The new Doc

We had a big family event on Wednesday. Tom presented his PhD dissertation to his committee and had to defend it against questions from the experts. We were invited to join the festivities at the University and then celebrate afterwards with friends and family. The committee was 4 professors with an interest in the subject matter being discussed – whether or not there is a skill transfer from game players to surgeons performing laproscopic surgery. Tom designed several tests and then had a good population of students engage in the experiments. Most of those participants were in attendance at the presentation so the total audience was probably close to 100. The format was for Tom to make his presentation and then answer questions posed by the committee members and anyone else who wanted to participate. Our family didn’t ask any questions – just applauded at the right time. At the end of the Q &A session, the committee chairman asked everyone to leave while they reached their conclusion regarding Tom’s academic future. All in all, the presentation and Q & A lasted about an hour. About 15 minutes later, the head guy came out and requested that Tom come meet with the whole committee. Five minutes later Tom came out smiling. The chairman then came out and made the announcement that they had signed off on Tom and the only thing left was the actual ceremony in December. The chairman, Charlie, said Tom was “little Doc” until he was actually “hooded” and becomes “Doc”.

The experience was really great for us since Tom got us a room at the downtown Marriott which was a 5 minute walk from the event. Then after the event he took us all (the family) to a great downtown restaurant. We broke off after that while the rest of them headed to a spot called World of Beer where all the other’s from the presentation were ready to party on. We thought we might be a drag on that party so opted to head back to the hotel.

The actual degree award event occurs in December. At that point we (might) see both Tom and Olivia graduate from UCF. Olivia gets her bachelors degree from the School of Medicine. Originally the schedule had them both graduating at the same event which would have been really convenient but the university came to their senses and split up the event into two ceremonies. Interestingly, supposedly the word now is that Tom can only get two tickets to his event which is a real bummer considering that several people are coming from Utah and (maybe) Idaho and the number of local family planning to go. I guess no problem seeing Olivia graduate.

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I usually get out into the yard and/or garden by 9AM to get in a couple of hours before it just gets too hot for me. This morning I poked my head out to head over and got right back in. It turned into fall/winter overnight and it was actually (Florida) cold. That means in the low 60’s. So now instead of getting all my work done before it gets too hot, I have to wait until it warms up. Time to put out my cabbage seedlings etc.

Nancy likes old fashioned white bread, Wonder Bread to be exact. Me, not so much. We go thru a large loaf every week, half for Nancy and half for the critters, mostly fish. But more recently the critter count has grown to include a large turtle and a duck. They nominally reside in the back bay of the lake, where we live and as soon as I step out on the dock in the morning, I can see a turtle head pop out within 100 yds of me and head directly toward me. A few seconds later I hear the flapping of the duck wings. The duck hangs out around George’s dock but he keeps his eyes on ours, especially at feeding time. I’m aware of the fact that you’re not supposed to feed the wildlife but ………………

A New Bait Option

It’s cooled off enough to get me back surf fishing on Mondays while Nancy is playing bridge. A couple of weeks ago when I was on the beach, just walking, not fishing, I met a guy who was catching a few and clearly, (based on his gear), knew what he was doing. I asked him what he was using for bait and he showed me his sand flea flavored “fish bites”. This is a manufactured bait strip, cut into small pieces that are really easy to deal with – holds on the hook much better than real bait, and according to this guy, caught more fish than real sand fleas or shrimp. It’s non perishable so you can keep it in your tackle box and not have to worry about ice. It comes in lots of flavors – shrimp, crab, clam, squid, shrimp – so lots of options for bait choice. I went by Big Al’s bait and tackle on Flagler and picked up a bag of the sand flea flavored. They don’t give them away – $9 for a small bag but the fact that they will last for many trips, makes up for the expense. Also the bait is tough enough to stay on the hook even after catching a few fish. My surf rig has two hooks so when I got on the beach and saw that natural sand fleas were abundant, I decided to bait one hook with a real flea and the other with a sand flea flavored fish bite. I did catch more fish on the bite. Another advantage to the fish bite is that I can’t count on always being able to find live sand fleas in the surf. Sometimes they’re abundant, sometimes totally gone. And sometimes the surf is running so big that it’s difficult gathering them. I did a little online research and was surprised to find plenty of sources but not much price spread. Walmart was shown as a source so I’m going to visit the Palm Coast store and see if they have them. I’m thinking of adding crab and shrimp flavored Bites to the mix. Update – I found them at Walmart for $6. I bought a bag of sand flea flavor, shrimp flavor, clam flavor and crab flavor. I rushed to the beach to start some serious testing but was met with rain, wind, rip currents and giant waves. Next week!

Lots and lots of seedlings in the house waiting for a break in the heat. I have 50+ seedlings including cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cabbage, and collards. This is more than enough to fill the garden open spaces. Also, the swiss chard seeds I planted directly in the garden have mostly germinated and will need some thinning in a week or so. I’ll put some of the thinned plants in individual containers to cover any losses that occur in the garden. I just hate thinning plants and then tossing them away which is why I end up with too many plants in the garden. I had planted two different varieties of Chard but so far, only one variety has germinated so if the other variety, sea foam, doesn’t work in this garden, I’ll use the thinned plants in that place.

Looking at this backlog, I decided to dig around in the sweet potato patch to see how far along those were. Hopefully they’ll be ready for harvest soon. But, I dug around the edges and found a tuber that was way too small. At least there was a tuber but I’ll just let them go another two weeks before checking again. They were advertised as “white” sweet potatoes and sure enough, they are really light skinned. One thing for sure – tubers or not – I’ll get quite a load of foliage for the compost pile.

Looks like Chris will be moving (again) to NYC. He was recruited seriously from a major player in the industry and will celebrate Thanksgiving there.
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We rearranged the furniture in the living room to see if we could enhance Nancy’s TV viewing. We swapped the positions of the small couch and the lounge chair so that the chair could be physically closer to the TV and also provide better back support. Seems to have worked so far.

Truck’s History

Nancy’s orthopod set her up for some shots to relieve her back pain. They said there was no fundamental underlying bone issues but rather pinched nerves. I was surprised when they set an appointment to get the shot at 6:00 AM at a surgical center in Orange City – about 45 minutes away. I figured the doctor probably lived there and stopped by first thing in the morning before going to his Deland office and that surely she would be the first patient. So I was surprised when we opened the door to the office and found a full waiting room and learned that there were 4 doctors there performing procedures. She got her shots, 4 numbing shots and 2 serious shots and we were out of there about 8AM.

Decided to simplify our vehicle situation even further. Last month we got rid of our old Camry and replaced it with a new Buick which still left us with 3 vehicles and 1 driver. The ’96 truck was getting very few miles which is worse on the vehicle than getting too many miles. The engine occasionally made some funny noise, the brakes squeaked, and it started missing and steering funny. Last time it exhibited those same symptoms – about a year ago- it cost $400 to bring it back to life. I came close to donating it at that time. I love the truck and had some truly memorable camping and fishing trips with the kids, friends, and family but that was a different time and donating it to the Kidney Foundation seemed a fitting end. We donated our old Buick Park Avenue to the Lung Foundation back in the 90’s so now we’re a multi organ donor. The first person we told about the transaction was little Tommy. He was with me when I went shopping for a truck and agreed with the choice. A few weeks later I bought the camper which was located in the Sacramento area and we drove out together, picked it up at the factory, and then camped our way back to Salt Lake. He (and Simon) was with us when the truck crossed the 100K mile point near Heber Utah along the Jordanelle Reservoir. We stopped, did a little dance around the truck then finished up with shakes at Granny’s. Lot’s and lot’s of memories for the three of us.

Lots and lots of seedlings in the house waiting for a break in the heat. I have 50+ seedlings including cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, cabbage, and collards. This is more than enough seedlings to fill the garden open spaces. Looking at this backlog, I decided to dig around in the sweet potato patch to see how far along those were. Hopefully they’ll be ready for harvest soon. But, I dug around the edges and found a tuber that was way too small. At least there was a tuber but I’ll just let them go another two weeks before checking again. They were advertised as “white” sweet potatoes and sure enough, they are really light skinned.

Finally back

Sorry this blog update took so long. My old macbook finally ran out of gas. I couldn’t get online at the Flagler Library, my update venue. Update – not the computer, the internet at the library was screwed up.

Went to the doc for a routine annual follow up and learned that my iron blood count was back to normal after dropping as a result of the hematoma developed from a fall in North Carolina. I had a huge hematoma which turned by backside black and blue from my waist to my knee – Really ugly and enough blood involved (internally) to drop me into anemia. Eventually the iron in the bruise blood is reabsorbed. That took about 2 months enhanced by taking iron pills.

100% of what’s grown in the garden is used – even weeds. It’s either eaten or composted. This year the wet spring and hot summer yielded the largest crop of weeds ever and consequently I have the most compost for the fall garden ever. I’ve been using it as needed and still have what I estimate to be 2 cubic yards of first class compost. I bet the whole garden will be raised up a couple of inches as the new compost is added. Aside from just being a much better growing medium, raising the level makes the garden less susceptible to flooding – better drainage. That’s important with this garden because the lake sets the groundwater level and I like to have at least a foot of soil above that.

I mentioned that I had started my winter veggies indoors using last year’s seed. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia. Chinese cabbage seed germinated in 3 days, some kale in 4 days. That’s faster than I remembered. The cauliflower and collards were a day behind but still, they were all really fast. I decided to jump ahead of my original planting schedule – just impatient, no new input – and put in a few short rows of spinach seed. I favor an heirloom variety, Bloomsdale. Deep down inside I feel it’s a few weeks early but I have plenty of seed and who knows, it may be cool enough if it holds under 90 for a couple of weeks. If that seed germinates and looks healthy, I’ll follow up with some lettuce and get our salad material started. Both spinach and lettuce are very fast crops – ready to start picking as soon as 35 days after germination. So in a perfect world we’ll be eating “garden” fresh salads by the beginning of November – a month earlier than I usually plan

Lost my cousin Billy this week. We were best buddies when we were kids. We both loved exploring, fishing, diving, camping – anything with a large outdoor component. We got into lots of “trouble” by disappearing – long walks in the woods, on the beach – you name it. I’ll miss him a lot. Not that we saw each other often but I thought about our exploits frequently and I’ll continue to do so.

Another loss – both the NY Times and the Washington post have morphed into the National Inquirer. I always knew they were way too liberal for me but thought they had journalistic integrity. Not now.

Sweat Test

Working in the garden is really, really hot, sweaty work this time of the year. I go out fully ready to tackle the tasks at hand and come in 2 hours later totally wrung out, drippy wet with sweat. I did an experiment. I weighed myself just before heading over to the garden and then again about 2 hours later when I was done for the morning. I was 2.5 pounds lighter which has to be 100% water loss. FYI, 2.5 cups of water = 2.5 pounds. So now I’m starting to get it on the dehydration front. To make sure, I repeated the experiment on Friday with the exact same results. When I’m working like that, I’ll get a little light headed but didn’t link that to water loss -but I bet that’s the cause.

Not happy with the germination of the beans so I used all the left over seeds from the original pack to fill in the gaps. I’m used to that when I use seed I’ve had for a couple of years but this was newly purchased so it must have been in the system for a couple of years before it ended up in my shopping cart. Most seed packs have a use by date but this particular information was missing on these seeds. Suspicious. But I started the gardening in earnest by making the first transfers from my started seedlings to the garden. My first planting was two Early Blue Ribbon tomatoes, two Dixie Red tomatoes, -both varieties I’ve never grown before – two Skyway’s which I have grown and three Declaration green bell peppers, an old standbye. I also planted seeds for 4 greyzini zucchini plants. The four tomatoes are part of a set that includes 4 more varieties and a total of 16 plants, a couple of paste tomatoes and a couple Cherrys. I planted the first ones very carefully and I’ll watch them for a couple of days to make sure it’s ok before planting the remainder.

I started the seeds for the full winter garden 9/16. That includes the cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and collards. I was out of broccoli and chard seed and expect delivery on those this week. I start these indoors in peat pots with a target of late October, early November for transplanting to the garden. I’ll squeeze a few lettuce and spinach plants as weather and space allow. If you can keep track of it all, it means a very full garden from November thru December when both the fall and winter plants are sharing the garden space.

Nancy and her quilt buddy did a quilt shop tour in west central Florida – over in the Tampa area. They left first thing Thursday morning and back at supper time on Friday. I can’t figure why Nancy likes going to quilt shops when she really can’t see the material – but she does.

It’s nice to be watching the hurricane season developing without being directly in the path of something. I think our Carolina friends and family are far enough inland to be spared the worst of it. I imagine they’ll lose power for a short time but no flooding or wind related problems. Fingers crossed.

A New Car in the Family

As expected, I over did it on the fall seed planting. I have the seeds which have a life expectancy so once I get started, why not go big. Also since it’s a high risk crop, I decided to try a wide variety rather than depend on just a few varieties. The final count is a dozen tomato peat pots among 6 different varieties, 2 of each. Add 6 bell peppers, 4 eggplants, and two basil’s to round out the fall seedling starts. I’ll also plant a few summer squash plants directly in the garden sometime in Mid September, weather permitting. Don’t assume that 100% of the seed plantings listed above will actually turn into future transplants. Germination is normally something less than 100% so in each little pot, I put two seeds. It does happen that both the seeds or neither of the seeds will germinate. In about 2 weeks I’ll have some feeling for how many transplants could make the garden. These seed pots are sitting in a plastic tray – “floating” in an inch of water – on the kitchen counter. I want them to be protected from large temp swings, bugs, sunlight until they have germinated. One of the things I have to be very careful of is losing track of which variety is in which peat pot. All the varieties look alike when immature and I really want to determine which variety is best suited for our climate. It’s not a big surprise that somewhere in between germination and transplant, they become mixed up. Labels wash off, well meaning people “move” them.

Bought/leased a new car. The Toyota we’ve had since ’96 was sending end of life warning signals. It had about 230,000 miles with the original power train and transmission and the A/C was intermittent – a really bad problem in a Florida summer so we decided it was time to look for a replacement. I evaluated several different cars and finally settled on a new Buick Encore – a small, SUV body style. It’s a little bigger than I was thinking but I really enjoyed driving it around the lot and was able to strike what I considered a decent deal. It also had more “goodies” than I was thinking but…………. It’s the model above the “basic” with a special engine, the Bose noise cancellation system and extra fancy wheels and trim. None of that matters to me but…….. That, plus Tom had previously done research on the Encore and had decided that would probably be his next buy. That pushed my decision toward the Buick. This is our first lease, 27 months, 12000 miles per year. Nancy is a little nervous about that but I think it’s a good fit for the routine driving we do. And we still have the Grand Marquis for longer drives and the truck – but not sure for how much longer on that. I drive it so rarely now that it’s suffering from a lack of use.

We made the purchase on Saturday then Nancy and I went back on Monday to actually take delivery and give up the Toyota. It’s so much more electronics oriented that it’s going to take me a while to really feel comfortable with the basic operations. The whole starting and shutting off process is no longer just a key in the ignition and I have this nagging feeling that I’m going to end up some time outside the car trying to figure out how to get in. The sales guy gave me a walk thru but it was a bit overwhelming. It complicated everything that I don’t have a smart phone. I told the guy that a gas pedal, break peddle and steering wheel are all I really needed. I get 3 months of free onstar which seems like something I would never want but Nancy seems to think otherwise. We’ll see.

Car Issue

We were leaving Palm Coast on bridge club day when the car started making funny noises and steering anomalies. Thought it might be the air conditioning so we turned it off and lowered the windows. I guess the wind noise overwhelmed the sound we had been hearing so assumed that turning off the AC fixed it. Thirty minutes later as we turned down our driveway, it became painfully obvious that the steering problem had gone from minor to major. But it did get us home. First thing in the morning I decided to start trouble shooting – maybe it went away overnight. The first thing I checked was the power steering fluid and sure enough it was way, way down. I just happened to have a quart of fluid on hand and it just so happened that was exactly the amount it took. The wailing sound stopped and in just a short test drive, most of the vibrations stopped. My thought was that the small vibrations remaining were probably associated with air bubbles in the system and decided to make it to the mechanic in Deland, about 15 miles away. It did make it but the last 100 yards were total torture requiring all my strength to make the final turn into the garage. My new analysis was the power steering pump had crapped out. I got a ride home from Nancy’s friend Esther who was going to the house to work on quilts with Nancy. The mechanic that works on the car happens to live about an eighth of a mile down our road so somehow we’d be able to work out getting the car back home when repaired. The good news was that the pump was fine, the problem being a leaky pressure sensor – a much less expensive fix – about 1/3 of what I expected. Since this was our main car, this hiccup is probably going to push me back into the new (or nearly new) car market. ugh!

Some days I’m not sure what’s breaking down faster – me or my things.

Decided to start some fall seedlings, tomatoes and green peppers. I’m trying a few varieties that I’ve not tried in the past. If things go right and I get decent germination, they should be transplanted into the garden the end of September and producing after Thanksgiving. That,of course, assumes no flooding, no hurricanes and no surprise early freezes. The soil itself has been really soggy all summer long so I’m not sure what that means in terms of impact on the next crop. Maybe I’ll have more mold and mildew to contend with – who knows. I do know that it won’t take much rain, perhaps one hurricane passing within 500 miles, to have the roots floating again.

Fridge Fixed

Trying an experiment on the deck inside the screened porch. As described, we power washed the deck over the weekend and spread clorox to kill the mold. Three days later it looked good and you can see those areas where the deck paint/cool deck has worn off or blasted off with 15 years of power washing. I cordoned off a 10 sf patch, did a localized hit of clorox spray and then sprayed paint with as close a matching color as I could find. I have no doubt that even if the paint sticks, it won’t hold up as well to power washing as a heavy duty paint job but maybe it will look decent and be easier to maintain. As far as the color match, I think it will be a better match than the mold! Of course I could paint the deck black and for sure you wouldn’t see the mold.

We’ve had a persistent problem with the new fridge in that the door pops open or fails to close properly. We have a bottom freezer drawer and closing the freezer often causes the fridge door to pop open – not wide open but open a couple of inches so it’s not obvious to the casual observer. Tom and I tried adjusting the level but that didn’t noticeably improve the situation. When Joey and Mark came over this past weekend, we tried again but no improvement so we decided to call Lowes and order a service call. A few days later the service tech showed up and determined the problem was the fridge door had been improperly installed and the hinge was missing a spacer. He didn’t have the correct part on his truck but was able to fashion a temporary part that fixed the problem. There was also a question as to the proper installation of the freezer door handle. It worked but just didn’t look right. I visited the Lowes in Palm Coast and they had the same fridge on the floor and sure enough, the freezer handle was different. That plus Nancy’s quilting friend had just purchased the exact same fridge and confirmed that her’s was different than ours. The service tech took one look at it and said that the wrong handle had been installed and that too would be fixed on the follow up visit to install the proper spacer.

We had dinner last night with a dozen of my old high school classmates. They meet up monthly and we join them if they select a place closer to us than Cocoa where they mostly live. They chose a place, Goodrich’s) on the coast, Oak Hill, about an hour from us. It’s a sea food, fish camp kind of place on the Indian River Lagoon. It’s been there for years. The accommodations are sparse but it’s always crowded – the food is excellent and reasonably priced. I ordered a seafood wrap that included two sides. I selected baked beans for one of the sides as I usually do and was blown away by how good they were – I think maybe the best ever. Nancy got a shrimp basket and picked “southern” greens as one of her sides. Same comment from her – best ever. The classmate sitting across from us said the sweet potato fries were the best she’d ever had. Since we’re all 75+, no doubt the sides here are exceptional and worthy of another visit. Not much of a draft beer selection.

Still Recovering

Big academic news. Tom submitted his PhD dissertation and Olivia took the GRE and did well. Next step for Tom is actually getting the degree later this year and Olivia being accepted into a PA school. They’ve both worked hard toward these goals and the end is in sight. And the icing on the cake – Simon get’s an MS from Auburn at the same time. So an educational Trifecta coming our way in December.

We’ve had so much rain this summer that the garden is filling with weeds at a rate that’s tough to keep up with. The silver lining to that is the weeds become the primary source of the next generation compost. It’s also much easier to pull the weeds when the ground is soggy – so what if I’m a dripping, muddy mess after weeding only a couple of rows. I’m surprised that the sweet potato plants appear to be doing quite well, at least the foliage and the eggplants are producing loads of blossoms and new fruit. In the past I’ve had only off and on luck with eggplants but now I’m thinking overwatering is a good thing and in the past, maybe they got too dry.

After 10 days, the hematoma swelling is going down and the color has changed from black to light, mottled purple with some yellow overtones. Really ugly. It’s still fairly sore but much improved. The latest blood test showed some improvement in iron level – still too low but heading in the right direction. According to the doc, all the blood that had settled in the hematoma would eventually be absorbed back into my body so the iron level should naturally return to it’s normal level. Seem’s right to me. oops – I decided to attack those weeds mentioned above and screwed up my hematoma somehow so it hurts again and is getting bigger. Nice Joe.

Sure glad school is about to start again. That will help clear the beaches on Mondays when I do my weekly surf fishing. There will still be some out of state kids where school starts after Labor Day but for the most part, much clearer. For the past two weeks, my Monday surf trip has been messed up due to a massive beach reconstruction project all along the strip where I do most of my fishing. Not sure how long that project will continue but imagine they want to get all the new sand down before the peak of storm season. So far we’ve had nothing at all brewing in the Atlantic but I don’t start breathing easy until after the first of October. It bothers me that the same expert forecasters that started out predicting an above average active season just last week adjusted their forecast way downward – to below average. If their first prediction was so far off base, why should we expect the second one will be any better. Also, why would the hurricane forecasts come from Colorado?

The new Rod scores!

I’ve focused for two days on cleaning the jungle along the lake front by the dock. My usual method is to cut hard and heavy for a few hours one day and then clean up and catch the things I missed on the next day. Today was the second day so I anticipated a lighter work out and completion in about an hour. There were some dead palmetto fronds that I had missed right adjacent to the dock – where the entry way to the dock and the dock intersect to be exact. In order to reach them I had to position myself with one foot on the dock and the other on a stump protruding from the shore and then lean in towards shore. Just as I was stretched out to the max, the stump broke and I went tumbling into the lake, trapped in a 2’x2’ section between the dock and the shore. Naturally I was fully dressed with heavy clothes that I use to protect myself from cuts and insects. The water was armpit deep so it was not obvious how I was going to get out of the predicament. In addition to that, naturally I dropped the clippers in the lake. I thought about trying to swim under the dock to get outside into more open water but with the lake so high, I couldn’t be sure that there was an air space between the lake and the dock so I opted to try to crawl up onto the dock. I somehow managed but it was certainly a thrilling morning. At least the water is warm.

Well the celery experiment crashed. I suspected the seeds were probably too old and I’m going with that. I planted upwards of 50 seeds from two different packs and two different varieties and not the first one germinated. Good sign that the seed was just dead. One of the packs was dated 2013 and stated that the life of the seed was 3 years so…….. I’m trying the root planting method using the root end of a commercially grown, grocery store celery. Nancy cut off all the useable stalks and left me the base with a couple small sprouts popping out in the middle. I planted it in a starter medium, actually where the seeds cratered. I’m a bit dubious, not in the approach but whether it will survive the mid summer heat. I’m keeping it moist and out of the direct sun. We’ll see.

So far 100% on the white sweet potatoes. Even some new growth.

Between Nancy’s doctor office visits this week, I managed to squeeze in a couple of tackle shops to start the search for a new surf rod. I ended up finding one in Deland. I knew I wouldn’t be able to duplicate the old one but I found one that was about 80% and it was priced about half what I was prepared to spend so I jumped on it. Today is Monday, beach Bridge game day for Nancy, so I rigged up the new rod and gave it a field test. Success. A nice whiting. Another Monday ritual that is working out is to use the delayed bake mode on the new stove. We put the meal dujour in the oven and set it to finish cooking just about the time we arrive back home. Works every time.