Winter’s here

Woke up this AM to really cold weather. It was just 50 degrees when I walked up to get the paper this morning. I guarantee my next trip outside involved my down filled vest so I moved into full winter mode – the vest, gloves, and a skull cap. When it gets down to the low 40’s I move to lined jeans but hopefully that will not happen until January. Update – It’s supposed to be 80 in a couple of days.

Nancy’s eyes definitely improving. She has 3 quilts going now and the sewing machine is on fire! She hasn’t started driving yet but I suspect her eyes are now in better shape than they were for a few months before the big crash. It really hasn’t been that big a hassle “driving miss Nancy”. About the only really bothersome thing is having to be more involved with grocery shopping. I liked it better when all that was done as if by magic.

I pulled the jalapeño bushes and stripped the last of the peppers. It was a combination of pending cold weather and a better use for the space in mind. We pickled them and had enough to make 3 jars – actually 2.5 jars. We filled the last jar with a green grilling pepper and green cherry tomatoes. I’m anxious to see how the tomatoes turn out since we always have more of those than we can handle and if we get an early frost, there will probably be a load of green ones coming available before they ripen. Pickles? I think we made about a dozen jars over the season which is more than enough to carry us thru to the next season. George picked a handful, nothing like he usually does, we gave away a few large bags to friends and relatives, and grilled some stuffed with cheese so it was a well used crop. There were 6 plants and they produced steadily from June thru now. The nice thing about jalapeño peppers is that they can absolutely handle the heat and the bugs steer clear of them so once you get them started, you’re insured of a successful crop.

I took on a small job that turned out to be quite a bit more than I’d estimated. We’ve had lots of company and visitors for the past few months and I noticed that some were having trouble parking and navigating our jungle road. Having my truck parked where I could easily get to it was also part of the problem so I decided to cut back the jungle that had gradually crept in and to carve out a better spot for the truck to rest. The couple hours I had mentally allocated to the job took a couple of days and expanded to include hauling and spreading a few yards of fill dirt. But’s it’s done and even Nancy’s quilter was able to get in and out without hitting a tree.

I’ve been debating whether to plant more onions and also some garlic. I decided yes on the onions, no on the garlic. We just don’t use that much garlic and Nancy likes the chopped garlic she gets from Costco. Fate intervened and one of her buddies happened to buy a sock full of garlic bulbs and gave us three. The donor is also the beef lady so I hope this donation wasn’t garlic in lieu of beef in exchange for a couple large bags of turnip greens. I took one of the bulbs, broke it down to 11 cloves and planted those – as it happens in the place where I pulled the turnips. I’ll give them a couple of weeks to germinate (or not).


It’s just been too hot for spinach and other winter greens which are usually thriving by now. So when Nancy asked me to cut some spinach for an omelet, I had to break the sad news that we had none. Then I remembered that I had planted New Zealand spinach a few months back and forgot about it. It was planted near the pole beans so I guess my eyes were adjusted to looking up. I’ve never grown it before or eaten it but Joey assured me that it was good. He was right. So I trimmed it back, cutting off the older, tougher and bug attacked leaves to start some new growth. If I keep it trimmed I’m thinking we’ll get a continuous crop.

The turnip crop is a semi failure. One of the first things I tried to grow when I started gardening in Florida were turnips. We eat the roots, mashed with carrots, so it was disappointing when the plants grew beautifully but never put out a tuber. I figured that either the variety was wrong for here or it was a soil problem – back then I was having lots of soil problems. So this year I decided to try again and was rewarded with beautiful plants. But again, no roots. I’ll have to do some research but apparently the greens are excellent (tasting) and there are plenty of takers for them. Now I’m thinking trading material since Nancy’s beef raising friend loved them and said that a package with about 3 leaves was selling at Public for $3. We’ve given her two bags with at least 25 large leaves in each bag so that should net us a few steaks. I wondered about the nutritional value of turnip greens, thinking about using them in a green smoothie. Turns out they are nutritional monsters – on the order of Kale. Very high in Vitamin A, C, and K – way more than spinach for example. I made a smoothie to see if they were edible and was pleasantly surprised to find it works well. Other good things are that they were not bothered by bugs, came up well in the heat and also germinated quickly so it may be that I can keep a steady stream of turnip greens going after the traditional winter greens have crashed. With a try. It could be that between turnip greens and New Zealand spinach, the green smoothie season will be extended by a couple of months or even be available year round.

Finally a break in the weather and fall is starting. The temps are dropping with some 40’s in the forecast. That should put an end to the grasshoppers which are feasting daily on just about anything that germinates in the garden – except New Zealand Spinach and Turnip greens. That should give the cabbage plants, broccoli plants, and cauliflower plants a shot at growth. I’ll also quickly get in some conventional spinach seeds, peas, and more lettuce varieties that just can’t handle the heat. Now I start hoping that the temps don’t drop off too quickly.

Another break, the speck’s are starting to school up and bite. I went out this morning and caught 15-20 in about an hour. I would troll until catching one and then cast a small jig into the same area. If it was a lone fish, that would be it but if it was part of a school, then the action would be on. I found 2 schools. Unfortunately they were too small to keep but this is very early in the spec season so no big surprise. The small males start to school first and then the larger, roe laden females show up a month or so later. If things are on track, by mid December we should be catching keepers. Still no bass and that may be the situation until February when they too start bedding.

Feeling like the ’60’s

The garden is nearly 100% planted and starting to produce a little. We’re picking lettuce, radishes, eggplant, green peppers, and the first cherry tomatoes. We’re about a month away from any of the winter stuff but it’s all in and looking stable. I’d like to get a couple of cool mornings, in the low 50’s, to put down most of the bugs and just let the nutrient full soil take over. That also means that I can switch my time from gardening to fishing for the next couple of months. I’m ready for that.

What’s new? Chris ran in and finished a 15K race. I was impressed that he finished but more impressed that he even started at 7 AM when the temp was 30. And Nancy made an impressive new culinary masterpiece – eggplant, pork chop parmesan. It was her sauce and an eggplant fresh from the garden, layered with cheese and the pork chops. Really good.
And the Gators keep winning – barely. They have a decent shot at a one loss season and a slim chance at an SEC championship. At least they’ll be in the game.
Is it just me or is this starting to feel like the 60’s? An inexperienced, liberal Democrat is elected and the place starts falling apart. Race issues dominate and includes urban rioting, burning down communities and campus unrest (can we drop Missou from the SEC?) – the inmates taking over the prisons? the animals taking over the farms and zoos? Instead of LSD and marijuana, it’s heroin and meth; instead of Viet Nam it’s Afghanistan. Is it any wonder that guys like Trump and Sanders all of a sudden start looking real? Ten years ago half the people running for Pres would have been laughed off the stage now they command the lead in all the polls. The only good thing coming out of the 60’s was the music (and my kids).

Old Home Week

A little magic at the beach this year. For the past 5 years or so I’ve seen a guy a few houses down from us partake in a daily routine dip in the ocean – no matter the water conditions or temperature. It just so happens that a nice runout has formed exactly where he swims and that caught my attention as a place to fish – a couple hundred feet north of where I usually cast. I was fishing in his “spot” when he walked down to the beach and came over to me. I figured he was going to say something about me being in his spot but instead he asked which direction the currents were moving so he’d be able to swim away from my line. We started a small chat that along the way had me disclosing that I was an engineer by trade. He said he was also an engineer and in fact taught electrical engineering at Mississippi State years ago. I had worked with a couple of guys back in the late 60’s who had graduated from MS and asked if he by any chance knew………. I threw out a first name and he blurted out the second name before I could. As soon as he said that, I knew who this guy was and had heard his name hundreds of times. I asked him if he was Frank Engles which just blew him away. I joined Dynatronics in 1966 and he left Dynatronics in 1965 so we had loads of folks in common. The next time we go to the beach we’ll hook up early and spend some time together with our wives.
The remarkable thing is that the same thing happened about 5 years ago when a guy walked up to me while I was fishing and asked how the fishing was. After a few questions we quickly learned that we were both from Bountiful, Utah, that we knew both his sons – the folks who serviced our cars for years – and that the little power walker in the bikini that I had seen for 10 years was his daughter.
That’s why I think maybe that hunk of beach is magical.
This week we hooked up with old, old friends from the mid 60’s. The Hall’s came to Florida from San Diego with a General Dynamics project while I had signed up to be part of the project team specifically to get back to Florida from San Diego. We hit it off right away but had gone in different directions when the project was finished – Don and Mary returned to San Diego, I went to work for another division of GD – see Dynatronics above. They emailed me a couple of months back saying they were planning a vacation in Florida to see their granddaughter in Orlando and would be traveling with their daughter and her husband from Arizona. It all came together perfectly and we broke bread together 3 times; at the Funky Pelican, at Hidden Treasures, and here at the lake. I’m hoping we do it again – either them back in Florida or us in California.
Nancy went back for a checkup with her eye doc – not the retina specialist. Her sight is much improved since the last time she saw him, about 6 weeks ago. She’s back quilting seriously, playing bridge seriously, and back on the internet so that’s all encouraging. She asked him about driving and his answer was that she could see as well as half the people out there driving and if she stays on country roads, during the daylight, probably ok – but if you have a driver (that would be me), that would be preferred.