Chip off the old tooth

Went to the doc this AM for a routine annual checkup. The only excitement was on the trip there. Between home and DeLeon Springs I spotted the blinking blue lights of a patrol car up ahead and dutifully slowed down. As we approached it was clear there had been an accident and the car involved was seriously banged up with front end damage but there was no sign of another vehicle or tree or anything that could have caused the damage. A couple hundred yards further up the road I could see more blue lights flashing so I assumed that was the other vehicle – although it seemed pretty far from the first car. When we got there we saw that it wasn’t another car but a dead bear. That marks the second car-bear happening I’ve seen on that stretch in the past year. You just know the bear wasn’t insured. It was probably too far from our house to be the marauder who goes after our trash cans.

Got the first 5 posts installed for the new garden fence. The first line of fence required digging up a 35′ x 2′ strip of grass so the job was more difficult than just digging the post holes – all in all, 2 hours of labor. Doesn’t sound like much when you say it that way but it’s super hot, super humid so two hours is all you want. I’m staying with my 5 pound estimate.

About 6 months back I broke a chip off a molar. It was bothersome for a few weeks but gradually I got used to it. I went to the dentist today and the advice was that I should have it capped with a crown. I said it wasn’t bothering me but he assured me that it would eventually just break all the way and then it would be a much bigger problem. From kidney stones to teeth – I just can’t catch a break here. Since this doc is the best dentist I can ever remember having, I guess I have to go with his judgement.

Jalapenos coming too

Pulled out the sweet potatoes. This batch was much nicer looking than last year’s. I had planted a 10′ row and it yielded something like 20-25lbs. That tells me for sure that the rabbits didn’t impact the growth of the tubers when they cleaned off all the foliage 3 months ago. It grew back profusely under the insect tenting. The instructions are to clean the dirt off and keep them dry for 1-2 weeks before eating. During that time I think the tubers are converting starches to sugars or something like that. Digging them is really a messy job and can only be done by hand. If you try poking any kind of shovel or fork into the soil, you run the risk of stabbing a potato. The tubers spread out and down in the soil so you really have to be thorough in sifting through to locate tubers. I’m virtually covered in dirt – wet dirt since I’m dripping with perspiration through the entire process. The nice thing is that the soil is basically 100% organic material so it’s very soft and easy to dig around with bare hands. I do have another row of sweets that should be ready for harvest in later October- mid November.
While I was at it, picked another load of eggplant. No doubt this is my most dependable crop. We’re going to a party at Tom’s and will distribute them to whoever wants them – but mostly to our niece Joanne. Also a handful or two of jalapenos for Tom. Tina makes lots of salsa so these will be used properly in that household.

George and I started the garden rabbit fence project by taking down a section of old fencing to recover the posts and wire. So far, that part of the job is much harder than anticipated because the fence is totally overgrown with briars and other vines and of course it’s very hot and very buggy. My guess is this will take us a full week, half taking down the old fence, half putting up the new one and I think it will be a 5 pound job. That means I will lose about 5 pounds in sweat by the time the project is completed. And I mean that literally. I staked it out and will take this opportunity to square the garden up a little. My rough calculation is that I’ll be adding about 50SF of useable space to the garden – not that I need it – just a product of the squaring process.

This should be a very telling election. I personally don’t care for either candidate but one thing for sure, this is a contest between Socialism and Capitalism. Very reminescent of the Carter-Reagan election. That worked out just fine but I’m not sure this time. I wasn’t all that enamoured with Reagan because of his California connection – much the same as I feel about Romney and Massachusetts. I was wrong then and hope I am now. In my mind, voting for the question mark is better than the socialist.

Picking potatoes soon

According to my garden charts, the sweet potatoes should be just about ready. It’s a 120 day crop which I planted March 27th. The plants give you no indication – white potatoes’ foliage dies off when the tubers are ready- so you just have to dig in. And that’s the plan for today. These are the same plants that were stripped of foliage by rabbits back in May so there is some question in my mind as to the quality of the crop.

Saw an item on the news about the nationwide drought conditions and how it’s impacting the corn crop and how that, in turn, impacts all food prices. I have a solution – let’s quit drilling for oil and use a third of the corn crop to burn in our cars. Mixing ethanol/corn into gasoline is and alway has been, a stupid idea. It’s bad for engines, reduces mileage, and runs up the price of corn. I’ve even read that growing and processing the corn uses more energy than it provides. Bad for everybody but the farmers – and the politicians. I also learned that they use soybeans to make diesel fuel. I hadn’t heard that before. I’m just fine with growing the feedstock for fuel but would think by now that something more suitable for the fuel and less intrusive on the food supply would have emerged.

Saw another article on the same show about great white shark attacks in Australia and off the coast of the California and Cape Cod. The reporter said that no one has any idea why these attacks are on the increase – I do. Sharks are a protected population now, so guess what – lots more of them. Ditto bears, wolves, alligators. Same crowd that wants to use corn for fuel, is ok with sharks and gators. Of course most of them live in places like NYC where they neither fill gas tanks or interface directly with the great outdoors. I think we should make rats a protected species.

Still having trouble getting sympathetic about all the forest fires out west. The Forest Service or whoever makes such calls, decided years ago not to log the dead pines which were being killed by Pine Beetles. Guess what eventually happens to square miles of dead trees? Seems like maybe using these dead trees to fuel a power plant would be a good idea.

Work, work, work

Joey and Mark came over yesterday on a mission of mercy. I had a dead bay tree hanging over the dock and I really wanted to get it out before the hurricane season heats up. I handle most of the smaller trees myself but this one required climbing up on the roof and me on a roof with a chain saw is a bad combination. And as long as they were here, Nancy wanted a new, taller toilet and had a few spots that could use caulking. So between the three of us we spent about 5 hours working outside and in. I usually putz around the property for a few hours each day, clipping and trimming and got that in before they came over, so by the time we were finished, I was pooped. Things like that are tougher this year because of the mosquitoes. It forces me to wear winter clothes in the middle of summer.

I had mentioned that my USB Broadband, internet, modem had crashed so I ordered a new one directly from Virgin Mobile. I bought the original one two years ago from WalMart. The principle reason for choosing the Virgin Mobile plan was we could get 30days/1 gb/ $20 no contract. Perfect for us. So when I put the new modem on I signed up for the same plan – tried to sign up for the same plan. Turns out that is a Walmart special and only applies if you buy the modem from Walmart. That tweaked me big time since the next alternative plan was 30/3gb/$35. We never use the 1GB so why do I want to buy 3? Nancy calmly, I wasn’t in a calmly mood, called several Walmarts until she found one in Ormond that still had the old model modem. I decided to sleep on it and start fresh in the morning, expecting to have to do battle again. No problem at all. The new one worked like a champ, old plan popped right up, and the icing on the cake was that Virgin threw in a free month for my troubles.

Nancy tried a new recipe – rollatini. It’s an eggplant recipe and with our long position, she’s always on the lookout for something new so when the cook on the Chew mentioned the word eggplant, she was all over it. In this recipe, the eggplants are sliced lengthwise then fried/sauteed in olive oil – no breading. This makes the slices soft and pliable. Then on to each slice you add dollop of ricotta cheese mixed with an egg and some herbs. Roll up the stuffed eggplant, kind of like a cannoli or a manicotti without the pasta. You place these rolllups into a casserole dish and overtop with spaghetti sauce – something else we’re loaded with. Pop into the oven and oila, rollatini. So, except for the cheese, this is a meal we handle 100% out of the garden. What’s funny is that the first year I grew eggplant, it was mostly to dress up the garden and we had trouble even giving it away. Now, both the Souza’s and us are gobbling it up and the waiting list from friends and family is fairly large. The good news is that new plants keep popping up from reseeding, they handle the heat and humidity just fine, and the rabbits and bugs don’t like them. What would be the frosting on the cake would be to find out that eggplant is a source of kidney stones!!

And as usual, after making the rollatini, there was ricotta left over and sauce left over. Not to worry, break out a box of ziti and twenty minutes later, baked ziti ready for the oven. Actually it goes into the fridge, and becomes a meal later this week. We sure eat well!!!

Off line again

It’s official, my broadband modem is bad. I’ve been seeing a zero signal strength for a couple of days and the Virgin Mobile folks have been telling me that there was an outage in my area. Yesterday they ‘fessed up that the outage had been fixed and it was my modem. I had suspected that from the get go since I had messed up the antenna interface connector trying to get my neighbor up and running with my modem at his house. With the Pierson library about 3 miles away, it’s not as bad as it was a couple of years ago when I was 15 miles from the nearest legitimate wi-fi. Assuming that is the problem, I should be back up and running mid week. So if we’re a little late in responding to emails, that’s the reason.

The lake is coming up, slowly. Another inch will bring the surface level up to the second rung on the ladder. That means the water at the end of the dock will be knee deep instead of ankle deep – still way too low to even launch the boat – but certainly the trend is right and we still have 3 months or so left in the traditional rainy season. Personally, I’m convinced that the extended low water period is a net positive for the lake since it consolidates soft shoreline into nice firm lake bed when resubmerged. I’ve already noticed one thing different about the lake. When we first moved here, it was full of shiners – natural bass bait. It would take us a few minutes to fish off the dock and catch a dozen or so nice bait size shiners. Over the next few years, the shiners got bigger and the population of small ones seemed to dwindle off to nearly nothing for the past few years. But now we’re starting to see smallish, 4”-6”, shiners swimming around in the lily pads just off the dock. I can’t help but think the dramatic changes in level the lake has experienced in the past year is a factor in the shiner recovery. Maybe the baby fish have an easier time surviving or maybe the solidified bottom is better for egg survival. All I do know if that if you have lots of shiners, you have lots of fat bass chasing them.

Another little factoid relative to the changes in the lake is that there are lots of new lily pads popping up farther out from shore – as far as 200′. The water there is normally 15-16′ deep and I’m guessing that not enough sunlight penetrates that far down to allow the pads to sprout. Now the water is more like 10′ deep there which must allow just enough sunlight to promote growth. It will be interesting to see what happens as the water level rises since the sun capturing pads are on the surface. My guess is that they’ll do just fine until they’re cut off by a boat prop and then won’t regrow.

George is all over the idea of fencing the garden. He has a fenceline between him and his neighbor on the other side which he wants to pull down and we’ll use those posts and fencing to construct a nice one around the garden. We measured it and the distance around the periphery of the garden is 150′ and it looks like he has more than that available to use. It’s going to be a fairly big job taking down the old fence and then putting it up again around the garden but we’ve got until October or so before it becomes necessary. Both families are now so used to just going out and picking a good percentage of what we eat, that the idea of just letting it go was not something either Nancy or Barbara were too keen about. Aside from being fresh, tasty and cheap it’s very convenient which is a big deal out here in the woods. I told them that there was no way I was going to go to all the trouble of planting and keeping it up just to feed a swarm, covey, herd or whatever of rabbits so the fence became a no brainer compromise.

rabbit zilla

It’s been nice getting some occasional rain but it has unleashed the largest number and hungriest mosquitoes ever. With my low blood count, I’m pretty sure these guys could drain me completely in just a few minutes. In fact they’re so big that if they got their act together, they could carry me off to finish the kill at their leisure. So I’m forced to dress full winter – long pants, long sleeve shirts, and socks – in the heat of summer. So if I don’t succumb to blood loss, dehydration would surely finish me off. Any exposed skin is sprayed with poisons. Other than that………

I have a problem for sure in the garden with rabbits. The local predators just are not getting the job done. They don’t really like most of what I have growing right now but everytime I go out there now there are a couple hopping around in the garden just waiting for me to plant something more to their liking or removing the covers from the sweet potato plants. These rabbits are so tame that I have to actually go over and give them a little kick to get them moving. A kick moves them about 5′ so I take a step and give another kick – all you have ever heard about how timid they are is bunk. No way will we be able to have a fall garden with cabbages, lettuce, and the other typical seasonal greens. I mentioned to George that my next step is to break out the pellet gun but that would bother Barbara so I’m thinking fencing or maybe just hanging up the hoe, so to speak.

Had a follow-up to the kidney stone procedure and the blaster assured me he had got “the” stone. But he was quick to add that there are still 2-3 more on each, that would be each, side. They are quite small and way up in the kidney so there’s nothing to do but let nature take it’s course. Nice. He said just drink plenty of liquid and come back for another X-ray in 6 months. Nothing happens quickly and I’ve probably had this overhang for years and never knew it. He hadn’t received the chemical analysis yet but was pretty sure they were calcium oxalate, very garden variety and no dietary changes would make much difference. I’m thinking about the advice an old neighbor gave me – go into the bathroom with a case of beer and just stay there until the stone passed.

Back to hitting the Pierson library to get on the internet. The local Sprint tower must have been zapped so we have no signal at all. I’ve been assured that it will be fixed but ……………………….

Trip to Smokey Mtn National Park

Back from visiting Simon at the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Simon has a summer job at the Tremont Institute which is an educational nature facility where kids/families spend a week experiencing the Park and it’s ecosystem. (check it out on the internet). He’s a counselor and leads groups on nature hikes, swims and classwork. His major is Environmental Science and with his years as a boy scout, has the perfect credentials for this job.

Our plan was to get up early Friday morning and pick him up at the park by 5PM when he got off work. So we got to bed early Thursday night only to be awakened by a call at midnight from Tom advising us that there had been a major storm at the park which had basically shut it down and trapped people inside with downed trees and at least one fatality. No way to know if Simon would be able to get out or if we would be able to get in but we decided to get started as planned and have him call us along the way if he got any information that would keep us from seeing Simon. Along the way, Simon called 3 times with the news that we couldn’t get into the park but he would be able to get out and meet us so we continued on as planned. He told us that he and several co-workers had ventured out right after the storm and started cutting away trees that were blocking the road. They were at it until the wee hours of the morning when the forestry guys arrived and took over the heavy clearing. When we got there, right at 5, sure enough we were stopped at the entrance and it became obvious that we were not getting in, no matter how sad our story. No worry, Simon did get out right on time and we headed to the hotel in Maryville, TN. (I was under the impression Simon’s job was in NC but learned that his part of the park is in Tennessee). Saturday we went into Knoxville to a downtown farmer’s market, hit one of Simon’s haunts at a restaurant called Tomato Heads and the obligatory 3 quilt shops. The whole time we were educated with Park lore regarding the flora and fauna and with tales of the kids and coworkers that Simon had befriended. He’s learned more about salamanders than you ever thought there was to know; ditto trees indigenous to the area; ditto birds; lichen; snakes; old settler cabins and farms; this trail and that peak. He can expound, and does, for half an hour on the difference between a 9 year old and a 12 year old and is as happy as I’ve ever seen him – and he’s a normally happy guy. We left him about 2PM so he’d be able to meet up with the crowd heading for a tubing trip to be followed by a burrito party that evening. We did actually get to see two bears fairly up close and personal.

We took a liesurely two days on the way home, stopping a couple times in Georgia to buy some roadside stand peaches and vidalia onions. No more quilt shops!! And the reason there are no pictures is that the battery on the camera was dead. nice.

another pasta milestone

Getting some nice rains now – an inch Monday night, an inch and a half last night. Lots of lightning. We had one bolt last night that seemed to be right at the edge of the lake, 100′ or so from the house. That definitely reset our clocks but apparently did no damage at all. So in the last 10 days or so, we have topped 10”, maybe a foot of the five we need to return the lake to “full”. Using the ladder as a gauge, we are now a couple of inches over top of the bottom rung.

Went one step further retro in the pasta making – rolled the dough into thin sheets using an old fashion rolling pin instead of the pasta machine. Then the guitar/banjo/chitarra to cut the noodles. I really liked the process better and think it actually went faster. I have no intention of taking the last step back, ie, abandoning the food processor and making the dough the old fashion way. I also played around just a tad with the materials – used 1.5 tbs olive oil instead of 1; 2 eggs instead of 1; and a few drops of milk instead of water. Of course the final test is on the plate and once again, incredible success. I think next time I’m going to try the angel hair pasta side of the banjo.

We’re getting ready for Olivia’s 16th birthday party today and then heading up to North Carolina on Friday to spend the weekend with Simon at the nature camp. It’s about an 11 hour drive so we’ll get underway early and be there to pick him up at 5PM when he gets off work.

Beetles and forest fires

Settling into the standard summer in Florida mode – 94 degrees/30% chance of rain. Pop up showers (if you’re lucky) about 4PM; an occasional tropical storm event. I get up early and get all my outside stuff done by 11AM at the latest. Not having enough water in the lake screws up my my morning, after work swim. The warden is making sure I don’t do too much labor for the next few days but I do feel totally normal – all pain, blood, and other inconveniences seem to be gone.

I wonder if they might rethink logging the western forests with devastating beetle infestations? What they’ve been growing or producing for years is fuel. I guess if you’re a true environmentalist, people shouldn’t be allowed to inhabit or even visit the forests so all those pseudo environmentalists who enjoy living in the wilderness are just getting what they deserve. At least if they had been clearing out the dead trees and replanting………………..

Spotted a really big owl on May’s porch yesterday. That’s a very unusual sighting and quite welcome. I haven’t seen any signs of rats since all the poisoning but I have been seeing lots of rabbits and this particular owl looked large enough to handle a small rabbit to me.
Starting to see the Mormon “thing” pop up in the media as it pertains to Romney. I think that had the election not been shaping up to be a tight one, the Dem’s would have kept this issue quiet. For example: seeing the first polls – real or designed – defining the number of people who won’t vote for a Mormon no matter what; Starting to see the late night comedians making Mormon jokes; expect to see: the “documentary” pieces detailing the theological basis, practices, and the Christian/non-Christian/cult pieces – all done as serious, educational pieces; Mormon money – how much is there, where does it come from and where does it go? – maybe a 60 minutes or Dateline kind of treatment; the historical role of blacks and women; and the obligatory fringe, polygamist, fundamentalist groups exposed. This administration is built on a divide and conquer strategy of pitting one population group against another – rich against poor, black against white, white against hispanic, straights against gays. They ran into a bit of a buzz saw with the Catholic Church so one way to take the focus off or redirect at least some of that is to set up another religious group to take the heat. Especially a group who will vote big time for Romney with 100% certainty. Of course no politician will ever come out directly so it will be left up to the media to do the dirty work. I do think this election will be the first ever where the Jewish vote, Evangelical vote, Catholic vote, Protestant vote and Mormons will be lining up Republican. You really have to be an equal opportunity offender to accomplish this but I think Obama may have accomplished it.