Disaster Averted

I may have lost another old friend today. This one I killed. I hadn’t checked the oil in my chipper in quite some time – bad mistake. It ran perfectly, started on the first pull and then suddenly died after about an hour of chipping palmettos. I went to start it and the engine was locked up tight. That can happen if something gets jammed inside but I knew I hadn’t been running anything through it that would cause a jam. I checked the oil and found it dry. It wasn’t smoking or smelling bad so maybe it can be brought back to life. I put new oil in and will let it cool down for a few hours and then try again. After that I’ll pull the spark plug and squirt some WD-40 into the cylinder and see if that helps. At that point it will either be carted off to a repair place or to the chipper grave yard. I checked to see if I could just get another replacement engine but sadly Tecumseh is no longer in business and every site I checked said they were nearly impossible to find. I have to have a chipper. I wouldn’t have felt so bad if it had just died of old age but to have contributed, if not caused it’s untimely demise, is a real bummer. This happened right at the clean-up end of the project. As I had cleared the paths, I was cutting palmetto and underbrush and building a pile to be chipped and converted into cover or compost. What a way to end. I did get 13 years out of it with some really hard use in the first few years of lot clearing.

This day is quickly becoming an official dumb ass day. All week long as I’ve worked on the filling project, I passed by and noted a large fire ant nest. Instead of stopping what I was doing and dealing with it…………….
Today I’m doing some close clean up was down on my hands and knees crawling along clipping low palmetto fronds, and put my hand down smack on top of the nest. Luckily I was wearing gloves and a long sleeve shirt but I didn’t realize what I had done until the first bites. By then I had hundreds of those nasty little guys crawling on my arm and doing their best to get through the shirt and crawl down into the gloves. I managed to sweep them away after a few dozen bites. Needless to say that mound is now loaded with fire ant poison. I washed my hand and arm with alcohol, took a Benadryl within a few minutes and caught it before it really caused a problem.

Hold it, late breaking. George to the rescue. I told him about the chipper and that my idea was to try pulling the plug and spraying WD-40 into the cylinder. He agreed that was worth trying but it didn’t improve the situation. He used a pick handle to pry the cutting mechanism and it moved. I had tried that myself but only using my hands and not any mechanical leverage. I thought about it but was afraid I would break the shaft with too much force. It broke loose enough that I could turn it over with the pull cord so we decided to give it a try – after making sure it was full of good oil. After spraying starter fluid into the air filter, it started on the first pull. What a relief. I had convinced myself that it didn’t make any sense at all to buy a new one – $1299 for the same size and make. Even a 5HP model (mine is 10HP) is $799 and much wimpier. George’s has a 5HP engine and he really can’t feed it palmettos like I can. Mine will chew them up as fast and as thickly as I can stuff the chute whereas his takes them one or two at a time. When I’m doing a major cleanup, I can easily cut 100’s so that extra HP means I do a job much more quickly.
I think the politicians are getting nervous that the gov’t can shut down and nobody will even notice. The same as when the sequester happened.


Looking toward the house
Looking toward the house
Toward the lake
Toward the lake

Finished filling the view area and ended up with about a yard of fill dirt left over. I wanted that so I’d be able to fill depressions and pot holes as it all settles. For sure I don’t need another load. My neighbor has a small, garden tractor with a blade attachment for moving dirt. It’s a really old Murray, not even sure they still make them, from the 80’s but it got the job done. I was making great progress with the wheelbarrow approach but the beauty of the tractor is that it packs the soil down while moving it and automatically levels the whole area. Look back to the last post and you can see the difference.

I attended a memorial service for Judy yesterday and was asked to give a eulogy at the First Baptist Church in Lake Wales. Based on comments afterwards, I think it went over well. I had told a few of my friends that if the hair on their arms raised up while I was at the podium, there was probably a lightning bolt headed my way. The pastor was on the front row and I kept glancing down to see if he was ok with what I was saying. I figured he’d give me a knife throat slash signal if I got on thin ice but he seemed absorbed and laughed a couple of times. I’m guessing he picked up on the fact that I don’t spend a lot of time in Church.

Nancy comes home tomorrow and I’m ready. Everything is in good shape here so no rush to get things righted as there was the first couple of times she made the Utah trek. I’ve done this so often now that I have it down to an absolute science. The place barely looks lived in and all my big project yard jobs are done. The fact that Nancy had frozen dinners for me during the past month really made a difference – microwave and paper plates all the way so no kitchen mess. All I use is a cereal bowl, coffee cup, and wine goblet and one set of utensils. I use them, wash them off and set them on the counter over a sheet of paper towel, ready for the next meal. I’m usually out working in the garden and/or jungle before 9AM and back in, dirty and sweaty by noon. I head directly for the washer, strip down, pop in a soap pellet, hit start, head for the shower and then change into my casual afternoon shorts and T shirt. Move the clothes from the washer to the dryer – I have the clothesline area loaded with my fill gear right now – grab the paper and head down to the dock. The next morning I stop by the dryer and switch from my sleeping clothes to the work clothes and start all over. I guess some folks would think this is boring – same clothes every day – but it’s perfection to me.

Still filling and planting

Our weather here at the lake is exactly opposite of the forecasts. All week long they were projecting heavy rains and actually the area received 5-7” collectively over 3 or 4 days while we received maybe 1/4”. Yesterday and today the forecast was dry – less than 20% likelihood of rain- and it rained all night and into the this morning. It was raining lightly when I went to bed and it rained hard enough this morning so that I awoke to the rain.

This rain is welcome since I did some landscaping along the path yesterday. Landscaping doesn’t mean going to a nursery and getting plants – it means moving some wild plants from one jungle location to another. We have loads of Bromiliads so I thinned them out and filled in areas that I recently filled with dirt. I count trimming the palmettos and raking away 10 years worth of pine needles and oak leaves as landscaping. I also count pulling out thousands of Boston ferns landscaping – so my definition is loose.

Trying a new variety in the garden this year and got a surprise. I read about a cross between broccoli and Kale which the seed company called Brokali. It’s a cut crop, which means you cut it when ready and it grows back, providing a steady stream of goodies. The tops and stems are touted as sweet and delicious. To me it sounds like Broccoli Raab, something I planned to put in the garden in November. Anyway, I got a surprise when I decided to start it indoors for the season a few days ago and saw it germinate in 3 days. Conventional broccoli does germinate quickly, 5-7 days, but I’ve never seen little plants pop out this fast. In this case that may not be a good thing since they’ll be ready to pop in the garden in October which is still fairly hot here. I’ve got plenty of seed left so if this batch cooks in the garden, I’ll have a follow up crop ready to go.

If you are into greens, you can really satisfy your need with very little garden space by focusing on cutting crops. A cutting crop is one where you cut off the leaves as needed while the plant continues to produce more. This year I’ll have a few Kale plants, two varieties; swiss chard, 2 varieties; spinach, 2 varieties; broccoli, 2 varieties not including the Brokali and Broccoli raab, both of which will be there; collards, and several varieties of leaf lettuce. I guess I should throw parsley into that category too. I’ll end up with only 2 garden rows of these items which will provide all the greens we and our neighbor can handle with plenty left over for Nancy’s bridge and quilting ladies from November through April. Two garden rows is less than 100 SF. I’ll mix that up with the one time pick crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, celery and all the roots – carrots, beets, onions and parsnips.

Really making good progress on the filling project. The path to the dock is completed as is the wide area along the lake front and I’ve started filling the view area. I’d say I’m at the 2/3 point on using up the fill dirt and am fairly confident now that I have enough dirt to do the job-at least with a shallow level of fill. Since the dirt pile is positioned adjacent to the area to be filled, it’s going much faster than the dock path. I roughly estimate the area to be 800 SF but it’s tougher to estimate the depth because of the many pot holes and roots that need to be dealt with. Just putting an eyeball on it, I think it will be close and I think I can complete the job by the end of the week – before my bride gets home.

Filling the view area
Filling the view area