Rats and Rabbits

Before we left last week, I checked under the hood to make sure nothing had taken up residence after a few weeks of sitting unused. Sure enough, there was a medium size nest in exactly the same spot others had selected and it had started gnawing on the exact same cable harness that had previously been attacked. I can’t tell whether it’s rats or squirrels but looks like I need to start spreading the poison again.

Also before we left first thing in the morning I checked the garden and there were 3 rabbits hopping around inside the fence. That was not too big a surprise since there are three openings where gates will eventually be hung. I assume that’s how they got in since that’s the way they left when I roused them but it is possible that they just hopped over the fence and that would be bad news. So I closed off the openings with wire mesh and since then, have seen no rabbits inside the garden. It’s important now because I have seedlings in the garden that are most vulnerable.

On the SC trip we hit the local Costco and spotted a 37” TV on sale that I was pretty sure would fit exactly into the design of the bedroom. I had it in my mind that the opening was 36” and the TV was 35.8” so it was a tight fit but if I measured it correctly, or rather remembered the dimension correctly, it would work. At the time we had a car full of people so the store manager checked the inventory in the Jacksonville store and found 9 in stock. We had planned to stop there anyway to refill our freezer with meat and other goodies so buying the TV there would fit our plans just fine. Sure enough, they had the same set in Jax, we made the purchase and it fit in the car. Before it could be installed we had to pull out the monster tube style Sony that was currently living in the slot and find a home for it and all the other attached goodies. Luckily a local charity had a pickup service and they came and carried away the old set plus another old one in the other bedroom. We also threw in two VCR’s, a DVD player, loads of VCR tapes and movies, and the digital signal converters. Sure enough, the new one fit with not even 1/4” to spare. It set up in about 10 minutes and I even figured out how to make the DVD work. My bride is a happy camper.

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Politics – so all my liberal friends and family can quit reading. I really did understand people electing Obama last time around. Young guy vs old guy; eloquent speaker vs not so eloquent speaker; first black president vs old white guy. No way a lib or a young college age person could pass that up. I even said to myself, how bad could he be. So I missed it too but for sure I didn’t vote for him – I’m ok with old white guys and I thought Sarah was a knock out. But after seeing his performance for 4 years there would be only a few reasons I can think of to vote for reelection; you’re a European style socialist; you’re an old black person and remember the old days; you’re on welfare and plan to stay there; you think Chicago style politics is good for the country; you have a large wager on the election results; you’re brain dead. Forgetting personalities, this is the clearest choice in my lifetime between the American free enterprise system and European style socialism. I’m going to assume most of the people I know who will vote for Obama are not brain dead – some are but not most.

South Carolina Trip

Home from South Carolina. We left Friday morning early when there was a reasonable chance that tropical storm Isaac would turn into a hurricane and hit Florida but it was still too far away to really count on it one way or the other. We figured we could keep an eye on it and if necessary, cut the trip short and get home – it’s a 7 hour drive. So we’re glad we decided to make the trip since the storm never came close to hitting Central Florida. We did drive about half the trip home in fairly heavy rain – from Savannah to Barberville or to be more accurate, until we got about 10 miles from Barberville. I was anxious to see how much rain had accumulated in the gauge over the weekend and was blown away to see only 1/2”. That was it. So much for getting any lake replenishment from Isaac.

We really enjoyed the trip and got to see the whole Sheronick clan quite a bit. Everyone is doing well. Lindsay and Charles bought a new/old home in the University (Winthrop) neighborhood and are fixing it up perfectly. Charles recruited Ali, Kassem, Aaron, and his dad to tear down a hill that consumed most of the back yard and put up a monster of a retaining wall. You can look at the job, which seems to be 90% complete, and tell it’s the kind of project that, had you known, you’d never have started in the first place. Visualize a sloping hill 10-12′ high, stretching lengthwise across the entire back yard, 35′, sloping to house level over 30′ or so. Then remove that 35‘x30′ section. I tend to think in cubic yards since I have lots of experience with yards of fill dirt and would guess there was at least 150 cubic yards – 8 truckloads. Then think about the retaining wall that has to hold back the rest of the hill. They used 8”x8” square posts, probably 16′ long sunk 4‘deep on 4′ centers. The cross planking was 4”x6” for the bottom 4′ and 2”x6” for the next 8′. I can tell you from personal experience building the dock, handling lumber that size is incredibly difficult and back breaking. But I think it really enhances the property and basically adds a back yard. I checked it out from a sunlight perspective, and it would be a perfect place for a garden. We had a wonderful lunch there are solved all the world’s problems while sampling/depleting Lindsay’s wine collection.

On Sunday all the kids came over to Nancy and Ali’s and we had another great lunch – Ali grilled salmon and we emptied the last of his keg of craft beer. That part of the day broke up about 4pm so there was plenty of time left to hit their favorite brew pub. I think I drank more (and better) beer this weekend than I have cumulatively in the past 12 months. It was just a great day and a great weekend.

Got up this morning and jumped on the garden for a few hours. The butternut seeds I’d planted last week had all germinated and four of the tomato plants started a few weeks back were ready for transplanting. The goal is 12 by the end of Sept. Those will be converted to spaghetti sauce designed to carry us through June. I have 3 sets of pole bean trellises and decided to get the beans planted on one of them. My plan is to plant the other two in intervals of two weeks so the last should go in about mid September. I’m going to do a 20′ row of bush beans also so between the pole beans and the bush beans, we should have enough beans to carry us through the winter until next bean season. I also planted the first of the fall zucchini. Same story – plan to have 3 bushes and will stagger the follow on plantings in two week intervals. That’s the fall planting. Winter stuff will start hitting the garden in mid October so nothing going on there. If the weather cooperates, we’ll still be picking fall stuff in December along with the winter greens.

Is Isaac Coming?

My bride advised that we’re heading for South Carolina this weekend, leaving Friday morning and returning Monday afternoon. It’s been a couple of years since we visited the family(s) there and there are new homes and remodeling projects to inspect. And of course our great, great nieces. Nancy has a goody bag of things she’s been making for them and mailing them, as I suggested, just wouldn’t work for her.

But what about Isaac? It’s Wednesday, we’re planning to leave on Friday, and there’s a tropical storm brewing that the weather dudes are saying could bang Florida late this weekend or early next week. The current forecast has it landing in South Florida about 2AM Monday morning. Nominally these forecasts are not very good but it would be stupid to totally ignore the warnings. That would have us driving home in potentially nasty, nasty weather or deciding to hole up somewhere on the road. I’ll spend a good bit of today tying down the dock furniture and anything else that is prone to unplanned flying. I also need to load up on gasoline to fuel the generator. I go through roughly 20 gallons of gas from year to year to operate the generator, mower and chipper and, as luck would have it, I’m sitting on empty right now and gas prices are leaping back up. So that’s something else I need to hop on sooner than planned and before the trip. Any way you slice it, the next two days here will not be the relaxed, hang out and chill days I had in mind.

The last few times I mowed the lawn, I noticed there was some black smoke being emitted and an occasional spit and sputter from the engine so I decided to service it. I think we bought it 5 or 6 years ago and other than occasionally checking the oil, have never done anything to it. It almost never fails to start on the first pull which is all I really use as an indicator – that and black smoke. So I pulled the spark plug and sure enough it was really gribby looking; ditto the air filter. I’m fairly sure that all I need to do is clean both of those but after this long time, might as well go ahead and treat the machine to some new parts and change the engine oil. I can even visualize taking the pressure washer to it and bringing it back to like new condition. I’ll still clean the old ones and keep them for spare parts.

Special Spider

Check out this spider. I don’t know the scientific name for it but I’ve labeled it the quilter spider because the web looks very much like some of the stitching Nancy does with her Bernina. The spider itself is about 5” tip to tip so it’s not one you want to brush up against.
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Quilter Spider
Quilter Spider

New project – pickling jalapeno peppers. Usually Barbara keeps me stocked in pickled peppers but this year she seems to be too busy and the pepper bushes are breaking down with the heavy fruit so I decided to take on the task myself. How difficult can it be? I also picked a dozen or so nice okra and a few Marconi peppers, some green, some red so the contents of the jars will be more than just jalapenos. One pic shows the raw ingredients, the second, the 5 jars we created. I really screwed up though by totally underestimating just how much handling the peppers would burn the skin. I worked with them underwater to kill the fumes and never gave skin burn a second thought. About 5 minutes after finishing up, the pain in my hands started and the swelling began. I soaked them in ice water and Nancy came up with some kind of cream but they kept getting worse. About an hour into it and I’m thinking emergency room when I remembered that I had an aloe plant growing off the front deck. Just a few minutes after coating my hands with the aloe juice, the pain stopped, the red turned back to white, and the swelling went away. Man does that stuff work.

The peppers should be ready to eat in 2-4 week

Ready for pickling
Ready for pickling
Finished product
Finished product

Planted the butternut squash seeds today. They’re a 105 day crop so you can do the math on harvest. We’re usually a little bit faster than advertised, I think maybe because it’s warmer, so sometime between mid November and mid December. I’m going to do my best to shield them from bugs but fall planting in Florida is a real crap shoot. So far so good in that the rains have picked up and the temps dropped just a tad.

Finally finished

Finally finished the fence. What a job. If I had known it would be so labor intensive, I’d have just popped the rabbits with my pellet gun and chalked it up to balancing nature. I’m also probably 75% of the way towards redoing the rows to align them with the new gate positions and new dimensions. The pic’s shows the new area of the garden all fenced, filled, and ready for planting. Nothing will go there for about a month. All that’s left of the job is building and hanging the gates. Probably won’t be able to judge the effectiveness of the fence, in terms of keeping out the rabbits, until the planned green bean crop germinates. That sends out a call to action but even then, I may not know for sure since the plan is to use an insect cover over the row until ready for pollination, well into October or early November. One thing for sure, no more armadillo problems and from time to time, they play hell with plants digging for ants, grubs or worms.

Ready to plant
Ready to plant

I frequently mention palmettos and palmetto fronds. We basically live in a jungle of palmettos and they are tough, tough plants. As tough as they are, it’s no surprise that they are hard to kill but it is a surprise that it’s just as hard to start new ones. If you have a spot where you’d like to have palmettos growing, forget it. You can’t buy them at nurseries, you can’t dig them out from one spot and transplant to another; you’re just out of luck. But this season, for whatever reason, baby palmettos are popping up in the garden with a fairly high frequency. So if anyone wants to some palmetto starts, just let me know.

Ever eat mashed sweet potatoes? We almost always bake them. When I harvested the latest batch a month or so back, there were lots of smallish ones – just too small to bake or slice – so Nancy decided to try mashing them. Best ever. I’m nominally ok with sweet potatoes but don’t do back flips when they’re on the menu. I’m back flippin’. You peel and boil them exactly as you do white potatoes then whip with butter and milk, again the way you would with whites. Then you mix in maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon – those are the key, new ingredients. Nancy did roughly a pound or so of potatoes and used 1/4 cup of maple syrup. I’ll pay just a little more attention to the sweet potato crop in the future. Another good thing about mashed sweet potatoes is, according to one of Nancy’s quilting buddies, you can freeze them. That’s a good thing because even though the potatoes do keep quite a while in the fridge, they will eventually go bad and since you pick them all at the same time, you go from no potatoes to a fridge full – way more than you can eat in a month.

Thinking about Fall

Starting to think seriously about a fall garden. The rabbit fence project is all but finished and there’s plenty of open spaces in the garden. I have about a dozen tomato plants started in the house and those would be ready to transfer to the garden in early September. I could also plant some green beans and perhaps zucchini in mid September. If I want to try butternuts, that has to happen in the next week or so. A fall crop is the trickiest to manage because it has to start in the hot, buggy, and perhaps most humid season. I did pick up several light weight insect protecting row covers and I’m thinking that may let me protect the young seedlings and germinating seeds through all of September. Then in October, I start adding the late fall/winter crops – for sure cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Hypothetically this gives me a smooth transition so that we’re never without something fresh coming out of the garden. Easier said than done!

We’re picking up enough rain to keep things nice and green but not to really put a dent in the lake level. There’s a fair amount of activity in the tropics so maybe a couple of these disturbances could throw some storm action this way.

I just heard a factoid about Paul Ryan, Romney’s VP pick, that cements the deal for me. Turns out he likes to “noodle” for catfish. Noodlin’ is where the fisherman actually puts his hand into the lair of a catfish, maybe a hollowed out submerged log, tickles the fish into opening his mouth, then reaches in and grabs it. This can be a dangerous sport because some of these fish can reach a hundred pounds. He’s also a bow hunter who tromps around in the woods in Wisconsin in the winter. How tough is this guy!! He lives in his office – literally. I’d really like to get a look at his bass tackle, especially his reel and the top shelf of his tackle box but that probably won’t happen unless the election really gets close and they pull out all the stops. I’ve also decided to vote for Connie Mack for the Senate. His opponent, current senator Bill Nelson, is running an ad that cements this choice for me. It’s a negative ad that comes out claiming that Mack is a “promoter for Hooters”. What more do I need to hear? How can you vote against a promoter for Hooters? The claim is being made that the Republicans have lost touch with women. They sure haven’t lost touch with real men.

Coop Rescue

Had a temporary crown put in today and it was much easier than I had anticipated. Took about an hour and I felt virtually nothing through the entire procedure. I go back in about 3 weeks to get the permanent one installed.

I’m hoping we finish the rabbit fence this week. The big job will be cutting out wire from an existing fence and attaching it to the new posts. That doesn’t sound like much but we need to come up with roughly 50′ currently covered with vines – grape and briar. If we get an early start on that tomorrow, chances are we can cut it, get it to the garden, and hang it on the posts on all but the road side. If that goes smoothly, probably even get the nursery cloth hung. Should be able to get the concrete cylinders placed the next day leaving only the stretch along the road to deal with. I have an issue there because I planted a couple of pepper plants too close to the edge, as it turns out, and those will have to be dealt with sooner or later. They are really mature plants and I’m fairly certain that trying to move them will prove disastrous.

Got a call earlier today from my next door neighbor, Harley – the chicken guy. He’s going bigger into the chicken game and building a much larger, more secure coop to house this flock of nine birds. The coop is wood and wire measuring 12′ x 8′ x 8′ tall and is really a well built structure. The call was for a rescue. He was working inside the coop and the door had swung closed and latched so he was locked inside the coop. I went right up and bailed him out. He luckily had a cell phone with him – one that could access the internet. He didn’t know my number so he looked it up on the internet. If that had happened to me I probably would have had to gnaw through the wood to escape.

Can there be more impressive engineering than landing the Mars explorer. If I were a Physics teacher, I know I could structure an entire year’s lesson plan built totally around the concepts used from lift off to landing.

If Obama wins I’m going to start a movement to repeal the 19th.

Mostly about the fence

Got the nursery cloth up on one side of the garden and started the process of layering in organic material in the newly created garden area. Nursery/shade cloth is a woven polyester like material that is virtually indestructible. We’re stringing it along the bottom edge of the fence up 18” where it’s job is to hold back the topsoil in the garden which would otherwise erode. One picture shows the roll of nursery cloth stretched out on the lawn the other shows it installed on one side. The roll of cloth measures 120‘x10′ and has been living at George’s for about 25 years just waiting for this opportunity. This job will take less than half of it.
nursery-clothnursery-cloth-installed
The space between the existing garden soil and the fence line will become new garden area. It’s only a few inches except on the one side shown in the pictures. I start with a nematode barrier – that would be a layer or two of newspaper and a layer or two of palmetto fronds. That separates the base soil level from the 12-18” of composted growing material. On top of that, a thickish layer of miscellaneous yard clippings – right now that means camphor and bay tree leaves and branches. I use those because lots of insects have an issue with camphor and I theorize that using those leaves would be better than just any old leaf. On top of that goes rough compost, material that is about half composted, in this case lots of corn stalks that were cut down about a month ago. Finally a 4-6” layer of finished compost. I’ll be able to plant this new area by October. The picture shows one area that’s ready for the first layer of compost.
fillingpartial-fill
Ate one of this year’s sweet potatoes and it was mmmmmmmm good. With sweets, you are supposed to dig them up and let them dry out for 10 days to 2 weeks before cleaning up and eating. These are right at 12 days and tasted good so I suspect we did it correctly.

3 Machine Quilter

The generator comes to the rescue again. We had storms later yesterday afternoon but by 5PM, all seemed fine. At 6:30, the power went out. The power company said it would be restored by 9pm – that normally means absolutely nothing – so while it was still light out, I pulled out the generator and cranked it up. Twenty minutes later, the power company restored power. When they gave us the 9 pm estimate, they forgot we had the generator so they faked us out this time by restoring it sooner than promised. They’re probably thinking next time I won’t rush out and replace them – wrong, I’m up to their trickery.

Rabbit fence takes shape
Rabbit fence takes shape

We’re not quite to the halfway point on the rabbit fence. George and I put in about 3 hours a day – by then we’re totally worn out and it’s just too hot and drippy to do any more. Notice the concrete cylinders along the bottom edge – those guys are each about 30 pounds so it’s a workout pulling them up, relocating them- the vertical ones removed and placed horizontally between the posts and then lined up perfectly. George is a stickler about things being lined up and level. Notice that they fit exactly right between the fence posts. To do that, we actually cut a cylinder to the exact dimension necessary for a tight fit. The next step is to hang nursery cloth along the inside of the fence to hold back the soil at the planting row ends. We’ll do that along the side shown in the picture and across the back tomorrow and also put cylinders between the posts along the opposite side. We might also string the wire fencing along that same side, getting us to the 3/4 point by the weekend. That may be optomistic but we’ve got the procedure down pretty well now and should be able to make more progress than we have for the past two days – got the kinks worked out. Over the weekend I’ll start working inside the garden to layout new rows and adjust the soil levels to match the new fence. Notice in the picture that the fence line is out a bit from the garden. That’s only on that one side and shows the added garden space that results from squaring it up. If all goes well and the weather holds, the next picture I add should show this all filled in and ready for fall planting. I have a pretty good load of compost ready for fill. We’ll do the front/road side and fabricate 3 gates next week. For calibration, I’m down 2#’s which is right on target.

Nancy is in full quilt mode with 3 machines in place and running. She breaks out the Viking to machine quilt the Shands quilts. The new quilt cabinets really make a difference.

Fencin’

The garden fence is really starting to take shape. As of today, we have all the posts in and wire on one side. When George builds anything, he measures, levels and does all those things that mean it will end up looking professional and being super sturdy. That contrasts to my natural leanings to get something up that just barely does the job and looks like the it’s been in place for a hundred hard years. The only advantage to my technique is that when it comes to pulling it down, it’s much easier to do. I hope the rabbits appreciate just how much trouble we’re going to on their behalf.

We had an inch and a half of rain yesterday and the lake rose, accordingly, an inch and a half. It’s now up to the lower edge of the second rung (from the bottom) on the ladder. The long range weather radar is starting to show some action way out in the Atlantic so maybe the storms will start brewing. The forecasters start the season in May or something but I (officially) start it August 15. So far there’s been nothing even approaching a real storm but the namers are already up to “E”. What we need are about 3 storms on the order of the one they called Debbie. That one dumped as much as 20” in parts of north Florida with essentially no wind at all. In my mind that was a monsoon or at least what my understanding of a monsoon is.

Made an interesting purchase the other day as a direct result of my trip to the dentist. For a few years the dentist and his assistants have been pushing a water pick device that I have routinely resisted. They don’t actually sell it but promote how well it works to eliminate plaque buildup and the bag of tooth brushes and other goodies that you leave with includes a copy of a ad sheet. What’s different about this device is that it’s water powered and hooks up to the shower head so you can conveniently use it as part of showering. The reason I haven’t bought one in the past is that I’m always leary of anything involving messing around with the plumbing but this aging dental assistant told me that she installed hers in just a few minutes. They refer to the device as “mama gums plaque blaster” and swear they get nothing from pushing it but patients with nicer teeth. I called mama herself and she sealed the sale. It’s a one woman operation in San Diego and we chatted mostly about how much San Diego had changed since we lived there. Based on that, I went to the web site – http://www.mamagums.com and pulled the trigger, $35 including shipping.

The installation was as simple as advertised – just remove the shower head, screw the blaster on/off valve in line and then reattach the shower head. It works off water pressure, no pump, and is a simple wand and suction cup wand holder. It doesn’t have the pulsing action of a regular water pik and is going to take some getting used to so I’m not ready to put it on the “must have” list. With the valve barely open, it puts out a fairly high pressure stream – you definitely feel it. Think 2500 psi pressure cleaner. I can see someone opening the valve completely and blowing away the side of his head or blasting teeth out of his mouth. If it slips out of your hand, it’s a classic high pressure water hose on a flexible tubing – whipping around the shower uncontrollably.

I was sure surprised to learn that the Korean women won the 30 meter air rifle event at the Olympics.