happy birthday to me, happy birthday……

I had a great 80th.   Chris and Vic came and spent a few days.  Both work from home so it was seamless for them to continue as usual in Florida.   Joey and Mark plus Tom and Tina joined us for a lunch happening at DJ’s on the river at Port Orange.   It’s a fun place with decent sea food in a giant Tiki Hut.   It’s the kind of place where people pull up in boats including both private and commercial fishing boats.   There’s an attached fresh fish market and we got to see one of the commercial boats pull up and start unloading a catch of sharks including one really large bull shark.   They cleaned them on the spot and wheeled the meat to the market.  

The next day we did Karlings for dinner, sans Joey and Mark who had to work.  As usual, an excellent meal.

I’ve been mostly working in the jungle removing grape vines, briars and other noxious vines attacking the trees.  Our neighbor to the north is never there now – moving – so I had the opportunity to work on that side of the jungle which has been growing uncontested for a couple of years now.  Looking much better so today I moved back to the garden to catch up on a couple weeks of low activity.   I tilled two full rows and rebuilt 2 walking paths before running out of energy.  I can go fairly consistently from 8 till 10 but by then, I’m totally drenched and staggering a bit.   Must be the 80 thing since I could go at least another hour last year.  I also turned two compost piles and planted a couple of plants – basil, green peppers, and egg plants.  It’s really late to be planting that stuff but the garden has really been difficult this year so maybe going against the grain is right for 2020.   I did have the good luck to get a nice rain a couple hours after the planting so they should get off to the right start. 

Nature Attack

Had an interesting wildlife observation today.  I was walking up to the mail box when  a really large bird landed on a branch in front of me.  It was an owl – not a rare bird but a rare sighting.  I kept walking toward him figuring he’d fly off but I actually walked right under the branch he was on so probably within 10’.   He kept an eye on me and I was watching him closely – they have serious claws and a fierce looking beak so anything was possible.  I walked up between the house and the sheds several times and he/she was there every time.

And if that wasn’t enough nature world – some critter, probably a raccoon, busted thru the screen of our front porch.   Never had that before.  Interestingly, Barbara had the same thing happen last night on the screen room of her dock.   Like us, she’s never had anything like that in the 35+ years they’ve lived here.   Her’s was a little more believable since she keeps fish food down on the dock.  We have a freezer on the porch but it’s hard to imagine the critters would know about that.  

I decided to power wash mildew off our sheds.  I’ve been pulling out the boston fern all around the sheds which exposed mildew growing on the shed walls.  They needed to be power washed.  Our power washer is very sensitive to AC power levels and I’ve had some trouble in the past operating the washer up there on long extension cables so I decided to try something different.   I broke out the generator, cranked it up and connected the power washer.  Worked like a world champ.   Started on the first pull – which bodes well for hurricane season.   The next problem was it about wore me out.  I’m ok power washing down as in washing the deck or straight across but working over my head proved taxing to say the least.  It wore me to a frazzle.   

Rain, Thunder and Lightning

The good news is that I have another few hours in the day to work in the yard and garden.   I used to watch a couple hours of news in the morning and then again in the early evening – since the news has gone 100% pandemic or Minneapolis or riots in general I’ve lost total interest.   I know about what time the local news is going to forecast weather so I can keep on top of what’s important. 

Tom continues to drag us kicking and screaming into the 21st century.   He got us an iPad and each week visits and adds a few more applications and loads of more viewing options.   For example, we have Sirius XM in the Buick and Tom thought that also allowed us to get the radio service on our computing devices at no extra charge.   Sure enough he checked out our account and signed in with passwords and computer stuff like that and sure enough, we get the radio on the iPad,  our desk top Mac and the laptop with no extra charge.   We also have HBO now and can download a ton of new shows to view at our leisure.   Way more content than we would ever have time to watch but we’re doing our best.  A big test of my technical ability is coming up today.   Our account manager at ML prepared some kind of presentation for me to update my account – aka sell me some things.   It’s a communication via the computer – I assume similar to the online doctor visit that I survived.   Supposedly they send me an email which contains a program to download and as if by magic, we are in contact and I can view his presentation.   I never feel comfortable with these interactions – can visualize me hitting the wrong key and blowing things up.   It’s very easy for me to screw up and not so easy to recover.  We’ll see.   To make it even more stressful, Nancy’s friend is coming over to work on quilts at the same time so I have to move my base of operation to the back room.   My plan is to have my account information on the iPad and the actual interaction to take place on my laptop.  Normally I would use the big screen desktop but that’s in quilt central.    

One good thing that came out of getting an office set up in the bedroom was it forced me/us to clean off the desk we’ve had in the bedroom.  Lots of throwaway and dust but the desk is looking brand new.  The significance of that is that the desk was Nancy and I’s first official furniture purchase.   We both remember buying it at Fedmart (or maybe it was Fedco) – a 60’s style Costco.  We tried to remember what it costs and both felt $50 was the right number.  That was a major investment for us back then.   Truth is, if I saw the same piece today in Costco, I’d like the design and fab just the same.   

Finally getting some rain.  It’s looking like we’ll accumulate 6” or so over the next few days – good news for the garden and the compost piles.   It also ends the burn ban we’ve been under for a month or so.  I admit I haven’t been religious about observing the ban but still, this is better.   As much as we need the rain, I do hate the ferocious lightning that accompanies it.  Big boomers, close by!

Hurricane Season Preps

According to the calendar and the weather prognosticators, we’re beginning hurricane season.  I normally start thinking about it in September but decided to get ahead of it this year.  The key element is that the generator works, there’s plenty of gas and there’s plenty of propane for the Holland grill.    I pulled the generator out of storage and gave it a few cranks.  It took a half dozen or so but started up and ran for 20 minutes flawlessly.   I have 3 five gallon auxiliary gas cans, all full, so that gives me 3-5 run days.   I also have 3 two gallon aux tanks which I use for the lawn mower and other gas critters.   When a (real) hurricane rears it’s head, I’ll make sure all of those are full.   We don’t need lots of water since the well will work just fine as long as the generator works.

Then I cleared out the roof gutters.   That’s a pain in the butt job since I have to get up on ladder to reach the roof and then keep moving it around the whole perimeter of the house.  They were fairly full of pine needles and oak leaves – I think it has been maybe 6 months since I did it.   I got an amazing load of gutter trash which I piled up over by the garden to become part of the garden path system.   

The other seasonal job was pulling out tons of Boston ferns that have spread all along the driveway.   There was several hundred square feet to be removed – probably a zillion or so fern plants.  What makes this a seasonal job is that it’s so much easier when we’re in the rainy season and we’ve had about 6” in the last few days.   When the ground is soaked, they pull right out;  when it’s dry, not so easy to remove.  At the beginning of the rainy season, it’s normally hot but not summer hot so now’s the time.   

Started tying down items on the dock.   We’re starting to get serious thunder storms that usually include some wind gusts.  If I don’t tie things down on the dock, they end up in the drink.   I’ve done this so many times, it’s quite routine.

The last job was to take a chain saw to dead branches likely to break off in high wind and close enough to the house to be a bother.   In this case the grapefruit tree just outside the kitchen door is infected with some kind of virus that’s attacked most of the citrus industry and creates dead branches.   Gone.    I’m hoping the tree will survive so all I cut was dead wood.  

Officially pooped out!!!!

The Hollow is Happening

Some things are coming back to normal.  A good number of restaurants are now open with pubs soon to follow.   Most retailers seem open to some extent and we’re starting to see traffic picking back up.  Today we had lunch at a restaurant/brewery in Deland – The Half Wall.   We hadn’t been there for several months and decided to give it a try again since they had plenty of outdoor seating.   I popped my head in the door and spotted people holding brewski’s which I thought had been outlawed.   Turns out that bars, per se, are not allowed to open but restaurants can serve and offer beer.   We checked into Persimmon Hollow and found that they can serve a beer but you have to consume it outside.   Not a giant problem since there are several alley’s with tables and canopies.  So between Half Wall, Persimmon Hollow, and the Elusive grape – plenty of libation opportunities.   

Breaking news – Persimmon Hollow is now officially open for business.  Turns out the taco place across the road is owned by the same people that own the Hollow.   When last we checked, the Hollow was classified only as a brewery and you had to go there to get a take out brew then eat it at the taco place.  Now, as before all this nonsense, they reclassified Persimmon Hollow as a restaurant with bar so all of a sudden it’s back to normal.    You don’t have to actually order food from outside     Just the fact of the reclassification does the job.   Also our favorite Greek restaurant, Santorini’s is also now open so I think everywhere we could go before, is back in business.   I check Moonrise at Palm Coast and they to are back to normal.   What more could a guy want. 

But all’s not back to normal, alas.   It took several hours to get a simple blood draw in prep for a visit with the doc for a routine annual checkup.   I am right at the point that says I’m giving up totally on going to doctors for routine checkups.   It’s just too much of a hassle.  If something goes wrong, then I’ll call them but other than that – leave well enough alone.   My bride is not necessarily onboard the program but…………

Getting back to normal

I have a need for a new product – an iPad accessory.   Maybe it already exists but I haven’t heard of it.   I need an index finger extender – a product to overcome fat finger syndrome.    It has to be made of material that simulates a finger but be tapered into nearly a point.  It might be nice to have it extendable so my whole hand would be farther from the touch screen – I think a 4-6” extension would be adequate.   My Sudoko app is more of a physical challenge than a mental challenge.  I know the digit is supposed to go into a particular spot but hitting that spot with my finger is hit and miss proposition.  I just as often hit two spots or an adjacent spot as hitting the target.   Getting better though!   Nancy’s actually using the iPad more than me.  She converses with “Siri” frequently.   I think her favorite is having Siri set a timer for her although she gets a weather check a couple times a day too. 

Starting to get in some quality fishing time now that the sun’s up so early and it’s nice and warm.   I can get up, hit the lake, and be back home before Nancy wakes up.   The poke boat is still the vessel of choice.  It’s just soooo quiet and easy to handle.  Tom left his fly rod at the lake so I’m making sure it doesn’t get rusty or forget how to perform.   So far this week the score is squarely in the court of the fish.  I’m getting a few swirls and boils but nothing worthy of the stringer. What I want is a 3-4 pound bass that will fillet up for a couple of meals.


Made an awesome pizza today.   Used a fresh Publics bakery shell, a pint of Nancy’s famous tomato sauce, misc cheeses including fresh mozzarella, sausage and pepperoni, and my incredible new kale variety.   Hard to believe that the kale is holding up so well this late in the season – soft, tender, and no bitterness at all.   I’ve had some difficulty in the past with the shell sticking to the pan but this time I sprinkled the bottom of the cooking sheet with corn meal and that did the trick.  Twenty minutes on the Holland does the job – a nice crispy crust.   

The gov moved us to a phase 1 thingy which basically means lots of restaurants and retail stores are open on a limited basis.  Based on the increase in traffic on the road, it must be getting people moving again.  Most of the beaches are now open and people seem to be dealing with it in a rational fashion.  All we need is the bridge club to get back in business!!!!!

Tele-Med Encounter

I was so bored today I mowed the lawn.   And then cut palm fronds.   And then chemically treated -Roundup- the driveway for weeds. 

But today we had some excitement/entertainment.   My neighbor Barbara had a large oak tree die up near the county road.   She called the power company to see if they’d take it down and they declined – not their problem.   She then asked the County and they agree to check it out.   They were there the next day with 5 trucks – including a cherry picker, a pickup clam device and 3 dump trucks to carry away the debris.   It took them better part of an hour to get it down and carried away and for us it was like being at a sporting event.  

Big test coming up.   I had a regular doctor’s appointment coming up on the 28th but hadn’t heard anything confirming the appointment  (they usually do).   I thought maybe the office was closed or something and called to confirm that it was still on.   The office confirmed that the appointment was still on but not at the office – rather a tele kind of event.  Aka – a Facetime meeting.   I went into a swift mental dive with the prospect of a scheduled event with the iPad and some non-family type on the other end.   The nurse sensed my panic and said she’d walk me thru it.  And she did.   They sent me an email which I had to read on the iPad, something I don’t regularly do.   The email had a link to select and (I guess) that connects me to the doc on the other end.   

It worked.   No technical problems at all.   I’m getting better with the iPad.  My problem is with the sensitivity of the touch screen and my random twitches – each of which causes the iPad to do something different.   I have a Sudoko program which requires a fair amount of screen touching and that’s helping me refine my touch.  Ditto trying to stop and start downloaded TV shows; ditto trying to use google maps to navigate on a trip.  I love what it can do but frustrated with my clumsy fingers.   Hopefully it will get better or I’ll have to run my fingers through a pencil sharpener.

Redefining “Essential”

The project du jour is freezing carrots.   Carrots are not normally a strong crop for me but this year, for whatever reason, all the seeds I planted and the plants I thinned and replanted survived.   So we ended up with hundreds of carrots.   We use the most by shredding and making carrot salad but almost any other way you can deal with them is on our radar.   One of our favorites is to add shredded carrots to pasta sauce.  Sounds weird but very tasty.   And this is the kind of project that works well in isolation – nothing better to do.

The project after the carrots is making our own hand sanitizer liquid.   There was an article in the paper describing a method using aloe verde gel, isopropyl alcohol, and a few drops of essential oil or lemon juice.  We have aloe plants growing all over the place with a couple really large ones in the garden.   The ratio of aloe gel to alcohol is 1:4 with about 6 drops of lemon juice just in case you want to try it.   

I’m gaining some level of confidence with the iPad and can now play sudoku or watch TV shows and movies that Tom has loaded.   Before long I’ll be downloading new stuff myself.  Right now I’m gaining confidence in my ability to use Google Maps to navigate.   What I didn’t ever understand was that the “contact” application on my Mac was used in other applications such as google maps so I was quite sloppy in filling in the contact info.  Because of that, I was unable to find addresses that were in the contact app – just incorrectly installed.    I spent an hour or so yesterday going thru the Contacts to clean them up and get rid of contacts that no longer had any relevance.   I’m going to try it out today letting the machine navigate us to Publix in Daytona.  Of course we have a closer Publix but we’re in no rush and this lets me get some time messing with the maps app.   And more time out and about.   So this trip could be considered a
“double” essential – one to get food and one to get some experience with the iPad.   And Nancy’s friend Esther bought her some quilting material the other day so we have to go by her house and pick it up.   This will really give the navigator an essential test.

Blueberries are “essential”

I didn’t check the list of “essentials”(as in essential to get out of the house and drive somewhere) but I’m pretty sure blueberries would be on the list.  I figured if some over zealous cop pulled me over to find out why we were driving, anybody would classify a blueberry run as essential.  I ran out in Feb so we’ve been without ever since.   The blueberry farmer called today and said my order for 20 pounds was ready to go.  The farm is in Crescent City, about 20 miles north of us and we were ready for a “road trip”.   A friend of Nancy’s has a personal lending library in the town of Welaka – near Crescent City – and I had a large collection of books that I had no real need for so we took them up to her.  Also one of Nancy’s bridge buddies who we usually provide with greens lives within a few miles so I picked a load of kale, chard, and collards for her.   All in all it was a few hour trip just when we were going totally stir crazy.   

We’re not supposed to drive unless it’s for something “essential”.  It’s not obvious what’s essential – as an example the beaches are all closed except for “essentials”.   Walking on the beach, swimming in the surf, or surf fishing are classified as essential.   You just can’t put down a blanket or towel and lay on the beach.  Luckily for Nancy, Hobby Lobby and Michaels got under the wire because they sell material to make face masks.  

We actually ended up with 23 pounds of blueberries – he had over picked and I decided to just get the overage.   Last year we bought 20 pounds and I ran out a month or so early so an extra 3 pounds should cover the shortage next year.  The issue to be solved was how to get them into the already stuffed freezer.   We package them in one pint zip lock bags and we deplete them at a rate of about 2 pints per month – 90% in my morning cereal and a few in the smoothies.  Between freezing tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and greens the freezers are fairly full.  We have 2 six cubic foot freezers plus the one in the fridge and at this point I’m not sure we could get another blueberry in but we did.   Here’s an interesting piece of trivia – the blueberries took up 2 cubic feet in one of the freezers.

Unlimited Car Washing

Seems like there’s a Press conference going on non-stop – the Pres, the Gov, the Mayor, the Chief of Police and misc doctors. The thing that jumps out at me are the signers who are passing on the speeches to the hearing impaired. I really find it almost impossible to believe that anyone can understand that or if they’re really signing what’s actually being said. I’d like to see a reverse test – have the signer give the speech and then have someone who understands it, vocalize. Or to have two signers, out of sight of each other, working simultaneously to see if they’re both doing the same thing. I’m most attracted to the facial expressions and body language. The person giving the speech or answering the question is doing it straight with no facial emotion whereas the signer is using really wild facial expressions and body movements.

One crop I haven’t mentioned in a while is the pineapple crop. I have about a dozen plants scattered about – all started by planting the top of a store bought pineapple. This is the first time I’ve been able to observe a pattern in the life cycle. There are 5 baby pineapples that have popped out of the mother plant in the past several weeks. So I now know that spring is the beginning of the cycle. My guess right now is these will be pickable in May. I don’t see any pattern in the size of the mother plant or the location in the garden but this is the first year that I’ve had multiple new starts at any particular time or season.

March has turned into summer with daily temps in the 90’s now. That’s playing hell with the green veggies so we’ve uptick’d the freezing project. This is the first time we’ve ever tried to extend the greens by freezing and I sure hope it works out as we’re visualizing. Yesterday was chard day; today is kale day. With this social isolation thing going on, I have plenty of time to weed and otherwise keep track of the garden. I’m more on top of it than ever before. For example I spotted the first New Zealand spinach sprout. This is a heat tolerant variety that is classified as an invasive species. I can for sure see why. I planted it once – seeds- several years ago and it quickly took over the garden. Since then I yank it whenever it pops up except for a couple plants that provide my green smoothie makings all summer long. It propagates itself by spreading branches that put out roots wherever it touches the soil and also by seeding.

Sure is nice driving around nowadays. Virtually no traffic and very cheap gas. I filled up yesterday at $1.80; 1 hour trips are taking 45 minutes. If only the pubs were open.  Here’s how boring it is – I noted that a chain of car wash places is offering an unlimited car wash deal for $20/month.  They have locations in Palm Coast, Daytona, Ormond and Port Orange – places we visit.   I’m considering signing on just so we have a place to go.  Now that’s desperation.