A Full Thanksgiving

Did Thanksgiving at Tom’s this year.

We were tasked with bringing a veggie tray to the event. Actually Joey was but somehow Nancy took it over. There’s not a lot coming out of the garden yet but we are picking green peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and radishes – all suitable for the tray. I decided to wait until the last minute to pick so everything would be at the freshest possible. I knew on Wednesday that rain was forecasted on Thanksgiving day but the forecasters and the radar said the rain would hold off until about noon in our area so no problem holding off the harvest until just a few hours before we left for Tom’s. About 6AM I woke up when the rain started pounding the roof. I had left some seedlings out overnight so I had to jump up out of bed and run out to move them back under the porch. That was a good move because it was not raining too hard. I stayed up so I could go over to the garden and pick when the rain stopped. It didn’t and only got harder. By 10AM Nancy is in the prep mode and needed the garden contribution. I wondered if I could even find the garden it was raining so hard. Couldn’t even see the lake. And you can’t pick radishes while holding an umbrella. The only good thing was that I wouldn’t have to worry about washing the dirt off the radishes between the house and the garden. It slowed down to just pouring when I made my move. The garden was totally flooded – the paths between the planting rows were (cuff deep) rivers – but I survived. To cap it off, Nancy was “unhappy” that my feet were wet in the kitchen. Then it was tricky getting the plates of food from the house to the car without drowning and no fun driving in hard rain to Tom’s. It rained about 3/4 of the trip but cleared up before we arrived. After a great feast, we checked the traffic report and weather radar to find that the hard rain persisted – starting just about where it ended on the trip down and ending at our house so we left earlier than anticipated to keep most of the trip in the light. Made it. The rain gauge showed we had accumulated 4”. Can’t wait to check out the garden and see how much of it floated away. update – had some losses but no disaster.

Tom and Tina bought extra tickets for an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, “Love Never Dies”, the sequel to Phantom and invited us to join them. We went to a local sports bar, watched the Auburn Alabama game in a raucous environment, ate lots of hot wings and made the show with plenty of time to spare. The show itself was not all that good – just not up to Weber standards in my opinion. A little way into the second half, there was a stage malfunction that halted the show for about a half hour so it was close to 11PM when it ended and just past midnight when we got back to Lake Mary. We got up fairly early by Tom’s standards, had breakfast at an old favorite haunt of mine – a place we ate at frequently back in the 60’s, and then went over to see Olivia’s house/condo near the UCF campus. Tom bought it as an investment and for Olivia to have a really nice, safe abode. She has two roommates and plenty of room. It’s a mile or so from the main campus and a place we’d be happy to live in ourselves.

Then a stop at a nearby Costco so Nancy could pick up a “few things” she had forgotten on the last trip. It was advertised as a stop to pick up a package of socks but I knew it would end up with a full basket. yep! So all in all, we had a full and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

Monster fish story

The garden is taking off nicely now. I’ve had great success in thinning and transplanting lettuce, carrots, beets and spinach and the kale, collards, chard and other greens are taking off. At the same time, we’re picking a few cherry tomatoes and green peppers. Last year was a good year but at least half of what I grew went to waste – even with major giveaways to Nancy’s buddies. This year my neighbor and his grandson, also a neighbor, are pledging diets that will be supposedly garden driven. We’ll see. I planted extra lettuce, enlarged the kale row and have about a dozen swiss chard plants started. So not counting lesser appreciate greens – radish and beet – we should be rolling in salad material by the end of November. I also took into account providing for Nancy’s new friends in the crochet club. These are little old southern gals who love their greens.

The big milestone occurred today when I made a green smoothie using greens from the garden. For the past 6 months we’ve had to buy spinach from the grocery store to make smoothies so the garden should be the source for the next 6 months. It’s still very early and I had to look hard to find a few leaves that were big enough to pick. I ended up with a mix of collard greens, kale, and a whole radish – tops and bottom. I coupled that with homegrown pineapple, frozen from last season – deeelicious.

I was killing time fishing at Palm Coast while Nancy played bridge. The wind was howling from the northeast so the surf was a mess. Always prepared, I broke out my inshore fishing gear and headed to the seawall on the intracoastal in Washington Oaks State Park. The wind was still howling and there were whitecaps. Not expecting much, I none the less decided to give it a try – just to kill time. About 10 casts into it, I got a monster hit – a splash equivalent to throwing a concrete block into the water. It tore off and I got one look at a monster redfish before he rolled on the line and cut it. Unfortunately knowing that the fishing was going to be poor and short lived, I didn’t bring my tackle box from the parking lot to the seawall – a couple hundred yards away. I decided it was worth the walk. I had one more lure similar to the lost one and tied it on. Back to the seawall, another dozen casts, another monster strike and alas, another broken line. It’s not like this is a known hot spot. I’ve fished it and fished it and fished it with little or no luck. The only reason I go there is that it’s convenient and pleasant – a good place to kill an hour or so. Now I’ll be approaching it with more consideration to the potential. Actually I’m not sure what I would do if I wore one of these giants to submission since the seawall is about 6’ above the water so not sure how I would get the fish from the water to the seawall. I’ll worry about that when it poses a real problem.

Rat attacks car – car 1, rat 0

We’re about to become barbecue central with the addition of another roadside smoker operation. We have an excellent one about 3 miles north of us on US17 and will have one about 2 miles south of us just off US17 on highway 40. Both of these are well known for ribs and give us two places to stop on the way home from Nancy’s bridge clubs. When she plays in Crescent City we often stop and pick up a rack of ribs on Wednesday afternoon. Now we’ll be able to do the same when returning from Palm Coast on Mondays.

On the way over to Palm Coast the feared and dreaded “check engine” light came on. I checked everything I know to check – which isn’t much – to no avail. We were scheduled to Crescent City two days later so I decided to stop at the car mechanic there while Nancy played bridge. The check engine light was still on continuously all the way – in three days it never went out but about 2 minutes after the mechanic took the car out for a check, he returned and said the light was out – never on. Incredible. It had been on non-stop for 3 days and went out when the repair dude hit the ignition. He put on a tester which reads the car’s computer and tells why the light was on. It said there had been a single cylinder misfire but nothing now. He said that perhaps the one cylinder had had a momentary breakdown, an arc over or something and he’d shine a light on that cylinder and see if there was any indication of a misfire. To do that he had to remove a cover. A couple minutes later he said he saw absolutely nothing but I had a rat problem. OMG. Not the rats again. I looked at the engine block where he pointed and I could see lots of debris, wood chips, acorns etc. I picked out the pieces and found what I thought was a 2” x 4” piece of bark – leather like. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a completely dried out dead rat. If you looked closely you could definitely see the head and teeth so no mistaking what it was. No way that caused the check engine light but………. They suggested that the only way to combat future attacks was to fill an old sock with moth balls and place it on the ground under the parked car. We have done that since the last rat event but not in about 6 months and they must have lost their mojo. I had established a routine of checking under the hood every now and then but dropped it somewhere along the way. Need to get back in the groove on that as routine maintenance.

It’s no coincidence that we went to Costco yesterday and the stock rose $2.50 the same day. We haven’t been there in quite a while and Nancy wanted to make sure we wouldn’t run out of anything for the next 6 months. Both of our outside freezers and the fridge are now absolutely full. It took an hour to unload the car and put everything away. One of the sheds has more paper products than a “Publix”. I did score a fleece line shirt jacket that should work well this winter – gardening or fishing.
I made shrimp scampi the other day. In fact the recipe is called “super shrimp scampi” and (we think) it’s well named. Truly a different scampi than we’ve had before and it’s simple enough for me to make with no hitches or adult supervision. It even used some garden herbs – parsley, basel, and oregano.

Speck’s startin’

This is about when the speckled perch start schooling up. I consider Thanksgiving the official start but like to get the kinks out of the gear on Halloween. The clock actually works for me now by getting dark early. I can go fishing late in the afternoon, fish until dark, and still be home before the designated dinner hour. It also works for me in the morning because I’m an early riser and can be out on the lake before Nancy even wakes up. I went out last night for the first time this season and caught 4 spec’s and a bluegill in about an hour. That’s not spectacular but ok. The fish were all small so I didn’t have to break out the fish cleaning gear. Next day George and I went out and ended up with 2 meal sized bags of fish fillets. Since it only gets better as the season progresses, this could be a really good season.

I got the parts needed to elevate the antenna and so far, so good. It’s wobbly and certainly wouldn’t hold up to any heavy weather but the reception is as good as we ever got. I’ll give it a couple of weeks to see how it performs in rain but if it stays good, I’ll get a more solid, permanent solution. Update – reception back to “spotty” . Not exactly sure where to go from here. It’s just so tough dealing with a 30’ pole and antenna in terms of checking connections etc but I’m thinking it’s more atmospherics and noise interference than local equipment. The other thing that really confuses the issue is that I can manually switch from the old antenna to the new one – sometimes the new one performs better but just as often, the old one performs better. Occasionally they’re both great; occasionally they’re both bummers.

Nancy and her quilting buddy headed up to Savannah for a quilt shop crawl which will include places like Hilton Head SC, St. Simon’s Island GA. It was an overnighter. I think she needs a break from me!
Joey and Mark came up yesterday and spent all day doing chores; Joey helping Nancy doing cleanups and mowing; Mark help me install a new sprinkler controller, clean up the antenna wiring, and replace the ultra high light bulbs in the screened porch. Just so you don’t think I can’t even change a light bulb myself, these bulbs are at a height of 16’. We borrowed a 12’ step ladder from a neighbor and installed 1100 lumen, bright white LED’s. Wow, what a difference. All in all, they put in a mostly full day of helping.

Garden Shaping Up

Another winter coming, that makes two in a row. We’re actually supposed to see an overnight low in the 40’s. What’s that all about? Should be back in the mid 80’s by mid week. The garden seems to be enjoying the change and all of the seedlings I’ve transplanted in the last couple of days are looking perky. I thinned a row of lettuce and replanted the ones I thinned so now I have more lettuce than we can possibly eat. Ditto beets although I have a feeling we’ll go through more beets this year than in the past. I learned at the very end of beet season last year that tossing in a whole beet – greens and root – into the Ninja blender made for a great smoothie. Planted additional carrot, radish, and spinach seeds. Between beet greens, spinach, and swiss chard we’ll have an abundance of dark green leafy veggies. What I’m hoping for is a good availability by Thanksgiving so we can bring that to the dinner at Tommy’s this year.

Here’s another observation relating to the cooler weather – the cardinals are no longer attacking the side mirrors on any vehicle that parks here. I don’t know whether they are just less active or have headed south for the winter but I’m fine with it. At the same time, there are loads of large woodpeckers flying around now. It’s not at all unusual to see a woodpecker now and again but there has been a sudden jump in the population. Thank God the woodpeckers don’t attack the mirrors – they could do real damage.
The Bridge Tourney went off as planned but it’s getting tougher for Nancy to deal with the faster pace there as compared to her normal club games. It’s also two days from 9AM till 6PM as compared to 1PM till 5PM on a normal, non tournament day. Right now she’s saying “no more tournaments” but I’ve heard that before. I did more surf fishing and although the surf was rough and roiled, managed to catch a few fish. Then we tried out a new brew pub for happy hour. On Saturday afternoon I opted for the friendly confines of Houligan’s to watch the gators get spanked by Georgia. It was a good place to watch the game since the majority of the customers were Gator fans and groaned at the right times.

I’m still trying to improve on the TV reception issue. It’s been worse since Irma and I’ve done as much as I can with what I have on hand so my next plan is to see how much I can gain by adding height. I think I can go up another 15’ with only a PVC pipe coupler and a 25’ coax cable. The coupler will allow me to add an extension piece to the existing pole and eliminate part of the current hay rig, specifically the sand spikes. The antenna I’m using is the one Tom brought up which has a 50 mile range. If adding another 10’ or so of altitude doesn’t improve things, the next step is to go to a higher gain antenna. I spotted one in Home Depot that claims a 60 mile range and seems easy to install.