Chris is ok

This was a great weekend. Tommy came up with us on Saturday and stayed overnight. Joey came up Sunday morning so we had welcome company to start us off. Last night we hit a spot reputed to be the best burgers on the beach. We had eaten there before but never had the burgers – I think because they were priced over my burger threshold and there were more appealing sounding seafood items on the menu. I have to admit, the burgers lived up to their reputation.

Monday morning: still windy and getting cold. I’ve been predicting Tuesday for the first fishable day and I’m starting to hedge that until Wednesday. It’s great beach walking since the storm has brought all manner of flotsam onshore. Rather have bluefish.

Tuesday morning, still windy and way cold. The wind did shift from the North to the Northwest so that is calming things down. There are actually shrimp boats trawling just offshore and they’re not rockin’ and rollin’. Now if it will warm about 30 degrees, I’ll be a happy camper. Just to say I did and on the off chance it might work, I did pitch a spoon in the surf for about 20 minutes. No fish but I did get that twinge in my gut. Nancy is in Palm Coast playing bridge so she’s too a happy camper.

We talked to Chris last night and everything was just fine at 9PM. He still had power and landline phone. All that changed about 9:30 when he lost both. I think his store is in that area of Manhattan with no power and no access so no telling when that part of his life will return to normal. We checked on other important folks -Marie and the kids on Staten Island and Eric Bachmann in NW Jersey. All were without power but other than that, doing fine. Seeing all the devastation on the beaches in Jersey is really tough for me. My grandparents lived in Atlantic City and I spent so much time there as a young beach rat that this has a personal feel to me. When you see the pictures from Point Pleasant – that’s very close to where cousins Fred and Martha take their summer vacation. They stay in Lavalette a block or so from the beach and I can just tell their place would have seen some water. It’s only a few hundred yards from the surf to the back bay so it’s quite possible, if not likely, that the storm surge brought the two together. Ditto Tom’s River where Betty Tighe calls home.

First Beach Report

Well, at home we got a bit of wind and about 1/4” of rain out of Sandy. I was hoping for less wind and much more rain. The weather people are now saying we could see lows in the 40’s one day next week. That’s scary. On the beach, the tide is the highest ever with the surf actually up the side of the berm occasionally so no beach walks until low tide. Right now I’m guessing it will be Tuesday before it becomes fishable and you can expect to start seeing fish pictures. It’ll take a wind shift from the South to calm things down.

The Gators decided that they were playing way over their heads so got off the fast track. What a lousy game. I can’t decide if it’s better to be beaten by a truly superior team or to give away the game with fumbles and poor play. Between that game and Tom’s Tigers, it was a bad sports day at the beach.

Got through the week with only two useless doctor appointments – one’s on my drop list. The eye doc is a real pain because it takes so long with a pre-exam, a dilation, then the final exam. His conclusion – I have old eyes, nothing particularly wrong. Next went to the dermatologist. Nothing wrong, not even the first squirt with the nitrogen bottle. Old skin, don’t even schedule another annual exam unless I see something different. At least this one didn’t give me the lecture about staying out of the sun and to use SPF 50.

I have a problem keeping track of my glasses. I wear 1.25 readers and non-prescription sun glass, cheap ones so there’s no financial exposure. A few years back I bought a 3 pack of the readers and still have all three – but never at the same time. I consistently lose track of one or two pairs and have been down to none on occasion. Ditto the sun glasses – sometimes I can locate all three but normally only two and occasionally none. For the first time in months, I’m living big – all 6 pair are accounted for. A missing pair of sunglasses appeared yesterday, as if by magic, when I caught a glimpse of a piece of black plastic sticking out just an inch or so from under the china cabinet. I was confident I had left these at a restaurant a month or so back and never thought to get down on my hands and knees to check under furniture. Nancy came in waving a pair of reading glasses that she found under the seat of the car. They usually turn up in a weird place as opposed to just setting them down and forgetting where. They’re never at some usual or obvious spot. Most insidious is the dining room table. Nancy quilted a table topper that visually absorbs anything you set on it. My glasses can be sitting right out on the table top and be virtually invisible. It’s so bad that you have to run your hands over the cloth to feel if they’re there or bend over and scan it from the side. I think it works on the same principal as the magic cloak of Harry Potter fame.

Hurricane Sandy

If you were wondering whether hurricane Sandy would deter us from going to the beach – not unless it turns hard west and nails the coast line. The current path keeps it a couple hundred miles off the coast of Flagler which should stir up the surf and dump a bit of rain Friday and Saturday but not be a total disaster. I’m a weather freak and am looking forward to being on the beach with the big, giant rollers and the flying sea froth. Even as a kid on Patrick Air Force Base, I loved walking on the beach in the storms. You never knew what was going to wash up. Sounds nutso but………… It will probably mess up the fishing but I’ll still be out there banging it. I’m salivating at the thought that this storm may match up with a giant cold front in the Northeast and turn into a storm of the century.

Remember that problem I mentioned about picking the pole beans that had grown to 12′ tall? Solved. It got so top heavy and the wind blew so hard, that the first tower fell over. It sure makes it easier to pick the ones on top-that would be the ones that were on top. I think we’re going to still get loads of beans but it does mean that long term, I have to come up with a better solution, a more solid structure. I’ve contemplated putting up an arbor using 4”x4” posts and perhaps that’s the ultimate solution. My hold up on that approach is it creates another set of difficulties with frost protection. I’m thinking now that maybe I should give up the entire back row and dedicate it to vertical, warmer weather crops. That would eat up an 8’x 30′ chunk of the garden but it would be useable 9 out of 12 months and work for beans, peas, and cucumbers.

Went to the cardio guy and, as predicted, he doesn’t think there’s anything to get excited about but (to meet Lexus payments), scheduled a few tests. They look at 3 things; structural heart conditions, plumbing, and electrical. That involves an electro cardiogram, a treadmill stress test, and a 24 hour recording monitor. My guess is that the glitches I’m feeling are electrical in nature and I probably need an ipad or something installed. All that happens the week after we return from the beach so it won’t be catching all the bluefish stress. Better news from the dermatologist – I haven’t been in a couple of years so expected the new one to hack away. Turns out there was nothing and she didn’t even suggest an annual checkup – call if you see anything.

Saw a great bumper sticker the other day – Goodbye Obama.

Heading to the Beach

When we lived in Utah, I often complained that it was politically boring – little doubt who was going to win elections. Now that we live in a swing state, I could use a dose of boring. For months we’ve been hit with wall to wall political commercials, telemarketing, and polling. Getting very tired of it. This is the first time ever we’ve seen ads featuring someone we know personally, so that’s a bit strange. A candidate for the Florida Legislature is the daughter-in- law of friends of ours. There are two ads, one saying what a great person she is, the other saying she’s a dirtbag. Luckily, she’s competing to represent a district that is not within our voting area so we don’t have to chose. She’s in the enemy camp but it would still be hard to vote against her.

We’re going to the beach next week for our semi annual vacation. The weather person is also showing some tropical disturbance forming up which could roughen up the surf a bit. We’ve been there so often that it’s a second home at this point. I haven’t heard much about bluefish yet but they were reported in the surf a month ago so no reason to think it should be anything but better as the fish migrate here from the Northeast.

I’m giving a good hard look at changing my lifestyle. I’m spending way too much time with doctors, for the most part with checkups as opposed to real world problems. If you look at the calendar, seems like there’s always an eye checkup, a dentist checkup, a skin check, a colonoscopy, a blood test, a kidney stone x-ray, a general physical – just stuff. At my last general physical a few weeks ago, the doc listened very carefully and heard a tick tock that he didn’t like so now I have an appointment to see a cardio guy. I can see that leading to another battery of this, that and the other and more meds to add to the list – which I forget as often as not. Since I’m not a routine, preventative maintenance kind of guy with my car, it’s against my nature to have slipped into this mode with my body. I never take my car in unless it’s giving me problems because my core belief is that there is always something wrong if you dig deep enough and you fix lots of things that don’t really need fixing. Or worse, when fixing something that didn’t really need fixing, you screw something up. I’ve got lots of experience with just that. The plan I’m formulating has me taking each doctor entry on the calendar and changing it to read Beach or kayak or Tomoka River. And to drop all the meds and replace them with a glass of red wine or craft beer. It just makes sense to me that I’d be better off soaking up the salt air and rays than sitting in a doctor’s waiting room full of sick people.

Correction to the last post – the Gators have two more SEC games before the regular season closes. I was mentally locked on Georgia and forgot Missouri. Sorry about that Tommy. Unless something dramatic happens, I doubt seriously they have a snowball’s chance of beating Alabama but for sure they have a decent chance of making it to the big game – Georgia is the only obstacle to that.

Just keep in mind, that if he knew how to fix the economy, he would have – 4 years is plenty long enough. Anybody want to bet that somebody in Libya is going to take the hit for killing the Ambassador in the 10 day period leading up to the election? I just wonder if it will be a clean capture or a tent-drone event. I’m putting my money on the predator nailing the biggest al Qaeda dude in Libya. Sure hope there’s not a camel or goat casualty along the way.

I’m pulling for a very special election result. I’d like Romney to win but lose in Ohio. Getting very tired listening to all the commentators saying that he can’t win the election if he doesn’t win Ohio – maybe it’s the math in my background. I would also be ok with a tie in the electoral college just to see what would happen to the Vice President. It’s my understanding that the House selects the Pres and the Senate, the VP. Would Biden really stay on as VP or would he graciously bow out? Biden, gracious? I don’t think so.

Preserving Basil

Just watched the Gators do their thing to South Carolina. They must be good based on being undefeated and taking down several nationally ranked teams but it never looks easy. The offense always looks unimpressive but somehow points keep going on the board. They have their final SEC game next week and it’s not impossible that they go undefeated in regular season play this year. Who’d have guessed it?

Big kitchen day. We did another 4 jars of jalapenos, bringing the season total to 12 pints. Not impossible that we’ll get another few jars before the plants are hit by a frost.
I really love the peppers but making them is not something to take lightly. The first time I really burned my skin; the second time I almost lost it breathing the fumes. This time, no problems, due to a technique my bride picked up watching The Chew. You hold the pepper by the stem with the bottom of the pepper resting on the cutting surface. Then you slice down along the outside of the pepper so you leave the nasty innards and seeds still attached to the stem. I messed up the first one or two but quickly got the it down and did several dozen with no burns, internal or external.

We also took a shot at preserving basil for use later. Basil is a really sensitive plant and will generally go with the first hint of frost. We’ve never tried saving basil before but the technique we’re trying is to chop it up with the food processor, mix with olive oil, and freeze in a bag. When you want to use it, you just snip off a piece. It must be really concentrated since we used as much basil creating one small bag as we have for all the uses combined since last May so I guess you just snip off a really small piece for lots of flavor.

The other big table event is that I picked the first green beans of the season – a mix of pole beans and bush beans. Those will join last season’s carrots in a special pot roast dish Nancy makes. I’m going to try to be diligent in picking beans as they mature rather than haphazardly as in the past. The problem with picking beans and peas is that they are hard to spot, being the same color as the leaves and the tendency is to miss them until they’re too big and tough. Also, if you keep them well picked, they will continue to blossom and put out more beans whereas if they mature on the bush before picked, the plant just stops producing. For the record, I planted the pole beans on August 28 and the bush beans on Sept 6 so from seed to the table took less than 2 months. I do have one other problem – the pole beans must be 12′ tall and I’m only 5’10”. I’m fully stretched out trying to reach the juiciest looking ones and have a mental image of impaling myself on the poles – that would really be embarrassing.

The garden is roughly three quarters planted now, space wise. I just planted a row of Lincoln garden peas for Christmas eatin’, a few collard plants and the rest of the Swiss Chard. It should be 100% filled by the middle of November with the planting of the Brussels and stay that way until next June. I have enough young seedlings that will be ready for transplant by mid November to start filling in for the fall crops as they mature and get converted to table toppings and compost. Pole beans will be replaced by beets, bush beans by Spinach and there will be a steady stream of new lettuce varieties as space permits.

Phone problems

My socialist son asked me if I had ever voted for a Democrat and I told him yes, Kennedy. I thought about it later and that was wrong. I was too young to vote in 1960 but I did vote for Jimmy Carter. He was a techy guy, nuclear physics, Georgia Tech grad (at the time, Georgia Tech was in the SEC), Georgia boy – how could that be bad. Four years later it was clear he was simply in over his head and leading the country to destruction. So the election came down to a guy who had shown what he had the previous four years versus a Hollywood actor who had done a credible job as Governor of California. The rest is history. I guarantee you, I’ve never voted for a Democrat since. Jimmy Carter later found his niche building homes with Habitat for Humanity and teaching farmers in Africa how to grow peanuts or something. Noble causes but not the qualities you want in a President. I think Obama will find his niche working with Chicago disadvantage youth, or not.

I have a way to solve the unemployment problem. A giant cyber attack that renders all the computers useless. I am now of the opinion, for example, that there are no people employed at AT&T. I had what I considered a very minor problem, one that should have been resolved in a few minutes but had me tied up for two hours, literally, trying to find a human at AT&T capable of helping. The problem was that I wanted to be able to remotely access our voice mail remotely so that when we’re away from home, we can check our messages. I guess when we got the account 12 years ago, maybe we assigned a PIN number or password. I really don’t remember ever doing it and even if we did, have no idea what that number is. Simple enough to change the password, or so you’d think. Tom was sure he could do it online but after trying for at least a half hour, he got a screen that said this could only be done by talking to a human, for privacy reasons, and gave him a phone number which he tried calling only to learn that it was an 8AM to 5PM source. So I picked up the ball and called the next day. I was told that it could only be done on-line – a path already tried. I insisted on moving up the food chain and eventually hit someone who came back and told me that they had indeed tried to do it online and that it said it had to be done live as I said. That came as a big surprise to them. No one, it seemed, had ever had this problem before. Each time I was switched, there was a 15 minute hold. The entire process took almost 2 hours and the person seemed to be phone hopping all over the corporation trying to find. An answer did finally come from Union City NJ. They said all I had to do was call into our home number then when it went to voice mail, hit star and dial our own number. I asked if I should dial the entire 10 digits, 7 digits, or just the last 4. They didn’t know. I suggested that they try it from Union City and let me know what worked. Here’s where it gets interesting, the support person called and said that I had to use the same access number as I did when retrieving my voice mail locally. Trouble is, I don’t have to use an access number and am not prompted to use one. The system just starts spilling out the messages in sequence and prompting me to either replay, save or delete each message. She called an hour later with a special number to call and a temporary access code. It worked. I had Tom check to see if he could access our mailbox remotely and change the temporary password to a final one. Aside from how long it took to do something that I would think was routine, the support person said she’d call back about 6PM and check to make sure everything was working the way I expected. That’s the first time I can ever remember a support tech with that kind of follow up. Of course, it never happened but at least her heart was in the right place.

Krispy Kreme App

Florida wins again but they really don’t look like a power house-just managing to win. Somehow they achieved the #3 AP ranking. With the schedule ahead of them for the rest of the season, hard to believe they’ll retain that altitude. Next week is South Carolina who, unfortunately, was beaten yesterday by LSU. I was hoping both SC and Florida would be undefeated going into that game. I watched Alabama again and believe they’re in a class by themselves. Unless they lost half their team to injuries, should win the SEC with ease.

We drove up to Gainesville Sunday to see Simon and attend the annual fall art/craft show. Nancy also took the opportunity to fill his freezer with prepared food. Among the places he’s lived, this one seems to be the best – not necessarily location but nice size and amenities. It’s about a 10 minute walk from his apartment to his job and nearly the same to the main campus so that’s convenient. Julia joined us and we had a nice rib lunch followed a few hours later by a trip to Mochi for yogurt. The show itself really blocks off a large chunk of downtown Gainesville and parking is a nightmare. Last year we wandered around for about 15 minutes until we found a parking space. We did the same thing this year and as if by magic, parked in the exact same spot as last year. None of us had any idea exactly where we were but as soon as we saw the spot, all of us recognized it and had a big laugh about our reserved spot. I’m fairly certain that if we set out to find that spot, we couldn’t.

One thing particularly interesting about Simon’s location is that it’s quite close to a Krispy Kreme donut shop. What’s significant about that is that he has an APP on his iphone that alerts him when hot donuts are coming out. Now that’s what I call a technological break through.

I started transplanting the winter crops from seedling trays into the garden. It’s just been too hot up until now and the few I moved to experiment didn’t make it. Turns out I have one problem I hadn’t anticipated – I don’t know exactly what I’m planting. I used the same marker I’ve always used to carefully label each variety but for whatever reason, the ink evaporated or washed off. That’s a problem with the winter crops, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels, collards, and kale, because when young, they all look alike. So if someone points at a particular plant and asks me what it is, no idea. I do, generally speaking, know what I started but it will be at least a month to six weeks before I’ll know where it lives in the garden.

Avalanche peas make an appearance. Looks like very good germination so if all goes well, peas before Christmas. I’ll plant the second tranche before the end of this month to extend the harvest well into January. I was also surprised to see a couple of the onion bulbs sprouting so soon. That’s a good sign.

She’s Baaack

She’s baaaack. Definitely an uptick in the eating department.

Another self inflicted crop failure. I planted peas, dwarf sugars, almost two weeks ago and got zero germination. I checked the seed pack and it was 2009 seed which means I probably bought it in 2008. I really should check the dates on seed packs before using and just toss stuff older than 2 years. I have plenty of fresh seeds and a new variety I wanted to try, Avalanche, so using the old, suspect seed is just dumb.

I had to discontinue my experiment with the vinyl tiles under butternuts. In two days 6 of the butternuts on top of the tiles started rotting. I have no idea why, heat buildup, gas emissions……..? So I quickly removed the tiles from those that seemed OK and replaced them with folded newspaper. As the vines grow, they continue to pop out new gourds and I’ve always experienced drop off among the first to form but this seemed excessive to me.

We had a cold front move through which dropped our daytime highs to 87 and the nighttime lows to 68. Based on that, I decided to move to the wild side and plant a carrot patch. I put them in right beside the onion patch. The nice thing about planting these root crops is that you can plant them quite densely so it only takes a small space to get something going. Last year was our first really good carrot year which I attribute to the soft, organic nature of the soil now. The variety that worked so well is Ya Ya. I still have plenty of that seed but decided to first go with an old standard, Nantes. One reason for that is that Nantes was the first variety I tried and experienced nearly a total crop failure. If my premise that the soil is now ready is valid, then the Nantes should work. If not, back to the Ya Ya.

Wonder if this record cold hitting the North country will regrow the arctic ice pack. I wonder more if we’ll hear about it if it does.

I’m noticing a slight shift in the media towards probing the current administration’s problems. Even CNN is finally reporting on the administration’s handling of international problems. I think they’ve been embarrassed by how obviously biased they’ve been and that they are generally losing credibility with the public and becoming irrelevant. I think they’re also getting concerned that their partisanship is going to cost them access if perhaps Romney wins. It may also be dawning on them that Romney was the governor of Massachusetts so deep down inside, he’s one of them. Then there’s the rats leaving the sinking ship theory; hedging their bets; covering all the bases etc etc.

Beans are happening

GO GATORS! #4 in the nation. I would never have guessed they would crack the top 10 at the beginning of the season and the schedule ahead of them is tough enough to advance even further if they take care of South Carolina in two weeks. Beating Tennessee and LSU in the same season is a big win – taking down Georgia would finish off the big rivalries. The South Carolina game is big but it’s not a long running rivalry – still beating Spurrier brings it’s own joy.

The first official job when Nancy gets home is to pickle another batch of peppers. The first batch we made has been totally consumed and we need at least another 4 jars to make it through the winter. There are still plenty of blossoms on the jalapeno bushes so perhaps there could even be a fourth batch.

Picked up a pound of onion sets which worked out to be 110 bulbs. After planting half, I’ve decided to stop by the hardware store and get another pound. I’ll plant about half in two weeks and the last batch in early November-that should keep us in onions through the spring. This will be the earliest I’m getting them in but from all I read, nows’ the right time. Onions are cheap veggies so the financials might not seem to make much sense but the convenience of having them close by and the fact that you can pick and use them at almost any point along the growth curve, and that after picking they hold well, makes them mandatory from Nancy’s perspective. I just like the way they grow. I plant 16 of them per square foot so they really don’t take up much room, similar to carrots – which will start going in by the end of the month, maybe a few sooner.

Lots of bean blossoms. I started seeing bush bean blossoms mid week and by the end of the weekend, they were dense. No signs of blossoms on the pole beans on Sunday – quite a few on Monday so things happen overnight. According to calculations using the supplier’s data, we shouldn’t expect to be picking any beans until November but my guess now is that we’ll start before the end of this month.

Trying something new (to me) with the butternut squash this year. The plants are going gangbusters and putting out plenty of gourds, some of which drop off and some of which go on to maturity. One thing that happens to gourds as they grow is that they occasional attract a borer and occasionally start to rot where they’re directly on the ground. My thinking is that if I set the gourds on something that eliminates direct contact with the ground, the rotting problem would be reduced or eliminated. When we installed the sheds, we finished the plywood floor with stick-on vinyl tiles and had a handful left over. I spotted them yesterday and thought they might find a use as mats under the butternuts. So as of now, there are a dozen butternuts sitting on vinyl tiles. In the process I clipped off about half that many which were turning yellow and certainly not going to mature. These plants are quite young in their cycle so I’m guessing that there will be loads and loads of butternuts before the frost gets them.

Let’s see if I have this right – a month before the election we get a jobs report showing very poor performance in terms of adding jobs and the unemployment rate drops. Hmmmm – perhaps a little Chicago counting? Good news for Obama – both Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have voiced support for Obama. I’ve never been happy with the choices this year and still feel like this an election between a Democrat and a Socialist and I hate it that I’m going to have to vote for a Democrat/Massachusetts Republican.

Citrus Mystery

On Monday I went to the post office as usual, nothing unusual. On Tuesday I got there and realized that the key to the box was not in the console of the car as usual. Apparently I had somehow not returned it to the designated spot. The post mistress recognized me and gave me my mail after I explained that I had lost the key. She said no one had turned any in so I was fairly sure I had just left them in my pants pocket. Nope. I tore the house up and double checked the car. No key. We do have a spare so my plan was to get a duplicate made at the local ACE hardware. I decided to go by the Post Office first to pick up the mail and check once again if it had turned up. Sure enough, twenty minutes before I got there, a woman brought them in. I asked if she said where she found them and learned that they turned up between the seats in her truck. How bizarre is that. My guess is that I left them sitting on a sorting table and the next customer used the same table and just swept them up along with her own mail. Turns out that you can’t dupe the key anyway so good that it turned up.

Got a call from little Tommy and he’s experiencing his first North Dakota snowstorm. They’re expecting 6-12” which is not exactly a light dusting. I keep close track of his weather and saw it coming but was pleased that he called to give me a first person report. He’s coming home for Thanksgiving and his birthday so by then he will have experienced the real thing. Can’t wait to talk to him then. He’s a journalist and the elections will be over by then so we should have some great discussions.

We’re having an unusual citrus year. Between us and George, we have multiple varieties of oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, satsumas,and limes. In each case, the fruit is maturing 2 months ahead of schedule and is much smaller than normal. I noticed it first on the white grapefruit since it’s closest to the house and was concerned that maybe the tree had the grunge or something. Now I’m suspecting it goes back to the warm winter we had last year. My guess is that it’s not going to be as sweet as usual since, according to the experts, it takes a cold snap to sweeten the fruit and we’re months away from a cold snap.

I find it hard to believe that the presidential debates mean anything at all. It’s inconceivable to me that people who haven’t already decided are the kind of people that watch debates. I could understand it better if both candidates were new but with an incumbent, you have 4 years of history on which to make your judgement-either you’re happy with the past 4 years or you’re not. Personally I don’t think the incumbent should be allowed to campaign. He has an important job and we learn every day if he’s doing it well. One way or another he’s on TV every day so over the 4 year span, there’s plenty of exposure and surely anyone who is remotely interested, doesn’t need to hear campaign ads or debates. We know where his head and policies are so let’s just hear from the challenger.