Successful Lake Party

The fall garden is starting to take shape and it’s nice to start seeing the rows going green again. I’m trying acorn squash again after swearing never to waste the space twice before. Ditto a variety of melon. Between nematodes underground and boring bugs above ground, neither ever amounted to anything. So if everything succeeds and I project ahead to late October-early November we should be picking cucumbers, tomatoes -cherry, plum and regular-, green peppers, pole beans, squash -butternut, acorn, spaghetti and zucchini-, eggplant, cabbage, and Amy melon. It’s possible I’ll be able to squeeze in some broccoli and kale but that’s more toward the end of November into early December depending on September weather. It’s a real stretch to think everything will go perfectly and that we’ll be eating all those crops but we did so much better this summer than previously, it would be stupid not to try. In my mind the difference has been fewer bugs this year and maybe that will hold on into the fall.

A very old friend, Gerry Gilbreath, stayed with us for a couple of days. Basically he and I spent 2 days out on the dock talking, on the lake fishing, and drinking an occasional adult beverage. It had been a few years since we’d seen each other and quite a few years since we’d been alone together so we had lots of catching up to do. We even managed to catch a couple of bass.

Last evening I decided to spend the last hour of light fishing so I walked down to the poke boat and turned it over. In two days it had become infested with fire ants. Luckily it was obvious before I moved it to the water and hop in – that really would have been a disaster. George happened to be sitting on his dock and suggested that we just take his boat out and fish around. So I put off spraying the boat with insecticide and we took off fishing. I didn’t expect much because our fishing style is so different but he has a good depth finder and this was an opportunity to see just how deep the water was around the shoreline. Nothing was biting but it was still fun just casting around and enjoying the last light on the lake. Just before we gave it up, I had a really smashing hit and landed a nice fish – a five pound bass. By the time we got to the dock, weighed and photographed (kind of) the fish, it was pitch dark and Nancy was in the house concerned that I was out on the lake or maybe, in the lake. Usually I’m back home before it really gets dark. The picture taking was funny because George has a phone with a camera but no digital plan so he can’t send the picture anywhere and has no way of getting the photo from the phone to his computer. At least he doesn’t think he does. So you have to ask yourself why you would bother taking a picture when you can’t get it off a phone. Turns out it didn’t matter – he went to look at the pictures he’d taken and found out he was out of memory so the fish pictures were never stored.

The barbecue lake party came off without a hitch. We ordered the food from our local, side of the road barbecue guy and it was perfect – as it has been on the two other occasions we’ve used him. The final head count was 18 and we had plenty of food left over. The first arrival was just at noon and the last departure was at 7pm. As you might expect the lake was the big hit with lots of swimming, kayaking, boating, tubing, fishing and just sitting on the dock watching everybody have fun. The kids had a ball catching shiners and bluegills off the dock – even had them taking their own fish off the hook. It was certainly hot but there was usually a cooling breeze off the lake and when it got too bad, a plunge cooled things off.

In case you were wondering, I’m not going to comment on what a complete mess Obama has made of the Middle East. Presidential dither is an embarrassment. “We’re really angry and going to bomb you or something but you still have time to move all the real targets”. Has to remind you of Carter screwing up Iran and Clinton bombing the pharmacy and tents in the desert. This guy consistently manages to put himself (and the country) in lose-lose situations – modeling our foreign policy after France’s. I think you can justify doing anything or not doing anything regarding the Middle East but to waffle and flip-flop, is something only a loser does.

How to Stop Bleeding

We hadn’t been swimming in the lake for a few days during which time, we had a few inches of rain. That made quite a difference in the temperature of the water which dropped from hot tub warm to refreshingly cool. It would have felt great had it been a really hot day but it was overcast so the warmer water would have been preferred. Just to calibrate you on what wimps we are, cooler means probably 85 degrees.

Nancy has really thin skin, literally. A couple of days ago she brushed up against a concrete statue we have on the front deck and it scraped off a thin, thin layer of skin about 1/2” x 1/2”. It would have been absolutely nothing for most people but it started bleeding big time. She was literally dripping blood all the way back to the bathroom where we finally went to work on it. I tried pressure, an ice pad, and finally an extra large bandaid. It bled right through that so I went to a large gauze pad, doubled and then taped on tightly. It mostly saturated that but did stop. It took an hour to clean up all the blood from the carpets, tile, quilts and towels. You would have thought a major artery had been severed. That evening she took a bath and it started bleeding again. I thought maybe we were headed for the emergency room so I went online and googled “how to stop bleeding” and came up with a site of home remedies. The first was to soak a cloth in salt water and hold that on the wound for 2 minutes. It almost worked but had too much sting for Nancy. I actually think that would have worked on a tougher patient. The next was to cover it with flour or corn starch. I knew exactly where the flour was so took that route. I could tell right away this was going to work. I probably used a couple of tablespoons and patted it around any spot where it leaked through. Sure enough in a couple of minutes, no bleeding. I put a large bandage over it and everything was just fine. The next evening I removed the bandage and it looked pretty well healed and there was no sign of the flour. I was expecting to see a large, dried clot of flour and blood and wondered what would happen when that came off.

Tangled is done, hair and all. I think this is going to be as big a hit as Snow White was last year.

Ready for Halloween
Ready for Halloween
Modeling Tangle's Hair
Modeling Tangle’s Hair

Root Canal Step 2

OK, enough rain already. Luckily we’re not getting the same drenching rains that much of the area around us is experiencing but the small, daily doses have added up. The lake is sitting at normal levels now and my neighbors field is getting squishy. An old buddy is going to spend a couple of days with us this week and we have a party scheduled for next Saturday so a little drying out would be nice. By my definition, we’re about 8-10” below “full” which is a good place to be in mid August. We literally have room for another 2’ before it would overflow the banks and even though we’re coming into the peak period for tropical storms, I think we’re just fine.

I had the second tranche of root canal work yesterday. It was another fun filled two hours, again completely painless. This time was interesting. He pulled out the temporary stuff, made sure all the infection and grib was gone, filled the canals (4) with permanent filling and then finished off the whole tooth with regular filling. What made it interesting was that he did most of the work under a scope that was projected onto a monitor so I could watch the whole micro job as it was going on.

You’ve heard of chicken parmesan; you’ve heard of eggplant parmesan; you’ve heard of pizza. Tonight I made chicken eggplant parmesan pizza. It could be called a masterpiece of pizza design and it was really tasty. I’d go into more detail but need to get it properly patented first.
Tangled is making progress but not so much visible progress. A lot of fine work and trim going on and Nancy had to break out the serger for that. I think the next big, visible part of the project is the hair.

Our Own First Responder, Responds First

I mentioned burning two bay trees in the last post but while that was going on, something interesting was happening. The burn pit was full of wood even before I started on the bay trees so there was a really large pile of brush that I’d built adjacent to it. I set pit on fire and then started attacking the bay trees one branch at a time by pulling out a branch, cutting it into pieces with loppers and then pitching the cut pieces onto the fire. Soon after I started I noticed two rabbits come out of the jungle about 100’ away and hop over to the brush pile I was working. They came within 20’ of me and just sat their watching. When I walked toward the pile to get a new branch, they’d hop back towards the jungle. When I carried it to the fire, they’d hop back to the pile. A few times they hopped over to within 10’ of the roaring blaze and just sat there looking at it. Clearly they were not afraid of me or the fire which belies their reputation as skittish critters. All this happened in the center of a 2 acre field which also means they had no fear of attack from the air so I think the owls and hawks are asleep on the job.

Simon got back from his Teton experience with his Wilderness First Responder Certificate, was home for one day and then off to Gainesville. On the way into town he hears this loud crash and sees a girl riding a motor scooter and an SUV have a collision. He’s the first responder on the scene. The girl was bleeding from her head, no helmet, and from a big cut on her leg and was pretty shaken up. Si got her head stabilized, told Julia to call 911, and within a few minutes there was a cop on the scene to help move her and then an EMT showed up. How’s that for a coincidence and a chance to put all that training into service right away.

The cucumbers played out so I pulled the vines down from the trellis and into the compost pile. Towards the end a few had attracted boring insects but we literally harvested dozens of perfect fruit. This was a real bonus crop since we never expected to be picking fresh cucumbers in July and August. Last week I planted 3 more cuc seeds and those have already germinated. Maybe we’ll have a fall crop as well. I’m planting pole bean seeds today where the cuc’s formerly resided. Also transplanting tomato seedlings from the starter medium to larger containers today. Weather behaving, these will probably start hitting the real garden in early September.

For Nancy, this is the height of Halloween costume season and Tangled, aka Rapunsel, is on the agenda this season. She’s been working on it fairly steadily since we got back from North Carolina and it’s starting to take shape as the little pieces come together.

Tangled's gown taking shape
Tangled’s gown taking shape

Burning Dead Trees

Nancy and I did something Sunday that we haven’t been able to do for about 3 years. We headed down to the dock and jumped in for an afternoon swim. The water was nice and warm, probably upper 80’s. This was typically how we spent Sunday afternoons before the drought so it’s nice to be back at it. The lake level is perfect for August. You don’t want it full because we can have some serious rain in Sept and on into October if a tropical storm comes anywhere close. Ideally it will be full by the end of October going into perch season. The other thing I do now is jump in the lake after I’ve worked my little heart out in the garden and/or jungle.

We had a nice storm last evening when we were out to dinner. The rain gauge showed almost an inch of rain and we saw that we had lost power for about a half hour but all was well by the time we got home. This morning I started to head down to the lake to see how much the lake had risen but only got a few feet when I noticed a large dead bay tree, a 40 footer, had been snapped in the middle and was blocking the path to the lake, big time. This was one of those trees that I was afraid my wimpy chain saw wouldn’t handle and was waiting for my neighbor to get his health back. It also happened to be the tree supporting the clothes line. I had no choice but to break out the saw and limb it out. I cut it flush just above the tie point for the clothes line so that’ll probably work for a year or so before the stump rots. It took an hour to clear the path and haul off the branches to the burn pile. Not the way I had planned to spend the day, that’s for sure. My neighbor cut down a large, dead bay the day before so the combined pile of branches is daunting but I vowed to attack it before the week ended. I did today and it took 3 hours to cut the big branches into fire size and burn it all. Luckily the day was overcast so I didn’t have to work in the direct sunlight but still sweated a gallon or two and totally wore out my bod.

The Labor Day party is forming up nicely and there’s a chance some of the South Carolina family will be joining us. I’m doing a little bit every day to get the dock area all ready. Today I power washed the two sit on top kayaks. They haven’t been used in a couple of years and were pretty grungy with fungus and whatever else grows on the surface of things living in the jungle. That included a few giant spiders and roach looking critters. They look like new or close to it and I’m sure the kids will love paddling them.

Want to see tonight’s veggie? Really a tasty variety of pole bean.

Smerelda Pole Beans
Smerelda Pole Beans

Turkey Encounter

Had an exciting wildlife sighting this morning. The house is a few hundred feet down the gravel driveway from the main road and mailbox. The walk up to the mailbox every morning is under a total canopy of oak and camphor trees but this morning I wasn’t alone. I was about halfway and noticed a flock of wild turkeys about 50’ in front of me. There were 4 adults and 4 juveniles just walking along pecking in the gravel. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to wild turkeys so it was quite a thrill. When they spotted me, they walked calmly into the underbrush to another open area then flew up into the trees. Very calm, no panic so I really got a good look.

Here’s a bit of trivia to file away. I mentioned that I had planted seeds for several different varieties of squash last week, zucchini and winter squash. Summer squash goes from seed to fruit in 50-60 days; winter squash, 90-100 days. Sure enough, all the summer squash seeds germinated in 5 days but not a sign of the winter squash. Experience tells me they will pop out in 7-10 days or not at all. While checking them, I decided to put in 3 more cucumber seeds to see if I could keep that crop going on into the fall.

Last night nothing was going on about dusk so I decided to break out the poke boat and plug around the lake for a half hour or so. I haven’t done that, for a variety of reasons, in about 6 months. I appreciate that just because the lake was low, there would still be plenty of fish but somehow it just wasn’t the same. Now all my secret spots are back in play. I also hadn’t tried my old bass reel since it had been repaired and needed to make sure it was in tip top shape. It was and I managed to snag a 5 pounder just before it got too dark to see. I had forgotten to check the drag on the reel and sure enough it was totally loose so I had to stop the fish with my thumb and try to adjust the drag while the bass was heading for the lily pads. Somehow it all worked out and I landed it. Of course I let him go so no pictures.

The national hurricane boys adjusted their forecast again. They made the first forecast in May calling for an extra active season with loads of named storms, basic hurricanes, and major hurricanes. In August, they hone their forecast and still call for an extra active season but maybe not quite so active as originally forecast. By this time in August, we would normally have expected to see one or two hurricanes but the count is zero. In fact, not sure I recall a season with so little activity this late in the season. Everybody can understand that forecasting is not easy but every year it’s the same – forecast way high at the beginning of the season and then adjust downward as the season progresses. I think forecasting high, early is both a CYA move and a budget justification. It seems to me to be a waste in any case since I don’t know anyone who does anything differently based on the forecast. You know there’s a possibility of significant storms between July and Oct, no matter what the forecasters say, so you prepare accordingly.

Lowered the Boat

I had the root canal thing on Monday. It wasn’t near as much fun as I thought it would be. A couple of weeks ago I went for a routine cleaning and dental exam where the dentist picked up on an abscess under a crowned tooth. I went to a specialist who said it had been dead for quite some time. It turns out there was a natural drain going on so it never hurt but was dripping nasty material into my body – slow enough that my system could handle it. They drilled out the center of the tooth, down into 3 roots, cleaned out all the infection, and did a temporary filling. The process took 2 hours this trip and will take another 2 in a couple of weeks where the temporary fillings are replaced with permanent ones. I will say that there was no pain before, during, or after the procedure – unless you count a pain in the wallet.

It took three days but I did finally get through the whole garden-weeding and cutting back the plants that were past their prime, mostly tomatoes, and tilling those areas that hadn’t been done in several years. The compost pile is totally full a bit earlier than I had planned and kind of squishy with all the rain. I decided to take a walk on the wild side and plant some squash seeds directly in the garden. Normally that would be stupid in August but the cucumbers are doing so well that this may just be the exceptional season where it will work. The pic shows the load of fruit on just one plant. There is one slight difference between these summer cuc’s and the ones we pick in the spring – they’re more slender. They taste exactly the same and are the same length but don’t fill out as fully. I planted two different varieties of zucchini, a butternut, and a spaghetti squash. I also started tomato and pepper seeds inside and, another stretch crop, two varieties of cabbage. All of those will go in the garden mid September. Oh yeah, now picking pole beans and eggplant on a daily basis. That’s normal for the eggplant but not so much for the beans.

Loaded with Cuc's
Loaded with Cuc’s

Now that I have the garden under control, into the jungle. A year or so back I cleaned out several areas of palmettos to clear views to the lake. The thing with palmettos is that when you cut them down, even to ground level, in just a few weeks they put out new sprouts so it’s a continuous job. A month ago I tried to do something about that by spraying the cut areas with pruning paint. I thought that would stop new growth. Wrong. So today I went after them with chemical warfare. I buy undiluted, commercial grade generic round-up at the local nursery supply store. You dilute it 10-12:1 for normal use; that gets it down to Roundup strength. This time after I cut off a new sprout, I hit it with a few tablespoons of full strength juice. We’ll know in a couple of weeks how well that works. As an aside, I get a 2 gallon jug of this concentrate for $75 and it generally lasts me a couple of years.

The other jungle flora that keeps on coming are wild grapes. That was the toughest thing to get under semi control when we built the house and if I let it go, we’ll be wrapped up tight by vines. As soon as I start pulling the vines I think about someone I’ve actually never met. One time about 10 years ago when we were doing the initial clearing, Ali and Nancy were here helping. He and I were pulling down a particularly tough vine and he opined that his mother would go crazy to have all these grape vines and see us just pulling them down to be fed into a chipper or burned. They’re Lebanese and use grape leaves in lots of dishes so this would be the land of plenty. Somehow that stuck with me and she automatically pops into my mind as I yank them out of the trees.

Another big development – I lowered the Jon boat into the water. It had been hanging high and drive for several years when the water level was too low but now it’s back to normal. Based on the lake rise, we’ve also confirmed that we’ll host a lake party on the 31st of this month and based on that, I’m moving my jungle cleaning operation down to the path between the lake to the dock and to the area adjacent to the dock. It’ll take a couple of days to get that to where the less adventurous guests have no trouble getting to the dock.

More about the NC Trip

I forgot I had a few pictures in the camera so didn’t post them with the trip report. There were many other cameras flashing all week and many posts on social media so I didn’t bother. Depending on where they put the tubes in the river, the tubing run was from 1-3 hours and it was made several times a day, every day.

little Tenn from the deck
little Tenn from the deck

tubers approaching deck
tubers approaching deck
tubers landing
tubers landing

Another flashback to the trip. Who knew that Simon had turned into the campground troubadour. He brought his guitar and Uke and serenaded us every evening around the fire pit. He knows lots of group songs and had a very special rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Joanne. And as an update, he’s at the Grand Teton Science school just outside Jackson Hole WY right now and performed one of this favorites, “the River Song” at open mic night.

I spent 3 hours cleaning up the garden on Sunday and another 3 on Monday. It was amazing how many weeds had popped in just a week. My normal daily routine is to check on the garden in the AM and spend about an hour tweaking which includes picking the few weeds that had popped up overnight so I never got the feeling of just how many weeds I was picking over the course of a week. That other thing that surprised me was the growth of the cucumbers on the new trellis. Wow. There were a few blossoms and micro cuc’s on the vines when we left and now there are pickable ones and incredible foliage climbing. I picked 2 and my neighbor said they picked 4 last week. In the pic the cuc’s are on the left and pole beans on the right. It’s amazing to have both of these crops in August. I expected nothing and was just hoping to see how the trellis performed with some weight on it. You’ll also notice that I cleaned out a large piece of the garden and tilled it. What is most appreciated by the locals is the color of the soil. Trust me, that is not typical Florida soil which is usually a light gray sand. That rich top soil is more than 6” deep over 100% of the garden just crying out to be planted. I’ll start some seeds indoors this week and start populating the garden in September.

cuc's and pole beans
cuc’s and pole beans

I checked the rain gauges and found we had picked up 3” over the past week. We’re still in a wet pattern so I have every reason to believe we’ll fill or come close to filling the lake this season, even without a tropical storm. That means we’ll set up for a lake party over the Labor Day weekend, probably on Saturday. I’m also starting to think we may have a banner speckled perch season this fall. With the low water, we caught virtually none for the past two years so the lake should be chock full of big, fat perch. I’m also thinking there will be plenty just off the dock this year because of the new lily pads in the vicinity. These popped up when the water level dropped – the lower level meant the sunlight could penetrate into areas that were heretofore too deep – and that fostered new plants.

NC Trip Report

This is going to be a long posting since I’ve fallen so far behind and have so much to report from North Carolina.

Back from the big Anniversary bash in Franklin NC and I can’t recall ever having a better family gathering. The accommodations were fabulous, the weather was fabulous, and the company was fabulous. We were there for a full week with a base group of 9 that swelled to 21 for a few days. The youngest party goer was 3 and the oldest 73 with 4 generations represented including 2 great, great nieces. I think Fred and Martha traveled the farthest from Staten Island with little Tommy a close second, coming from Chicago. Simon was the closest, winding out his summer job in the Smokies less than 100 miles away. Franklin is located in south west North Carolina, close to the Georgia border and the Tennessee border and close to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. And about a 2-3 hour drive for the Sheronik’s, Yearta’s, and Edwards’. The little Tennessee River runs through it flowing north to Cherokee NC. The cabin was located about 5 miles north of Franklin, a miles or so down a dirt road and directly on the river. Very isolated and private.

The cabin was large and luxurious. Because it was made of logs and out in the wilderness you have to call it a cabin but get any thoughts of primitive out of your head. None of us live in accommodations as nice as these – cable TV, wi-fi and heated toilet seats that had special plumbing and sprays attached (or so I’m told). Not counting couches, blow up beds and floor space, there were comfortable sleeping arrangements for 10. There were three social gathering areas – a large living room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the river; a large deck out from the living room; a patio area down by the river complete with a gas log fire pit, a gas grill, and a wet bar. A typical night would find a monopoly game going on in the living room, a beer and wine social happening on the upper deck and a marshmallow roasting, wine event down on the river patio.

Aside from catching a few smallmouth bass from the deck, one feature of the cabin that particularly appealed to me was a couple of rows of blueberry bushes, 20 plants, out the front door. They were loaded with berries and we picked them as needed on a daily basis. Still, there were more berries ripening than we were eating everyday so we did a large final picking and have them in the freezer here already. I can assure you that the next group to occupy the cabin will have just as many to deal with, there were that many red berries and blossoms on the bushes.

Insofar as other activities, during the day there was nominally a group floating tubes on the river; a group playing some lawn game; a group at a local U-Pick vegetable farm; a group trying there luck at one of the local gem mines; a couple fishing; or a group taking a generic sight seeing trip in the mountains to local eateries, antique shops, or souvenir hunting. One trip was particularly memorable for me. We were on a windy mountain road following a white water creek when right in front of us a kid jumped off a cliff into a pool below. We stopped immediately and Simon said it was “butt buster falls” and that he’d jumped it before. So he stripped down to his underwear and gave us a breath taking demo off the cliff 30’ above the pool. I flashed back about 15 years when he did the same thing during a camping trip at Starvation Reservoir in Utah.

The fishing could have been better but only because the river itself was running fast and muddy from heavy rains a few days before we got there. By the last day it had dropped a foot, slowed a bit, and was much clearer so I managed to catch 4 bass including one pretty good one just fishing from the deck. Tom had gone off hiking while I caught the fish so he took his rod with him on the next float tube trip and hooked two bass. Think about trying to land a nice bass while floating in a tube downstream about 3 mph. Maybe next time we go we’ll catch the river at a better time and get quite a bit more time fishing. There’s a place close by that rents canoes for a 7 hour float. I did that trip a few years ago and we caught a grundle of fish so I know it’s a productive area.

We took a small detour on the way home to stop at a place Tom recommended called Mercier Orchard. It’s in Blue Ridge Georgia and they had stopped there on the way up and purchased some fresh made fruit pies and other goodies. It was well worth the extra time. We ate breakfast there – excellent biscuits-then picked up peaches, nectarines, apples and assorted fried pies, a house specialty. And while on the topic of food – we all ate out one night at a place called the Dillard House in Dillard Ga., about 10 miles from the cabin. It’s home style, all you can eat Southern cooking. If you’re into southern style vegetables, it’s worth driving 100 miles out of your way. I don’t know if it still is or not, but at one time, it was Tom’s favorite restaurant in the galaxy.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful – just what we wanted. We had a 4 car caravan going for 90% of the trip and split up just south of Gainesville. We did nothing but unpack last night and then crashed but first thing this morning I got started cleaning up the garden and Nancy started cooking the stuff we’d picked in NC. That means a dozen or so large stuffed bell peppers and a few peach/nectarine cobblers and crisps.

I observed one social factor that I call the I Phone circle. That’s when a small group, 4-6 maybe, sit around with each other but are digitally communicating with others not in the group. So they are physically with one set of people but mentally with another. Several times there would be 3 such independent groups doing their thing, one in the living room, one on the outside porch and another down on the patio by the river. There could even have been another in a bedroom that I didn’t see. It reminded me of my college days when you’d go to the library and there were students clustered around tables, each person doing his own thing-reading, writing or whatever but there was zero communication between those around the table; total silence. A couple of times I thought about the old song that has the line “Love the one you’re with” and thought a more appropriate line for this generation would be: “be with the one you’re with.” There were 4 of us super senior citizens – 70+ and electronically deprived- and we would naturally cluster to have conversations among ourselves the old fashioned way; you know with facial and other body gestures and with verbal ramblings that could extend beyond a fixed number of words.

I’m going to post this but I’m sure there are loads of anecdotes that I’m not including.