Polar Vortex on the Way

Tom and Tina got us a set of Blue Apron meals as part of our Christmas. We’ve made the first two (of three), a Ragu dish and a chicken dish. We’ll finish the last one today, a pork dish. The first two were delicious and in both cases, were meals I could prepare without assistance from the head chef. We have the ingredients for the Ragu on hand most of the time – well, during kale season anyway. With the chicken was a vegetable side roasting (read Holland grill) cabbage and bell peppers coated with olive oil and then when cooked, finished with a sauce that uses sugar, rice vinegar, water, and one that will require some research to duplicate, something called Golden Mountain Sauce. Apparently it’s used in Thai cooking so I’m hoping it’s available in the oriental section of local markets. If not, Amazon to the rescue.

Simon and Amy visited for a couple days and we had a great time. The weather was yucky by Florida standards – overcast and mostly in the mid 50’s – but we managed to visit Persimmon Hollow and troll once around the lake for spec’s. The beer was good, the fishing not so much. We took Simon’s dog, River, out in the boat which could have been a serious mistake if Simon hadn’t made an all star catch when she decided to jump overboard. They went back to Lake Mary where we’ll see them again tomorrow at a New Year’s day party at Tom’s. It’s billed as a Peach Bowl event which this year pits UCF, Tom and Olivia’s school, and Auburn, Amy’s alma mater and where Simon is getting his master’s. My head tells me Auburn, as an SEC team, will dominate but my heart is with UCF. So depending on your outlook, this is either a win-win or a lose-lose for me.

Getting ready for the polar vortex now clobbering the north to make it’s way here. The weather guru’s are forecasting a freeze for Thursday which means I have a few days to prepare. I have plenty of covers and plenty of time but the forecast also calls for rain on Wednesday so if I put the covers on too soon, the wet covers will crush the plants. I have everything stationed and ready so I’m hoping that as the front get’s closer, a window opens to let me cover up without the rain. The only thing I’m most likely to lose are the tomatoes and peppers. We’ve harvested so many green peppers that even with a total loss, the crop still registers as a success. Of a dozen tomato plants, we’ve been picking cherry tomatoes for about a month – that’s 3 of the 12 plants. There are green tomatoes on another 6 and just blossoms on the remainder. What I really should plant is an earlier variety – something that produces in 60 days -rather than the variety I chose, 90 days. Seems obvious but the 90 day variety is the most disease and nematode resistant whereas the early varieties are not so hardy. I’m going to really study the catalogs in search of a new hybrid that fits the bill.

I hope the global warming crowd is happy as we enter a new ice age.

Ready for a little Global Warming

Xmas report. Met Joey and Mark along with his mother Peggy, Paul and Francesca for a pre-Christmas luncheon at the Willow Tree in Sanford. Wonderful time. Then We went over to Flagler beach on Christmas eve to take Wilma out for lunch. We went to the Funky Pelican on the pier and it couldn’t have been a nicer day to sit outside by the beach. Went to Lake Mary on Christmas which has been the tradition since we moved back to Florida. Everything was great – food, company, and gifts. We got there about 10AM and left around 5 to get home before dark.

Shock – Chris turned 40 (on Christmas day). How old does that make us???? He got the full benefit of the holiday birthday with several of his stores throwing surprise birthday parties – no green or red decorations. We reminded him that if his birthday had been something other than Dec 25, then no surprise parties. Still no word on the potential Dallas move but it should be announced within this week.

The garden is going bonkers. I’m giving credit to the extra large loads of compost I’ve added in the past 6 months. It’s been years since we grew such great green peppers. We always get some but this year is really exceptional. I was charged with bringing the salad makin’s to the Christmas party and picked it all just before we left. I picked two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of kale, a few baby chard leaves, beet leaves, spinach leaves, radishes, cherry tomatoes and carrots. I could have included a broccoli head but decided that would be over the top. We’ll eat that this week. Within the next two weeks we should be adding cabbage and cauliflower to the table mix and we’ll start providing kale and collard greens to the little old bridge ladies. The tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes and I only hope that the cold weather heading our way is manageable. If not, I have loads of seedling plants ready to fill the space. Right now we’re at 100% full – only a few square inches available to pop in seeds. Spinach is my go-to space filler. Each plant doesn’t take up much space and keeps putting out new leaves as you pick.

Bet the folks in Erie PA are hoping for a little global warming.

Trip to NYC

I’m in shock and mourning. Remember that surf reel I mentioned as out for repair? Well, the repair guy called and Shimano no longer makes the spare parts for that reel – so it’s nearly history. The problem with it is the level wind so I told him to put it back together but remove the level wind parts and let me see if I can use it without that feature. He also threw out a thread of hope that Shimano might just send me a new reel. I know that sounds like a major win (if it happens) but the thing is, reels cast better with age as they break in.

Update – he found the parts on E-Bay and fixed it. Better than ever. I’ll reward it with a large bluefish next week. Also found a place to get a new tip installed on my surf rod so that’s behind me as well. I was a little nervous because I had promised to take Simon and Amy surf fishing over the Christmas break and my gear was looking a little questionable. Good to go.

We had an outstanding weekend. Tommy and Tina took us to NYC for a Broadway show – got the plane tickets, hotels, transportation, meals – the complete package. We spent Saturday night at their house then left for the airport early Sunday morning. Flew into Laguardia and got a cab to the Sheraton in downtown Manhattan. Lunch at Juniors deli, dinner at Heartland Brewery, and the show, Beautiful, at the Sondheim Theatre. After the show we did the lights at Rockefeller Center, Times Square and all the touristy things. The light show at Saks fifth avenue was indescribable. I’ve never ever been in a more crowded environment including a Tokyo subway at rush hour. While all this was happening, the lights were gone at the Atlanta airport where we were scheduled to be Monday afternoon. Other than that and the generally cold weather, it couldn’t have been a better trip. We got to Atlanta and of course our original flight had been cancelled but we were able to secure standby tickets for a flight only a couple hours later than originally scheduled. We boarded without a hitch and were back home in Lake Mary just after dark. We really didn’t feel like driving home to the lake so we spent the night there and enjoyed the Voice with the family. I had an eye doctor appointment in Deland early Tuesday morning and it was actually closer from Tom’s house than the lake so that worked out perfectly.

The eye doc said I can make it another 6 months and then have to give serious consideration to cataract surgery. As the designated driver here, not sure how that’ll fit into the program but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Here come the blues

The garden loves spec season. After cleaning, I bury the carcasses strategically to bring the nourishment where it will do the most good. Today’s catch ended up resting amongst the Swiss Chard plants; yesterday’s did the cabbage. I have to be careful to bury them deep enough to keep the critters from digging them up. One day last year I walked over to the garden to find a large flock of big buzzards pulling up everything in sight to get to the buried treasure. What a mess that was. Now when I plant a carcass I place a palmetto frond stem directly over it to make landing difficult.

Another wintry blast. This one brought snow to San Antonio where Chris was spending the day. Who ever heard of such a thing. Snow in Mobile too. We are expecting near freeze conditions over the next few days but it probably won’t happen right here. We’re within a hundred feet of the lake and that normally provides just enough warmth to keep us a few degrees above the surrounding neighborhood. At least the tomatoes are hoping for that. My plan is to wait until about 3PM this afternoon then wrap sheets around the tomato, pepper and zucchini plants. My guess is that we’ll drop into the upper 30’s with some patchy frost and those are the only crops that would suffer from that.

Nancy corralled me into taking her to Gainesville to deliver quilts to the children’s infusion lab at the university hospital. Her and her friend Esther make a few every week and when the pile get’s high, someone takes them up. This was a 25 quilt pile and it was our turn. We made a day of it – breakfast at the Flying Biscuit and pasta shopping at Fresh Market.

The last time I went surf fishing – the Monday bridge game in Palm Coast – was a disaster. The wind was blowing, the surf was super rough, and my primary casting reel broke. Fast forward a week and I dropped my reel off at a repair shop then headed to the surf taking my second favorite outfit. We’ve had cold, cold weather for the past couple of days but it was warming up and the surf was awesome (for fishing). And the beach was nearly deserted. I’d heard rumors of blues in the surf and came armed with frozen finger mullet for bait. When I went to rig up I realized that some of the terminal tackle I knew was in the tackle box, wasn’t. Ok, I can improvise something. Just before making the first cast I noticed that the line was not hanging properly from the rod. Oh, no – the tip guide was broken. I wasn’t sure it would cast at all in that condition but decided to go for it and lay out a long one. Perfect. And 5 minutes later I was landing a medium size bluefish. Fifteen minutes later a larger fish grabbed it hard enough to yank the rod out of the sand spike. After a nice fight, I landed a 3’ black tip shark. Another successful cast and 15 minutes later, another 3’ shark. All in all, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Hopefully by next week I’ll have the old reel back and ready for action and the backup rod repaired and ready. I do have a backup rod for the backup rod so………………

Big Peach Bowl

This is a really busy time in the garden. We’re picking, transplanting seedlings started in mid October, and planting seeds in the house that will be the final cool weather crop in April. We have about 10 tomato plants and that many green pepper plants which will be done – either picked out or frozen – by sometime in January (hopefully) and the newest seedlings will go in when the those plants are pulled. We’re at the point where something has to come out for anything new to go in – 100% planted. This last planting will be cabbage since that’s our hottest seller and can handle spring heat in April and maybe into May. At the first of the year, I plant the seeds for what will become the 2018 spring – summer crop. The only real break is from mid July to mid Sept when the heat and the humidity are too much for most anything including the farmer.

Tried something new (to us). We took a zucchini and “spiralized” it. The result was a pile of pasta like zucchini noodles about the size of linguini. We boiled those for about 2 minutes then mixed with Nancy’s home made pasta sauce. A perfect, low cal pasta-like side. We were having sausage, onion and green pepper hoagies with Nancy’s home made pasta sauce so the squash made a perfect side. I think next time we’ll try using the zucchini “noodles” with olive oil, garlic and whatever moves us – maybe some fresh green from the garden. I do think we’ll have to upgrade the spiralizer to handle larger zucchini.

Just watched the AAC championship game with UCF and Memphis. Wow, what a game! UCF wins in double overtime. The game last week against South Florida was also a nail biter. Too bad this will be the last game for the coach who seems to be headed for the head coaching job at Nebraska. For those who don’t follow the team, they went from a winless season two years ago to a perfect season this year. Now comes the final game of the season with the Peach Bowl. Big game for the family with Tom employed by UCF and Simon (and his intended) employed by Auburn. Pretty sure we’ll be doing New Year’s day at the Lake Mary Carbone’s.

Great weekend. Joanne came up Saturday morning and took Nancy shopping. They shopped till they literally dropped on Saturday and then repeated it on Sunday. It was all Christmas and clothes shopping, my least favorite activities. Nancy was happy, I was happy and Joanne gets the hero button.