertised, 17 plants is definitely over the top. Thing is, I don’t expect them all to make it and the 17 plants are made up of 6 different varieties, several of which I’ve never tried before. Six of the plants (3 varieties) are in the fire pit, an adjunct garden, which has steadily improved as I’ve worked the soil but which has still not been really good. This could be the break through year – in which case we will be way, way over the top in terms of tomato production. What I’m searching for are varieties that are dependable in this climate. Once I narrow it down, I can get by with fewer plants. I have big hopes for a variety tagged Bella Rosa and am hopeful that a new variant of Celebrity will also be tough enough to get it done but no guarantees on either.