Rabbit Mystery Solved

Is it ok to wear camo cargo plants to the doctor’s office? Nancy’s doctor office? I wouldn’t normally do that but one of the stops on this trip is to a small, specialty fishing tackle store and it’s important that the proprietor recognize right away that he’s dealing with a serious local sportsman and doesn’t try to sell me some obviously bogus. The owner of this shop is a really old guy who happens to live and fish on the Tomoka River so talking to him is important but you have to drop some key phrases in the discussion – like tarpon up by the island. I’m going back to the Matanzas River in a few days and need a couple key items that are available only in a serious shop.

My neighbor just brought over another addition to the garden. He raises Koi and one of his monsters passed on last night. This beauty was all white with just a few red spots and weighed at least 5 pounds. When I select it’s final resting place I try to match personalities – what kind of fish goes with what veggie plant so I put this guy between a basel plant and a tomato bush and not too far from some broad leaf rosemary. Does that sound right?

I finally made a green drink that was totally awful, even with my limited sense of taste. The green part included Swiss Chard, parsley and thyme; the other veggies included a small green pepper, three cherry tomatoes, three pole beans and a carrot; the fruit was blueberries and half an ovacado (is that a fruit?); a couple tablespoons of oats for fiber. I read that parsley is good for sinus problems so it may be that by helping my sinuses, I’ve improved my sense of taste and made this creation totally undrinkable.

Garden disaster pending? For two days in a row I went over to the garden in the morning to water it and flushed a rabbit out from under some plants. Yesterday there were two and today one. I looked carefully around the fence and could find no breaches and I really doubt they jumped over it. No doubt they could but they just don’t seem like they would do that. I open the gates and chase them around with the hose but they are lightning fast and the plants are really dense throughout the garden so they can hide from me easily. I’m going to go leave all the gates wide open and go over every couple of hours and hose down the spots I’ve seen them in hopes they’ll go out the gateways and see the foolishness of trying to live in peace and harmony with me. I hope we can work something out so I don’t have to resort to the pellet gun.

Mystery solved. I found another rabbit in the garden and chased him around with the hose but this time I saw him get out. This is hard to believe, but they go right through the wire mesh on the fence. The mesh, called hog mesh, is 2” x 4” but I saw a full size rabbit wiggle his way through. Not over the fence, under the fence or through a break in the fence but right through the mesh. You almost have to see it to believe it. I had him trapped in a corner and was within 10’ of him so I had a very clear view of the escape. The solution will be to cover the mesh with nylon nursery cloth. There’s plenty of that around so it’s mostly a matter of direct labor. There’s almost nothing in the garden that’s young and tender and I haven’t seen any signs of nibbling on plants but for sure, I have to get this taken care of before September when I start with new seedlings.

My Graduation Commencement Speech

I try different mixes in the nutribullet rather than follow any particular recipe. Last week I decided to lighten it up a bit and started putting in a handful of parsley leaves. To me parsley was in the same category as kale – mostly used to decorate an otherwise bland presentation. I thought about it yesterday and decided maybe I should do some research to find out exactly what I was putting in my body; maybe I could OD on parsley or get parsley poisoning. Turns out parsley is a good thing if you have kidney stones or other kidney issues. It’s a diuretic. I can personally verify that part and maybe it will somehow do something good for the stones. Another surprise, thyme is listed as one of the best nutritional things going. I happen to have a larger than intended position in thyme so into the blaster it goes.

After attending several graduations in the recent weeks and listening to the speeches and the advice being given to these young folks I pondered what I would say based on living 50+ years since my own graduations. I would start by saying that Chicken Little is alive and well and that the sky is still falling. Pay zero attention to the doom forecasters. They’ve been there since biblical times, probably prehistoric times and none of the forecasts have ever proven accurate or even true. I’ve lived thru forecasts of new ice ages, global famine, pandemic viruses that were destined to clear the earth; asteroid crashes, earthquakes so large they destroyed continents, Southern California drifting off into the Pacific, Yellowstone exploding in such spectacular fashion that the earth as we know it is gone; holes that were growing dramatically in the ozone that allowed killer rays to cook us in place. In the 50’s we all just knew life as we knew it would end in a giant nuclear event. There are people who are only happy when foreseeing doom; there are people who make their living forecasting doom. it’s their profession, it’s their bread and butter. For you new graduates, some of these professional doom and gloomers are called scientists and professors. In ancient times they were called seers, priests, shamans. History shows they are mostly full of themselves and always full of crap. There are always going to be large storms, always has been and, if you don’t believe me, ask Noah. Always going to be hotter than average seasons, colder than average seasons, wetter, drier, you name it and there will be record breaking days all the time. The polar ice caps will always be either growing or shrinking, at least for the last billion years. Since we’re now blessed with instrumentation that can actually measure wind speed and such, expect more record breaking storms. Don’t spend one microsecond worrying about what you can’t control. I’ve seen chocolate, coffee and wine go from bad to good to bad to good so many times…….. I think we’re in a good cycle right now where all of those previous killers are once again life savers. Vitamin A thru ZZZ supplements and fish oils used to be crucial to long life but are now deemed totally useless if not actually harmful. And always with very believable scientific data behind it. Chicken little lives on and always will just don’t get ensnared by it. My advice to all you new graduates is: If hurricanes bother you, don’t live on the beach; if earthquakes both you, don’t live in California; if you don’t like dry weather, keep away from the Southwest – a couple ancient peoples moved out of that area a thousand years ago for just that reason. The Pacific Northwest is cool and wet and don’t live in the shadow of a nuclear power plant. If tornadoes are not for you, stay clear of the Midwest in the spring.

The National Hurricane Dept or Weather Service or whoever it is that makes forecasts said that we should expect a milder than usual hurricane season this year. Last year they predicted the worst ever with 11 hurricanes. It turned out to be one of the least active with only 2. They admit that they are accurate only 50% of the time. Not sure how they measure accuracy but 50% puts them on the same level as a coin toss. If you predict 10 storms, are you 50% accurate if anything between 5 and 15 occurs? We all know they’re not even close so I wonder about two things – why do they make such a big deal out of it and who cares? I mean, what are you supposed to do with the information? Even if they were 100% accurate and say there will be 5 storms in 2014, what are we supposed to do with that information? Personally, I think they would gain quite a bit more credibility, something above zero, just letting us know when there actually is a storm and then keeping us up to speed with regards to data on it. I think they do a pretty good job of that. One forecaster mentioned that the expected season will be milder because the ocean waters are cooler this year. Cooler? hmmmmmmmm. What’s that all about? I don’t think he read the script – nothing ever gets cooler.

Oiled

The graduation came off flawlessly. The hotel was conveniently located for barbecue and campus activities – what more could you ask for. Joey and Tommy joined us for breakfast and then off to the UCF basketball arena for the ceremony. Listened to all the traditional music, all the traditional speeches, and the seemingly endless stream of graduates individually walking across the stage. Olivia, being a Carbone, was among the earliest to walk but we still managed to stay in our seats until the “R’s”. Reconvened outside for the traditional picture taking and then to a family luncheon in Lake Mary. We were home at the lake by 5PM. The next potential graduation is Tom’s next August.

This morning when I went up to get the paper I got a pleasant surprise. By the mail box was a family of turkeys, 2 adults and 5 little ones. They let me get within about 30’ before they started walking away. No panic, just keeping the distance right for them. I started wondering if baby chickens are called chicks, do you call baby turkeys turks?

Two crops are coming on in industrial strength now – green beans and cherry tomatoes. I can easily pick 3-5 pounds of large green beans every other day and the plants are still loaded with blossoms. And I’m still working the first batch planted with the second batch starting to put out blossoms. With regard to the cherry tomatoes, we’ve moved from using them for salad decoration to full meal status – cherry tomato pizza and Nancy’s favorite corn, cherry tomato, shrimp dish. These are pint of tomato kinds of dishes.

Nancy is out quilt shopping so I was left alone in the kitchen with this pile of newly picked goodies and decided to remake the green bean salad with some new information. I think for Mother’s Day, Tom bought his mother (my bride) a sampler set of olive oils and vinegars. I’m sure I mentioned that in an earlier post. Turns out this has complicated my life more than you would have thought because it introduces the concept of “pairing”. Certain olive oils go with certain vinegars. Being unaware of that, it just so happens that I made a wrong pairing the last time green bean salad. We visited the specialty shop right after Olivia’s graduation luncheon and Nancy mentioned to the proprietor that I had paired lemon oil with blood orange vinegar (or maybe it was blood orange oil with lemon vinegar). The guy just kind of looked down at the floor and shook his head like he was truly hurt. And there were other customers in the store looking at me, rolling their eyes. For years I’ve been a full Kirkland kind of guy. This guy now has Nancy totally hooked and reels her in for a small bottle of “dipping” oil at $12. I think that would be a dollar’s worth of Kirkland. So anyway, today’s green bean salad is a technically correct pairing of lemon oil and garlic vinegar (or is it garlic oil and lemon vinegar?). Do I need this complication at my advanced age?

Got something interesting going on in the garden, an actual melon on a vine. Since garden #1 about 5 years ago I’ve tried melons of numerous varieties with absolutely zero success. I don’t want to jinx this but today there are several hanging on the vines. This is the first time I’ve tried letting them climb a trellis so maybe that will do the trick. They’re a small, individual serving style melon which means they ripen quicker than monster melons and my thought was that these guys could hang on a trellis and perhaps ripen before the critters found them. Fingers crossed.

Want to see a pretty orchid? We’ve had this for years and never seen it bloom before so we were really surprised to see how large and bright a bloom was produced by such a spindly plant.

Orchid's first bloom ever
Orchid’s first bloom ever

Last Graduation For A While

George, next door, has a guy that mows his field. I was out playing gardener this morning and he drives the mower up against the fence and turns it off. He asked what kind of fertilizer I used and I said I didn’t use any. He said he’d been watching my garden for a couple of years and decided to do one of his own so he tilled up a 16‘x16’ plot several months back, fertilized it, and planted store bought plants – the standard mix of tomatoes, squash, peppers and cucumbers. Everything started out just fine and had put on quite a bit of growth for a month and then it all started crashing. He said he couldn’t believe the difference between his and mine. Since I’ve heard that so many times now, I believe it. One thing that is different about the garden this year is the compost has much more coffee grounds than in previous years – thanks Joey, thanks Starbucks. It also has lots more fish carcasses – thanks George, thanks Harvey, thanks Julian. I don’t really think the garden is nicer this year than last but maybe it is.

Nancy made a great side last night – pureed parsnips and carrots. In this case the carrots are a variety called Kuroda which is an extra sweet Japanese variety. If you hadn’t known any better, you would have sworn it had been laced with brown sugar or maple syrup – it was that sweet. I grew three different carrot varieties but without a doubt this variety wins the nod and will get prime location next season. I also grew a red variety and it looked good but nowhere near the taste of Kuroda. I will also increase the size of the parsnip patch since we so enjoyed them and since they’re so expensive in Publix. That seems wild since neither one of us had ever eaten a parsnip before this year. We also ate the first cucumber of the season. Trust me, you’ve never had a better variety than Sweet Success. That’s all I grow now. If you’re keeping track, the computer said May 5 for the first cucumber so still experiencing earlier that expected production on almost everything. And one last garden comment – I think I posted a few weeks back that I was planting a couple of (supposedly) heat tolerant lettuce varieties. Didn’t make it, zero germination – just as predicted.

Olivia’s graduation is tomorrow. It’s at UCF, early in the morning so we’re going down tonight and staying at a motel near the event. The morning traffic into Orlando is just more than we feel up to challenging. It just so happens that there’s a nearby Costco so we’ll make a run there to pick up the dry goods we need. I don’t know of any social events planned for tonight or tomorrow but you never know.

Here’s a picture of one (of three) corn patches. It’s taller than me,7’+, and should start yielding ears next week. What you are looking at are 60 tall plants with some (still producing) kale in the foreground and more corn, a month younger, off to the left. I refer to that row as Grace’s corn since she actually planted those seeds.

Lot's of tTassels
Lot’s of tTassels

Graduation Open House

Yesterday was the open house at Tom and Tina’s to celebrate Simon and Olivia’s respective graduations. There were a nice mix of family and friends, some we hadn’t seen in years including Tina’s Utah and Idaho families. We didn’t know most of Olivia’s high school friends but that’s about what you’d guess. The weather cooperated to perfection so none of the guests from northern climes were even slightly discomforted. Nancy made Olivia a new quilt for her dorm room in the fall. Of all the ones she’s made, this particular one ranks high for me, right up there with the gator quilt. It has brightly colored, tropical fish patterns with a bright orange minky back. Olivia loves to snorkel with Tom on the reefs off the Florida keys so Nancy thought this would help her think of those good times when wrapped up in the quilt. We got Simon a new bike to replace the one he had stolen in Gainesville and a banjo to round out his repertoire of stringed instruments to pluck and sing around the campfires in Tennessee. His boss there is an accomplished player so we expect by the time the summer ends, he’ll be playing at open mike nights wherever his career leads him.

I mentioned the coolish weather we’re having, in the 50’s this AM topping out in the low 80’s. It’s more like late March than mid May. And it’s not just a few cool days making this spring unusual, we have Easter Lilies which usually bloom in March, popping out now. We, more often than not, have Easter gatherings at the house and usually somebody brings a seasonal plant – lilies for example and I plant them outside They come back every year around Easter. Wouldn’t you think if the climate were getting warmer as the climatologists are trying to convince us, they’d be blooming in Feb? Maybe the way this is going to work out is that it will be a bit warmer in North Dakota and a little cooler in Florida. That wouldn’t be all that bad.

Moving quickly into green bean, cherry tomato overload so I looked for a green bean salad recipe and up popped several using green beans and cherry tomatoes. alright!!!!!!! It just so happens that Tom and Tina got Nancy a sampler set of gourmet olive oils and vinegars for mother’s day. So I picked a recipe at random – where at random means I had 100% of the ingredients, modified it to add a few extra things I had in season and picked Sicilian lemon vinegar and blood orange fused olive oil balsamic (there are both fused and infused oils) for the dressing. The beans are a type of Romano (Italian) green beans so the Sicilian oil felt right; ditto blood orange and lemon. I think I’ll sprinkle on some parmesan cheese at serving to complete the creation. I’ll try to remember to update you in the next post as to how the salad actually tastes

I went out to the garden to pick some goodies this afternoon and there were 3 Sandhill Cranes pecking alongside the garden casually. I don’t know if they are an endangered species but these three certainly were, the closer they came to the garden. If they were picking and eating such as grasshoppers, good luck to them but if they seemed to have a hankering for cucumbers, bam. I watched for several minutes and they got right up against the garden fence but none made any move to try veggies so they’re safe for now. I guess I should do some research and find out what they eat. I mean I’m a nature lover but …………….

Special Guest Appearance at the Lake

Big doin’s coming up in Lake Mary with a graduation celebration for Olivia and Simon. Such big doin’s that Tommy Jr. came in from Chicago for the festivities. It just so happens that he has a steady lady friend, Julia, who has family in Jacksonville and it worked out that she could be here in Florida this week. Tommy drove up to Jax, picked her up and they spent the afternoon here at the lake. It was a rainy day but that probably was for the better since they were stuck in the house talking to us instead of down at the lake having lake fun. In the house meant in the kitchen. While I whipped up my special chicken cacciatore with home made pasta, we were able to just get to know each other over good smells and good wine. The meal was capped off with some special apple pie that Julia’s mother had made. Really looking forward to the event Saturday. Tina’s Utah and Idaho folks will be there and it’s been a few years since we’ve seen them so lots of catching up to do.

I mentioned the pole beans as starting to put out goodies. I picked a couple pounds today, 10 days ahead of the calculated pick date. It’s a variety called Algarve which I’ve never grown before. So far, so good. They’re a flat. Romano style bean. But here’s one that will really rock your world – I planted some jalapeno pepper seeds and some eggplant seeds at the same time and the pepper seeds sprouted a week before the first eggplant. How’s that for a shocker. Can’t forget the I also picked the first handful of cherry tomatoes. The only thing memorable about that is that they are from plants that self seeded and are producing well before the ones I babied and nourished from seed. It’s going to be interesting to see if these renegades produce as many as the first generation coming a few weeks from now. Even more unusual is that we’re still catching speckled perch in the lake. They’re usually done by February and for sure by the end of March but this year, they seem to be holding on. Couple that with the giant ladyfish I’ve been catching and maybe there is something to global warming. Thing is, I’m lovin’ it; a silver lining.

A couple months back I posted that Mark had fixed the sprinkler system. We’ve had plenty of natural water since then and I never turned on the sprinklers until the beginning of this week. The system is set up with 3 water circuits and a controller that sets up the timing and duration of each circuit. It can also be operated manually and that’s what I started with – turn on section A, then to B and C. “A” worked just fine but B was dead, nothing, nada. I removed the covers on the individual control valves and saw something weird with the B controller. It was totally covered with some brown, gelatinous, goop that looked like something from am alien horror movie. I got a bucket of water, washed the stuff away and went back to the control box to start the process again. As if by magic it worked albeit with less pressure than “A” but probably enough to live. I ran it for 30 minutes and gradually the pressure returned to normal so perhaps that goop had gotten deeper into the system than just the control valve or maybe when we did the repair, mud and dirt got trapped in the pipes and just had to work itself out. Whatever, it seems to be working just fine now. Section C has lots of plumbing problems but nothing wrong with the controller or main valve. I just have to suck it up, tear that string up and redo it. Procrastination in action.

As a side note – I woke up early this AM with the feared and dreaded lower back-side pain; kidney stone? I did quite a bit of heavy lifting yesterday on trees so it’s possible I strained something; fingers crossed. Or, could this be the revenge of the green drink?

Togetherness

Today was a standard summer day in the woods. Got up, watched a little news, headed out to pillage or putter in the garden and then joined my neighbor in a tree cutting project. There’s an archway separating us and the neighbor which has become nearly overgrown with Confederate Jasmine vines. They’ve grown up and over the archway and then into a couple of adjacent oak trees and myrtle bushes. That was becoming a bother but the last storm we had put too much stress on those adjacent trees and they were bending precariously – so the bother turned into a concern. Three hours later the trees were cut up and going up in smoke in the fire pit. It looks fairly bare at the arch now but I suspect by the end of the summer, the jasmine will have taken over again. The nice part was that since this was such hot, sweaty labor the perfect ending was a plunge in the lake. The water is still a bit chilly – by our standards – but certainly swimmable. I would venture a guess of 75 degrees. It was about 1PM when I called it all quits and came in to mix up a green juice. Read for a couple of hours and then back down on the dock when the heat of the day was behind us.

On our last trip to the beach, Nancy made a new bridge friend. When we got home this gal called and they set a bridge day for Palm Coast. That’s fairly close to the Matanzas area where I’ve had good luck fishing so we decided to make a day of it together (kind of). I dropped her off at the bridge club a little after noon with the plan to pick her up again at 4:30. Bridge is bridge so I guess that went ok. Fishing, on the other hand, is quite variable. I took shore fishing stuff to cast for river kinds of fish and surf gear just in case nothing was happening in the river. As it turns out the timing was as bad as it gets from a fishing standpoint. It was mid afternoon and low tide – not usually a good combination but this was mostly an exploratory trip and the big advantage to low tide is that you get to see the bottom profile a bit better and learn where to fish at high tide. I grabbed one light rod which was already rigged with a jig head and silver tail – the combination that had worked pretty good in the Sebastian River. The closest I could park to the inlet was more than a quarter of a mile away but I figured I’d just walk along the shore towards the inlet and cast along the way. After I started wading out to a sandbar I realized it was going to get waist deep and luckily I remembered that I had my wallet and phone in my pocket so depth was a consideration. So I gave up on the original plan of just fishing my way to the inlet and set out to get there straight away. There’s a bridge over the inlet so I figured a good place to fish would be there where the water would be deeper and closest to the ocean. After a dozen or so casts I had a really strong hit- so at least I knew my idea wasn’t a total bust. A few casts later another major strike that I converted into a catch after a real tussle. It was a large ladyfish, the same size as I’d caught nearby a few weeks back from a boat. I fished there about an hour and landed 3 similar size fish and then had one break my line. I hadn’t brought any more tackle since I had never intended to wander so far from the car and it didn’t make any sense to walk all the way back to the car, re rig the line, and walk back to the bridge so that ended the trip. Next time I’ll be much better prepared.

I did find several nice beaches for potential surf fishing in the future. Also found a potential good barbecue place at Bing’s Landing which is close to Matanzas and close to where we stay in Flagler. So all in all, I’m looking forward to Nancy’s new bridge gig. I’m counting this as togetherness so when she says we never do anything together…………..

The nutribullet came with a screw on cap with a hinged lid so that you can make a drink and then just carry it for drinking later so I took one on the trip. Turned out to be more palatable than the ones I had been making. I switched the type of greens from kale and swiss chard to a mix of collards, parsley, and basel. Same fruit – half an apple, a few strawberries, a handful of blueberries and a chunk of lemon, peeled.