Fox Squirrel Expert

We did another batch of pickled jalapeno – 4 pints. I was smart enough to wear gloves throughout the whole procedure so no burns but for whatever reason, the fumes were way, way stronger this time and had Nancy and me coughing and sneezing the whole way through. This will be the last batch for the season but I should have enough to last until next season, 9 pints total.

I put an insect cover over the butternut squash. I didn’t see any signs of problems but no sense in taking any chances. I’ll keep the cover on for at least a month when I expect blossoms to start appearing at which point I guess I’ll have to uncover them to allow pollination – good bug/bad bug thing. The first set of pole beans and the first zucchini bush have germinated and the bush beans, planted a week later, are just starting to pop out. I keep adding tomato bushes as they get large enough to move from the starter containers to the garden – so far 6 have made the transition. There are literally hundreds of renegade/volunteer tomato plants springing up and I pull them the same as weeds. I plant mostly hybrid varieties and those special characteristics are not necessarily transferred to the next generation so no telling what they would grow into. I still might pick a couple stronger ones and plant them along side the hybrids just as an experiment.

Had a nice call from Simon the other day. He’s in Gainesville studying Environmental Science or Wildlife or Ecology or something along those lines. He called to tell me about a project he had volunteered for with a grad student who’s speciality is the Fox Squirrel. He took Simon to a UF managed forest where there were squirrel traps set out to capture, tag, and document what’s going on with the Fox Squirrel. He spent all day there and they caught and released a goodly number of squirrels so he was just bubbling with information about how the forest was managed and how the Squirrels fit into it all. There is no question he has found his niche – not necessarily Squirrel tagging but working in the great outdoors. He’s seriously thinking graduate school now and told me something I had no understanding of at all. In fields I’m acquainted you get into grad school by keeping your grades up and test in. Apparently in Wildlife management, there’s a clearing house at Texas A&M where professors from all over post needs for grad students as research assistants. You visit the board and find something that interests you and then contact the Prof. I guess that becomes a one on one negotiation and if there’s a match, you’re in. Simon’s personality is such that he’ll be studying that board religiously and finding all manner of opportunities that interest him – no intimidations or doubts at all. So I bet he’ll come up with something really interesting for this summer, his last before graduation. Will he go back to the Smokey Mountains, as was a near certainty last month, or strike out on a totally different project?

Eating the Pickled Jalapeno

I love September – college football starts. I’m listening to the Gators on the radio while watching another game, muted, on the TV. Alabama plays Michigan tonight.

I’m on another 5 pound project – that’s a project on which I’ll sweat off 5 pounds by the time it’s done. I was 180 when we started the rabbit fence, 175 when it was over. I see 170 in the cards by mid September. Mosquitos get part of the credit for the excessive sweating. They’ve been so bad this year that I wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, socks and shoes while working. By the time I hang it up for the day, they are literally soggy. I strip down by the washing machine and just dump it all into the tub then hit the shower. George decided to tear down his old back deck and replace it with a concrete one. At first he decided to have a contractor do it but that didn’t quite work out the way he had envisioned (exactly as I predicted) so after two days, he fired that crowd. They had torn down the old deck and once it was all revealed, it just didn’t look like that big a job for he and I to tackle. The contractor had estimated 15 yards of fill but to me it looked more like 5, if that. So we decided to take our time and work on it for the next couple of weeks, a few hours a day or until either of us collapsed. So far I’d estimate we’ve loaded and unloaded 50 wheel barrow loads of dirt – the dirt pile is maybe 250′ from the work site – and used 50 bags of cement at 80 lbs per bag. I’m guessing we’ve done 75% of the dirt hauling but less than half the concrete work. I’m the principle dirt mover and George is the mason, so I’m nearer the end of the tough stuff.

A few posts back I mentioned that we had pickled some jalapenos and it would be 2-4 weeks before they were ready to try. Did that today and they were great. The recipe used olive oil which seemed odd to me but the commentaries said that it was the oil that made this a great recipe. I have to agree. The texture is different, and better to my taste, than the standard pickled peppers I’ve had in the past. They were hot but not blow your head off hot. For me, just right to put on sandwiches. Tomorrow I’m going to check the plants and see if there are enough for another project. If so, for sure this time I’m putting on gloves from the get go.

Hard to believe but I’m starting seeds for winter crops; cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower. It takes about 6 weeks from when I plant seeds to when a seedling will be ready for transplanting to the garden so that’s early October. Two months later, harvest. So these are vegetables we’ll be eating starting late November. These planting dates sneak up on you in Florida because it’s so hot in August that winter is the last thing on your mind but if you want to be continuously harvesting year round, you have to keep on top of the start dates.