The Migration has started

Nature news – I walk up to the mailbox every morning about 7AM. The roadway is under a canopy of trees the whole way but today was a different experience. There were hundreds and hundreds of Robins flitting around from the driveway to the trees and from tree to tree. Robins are migratory and I guess overnight they reached this far south. At 9:30 I walked the driveway again with Nancy to meet her ride to the crocheting club – not the first bird, not the first chirp. So it must have been a giant flock that overnighted here and then continued their southward migration.

Nancy and her friend Esther are still producing charity quilts at a good clip. Things changed when Wilma passed since her job was to hand sew the bindings. Nancy can do the sewing but can’t thread the needles. Surely I could thread the needles. With my fat fingers and old eyes that proved problematic. The eyes on the needle were just too tiny. I went to Walmart and found some needles that had big eyes – problem solved, I could thread them. But it turned out that the needles I got were “embroidery” needles and were too thick or something to pierce the binding material. I tried a mechanical threader aid but the needle eyes were too small for that too. We stopped at another quilt shop and I spotted something called self threading needles. Got home and tried them – they actually worked. Instead of just a hole in the needle, there’s a split along the top and you press the thread through the slot.

Finished the last of the garden paths. The last one was the main path right down the center of the garden – about 30’x4’ wide. The last path was paced by the availability of newspaper for the base layer. The combination of the WSJ, the Volusia Journal, and the Deland Beacon gets me about 3’ of pathway underlining per day. I have an infinite supply of palmetto fronds for the second layer and pine needles/oak leaves for the topping. This job should hold me until next October.

I’ve started my “spot” plant seedlings in the house. Spot plants are the ones I reserve to fill openings in the garden created by critter losses or whatever else does a plant in. They also fill in when I pick a single crop plant. For example cabbage and cauliflower. You get one veggie per plant as opposed to green leafy veggies that I cut as needed. The new spot plants are cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli. Broccoli is actually not a single pick crop. You harvest the main head, but some varieties continue to put out new florets for a continuous supply over the whole season. I have two plastic containers going for the spot plants with seed starting soil.
Right now I have 15 cauliflower seedlings and 12 cabbages ready to move to larger containers.

Here’s an interesting observation – I plant a row of seeds in a plastic container, the kind you get when you buy strawberries at the market. Then set them on the kitchen counter, out of the way but under light. The seeds are tiny so I over-plant and then wait for the germination to thin the weaker ones. You would expect the germination process to be fairly random but interestingly, the seeds of each variety pops up within a few hours of each other. So you check at night before bed where none have germinated only to find 99% of the seeds of a particular variety to have germinated nearly simultaneously the next morning. Then nothing for a few days and then another batch, a different variety, pops up all together. There are usually stragglers that pop up maybe a week later but generally you have 90% of what’s going to germinate doing so together. After a week or so in the seed bed, I’ll transfer them to individual pots then plant them in the garden on a space available basis. For example, pick a cauliflower from the garden and replace it with one of the cabbage plants I have growing in a container on the porch.

Not ready for Winter

OK, you can quit worrying. The pelleted carrot seed finally germinated. Too soon to say what percent will germinate but at least some of the seed is doing good. I was getting concerned since I had planted the seed in exactly the same place I’d planted older carrot seed and experienced zero germination. So I started to think maybe the location was tainted or jinxed.

Thanksgiving was great. Perfect weather, great company and wonderful food – a combination of old favorites and new entries. We decided to stay at a motel close to Tom’s rather than drive all the way home after a day’s worth of festivities. Good thing because Tina found a pomegranate wheat beer that definitely had my name all over it. Tina overcame a technical problem when the oven gave up the ghost so this season’s dinner will be remembered and laughed about for years to come.

We’re having winter now and it may even freeze tonight. I covered the pepper plants but the tomatoes are also endangered. If it does freeze, it’ll be a month early. By and large, most of the plants in the garden are ok with a little cold so we’ll see. But I did have an issue that I assumed was the cold weather. I got up just before 7AM and tried to get a glass of water. Nothing. I knew it was cold – upper 30’s according to the thermometer on the porch – so the lines shouldn’t have frozen. Maybe it was actually colder up by the well and pump? I decided to wait a couple hours for it to warm up or to get a hair blower to locally heat the pump area. Nah, that just doesn’t make sense so I decided to go up and bang around the pump. In the past, problems like this have invariably been critters getting into the contacts so that’s where I started. Sure enough, I popped the cover on the electrical contacts and there was a partially cooked lizard. I removed it and the pump started immediately. I’ve sure had enough of this winter and global cooling.

More on Persimmon Hollow trip

Forgot to mention that I had concerns about how it was going to work out with Simon’s dog at the Hollow.  There are always dogs there and sometimes they get into disagreements.   She’s a bit frisky and I wasn’t sure how well she plays with others.   The first one that came in was a gigantic great dane – the black and white one we’d seen before – and was about the size of a pony.  I heard the owner say he was 135lbs.   No problem at all, the dogs exchanged pleasantries and that was that.   A bit later the largest, best looking Rottweiler I’ve ever seen came in.  It too had to be a 150 lbs.   Again, no problem.   The guy with the goat didn’t show.

Pre Thanksgiving happenings

The garden is 100% planted. Even one (out of two) row of carrot seed has germinated so at this point the big remaining task is to thin carrots and lettuce as they fill in. Carrot and lettuce seed is nearly microscopic so it’s impossible to plant them in the final position. That’s a pain in the butt job since your trying to separate really fine, closely spaced plants and replant the thinned ones to another location. It’s a high loss environment but so many pop up that it’s manageable. One thing they do to help is to pelletize the seed. The put a single seed inside a bio degradable material about the size of a BB. That makes them quite easy to plant and essentially eliminate the thinning. You can get both carrots and lettuce in pelletized form. The downside is they are much more expensive and take longer to germinate so what I do is buy both pelletized and regular seed. Comparing performance, I planted a row of pelletized seed next to regular seed. The regular seed germinated in a little over a week but nothing has popped on the pelletized seed approaching two weeks.

Got an important experiment going on. The Duke power guy came around the other day to change our meter. Just routine maintenance but we got to chatting and I pointed out a fire ant mound not too far from where he was standing. He then told me about a control method he swore worked. Normally I sprinkle some very expensive killer on the mounds but he said grits worked just as well. Grits is really cheap compared to Amro or equivalent so I liberally sprinkled a couple of control mounds. He said it takes a few days to a week. I did noticed that as soon as I sprinkled it, they swarmed it and started carrying it down the holes. I stirred the nest a little after 3 days and they swarmed out so it hasn’t done anything yet.

We’re having a great Thanksgiving season. Simon and Amy (and the pooch) came home for the event and spent Monday night with us at the lake. I grilled a batch of chicken wings and a couple of pizza’s – hit the spot. Simon and Amy (and the pooch) took the boat on the lake Tuesday and did a little trolling for speckled Perch. We’ve had some cold weather so I guessed it was about time to start the season. They did me proud by each (pooch excluded) catching a speckled perch. So the season has officially started. The game plan was to hook up with the rest of the Carbone’s at Persimmon Hollow, our favorite local watering hole. Tommy was already here on business and Kate was flying in from Chicago, weather permitting. Tom went by way of the Orlando Airport, picked her up and they headed for the Hollow, about an hour earlier than anticipated. Tina and Olivia came a little bit later so we had a full quorum of Carbone’s. What we didn’t know was that Tuesday is Bingo night at the hollow and we were just finishing up our tacos and brews when they announced it. We made a collective decision to try it and for the next couple of hours had a ball – even won a few rounds. Then had a funny finish. In the past I’ve opened and maintained a tab at the Hollow and Tom picks up the food from the taco place across the alley. It works out about the same. What happened this time since we didn’t all arrive at the same time, each group opened their own tab at the bar. When we left I went over to close out the tab and found the bartender confused – he said “the place is full of Carbone’s, which one are you?” That cracked me up – how things have changed! Can’t wait for the big feast Thursday. I’ve been tapped for the cranberry sauce only so we have nothing much to worry over. The plan is to stay over Thursday night at a nearby hotel so I don’t have to worry about drinking too much for the drive home. Usually we eat early to accommodate us having to drive home in the dark so this will be a break from that. I’m guessing Nancy’s and whoever will do some Black Friday shopping. I’ll do some Thanksgiving day football watching. More later

Full on Winter

This is the most boring time for my gardening. The garden is thoroughly weeded, the walk paths between the planting rows are all redone. There’s no new material going into the compost piles. Almost all the seedlings started over the past month have been transplanted and the direct seeding has been done. So there’s nothing to do but check to see what’s surviving and what seeds are germinating. The seed germination is the biggest concern since you can’t see what’s going on under the soil and there’s no fixed timing for seeds to germinate. For example, the carrot seed pack says germination will take anywhere from 3 to 20 days. It takes more patience than I can muster to leave something alone -wondering if I should be replanting. The weather has finally turned favorable with mostly filtered sun and enough light rain and my best guess now is that I should know soon whether this will be a totally successful season or something less.

My shopping job got much more complicated this week. Normally I do light shopping on Monday’s and Friday’s while Nancy is playing bridge and after I fish the surf. That routine was changed this week when Nancy came down with something mid week that cancelled the Friday trip and threatened our planned Saturday shopping trip to Publix. She expected to be better on Saturday but instead ended up at the Instacare. We could just drop the weekend catch-up shopping but this was a Publix gas card week. What that’s about is that about once a month Public offers a special – a $50 Shell gas card for $40. The rules are that for every $50 you purchase in groceries, you can buy one of these gas cards. So, for example, if you buy $100 in groceries, you can purchase 2 cards – a $100 value for $80. Can’t pass that up. To maximize the deal, you only want to buy in $50 increments – a total bill of $50, $100, $150 etc. You wouldn’t want a total of $149 – good for only two cards, so you have to keep track of what you’re putting in the cart. You get it. When I’m doing the shopping, we make a list. When Nancy goes it’s more free style. She’s pretty good at hitting the right numbers and knows the prices much better than I do. I knew this was going to be a big shopping day since it was a gas card day and coincidentally, we were low on gas cards. I decided to take the laptop and create a spreadsheet to generate the list. The spreadsheet would list everything she wanted and then as I made the purchase, I’d put in the price in. The program would keep a running total. I wanted to hit $150 + and qualify for 3 gas cards. It worked like a world champ – several shopping ladies asked me about it. I hit $155 which is pretty much right on target. The nice thing was that I didn’t have to develop a special spreadsheet. I found that the good folks at Apple built in a template on the spreadsheet program, Numbers, which is standard on all their computers.

update – It’s Monday and Nancy is feeling well enough to hit the bridge tables today. Whatever they prescribed at the Insta care did the job.

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.

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.