6th treatment

Sorry for the delay in this post. Some jerk hacked into our blogs and it took Tom a bit to get us all back up and running. Why the hell would somebody do that? Anyway, this new setup will probably correct the commenting problem we’ve had in the past.

Joey’s 6th treatment was not his favorite. He was feeling poorly soon after the treatment and for a few more days than usual. I guess there’s a cumulative affect. Either that or he wasn’t complaining enough so they gave him a booster batch. Good thing it starts after the halfway point or people might get too discouraged to run it to it’s completion. Another new side affect is a numbness in his fingers which makes it fun opening bottles. And a closer haircut. What we believe is going to happen is that he has two more treatments and then a PET scan to assess the status and then either two or four more treatments depending on what the scan shows.

Bream update. You may recall I mentioned that the bream were banging the underside of the lily pads to knock the food pellets into the water. Well that was true but upon closer observation I learned something even more interesting. Any fisherman who has been around pads knows that you hear bream popping in the pads quite loudly. Turns out they actually tear through the pads to get at stuff sitting on top of the pad. They actually tear holes in the pads so the popping sound I’ve always heard is them tearing the pads. I’m impressed that they can actually determine that something is sitting on the pad and then even more impressed that they have a system for getting at it.

And by the way, I think we have bears roaming around at night. I’ve seen signs for the past month and someone about a mile away reported that one of her pot belly pigs had been eaten by a bear recently. This morning sure enough there were bear tracks in the garden and up on the road. From the tracks it looks like one big bear and at least one cub. Sure hope they don’t start causing trouble. That could get old quickly.

So far so good on the garden. I have really put in the hours moving topsoil from an old load George had bought years back. By my reckoning, I’ve moved about 10 yards and raised the garden level about 6-10”. Between that and cutting and chopping about that much new mulch, I’m fairly well over the hard part and now watching to see if the new crop appreciates the effort. Some critter eats leaves a pin hole at a time until eventually each leaf looks like lace. I’ve sprayed every known chemical and so far the bug is the winner. I found an old powder in my stock called Sevin powder. It’s probably outlawed now so I’m hoping this one will sneak up on them. Maybe this cool weather will slow down the gnawing. The stuff that’s in now includes: tomatoes, peppers; butternut. acorn and zucchini squash; cucumbers; swiss chard, 3 kinds of cabbage including red cabbage; broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, and 2 kinds of spinach; celery and 2 kinds of lettuce. Some of the winter stuff is still on the porch in pots waiting for new leaves and cooler weather and some are seeds just planted and not yet germinated. If it all follows the master plan, there should be plenty to pick starting early Nov.

Next week is one of my annual batchelor weeks. Nancy takes her sabbatical to Utah. She has an annual eye checkup at the Moran Eye Institute and then fills the rest of the time with bridge games, quilt club meetings and miscellaneous visiting, shopping, and just enjoying the cool weather. Me, on the other hand, will quit worrying about things like messing up the floor. eating on schedule and shaving.

Wonder how long before Biden has a health crisis and drops out of the race? I’m thinking early October. I cracked up when in his last speech he related how FDR went directly to the people during the great depression using television. Hope the 4 people in the world who had TV back then were tuned in.

All about Bream

The amazing thing that has changed since the water in the lake came back to normal is the size and quantity of bream, AKA bluegill, living around the dock. These are the kind of bream that you spot underwater and say “that can’t be a bream, they don’t get that big”. My newest form of relaxation is sitting on the dock and feeding the fish a dozen or so pellets at a time. The speed and ferocity with which they attack the food is mind boggling. I also learned something I thought was quite interesting. Right off the dock, maybe 6-8′, is a bed of lily pads. The other day when I was pitching out the pellets, a few landed on top of a pad. After the fish had eaten all the floating pellets and I had quit tossing out more, a couple of them starting popping the pad where the feed sat. Each time they popped the bottom of the pad the pellet moved. It was quite a distinct sound and the pad flexed exactly where the fish hit. After a few hits, the pellet fell into the water and was quickly gobbled up. So I pitched a couple more onto pads and sure enough the bream worked the pad until the pellet ended up in the lake. I was amazed they could even see the pellet through the rather thick pad and more amazed at the persistence they showed in working it to the edge and down the hatch.

So I’m restarting the garden. Call me the eternal optimist but I’m starting this at the height of storm season having just lost a complete garden two weeks ago to Fay. The other danger to starting one at this time is the possibility of an early frost. I’m timing it such that any frost prior to mid December could hurt and a frost before Thanksgiving would be a disaster. So I’m really playing roulette with mom nature. The main reason I’m going at it is to try some new bug control stuff I bought. I mentioned earlier that the garden eating critters are going at it full time so I have armed myself with a totally different tack. The diazanon and malathion didn’t get the job done so I’ve crossed over to oil and soap based prescriptions. I liken this to the war in Iraq. Originally they went in with the heavy duty, conventional stuff but that just didn’t get it for the terrorist groups. The army figured out that going at it differently – up close and personal – got the job done. Diazanon and Malathion, particularly in the dosage I used, are heavy hitters. But somehow it didn’t touch the micro bugs that nailed me. The soap/oil approach is supposed to coat the stems and leaves and basically smother the bad guys. The only thing I have to lose is a few seeds and some time – which in my case is cheap. So I’m proceeding more for the science of it than the harvest.

Joey is doing just fine but he did lose his eyebrows. They weren’t much to start with so the loss is no big deal. He had eyebrows like me, very light colored, so they were barely noticeable to start with. Wonder if his will come back dark and curly? Mine eventually turned into Andy Rooney walrus brows. All the blood testing still shows good heading into the 6th treatment. I think after the 8th, he gets another PET scan to check internal progress. Nancy mixed up a batch of corn chowder and some daiquiri jello this time. He’s gained 5 pounds so we know none of the food is going to waste.

GO GATORS. Let me advise the BCS guys right up front – what I’m not looking for is a Florida-Missouri matchup in a post season bowl game. Give both of us a nice BIG 10 team to beat up on.

Politics – I separate and label this so those so inclined and could care less about my opinion, can skip it.

I was truly surprised/shocked that the McCain speech outdrew Obama’s at the convention. I assumed that since it was opposite the NFL season opener, it would be poorly watched. What does that mean? Good news for McCain or bad news for the NFL? I understood a big number on Palin – curiosity – but who hasn’t heard McCain? Do you think that maybe Palin raised the interest so much that people wanted to hear him? Love to see a demographic breakdown on who watched.

Here’s the other big surprise to me. The feminist groups are tearing into Palin. I would have assumed that since she was a successful woman in a leadership position, feminists would have been proud and elated or at least mute. What’s that all about? Is it because she chose not to abort her handicapped baby? I thought the feminists were pro choice but maybe it’s not the freedom to make the choice they support, but exactly what the choice is. Maybe it’s even something more fundamental. She’s really attractive and most of the feminists are really doggy and to be a feminist in good standing, you have to be on the ugly side. Whatever it is, you can now say for sure that the feminist groups are not genuinely supportive of women – just some women.

And what’s blowing me away is how out of touch the Dem leadership is. They bypass Clinton and then trash Palin. I laughed when Charlie Gibson, the lib ABC anchor, said that the polls showing a 20% shift in women voters from Dem to Republican was “startling”. These NE clowns simply don’t understand the thought processes of normal, mortals. Guess what Charlie, women are going to vote for the ticket with the woman on board; blacks are going to vote for the ticket with a black on board; and if a Hispanic were on one of the tickets, that ticket would get the Hispanic vote. duh!! The big thing Palin brings to the ticket are Republicans who were cool on McCain – me included.

What this is starting to shape up in my eyes, is the same issues that elected Bush. Character and trust. Time and time again, the American people in the end, go for the candidates they feel they can trust; have strong characters; and are willing and able to defend them from the bad guys. Nobody can doubt that when the chips are down, you’d want McCain to have your back and not Obama waving a white flag. Forget the issues like healthcare, education etc. etc. They are important to small interest groups but trust and security trumps all other issues. And I think by now everyone understands that no matter which party has the white house, these issues are beaten to death in congress and nothing much ever changes. So Dem’s, please quit nominating big city libs. You won with Carter, you won with Clinton, and you won with Lyndon Johnson. You lost with Dukakis, you lost with Kerry, you lost with Gore (not really from Tennessee). Start grooming some good ole country boys from the south or the west and give up on the NE snobs.

Post Hannah

My favorite observation coming out of the Palin speech – “The unhappiest woman in the country was Michelle Obama; the happiest woman in the country was Hillary Clinton.” Not sure who said it, but it cracked me up.

Hannah is history. We got about 1/4” of rain and no wind so that was much ado about nothing. Now we’re watching Ike. I saw this morning that the models were showing this one possibly hitting the Carolina’s; possibly hitting a gulf state; possibly doing the keys. In other words, not a clue where it’s going. That I believe. I think it will be an interesting study in psychology if this starts heading for New Orleans. It sounded like lots of people were already complaining about evacuating for what turned out to be a minimal storm.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised that Joey’s latest treatment has not been a problem. We were concerned that perhaps the shortened time between #4 and #5 would exacerbate the after affects. I wonder if having the added responsibility of lashing down the boat in preparation of a wind event overrode whatever else was going on inside. There’s one other possibility. Nancy sent over a new soup – Tomato Florentine – and he confirmed that he did eat some the other day.

Check out the picture. We met a couple last March and in chatting over lunch, determined that we had all lived in San Diego in the early 60’s and had both worked for General Dynamics and had some common acquaintances. Bill and Dottie Robison live in Ormond Beach and have a nice place at Astor on the St. Johns so we’ve had a couple of opportunities to meet subsequently. I guess the other day they were going through some old photo’s and found one that they thought had captured Nancy so they forwarded it on to us. Sure enough, that’s Nancy – second from the left – sitting talking to Dottie and her mother in front of our apt in San Diego. The carriage in the background was Joey’s and the young boy is Jim, their oldest son. The picture was taken in 1964, so as it turns out, our new friends are really old friends. And that’s not the end of the coincidences. We discovered that I went to high school with Bill Robison’s cousin and even funnier, Bill’s cousin lives in the condo’s adjacent to Joey’s Marina and has been a frequent customer of Joey’s. Joey made the first hook with Wilt Wagner and then all the loops closed when Bill and Wilt showed up at Joey’s boat when I happened to be there too.

Post Fay report

Fay came and went (eventually) and other than wiping out the garden, was pretty much a good event here. We picked up the 8-10” we had hoped for and avoided the nasty flooding some areas experienced. I don’t believe we ever got wind over 35 mph and we only lost power for a few seconds Friday morning about 2AM. The lake is back up to what I’d call a normal level so I can start fishing from my boat again. Brevard County picked up quite a bit because the storm moved so slowly. My sister in Melbourne got over 30” between Tuesday and Wednesday which is fairly impressive. Lots of flooding – of course in subdivisions that didn’t exist 20 years ago. I checked with the Lake Mary Carbone’s and they were getting plenty of rain but no flooding and plenty of room still in the area retention ponds. They had some issues with the drainage pattern in the back yard since it was re-landscaped but nothing sounded serious. Funny how it floods more since the farms, raw land and jungles have been replaced with concrete. We really don’t have much flood danger here for exactly that reason – mostly rural, heavily vegetated with few paved roads. And since we’re elevated and on a well, we don’t have to worry about overloaded, flooded sewage systems that are causing so much concerns in the developed areas. The news channels have so much at stake for a blockbuster event, that they just beat these things to death. This one actually brought relief from the non stop story of Casey and Caylee Anthony. Thank goodness Michael Phelps got his medal job done before the storm.

As far as the garden goes – maybe I should have planted rice.

The biggest casualty was that Joey’s chemo appointment was postponed twice. He finally was treated on Thursday but the doc said he’ll go back on the regular Tuesday schedule for the next go round. Tuesday’s are good since he more or less recovers from the droopsies by Saturday when the cruise business is nominally best. He felt bad right after this treatment which is unusual but by the next day, he was feeling great. Then the follow up Neulasta shot followed by the 2 day hangover. He talked to the doctor a a bit about signs of progress or lack thereof. The Dr. said that all his blood numbers were good and that since all the symptoms he had before the diagnosis had disappeared, the signs were positive. Interestingly he said that since he never had any blood markers – meaning the cancer was never showing in any of the blood chemistry – there isn’t any positive way to check on the cancer directly until they do a PET scan downstream. I took that as positive since you’d have to guess that it’s not good for the blood to be impacted as it would be in a more advanced condition.

And the boat made it through unscathed. It remains to be seen whether all the rain raised the river to a level that will prevent them from sailing under the bridges for awhile. The mast is 65′ and the nominal clearance under the bridge is about 65′ – maybe a little more slack – but it might be that for a while they’ll have to cruise around between bridges rather than going under them. Since the river is part of the intracoastal system – open to the ocean at several places – it will only be high for a little while.

The olympics are getting lamer and lamer. With the storm we got to watch lots of daytime activities. Seems to me like they’ve incorporated lots of circus acts now. No kidding, I’m pretty sure I saw the one with little girls throwing rings around at Circqu de Soleil. So they kill softball and add artistic gymnastics. barf. I did enjoy the new dirt bike racing event. We got about an hour of boxing and virtually no basketball but plenty of phoo phoo events. The Olympics have definitely gone feminine. I vote to bring back chariot racing.

Chris, Fay, Joey and the Olympics

We had a great time with Chris. It could have been longer but not sure how much more country living he could deal with. He did bring us up to speed on a couple New York terms that I thought you need to know. Around here you get a hair cut. There they get their wig busted. And if you get your hair fixed up, that’s getting your wig bumped. So if you go to NY and need an emergency hair job, you know how to ask for it.

I also confirmed again how great it is to be out of the work force. Or rather, to have been in the work force prior to cell phones, texting, blackberries, etc etc. This generation of worker bees are tethered to the office by these devices. When I was on the road, if I needed to know something I called in – if and when a phone was available. If they needed me, they would leave a message with my secretary so on one call, I had a complete dump. And I could always just leave somebody in charge who could deal with the day to day minutia. Now when Joey, Tommy, or Chris are traveling – no exaggeration, it’s rare that 5 minutes would go by without some kind of electronic communication. With Tom that’s 24/7; Joey is saner and in his case, that’s how he books business. With Chris, it’s more or less constant all day and until he craters at night. The only reason I know Tom is 24/7 is because we traveled together to Missouri so I experienced the chirps of incoming messages all night. That has to be so stressful and something I just didn’t have to deal with.
We’re waiting now for the storm named Fay. I suspect the only casualty will be my corn and Joey’s Chemo treatment which has been postponed a day. This treatment should mark the halfway point.

I did my due diligence to make sure we don’t get anything serious by filling up all the gas cans – 20 gallons worth – and positioning the generator for easy access. If we do lose power it tends to be lengthy since the power company doesn’t service us jungle folk on any kind of priority. We’ve had a couple of inches of rain in the past few days and if we’re lucky we could another 4-6 before it’s passed. I do enjoy the news during these events. My favorite is watching the news folks trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. “Now to our reporter stationed at the National storm center” The cameras pan a room with folks laid back with their feet on the desk drinking coffee and telling jokes. The reporter meanwhile is describing the scene as a beehive of activity, high tension etc. “Now we switch to Skip Skipson, on the beach”. The camera goes to a guy fully decked out in Nor’easter kind of gear with people swimming in a calm surf or just laying on beach towels reading. The reporter describes the high level of preparedness, high tension etc. And there’s always the thinning of the gene pool when some dumb ass does something like decide to climb a power pole to get a better view. In this case it was a guy who went kite surfing down in SW Florida when the storm was making landfall. They actually caught this guy flying horizontally for quite a distance and crashing into a building. This will probably count as a storm casualty but no doubt this guy was destined to die of the dumb ass at some time.
Watching the Olympics on and off. I was disappointed with the fencing. I was expecting some Three Musketeer stuff – swinging from chandeliers, jumping on tables, slashing ropes that brought the tent down on the bad guy – you know what I mean. This Olympic version lasts at the longest 1 second. I never once saw anything resembling an Errol Flynn or Burt Lancaster move. No blood, no broken blades. Boring. I don’t think there should be an Olympic event that lasts less that 10 seconds except for the 100 meter races.

Other Olympic highlights:
rowing. very impressed that they can put so much weight into such a skinny boat. Not sure how in the world they get in and out unless the boat is put into some locking gate. I have a 32” wide John boat which would be considered a narrow John boat. You really have to be careful getting in and out to keep it from tipping. Just ask Fred.

The other sport I like to watch because I have some personal experience with is Kayaking
I can tell you that I would not make it one foot or one second on the kayak course before I’d be dumped. Of course I’d have my fishing equipment with me and these guys are not trying to cast while heading downstream. I actually did some white water stuff in Oregon that was about one ten thousandth of the wimpiest part of the olympic course and dumped a couple of times.

And I sure have some doubts about team makeup’s in terms of nationalities. For example there’s a guy playing on the German team whose great grandparents were from Germany. Give me a break. I should think at the very minimum you should have to have citizenship in a country to play on the national team.

The other crackup was watching the parade of countries in the opening ceremony. I’m totally convinced that some of those countries don’t really exist or are rich guys who bought an island and somehow get it classified as a country for tax reasons.

Next to the USA, I root for the Dutch teams. That’s because they wear gator colors.

My pet peeve – allowing events in the Olympics where there is no clear winner but rather some averaging of scores from judges. The ancient Greeks must turn over in their graves at the thought of all that 9.7 stuff. Can you honestly remember any Olympics in which there was not a judging controversy on one of these judged competitions? And can they test for age when testing for drugs. They have special olympics for disabled folks so maybe they should have a special olympics for children. It just seems wrong, wrong, wrong to have an olympic sport dominated by kids under 16. Synchronized swimming? Pleeese.
And last but not least, little Tommy is in Missouri and ready to start classes next week. Wow! How in the world did he go from a kid making his first cast to a college guy soooo fast?

news and trivia

Joey completed treatment 3 and so far his after treatment pattern is holding. We took Chris over to Cocoa Monday to see the boat. We had lunch with Joey and Mark and then did a grand tour of the beach from Melbourne south to Cocoa Beach. We stopped over at the Beach Place Guest House Resort where Joey goes to recuperate. I was impressed with the setup. It’s a set of cottages that were once off-base housing from the 40’s when it was Banana River Naval Air Station which predated Patrick Air Force Base. You can barely see the place from the road behind the vegetation but it’s a rustic, beach front without all the crowds of a Holiday Inn or other modern, commercial beach place. I can sure see how spending a couple of days there would be quite relaxing and a good place to recuperate. I sure appreciate the guys who own the place being so kind to help out like that.
I have to pass this one along. Anybody who has a bird feeder in an area with squirrels knows how tough it is to keep the tree rats out of the bird feeder. I’ve basically given up. I had talked about this to my friend Lou Daniels and he agreed. Right now he’s up in North Carolina escaping the summer heat and visiting a fishing buddy of his who has a cabin in the mountains. He too was having a devil of a time keeping a bird feeder going because of squirrels. He researched it and found a book named Squirrel Busters or something along those lines. It gave him several designs that work 100% and I thought I’d pass them along. There’s a rule called the 5 – 7 – 9 rule that you need to follow. Any hanging feeder must be at least 5′ from the ground because that’s the highest a squirrel can jump. It must be 7′ from any jumping point on the side because that’s the farthest a squirrel can leap horizontally. And it must be 9′ beneath any kind of overhang. They can drop 9′ and grab ahold of anything but any higher and they can’t stop. That’s good poop but here’s a couple of good designs.

If you are stringing a wire between a couple of poles or trees with the feeder hanging in the middle, string 6” pieces of 1/4” pvc on the wire between the tree and the feeder from both sides. When the squirrel tries to walk out the pieces of pvc rotate and spins him off. You have to have a turnbuckle on one end so you can make sure the line is taut. Very clever. But here’s an even better one. Say you are pole mounting a feeder. Hang a slinky from the bottom of the feeder and if possible around the pole. I think it would work if it was just close to the pole. When the squirrel jumps up, he grabs the slinky and is bounced right back to the ground. Now is that a great idea or what.
Saw one on TV the other day that cracked me up. In my top 10 things I hate, home owner’s associations are right near the top. It would be impossible for me to live in any area that had a home owner’s association. Not sure where this story was being reported but some folks have decided that one way to be extra green, conserve energy, do the carbon foot print etc – I think they actually wanted to cut the power bill – was to hang out their laundry and shut off the dryer. Nancy and I have always hung out the clothes because we like the way sundried laundry feels and smells. We’ve also always had a drier so we’re not dependent on the weather. So the reporter interviews several of the homeowners who were sneaking around to hang their clothes and they gave all the politically correct reasons. Sort of like the people who put an American Flag on their lawn to honor the troops or whatever. Then they interview the grinch – the head of the home owners association. He looked like a McNasty kind of old fart so it was a perfect interview. It – hanging out laundry – trashed up the neighborhood, ruined home values, and was just plain nasty. I’d probably just burn the jerk’s house down which is why I should never live in such a community.

But it brought to mind a personal story you might find funny. A few years back Nancy was having some shoulder problems and asked me if I’d mind hanging the wash. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I agreed. After a month or so it just became routine that she would wash the clothes and I would hang them out. Mostly she would take in the dry ones because for some reason she didn’t like the way I folded them. I quit arguing about that and just leave them for her to take down. One Friday she was doing the wash and loaded up the wash basket (as usual). I walked down the hall and picked up the basket (as usual) but she said, “oh, don’t bother, I’ll do it”. “oh, I don’t mind”. “No, I’ll just do it today”. “well how come all of a sudden you’re going to hang the wash?” “Well, we’re having company and they may get here before the wash is dry”. Our niece Joanne and her friend Edna were going to spend the weekend with us at the lake. “So what difference does that make?” “Well, you don’t hang the clothes right and I don’t want them to see it that way”.”What the ……… do you mean, I don’t hang it right. Seems the clothes have been getting dry with me hanging them for about 6 months now so how can I be doing it wrong?” “Well, you don’t hang the socks side by side heading in the same direction for one thing” and then she went on to list several stylistic hanging rules that I never knew existed and for which she would be banned by the sisterhood if they ever saw the wash hanging. Needless to say I got my job back the next wash day that dame around and I just relinquish my post whenever company is coming.
So maybe that’s what this homeowner’s association jerk was so worked up about – people have forgotten the proper techniques and the art of hanging has gone dormant.

product service

I have to comment on two experiences I’ve had in the past couple of weeks with product service. In both cases I have products that I’ve really loved but with which I had a need for spare parts. One of my prize possessions is my grill – a Holland Grill. For my kind of grilling, it is hands down the best grill I’ve ever owned. I bought the first one in Utah in 1991 and was gratified to find a friend who would take it when we moved. Nancy tells me it’s still in service there. It was the first thing we bought when we finished the lake house – even before the first stick of furniture. So the current unit is 7 years old and performs flawlessly. But when I was cleaning it the other day I noticed that the drip pan and a heat shield were corroding away. Ever try to get a spare part for a 7 year old product. I called Holland Grill and the person who answer the phone said she could help me and within 3 minutes the parts were on order. No transfers to the service dept, no push #3 kind of phone system – just a competent person answering the main phone. The parts came in two days, fit perfectly, and in 10 minutes I was back in business. I did make a minor engineering mod to their design which will make it easier to clean in the future but the basic grill design is a marvel in ruggedness and simplicity. I am perhaps the world’s worst barbecue grill cook but have never, ever, ever screwed up a meal with the Holland Grill.

The other product is a portable, battery powered sprinkler system. It’s made in Bountiful Utah of all places by Orbit Irrigation Products. We must have lived just a few blocks from Orbit and never knew it. The system includes a programmable control head, a 4 outlet manifold which allows 4 hoses to be attached, and up to 4 solenoid operated valves. I bought two systems at Costco a couple of years back. One controls sprinklers in an area not covered by my main sprinkler system; the other waters the vegetable garden. About a year ago I had a fire up at the pump caused by a bug getting across the main pump relay. The fire spurted out of the box and charred the sprinkler controller box and really toasted one of the control valves. Luckily the control head still worked and I had a replacement valve. I was very impressed with the ruggedness of the design. The other day I noticed that the garden sprinkler was just not working properly and getting hung up rather than moving continuously. It had been doing this on and off for a couple of months. I cleaned it, greased it and did more or less everything I could but no long term success. I have never had too much luck with sprinklers and this time had bought one with a lifetime guarantee. So I took it back to Lowes and exchanged it for another sprinkler. I hooked up the new one and it did the exact same thing. I then did what I should have done the first time – checked the Orbit control valve. I remembered there’s an integral filter and figured it was clogged. Nope, I had removed the filter previously. Long story short – the valve was not opening fully. Changed to my remaining spare valve and it worked like a world champ. I went to Orbit’s web site intent on buying a spare valve but the site didn’t have a spare part list – at least that I could find. I called Orbit, went thru a phone system and a perma hold before I finally got thru to a human. The guy listened to my story and within 2 minutes had 2 new control valves on the way, free of charge. Now that’s what I call customer service. I guarantee you that as my rainbirds crater, they’ll be replaced by Orbits.


Joey spent most of Thursday and Friday sleeping. He called this morning and it sounded like the nausea thing did not got out of hand but every time he got stationary, he fell asleep. Considering that what’s going on in his body is a major regeneration of blood cells after the chemo kills them off, you would expect all his body’s energy is going to that manufacturing job. You have to think that nothing would be better than sleeping through a day when you probably didn’t feel all that well anyway. If this week mirrors last week, he’ll start coming out of it later today and be feeling fine tomorrow.

2nd treatment update

Joey had his second treatment yesterday and all seemed to go well. I talked to him just a few minutes ago and he said he was feeling tired but not nauseous at all. He attributed that to the fact that he took the anti – nausea medicine sooner and also that he took a dose of pepsid before the treatment as recommended. He didn’t do that with the first treatment and said he actually is feeling a bit better so far after this go round. He was given all his blood stat’s from recent testing and everything looked good. In some cases his blood numbers are below normal but have improved over the pre-treatment ones. He’s actually gained weight whereas the expectation is that he would lose weight. With Joey, unlike his parents, losing weight is a bad thing.

Without a doubt he’s eating better now that Nancy is in the loop and she adjusts the menu each cooking cycle depending on the reports and comments from Joey. For example we heard that his hemogloblin is slightly low, I think he said 13.7 vs a normal 14. It was 13.3 before the first treatment so this is actually an up tick. When Nancy heard that, pickled beets went on the list for the next food delivery. Joey requested home meade chicken noodle soup – so she plans to use spinach noodles for the extra iron. The routine we’ve established is that we meet Joey on Monday’s for lunch and a movie and trade empty food containers for full ones. Nancy cooks over the weekend such that it’s impossible to put anything more at all in our refrigerator. And any left overs we have – history. So if I don’t move quickly, it’s gone – just like when he lived at home.
Ever wondered what a guava bush/tree looks like? or ever wonder what a guava loosk like? That’s what’s pictured above. Most people are familiar with guava jelly but not the fruit itself. The red fruit is about 2” across and full of seeds. I eat them right off the bushes and skip the jelly conversion. They’re soft and sweetish but not overwhelming. My neighbor planted them years ago and now they pop up all over the neighborhood. This year’s crop is good and the squirrels haven’t found them yet.

Garden disaster. last month I planted some Bell pepper seeds in a container and kept them nicely protected on the porch. Nothing unusual about that. I nursed the seedlings along with water and fertilizer until they were ready for transplanting into the garden. There were a dozen plants which I timed to be fruiting about mid October and produce until we had a freeze. A dozen plants would provide enough peppers to allow us to freeze for a winter supply. Mistake number one was doing the transplant in the morning. That’s the right thing to do in the spring because it gives the plants a full day in the warmth and sun in anticipation of a cool evening and overnight. I learned that it’s the wrong time to plant them in mid July. They roasted. Out of a dozen plants – 2 sorry looking ones were still alive when I checked on them 12 hours later. And I use the term “alive” in it’s loosest form. I’ll start a new batch and then condition them to the Fla sun in small doses. Lesson learned.

Another tidbit – I noticed that the crop of cherry tomatoes and jalapeno’s has been dropping off. We’ve had ton’s of both so I just assumed the plants were playing out. But on a couple of occasions I’ve hit the garden in the early AM and noted lots of young cardinals hopping around in the bushes of both varieties. I moved in close to the plants, maybe 2′ away, and waited to see if they’d come back. They did and I saw that they were eating the very young fruits and the blossoms. Just before a blossom actually drops off, you can see the baby fruit forming at the center. That’s what they are eating. I do like the cardinals but this is putting me under a bit of stress. We had noticed that there was an exceptional number of young cardinals around and about this season and felt this meant they had a bumper crop of babies. Now I’m wondering if maybe they have gathered around here because the food is so good. This will surprise you but I took one of the sunflower heads that was loaded with seeds – traditional cardinal food – and set that down on a bench in the middle of the garden. They would peck around that for a bit but then head back to the tomato plants. Not only that, George put up a nice bird feeder about 50′ from the garden and keeps it full of commercial bird seed. So there’s plenty of food about but they prefer the tiny tomato and jalapeno’s. Who’d a thunk it.

A note on commenting on the blog- Several people have said they have trouble sending comments. I tried and found it doesn’t work about half the time. Tom is trying to fix the problem but if you try a couple of times, it will probably work. I do appreciate hearing from you and hope this inconvenience is short lived.

Lake Stuff

More organic material in the mulch pile. A coral snake, at least I think it was a coral snake, was crawling across the top of the newest pile. It’s easy to confuse a coral snake with a king snake and there’s a nursery rhyme to keep you from getting them confused but I can never remember the rhyme exactly so……………….. whack. Who said I don’t recycle.

The lake is inching up. We’ve had a good 2 weeks of rain so we’re up about 8-10”” from the lowest level and rising daily. The level rises faster than you might think because when it’s raining the surrounding nurseries are not pumping irrigation water and the natural springs in the lake are more effective. There’s still a long, long way to go before it approaches anything like normal but the trend is right. Another week like this and I’ll actually be able to lower the boat into the water. About a foot a month for the next 3 months would be great and not outside the realm of possibility at all.

The second half summer garden is popping out big time. As it turns out most everything comes to harvest in Sept and October so it will be interesting to see how it survives the storm season. I’m thinking a hurricane – even one that misses by 100 miles – will play hell with the corn. On the other hand, a good storm would go a long way to filling the lake, so I’m hedged on the occurance of a hurricane. What I’ll try to do is have one keep just far enough away to avoid the winds but still give us a good dousing.

Joey is feeling fine. His next treatment is Tuesday so we’re hoping the side affects are no worse than from his first go round. He’s got dinner cruises booked for the next 3 days and he plans to work them himself so that’s a sign he’s feeling good. As best I can tell, the side affects got Nancy more than they got Joey.

Interesting wildlife encounter today. I was sitting in front of the computer checking email about 7 AM and out of the corner of my eye caught a movement of something going behind a bush. I watched as he came out the other side and started heading up towards the house. It was a red fox with a creature of some sort in his mouth. He spotted me looking at him and took off into the jungle so I never really got a good look at the prey. It could have been a small rabbit, a big rat, or a medium sized squirrel; maybe even a cat. I’m hoping rat but betting rabbit or squirrel. I saw a large owl drop out of a tree last week and he too nabbed something but he was just too far away for me to see exactly what he caught. He stayed on the ground and worked on it for quite a while so I know it was something way bigger than a mouse.

mulch pile trivia and updates

It’s all about the mulch. I’ve mentioned the wide variety of vegetables that we’re growing but hands down, the biggest crop by volume and weight is mulch. When most people think of mulch piles, they have in mind a small pile of garden debris and kitchen scraps that eventully converts into an organic garden soil amendment. We’ve ratcheted it up a bit from that. Visualize a mulch pile on steroids. The picture is the current load. The stuff on the right, about 75 cubic feet, is nearly ready for use. The left side is brand new green chippings. That pile will shrink about 75% by the time it’s ready.

Florida doesn’t have soil. We have sand. And the sand has none of the traditional minerals necessary for good vegetable plant growth. Because of the climate it’s a major agricultural state but that’s as a result of constant chemical additives. There’s also no water retention at all in the soil. It can rain 4-6” in an hour and within a few minutes it will have totally disappeared into the sand. So in order to keep from continuously fertilizing and watering, we’ve been adding organic material to the soil – as much as we can produce it. At this point our mulch piles can support as much as 150 cubic feet of mulch in process at any given time. It turns from raw material to useable mulch in maybe 4 months so over the course of a year, we should produce 450 cubic feet. To calibrate the value – I was spending $1.25 for a one cubic foot bag of mulch at Lowes. So it’s not a stretch to say we’re saving $500 a year by creatiing our own mulch. And it’s not the cost so much but think about hauling 450 bags, 40 lbs each, from Lowes. I don’t want to run the math that shows me working for 50 cents an hour but prefer thinking I would have to be paying a fee at the Y or some place to burn off as much energy as I do working the mulch piles. So I look at it as a work-out alternative.

From the initial pile of raw material, we see about a 40:1 shrinkage so you can see we are working with a substantial base of raw material. Most of the shrinkage comes with the initial chipping, at least 10:1 and with some materials, even greater. The largest volume of material comes from cutting undergrowth and vines from the jungle that surrounds both our house and my neighbor’s. It’s not n exaggeration to say that if we didn’t keep more or less a constant trimming, the jungle would take the property back to the original state in a year or two. So we have a ready and easy source of material – where easy means it’s close. For us, a chipper is not a nice touch but an absolute necessity. Our’s is a 10HP beauty as you can see from the picture On the spectrum of chippers, this is between a home garden chipper and a full blown commercial machine. Without the chipper, there would be no mulch operation. We also have a large burn pile where we dispose of the large tree limbs that are trimmed or naturally fall with every wind storm. During the wet, stormy season we probably burn a load once a week; during the dry, no burn season, we reduce that to maybe once a month. So every couple of months we shovel out the ash and toss it into the mulch pile to add minerals to the greenery.

This week we added an interesting load of organic material. George has large Koi ponds around his house. Over the past few years the continuous dropping of oak leaves into the ponds started overwhelming them so Barbara took on the task of cleaning them out. It took 3 days and I would guess 30-40 five gallon bucket loads made it from the pond to the mulch pile. Plenty of large snail shells made it too. The ponds are loaded with large Koi so no doubt they contributed to the organic load. I can’t smell but George says the whole thing now smells fishy.

And as fast as the grass grows, we don’t use grass clippings. Not because they’re bad but in Fla, you use mulching mowers because grass clippings are one of the only sources of nutrients for the lawn itself. If we used lawn clippings, I guarantee the mulch pile would be twice it’s current size.

A quick update on the Gardner’s Spray. Doesn’t stop fire ants.


Joey had a couple of bad days Wed and Thurs but by Friday afternoon he was coming out of it and planning to work a cruise on Saturday. He and Mark have some good friends who run a beach resort on Cocoa Beach and they invited them to spend a few days there to help make the bad days somewhat better. I’m guessing it did help. They also have friends capable of standing in for Joey on cruises – a huge help – so they should be able to keep the business going just fine. In general they are taking reservations only for the weekends and so far that seems to be working out ok.