Garden updates

Well I’m finally getting ahead of the garden – not to be confused with actually producing any veggies. I have it more or less weed free, about 25% planted in seeds and seedlings, and two nearly full, completely decomposed compost piles recently enriched with a wheel barrow full of pot ash. I’ve used about half of one pile to fill low spots in the garden. The last job was to reconstruct the walking rows between the planting rows. I do that once a year about this time and it takes a week or so to do. I rake out a walk way about 18” wide and then line it with newspaper, cover the paper with palmetto fronds and top the fronds with dead oak leaves and/or pine needles. I end up with about 10 x 20’ walk paths so it takes quite a load of paper, fronds and leaves. We get the local Volusia County (Daytona) paper, the Deland Beacon, and the WSJ so no problem getting the paper but it does take a while to collect. Ditto the palm fronds – plenty of them available they just have to be cut as needed. Sometimes it takes a while to rake up the top leafy layer. After a storm they’re available and the deciduous trees are now starting to drop leaves but all in all it takes the better month of a month to construct. The paths deteriorate gradually and become compost by the time I’m ready to start over. Now if the weather will only cooperate for a couple of months. It dropped down to the low 60’s this past week -a good thing- and I need a couple frost free months with about an inch of rain every week – not hard rain but just a soft watering. It will look totally different a month from now – like a real garden – and we should be actually harvesting some chard leaves and tomatoes.

Comment/opinion
Donald Trump moving to Florida does not make him a Floridian – sorry Don. He’s pure New Yorker down to the smallest molecule in his body. I’m fine with his move and think it shows great decision making ability but he has to accept his alien status.

Nurse Joe to the rescue

I had an interesting day yesterday. It started out as a typical Monday which means a trip to Palm Coast for Nancy’s bridge game. As usual I went to the beach to fish the surf and as usual the conditions were less than optimum – ditto the fishing. I moved to Washington Oaks State Park and tried the fishing in the Intracoastal. Nada. So far on track as a normal day. Next stop Hooligans, a sports bar with a good selection of drafts and an expanding group of friends. Finally to “Publlix” to work off a shopping list that included a stop at the deli. It was semi crowded and right in front of me was an older lady being accompanied by a nanny. I was waiting patiently as this lady ordered several items, a few slices at a time. She starts coughing, was unable to stop and it became obvious that she was having difficulty breathing. I moved up very close and caught her as she started to crumble. She managed to get an inhaler out of her purse and the nanny was saying she was having an asthma attack. In a couple of minutes several managers including the pharmacist came over to assist. One took over my job of holding her up and getting her into a wheel chair. It was obvious she was breathing a little better and was surrounded by people who knew what they were doing so I quietly exited the scene. I know if I hadn’t been standing right there, she’d have crashed. So I had an exciting story to tell Nancy when I picked her up 10 minutes later.

Gardening has been really tough this year. The problem is getting the cold weather stuff going while the weather is so abnormally hot. I did actually pick some green beans yesterday. The few tomato plants that made it are skimpy at best but I did see a few blossoms. The big surprise is that the Swiss Chard seems to be taking hold and looking decent. I’ve always considered chard to be really sensitive to heat but maybe this particular variety is designed to handle the heat. The good news is that if I had one crop to pick for success it would be the chard. It’s most versatile, raw or cooked, and is a productive continuous harvest plant. I’m guessing we’ll start picking in late Nov and have more than we can handle thru April. Basically any place you use spinach, you can substitute chard. I have about a dozen going now so there will be plenty for Nancy’s bridge and crocheting buddies. I should know in the next two weeks how the kale crop will be but the first pass germination seems good. Not so the traditional – broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Nothing positive with carrots either but it’s still early. Ditto lettuce.

I have figured out the perfect Christmas gift for Nancy. Guarantee it will be a surprise. One problem we have with the Buick is that the trunk/storage area is just a tad small. Where the problem manifests is that my surf rod is a bit too long and has to be positioned so that it extends to the front cabin between the seats. This bugs Nancy because she occasionally bumps into it with her left arm. I measured and a 9’ rod would work fine. I’d rather have the current 10’ rod but I’m thinking I can sacrifice and get a new 9’ model to make my bride’s life just a little nicer. She’ll never guess what it is.

Happy Birthday Nancy

Sorry for the long gap but it’s been incredibly busy.   Nancy’s birthday celebration was hosted by Tom and Tina and came off without a hitch.   Tina is the greatest hostess – preparing Nancy’s favorite foods and paying attention to even the finest details – Nancy’s favorite flowers for decoration and special personalized party favors.   We had a dinner on Thursday night at a great Chinese restaurant with (I think) 18 family members in attendance.   Chris came from NY/NJ, Simon and Amy from Alabama, the Sheronick’s from South Carolina.  The followup celebration the next day added local friends.   From my perspective it came off without a hitch.  Joey and Tom spent hours going over old photo’s and created a slide show on the big screen TV.

Chris and Vic spent a couple days with us and ended their visit with a couple days at Universal.  They’re coming back at Christmas so I guess they had a good time.

Nothing much else to report.  Still having a devil of a time making any progress in the garden.  The weather and critters seem determined to keep me replanting.   The highlight of my frequent visits to the garden is the bluebird continues to visit and now will actually land on my arm.   Doesn’t seem to have the slightest fear.   Yesterday my neighbor, Barbara and her grandson and his daughter came down and the bird hopped from one of us to the other.  Barbara brought some birdseed and he ate out of her hand.   Apparently bluebirds are omnivores because I see him catching critters in the garden and assumed that my rooting around in the soil was the attraction.   

Plenty of rain and the lake keeps rising.   A few inches more and it will top the lower level of the dock.   I haven’t seen it this high in years.   I’m hoping the high level makes the spec fishing better this year.  It should make the trolling easier in terms of hanging up in the grass and moss.

The Jay has landed

Whenever I go to the garden, the bluebird quickly arrives – often before I’ve even reached it. Usually when I go there I’m picking weeds which stirs up the ground and the critters living there. Apparently that’s Jay food. He will literally come within an arms length and has no fear of me at all. I just know one of these times he’s going to hop onto my shoulder. Hold it, breaking news – I walked over to the garden and he hopped right over on the fence and then on top of my head. Wow! He only stayed on a few seconds, probably because I jerked, but how neat is that. I have a wild pet.

The path job is officially finished – on time and in budget. I had to resort to cutting down a small pine tree to get the last 10’ or so but it was one I’d been planning to cut down soon anyway. Too close to the house. We’re having company this month and probably more before the year ends so I wanted to get it behind me. While I had the saw out I cut down the red grapefruit tree that had died on it’s own over the past couple of years. There’s some kind of nasty citrus disease that is killing off all the citrus without special resistance genes. I’m not going to replant since we can still get all the grapefruit we want from the remaining tree. It to has been afflicted/infected but not to the same extent.

This unusual hot and dry weather continues and is playing hell with anything I put in the garden. I keep restarting seedlings, nursing them up to transplant size and then watching them get scorched. Why not just wait until it’s cool enough? Because if the frosty season comes on schedule, the plants will not be big enough to survive. I need farm bill protection.

I was able to fish in the surf for the first time in almost a month.  It’s just been way too rough to even think about it.   Last week I did a long beach walk at low tide and studied the area where I normally fish to determine the condition and contours of the beach – locate the holes and channels which will attract the fish at high tide.   The beach contours change all the time, especially in the stormy season and you just have to know the topography to be successful and the only way to do that is explore at low tide.  I knew exactly where I wanted to fish so you can imagine my disappointment when I crossed over the berm only to see a guy and his wife fishing in exactly my spot.  Beach etiquette requires me to leave a minimum buffer of 100′ which put me far from the hole I had uncovered.   I had no choice but to get as close as allowed and hope for the best.   Just as expected, I caught nothing while this guy was having more than a little action.

Coconuts on the Beach

Got the last of the tomato and green pepper seedlings planted in the garden. I mentioned earlier that I had lost 3 of the first 4 tomatoes but I was able to bring two of those back to life so the final total is 12. The peppers look good as well. Had an interesting encounter while planting the last of those yesterday. I was down on my hands and knees working up against my plant support poles when a blue jay landed on the structure about 3’ away. He was making little bird noises and keeping an eye on me; I was making little people noises and kept an eye on him. That went on for about 5 minutes and I eventually got up and left. This morning I went out first thing to check on how the newly planted survived the night – which they all did – when the bluejay came back and landed a foot or so away. I’ve never had that close an encounter with a wild bird. After two days and two encounters, I’m ready to declare this a real friendship.

I hit the beach again Friday while Nancy played bridge. The ocean is still way too rough to even consider fishing but fine for walking. This time I started further north than my usual haunt – at Washington Oaks State Park. After just a few yards I spotted something unusual for our beaches – a washed up coconut. Coconuts on the beach are not at all unusual in south and central Florida but I’ve never seen one this far north. As a kid on Cocoa beach it wasn’t at all a surprise to find nuts that had actually sprouted. We’d replant these in the yard and have coconut palms routinely growing. As I walked I saw more and more. These must have come from the Bahamas as a result of hurricane Dorian.

We varied our Friday trip home from the Ormond Beach brewery and the food truck there and decided to try a new one in Ormond by the Sea, Beachside Brewery. It’s a really small place but had good reviews and they also had a food truck stopping by. The beer was really good and the food truck totally on a par with our regular Friday night truck. The brew I settled on was called “Heffy’s Weisen; Nancy picked “Beachin Blond”. The truck was called Mola Miami Grill and had an outstanding menu. We split a Cuban sandwich that was excellent and so big that we ended up taking almost half of it home. Lot’s of exotic seafood items – coconut shrimp, bang-bang shrimp, Blue crab sandwich etc etc etc.

Joey came over Saturday and spent several hours doing yard/jungle work. Big help. He gathered up two very full wheel barrow loads of pine needles – more than enough to finish off the path next week.

Weekend Wedding

I had/have a total of 13 tomato plants about ready for transplant to the garden.   I held off until I was fairly sure the latest storm threat was not to be and started with 4 Early Blue Ribbons.  Three of the four made it overnight so I’m going to do another 4 tomorrow.  The one that didn’t make it was victim to the feared and dreaded cut worm.  The aggravating thing about that is I had put collars around each tomato to avoid cut worms but someone one fund a breach point and did the deed.   I also decided to try starting seeds in the house for more Swiss chard and kale.   That was a couple days ago and still no signs of germination.

Got a windfall on my path to the dock restoration project.   We had lunch in Deland one day at a Chinese place.  Nothing exciting there but I noticed a pile of local penny saver newspapers that had been removed from the stand and were awaiting pickup.  I grabbed a giant stack and used them on the path.   That put me at least a week ahead of schedule and I’m now down to the last 20′.

We went to a wedding Saturday in Pierson.   I think we were the only ones there without credentials going back at least 2 generations.  Most were agriculture folks with roots in the fern business.  The only people we knew were the bride and groom and his mother.  It was in a very small country church of the Lutheran persuasion with a local piano player and wedding singer.  I think Chris could have played better but her heart was certainly in it.   There was a very nice meal afterwards in the meeting room – really southern country featuring fried chicken, collard greens, Mac and cheese, green beans and meat loaf.  Corn bread of course.   I wasn’t hungry but put a couple pieces of fruit on my plate to avoid the wrath of my bride.  The bride and groom were probably in their 50’s so there were grandkids running around – stealing the show.   The bride, groom, and the grandkids were whisked away back to the house party in a horse driven carriage.  A nice touch.   We didn’t attend the after party but I’m sure it was in keeping with the official affair.

Spent today on the beach after the near miss storm while Nancy played bridge.   The tides and waves ate up a little more of the beach but all in all, looks like it survived with only some sand and berm erosion.  It was way, way too rough to even think  about fishing so I just walked a mile or so to survey the damages.

Projects and Progress

My path restoration project – from the end of the driveway circle to the dock – is about 3/4 finished. About 25’ (out of 100’ ) left. I use newspaper as the base, then palmetto fronts over that and overtopped with pine needles. I get 3 newspapers, if you count the two local rags as newspapers, so I have a steady source yielding maybe 10 linear feet per week. The storm helped quite a bit in terms of bringing down pine needles so it will be relatively easy to finish it off in the next couple of weeks. My target is the end of the month and that looks achievable.

The garden is still in a semi inactive mode, a couple of cucumber plants, a couple of zucchinis and a few pole beans. These are all survivors of the storm, 6” of rain in one week with minor garden flooding and then a week of hot and dry. They look ragged but I’m doing my best to bring them back to health. The seedlings I started in the house are all doing well so there’s hope for a good conclusion. I might have mentioned reading an article about a guy that grows swiss chard and says they aren’t bothered by heat. I seriously doubted it but decided to plant a few seeds anyway, just for grins. Well they popped up – 6 plants. I made sun shades for them using palm fronds. I decided to very carefully remove 3 of them from the garden to yogurt cups that I brought onto the porch where I can totally protect them from the weather. Heartened by the fact that they even germinated, today I planted some Tuscan kale seeds and another variety of chard. Last season’s Tuscan kale handled the sun and heat until early June, by which time all the other kale had long since burned up. It would really change the complexion of the garden and the dinner table if these greens really can handle the heat.

The storm raised the lake level a few inches but it would take another 8-10” to overtop the dock. Tom bought a new kayak that was reportedly stable enough to allow standup operation – like a paddle board. He brought it up the lake but it was too late to try it so he just left it here. Joey helped me get it in the lake – too heavy for me to deal with by myself and I gave it a maiden voyage and fishing trip. I really had my doubts about standing up in it but decided to give it a try. I put my rod on the dock so nothing would be lost when I dumped it. Lo and behold, I was able to stand up. I was a little wobbly but after a few minutes stabilized – me not the boat. So I went back to the dock, retrieved my rod and tested the fishability. Bingo, got a nice bass – the nicest in quite some time, on the order of 5#’s. I still like my poke boat better for it’s lightness and ease of use but no doubt this new one is a more serious fishing platform.