Walls of Water Rule

Ok, put away the worry beads – the eggplants appear to be doing just fine as are 10 of the 11 pepper plants put in the garden last week. One pepper was attacked by a critter which I don’t count against me as the transplanter. I did make one adjustment a few days after the eggplants went in – cut palm fronds to shade the plants from direct sunlight for a week or so. I did that after they were wimping badly at the end of a day of sun and it made an immediate difference. The only seedlings still awaiting transplant to the garden are 4 peppers that I deliberately started later to extend the harvest and/or act as spares for ones that fall to critters.

I use a garden accessory called “wall of water” to protect my tomatoes from the cold. They allowed me to plant tomatoes in Utah as early as March and often the plant would be growing inside the wall’s protection with a foot of snow on the ground. It looks like a 2’ tall teepee of plastic cylinders, maybe a dozen or so, each filled with water. It works on the principle that the daytime sunshine warms the water so that the plants are heated at night when the outside temperature can be below freezing. I have 9 of them and they still work flawlessly with no leaks although they must be 20 years old. I’ve used them this year to protect 9 plants. I planted a total of 14 tomatoes this year so the other 5 have been protected as needed with pillow cases. The plants that have the water wall protection are all popping out of the top of the teepee so the plants are over 2’ tall whereas the ones protected by conventional covering as needed are less than half that size. So I think next year I’ll add a few more to my collection and use them on peppers and eggplants as well to get an extra early start. And guess what, a few of the tomato plants have blossoms already so living inside the water tent has really been an accelerant.

I’m going to use a different algorithm on the zucchini this year. I always lose a lot of fruit due to blossom end rot and boring critters. I make up for that by putting in way more plants than I need – playing a pure numbers game. I hate to use insecticides no matter how safe the manufacturers say they are so this year I’m going to put in fewer plants but cover them with a floating insect barrier cover that I bought last season and never used. Supposedly the mesh is sized to keep insects out but no heat buildup.

I’m amazed at the outrage over the “news” that Facebook postings are “public” and mined by all sorts of users. I have never thought anything else and assumed from the get go that selling information or selling access to demographics was how Facebook was monetized. And the fact that it could be used by politicians world wide just can’t be a surprise to anybody who thinks about it. What do they think the “WWW” stands for with every URL? Companies have been selling customer lists for years. Anybody get junk mail?

Nancy’s New Toy

Nancy has a new toy. One of her bridge buddies bought a device for quilting which she must be afraid to use. Plenty of money but a beginner’s apprehension. This is a device for cutting cloth into strips and/or a variety of different shapes. The basic machine is called an “Acuquilt” and along with that you buy cutting dies for different shapes. I think she was so intimidated by the machine that she gave it to Nancy to “try”. Getting it all set up and operating is something I wasn’t looking forward to, especially with Nancy hovering over me issuing instructions and advice and reminding me that this was an expensive piece of equipment. I’m not good at putting mechanical devices together and it takes me a little longer than it probably should but I can usually get it. The “coaching” from the sidelines is not a help. She got it yesterday afternoon and I said I had too much to do at that point because of the approaching freeze. Actually I knew she was going to her crochet group the next morning at 9:30 and I’d have several hours alone to figure it out. I was extra lucky because she overslept and was in too much of a panic to get ready for crochet group that the cutting machine never came up.

First thing I noticed was that the box had never been opened so that meant any screw-up’s were squarely on my shoulders. I got it out and found the instruction pamphlet. The instructions were for a lesser model with a hand crank for roll the material into the cutter whereas this model was fully automatic. Along with the machine she had bought 4 different cutting dies to cut 4 different shapes – a couple of triangles, squares, strips, and diagonals. Her friend had even included a few pieces of material for practice. It took me about a half hour to get ready for a test run – the biggest problem for me was that it was written for a quilter and used terms I didn’t understand. Anyway, the first pattern I cut came out perfect so I moved on to doing strips and a variety of other shapes. Definitely easier, faster, and more accurate than hand cutting but I don’t think Nancy will be able to operate it with her visual limitations – although she never ceases to amaze me at how much she can do with her fingers. I think I’m destined to be the designated cutter. Maybe when I show it to the owner she’ll scoop it up and take it home with her. I can only hope. My real concern about it is the continuing expense. There are loads of (expensive) templates with different shapes and sizes so I can easily see a large inventory building up. My other concern is sharpening the cutter. I’m just guessing but suspect you have to go back to the dealer to have it sharpened from time to time depending on the material type and machine usage.

It finally looks like the cold weather is history so I made the big plunge and planted all the seedlings into the garden. The day after check has the peppers doing just fine but the eggplant looking a little under the weather – still alive and kicking but not lovin’ the new digs. I also put in some new cucumber seeds, squash seeds and another 40’ row of green beans. All of these new seed plants are backup’s to existing plants to extend the season. I have a little room in the garden so might as well fill it.

Maybe too soon to say but the thyroid pills seem to be working in that I don’t feel nearly as tired as I did.

Sixtieth High School Reunion

We went to my sixtieth high school reunion this past weekend. It was held in Cocoa, near where Joey lives, so we spent the night with him instead of driving home. He dropped us off at the event and then picked us up just when we were getting ready to leave – perfect timing. Our graduating class was just over 100 folks and I’d estimate roughly a quarter of those were in attendance. Most of them were reasonably local but there was a couple from Arizona, Texas, and California and generically the southeast. I was the MC so that part was amateur hour for sure. Definitely a crowd of old folks in a variety of physical and mental conditions but it turned out much better than I had anticipated.

Might have gotten an answer to a physical problem that’s been bugging me. I’ve been tired for the last 6 months and had trouble coping with cool temps this year. Tired meaning I can get a full nights sleep and be yawning and ready for a nap a couple of hours later. And be that way most of the time. I have a general physical this week and had a blood draw last week as part of the process. The day after the test the nurse called and said I had a blood issue and to please contact them. Turns out I have an under active thyroid. I looked that up on the internet and found I have 7 of the 10 symptoms, the tiredness and cold sensitivity being the most obvious. The med is a bit inconvenient because you have to take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and I was told that I couldn’t even drink for at least a half hour after taking the pill. That wouldn’t work very well with my morning coffee. Then when I actually got the prescription filled, the label on the bottle said very specifically to take it on an empty stomach and drink plenty of water with it. I’m going to assume that coffee (without cream and sugar) falls into the “plenty of water” category.

We seem to be having some difficulty transitioning from winter to spring with on and off stretches of cold – near freezing kind of cold – and double digit winds, almost always from the North. For the past few weeks I have to cover the garden to protect the sensitive young plants and the peppers still recovering from the real cold we had a month or so back. One consequence of that is that the seedlings that should have been transplanted to the garden by now are outgrowing their containers. I’m waiting for a weather report with one week visibility free of any fronts moving in from the NW. The almanac says March 20 is the last date I should have to worry about such. Will this global warming ever kick in?????

Eggplants are Wimpy

I can now answer the burning question – which seedlings are the most sensitive to temp. Answer – egg plants are the wimpiest of the summer crops. We got down to about 40 last night and I wasn’t at all concerned about frost so left all the small plants outside, uncovered. I personally thought peppers would show the most stress, if any but they took it without the slight sign of distress whereas the eggplants looked hammered. Interestingly, I brought them in the house and within an hour or so, they were looking totally fine.

Yesterday was eventful – after taking Nancy to Crescent City to play bridge, George called and asked if I wanted to fish a couple of hours. We did and about noon he got a call on his cell phone from Barbara telling him that she had tripped over an extension cord and was injured. We headed in immediately – I went to our house and he went up to his. A few minutes later he called but I wasn’t fast enough to get to the phone and missed the call. I decided to walk up to his house and see if everything was ok. I got to their front porch and immediately saw lots of blood on the porch and noted that their car was gone. We made contact a few minutes later and he explained that she had fallen and banged her head on the pavement and broke her wrist. Later I learned that he had a 4” gash on her forehead that took 18 stitches to close and a wrist broken in two places. Ouch. I went back home and turned on the TV only to find that it was totally dead. All that plus the fishing wasn’t all that great.

We’ve been kicking around getting a bigger set that would be better for Nancy so the loss was an inconvenience but with an upside. I moved the bedroom TV to the living room and we decided to start searching for a replacement the next day when we were in Deland. The IT Dept (Tom) said the best deals for a low tech TV that totally satisfies our requirements would be Sam’s. That’s in Daytona where we would be later in the week. So the plan was to check Walmart in Deland and then Sam’s then pick whichever proved better. As it happens we hit a good sale on a 55” set in Walmart and just pulled the trigger on that. In a couple of hours it was up and running just fine.

Then last night we had a weird TV night. We’re on an antenna – no cable, no satellite – but typically have dozens of channels available. It’s normal for the set to find between 40 and 50 channels on a scan, many of them Hispanic or otherwise of little interest but we get the major networks – usually. But every now and then we have strange atmospheric’s and last night was one of those. I was still messing around with setting up the new set and noticed that reception was poor to non existent on most of the major networks. So I tried an automatic scan and sure enough it found only two channels. To make sure the problem was not the new set, I checked the other TV in the bedroom and found the same limited channel selection. Back to the new set and another scan but this time through it found 77 channels – that’s the most ever and it was duplicated by the other TV. The atmospherics were playing games but the really weird thing was that most of the channels that we normally get were non existent or marginal whereas the majority coming in loud and clear were stations we never get. Got up the next morning and it was back to normal. Strange. It’s easy to understand getting exceptional reception or getting really poor reception but the reversal of which channels you get is beyond me.

Dumb Move

Made the big move and transplanted the tomato seedlings into the garden. This is about a month earlier than I had planned but the weather being so good, resulted in much faster growth of the seedlings and they were starting to outgrow the pots. I moved 12 plants – 4x cherries; 4x standard sandwich rounds; 4 x plums. It looks like a slight cool down coming toward the end of this week so I decided to hold back on planting the peppers and egg plants. They’re more sensitive to temp than tomatoes plus it’s easier for me to cover the tomatoes if necessary. I get rid of another 10 plants, tomatoes and peppers, that I put aside for Nancy’s quilter and that many for Joey’s garden. The quilter get’s hers this week but Joey is wandering around New Zealand so not sure about his. I think they’ll be ok but I’ll probably have to repot them into bigger quarters before he returns. Also planted a few squash seeds so within the next week to 10 days we’ll have a full spring/summer crop planted along with what’s left of the winter greens. There are a few cabbages left but the lettuce, spinach, kale, chard and collards are showing no signs of giving it up at all – good news for the bridge ladies. Got good germination on the green beans seed – 3 x 12’ rows with enough seed left over from last season to plant that much more. I’ll wait about 2 weeks before planting that seed so the two types won’t overlap in time that much.

Two more heads of cabbage remaining in the row I’ve designated for green beans. We get two meals out of a head – either in slaw or any variety of cooked meals. One interesting way we make it is to core it, load the empty spot with butter seasoned however you like and then put it in the Holland Grill, core up, for an hour or so. You cook it about as long as a whole chicken or rack of ribs to get a whole meal with nearly zero prep time. There’s a whole head and a half head in the fridge but you can only handle so much cabbage. The neighbors are trying their best to help but they have the same kind of limitations as us. Why did I plant so much? Because in past years the yield was less than 50% in terms of plants that make it the full duration so I plant “spares”. For whatever reasons, there’s been almost zero fallout this year.

Made an uber dumb move yesterday. A cooking accident. This chicken dish that we made once before and loved required a cast iron frying pan. You fry the chicken very fast on one side and then move the pan into a pre heated 450 degree for 20 minutes. Then you move the pan to the stove top, remove the chicken and use the residual for a sauce. Everything is hot and happening quickly and I had taken off the oven gloves after moving the pan from the oven. But I set it on the stovetop with the handle sticking out in the way and grabbed the handle without thinking. I ran for the aloe plant and an ice cube. It sure hurt and started to blister right away but in a couple of hours it was under control. I kept applying the aloe and by bed time, no pain at all. This morning I can see that it’s going to blister some but no pain, stiffness or anything really bothersome. It seems like a couple times a year it’s aloe to the rescue so I sure recommend everyone having one handy.