lake talk

The lake is perfect. It’s a bit higher than normal, clear, and just the right temperature for swimming. It’s back where you can put a drink on the dock and reach it from the lake. Doesn’t get much better than that. The bass fishing could be better but it will improve in a couple of months when the water temperature gets below 80 again. I love it now that when I work myself into a real sweat in the garden or the jungle, I can just walk to the lake and jump in. And this time of year I have about an hour to fish between eating dinner and it getting dark. Wonder what the rich folk are doing.

And the lake seems to be undergoing another change. We have always had lily pads at various locations around the lake and fairly close to shore. They seem to do well in 8-10′ of water. By Florida standards our lake is “deep”; that means more than 10′. Prior to the low water period of the past year, the lake was generally 15′-20′ deep so the lily pads more or less hugged the shoreline. What I notice now is that water lilies are springing up in the center of the lake – not in profusion but enough to notice. I have commented how clear the water had gotten and my guess is that the combination of lower level and clearer water meant that the lilies had enough light to actually grab a foothold in the deeper water. It will be interesting to see if they die off with the higher water or if they gained enough of a start to proliferate.

So it’s mid Sept which is about the time the National Hurricane Center comes out with a new forecast saying that we might not have as many storms as they forecast at the beginning of the season. The scientists will say the decrease is due to Global warming – that would be the same scientists who predicted more storms due to Global warming. They’ll be so bold as to say that the cooler water temps in the Atlantic are also do to global warming. Something like melting ice in the polar regions cools the south Atlantic. Global warming is perfect because no matter what happens it gets the blame and most people will believe it.

So far so good on the fall garden. It’s definitely buggier and I probably need a bio hazard suit with all the spraying I’m doing but I’ve only lost about 10%. That sounds like a lot but I overplant by about 30% to let nature take it’s share.
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We had a meeting of the homeowners association – that would be George, May, and me. All of the protest problems at the Anthony neighborhood made us conclude that we needed to see exactly how we were set up to deal with protesters and, for that matter, all the normal home owner association concerns. Clearly you need some rules:

1. Paint and color – you can paint anytime you want; any color you want. or not at all if that suits you.

2. Plants, lawns and landscaping – you can plant whatever you want or let nature take it’s course.

3. Burning – you can burn your household and yard trash whenever you want. If you burn down one of our houses, you have to pay for that.

4. Flags – You can put up whatever kind of flag you want just so long as the rest of us don’t have to see it.

5. Protesters – you can shoot them if you want but have to be sure you are aiming away from one of the neighborhood houses.

6. Boats and trailers – you can have as many as you want and put them wherever you want on your own property.

7. Clotheslines – not a problem, hang away.

8. dogs and cats – as many as you want but if they get onto a neighbor’s property, they are fair game. If you shoot them, you have to aim away from the neighbors house.
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Politics –
Here’s an interesting thing to consider. If McCain-Palin wins, about half the dem’s will call it racism and the other half will blame the party for not nominating Clinton. And of course all the riff raff from the boonies will have gotten it wrong again. What the networks need to do is fire all the NY based anchors and hire some real people who will be able to accurately report to the people what’s going on. It cracked me up the other night when Greta Van Sustern was interviewing Todd – first dude – Palin and asked him where he was when he heard his wife was being considered for the Veep spot. He was working second shift on an oil rig on the north slope. A real guy. The elitist lib’s just have no way to deal with running against real people. They need to consult with Barbara Streisand or Brad Pitt to get some new ideas.

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 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.

Owl story

For those of you that think owls only eat mice and rodents, think again. We were watching TV Sunday morning and Nancy spotting some big bird sitting in a pine tree next to the house. I found it after a minute or two. It was a fairly big bird and colored like the tree so when motionless, it’s difficult to see. All of a sudden it swooped down from the tree and scooped up a snake in the underbrush and flew off to another tree to enjoy a meal. The snake was a light colored slender snake about 2′ long or so. I would guess a corn or rat snake but it was too far away for a solid ID. It took him about 10 minutes to polish it off, head first. It was kind of interesting to watch because the whole time he was sitting on the pine tree, eating the meal, and then back on another perch in another tree, small birds were harrassing it. I don’t know what kind of birds but they were about sparrow or finch size. Every time the owl put his head down to take a bite, one of these little guys would fly at him and hit his back. With binoculars I could see the feathers on his back lift up every time one hit so I know they were actually making contact. You could tell it bothered him because he would quit eating and swivel his head around to catch the bomber. But the small birds were way too fast. I guess I had my eyes on him for 15 minutes before he finally flew away. For whatever reason we just seem to have more birds this summer than ever before and we’re loving it.
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We’ve got a good thing going on. We’re on Sprint for our cell phone. Reception here is lousy but everybody in the family except Chris is on Sprint so we’re locked in. About 2 months ago we got a flyer in the mail offering us $70 to resign our contract for 2 years. Since our current agreement had expired and we were locked in anyway, we called and got the $70 credit. For us that’s about 2 months of free service. Yesterday we got something in the mail from Sprint offering us $70 if we renew our contract and an additional $15 if we did it pronto. We learned that you can re do the contract any time you want and all it does is negate the old contract and start a new 2 year clock. So for example we renewed on June 1 and then went to get a new phone on June 15. Getting the new phone and using our “phone credit” for a big discount, restarts the contract for two years so the new expiration date is June 15, 2010. According to the guy at the Sprint store, any time you do a transaction, it extends your contract for 2 years. So it seems right to me that I just go ahead and do this new renewal that extends it to Aug 15, 2010 and pick up 2 more free months of service. I’m sure it’s a screw up at Sprint but…………………. I’m hoping this becomes a regular event now every couple of months and we enjoy free cell service. I don’t feel too bad about this because that’s more like what the service is worth anyhow.

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Joey recovered from treatment 2 right on schedule. By the Saturday after the Tuesday treatment he was back to his own self. Two treatments is 25% thru.

And more good news; Chris comes home Sunday. He’ll be here until Thursday which is a long time for a New Yorker to be out of his element. I know he picked August so he could bitch about the heat but we’ll take what we can get!

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.
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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.

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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.