The Lake is Full

Nancy is back from her spring baseball jaunt with Tom and had a great time. Looking over the stuff that came back home with her, I think this was a shopping trip couched as a sports tour. Think Outlet Malls.

I’m officially calling the lake full. The reason is what I’m observing relative to the amount of rain we’re getting and the lake’s response. It rains 2” and the lake responds quickly by rising 2” then after a few dry days, it drops back to the level before the rain. The lake has been lower for the past few years and with every rain, the lake would rise but now it starts falling a few days after a rise. That tells me that it’s draining. There’s another lake a few hundred yards to the north of us, Caine lake, and a low, swampy area in between. That must be the channel or overflow path and also the highway for the occasional gator which makes it’s way into our lake.

I got a reset when we stopped in Publix yesterday. I wandered over to the produce section to see what looked good and was shocked to see the price of kale. Three medium size leaves of curly kale were $1.69. I currently have six of that variety in the garden and I would guess each plant has 20 leaves. Kale is one of those plants that just keeps producing new leaves as you pick the older ones, in Florida that’s from November well into April. Considering that a seed probably costs a penny, what a great return on investment. I haven’t seen the dark, Tuscany Kale but would expect that to be even more expensive.

Garden Status – Just popping out of the garden – green beans, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, melons and basel. In each case it looks like good germination so the next season’s crops are starting to take shape. All the tomato plants installed so far are thriving; ditto the green peppers. Seedlings on standby – egg plant, more tomatoes, and more green peppers. Nothing yet on the corn seed but I expect to start seeing it by the middle of next week. Being Harvested – peas, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, and the cauliflower-broccoli hybrid. Check the picture. Also being picked regularly on an as needed basis – parsley, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Soon to be harvested – parsnips and chioggi beets.


Otter on the dock

Bacheloring again. Nancy and Tom are on their annual spring break baseball tour and I’m stuck here fishing and relaxin’. It’s only a couple days so I’ll survive.

We were invited to a memorial service for a very dear, old friend, Phyliss Dillon. I worked with Marty Dillon at GD in Longwood, then we both took jobs at Datapoint in San Antonio, and later at Beehive in Salt Lake City. We moved at the same times such that Marty and I were together in new locations while Nancy and Phyliss managed the operations back home. Our kids grew up under the same circumstances and the Dillon’s were Chris’s God Parents. Marty passed quite a while ago so this was a big occasion for us and it was really nice catching up with the family, reconnecting with their kids and meeting their grandkids.

The service was on the other side of Orlando and we could never have found it without Madge, our handheld GPS unit. One thing she did this trip that I didn’t know was in her bag of tricks was to alert us to a traffic situation ahead on the freeway and suggest an alternate route. We selected the suggested route and arrived right on time. That evening on the news they related how snarled the traffic had been all day. Way to go Madge.

The garden is about three quarters into the transition from winter to spring. I pulled out the last of the broccoli and half the peas, making room for corn and pole beans. Within the next two weeks the parsnips and the broccoli/cauliflower cross will be harvested leaving only a few beets, two carrot patches, spinach, collards, Swiss Chard, and Kale of the winter crop. That sounds like a lot of plants but it represents only about 10% of the garden space. I have several eggplant, tomato, and green pepper plants still in the seedling stage to be transplanted sometime in mid April.

Going to plant one or two rows of corn by the end of the month too; maybe 60-75 plants. My plan is to add a new row of corner every 10-14 days depending on how quickly it germinates. I’m trying something different with corn because it just has never met my expectations. Going away from double sweets and super hybrids and getting bulk seed from a local feed store that caters to the locals. I figure that has to be a variety that does well in the area.

Another thing I added to the garden this morning was a very large gar carcass. I went down to the lake and spotted a dead gar floating a few feet off shore. This guy was about 3’ long and probably weighed 10 pounds. He’s now pushing up tomatoes. George had mentioned a few days ago that he had hooked a large gar which broke his line so I guess it’s possible this is that critter and the encounter with George proved fatal. Personally I’d much rather have him in the garden than in the lake. While I was down there I walked over to my dock and startled (mutually) an otter who was climbing the ladder from the lake onto the dock. I hadn’t seen an otter in quite some time so that was as great find. It’s not too unusual to spot them in the spring and it often means we’ll be seeing some baby otters soon. I wondered if maybe he had caught a sniff of the gar and was cruising the shoreline hunting for it.


We had a surprise 2.5” rain event Monday. That was great for all the new transplants but I am starting to wonder about being in an overwatered situation too soon.

Fred and Martha spent a few days and we had a really good time. We spent a day in Brevard County with Joey and Mark checking out the status of the boat and the new square foot vegetable garden in process. The boat is moving right along and amazes me every time I see it. The picture shows Nancy standing at the stern of the boat looking forward. You can see clearly that it’s a catamaran, 2 hulls, and get some feel for the size. Maybe a boat ride in 2018. The garden is up and running and should be producing fresh veggies by May. It should be fun coordinating his garden and mine with new varieties. He has a slightly milder environment but they should track fairly closely. Aside from the usual fishing and quilting, we found 2 new restaurants loaded with character and pretty good food. Bonefish Willies and Castaways aka Halls. Willies is on the shore of the Indian River, south of Eau Gallie; Castaways is on the St. Johns, across the river from the Blackwater Inn. Castaways has a large eating area on a pontoon boat which rocks when people get on and off and lists if the weight distribution is not balanced so eating there is an interesting experience.

Back of the boat
Back of the boat

I mentioned being surprised by the germination rate of my 2008 Broccoli Raab seed. I’ve been equally surprised by how quickly it started producing new leaves after germination so I went to the seed catalog to see exactly what I had planted. Turns out from germination to maturity takes 35 days. That is lightening fast – in the same game as radishes. So, assuming this crop behaves, we could be eating it by the middle of April. The other thing I noticed is that it’s really rugged. I did a lousy job of placing the seed so it’s clustered in some spots and void in others, requiring me to thin it. When I thin plants I always replant the ones I pull out with a low expectation that these transplants will do very well. The little seedlings by and large are too delicate to handle with my thumb laden hands. Radishes are very forgiving and so, apparently, is broccoli raab. Where I started with 2 short rows, I now have 3 fairly long rows and more seedlings are popping up every day needing thinning. And when researching the broccoli raab in the catalog, I took a look at new varieties of cauliflower and lettuce that promise much better heat tolerance and quick time to maturity. If these varieties live up to their billing, that would mean extending the lettuce season a few weeks on both ends – ditto the broccoli and cauliflower. Don’t get yourself too excited – I’ve seen these so called heat tolerant varieties crater in the Florida sun before. In fact, trying one now – a 56 day, heat tolerant carrot variety. We’ll see.

Way to go Gators.

Suppose you were the President of Poland and John Kerry came to visit and assured you that the US had your back, would that make you sleep easier? Maybe you would feel more secure if Obama came and said Poland was where he was drawing the red line or a line in the sand. It sure did the job with Assad. Obama said he was pushing the reset button with Russia but didn’t mention that he was resetting it back to 1960?

Squirrel Patrol

I decided to go back out fishing in the kayak the night after the “hook-up”. My hand felt just fine and the lake owed me one. It paid up with a 4 pound bass – within a couple hundred feet of the last one and on the same lure. This time I let it tire out before trying to land it and he’s now residing, as fillets, in the freezer. My honor has been salvaged.

My neighbor, George, has a loquat, AKA Japanese plum, tree which, until this year, has never produced any plums. I don’t know whether it was a maturity or weather issue, but no fruit but this year it’s loaded with plums and the squirrels are loving it. George is determined that those are his plums, not to be shared with tree rats. Now it sounds like a carnival shooting gallery over there. As luck would have it, the guy he has doing some construction work on the property loves squirrels – on the dinner table. As of the first hunting day, he put 4 in the freezer. He cleaned them on the spot and put the leavin’s in the yard out by the garden where the hawks came down and gobbled them up quickly. Since it’s a direct line (of fire) from George’s back porch to the plum and then to the garden, I have to be sure he’s aware of me being in the garden or I could end up on Tom’s dinner table. The big irony is that we were standing by the tree this evening and watched a couple of cat birds land in the tree and started eating the plums so maybe it wasn’t squirrels after all. Less you feel sorry for the squirrels, remember these are the same critters that have built nests under the hood of our cars resulting in one small fire.

While on the subject of fruit trees, my tangerine tree and the two grapefruit trees have looked bad for the past year. Florida has something going on to citrus trees called “greening” which causes the fruit to drop prematurely and to lose foliage. My understanding is that it’s a terminal condition. My trees and George’s were to the point where we have been planning to cut them down. The ends of the branches looked dead and I wasn’t sure if cutting back the bad stuff was just putting off the inevitable or perhaps would give them a chance to recover. I planned to wait until all danger of frost was gone and then make the big decision. Last week I noticed that new leaves and blossoms were forming on all the “dead” tips so perhaps they’re recovering on their own.

We’ve had two days of my least favorite weather, cold and windy. I can’t fish, I can’t garden, daytime TV is horrible, and I’m in the middle of a Stephen King novel that is too creepy to stay with more than 1/2 hour at a time. I can’t go down to the dock and feed the fish, I can’t cut down dead bay trees. At least if it was raining I could take solace in the fact that the garden was being watered. This global warming thing or the polar vortex thing are really getting oppressive. I can’t listen to Fox News because it’s either the lost plane or the lost Ukraine, or the woes of Obamacare wall to wall. I think the plane is nesting in a mother ship from a distant galaxy. I hear things like Obama saying that young people should be buying health insurance since the premiums are not as high as their cell phone bill. Whether that’s factually true or not, can you imagine any young person deciding which was more important, health insurance or a cell phone?

Trip to the ER

Had an interesting evening. My routine is to head down to the lake around 6PM, after dinner, hop in the poke boat and fish for an hour or until dark. So I paddle to an area that will take about an hour to fish and bring me back to the dock just at dark. So last night I started fishing about 1/2 mile up the shoreline and heading back toward the dock. After half a dozen or so casts, bam, a major bass latched onto my Devil’s Horse. I brought him up to the kayak, perhaps too soon, and grabbed him in the traditional way, thumb and pointer finger latched to his lower jaw. That grip normally stops the thrashing about but not this time and within a second I had a treble hook buried in the palm of my hand where the thumb and palm connect so both the fish and I were connected. I tried to yank the hook out of my hand but that wasn’t working and my head started spinning so I decided to get the fish off first – not very easy with only one hand and a floppy, well hooked fish. Somehow I accomplished that but recognized that getting the hook out of my hand was probably something needing professional attention. Ever try paddling a kayak with a lure attached to your hand and still attached to the rod. It was slow going but I made it and somehow managed to get out of the kayak without dumping, not easy in that unbalanced situation. We headed off to the emergency room 20 minutes away. Three hours later I was detached and heading home, none the worse for wear. It really didn’t hurt much but I was the star of the emergency room and getting lots of sympathy from other, really sick folk. The good news is that the bigger bass are starting to hit on the top.

Last week I was rummaging through seeds and came across a pack of Broccoli Raab seeds that I had totally forgotten about. It was dated 2008 so I was set to pitch it but decided to go ahead and plant it just as an experiment. It’s way past the right season to plant it but so what, seed that old won’t germinate anyway. It did. If we have a cool spring it’s possible we’ll actually get to eat some since it’s a fast growing crop.

Decided to put in a few cucumber seeds, a few melon seeds, and some green beans. My brain is warning me that it’s still too early but I’m throwing caution to the wind and going for it. I really would like to stop gardening this year between mid July and Mid Sept and getting an early start and having a nice spring is key to all that happening.

Not sure why, but I’ve never seen the lake so clear. I can clearly see the bottom at the end of the dock, 6’ deep. I was feeding the fish and able to see much more going on but was surprised by one particular sighting. A medium size bass grabbed a good sized bream and was trying to swallow it, head first as usual. About half the bream was still hanging out of his mouth and I could see that the stem of a lily pad had wrapped around the bream. The bass managed to swallow the bream and some of the stem as well so as he was swimming around, the stem was hanging out his mouth looking like a fu manchu mustache. Ten minutes later the bass was still cruising around the dock with the mustache still attached. That part of the water being so clear is nice but, in general, I prefer it a bit murky. My theory is that when the water is ultra clear the fish can see too well and avoid my lures. The way around that is to fish with ultra light mono line and naturally colored plastic worms. I can do that but it’s not my preferred method.

Parnsip Report

Tom sent me a couple pic’s he took from the trip. The most interesting is the shot of the double jack catch. The fish are still in the river, hanging over the side of the boat. Before it was all over, the hook on the lure actually broke. Jack are really powerful fish and fight stronger than their size would indicate; when one grabs your lure it’s like you hooked onto a freight train. They’re not much to eat so most people don’t fish specifically for them. I wonder if they’re like bluefish – most people don’t eat them but they make great smoked fish for fish dip. If we lived there or if the fish wandered as far north as the Tomoka, I’d probably give it a try but as it is, on a trip like this we throw them all back. The other is a Loxahatchee Bass. Not too big but fun anyway. Sorry about the sideways pic but I couldn’t get it turned around right.

Jack Double
Jack Double
Loxahatchee bass
Loxahatchee bass

My first crop of parsnips was underwhelming. It reminds me of my first crop of carrots, beautiful green tops but wimpy roots. In this case I planted two batches about a month apart and fairly well separated so I’ll know more about it in a month or so. She made me feel a little better by telling me that no matter how bad I thought they looked, they would have cost about $10 at Publix. In any event, that first batch is down the hatch as part of Nancy’s latest gourmet meal, balsamic braised beef shoulder with pureed parsnips, Harvard beets, and red romaine salad. This meal was nearly 100% from the garden – even the beef. I count the beef as a garden byproduct since we got it from Nancy’s friend who raises cattle and gets greens and cherry tomatoes from us. As to the carrot comparison, wow, this new crop is incredible. I have the carrot thing down pat. If you put mine right beside the super market variety, you’d pick mine – no doubt about it. That’s why I’m hopeful that I’ll break the code on parsnips too. If this next crop, which is growing in a sunnier spot, isn’t any better, I’ll try another variety.

Hedging my bets by putting in a new plat of lettuce and at the same time, putting in tomatoes. This is a few weeks later than I would usually put in lettuce and a few weeks early for the tomatoes. I’m also putting in a couple summer squash seeds a tad early. I have three different summer squash seed varieties and will put in a patch of each separated by 2 weeks. I’ll put a protective mesh cover over these when they germinate to protect from boring insects. That’s usually what gives us the most trouble now that I seem to have some control over the nematodes. The cover will also provide a modicum of warmth just in case winter reappears.

I have to guess that even the Dem’s reading this are shaking their heads in disgust or despair as the US loses international creds. Between Kerry and Obama we have to have the weakest international leadership ever. They finally took over the low spot from the Carter administration. Embarrassing. Naive. Shallow. Pick an adjective. French, Italian. It’s like we’re fielding a Little League team to play in the Big Leagues. I’m sure glad I am no longer in business meeting with friends and customers around the world. What an embarrassment that would be.

Home Again

What a great spring break fishing trip!! We left Sunday at 11AM and were casting for snook or whatever else we could attract, by 4PM. This trip was a bit upscale from our previous camping trips by virtue of staying in a cabin at Johnathan Dickenson State Park in lieu of a tent or VW camper. We fished on the Loxahatchee River Sunday evening and Monday morning, catching a few each time, bass and snook. One of the bass was fairly nice but nothing worth talking about on the Snook front. One good thing was that we found the source of a persistent problem with the electric trolling motor which made life and fishing a bit better. Ditto electrical problems with the trailer lights and the depthfinder – all fixed and working perfectly. The motor trim still needs a little work but Tom found a broken switch there and that too will be fixed soon. All of these problems were there from the get go so this trip turned out to be a good clean up.

Monday afternoon we traveled north to the Stuart area and launched into the St Lucie River, the place where Tom landed a substantial snook last year. The last hour there turned hot, fishing hot, when schools of really large jack started smashing into schools of mullet. Both of our lures hit the water in the middle of the feeding frenzy at about the same time and both of us hooked up to substantial fish immediately. It took me about 5 minutes to land mine but Tom was still a ways from getting his under control. And with good reason – turned out he had two fish on the same lure, each of which were about the size of mine. We landed those and a few more before it started turning dark. The next morning we were back at the same spot and the jack were schooling again, but this time about half the size of those the night before. Still lots of fun and we spent most of the morning chasing schools of fish. One of the highlights was inadvertently flushing out a substantial gator who was hiding behind some trees up on a bank. We got close without having any idea he was there. He charged off the bank and into the river, crashing through the trees. That got our hearts started.

We left the St. Lucie a little after noon and headed up to our next spot, the Sebastian River just north of Vero Beach. This leg of the trip was like homecoming to me since I started fishing the river with my dad when I was a teenager. Other than the pain in the butt speed regulations all along the river, and other than the new homes built in spots I used to fish, it was mostly as I remembered and the fishing didn’t disappoint. Again we caught plenty of jack and I also landed a few large, sail cats, and a gar that was close to 4’ long. The catfish each took about 5 minutes to land and I think we wrestled with the gar for 10 minutes before we knew what it was. The catfish and gar were surprise catches because I was fishing for jack which means retrieving the lure with hard jerks and at high speed. I wouldn’t have thought either of these varieties would attack something like I was using.
The culinary high point was finding a place called Squid Lips near Sebastian. It’s one of those fish camp, over the Indian River, kind of seafood restaurants where you have pelicans and seagulls eyeing your food and squawking when you finish without paying any tribute to them. We spotted several other places that looked interesting in the general vicinity so a return trip to Sebastian is assured.

We finished the trip a day ahead of our original plan due to Tom having a work overload but it turns out, the weather would have shortened the trip in any event so it worked out perfectly. My reel cranking hand was getting a bit sore too!

As a side note – Tom’s new Jeep performed flawlessly. Very comfortable and the electronics are amazing. His iPhone is completely integrated into the car’s system by virtue of the wireless bluetooth connection so things like text messages sent to the phone can be read on the nav screen or spoken by the gal buried in the nav system. Too many high techy things to begin to describe.