Rat Project Update

Tom and I hit a lake just outside the Ocala National Forest this weekend and then again Wednesday. It’s still too early for the bass to be moving about with water temps below 60 degrees. We’re calling these scouting trips so that when the fish start biting, we’ll be ready. Even so we did manage to boat a couple to keep our streak alive. Also explored some smaller Forest lakes where they’ve banned outboard motors. Banned doesn’t just mean you can’t use an outboard, it also means you can’t have an outboard (or gasoline) on your boat, even if it’s not running. We had thought we could launch the boat and only use the electric motor but apparently the no-no is not the noise and waves but rather gasoline. What a load of crap. We fished in a place in Nevada that wouldn’t let you run your motor until very late in the season because the marsh was a waterfowl nesting area. That was understandable but this regulation is another whacko’s run amok problem. The other convenient thing is that there are literally hundreds of small lakes in the forest and not all lakes have the same regs but there’s no clearing house to provide that information so you have to visit the lake to find out whether you can launch or not.

The other day George and I cleaned the tangerine tree. We each took 2 five gallon buckets of tangerines. We gave one of the buckets full to our friends in Altamonte and saved one bucket for ourselves. Today Nancy and I had a big juice squeezing party. That would be her, me and 3 five gallon buckets of tangerines, grapefruit, and a couple oranges. We have two hand juicers including one that Nancy inherited from her grandmother so we can make short work of quite a load of fruit. We just mix them all to create a unique blend and ended up with a couple of gallons of juice and 1 five gallon bucket of hulks. The hulks could either make it to the compost pile or go to Nancy’s cattle raising quilt buddy to be used as cattle feed. Turns out they love to eat rinds and even marginal fruit that’s fallen from the tree. Supposedly it’s a treat for them. Last but not least, cleaning out the tree will deprive the rats of a source of food so maybe they’ll have to forage further from here.

I may be making some progress on the rat project. I put out the third offering of 8 chunks and only 6 of them were gone in the morning. I have one more batch to put out next Monday so fingers are crossed that this gets it done.

Turning Beet Greens into Steak

Just planted the last spinach and lettuce seeds for the season; in fact those will be the last winter crops planted until next November. Both are short crops and should be ready for eatin’ by early March and on through the month. Also just planted the first summer seeds, green peppers. Those are started indoors and, if all goes well, should be transplanted into the main garden about the same time we’re picking the lettuce and spinach mentioned above. I’ve got this seasonal blending thing down fairly well now. I had mentioned putting a few squash plants out way, way early but heavily protected against cold and insects. We had a cold night, 35 degree kind of night, so I decided to take a peek under the covers and see how things are going. Two of the plants are protected with Walls of Water so I was expecting those to be just fine. The other is just under my normal frost/insect cover so it probably got down into the low 40’s on the plant but it still looked just fine. I have to be careful to avoid getting too close to these guys (emotionally) since there’s still lots of winter to go and they can get zapped anywhere along the way.

Spent pretty much the whole day yesterday cutting firewood with George. He’s still working on the batch of oak that was cut down last week. The tree fellers left it in big chunks which need to be cut down to fireplace size. We ended up with a fairly substantial pile of saw dust that I gathered up to use as cover in the walking paths between garden rows. Oak sawdust is particularly good, taking a couple of seasons before it completely disintegrates into the soil. Nothing is wasted. When I saw the amount of saw dust we were generating I commented that we had enough saw dust to open a butcher shop. Then I had to laugh – nobody but old people would even understand that comment. When I was a kid, there were butcher shops and the floors were covered with saw dust so that the blood dripping from fresh cut carcasses would be absorbed and swept out on a daily basis. That would probably be a hanging offense these days.

In the past, I’ve had trouble getting a decent beet crop but this year, it’s been much better. One of Nancy’s quilt buddies raises cattle and, it just so happens, loves beet greens and cabbage. Beet greens normally make it to the compost pile, except for baby greens in a salad maybe, so it was nice to find someone who eats them. And today she blessed us with a nice steak and a couple of pounds of ground beef. Next season I’ll plant more beets. I’ve also heard that the blueberries are blossoming early this year and collard lady has several large bushes just loaded with blossoms. Yummmmm.

We ate the radish soup prepared earlier in the week-the batch fortified with broccoli. What a difference that made both in taste and texture. Next time we’re thinking of either supplementing or replacing the broccoli with cauliflower. That was the end of the radishes for now. It will be a month before another batch will be maturing, marking the end of the radish season until next December. Up until this season we always just used the radishes in salads but this year, after trying the soup, we went big time. I wonder if there’s a corresponding carrot soup that uses both the root and foliage? If carrot tops are edible, then I don’t see why not.

More Radish Soup

I put out the second round of rat poison 6 days after the first course. I’m thinking it may be working since I picked up several uneaten tangerines from the ground this morning and usually they’re eaten or at least nibbled on. I check under the hood of both cars every couple of days and those have remained clean. That’s really not unexpected since I haven’t yet resumed parking them under the carport, where I think the big hangout is. After one night the second batch was 100% gone so there are still plenty of critters taking advantage of the buffet. I have two more days worth of treats for them so next Tuesday will be the next event. Of course it’s possible something other than rats are eating the poison but I seriously doubt that would account for it all going. If the 4th offering goes the same way, I’ll probably switch to another variety to spice things up for them and present them with a mixed grill.

And isn’t it counter intuitive that the rats don’t bother with the compost piles? New stuff is loaded onto the piles daily and there is never a sign of anything rooting around. I take that back. A month or so back, George put some blue crab shells and waste, cooked on the pile. The next morning there were clear signs of digging and a couple of the shells had been pulled out and scattered about. I suspect it was a raccoon but maybe it was rats or a possum but wouldn’t you think they would make daily raids picking out the edible stuff? It can’t be location since the compost is less than 50′ from the woodpile which is a known hangout and nesting spot. I thought about putting a chunk of poison on top of the pile but reconsidered with the remote possibility that it would attract them to a place they were unaware of. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Nancy made another large pot of radish soup. It’s really a tasty way to use the scads of radishes the garden is popping out. I think this time she jazzed it up by mixing in some broccoli along with the radish greens but the real surprise adder was a pinch of fennel pollen. The finished product is mixed with half and half but at this stage, we freeze the soup base for use in the future. That second freezer we bought was an excellent investment and never seems to get anywhere near even half empty. It’s loaded with pre-made pizza topping, soups, and frozen vegetables.

The fennel pollen is one of those trade items with one of her bridge buddies. Her friend gets it from some place called the Pollen Ranch and it’s supposed to be a real delicacy. Whatever. She got a Chinese cabbage and some collard greens in exchange for the pollen; shrimp lady got a large head of cabbage so we’re in full swap out mode.

Two weeks and the python count is now 27.

If you lived in North Dakota, wouldn’t you be praying that there’s some truth, even just a smidgen, to the global warming hoax. But I guess one degree in a century wouldn’t stir them. They’d sure be prepared if all of a sudden signs starting pointing to a new ice age.

The Big Snake Hunt

We made the Linquine and Cauliflower with mods A and B; Used Bucatini instead of Linguine and added broccoli with the cauliflower. We’re at the point where we can add broccoli and snow peas into almost anything we eat since I have to go out and pick a couple handfuls each day. So a cheese and broccoli with snow pea omelet is not out of reach and no telling what goodies will end up in the evening salad. It would be hard for us to get used to not having a garden. Anyway, the recipe was great and will surely be repeated, probably next time with mods C and D.

Everyone knows I’m very suspicious of environmentalists and take any numbers they put out with a large grain of salt. According to them you could count the number of manatee and alligators left in the state on a couple of fingers a few years back. I knew that was so much crap but now it’s becoming way obvious that we’re loaded with both. But this is about the pythons in the Everglades. In this case we’ve been hearing for quite some time that the Everglades was virtually being taken over by Burmese Python’s which the citizens of South Florida had turned loose into the wild when they became too big to deal with in a South Beach Condo. Every now and then a photo would show up with a Python eating a gator or a deer. I could see all that and thought a very simple solution would be to put a bounty on them, no holds barred, open season. Instead they did a timid hunting season last year and you had to purchase a permit. This year they really promoted it and offered prizes for the most snakes and the biggest. Even had some celebrities join in the hunt. According to the media, thousands took part. After one week, I think the total snake count was 10 or so; zero the first couple of days. The numbers of snakes supposedly on the loose is in the thousands and thousands, well over 100,000 I heard; numbers I suspect are grossly inflated. Seems to me they should set a bounty of $10/foot, $20/foot for snakes over 10′, and then just get out of the way and let the serious swamp hunters have at it. Worked well for wolves and bears back in the day.

Tom and I went fishing Sunday at a local, public access lake. We caught a few fish but the wind made fishing difficult so we decided to come back in by noon. The words “public access” doesn’t quite describe what we found. There was a full on acrobatic jet ski competition going on at the boat ramp with dozens of high performance skiers. These were not just neighborhood jet skiers but guys who could do 360 degree vertical and horizontal flips strung together in streaks. Naturally the ramp itself was rough and wavy so it was difficult getting the boat back onto the trailer. Guess what lake we’re avoiding on the weekends henceforth.

Can’t wait to hear from little Tommy. He took a few days off and went to NYC to visit friends. During his absence a full blown blizzard and incredibly cold weather invaded Grand Fork. How cold? There was a wind chill advisory, just like we get severe weather advisories reporting anticipated wind chills of -50 degrees. The alert said to be careful of super hypothermia and frost bite on any exposed skin. I wonder if they can land planes in that kind of weather and what it would feel like to walk out of the airport directly into it. Did he drive to the airport and leave his car there? Did he bring clothes suited for NY but nothing to stand up to a full on ND blizzard? I’d probably run back in and get a ticket on the next flight out heading South- like maybe Rio kind of South.

Drats, Rats, we need Cats

Update on the Shave Secret – A two day beard shave left my face even smoother than the first time. I checked out the company’s web site and can buy the product there but at twice the price. Turns out, though, I can get it on Amazon for $3.22 as compared to $3.82 at my local Walmart. Nancy advised me that shaving creme is cheaper so I’m going to start a spread sheet and see just how many shaves I get out of the 18.75ML bottle using the recommended 3 drops per shave. We had to go right past a Walmart last night on the way to dinner so we dropped in and picked up 3 more bottles even though I’m nominally sure now it’s available.

There were two other reasons for the Walmart stop. Since Tom and I are all set up for attacking the Tomoka River this season, I needed to replenish my store of Redfish, Trout, and Snook lures. We use plastic tails on jigs and the fish all have teeth so there’s a replacement issue. Also, we needed to get an ink cartridge for our printer. Nancy had a pattern she needed to copy and I had downloaded a recipe for Linguine and Cauliflower that couldn’t be printed. Our Lexmark printer wouldn’t print anymore and a message came up that said the color cartridge needed replacing. The black cartridge was new and it didn’t seem to me that it should refuse to print just because the color cartridge was empty so I was suspicious about the health of the printer. In the past it has just occasionally given it up and required some intervention on a technical level to getting it working right. Tom has had to sprinkle it with magic dust a couple of times but he has always been able to make it right. So a new cartridge was on the Walmart shopping list. $36 for a single cartridge. Sitting just across the aisle was a brand new printer for $34 and a combo printer/copier/scanner for $49. So I could buy a brand new HP 2512 for less than a set of cartridges for the old printer. I checked the replacement cartridge price for the HP and it was “only” $26 – for a set consisting of both a color and black cartridge. I really dread putting any new peripheral on the system since it almost always takes (me) hours to get it all installed and running. Within a half hour of getting home, it had copied it’s first pattern and printed it first recipe. The new printer is slightly smaller than the old one so that’s good. I think it’s a bit noisier, not so good, but my previous HP printers always seemed on the noisy side to me. So far, so good.

The rats are back. I popped the hood of the Camry to check the oil and there was a nest sitting right up against the engine block. It was singed, so close to causing a fire. Also an adjacent wire had been chewed. The bothersome thing is that we use that car almost daily so this didn’t happen over a few weeks of sitting idle. Nancy stopped at the feed store and picked up two packages of rat poison. This is serious poison with instructions not to touch without wearing gloves and supposedly deadly even to warfarin resistant Norway rats. That sounds pretty bad to me even if these rats are not Norwegian. The poison comes in cylinders, four inches long by two inches in diameter. I break them in half to make two by two chunks and set out eight pieces; six in the carport area, just under the sheds; one under the tangerine tree and one in George’s woodpile where we spotted a nest. That’s quite a bit of poison so I was surprised this morning to find it 100% gone; not nibbled around the edges but gone completely. According to the instructions on the package, dead rats should start showing up in 5 days so my plan is to set out another eight chunks in a week. I think out here in the woods, dead rats will never show up because of other critters doing a cleanup job. I have enough poison to do four rounds of chemical warfare. In the meantime, we’ll park the cars away from the carport and sheds for a couple of weeks.

Launching the New Boat

I’ve been watching an issue on the TV news with great interest. A few weeks back it broke that a guy in College Park, an Orlando burb, was being cited for having a vegetable garden in his front yard. In fact his front yard is a vegetable garden, and a very nice one at that. He was growing a wide selection of veggies and it looked very successful, at least as nice as mine. I guess the neighbors were complaining, although I can’t imagine why. So tonight the city counsel is meeting to decide what to do with this guy and his garden. The neighborhood we’re talking about is an older, middle income place close to the main town area, not a high dollar gated burb so I’m wondering why a Hibiscus is ok but a Swiss Chard plant is not? Why is an Ixora hedge ok, but a green pepper hedge isn’t? It bothers me that it even gets to the point where the city counsel is involved. If I’m that guy and I lose, out comes the Roundup and my yard would forever push the boundaries of bad taste. Make it into a field of sand spurs but keep it well watered and fertilized so it looks like a lawn. Maybe get a trashy old tractor and park it out front. Follow up – the city council said he could have no more than 25% of his yard in veggies and no plants taller than 4′. Any self respecting tomato is taller than 4′ and pole beans…………….

Speaking of gardens, this stretch of warm weather we’re having has the garden doing cartwheels. Everything is growing faster than usual and I have to keep on top of it or things go to seed, particularly broccoli. The florets go from small and green to completely flowering out in a day or two. Even picked enough tomatoes to push out another pot of spaghetti sauce. The squash plants I started are putting out new leaves like crazy. We’re looking at a cold front moving in this weekend and I plan to double cover the squash. If it really gets cold, which I expect to happen sometime this winter, I’ll run an extension cable with a light bulb to generate some heat under the covers. I’m talking dedication and determination for sure – squash on the table in March.

I suspect Simon will be the principal beneficiary of this batch. We may take a ride up to see his first city league frisbee game in a couple of weeks. That’ll be an expensive trip since they now have both a Fresh Market and a Trader Joe’s in Gainesville and we go crazy in both places.

We took Tom’s new boat out this weekend and it performed perfectly. The 15HP engine started on the first pull and moved the boat along at about 18mph with both of us, more than adequate for the places we go and the way we fish. It’s very stable, much more so than the canoe we were used to fishing from, so that’s a big plus. The only problem that surfaced was an interface issue between the trailer lights and the VW bus and that will surely yield to a determined effort to track down the problem. The other, minor issue was that we didn’t catch any fish. Luckily we went out again Wednesday and corrected that problem.

Product Endorsement

I just got a wonderful phone call. Little Nancy called but for her granddaughter, Allie. Allie asked Nancy if they could call Uncle Joe. Can you imagine that? We had a nice little conversation and I could just see her beautiful smile in my mind. It was just what the doctor ordered since all my bones and muscles are creaking from the tree work. I thought the kids had me pegged as Aunt Nancy’s driver but certainly not someone you’d want to talk to. I was impressed that she even remembered my name.

Took several hours and a few singed eyebrows to get the brush and branches burned. Normally in January at 8AM, it would have been in the mid 50’s so the fire would have felt good. This time it was already 70 degrees and closer to 80 by the time I finished. It’s going to take 2 or 3 days of really hard, concentrated relaxation to get me back into shape. Tom called and wants to launch his new craft for the first time later today so that seems like a good way to start the process.

Lest you think all of my work activities centered around tree removal, I also was tapped for a couple of home improvement projects including installing a spice rack and installing under shelf kitchen lighting. On the spice rack project, the off the shelf unit didn’t fit it’s intended home and required modification. I didn’t have the tools necessary to pull it off so George came to the rescue and saved the project. The lighting went smoothly and does exactly what Nancy wanted. I’m normally a bit of a klutz on these sort of projects but I have to admit that the counter lighting could not have been smoother. But the coup de grace was cleaning out the dryer exhaust line. It hadn’t been done since we moved in and Nancy was concerned that it was filling up with lint and causing the dryer cycle to lengthen. We used a combination of the central vac system and my shop vac but it’s for sure cleaned out now. Quite a load of lint that had to be creating back pressure on the dryer. It didn’t turn out to be as hard a job as I had anticipated.

Product endorsement. Joey had told me about a shaving product he’d picked up and found to be surprisingly good. I listened and filed it away but never thought about it again. He figured I’d forget about it and bought me a bottle of the product, Shave Secret. He got it at Walmart, which also made me suspicious. It’s a very small plastic container, a few ounces, and looks like hand sanitizer or something. You put 3 drops on your wet palm, rub your hands together to get them coated and then apply it to your wet face or whatever it is you’re shaving. No shaving cream, gel or anything else, just these three drops. I tried it, not expecting much at all, but with the first stroke of the razor, broke out laughing. It worked, big time. I really don’t think I’ve ever had a cleaner, closer, better shave. Holy Cow!!! Next time I’m in Walmart I’m buying a few bottles before the FDA or EPA or somebody bans it. It’s $3.25 per bottle. The packaging refers to a web site, http://www.shavesecret.com so perhaps you can order it on line and avoid the Walmart experience. Or maybe you can buy it at Walmart.com.