All lasered up

Ever wonder what a 911 emergency ambulance will cost? Wonder no more. The bill was $916. I’m guessing that between Medicare part B and my Gap policy, it’ll all be covered. I knew it would be fairly expensive because there were 5 technicians on scene and we’re a fair distance to the hospital. Nancy thought it was a bargain!!

Hit the 5″ mark on rain Tuesday at noon – rain started on Saturday. That’s the magic number because my rain gauge holds 5″. The weather folks are saying we should expect a few more inches over the next 3-5 days and I’m just fine with that. So far, this storm has does everything right. It would be great if we could get one of these every couple of weeks for the next 6 months.

Got lasered. When you’re on a first name basis with most of the staff at a surgical center, you know you’ve been there way too often. This was my 4th visit in eight or so months. It takes two of them to carry my records now. We arrived at 7AM and were leaving, sans stone, by 11. This procedure does generate a bit more “discomfort” than the sonic approach but no doubt, this worked. I have to take it easy for a couple of days but that’s about it. So in the past month or so, I’ve been scoped and cleaned out from top to bottom and certified as A-OK.

Finally some rain

For those of you that think the only place for okra is in a deep fryer or as part of jambalaya, think pizza. We had our first (of the season) okra and eggplant pizza. Exotic and delicious – that’s what I call it.

We were supposed to meet up with some old friends in Altamonte this afternoon for dinner but the weather turned yucky such that it would have been nasty driving on the interstate so we called it off. The folks we were meeting love eggplant so I had gone out this morning and picked enough for the 3 families. The change in plans put us in eggplant overload mode with really no room to stuff them in the fridge for another day. So Nancy decided the right thing to do was to break out a couple bags of previously frozen spaghetti sauce and construct a couple of batches of eggplant parmegian to be frozen for future events and also a couple of eggplant sautes to freeze for future sides. A couple of hours later, we have enough put away in the freezer to satisfy several meals or one big party. Just wonder what the folks without a garden do when the weather gets too yucky to go anywhere?

The yucky was a named storm – Debby. If you were outside of Florida it looked like a big old bad, almost hurricane. We got just about 5” from 7AM Sunday through 7AM Tuesday and some modest wind so it was a good storm- certainly one that wouldn’t have earned a “name” 50 years ago. The nice thing was that what little rain we got came slow and steady so it really soaked the ground well. A garden rain, not a lake filling rain. The forecast, for what it’s worth, is another 3-5” over the next couple of days as the storm very slowly crosses the state from west to east about 60 miles north of us. Cumulatively that could make a dent in the drought. I checked the lake today and it’s noticeably higher, at the bottom of the first rung of the ladder and now totally covering the area where I dug out the muck last month.

Getting into one of the books Chris sent – Gone Girl. As with all the books he sends, I have never heard of them but they never disappoint. This grabbed me on the first page but it’s not a fast read; the kind of book that you have to read intently – no word skipping. I even had to change the XM background music back to the Loft from the Coffee House.

Exploring the lake

Went around the cove at our end of the lake with the poke boat and a bamboo pole to get a good handle on the water depth. Looking for holes and shelves that would hold fish while it’s still low enough to find them. I was surprised at just how deep the shoreline is in many spots – 6-8‘ deep within 10‘ of the shore for much of it. Many lakes in Florida are really just depressions with very gradual, sloping bottoms but this lake is clearly a sink hole lake with a distinct shoreline and only a few gradual slopes. With the lake down 6‘ or so, that means there’s plenty of 12‘ deep water very close to shore under normal conditions. That makes it much more suited for deeper running lures than top water baits which I use most frequently.

Got the tackle box conversion job done on a first pass basis. I couldn’t fit all the things I had in the old bag into the new one but a good bit of that hadn’t seen daylight in 15 years. If Tom has room, I’ll gift him quite a bit of the overage.
Joey’s tackle box find turned out to be a gem. Just so happened that Nancy was going over to Cocoa to a quilt shop and Joey was home so she went by and picked it up. It was a smaller version of the same kind of box I just filled – a soft bag with plastic lure containers and lots of pockets. There were two lure boxes loaded to the hilt with Rapala’s, a wide variety of in-line, Mepps style spinner baits, a nice variety of trout spoons, and some tools. At new, retail – at least $200 worth of goodies. The previous owner was clearly a trout fisherman, probably from an area with large reservoirs where trolling is a common technique- like I used to do at Strawberry. The contents included a few containers loaded with flies – not anything I’d use here but something Tom would probably use in North Carolina. There were also a number of jars containing salmon eggs and trout concoctions called Power Baits. I would have no use for those at all and will probably just end up chucking them. I think many of the spinners and spoons will work well for speckled perch if not an occasional bass. And for sure the container/tackle box itself is really nice. I found one item that I had never seen before. I opened a pill bottle and there was a cluster of tiny, tiny treble hooks, probably size 22 or even smaller. There has to be thousands of them totally entangled into a ball. It would be a major task just getting one hook out of the cluster to use. I have never seen such tiny treble hooks. I know they must be for the salmon eggs but can’t imagine how micro the leader would have to be or how impossible it would be for me to tie a hook onto the leader.

Tackle, tackle and more tackle

Nancy and I have a difference of opinion regarding the definition of the word surgery. I think you have to be literally cut, as in cut with a scalpel, or it’s not a surgery – it’s a procedure. So when I have the laser attack on the kidney stone, I refer to it as a procedure whereas Nancy tells people I have surgery. That sounds way worse, to me. People send me “get well” cards or religious cards because she tells them I’m having surgery. I’m thoroughly convinced that if she told them I was having a procedure, no concern, no cards. Her definition is that if you are put out, anethetized , that’s surgery.

I’m in the third day of transitioning from my old tackle box(es) into the new one and I think I have another day or two ahead of me. I’m uncovering tackle that I have had in my possession for 30+ years. Joey put me under even more stress today when he called from a flea market in Cocoa with a tackle box “find”. He briefly described the contents and asked if I wanted it for $30. It sounded like way more value than that so I jumped on it. Just what I need, more tackle. What I’m going to do is have Tom come over and we’ll just go through all the excess stuff I have and split it up in some fashion. Now all I need is water in the lake.

Mark is on a trip ferrying a sail boat from San Diego to Panama City, Panama. It’s a 37′ sailboat which seems kind of small to me for such a trip. Then at the end of August he has another job ferrying a sail boat from Newport CA to Aukland NZ. Much bigger boat, I think 75′ but that’s a trip of several thousand miles without much land between here and there. I think the plan for the latter trip is for Joey to fly down to Australia for a week or so vacation with old friends from there.

A happy father’s day

Great father’s day. We went to Tom’s where Tina made her now famous chicken enchilladas with the equally spectacular apple cake. She also made a large taco in the shape of a bundt cake. Tom got me a new tackle box – well I guess that’s an understatement. It’s a Gator, orange and blue kind of Gator, bag with five or six individual plastic tackle containers and loads of pockets to carry all the accessories. It will take me a few days of careful planning to transfer my tackle to the new bag. I have soooooooo much stuff in the old bag that I haven’t seen in years that this new bag will force me to sort through and organize or toss. My first pass through the old one included food that could have been buried in there for years.

New Tackle bag
New Tackle bag
Bought myself a new drill for father’s day. I really didn’t need a drill but just couldn’t pass up a “free” one. I have a really nice, Dewalt, 12V drill that has served me well for 5 or so years and would probably do so for another 100 years. Problem is the batteries died and just won’t hold a charge. Went to get new batteries and found they cost $35 each; $70 for the two I need. Or I could get a brand new Hitachi, 1/2”, 18V drill with a matching flashlight and two batteries for $79. Seemed like a no brainer to me. I guess it’s like the printer/ink business – give away the printer and make lots of money selling ink. I have to take a more global view and figure it will cost $75 or so every 5 years to have a portable drill. $15 a year doesn’t sound so bad.

We may have/may have had a gator, the swimming kind, in the lake. The other night there was a boat going slowly around the shoreline with a spot light. That’s the standard technique for gator hunting. Never heard a gunshot so either they didn’t spot anything or perhaps they were using some other, stealthier technique. With the lake so low, I don’t spend much time down there so it’s not likely I would have spotted one unless it crawled out of the lake and on up to the porch

My new toy

The prize for the most original birthday present goes to…………… bride. She got me a chitarra and a wooden rolling pin. Not just any chitarra, AKA pasta guitar, but a hand crafted, double sided chitarra. If you look closely at the picture you can see the fine cutting wires. My grandmother used one when we were kids in Philadelphia so this really brought back great old memories. We were having guests for dinner, Glen, Lynn and Andrew, so I got to try it out within an hour of Fedex making the drop. Worked like a world champ and as hard as it is to believe, we think the pasta actually tasted better. Chris and Joey took care of my intellectual needs with new books and Tom got me a new Guy Harvey dress shirt – that would be a blue one with a large snook on the back. What a lucky guy!!!
Got back from the Dr. and got the good news that my PSA is still behaving nicely at 0.8. The kidney stone, however, looms largely and needs some action. I’m now scheduled June 27 to have it laser blasted. We’re wanting to take a trip to the Carolina’s in early July to see Simon at Tremont and the great-great nieces so this gives me about 10 days to recuperate.

The thing that surprises me the most about the large, sugary drink ban in NY, is that they didn’t just bump up the tax on large containers by a dollar or two. Bet California isn’t far behind and suspect they’ll see the flaw in the NY approach. Assuming there isn’t a large scale revolt, I would think a limit on plate size might follow; a ban on “all you can eat” promotions; buffets. I seem to remember a move to ban happy hours at bars years ago – that went over like a lead balloon. Then there’s the new Burger King dessert – a bacon sundae.

Happy Birthday Sombrero

I had a fun birthday party last night. Tom had called last week and wanted to meet for dinner on my birthday so we picked a Mexican place we all like that’s located about midway between us. I was surprised when Joey and Mark showed up since I thought they were both in Puerto Rico. After dinner I was surprised when all of a sudden I was surrounded by a group of singing Mexicans, one of whom plopped a big sombrero on my head and another placed a large, fried ice cream dessert in front of me. I think that was the first time I remember being the actual recipient of one of those restaurant birthday celebrations and for sure the first time I ever wore a sombrero or ate fried ice cream.

Did the last batch of spaghetti sauce for the year. I haven’t done a final count but, suffice it to say, both freezers are full and there should be enough to get us through until next season. We had 16 plants, evenly split between regular tomatoes and paste tomatoes and wouldn’t want any more so that’s a good number for next season.

Something unusual this season – baby pine trees sprouting all over. Over the years I’ve wondered why, with all the pine trees we have on the property, there are never any new trees popping out. We’ve always had loads of pine cones but nothing ever sprouted. I have always heard that pines needed fire to spring loose the seeds and assumed that was the reason we had none but clearly that’s not true – or at least it doesn’t absolutely require fire. We have had some smokey days from fires a few miles away so maybe all the trees need is a hint of fire rather than the actual flames. Or perhaps the drought we’ve experienced for the past couple of years prepares the trees for fire. Oh, by the way, Maple trees too.

We have occasional overnight guests and almost always they’ll ask Nancy what kind of soap she uses on the sheets because the bedding smells so good. When she tells them, they sometimes say that they use exactly the same soap so it’s something else. Then we divulge the secret – we hang out the sheets on a clothes line to dry. So it’s fresh air and sunshine that’s bringing out the pleasant odor. They then usually either say that they would never do that or that they would if it wasn’t against the HOA rules. The other one that cracks us up is when someone asks why we have ropes hanging between a couple of trees – have even had a “what’s a clothesline?”

I find out the status of my kidney stones and prostate cancer on Thursday. It would be nice if they were both gone but afraid the stones won’t go so passively. I’m thinking a drone attack.

Cutting back the jungle

Since my urological problems started last September, I have seriously fallen behind on my palmetto trimming operation. They grow slowly so you don’t notice just how much they have encroached on my territory. I was always right on top of them and routinely cut large piles that I ran through the chipper to become the base material for most of my compost piles. With the soil improvements, the garden now generates plenty of material for compost without resorting to the tough, slow to decompose palm fronds. So cutting loads of fronds was no longer a benefit but instead present the problem of what to do with them. I’ve solved that problem by using them to keep down new growth in the areas I cut through to the lake and my health is such that I can go after them with renewed vigor.

Another job I’d neglected for almost a year is getting rid of the green mildew or mold that forms on the porch screen. I use a product called Wet It and Forget It which is a liquid that you spray on with a standard garden sprayer. Very easy job and the stuff works like a world champ. A day after spraying it, 90% of the mold is gone. At that point you can easily see where you missed spots making the clean up easy. With a few days to a week, not a sign left. The other good thing is that after a spray job, the mold won’t return for 6 months.

About 5” of rain so far this month – now if it just keeps it up for the rest of the summer, we’ll have our lake back. It will take this much every week from now until September.

Charity Quilt

George made it home last night, all fit and ready. He’s supposed to hold down the activity for a while, until his blood levels build back again – I can identify with that one.

Putting in another 15′ row of okra and 15” of sweet potatoes. Both of these crops thrive in the heat and along with peppers and eggplants, are about the only thing I’ve found to work June through August. Neither of these are favorites but ………
In cleaning out the finished plants, that would be the squash, cucumbers, and rabbit eaten greenbeans, I’ve come across 4 renegade/volunteer eggplants. The nice thing about these is that I learned last year that the fruit comes out exactly as from the original seeds. With lots of plants, particularly tomatoes, you never know exactly what will be produced and it’s disappointing to let one of them grow to full size and then just crater or produce bad stuff so I routinely pull them out. I didn’t last year and the eggplant crop was extended by months, actually until the first cold snap in late December.

One of Nancy’s pet projects is making quilts for the Pediatric Infusion lab at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. A few people in her quilt group make the quilts and then every few months, they take a load up for the kids having to undergo dialysis or chemo treatments. The picture shows a typical quilt that some little boy will cherish.

Eating Corn

Talked to George again yesterday, first time after the new Pacemaker installation. He (and the doctors) had a rough time of it – a planned 2 hour procedure turned into 5.5 hours. Apparently there was quite a bit of scar tissue associated with the old one and much more bleeding than anticipated but in the end, all was done well and proper. He said he feels like a million bucks and could feel absolutely nothing but normal. With the old one he experienced what he calls PVC’s which must be some kind of fibulation but none with the new and improved 2012 model. He thinks he’ll be released to come home on Tuesday, which will surprise me a little just because a Tuesday release was the original plan before the pacemaker entered the picture. He sure sounds good.

Personally I feel good – about back to normal in terms of endurance. So I’m out there digging and turning just like the good old days a couple months back. Got a current blood report and things are looking better each time. Next check is in 4 weeks – glad to be past the once a week checks. I know from past experience that getting blood levels back to normal takes a while. Potassium is normal so that didn’t take long at all. I found out that almost all the veggies we eat are loaded with potassium which makes sense when you think about it. Potassium is one of the main ingredients in fertilizer and my compost is loaded with it by virtue of the wood ash from the burn pile. The only booster I added was to drink a glass of orange juice every morning and put half a banana in my cereal.

We have corn! It looks good and it tastes even better. I can’t really estimate the crop size but pretty sure there are 100+ ears out there just waiting to make a grand entrance. Not quite as good a report on the Idaho potatoes. I guess that’s why they call them Idahos. We ended up with 3-5 pounds, none very large – they pale in comparison to the real thing. Back to Yukon Golds next season.

Florida Staysweet
Florida Staysweet

I pulled out the last of the squash and cucumber plants. We got lots of produce but I still think they failed to live up to their potential because of a stink bug infestation. This is two years in a row for that problem so I may have to rethink variety selection and growing technique. The stinks don’t seem to care about anything but squash and cucumbers. Probably if I had melons, those would be attacked as well. The squash I grow are bush varieties. I choose those because they take up less garden space than the vining varieties. They did really well as long as I had the insect covers but they eventually just got too big to cover properly. I also planted a few without covering at all and they simply were infested before they produced anything so I know the covering works. My thought is that if I switch from bushes to vines, I can leave them covered longer. With cucumbers, I’ve been having them climb up trellises rather than crawl horizontally. Same deal – I theoretically get more cuc’s per square foot of garden – but in doing so, just can’t cover properly for insect protection. My plan for next season is to let the cuc’s vine horizontally. When I prepare the rows for planting, I’ll completely cover the ground with newspaper to prevent the cucumbers from making contact with the ground where some creepy crawlers munch them.