Bugs and TV’s

Officially the buggiest season ever. Highlights – I have an exotic spider living just outside one of the living room windows on the lakeside. It’s about 6” across and has big, swollen knees on each leg. It must be a female because this morning there are two tiny babies crawling over the mama. This is all outside the center window but there’s action in the other two. Wasps have started building nests and steered clear of the center window where the spider is king.

Since all this is going on outside, it’s interesting but something going on inside the house isn’t so interesting. Our back bathroom has been home for swarms of ants the past three days. As if by magic, they just appear with no obvious entry path. I’ve sprayed heavily with some serious bug spray and they all seem to be dying shortly after entering the room but it’s disconcerting, nonetheless. There will be absolutely none and then an hour later, a hundred flying around and quickly dying, mostly in the bathtub. I think they’re attracted to the large windows and are trying to get outside. They hatch in bursts – nothing for 6-8 hours and then hundreds over a couple of hours. We cleaned up the bodies last night about 7PM and checked again about 11PM and found none; but at 6AM there were 100’s dead in the bottom of the tub or the window ledges. It’s consistently happened from 4PM to 7PM. For the life of me I can’t figure where they’re coming from. I’ve sprayed every place I can think of and the fact that they live for only a few minutes after touching any surface or crevice tells me they are definitely making contact where I think they should but I can’t find a definitive source. So I have an exterminator coming. I hate that because the guy will try to sell me a contract and tell me how horrible it is not to have one. A humorous thing is that when swarming they are banging into the big window, trying to get outside. Outside on the window and window ledge are several lizards – I counted 6 one time – going crazy trying to get at the ants. The ants are trying to get out the window and the lizards are trying to get into the bathroom. They don’t get that there’s a pane of glass between them and their prey so they lash out their tongues while jumping from ant to ant. I suggested to Nancy that we catch a couple lizards and bring them in the bathroom but she didn’t jump all over that approach as I’d hoped so I didn’t mention the spider as another candidate. Update – the exterminator confirmed my belief that they are not termites. Termites are much smaller and have only two body parts whereas ants have three. That’s a big relief. They’ll come back tomorrow and do the whole house, indoors and out, with some kind of powder. This treatment will cost about $150 which is less than I expected. I have to be sure to have him avoid my pet spider.

And the week ended on a high note – a very, very, very close lightning strike knocked out our TV antenna amplifier. I’m not sure how much “togetherness” we can handle so this needs to be fixed pronto!!! We had TV antenna service a couple months back to restore our previously perfect signal and in one big boom, we are out of business. I knew immediately that the antenna signal amplifier had been fried so first thing Monday morning I tried to call the TV guy. The phone system kept telling me the call couldn’t go through and to try back later. After an hour of this we decided to go to Deland and visit the shop in person, mostly to emphasize how serious the problem was. The shop was gone, abandoned, no longer in business. We (Joey and I) decided we should try to find a new amplifier and fix it ourselves. Struck out at Radio Shack, Best Buy, Walmart and Lowes. I was resigned to ordering a replacement online and not having much help to install it when the time came and being without TV for at least another 3 days. One last call to ACE hardware in Pierson, literally 5 minutes from the house, scored. It was a different make with some interfacing issues but with Joey up on the roof and me taking the bits and pieces of the new unit and the old, we managed to get it up and running in just a few hours. The acid test was signal strength at night when we experience the most signal drop. No problem at all – in fact better than it has been for quite a while. I have to kluge up some kind of protective weather/bug shield and some minor cable cleanup but I’m labeling it a complete success.

Birthday Barbecue

Had a major plumbing success yesterday. For whatever reasons the water valve in both toilets started leaking at roughly the same time. Fixing leaky toilet valves is one of those jobs that should be really simple but somehow can turn into a nightmare. Personally I’d deal with it by just turning off the water supply valve at the toilet after the tank has filled then turning it on when it empties but my bride is not happy with that solution and wants it to work as intended, all the time. Went to Lowes and found shelves full of replacement parts with prices ranging from $8 to $20. The shelf area that appeared to be the heaviest shopped had a couple sitting there at $9 so I went for that model and got one for each toilet. I asked the sales assistant and he said they were all pretty much the same and he personally used the same one I selected. That made it feel right.
Armed with replacements, I decided to attack the front toilet more aggressively and actually fix/readjust the unit currently installed and leaking. I bent a couple of the pieces by hand and miraculously, the leaking stopped. Went to the back bathroom and tried a similar quick fix but no luck. I read the instructions on the replacement several times, very carefully. This is usually the step I omit. The replacement was a totally different design than the leaky one so it didn’t do any good to study the current installation. One thing I learned over the years is to make sure the tank is absolutely empty before removing the water feed line. Sounds simple and obvious but……….. Undid the water feed line and the old part came out easily in about 3 seconds. The new one was installed in under a minute and didn’t leak when I turned on the water again. That’s a big deal. The tank filled to exactly the right spot and turned the water off. Still no leaks. I flushed it for the first time and it came off perfectly. Job done.

Great birthday. Tom came up to the lake on Saturday. We went fishing early Sunday morning and caught a few, one worth talking about. Then Tina and Olivia came up and we headed for a new (to us) barbecue place at Palm Coast, beach side. We had seen this place hundreds of times but always decided that it didn’t make sense to eat barbecue at the beach when there are so many good seafood places. So I was surprised when Tom called and asked if I’d ever heard of this place and how it was ranked #7 in the nation or something. The most famous barbecue place I know of is in Austin, Franklin’s and that’s ranked #10 by the same ranker. It’s a tiny place with a sign that says bait, tackle and barbecue. I had been in there a couple of times to buy tackle and noticed that there was a window with a sign that said “order here” but I never had the impression barbecue was a real business here. It’s in a county park with a boat ramp on the intercoastal and I guessed most of their food business was to boaters who pulled in and grabbed some lunch. Holy cow was it good. We all had ribs and they were as good or better than any I remember and the sides were incredible. I had beets and goat cheese and smoked barbecue beans as my sides. Best beans I’ve ever had. We all came away with the same take on it – excellent.

Storm News

For us, the storm named Colin has been much ado about nothing. I was hoping for a few inches of rain, less than the TV weather guys are saying, but still a nice, wet event. As we end the second day, there’s just about an inch in the rain gauge. We had a few short periods with fairly hard rain and some wind gusts, but more on the order of a typical rain storm than something with a name. Having said that, there was one garden casualty. We had a serious wind gust that blew over 90% of the corn. I promise – this is my last attempt at raising corn. Between critters and weather, it just doesn’t work here – unless you consider bulking up the compost pile as a positive. – update, make that 5” and add a couple of tomato plants to the blow over list.

What we were mostly concerned about with the storm potential was the vulnerability of the house we’re working on. It’s completely open on the ground floor and the second floor on the south end of the house. It could be a real mess with blowing rain, especially if the second floor gets soaked. We had hoped to get by with only a minimum rework on the top floor but this could be a game changer. Update, it looks ok. Nothing fell over and not too wet inside. George and Garett managed to get a plastic sheet across the open back side and it apparently did the job.

I think I mentioned that the cucumber crop was shortened by a return of the feared and dreaded nematodes. I had real problems a few years back but thought I had beaten them with massive infusions of compost over the past 5 years and selective solarization. Last year was nematode free which I thought was a permanent condition. Wrong. So I’ll solarize a couple of rows where the cuc’s and squash were growing – that means pulling all the plants and weeds and then covering with clear plastic for a couple of months. That heats up the soil enough to kill the nematodes 8-12” deep. I know it works but didn’t think I had to do it annually. So far the tomato crop is looking good and they are usually quite vulnerable to nematodes. I have them growing in a section fairly far from where I’m having the problem so I’m guessing the problem is local. Ditto green beans – those are doing quite well and are prone to nematode attacks.

I repeat – how is it possible that a great country like this with over 300M people, could come up with two losers as the finalists in the presidential race. I think I’ll just write in a name – maybe one of my blog readers. Obviously they’re an intelligent, astute, and discerning group.