Fat Fingers Affliction

Veggie seeds are interesting things. About a month ago I planted seeds in 3” x 3” peat pots filled with a seed starting soil mix. I’m sure I mentioned previously how surprising it is to see them germinate within hours of each other. I usually put 2 seeds in each pot and if both germinate, I transplant one to another pot of the same size. As weather permits, I put them outside to get filtered sunlight rather than artificial lighting. As they grow I increase the sun exposure so they are “hardened” for life in the real world. I started the process this year being extra careful because I was using the very few leftover seeds from last season and I’ve ended up with a fine set of seedlings waiting for the big move. I check them everyday to make sure they have plenty of moisture and was surprised today to find 4 new seed germinations overnight. I’ve always known that there are some late germinators but the surprise is to see all those germinate on the same day, almost 4 weeks after planting. We do use lots of green peppers so the only problem is having enough garden space and since I have it all mentally allocated, what other plant has to go to provide the space. Another factor complicating the issue is that I managed to save all the plants from last season and those have starting putting out new blossoms. I had planned for the fall crop to be totally gone by now rather than just getting started on a new crop. Even after giving away plants already accounted for, I could easily end up with 20+ plants. And by now several of the new tomato seedlings would have crashed but due to the special attention I’ve given them, I’m well over 100% there and facing the same space dilemma. Do we really need eggplants?; zucchini?; fewer green beans? Now watch – a freak freeze will solve all my problems. One good thing is that I’ve totally given up on corn so that releases about a third of the garden for other things.

Started fishing from the kayak after dinner and before it gets dark. This is the beginning of the bass bedding season and the time of year where the monsters are on the shoreline building and protecting their beds. I’ve been picking up a few small ones here and there but last night hooked into a monster. I had him/her on long enough to think I could land it through all the water lilies and other vegetation. Wrong, he got tangled up in the brush and the knot on the lure slipped so I not only lost the fish but the lure. And it was a brand new, hard to find lure. I only know one place where I can possibly find one without resorting to ordering on line. I need it tonight! And a spare (or two). So the online solution doesn’t help tonight. I’ve lost more lures in the past few months than I have in my lifetime, cumulatively and it all stems from my increasing inability to see the line properly when tying the knots. The goal of the line manufacturers is to make the leader material strong yet nearly invisible. Mission accomplished, especially the nearly invisible part. And I seem to have a new infliction – fattening of the fingers. It also wouldn’t hurt as much if I was losing dollar lures instead of ten dollar lures. Maybe the new tax law will let me write these off.

George is back in the hospital for another heart issue – this time AFIB, an electrical problem which could generate blood clots and a stroke. He’s having a procedure which is supposed to resynchronize the system. They place an instrument down the throat into the chest and up against the heart. Then zap it. It may work the first time and stay in sync forever or it could require doing the procedure every now and then. That poor guy has had so many different, unrelated heart issues that it’s surprising he’s still alive. He’s had new valves installed, pace makers installed, defib’s installed, liquid pumped out of his lungs and now the shock treatment. Other than that, he’s healthy and active which is no doubt why he survives all these issues

update – the shock treatment didn’t work so back to looking for a solution. They did find some additional leaky valves.

Weather – too much of a good thing?

The weather we’ve had for the past two weeks and forecast for the next two is typical of mid April. That doesn’t mean it can’t turn cold in March but right now, my play on early starts for seedlings and planting beans in the garden is feeling less risky. The bean seed started germinating in 6 days compared to an expected 10-14. So far, so good. Also, transplanted all the seedlings into larger containers and gave them a small dose of liquid fertilizer. That’s a big step in the progression and usually there are a few casualties but so far, two days later, no losses. I also planted a few cucumber seeds directly in the garden, about 3 weeks earlier than I had planned. With weather visibility out to nearly mid March, I’m gaining confidence that this is just going to be an early spring. But the unexpectedly warm weather is creating a garden problem. The seedlings are growing much faster than anticipated and I don’t have enough room available in the garden to transplant them. Also, the compost I use when transplanting the seedlings is not ready. I had it timed for mid to late March so it’s not “cooked”.

And the garden is now officially feeding little old ladies in two bridge clubs. We’re producing far more kale, collards, and lettuce than we can possibly use. I had expected my neighbors would be taking more this year with George’s grandson and his family moving in but they prefer eating out to cooking in.

We found a “new” breakfast hole in the wall. A place called C Waffles. It’s apparently a local chain but it certainly seems like a purely local operation. It’s located in a place that was a marginal Chinese restaurant for a few years – the kind that you knew was trapping local animals for the protein in the chow mein. We drove by it a few times heading for an old standby but couldn’t help but notice that the parking lot was jammed – so we decided to give it a try. It was small and noisy but the crowd seemed to be a happy bunch so we stayed. Wow, the food was great. You’d have to say that there shouldn’t be much difference in breakfast food from place to place but these eggs just tasted better and the hash browns were as good as they get. Nancy tried a waffle – egg sandwich and sang the praises of the waffle. I went more traditional with an omelet, hash browns and a biscuit. Excellent. I’ve had better biscuits but never, ever had better hash browns. The big negative is the small size and the number of customers – which results in a really noisy background. It’s noisy enough that I would never go back if the food weren’t stellar.

Cone head style cabbage

Had the second installment of the Blue Apron gift – an orange glazed chicken dish. This one was a little more challenging since it had 3 pans going simultaneously with lots of action going on with each. The only “new” part (to us) was the mashed potatoes. You cut the potatoes into cubes then boiled along with 3 cloves of garlic mashed. Drained and returned to the pot where you added a couple tablespoons of olive oil and some chopped scallions – no butter or milk. They were really good and must be fairly low in calories since the whole meal was only 500 calories per serving. The rest of the meal was oven roasted carrots and broccoli and a pan fried chicken breast with a glaze added at the very end so most of the calories had to be from the potatoes. The next one is a pasta bolognese that’s we’ve had before. As these recipes go, it’s really easy

The new tomato seedlings have started sprouting the first set of true leaves and the green peppers and eggplants are just breaking ground. Looks like good germination on those too. I have two “customers” for my overage so I’m being more careful than usual – my reputation is at stake. I took a giant leap into the wild side – planted a row of green bean seeds in the garden. That’s a month early and it’s likely we’ll get another cold snap. The AG folks say not to plant before March 20 in our area. Beans are a delicate crop with respect to temperature but the weather has been moderate for a couple of weeks and the 10 day forecast looks good – lows in the mid 60’s, highs in the mid 80’s. That plus I have seeds left over from last season so even if I have to replant, no great loss. The other advantage to getting in an early crop is that the bugs aren’t nearly as fierce now as they will be in a couple of months.

How do you like the cabbage? This cone variety is really tender and works well chopped up for taco’s, shredded for coleslaw, or very lightly cooked as a veggie side. Nancy bought a cali ham and made ham and cabbage (with garden carrots) the other night. Delicious.

The Hot Water Heater Challenge

Took on a job that I had been putting off for quite a while – mostly because it wasn’t bothering me and because it had a very large downside if things went bad. A few months back Nancy and a visiting guest complained that our water “smelled”. That’s an indication of sulphur and is present in most wells. I can’t smell it so it’s not an issue to me. That plus excess iron is the reason we have a water softener. We called Culligan and they said the softener was just fine and the culprit was probably the hot water heater but he changed the softener tanks anyway and the problem went away – that means Nancy stopped complaining. The Culligan guy suggested draining the hot water tank and refilling- sometimes that works but in most cases, a new water heater is in the cards. Yesterday she advised that the smell was back. Also that Joey was coming over to take her out shopping. That seemed like the right time to tackle the job when I could clean up any mess I created before she knew about it. And draining and filling a tank is fraught with possibilities for disaster. The tank is located in a utility area in the house so no rugs to ruin and I found the drain valve conveniently located. It’s also convenient to the back door so it’s a short run to a drain area. There’s no repair manual but it was fairly obvious that you just hook up a garden hose to the drain valve and run it outside. I have plenty of hoses and eventually overcame the reluctance of the hose and the tank fittings to mate up properly with only a tolerable amount of leakage. I wrapped the connection with a plastic bag to catch leakage as needed. I turned off the power to the unit since it made sense to me that you wouldn’t want the heater rods active when the tank is empty then opened the heater valve and waited for the nasty old water to flow out the hose. Didn’t happen as planned. I could tell the valve opened properly and could see a few drops of water leaking at the connection point but nothing was coming out of the hose. It was an old hose that I hadn’t used in ages and I guessed it was possible that it was clogged with critters so I disconnected it from the water heater and connected it to an outside spigot. Sure enough a colony of ants and other critters had set up the hose as a home base. Bad decision on their part. When it was flowing smoothly, I reconnected it to the hot water heater and tried draining it again. Success. It took about half hour to drain while also running water in the kitchen sink and bathtub. I drained until it was 100% cold water and then a few more minutes. Removed the hose, tossed the half gallon or so I’d collected in the bag and wiped up the stuff I hadn’t caught and then turned power back on. A half hour later I tested for hot water – success. Since I can’t smell the sulphur anyway, I have to wait for the chief sniffer to pass judgement. My guess is that the road eventually leads to a new hot water heater but this project should have bought me a few weeks.

I finished up just in time to leave and meet Joey and Nancy at Persimmon Hollow. Tried a new brew – a blueberry wheat ale that I could easily get hooked on.

Saw an interesting natural event this morning. This is red shoulder hawk mating season and we have plenty of them around. It’s not unusual for me to walk over to the garden and see a hawk atop the bean trellis. We have moles all over and I’ve seen the hawks drop down from the high perch of the trellis and pounce on an underground mole. They’re about the size of a mouse and move underground eating worms or whatever they find. You actually see a mound where they are tunneling. But this time when the hawk dropped down, he/she picked up a claw full of the pine needles I use to line the garden pathways and flew over to a nearby pine tree where they are building a nest. How neat is that!!

Tom and Tina bought Nancy another round of Blue Apron. Since I have to do the cooking it’s a real treat for her – so long as I don’t screw it up. We ate the first one – pork chops with roasted veggies – fennel and sweet potato – and a pear/onion compote. I must admit, I killed it. I’ve done enough of these now to understand exactly how to approach them so it went without a hitch. And I figured that as much expertise as I’ve gained making compost, compote would be a dunk.

Good Start to the Next Season

Our neighbor George is back in the hospital with heart issues. I spent a couple hours working with him on Saturday unloading a bedroom set and setting it up and noticed that he was really puffy with stored water and short of breath with only mild exertion. I guess it only got worse and his heart started doing “flips” Sunday. At half time of the Superbowl it got bad enough for him to go to the emergency room where they started draining the excess fluid. Barbara said they got rid of a couple of quarts Sunday night. He has had congestive heart failure for several years but George and Barbara treat that like something you “catch and cure” rather than being a chronic condition that has to be dealt with continuously. He’s also had a heart valve replacement and a pacemaker installed so he has more than a few cardiac issues to deal with. I visited him in the hospital on Monday – Nancy plays bridge in Palm Coast so I was in the general vicinity anyway. They did a stress test which he “passed” so he was released yesterday and is looking much better. They got 2 gallons of excess fluid and convinced him that paying attention to his diuretic med’s was a good idea.

We whipped up a batch of “loaded roast cauliflower salad” as we work our way through the cauliflower recipe library we’ve built up. I think we have about 3 weeks more cauliflower plants in the garden then we have to switch our attention to the leafy greens. Among those my favorite is the Swiss Chard and this season I’m paying much more attention to it – keeping it picked and keeping snails from chowing down on the new leaves. It’s the prime ingredient in my lunchtime smoothies. Nancy took in a “batch” of greens to the bridge ladies in Crescent City that included collards, kale, and lettuce. Much appreciated.

I mentioned planting seeds indoors for the spring crop. Those included 3 varieties of tomatoes, plum, cherry, and regular round ones. Within 4 days, 100% of the cherry tomato seeds had germinated and 4 days later the other varieties popped out as well – so I’m off to a good start. I’m going to approach this crop differently than in the past by exposing them to sunlight much earlier. We’re experiencing perfect weather for that purpose – mid to upper 70’s, mostly sunshine with an occasional cloud. My theory is that exposure to direct sunlight much earlier than I have done in the past will result in sturdier seedlings as compared to the long, leggy ones I usually produce indoors with artificial light. My new thinking is that the sturdier plants will have a better chance of survival when I transplant them in the garden next month. Our night time temps are in the lower 50’s so I bring them in at night, at least for the next week to ten days. Part of the danger of my new approach is that I forget they’re outside and they get nipped by the cool air. I also started eggplant and green pepper seeds at the same time but no signs of any germination yet on those. I don’t expect to see any action there for another week so I’m just assuming that everything is going according to plan underground.