Believe it or not, today I planted tomato and pepper seeds in starter medium.   This is a little earlier than I usually get started but I want to have time to get new seeds if these purchased for 2018 germinate ok.   Assuming they do germinate, I’ll get them into individual containers early and hopefully be able to transplant to the garden a month earlier.  The advantage to that is the plants will get a longer bug free growth period.

I learned yesterday that I have a couple of large kidney stones blocking flow to one kidney.  I’ve suspected a problem for a couple of months so the only surprise is to find how complete the blockage is.   But no pain at all.  The corrective action is a procedure that either goes in and removes the stones as they are or breaks them into smaller chunks using a laser (or hammer and chisel).   The doc expects the laser.   The procedure is scheduled for next week.  I’ll be fully knocked out so Tom or Joey will be pressed into duty getting me home.   There’s a stent involved that will have to come out so I’m guessing I’ll be visiting the urologist a few times in the next couple of weeks.  This whole process will probably screw up Nancy’s bridge games and the special tournament she was anticipating.   Hope not.   

Funny one at the library today.   I was banging away on my laptop when a stranger came over and asked me if I was John Bolton.   I assured him that I wasn’t but he said the mustache was a dead giveaway.  We both had a good laugh.   As he walked away, he kept looking back at me, shaking his head.  

Tom bought us a set of 3 Blue Apron meals this week.  As I understand it, the selections were a default as opposed to selections he made.   I think it’s a timing thing – you have a certain amount of time to either reject, modify, or accept the selections presented and it slipped by Tom when he was in Chicago.   We opened the box and there were three meals, none of which we would ever have selected but anything we got from them in the past was great so there was no real alternative but to try them.   Wow!   As usual excellent.   One was an Indian Chicken dish, another a meatloaf and the final, some kind of pork steak.   We’ve done all three and enjoyed every last bite.   For me, the designated cook, the recipes are tricky and a bit exotic – lots of steps – but I’ve learned to take it step by step and do all the prep work first.  Their recipes tend to favor hot, hot ovens and things happen fast.   I have to pat myself on the back for pulling it off with only a few Oops moments.  

Strange Sea Creature

Mark came up to help with some fixit projects.  He made two new clothes props, replaced the ceiling fan in the bathroom which had given it up a few months back and found the problem with one of the electrical outlets on the kitchen bar.   We also straightened the door to one of the sheds, allowing me to latch it properly.  Joey mowed,  did a few yard cleanups and helped Nancy do some internal cleaning and rearranging.  Much appreciated on both fronts.  Over weekends for the past year or so, we get to see Joey and Tom – one on Saturdays, the other on Sundays.  That gives Nancy a much needed break from me – giving her some quality shopping and movie time.  

Saw a recipe in the paper that caught my attention.   It was a sausage, Swiss chard, penne pasta dish.   Although it didn’t say in the paper, I found the recipe online as well – a William Sonoma recipe.    It used one pound of chard which is a fairly significant pile of greens.  Deeeelicious in the words of Uncle Vinny.   Between these pasta chard recipes and my green smoothies, we’re really keeping the chard patch busy.   The great thing about chard is that you just continue picking leaves from the bottom up and new ones keep popping out in the center until the weather gets too hot.  I’ve planted a new kale variety that looks and sounds like chard so can’t wait to try that substitute – probably Mid March.

I did my Monday walk on the beach and saw something really unusual.   A guy in a wet suit and wearing head gear was getting out of the surf, climbing over the reef.   That in itself was unusual but when he got on the beach I noticed he had a cable trailing behind the head gear which he was pulling in.   I looked up to his gear on the beach and saw two large car batteries with the cable attached.   It had to be a 200’+ cable attached to his head gear on one end and the batteries on the other.   By then I was close enough to see the hat included a spot light.  We were a few hundred yards from the beach entry point and I didn’t see any carts of anything so he must have carried those batteries himself.   Strange

Quick Update

Quick update since I know you are on the edge of your chair waiting to find out how the garden made out in the deep freeze last night.   Everything looked just fine when I removed the covers.  Even the smallest, newly germinated, seedlings.    I would have preferred leaving them on for another cold night but the various weather guru’s were forecasting  possible rain and wet covers would have crushed the plants underneath.  And they were forecasting the temps to be a few degrees warmer tonight and then back to normal for the next 10 days.   Normal means low’s in the 50’s.

Deep Freeze

For some totally unfathomable reason, I can’t post my blog on the desktop.  Ok on the laptop, but not the desktop.   I really do hate computers.

We’re dealing with another round of winter.  This time it’s really supposed to drop off cold.   It was 40 this AM and is forecast to be 31 tomorrow morning.   I made a great call to cover the garden as best I could yesterday.   It was warmer and not windy so spreading the sheets over the tomato and pepper plants was a job I could handle myself.   Had I waited until today, no way.   Besides being a bit colder, the wind is blowing at 20mph directly out of the north.  Under those conditions the sheets turn into sails and are just unmanageable for one person.   But it’s done and I’m only hoping that it’s adequate.   The bushes are loaded with unripe fruit and I hate to lose it.   I also covered seedlings that have germinated in the garden and that I haven’t transplanted to final locations.   The seedlings that I have transplanted are on their own.  They’re all veggies that’s should be able to handle some cold – radishes, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi and lettuce.   I’d also like just a little breeze coming over the lake.   That picks up a little warmth in the air.      

We’re eating and loading up friends with the hearty greens – kale, chard and lettuce.   I created a pizza masterpiece using Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes last night.   The base sauce was the season’s first batch from the garden tomatoes so even if my protection fails, we can say we got one (10-pints) batch.

Yesterday was a bridge day for Nancy so I got up early and did the covering mentioned above.  I dropped her off at the game and decided to take my 3 mile walk on the beach, northbound from Flagler.   I stepped down onto the beach and noticed right away that I was the only person in sight.   Could have been the cold, could have been the stiff wind blowing right out of the north.  I hesitated but decided I could handle it and would quickly warm up as I walked.  Also,I was going into the wind and figured it would be really easy coming back with the wind behind me.  I got about 1/4 mile before I gave out.  My chest was banging because of the cold air I was breathing so I decided it was totally crazy to continue on.   Normally I would have just driven back to the mainland and hit the library but, being MLK day, the library was closed.  The only other option was to hit my Monday watering hole, Houligans, a little earlier and expand my one beer stop into a two beer stop.  I mean what other option did I have?  That worked out just fine. 

Heavy on Beets

Beets.   I’ve had only on and off kind of performance with beets in the garden but I decided to give it one more chance.   Beets are a good “gifting” veggie because you get the whole thing – greens and roots and I’ve noticed that the same person does either one or the other – not both.  They’re also great for smoothies because I use both the greens and the tuber.   I planted a row rather densely, anticipating weak germination due to the age of the seeds.  Wrong, they germinated quickly and strongly so I have at least triple the number of seedlings needing attention.   I have to find a new spot in the garden for the overflow from thinning – in about 2 weeks.   I’m picking quite a bit of the lettuce so that’s the most likely place for a beet patch.  

Solved the ABC TV station problem – not necessarily solved but found the explanation.   Turns out channel 9 shut down their main transmitter and moved it to a location about 30 miles south of where they had been.  That was just enough to be beyond our range.   The good news is that they go back to the old location with new equipment in January.   I had talked to neighbors and found they all were having the same problem – each of us thought it was something with our own antenna installation.    

We’re having a few days of winter.   Winter enough that I decided to cover the tomatoes and peppers, a real pain in the butt job.  The forecasters said there was a possibility of frost two days in a row and those plants are loaded with unripe fruit.   Either  what I did worked or we didn’t actually experience frost but everything looks just fine.  The two week forecast is for warm weather with just enough rain to make everything happy.

And I’m declaring the seed planting season over and done with.   Every time I get a new seed catalog I’m duped into buying a few new varieties.   I don’t have the space in the garden for anything more but I still fall for it.   I couldn’t resist a new Burpee catalog with two new (to me) Kale varieties, a new kohlrabi and new purple radishes.   One of the kales has giant leaves that look like elephant ears.  That was interesting but when I read the fine print and learned that it was “perfect” for green smoothies, I was hooked.   Since it doesn’t make sense to order just one packet of seeds because of the high shipping cost………….     A thing I don’t understand about the seed business is that the smallest packet you can buy is still 10x what you need.   The small pack of kohlrabi seeds contained 1000 seeds; the kale 500.   Who in the world needs that much kohlrabi in their back yard garden.  Commercial growers get a different catalog and each of these varieties is available in giant packs.   

Breaking news flash – picked the first cherry tomatoes. 

Hat in the ring

Picking tomatoes. That came as a surprise since all I was seeing were small green ones. I happened to bend over to pick a weed that was peaking out from one of the tomato bushes and spotted just a bit of red color in the center of the plant. Sure enough it was a ripe tomato and there were half a dozen others deep in the interior of the shrubbery. Normally the foliage is not that dense but for whatever reason, this season is different. So now we have all the salad ingredients together – lettuce, green pepper, and tomatoes. The other surprise this AM was some of the celery seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago germinated overnight. I had pretty much given up on them. I’m happy about this development since I read in one of the catalogs that the right way to harvest celery is a stalk at a time rather than cutting the whole plant. Apparently this way the plant just keep producing new stalks and you can get by with fewer plants. I’m probably 3 months away from having that situation.

Ever wonder what happens when your Roomba mixes it up with a ball of yarn and a crochet project? The yarn wins.

I’m thinking about throwing my hat in the ring for the 2020 presidential race. I have a one item platform that I think is a real winner. I’m going to change the dates of certain holidays so that they always occur on Sunday. So Christmas day and New Years day will not have a fixed date but rather be the last Sunday in December and the first Sunday in January respectively. Perhaps reposition Thanksgiving to the last Sunday in November. Easter is ok – always Sunday. I noticed that the way it is now, you totally lose track of the days of the week and that it takes a while to reset your head around the calendar. I thought it was just me – aging and all – but I’ve heard the same from people of all age groups and disciplines. Total strangers I meet on the beach invariably mention that they’re having a hard time keeping track of what day it is. It might be that you mentally hook big dinner events with Sunday meals when you were a kid. If New Year’s eve was on Saturday, by Monday you would be totally recovered. Ditto Christmas. I’m guessing that the gain in productivity would more than pay for having to redo calendars. Like today. It’s Wednesday (I think) and there’s a college football game on the tube this afternoon. College games mean Saturday; pro games mean Sunday.

Something has changed and we no longer get ABC on the TV. Whatever! We watch very little on ABC but it just so happened that the Alabama – Michigan Bowl game was broadcast on ABC and I really wanted to watch that game. Sounds like a sports bar brewery would solve the problem – i.e. Persimmon Hollow. Not really a sport bar but they do have a couple TV’s going and usually tuned to sports events. I had forgotten that when we were there for the bingo game I tried a new brew – cranberry creme and only noticed it after ordering our standards. We had plenty of time and finished up with the cranberry, my new favorite.

The Festivities

Open with some garden news. Picked a couple green peppers. More often than not, they don’t make it this late in December. They’re very sensitive to temp and it’s fairly normal to have a light frost by this time that dooms them. We actually bought a couple last week and they were outrageously priced at $3/pepper. So at this point we’re totally supplied in lettuce, peppers, kale and parsley; oregano and rosemary in the herb department. Made the first green smoothie of the season using White Russian Kale and home grown pineapple as the main ingredients. And made the first “little old lady” lettuce delivery to one of Nancy’s bridge partners in Palm Coast. Started two new seed beds – Spinach and Celery. The spinach will probably do just fine but maybe not so much the celery. That’s based on prior history. Without a doubt the celery seed is the tiniest of anything else I plant. It really looks more like dust than seeds. The closest to that is parsley. Carrot seed is micro but seems quite large compared to either parsley or celery. I can buy pelletized carrot and lettuce seed but haven’t found celery – sorely needed.

Reading a “new book” that deserves mention. Simon and Amy put me onto “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens last month when they visited. I looked for it at the Flagler county library but no luck. This past week Nancy’s friend that usually takes her to crocheting had to cancel and I picked up the duty. It was too early for Persimmon Hollow so I dropped her off and drove a few blocks to the Volusia County library where I found it quickly. I decided to read a few pages to see if it was something I’d like – I’m kind of a CJ Box Joe Pickett guy or a Jack Reacher guy and this definitely sounded softer. After the first page I was hooked. I’m a few chapters deep into it now and have stayed hooked – maybe deeper. To top it off, Chris always gets me a couple books for Christmas. Guess what one of the selections was this time so I quickly returned the book to the library and picked up reading my own brand new one.

We had great house guests for the Christmas events. Chris came home and brought two friends with him, Vic and Vic’s brother Versage. The program was for us to host a Christmas eve dinner with Tom’s local family, Joey and Mark. We did a turkey on the Holland grill and I made fresh cranberry sauce. Then Chris and the guys did all the sides. They’re all great cooks so we were in for some specials including a pumpkin soup. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of Pumpkin Soup but Wow! It was incredible as were the carrots and green bean dishes they prepared. Real gourmet cooking. Tina made the most fantastic chocolate cake you’ve ever seen. I’m sure there are plenty of pics of it on her Facebook page. The events moved to Tom’s on Christmas where the turkey was replaced with prime Rib. We had a repeat of the oven problem from Thanksgiving but Tom was prepared to use the smoker and it couldn’t have turned out better. I think the roast was 18 pounds – a serious piece of meat – and it was done to perfection. For me the most interesting dish was something I thought was cole slaw but turned out to be a creation of Tina’s using shredded Brussel Sprouts and turnips. The original recipe called for Jicama but she couldn’t find that so decided to substitute the turnips. I put that right there with the pumpkin soup for outstanding new eats.

Lot’s of great gifts. Nancy got a new robot sweeper that is a “wet mop”. We gave it a test run today, the 29th, and it worked as advertised. So now she can run the original roomba to get the dust and sand off and follow it with a wet mop of the tile area. I got one of those “heavy” blankets. You’re supposed to be able to sleep much better but I really had my doubts. The first night I tried it, I had it draped over the side of the bed and some time after midnight it slid off onto the floor pulling me with it. I tried it again the next night and had a full uninterrupted 8 hours of sound sleep. That’s really unusual for me. I’ve repeated the same for the following two nights so I’m sold on it.
The other “event” was an introduction to a male friend of Olivia’s, aka her boyfriend. Nancy and I both had an opportunity to talk with him and learned that his family lived in the same neighborhood as us in Altamonte back in the 70’s. And Nancy learned that his grandmother plays bridge in Maitland so what more could she ask for. Seemed like a really nice guy.