Trying a New Soup

We spotted a soup recipe in the WSJ that sounded right up our alley – lots of veggies from the garden. It was called Tuscan Bread Soup with kale, cabbage and beans. What’s not to like. The only non-garden veggie required were leeks and potatoes. Delicious We make a fair amount of soup and take most of it over to Wilma, Nancy’s old bridge partner now in a senior independent living place in Palm Coast. She really doesn’t care for the food they serve but loves Nancy’s soups. She’s really tiny and Nancy worries she really can’t afford to miss meals.

Went fishing, first time in the lake without George. Not as much fun and didn’t catch anything. My other neighbor told me the other day that he just wasn’t getting anything but I figured he just didn’t know the spots. Guess I don’t either.

The weather has been nearly perfect from the perspective of working in the garden. Also, for the azaleas and camellias which normally start blooming in February but are starting a month early. I did say “nearly”. I’ve had to cover up the garden on the most delicate stuff again – for the third or fourth time this year. No real threats of frost or freezing temps so far which does make my coverup job much easier. The tough part is that these deep cold hits normally come as a front moves in – meaning windy conditions and sometimes rain. I mostly coverup with old sheet sets so you can imagine how tough it is to deal with a fitted sheet in a 20mph wind.

Roomba News

Finally pulled the plug on the sweet potatoes – dug them all up. They were planted just after the 4th of July, so the better part of 6 months. The last time I picked a few was almost a month ago and they were still on the smallish size. This time there were some monsters along with medium size and small ones but all in all, a good crop that will keep us in potatoes for a couple of months. Sooooooo much lettuce, starting to pick a few cherry tomatoes, and the flow of green bell peppers continues nicely. They’ll be coming on strong for the next month or so – especially if the weather stays so nice – low 80’s projected for the next week or so with an occasional sprinkle. We’re now providing lettuce to friends at Palm Coast bridge club – not just the Crescent City crowd. All the greens/greens we and 10 more of us could handle and within the next two weeks the space made available by picking the sweets, will be repopulated with miscellaneous stuff – probably a red kale and different varieties of cabbage.

Nancy left for her crocheting group and turned on the Roomba, aka mini Nance, while I headed to the garden for some light weeding and picking. I came in about an hour later and noticed that the artificial trees in the living room had been felled and Nance was caught underneath trying to plow herself out to no avail. It seems like every time we use it, a new condition surfaces. Bottom line – don’t leave the house with it running and expect it to fully complete the job. Still, it does a good job picking up sand and dust.

Tina’s surgery came off just fine and she should be coming home today. Her problem is a continuation of the one that occurred on a recent trip to Utah in which she spent several days in a hospital there. Olivia was on the scene and I just know the doc’s and nurses were on their best behavior. She works as a scribe for the same health system so she knows all the questions to ask and how the system works.

Here’s one to ponder. Disney is, without a doubt, a lefty corporation. If you don’t think so just watch ABC News. But, I like the way they solved a particular problem using a traditional right wing solution. They have too much traffic at the Disney theme Park in Orlando so to counter that, they again raised prices – I think $130/per person for a one day pass. What about the poor folks with lots of kids – this will only do more to price them out or make them choose between Disney or groceries.

Back on line (I hope)

Sorry for the posting gap – computer/software issues.

Christmas was fun at Tom’s – an extension of the festivities we’ve been enjoying all month. All the grandkids were home which may not always happen in the future.

Nancy got out of the hospital a few days before the event so it was touch and go as to whether or not we’d make it but she felt fine and we decided to chance it. No problems. We got some really nice things but one thing of particular interest, simply because we’ve been looking at them for years but have never pulled the trigger, a Roomba robot sweeper. Nancy is a real floor nazi and I am forever in the dog house for dragging dirt in the house so perhaps this will relieve my heartburn. With this and the new laptop we bought a week or so back, I’m in high tech purgatory – where nothing is as easy as it seems.

The old mac book was just getting too far behind and starting to cause issues so while we were in Orlando for the graduations, Tom picked up a new mac book Air at the University book store. You would think it would take only a minute or two to bring up the new machine and transfer information but deep down inside you know anything that has to do with computers is fraught with potential disasters. And so it was. One of the casualties was the ability to post blogs updates. The new machine had some kind of problem with Word Press, the blog application. I knew Tom could eventually get it all straightened out – it was just a matter of him finding the time amid all the end of year events going on. I think it’s done. I feel ok not being able to do it myself since it took him several hours of high intensity banging away on the keyboard. But right now I have the new laptop and the desktop mini in sync.

The Roomba also created some heart burn when the first directions involved wi fi and the internet. I told Tom my fall back was to figure a way to attach the Roomba to a broom stick and push it around the house manually. After a call to Roomba land, I learned that it has a totally manual mode (for the technically challenged) and we set it off to clean the house. There are a few traps that we’re now aware of but it did get the job done. For example the showers are a step down from floor level and it fell right in but couldn’t get back out. The first trial was interesting as it wandered around the house doing it’s thing including underneath the beds. When it finished the first pass, I opened it to check the filters. It was chock full of dust and sand- so it does work. A couple days later we set it loose again. We closed the bedroom doors so it wouldn’t do those again but still, after a couple of hours, had a fairly full dirt trap. I think this is going to make Nancy quite happy on a daily basis with only an occasional full manual job.

Great end to the college football season. SEC rules and my gators did the job on Michigan; Simon’s Auburn Tigers downing Purdue. Also Clemson drubbing the feared and dreaded (and over rated) Notre Dame. We don’t have cable out here in the woods so we were forced to visit Persimmon Hollow to watch a couple of the games including the Gator drubbing of Michigan. Way better than cable. UCF put up a valiant fight with LSU but the 25 game winning streak had to come to an end. Losing to LSU was certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Even Utah and even Kentucky prevailed so it was great season for us overall.

All Graduated!

This has been the craziest fall, weather wise. Early on it was way hotter than normal but it’s turned unseasonably cold since Thanksgiving. I’ve had to cover the garden twice this month which is normally something that happens in January. I don’t actually think we got any frost although the weather guys swear we did. Nothing seems hit in the garden where the tomato bushes are loaded with little green ones. The tenderest plants are the peppers and eggplants and so far, no signs of frost bite. Theres a low hanging cloud of fog over the lake so I’m confident that provided the protection we needed and the lake will probably cool dramatically over the next couple of days meaning it will provide less protection next month. The other thing I did which I never thought I would was try out the remote starting feature on the new car. Seems kind of wimpy to me but ………… It worked and Nancy was a happy camper to get into a warm car. The other “environment” surprise is that the lake is still quite high – like mid summer high. I think we’ve had almost 10” in the last month which is very unusual.

Wonderful graduation week. Simon/Amy came home to attend at the personal cost of not walking for his own graduation – his master’s from Auburn. I think it was a good decision since our celebration of three graduations was the big family event of the century. There were two academic gatherings for Tom – one for an intimate group of invitees – people who worked with him on his thesis and research and the prof’s who worked with him. It was him and several others who were getting advanced degrees, many of whom shared anecdotes of their own process. This event occurred the day before the big time formal graduation ceremony/“the hooding”. The hooding was a classic graduation lasting several hours but the PhD’s got much more time and attention so it was special for us. They had set up an area right on the arena floor for people with impaired hearing. We asked them if that included people with vision problems and they said sure so we were up close and personal. Nancy and I along with Tina’s parents called it a day at that point whereas all the younger folks headed off for a couple of Christmas parties – a work party, and a party with his students. These were open bar, live music kind of parties and I didn’t think my body could handle one of those. The next day brought us back to the arena for Olivia’s ceremonies. It was almost a duplicate of the day before with a mostly different cast of characters. (we got the same advantaged seeding and several folks from our party joined us. We were so close to the procession that we got to hug Olivia as she headed for the stage. In this one, since Tom is officially faculty, he came into the arena differently than the regular graduating seniors. Example – faculty was ushered in by a couple of kilted guys playing bagpipes. The after graduation event was all family at a pub and we were back at the hotel by 8. The next day, Sunday, was a party at Tom’s with friends and family. Lot’s of food including a large layer cake with one layer in Auburn colors and the other, UCF. We broke away about 4 PM and headed to home to the lake for a good night’s sleep – no hotel beds. The friends/family socializing continues, more or less, for the rest of the year so we’ll be ready for some serious rest and recuperation after the first of the year.

Simon and a buddy are taking off right after Xmas for a 4-5 day kayak adventure on the Withlacoochie river. They’ll put in about 20 miles due west of Orlando and kayak north and west, eventually to the gulf of Mexico. At that point they head south to the Crystal River, ;near Tarpon Springs. I have a cousin that lives on the river so they’ll have an interim destination. He was going to do a similar length trip in the Everglades but I think this one will be much safer.


Big graduation week coming up. It starts with Tom’s PhD ceremony and extends to include Olivia’s BS award, both at UCF; wrapping up with Simon’s Master’s degree from Auburn. There’s a few days of parties and celebrations so we’re going to get a hotel near the UCF campus rather than driving back and forth to the lake several times. The next academic event on the horizon will be Olivia graduating from PA school or Med school. I’m very proud of them all.

While I was weeding the garden I was struck by the number of tomato seedlings that I routinely pull out as weeds. The tomato season generally runs from April thru June and then again from Dec thru March or April. Too much heat and humidity in the summer; too many frost events in the winter. When growing and producing fruit, a certain amount will drop off the bushes and fall onto fertile soil. Some tomatoes varieties produce fruit continuously for a few months so the fruit dropping is also more or less a continuous happening. The germination of the seeds from the fallen fruit is spotty and depends on weather conditions, soil conditions etc etc but at almost any time you look, there will be a few baby tomato plants popping up. I pull them as weeds. But today I got to thinking, why not dig some of them up, put them in pots (aka yogurt cups) and let them grow in a more controlled environment. By the end of January we are usually done with frost and these plants will be ready to hit the garden a couple of months earlier than I usually plant and more mature than the seedlings I’m usually dealing with. I’ll still start some indoors from seeds since then I know exactly what variety I’m growing but my picking season should then start in April and continue on into July. The downside is that most of the plants I’m going to preserve from this season will be cherry tomatoes. That’s because a cherry plant produces so much fruit, so quickly and for such a long season, that the wild renegades tend to be cherry. In our case, probably 50% of the tomatoes grown end up as sauce, so whether the sauce comes from giant tomatoes or cherry’s – it all works.

We have/had a ruby red grapefruit tree near the front of the house. It’s been there for about 15 years where It thrived and produced lots of fruit up until a couple of years ago. Florida has had a citrus problem called “greening” for several years and it basically destroys the trees. I suspect that’s what happened to this one but it also could be something else. So I decided to cut it down – but at the last minute changed my mind and just severely trimmed it instead. Citrus puts on new growth in the spring so I gave it a heavy dose of fertilizer and will give it 6 months to recuperate.

Mostly Garden

Planted 2 x 12’ rows of beet seed. That should do it. Between people who eat the greens and us, who eat the root, that will be all the beets we can handle. I also mix a few beet leaves into salads and smoothies so it’s a good crop for us. The problem has been that it’s not what I can call a dependable crop. Some years it’s great, in others, it’s a total loss. We even had mixed years where the greens are beautiful but no root tuber at all. I always have plenty of seeds and space so why not take a shot. The other new addition was a couple of parsley plants and a rosemary plant. I usually start those from seed but forgot about them until too late – when Nancy asked me to go out and cut some rosemary. oops.

The other crop that’s thriving albeit not one I specifically planted is the New Zealand spinach. It grows like crazy once established ( a couple of years ago) and self seeds which makes it a difficult crop to eliminate once it’s established. As I weed an area, I always find a few renegade plants which I then transplant to a designated area. In just a few weeks it transforms from tiny plants into full size spinach. People are split on the eating quality. It is quite mild flavored but has a different texture than regular spinach – almost like a light fur. One of Nancy’s bridge ladies is crazy about it and I find it great for smoothies or mixed with other greens in pasta dishes. I’ve been told that it’s outlawed in California as an invasive species and I can sure see how that would be true. It has a combination of self seeding with seeds that stay dormant for quite some time and a spreading culture that sends out branches that root wherever they touch soil and stems that split into two wherever you cut them off. I’ll try to do a better job of controlling the spread this year but they do make a mean smoothie.

Attacked the sweet potato patch again. It’s been a couple of weeks since the last dig where I found the tubers almost big enough. This time they were good eating size – not too big, not too small. I dug up another 2’ strip which yielded about 5 lbs of potatoes.

The media is unbelievably hypocritical. Listening and watching the adulation being heaped onto George Bush makes me want to throw up when I remember how brutal they were to him when he was President. I liked him because he would often be shown fishing for stripers and/or blues using the same kind of tackle I fished with.