Starting School Soon

Nancy made it home from the cruise, all safe and sound. She had a great time with Joey and Joanne and I got quite a bit done in the yard/jungle. I’m almost finished everything I had planned for the summer – if only I could keep it exactly like it is!! I generally work from about 8Am until 11AM. By then I am absolutely wringing wet and worn to a frazzle.

We had the first meeting with the Volusia County visually impaired folks since putting in the application. A case worker came by the house and spent a few hours checking us and the place out. We picked up a few interesting tips even with that one interface so I’m sure it will be beneficial. They offer a number of classes and needed to assess exactly which one’s Nancy needed and could handle. We should hear something in the next couple of weeks but it sounded like it will be a 4 hour class, once a week, for 12 weeks. There are usually 5-10 students in a class. It’s in Orange City which is about a half hour from here. I don’t know whether it makes sense for me to attend the class with her or just find a place/places to kill the time. One thing for sure – between bridge twice a week and quilting once a week, this certainly fills our dance card.

Got a full 10 pack of germinated tomato seeds for the next planting. 100% success which is a bit unusual. The trick for the next 3-4 weeks is to make sure they have just enough sunlight to grow strong but not enough to stress them. Sounds easy but it’s actually the trickiest part of the process until they’re ready for transplant. At the same time I planted a 10 pack of green peppers. They take a bit longer to germinate but it’s a variety I’ve had good success with in the past. I couldn’t find any last year and had a really disappointing pepper crop this spring.

Picked another pineapple. I invited Garret’s little girl, Miley, to the harvest then showed her and Jinny, her mother, how to prepare it and to plant the top to start another plant. Interestingly, there were 4 new sprouts alongside the one we picked and that’s how this pineapple started – as the second one on the plant. I have no idea if one plant just continues to produce a pineapple (or several) every year or they eventually give it up. In any event, they now have a nice, fresh fruit and I have 6 more in the last month or two of growing. I’m about ready to declare us pineapple self sufficient.

Batchin’s again

Batchin’ again. Joey took his mama and cousin Joanne on a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas and left me here to tend the jungle and the lake. It’s incredibly quiet and I’m just luxuriating in the silence. Our company is gone – 4 days of reliving what it was like to have little kids. Just go, go, go!!! Loved it.

One thing it did do was give me the push to get started on planting the fall garden instead of just talking about it. With the help of my great, great niece, we planted seeds for green peppers and 4 tomato varieties in jiffy pots filled with starter mix – a total of 20 plants. Along with that, 10 jiffy pots of Inca Marigold seeds along with some planted directly in the garden for comparison. Without the outside push, I probably would have procrastinated getting started and then wondered why it was taking so long. According to the seed packs, most of these seeds won’t be ready to transplant to the garden for 8-10 weeks, close to Labor Day which leads to pickable veggies in November. If I waited too long, that starts pushing into frost potential and somehow that fact always eludes me in mid July. I’ll also plant squash and cucumber seeds directly in the garden about the same time I transplant these plants.

We picked the pineapple mentioned in the previous post. I had let this go longer than ever before and was concerned that it might have been overripe. It was totally gold with no green at all whereas I’m used to picking/buying them when mostly green and just turning yellow. Inside it was gold instead of light yellow and really sweet. I guess they pick them mostly green to give them more time from harvest to market but for sure they’re excellent when ripened on the plant. There’s another on an adjacent plant that could be picked now or sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ve decided to start another experimental pineapple and aloe garden just outside the front porch. I planted 3 aloe plants there about a month ago and they seem to be thriving so decided to plant the top of the latest home grown one mentioned above and a side shoot the same plant had produced. I’m definitely self sustaining with pineapple now.

My neighbor spotted a baby gator in the lake and after a few days of luring it in with fish food, managed to catch it. It was 27” long, so no danger to anything at this time. Nonetheless, he’ll be relocated to a more remote lake – update – he relocated it to Lake George, Florida’s second largest lake, so he’ll have plenty of company. The other “jungle event” that happened was watching a group of three adult armadillos run across the bottom of George’s property and disappear into the jungle at the corner between his property and outs. It’s unusual to see them in daylight but really unusual about 5 minutes later to see them scoot by me on the other side of the fence maybe 5’ away and even more unusual to have them literally bump into me as they crawled under the fence and headed back to the lakefront. I jumped much higher than I would have thought possible.

Summer lake party this week

We’ve received 3” of rain in the last two days with more on the horizon. Along with the rain came big time thunder and lightning. I’ve been sprigging the back yard with St Augustine grass so this weather is exactly what the doctor ordered. Now I need a dry day to mow it. The lake is up nicely, about where it should be for mid July. We have company coming for a few days or a week so the dock should become the focal point for the action.

At this point most of the spring/summer garden has been pulled out and tilled for the next round of crops – 7 out of 11 rows ready to go. The game now is to let it cook in the July/August heat, killing off nematodes, and to start seeds indoors for transplant to the garden in September. Other than the tomato overload, I wasn’t really pleased with the rest of the stuff. The weather was just too weird (I think). We got zucchini but nowhere’s near as much as we should have. Ditto cucumbers, green peppers, and eggplant. A more normal lament is exactly the opposite – overload in the last veggies and skimpy on the tomatoes. I’m going to see if I can squeeze out a larger than normal fall crop but that’s always iffy and I’d probably be better off forgetting fall and focus on producing a sterling winter crop. Decisions, decisions, decisions!!!!

One bright spot – at the beginning of the season, April, I planted several watermelon seeds – a new, prize winning variety. For the most part, they eventually died – all but one plant way back in a corner of the garden. Last week I glanced back there and spotted a watermelon but got called away before examining it more closely. Today I got back and found 4 melons and a thriving bush loaded with blossoms. Now I’m a happy camper. According to the seed pack, we should be picking watermelons 90 days after planting the seeds so we’re not too far off track. That plus having a pineapple ready to pick now. I’m holding off waiting for our great great niece to do the honors next week. This will be the second pineapple from this plant and interestingly, it looks like 4 more sprouts are emerging right below this single fruit. It’s my understanding that I can cut those new sprouts from the main plant and start new ones. Honestly, we could fill the garden with home grown pineapple if we replanted all the new sprouts and the top cutting from the picked fruit.

Best Sauce Season Ever

Worn to a frazzle cutting firewood. A while back George and I felled a fairly good size oak tree and a giant pine. We cut it into 3’ chunks for future splitting. His nephew has a 12 ton log splitter and lent it to George for the occasion. It took us 2 four hour days to split and stack it – about all we can handle in this heat. We worked from about 8 AM until noon. I also broke out the power washer and did the back porch and front deck in the late afternoon. I made good progress all week fighting back the jungle so we’re in pretty good shape for expected company.

To celebrate we did lunch at Persimmon Hollow in downtown Deland. Picked up taco’s across the alley and then quaffed a couple brews. What could be better? The taco’s there are really exceptional and convenient. You order the taco’s and they give you a buzzer to alert you when they’re ready. That gives you time to cross the alley to the brewery and have a draft pulled.

As predicted the last batch of tomatoes yielded a full 12 quart pot of sauce. We’re down to a small handful of tomatoes but simply ran out of pot. A final measure of the sauce stored in the freezer, not counting all the sauce we ate or gave away during the season – 2 cubic feet. It occupies 1/3 of the 6 cubic foot freeze stacked nicely. Based on that I’m going to limit the fall tomato planting to maybe 8-10 plants. The sauce this year is noticeably better than in previous years, all because of the superior tomatoes. Usually Florida tomatoes are nearly tasteless but these particular varieties or the growing conditions this year resulted in the best tasting tomatoes ever (in Florida).

I’ve got nearly half the garden cleaned out now and a huge pile of compost to work down. The garden will mostly rest now until the next season starts in September. I started pulling the tomato plants from the garden and was really happy to find virtually no nematode damage at all. From the yield I was expecting only minimal damage but this was much cleaner than I had imagined. The varieties I planted claimed nematode resistance but so have many others I’ve tried with no success at all. I also planted these with special care using every trick I’ve developed so it was probably a combination of all these measures.

We went to Olivia’s 21st birthday this past weekend. The guests included some family, some of Olivia’s friends, some of Tina’s friends, and some of Tom’s co-workers and students. An interesting mix to be sure. They broke out the Oasis frozen drink machine which had been inactive for several years so the margarita’s and kin were flowing. The original plan was to eat and then have a non stop pool volley ball game but a substantial storm built and rained out the game.

I’ll say one thing about Nancy’s impaired vision – she sure still plays a mean bridge game, buys loads of quilting material both online and in person, and spends a fair amount of time perusing the internet. And she can still see any micro spec of dirt I happen to bring in on my shoes.