Beach Stuff

Finally the garden is starting to look like one. Sept was a disaster. Between rain, heat, and insects about all was killed off including most of the new seed starts. Now, all the new stuff I’m putting in seems to be taking off. I’ve thinned the carrots, lettuce and radishes and all of the plants I thinned and replanted elsewhere seem to be holding their own so I’ll be running out of planting space before too long. The pea seeds have started germinating; ditto the beets. The latest plant was Swiss chard and historically those seeds take as long as 2 weeks. We’re going to the beach next week so hopefully the news stuff will not suffer from lack of attention.

I’m going to change my compost distribution algorithm this year. For the past few years I’ve tried to spread it evenly over a wide area, distributing the nutritional value. This year after losing so many plants to high water, I’m switching over to building up height on a per row basis; ie add 6” to a row then moving on to the next row. I’ll start with the rows closest to the lake. To calibrate you, the load I have coming ready is roughly 2 CF which translates to 36 SF, 6” deep. I estimate the lowest area to be 300 SF so that’s about 8 loads of compost, about a year and a half to do the job. That’s long range planning for sure. I could speed up the project by mixing in some sand but I’m nominally patient and will be happier with the end result if I avoid sanding the growing areas.

At the Beach. rough, windy saturday but incredible on Sunday. Caught one really nice Jack but that was it. Tom came up and we got to fish a bit but at low tide. No fish but lots of fun. One thing had changed from Saturday to Sunday – the surf was loaded with jelly fish and in order to fish at low tide, you have to wade out to a sandbar. We were both brushed by large jellies several times but apparently this type doesn’t sting.

Monday the weather was even more fabulous in terms of fishing weather. The wind was down to nothing so the surf was like a lake. I decided to try fingerling mullet for bait instead of the cut shiner I’ve been using. Mullet is the natural food fish here whereas the shiners are from the lake. The shiners have also been frozen for two years so perhaps that is tainting them. I was also hoping I could switch from frozen shrimp to sand fleas but just can’t find any big enough to use. I’m still enjoying every minute on the beach.

Unfortunately Nancy is not in the same positive mode. Her sewing machine started acting up Saturday evening and we spent hours trying to get it working. I’ve suggested we just take a quick trip back to the house and getting another machine but she’s not interested in that solution. She has a bridge game scheduled for today and will no doubt get something going there for Tuesday and Wednesday as well. She may even have to sacrifice and go shopping at the local quilt shops to fill the machine time.

ATT Hell

I’ve spent half the day in ATT hell. Our landline is buzzing so badly you can barely make out any conversation at all but in order to switch over to the wireless system, I have to connect to the correct service dept within ATT. They have the most complicated automated telephone system in the galaxy and you almost never end up with a human or on the same branch twice. Probably one reason for that is my system is so noisy that it screws up their answering system. I start to twitch anytime someone suggests I switch anything at all over to ATT but unfortunately they have the most reliable system in the jungle and try as I might to avoid them, it becomes inevitable. So after 4 hours of trying, I’m still not able to activate the new system and deactivate the old landline. I will say the wireless box installed quickly and easily and is indicating a good strong signal. It just won’t let me call out until this activation procedure is accomplished and I can’t get a straight answer -between the phone line noise and the heavily accented operator – as to exactly when it will happen. A couple of hours into the process one tech assistant told me that after I plugged in the system, it would automatically activate in 90 minutes. That was technically believable so I waited 2 hours before calling for help again. When I explained that the 90 minutes came and went with no improvement, this new person said she’d never heard of any 90 minute auto hook and that we had to interface with the activation dept.

Update – it’s activated and I must confess, it’s the clearest it’s ever been. We have 5 bars of signal strength and no noise, no buzzing, no crackling. I figured out how to retrieve messages in voice mail which is slightly more complicated than the landline system because you have to enter a password. The only thing I don’t like so far is that it has a call holding feature which was optional on the landline. I hate being interrupted with background beeps when I’m talking to someone else – very annoying. Maybe there’s a button to push that cuts off the new incoming call. I wonder if the interrupt signal goes away when the caller is leaving a message?? I’ve never been a cell phone person but I guess this system is a true cell phone that looks like a landline system. I also have to get used to always using the 10 digit phone number. One positive feature – we can take our “home” phone with us to the beach or any place that has a power outlet and is in an ATT service area.

The other good news is that Tom took a look at the blog software and showed me a couple of shortcuts that got me back to where the earlier version was in terms of posting and adding media without interim steps. Piece of cake. It’s really great to have an in-house IT department. Between Nancy and me, we always seem to find a way to stress the computer. Many of our problems stem from the fact that we are nominally offline and only go online when we have a specific reason whereas I guess most people are just online continuously. Programs like the blog program just assume you’re online while you’re doing your creative work whereas I do it all offline and then post when it’s done.

Heading for the beach next week. Hope the blues are biting. Looking forward to this particular trip because we’ll be joined by our long time friends from Utah, the Stireman’s, for a few days. Maybe the next post will have some fish pictures. If you don’t see any, it may be that I forgot the camera so don’t just assume I’m striking out.

Fall Plantings

How can a chief of staff for both Biden and Gore be qualified to do anything?

Full into cool weather planting this week. Added sugar snap peas, green peas, beets, Swiss chard, radishes and kohlrabi to the mix. The carrot seed germinated on schedule and is looking good plus all of the thinned lettuce plants seem to have survived and added new foliage. Our night time cools of 60 and day time highs of 85 and 60%RH must be just hitting the sweet spot. It does for me too. The tomatoes that were suffering from wet roots appear to be recovering and putting out blossoms. Unfortunately the corn didn’t make it. I pulled it out yesterday and converted it to compost. What ears that did form are out in the field to feed crows. I did have a twinge of concern that it might also attract the deer and I sure hope the crows and mice get to it first. You might wonder why I’d be concerned about feeding mice – mice are hawk and owl feed so that’s my real objective.

The latest compost pile should yield a really strange combination. I loaded it up with water hyacinths, tropical fern cuttings, loads of grass clippings, citrus, corn stalks, garden weeds and the standard, every day fare of table scraps, coffee grounds and whatever comes out of the kitchen. There were some large storms passed offshore in the last weeks so I’m anticipating a good load of seaweed coming back with us from the beach. This particular batch is scheduled for use in February so it still has a couple weeks of new inputs before I shut it down to cook. My October batch slowed way down with all the rain in September so it’s now figured for mid November. There’s not much precision in composting but I like to have a rough idea so I can plan plantings in the garden with applications of compost.

As anxious as I was for football season to start, that’s how anxious I am for it to be over. I can’t wait to find out who the new coach will be at Florida and whether or not Muschamp will leave before the current season is over. And I’m getting weary waiting for the Jags to finally win a game.

We were invited to attend Tom’s first presentation on the road to his PHd dissertation. I’m perhaps biased but thought he did a good job explaining his project in easily understood language. I’ve personally given many presentations so I’m particularly critical. It has to do with training surgeons who will use robotic techniques by using video games. The premise is that someone who is skilled in certain kinds of games will be competent to operate using the robotic equipment.

Election Fatigue

I’ve mostly figured out the new blog software and officially prefer the old level. They’ve added a complete step between creating and publishing and, so far, I don’t see any advantage to that. It’s less intuitive and there’s no obvious path to get to the “publish” button. Chances are they’ve added features that will be meaningful to advanced users but for the seniors………………. I’m going to try to add a picture to this post so if you see it, success; if not……….. The picture is the latest creation from the Halloween costume mill.
Ariel ready for action

I can’t wait for the upcoming elections to be over and done with. I don’t know about races outside of Florida but we seem to be faced with nothing but bad guys – every ad points out how crooked the other guy is. Half of them are portrayed as woman haters; all of them hate schools and teachers; some of them have no recollection of who this Obama guy is. We’ve got a candidate for Gov who should appeal to everyone – he’s been a Dem, an independent, and a Republican and on both sides of every issue depending on which hat he’s wearing at the time. He’s both pro choice and pro life. He’s increased school spending and decreased school spending; increased tuition and decreased tuition. How can you not vote for this guy? I’ll figure a way. And aside from the dawn to dusk TV ads, the phone rings several times a day with messages from one or the other.

From time to time we have line problems with our landline telephones causing hissing, buzzing, and static. I think living in a tropical jungle has something to do with it. The telephone company usually responds in a day or so and fixes the problem although a couple of times we went several days before they fixed it. It happened again today so I called the repair service and got a new option. They’re coming out to fix the line but they suggested we might like a “home wireless system”. I asked if that was code for a cell phone and said we weren’t interested. Well it is and it isn’t. The way it works is that you get a box that talks to the cell towers but has two regular telephone jacks to which you connect regular phones – even a cordless set(s). You keep your same phone number and it includes all the voice mail, call forwarding, caller ID etc etc etc features. Best of all it’s $20/month for unlimited service – local and long distance. That compares to the $80/month we pay now. Seems like there has to be a hook somewhere – sounds too good to be true. I signed up and have two months to send it back if we’re not satisfied. In the meantime they’re sending out a service guy to fix the existing line. I can see where the telephone company would like to get everybody off landline for maintenance reasons and from our perspective, this is a good way to do it.

WSJ Pays Off

Engineers and programmers can never leave things alone – they are internally compelled to continually modify designs that are perfectly fine. The folks who make this blog software decided that I needed to upgrade to a new version. I was really quite happy with the old version and years of experience have taught me that upgrading is synonymous with adding a new level of complexity and confusion. This upgrade is no exception. I haven’t broken the code on how to install a picture so it may be that I publish text only until I can schedule a meeting with the family IT department. If you are reading this it does mean that I figured out how to get something published. Even that’s not intuitively obvious. The older version presented you with a place to draft text and a button that said “publish”. You filled in the text then pushed the publish button. There was another button that said “add media” or something that plain. There are no buttons labeled “publish” or “add media” so, assuming I can at least get text in the box via the keyboard, I’ll just click around until it goes away or comes up and says it’s published.

Ask my kids and grandkids and they’ll tell you I can be a real pain in the butt with articles send them from the Wall Street Journal. If I see something that I think they will find interesting or something they should know I cut it out an put it in the mail. I’ve done it for years and they just put up with it. Several months back I found an article about a new treatment/cure for hepatitis C, a nominally terminal liver virus. Nancy has a quilt buddy in Utah who has fought the disease for years and goes through really debilitating spells so the article caught my eye and I suggested to Nancy that she should send her the article or at least alert her to it. Yesterday she called and told Nancy that she had indeed followed up on the information and learned that it was available albeit ultra expensive; prohibitively expensive, but that the insurance company had worked out a way that was affordable. She started the new meds and the call was to tell us that her virus count was zero, totally gone. Previously the count was in the hundreds of thousands or something. She questioned the accuracy of the test but they told her that the test had been run 3 times and they were absolutely certain that it was gone. Nancy described her call as ecstatic. So I have proof positive that my quirk actually paid off for somebody.

After a few dry days, another inch of rain last night. I was ok with a little rain but would have preferred about half that amount. It has cooled off and I’m catching a few specs and an occasional bass off the dock which might be a good sign for the coming spec season. Normally we catch none, zero, nada perch until late November but this year has been different with scattered catches basically all summer long. I know the trolling will be better with the deeper water – fewer hangups on the bottom.

More break downs

We’re having company on Sunday so I had a few things to do to get ready. According to my bride, the porch needed power washing and the yard (notice I didn’t say lawn) needed mowing. I stopped doing both a month ago since it seemed pretty much a lost cause with all the rain we were having. About an hour into the power washing the machine died. I borrowed my neighbor’s and finished up. I think this one was 10 years old with a fair amount of use so it was time. Next day I cranked up the lawnmower only to find that the driven wheels were locked up. I was doing my best to fix it but to no avail until George showed up. We worked on it for a couple hours and found that one of the wheels had internal stripped gears. Nonetheless, we (he) managed to get it all back together and working reasonably well. I’ll buy a new wheel and can change it myself. The moral to this story is “don’t have company”.

And to emphasize what a roll I’m on, when we came home from the airport the other night, just as we pulled in the car started making an evil noise. I tried to mentally convince myself that I had run over a branch in the driveway and would be able to remove it the next day. No such luck. I lifted the hood and realized quickly that it was a bearing or something in a pump or the alternator but not something that was going to fix easily or cheaply. I asked George to listen to it to determine if it was too bad to drive it to a mechanic. He pulled out a stethoscope and listened to various parts of the engine. I told him my guess was it was something to do with the power steering pump since it started making the noise when I was turning a corner. He asked if I had checked the power steering fluid – nope. We found the reservoir that the Ford folks had located in a perfectly visible, easily accessible spot and immediately saw that it was down below the correct level. I happened to have a bottle of power steering fluid and with just a few ounces, problem solved. So I dodged two (out of three) bullets – the lawn mower and the car. Unfortunately I suspect the power washer is history.

Lest you think that George gets little or nothing in return for his repair work, I have the duty today- watching Harley, their dog. Any time they get hung up or have a social conflict that doesn’t include Harley, I volunteer to take him out for a “walk” every few hours. If they go away for a long stay, I also feed the fish. We both think it balances out pretty well for both of us.

Pretty much resigned to the fact that i’m going to have to restart all my winter stuff and resigned myself to converting the corn patch into compost. We’ve had soo much rain that all the plants are trying (unsuccessfully) to grow with roots in water. I had started everything earlier than normal so no question I’ll have plenty of time for a good winter crop but it’s discouraging none the less. The only good news is that the spinach seems, so far, to be handling the heat fairly well. Based on that I planted some lettuce seed, a variety called summer crisp, and it germinated well. Way too soon to say it will survive but so far, so good.

Special Compost

A hit of winter in October. It actually broke records Sunday morning – 52 in Daytona and about that here. I hope this isn’t a precursor of the season to come. But wait, two days later it’s perfect – mid 80’s during the day, mid 60’s at night, dry and sunny. I vote for this weather to continue until Christmas followed by two days of winter and then a nice spring. I need the two days of winter to kill off the most aggressive bugs.

One of the “lost” posts discussed my bride’s bridge happening at the Palm Coast bridge club. Nancy occasionally plays in Palm Coast and has a semi regular partner there. Her partner was recently diagnosed with some kind of cancer and scheduled her first chemo/radiation treatment for Friday morning. She assured Nancy that she would still be available to play that afternoon. So I took her over, dropped her off at the club, and went surf fishing at a nearby beach. I picked her up at 4:30 and wasn’t too surprised when she said her partner never showed up. There are usually strays who drop in for a pickup game so she hooked up with another loner who she said was a nice guy and a pretty good player. Nancy is categorized as a “C” class player which signifies the number of master points she has accumulated. The new guy was an “A” – more points on the ledger. When we got home Nancy went on line to see the results of the day and learned that she came in first in “C”, meaning her scores for the day were higher than any other “C” player. She also came in first in “B” and first in “A” and first “overall”. It just so happens that this particular game was for the club championship and she is now the club champ. I’m guessing she won’t have much trouble finding people who want to team up with her in the future.

In a recent post I mentioned the carpenter ant attack in Nancy’s shed. The worst hit closet held all of my old suits. For whatever reason I never got rid of them and also have never worn most of them. They came out of the ant attack just fine which really surprised me but I decided that I should at least try them on and give away the ones that didn’t fit. These were all custom made suits I picked up in Hong Kong which means they were acquired between 1984 and ’89. Big surprise – they all fit. Perhaps a little loosely but certainly wearable. So size wise, I’m just a bit smaller than I was 30 years ago.

Got a nice addition to the compost pile from my neighbor. George has several fish ponds where he grows Koi and fishing minnows. A while back he picked up a few water hyacinths at the St Johns river and put them in his ponds. Hyacinths are floating plants with beautiful rich green foliage and purple flowers. They are maybe 2’ tall on average and have root structures that dangle in the water about the same height. Although beautiful, because they grow and multiply so rapidly, they can become a real problem in waterways. I’ve seen the St. Johns totally blocked from side to side for hundreds and hundreds of yards. Lots of horror stories. One of the features of these plants is that they are incredible filters of nutrients in the water so in a nutrient rich environment, they grow at incredible rates and really clean the water. So within a month or so of George putting them in his ponds, he thinned them out and loaded up the compost pile. They decompose quickly so I think this batch is going to be particularly rich in goodies that the veggies will love.