UCF Basketball

Tom invited me to a UCF basketball game to see the Knights take on Cincinnati, always a good team. Nancy came along for the pre-game and post game feed but went shopping in between. Before the game we went by Olivia’s dorm so I could see it. I knew it would be nicer than Simon’s first dorm but this was beyond my expectations in terms of being nicely decorated and maintained. Whenever you entered Simon’s rooms you wanted to be sure to shower shortly thereafter. (My favorite was when they found an old couch on the side of the road and decided it would be perfect for the dorm room.) Tom has great seats so, although UCF lost, the game was really fun. After the game we hooked up with Nancy and Tina at a local Lake Mary pub; a really nice day.

Did my annual physical this week and learned that all was well. The only blood reading that was out of whack was my CO2. The doc said that no doubt the lab was screwed up. He said it’s a really tricky measurement and my reading was typical for someone with Emphysema and he noted that my lungs were perfect. I had lost a few pounds which he thought was great whereas my bride is convinced this is a sign of impending doom. Not sure where she gets that since technically I’m still a bit overweight.

The garden is doing a great job of keeping up all the needs – our’s, George’s, and several family members and friends. The big mover is Kale. I have a dozen plants and that seems just about right. In the past I either under or over planted. Next in popularity is lettuce which is still coming on strong. In the past I have ended up with much of it bolting and being used to feed George’s Koi but this year the external demand is higher and my scatter planting is working out just right. Part of this success is weather related. We’ve had no frost or freezing temps in December or January. If we can make another 3 weeks, that should do it for winter. The nominal last freeze date for here is Feb 20. I also think those exotic greens and arugula I planted have taken pressure off the kale and lettuce. When you mix these other greens with lettuce for a salad, it basically doubles the time between picking a head.

I added to the original three pineapples twice bringing the total number of starts to six. The last one was about 2 weeks ago and looked exactly like the first five but within two days it was starting to turn brown and within a week was clearly dead. All of the others are looking good and retaining their original green color. I think some of the “leaves” are actually growing and also think some new leaves are forming way down in the center. I liked that the one that wasn’t going to make it did so in a quick fashion rather than taking up space and giving us false hope. That one makes me feel much better about the first ones.

She’s baaaaaaaack

Nancy made it home from the cruise just fine and things have instantly returned to normal. Sent the dancing girls packing………… Apparently she had a great time – good food, good company, good weather. At home there’s an uptick in the noise level and a large uptick in the food department.

I just heard the funniest quote ever regarding the Patriot’s football deflation. They were interviewing another player and he said “I never knew there were PSI’s floating around inside a football so I learned something new today”. And he was serious as a heart attack. I’m guessing he wasn’t a Physics major.

I was reading about a new Italian restaurant in Palm Coast. Supposedly one of the most popular pizza/focaccia toppings is cherry tomato-arugula and the people that were reviewing the place confirmed it was awesome. I can do that. Both crops are taking over the garden so it’s an especially attractive recipe for me. I looked up that pizza combination on the internet and sure enough it was there with lots of praise. I wasn’t sure whether you added the arugula at the start of the cooking process or after it had come out of the oven. If you care, it’s in there from the get go. I have to make one quickly because the cherry tomatoes are in their final stages and the arugula is bolting. I never expected that. I wasn’t sure we’d even eat it so I only planted it once. I also expected it to keep putting out leaves until late spring and never gave bolting a thought. I’ll for sure stagger plant it next fall. I suspect I could even plant another patch now but I’m completely out of space.

I’m in a bit of a backed up mode with celery, cabbage, and lettuce waiting patiently in flats for a spot to open up. The celery is blocked by tomatoes; the cabbage is blocked by carrots; the lettuce is blocked by more lettuce and arugula. Also the full complement of spring tomatoes are germinated and about 2 weeks from transplanting to flats. I’ll keep about a dozen for me and give the rest to Joey and one of Nancy’s quilting buddies. I’ve also got a couple special varieties that are still in the seed stage. One is a full size seedless; the other is a full size low acid variety. Neither claim nematode resistance so it’s a crap shoot as to their long term survivability in my garden. I’ll try a couple but mostly they’re for my sister who doesn’t do well with high acidity and Nancy’s beef supplier who can’t handle tomato seeds. I think Nancy will like them better too. The current tomato crop is on it’s last legs – probably one more batch of spaghetti sauce ripening on the vine and then to the compost pile the end of this month.

I finally found something to avoid when preparing a green smoothie – green tomatoes. I accidentally broke off a branch with a couple of small, very unripe tomatoes but decided to pitch them into the next batch. I routinely put in a few ripe cherry tomatoes and like fried green tomatoes so…………. The drink was definitely bitter.
Another 1.5” of rain bringing the month total up close to 6” – and this is the dry season. I’ve never seen the lake this high this time of year. All the years I spent raising the level of the garden with compost are paying off this year. The surrounding field, aka George’s back yard, is mushy but the soil around the plants in the garden remains “dry”. I am concerned that unless we get a couple of dry months between now and April, rice will be the only crop with a chance. You would think anything that grows hydroponically would be a candidate but those plants normally have zero tolerance for critters, mildew, virus. No sense worrying about it. Just keep raising the soil level in the planting area.

Nance’s Cruisin’

Nance’s cruisin’. We drove over to Joey’s, hooked up with the rest of the travelers and then over to the port. We left about 9:45AM and I was home, pouring a nice red, and settling into the NFL conference championships by 2:45PM. They called about 4:45 to let me know that the bow of the boat was passing the last jetty and on it’s way to the Bahamas. Green Bay lost.

One thing that’s going to work out good is my evening televiewing. A few weeks back I ordered a DVD from netflix thinking it would be something both Nancy and I would enjoy. As it turned out, within about 3 minutes we knew it would not be one of her favorites but would suit me just fine. The name of the show is Eagleheart and, according to little Tommy, played on a small, cable channel exclusively. I’m fairly sure none of you have seen it. I liken it to a violent SNL with 5-10 minute, dark comedy vignettes so it would only appeal to a small audience. Like a guy all by himself with a wife on a cruise. Netflix ranked it with 4 stars so you either liked it big time or not at all. What really made it perfect for me is that Tuesday TV, aka NCIS, is being preempted by the State of the Union speech. Eagleheart to the rescue. A choice between two dark comedies.
I don’t think I mentioned it but I got a weather stick for Christmas. This is a piece of natural wood, a twig, that responds to weather conditions by bending. It bends in one direction, up, when the weather is good and down when it’s not so good. It actually works and I’ve mounted it in an area that I can instantly view from the living room. Of course when I’m looking at the stick I’m also looking at the weather conditions outside so I don’t really need the stick to tell me – but I like it.

I’ve had the Wall Street Journal delivered by USPS for years. Of late, there have been gaps in the delivery which I nominally attributed to USPS. But not so quick, Joe. We live in a small community where we’re on a first name basis with the postmaster. He informed me that there are two of us in this zip code that get the WSJ and that both of us either get it or not on any given day. That steered me toward the problem being at the Wallpaper so I called to complain. They assured me they would jump all over it. Two more days with no paper and then the backlog broke. The postmaster then told me that there was one customer who got the New York Times and that every time we fail to get the WSJ, the NYT is also missing. I knew the WSJ used regional printers but it was interesting to learn that probably the same printer that does the WSJ does the NYT. That also means that someone who has touched an NYT may have touched my Wallpaper. Ewwww! That’s unsettling. I’ll have to put that fact into the mix when I decide whether to extend the subscription when it comes up again.

Big Screen Change

We picked up a new computer monitor last week and ran into a cable interface problem with it. Seems we’re always playing technology catch-up. Tom to the rescue. He had just the right adapters to make it work and came up to help (do) with the installation. We didn’t really need a new monitor but a larger one would be nicer for Nancy when she’s studying one of her quilting sites. It’s 27” vs the 24” unit we’ve had for several years. I was doubtful that small an increase would be even noticeable but when I saw them side by side in Costco, that doubt was erased.

About 4 months ago I mentioned that I was trying a variety of tomato called Rutgers which was the original “Jersey” tomato. Nancy picked them up at a local nursery when my planned crop of Celebrity was washed out. I didn’t have much hope for them since they are not a disease resistant, nematode resistant variety and that normally spells death here. They survived way too much water early on and the first fruit that started arriving on the scene a month ago rotted quickly -not sure if it was the wet ground or a boring critter but it wasn’t looking good. Then a couple made it and now I’m picking them regularly, as soon as they start breaking – turning color. Shape wise they’re ugly but ripen into really large, dark red, delicious tomatoes. I’ve already got my spring tomato seeds planted but will have to buy again for the fall and will order a pack of Rutgers seeds for sure.

I really do think one of the pineapples is putting on some new growth – maybe just wishful thinking. Where my head is now is to just let them do their thing for the next two months while there’s a chance for uber cold weather and then transfer them to the garden. That moves them into the community property realm but gives them more space and more sun. I now have six of them in a large patio pot so the first transplant will be the first three.

My Chinese greens are big enough to start harvesting for smoothie purposes. I did typhon first and followed up with tatsoi. Both tasted about the same (to me) as any other greens I’ve used. I put in so much different stuff that it’s impossible for me to distinguish any particular ingredient except maybe the pineapple. The typhon is light in color compared to most of the greens I use so the drink ends up slightly less green. What I’m hoping is that it stands up better to heat than the classic winter greens. If so, between that and the New Zealand spinach, I should be able to have greens year round.

Pineapple Progress?

Started spring planting including peppers and three types of tomatoes; cherry, plum, and regular rounds. I usually wait until the end of January but I’m forever the optimist that the globe is really warming. That, plus I have a collection of devices designed to protect transplanted seedlings from freezing if needed. The most common mistake I make is moving immature seedlings into the garden and all the garden elements gang up on them at once. So the plan this year is to let them get bigger and stronger under my watchful eye on the porch before transplanting. That means an earlier start. I also started another row of carrots and cabbage seeds directly in the garden to extend the winter season on into April. We got a good rain soaking after that and a forecast for above average temps for the next 10 days so I’m feeling good about their chances.
Lot’s of small birds showing up in the garden so it must be some migratory thing. This morning I was greeted with a large covey of quail, a couple of small woodpeckers, cardinals and jays. No robins yet. The woodpeckers hammer away at tomato stakes and the bean trellis posts; the others just peck around the rows, I assume eating little bugs or seeds.

It’s possible, not for sure, that one of my pineapple tops is rooting or at least growing. Nancy bought two more so I whacked off the tops and planned to plant them in the same container where the first three are residing. In doing so I carefully examined the ones planted a couple of weeks back and I think, think, that there is a micro leaf starting up from the center of one of the originals. We routinely grew them back in the early 70’s but neither of us remember much about it other than they did grow and we did harvest edible fruit. I wasn’t into horticultural details back then, I guess. The other thing about pineapples is that I’ve been told they are bromiliads. I have plenty of flowering bromiliads in the jungle and treat them as semi air plants; ie they don’t really put out much of a root structure – just enough to hang on – but rely on airborne stuff for sustenance rather than roots. I’ll let you know how this experiment progresses- (or doesn’t).

Bachelorhood is looming again. Joey and Mark are taking Nancy and Mark’s mother on a four day cruise starting Sunday. The refrigerator is filling up with small containers of left overs to sustain me over the stretch. I haven’t decided yet how I’ll wile away the time but suspect there’s a surf fishing trip or two on the horizon. It’s been too wet to consider kayaking on the Tomoka. This is the middle of the “dry season” but not so much this year.

One thing I’ve noticed this year is that (I think) there’s a silver lining to Obama care. Before Obama Care, doctors’ offices were jammed and it wasn’t unusual to sit an hour in a full waiting room. Now, they’re almost empty and you get right in, on schedule, with your appointment date. I think this is a result of folks being steered toward doctors approved by their new insurance company; another way of saying it is that folks can’t necessarily go to the doctor’s they’ve used in the past. I think I’ve also spotted another disappointment with the new system. It was supposed to take care of the problems with overcrowded emergency rooms. All of those uninsured folks were supposed to now go to a regular doctor and leave the emergency rooms for emergencies. Maybe Deland and Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach are different, but those emergency rooms still look like mob scenes with runny nose kids. Even with blood dripping, it takes hours to get to a doc via the emergency room.

It’s Still Winter

The potential freeze last night never materialized. I went ahead and covered the tomato plants since they’re at peak production right now but this may be the last time. The forecast being clear for the next 7-10 days in terms of frost or freeze potential and the tomatoes will probably have peaked by then.

Simon is off again with a buddy heading down the Suwannee River; this time in a canoe instead of kayak and this time planning to run from where he left off last time to the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 75 miles. As luck would have it they’ll be doing it in the coldest weather so far this winter. It will probably be close to freezing where he’ll be. I can visualize the trip being 3-5 days depending on how much sightseeing they do. I talked to him a few hours into the trip and he said there was a nice 5 mph current so they could make good time if they want.
I think I owe an apology to the armadillo’s. I’ve been blaming them for rooting up the periphery of the garden every couple of days. It still could be them but they are so selective and non destructive that I have my doubts. That plus for the past couple of days I’ve seen a flock of birds pop up from the garden when I walk over in the morning. I don’t get close enough to see what kind of birds they are and they won’t come back while I’m anywhere close. I kind of think they’re doves but can’t be sure. I tried waiting them out and was surprised to see a young woodpecker attack the bean trellis and a blue jay land on the fence but the larger flock I see fly off doesn’t reshow.

I have twenty celery seedlings nearly ready for transplant to the garden. I can probably hold off another couple of weeks but not much longer than that. The problem is that I don’t have the space available for them. So how is it that I’ve gotten into this conundrum. Celery seeds are very slow germinating and then grow slowly so you need to start them quite a while before actually transplanting them. I timed the seed planting to be consistent with a row of tomatoes crashing – when the tomatoes crashed/froze, the celery would be ready to take their place. The problem is that the tomatoes have not crashed as planned. That’s a good news, bad news thing depending on whether you are a tomato plant or a celery plant. It’s supposed to get cold the end of this week but it doesn’t look to me like it will generate frost. To complicate it just a bit more, I have 4 rows of tomatoes but only one of them is in the designated celery patch. It’s a row on the wet side of the garden, the lake side, that runs east and west. Celery tolerates wet ground better than most plants so I don’t want to plant it on the dry side, especially this season when we still have soggy soil.
Picked the season’s first broccoli.

Added a new green element to the salad mix. In addition to lettuce, spinach, beet greens, and chard add pea leaves. The snow pea and sugar snap pea plants are now topping the 7’ trellis and as well as the peas, you can eat the delicate stems and leaves, either raw or lightly stir fried. I never tell Nancy until she’s finished eating and saying how good it was. Then I drop the bomb. I’m probably a week away from (surreptituously) adding the chinese greens into the mix.

Simon was back home Friday night. They did a long day on Thursday to make the last campground before the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Suwannee. It was freezing cold and the campground turned out to be non existent but a kind senior citizen gave them shelter for the night. More on that next post.

Eating Big

Tried a new smoothie combination that was awesome. You’re stomach will do flips when I give you the ingredient list but it was very tasty to me. For starts the green was kohlrabi greens; the fruit was strawberries and pineapple, both frozen solid, and half an Arkansas Black apple; the miscellaneous items were walnuts and old fashioned rolled oats. The liquids were cran-pomegranite juice and almond milk. I’d give you the amounts of each but I never measure anything – just go with your gut. The Arkansas Black was a nice addition courtesy of Tom and Tina – part of my Christmas present this year. I liked it so much I made another one the next day with a minor variation, substituting kale for the kohlrabi greens and eliminating the walnuts. The latter change was only because I ran out of room. It was every bit as good. I honestly think it’s the pineapple that throws it over the top for me.

I noticed something interesting in the garden. The new oriental green I’m growing, Tyfon, aka Holland Greens, must be incredibly tasty. To bugs. I have it planted with Swiss Chard on one side, Rosemary and Thyme on the other and very close to spinach and lettuce. The Tyfon leaves are peppered with tiny bug holes while all the others are untouched. The bugs must be really tiny because I see no activity at all, none on the leaves; none hovering over the leaves; nothing but the tell tale holes.

I made a kohlrabi salad the other day and it was not a big hit (with Nancy or me). I cut the kohlrabi into strips about the size of french fries, chopped up an onion, a little salt, a little pepper then marinated in good olive oil and vinegar. Where I made a mistake was using balsamic vinegar instead of a cider or other clear vinegar so it took on a brownish, unappetizing look. I decided to give it one more try and put down a layer of green, baby kohlrabi leaves, a layer of sliced red onion, then a layer of french fry cut kohlrabi bulb. This time I used apple cider vinegar. It certainly looked more appetizing but would it taste better? Where I’ve used raw kohlrabi bulb chips before is in vegetable platters where it sits along side carrot strips and celery to be dipped in ranch seasoning. Everybody loves it but nobody has any idea what it is. I plan to try it this year as a substitute for mashed potatoes. It’s a fun veggie to grow so I’d like to find a way to prepare it that turns my bride on. The verdict is in on the salad – very good. The leaves were a nice touch. They started out light green but after soaking in the oil and vinegar for a few hours they turned darker and brighter. Next time I’m going to mix in a few sliced radishes to really colorize it.

Possible freeze/frost Thursday morning. I’ll go ahead and try to cover up the tomatoes but don’t think it will get cold enough to bother anything else. I’ll pick a load of cherry tomatoes just in case. Between George and us, we’re probably picking a quart a day but the same plants are still loaded with green ones and new blossoms.