Slow News Day for the News Journal

We had a fun evening last Thursday night. For Christmas Tom had bought us tickets to a show in downtown Orlando at the new Dr. Phillips performing arts center. Along with the show tickets came a voucher for dinner, a room at the closest hotel – a block away- and a voucher for breakfast the next morning. In addition he was the designated driver and car parker so it took all the potential problem parts away. The original plan was that we’d take the train from Debary to downtown and eliminate the whole car issue but they don’t want you parking overnight at the Debary station. That worked out fine too because we hit Costco on the way home to pick up a few non-essentials and gassed up at $1.69. The hotel was incredibly nice and we had a luxury suite – ditto the dinner and breakfast spots. The show was a “Conversation with Ina Garten”, a famous cook. Nancy has at least one of her cookbooks and every once in a while cooks something from it. The last success was the meatballs I wrote about several posts back. I expected a cooking demonstration but it turned out to really be a conversation with an individual followed by a Q&A from the audience. I did laugh when somebody asked her for a substitute for garlic in her recipe entitled chicken with 40 garlics. I really wanted to ask if something could be substituted for the chicken. I’d have rather spent the night at the hotel bar but seeing the Dr. Phillips Center was a real treat and the show actually wasn’t that bad. Nancy loved it – mission accomplished.

Our local newspaper is the Daytona Beach News Journal. It services a population base that must be close to 500K and is a full fledged paper with multiple sections and one full page designated “Business”. I read that section every day but was blown away the other day with an article labeled “airport delays”. It was a 6” column and reported that there were 3 delays at the Daytona airport; two forty five minute delays on flights to Charlotte and another 45 minute delay to Atlanta. This was on the same day there were literally thousands of delays nationwide. The article wasn’t in the context of how good the airport was or how flying in and out of Daytona was a good thing but rather as real news. Wow – an you imagine reporting on that! slow news day

It happens that sometimes if you bring in an armload of greens from the garden there’s a lizard hidden way down deep in the foliage. I view that as a positive – a built in insect trap that actually hunts down critters – but my view is decidedly in the minority (here). Trying to capture a small, quick lizard in a house is no easy task and if you’re patient enough it will either starve or do the job he was born to do.

Tropicals got banged by the frost – that would be the pineapples and bananas. Too soon to tell but I think they all survived although hit pretty hard. The pineapples are interesting. I have 6 plants in the garden and 2 in a planter on the concrete deck. The planter is sitting about 10’ from the structure but still out in the open. The ones in the garden turned from green to yellow in two days whereas the other two look just fine. It must be that the concrete holds enough heat to overcome the cold air.

Roller Coaster Weather

Shortly after we moved here I planted a banana bush. It did well and we harvested a bundle of small (fingerling), delicious bananas a year or so after planting. We had a run of cold winters after that so the bushes froze back and never produced again. Well last winter was mild and this year seems to be on the same order so I went to check on the bush – which had been fairly well taken over by the jungle. It’s a good size and looks healthy so I’m going to do a little work around it to give it some space and perhaps we can get some more this summer. Uh oh, frost last night. Maybe I jinxed the plants. There’s another cold snap forecast at the end of the week so I’ll hold off on a garden damage report for a few days. I think a little frost is ok with most of the winter greens growing now. I know it didn’t freeze because I had put out a shallow dish of water to check just that.

Driving Miss Nancy is not all that bad. I take her to a 2 hour meeting with the quilt group and then head off to the library a few blocks away. I check out and/or drop off a book or two and do any internet data intense work I might have and polish off an issue of the WSJ. Our home internet data plan is limited so it makes sense to take advantage of public wi-fi. Taking her to bridge is fine too. It’s about 20 minutes each way so taking her one day a week is no big deal. When it warms up I’m going to take the truck so I can carry the poke boat and hit a few of the small lakes tucked away in that area. But where I have a problem is taking her grocery shopping. I have to participate because reading labels is a problem. I don’t mind that but we have totally different built in shopping algorithms and the pace with which we do the job is totally different. Nancy likes to browse through and pick out bargains along with the necessary items whereas I like to have a prepared list and then get them in the basket and checked out in as little time as possible. It drives me crazy to meander up and down aisles with no clear target; it drives Nancy crazy to speed pass aisles that might contain hidden gems.

I’m helping George and Garret (his grandson) rebuild the house they bought on the lake. It looked fairly good on a cursory basis but when you got up close and personal, there was quite a lot of damage from rot and termites. The main house is up on stilts, 8”x8” 12’ long poles – 14 poles. Each pole is buried 4’ deep. Turns out they are all rotted big time. Hard to believe the place is still standing. We’ve started replacing the poles, one at a time, and have 6 done so far. Garret rented a digging machine to eliminate a manual digging job so we cut out a pole, pull it out of the hole and then install a few pole using the existing bolt holes. Handling a 12’ pole is tricky but Garret is young and strong so it’s going smoothly. Once bolted in place we frame around the hole and pour concrete so the pole is anchored in a 2’x2’ x 4’ encasement. After the poles are replaced, maybe by the end of the month, weather and jobs permitting, we’ll attack the framing and replace the termite damaged 2×4’s. Then do the electrical and plumbing before interior walls are done. The goal is for them to have the family Christmas event at the new place – and maybe Thanksgiving.

Politics – So Bloomberg is getting in the race – maybe. He’s my kind of guy and will go after big drinks on a national basis. At least he’s talking about running as an independent and not trying to pass off as a legitimate Republican. Too bad Trump didn’t make that same election. The pic they’re playing on the tube has him standing at a microphone next to Rahm Emmanuel (spelling?). That’s really all you need to know. What an incredible bunch of losers!!! Both parties. It may be that the convention this summer will actually be interesting and meaningful. I doubt it, but maybe.

Fun with the pump

Attacked by the Polar Vortex. I am happy with global warming attacks but not so much with the Polar creature. It was 42 this AM against a 32 forecast by the weather guru’s on the tube. I didn’t break out the frost covers because I never believed the forecast would accurately predict our house. The next time I might because this cold spell will have chilled the lake a little more. We have another cold front forecast for next week but it doesn’t look all that strong to me.

And still no speckled perch but instead I’ve hooked several large bass. What’s that all about???? It’s hard to actually land a big bass with the micro hooks I’m using to lure the spec’s but it’s fun to get some action going. We’re halfway through January so the spec’s really have to step it up. I’m guessing it’ll turn hot – the fishing not the temp – any day now.

Last night (Thursday) about 7PM Nancy called out from the bathroom with word that we had no water. She had a tub about half full when it just stopped. The well and pump are up a couple hundred feet from the house and it was pitch black. Bears. I got a lantern and went up to see what was going on; hoping for an obvious something to fix. It was dead – had power but wasn’t running. I banged it around with a mallet – my standard repair technique – in the hopes of dislodging whatever was causing the problem. All to no avail. We were expecting a strong storm front overnight so I was concerned that it would be tough to get a service person out before the weekend. Who knows after that. I called George to confirm the name of the pump service guy. George suggested running a hose from his system to ours so we would have water until it got fixed. We did the reverse of that a few months back when his pump crashed. Within a half hour we were back up and running with water in the house. Got up early Friday morning and walked up to get the mail and paper – passing by the well on the way. As luck would have it, it started running as I approached. I removed George’s water supply and it continued running. The pump shut off when the pressure built up – just as it should – and then restarted when I turned on a hose to drain it – just as it should. I let it cycle for about an hour and had Nancy wash a load of clothes and then called off the repair guy. We took the cover off the main electrical contacts and verified that they looked good so there’s really no definitive reason for the problem. The repair guy said chances are an ant or two got into the contact box and caused a temporary problem. I didn’t see any dead bodies near the contacts but …………….. I sprayed bug killer around the contacts just in case.

Nancy got another round of shots in her eye. They do seem to be doing some good. Still not driving but I think she could. Probably a lot of folks on the road with worse vision. The next round is in 8 weeks – they keep extending the time between shots. I think the plan is to continue with the shots until the spacing is 3 months. We’re almost there.

Update – it was an otter, not a bear

I think there was a bear on the dock last night. I went down this AM to make a few test casts and noted that the rods were laying on the dock and so was the heavy ladder I had standing up. One chair was on it’s side. It had been windy the day before but unless it really blew hard while we were sleeping, this had to be a critter hit.

I ordered most of next season’s seeds with special attention to the tomatoes. I selected highly disease and nematode resistance cherry, paste, and regular eating types. A really expensive selection as those things go. The cherry tomatoes and paste tomato varieties are ones that thru the process of trial and error have proved reliable but I have never really found a consistent regular eater but I’ve spotted one that sounds like it might be the one. You just don’t know until you try it. I’ve also upgraded the eggplant selection to a hybrid Italian offering called Dancer. Hard to find, expensive seed. Since since we’re eating more of it, why not go to the top shelf. Tried and true on the peppers and cucumbers. Still trying to find a consistent squash performer – some years I think I’ve found it only to be disappointed the following season – but mostly the problems with squash are bug oriented. I overhauled an old spray container and plan to go after that problem externally.

I mentioned that we had traded some collard greens for sweet potatoes. I decided to extend that by trying to sprout one of the potatoes into eventually becoming a summer crop. It’s a simple process but one that takes time, patience, space and warm weather. I sliced off the end of a potato and set the tuber into a container of water and set it in the kitchen windowsill. The plan is for the potato to start putting out stems and leaves within a couple of weeks. Then, after a month or so, you remove the sprouts and plant them in the garden. Each sprig will take root and produce a vine on the surface and tubers underground. In about a 100 days, you harvest a few pounds of potatoes for each sprig. I did this once before a few years back with nominal success. The disadvantage is that the vines really spread and put down more roots along the vine so it really really spreads and becomes hard to control. The big advantage is that they love heat and thrive when all else has succumbed.

Good News – They’re opening a Hidden Treasure restaurant on Flagler Beach. The one in Port Orange has been my favorite place since Nancy and Joanne accidentally found it a year ago. There was a similar place in Flagler about 10 years ago that we really liked but it closed down several years back. Hidden Treasure is going to the same location. Full report will be blogged in March.

Still having’ winter

A few months back I mentioned that I had planted a potato that had developed sprouting eyes. From one potato I got 5 new plants that appeared healthy and happy. One of Nancy’s friends advised that I was wasting my time and space because termites invariably got the potato tubers. Whatever. I had the time and space and zero investment so why not try. All was going well until about 2 weeks ago when I noticed the plants were, apparently, being eaten by something and the leaves turned to lace almost overnight. Then the stems turned yellow and it was clear they were done for. I dug them up today and lo and behold there were some nice potato tubers. I’d say the space was about 3’ x 5’ and yielded in the neighborhood of 5 pounds of spuds. No signs of termites or any other critter damage. Within about 15 minutes of harvesting the potatoes I replanted the patch with new lettuce seed. It’s only the second of January so there will be plenty of time for a crop.

We’re having winter this week and it was in the mid 40’s early this AM. Just what we needed to attack bugs and get the spec’s in the egg laying mood. It also provided the first opportunity to try out some winter gear I got for Christmas. Tom got me a pair of gloves and a matching watch cap – double thick, heavy duty wool. Straight from Bass Pro Shops. Wow! It was downright toasty taking the trash out this morning and combining two compost piles into one big one. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever get cold enough to break out the big guns. I’m ready – bring it on!! I doubled down on my strategy of planting seeds way too early and started some peppers and eggplants a full two months too soon. Just laying out more temptation for the frost gods to do their thing.

Another fundamental change I’m going to implement for 2016 is to go after the garden bugs with more fury. In the past I’ve “shared” the crop with them but this past year they got greedy and consumed more than half of the production. I’ve ordered an organic bug spray, neem oil. It’s a natural product – I guess extract of the neem plant – and is advertised to repel a large variety of bugs, fungi and mildew. I’ve really never believed in this type of repellant but want to try something so my plan is to spray as soon as the first set of leaves appear but only on those crops that have suffered most from the predators – squash and tomatoes. The bugs seem to leave peppers and eggplant alone so I’ll spare them the spray.

Nancy took 5 large bags of greens to the bridge gals today. They are mostly widows, 80+ years old who really appreciate the fresh veggies. This delivery included two varieties of kale, lettuce, collards, NZ spinach, and kohlrabi greens. The lettuce, kale and collards will be familiar items but the other goodies will have them scratching their heads. I kept the kohlrabi tuber for our own use – raw, cut in pieces for salad. In about 2 weeks the delivery will add turnip greens- they really love turnip greens. Yesterday she took lettuce and collards to her quilting buddy who reciprocated with a bag of sweet potatoes.

Happy New Year

We had a great Christmas with all the grandkids on the scene. Nancy won “most interesting gift” with tickets to see Ina Garten, one of her celebrity chefs. The tickets include a stay at a luxury hotel in downtown Orlando plus dinner at an excellent restaurant and lunch at her favorite barbecue restaurant in the galaxy. I go along as her escort. On the Sunday after Christmas they all came up to the lake for a turkey dinner with the Holland grill working overtime. From there Tomster headed back to Chicago and Simon back to Bibb County Alabama. New year’s eve was uneventful – we were in bed by 10PM – only to be awakened by quite a barrage of gun fire. I guess lots of neighbors got firearms for Christmas and waiting until midnight to try them out. Lots of semi automatic fire.

The weather has been nearly perfect (for me) although I wouldn’t mind a few days of 40 degree kind of temps with no frost to trigger the speckled perch fishing. The garden is lovin’ it too with nothing under any kind of stress. It’s looking like the cherry tomatoes will have run their course in the next couple of weeks. I wish the regular tomatoes were as prolific as the cherries but they remain a tough crop to master.

Nancy’s latest culinary masterpiece is an eggplant – meatball parmigiana with cherry tomato sauce. The meatballs were the Ina Garten beauties that she manufactured last week. She made 3-4 dozen, froze most of them and is breaking them out four at a time as needed. The last time we had the eggplant creation I was fairly sure that would be the end of the eggplant season but this ultra nice winter has kept the plants producing. For sure, this is the end though. I need the space and the fruit is getting smaller and smaller with each picking.

I mentioned that the weather was nearly perfect. Well actually we could use a cold snap to kill off some more bugs that have invaded the potato patch and I’m sure, will move on to greener things if they don’t get nipped by the cold. I’m thinking there’s not much I can do about it but then it hits me, sure I can. It’s way too early to plant summer stuff. I haven’t even got the 2016 seed catalogs yet but I have some summer seeds left over from last year. Surely if I put in some summer squash the Frost gods will see that as a challenge. So I planted 6 squash hills and started green pepper seeds on the back porch – both moves about 2 months early. These seeds will normally take only a week to germinate so my guess is that within 2 weeks there will be freeze or frost warnings in Barberville. Worth a try.

George is back in the hospital due to excessive internal bleeding. They’ve been trying to locate the source of the bleeding for a couple of months now. The order of magnitude of the problem is that in the past 3 months, he’s had 14 pints of blood transfused and the rate has been accelerating. I talked to him yesterday and he said they think they see a sputter in one area that remains hidden from viewing – right in the middle – something called a septum and an illium – I’m pretty sure the spelling is wrong and it sounds like the name of a Greek play. They see it with a nuclear scan test. The solution is to literally plug the hole. I asked is there was a blood equivalent to “Stop Leak”, a cure for leaking radiators. Apparently there’s not.