More Projects

Mark and I worked on the pump down at the dock and got it working again.   Pretty sure the problem was the work of mud dobbers/wasps who had crawled upside and froze the impeller blades on the cooling fan.  It had been unused for at least a year and the critters are unrelenting.    After cleaning that out, it started right up.   Didn’t even need priming which meant the stop valve and pressure switch were still working and means I can now clean fish down at the dock and pressure wash the dock.   Nancy’s not wild about me cleaning fish in the house.   

Another big project nominally completed this past week was cleaning off the mildew/fungus/grunge that has been growing profusely (for 15+ years) on all three of out sheds.   It was a much bigger job than I had anticipated and requiring hand scrubbing each square inch with bleach.   I could do about an hour’s worth each day before my arms gave out.  The first time I wasn’t wearing rubber gloves and suffered burns for a week afterwards.   By the time I was done, one pair of pants and a heavy duty flannel pull over shirt were (from my Utah days) converted to future work clothes.   

Cleaned out a row in the garden that was pretty much played out and replanted with green bean seeds.   I put in 3 x 10’ rows.   The seed was less than a year old so should germinate just fine.  As soon as these germinate and put on a set of real leaves, I’ll plant another patch about the same size.  Also started picking turnips.   In the past I’ve never had luck but this crop seems perfect.  I don’t know anybody that eats turnip greens and hate to just toss them in the compost pile but…………

Next job checked off the list is power washing the dock.   It’s been a couple of years and one section was really nasty.   There’s no down spout from the roof gutter so every time it rains, that piece of the dock gets wet.  We’re (Mark) is going to add the downspout so I decided to kick off the project with a thorough cleaning.   Lots of electrical problems between the water pump and power washer but finally got it done with only a few breaker pops.  It took a few hours but it looks pretty good. 

And the really big event – they decided to restart the Palm Coast bridge game and we’re on our way.   Maybe a resumption of the good life.   She’ll play bridge to her hearts content and I’ll go surf fishing for a few hours.  Then we’ll hit the local brewery on the way home for a finisher.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that the whole thing comes off flawlessly.  She’s a little nervous that her playing will have suffered during the break but I’m fairly confident that she’ll do just fine. 

Busy week

This was a busy week.   Had Stanley Steemer come in and do the floors – tile and carpet.   Also the Oriental rug and the tile in the showers.  They cleaned and resealed the grout on the floors.  What a difference.  It’s only been 20 years since it all was first installed so I guess over the years it had gradually “aged”.    

While we were at it, we had noticed a gurgling sound in the kitchen sink when the bath tub was draining so I got concerned that the septic tank was signaling that it needed service.   We never had a backup but also had never had the tank serviced since installation – 20 years ago.   I know that we opted for an oversized tank when it was originally installed, don’t have a garbage disposal unit – classically a problem with epic tanks – and that Nancy has been semi religious about adding a monthly dose of yeast  but since the recommended service period for a clean-out is 3-5 years, my gut told me we needed to brace ourselves and get it done.   Tom and I messed around with a clean-out snake but didn’t come across any blockage and had no impact on the slow draining.  

When the service truck arrived, it was a bit taller than the trees hanging over the driveway would permit.  Bad start.   The service guy was prepared for such an event and had a battery powered saw to cut away brush in the way.   Battery was dead so I broke out my chain saw and cut off the offensive branches.   I’m thinking this is not going smoothly but let’s get on with it.     He found the tank and pulled the lid with zero problem and pronounced the tank didn’t look too bad.   It was nearly full of solid material but he said he had encountered much worse.   Within about 20 minutes he had totally drained the tank, flushed it out using all our water sources in the house – flushed the toilets, ran the sinks etc and found no internal blockages at all.  Mission accomplished.  I asked the serviceman about using yeast or Riddex and he recommended the yeast as actually better for the tank than Riddex and much cheaper.   I think the 3-5 year maintenance cycle would really apply to house with a large population – two old citizens just don’t tax the system.   I also suspect Nancy’s diligent use of yeast was a big plus.  She changes the A/C filter and the yeast at the same time, once a month.

We capped the week off with a trip to Nancy’s oncologist/surgeon to get the low down on her melanoma (which seems to be of the mildest variety), a stop at her hair dresser’s for a quick do, and then lunch at the half wall with a glass of blueberry wheat brew.  The melanoma was found by the dermatologist at a routine, six month checkup a couple of weeks ago.  They had a genetic test performed on the biopsy  which rated it as the weakest, least likely to spread type.  But it still should be surgically removed.  The oncologist was quite certain that minor surgery would remove the affected area with near zero chance of any spread.  We’ll schedule to get it done sometime in the next few weeks.

Resuming

Time to restart posting to the blog.    There’s been nothing of interest going on since the feared and dreaded Covid’s attacked.   But with the introduction of the vaccine, things seem to be brightening quickly in Florida.  We got the second shot two weeks ago so we’re good to go!

My signal that things are almost back on track is that both Nancy’s bridge games, the one in Crescent City and the one’s in Palm Coast are restarting on a limited basis.   That means a restart of our social life – my surf fishing and brewery inspections and Nancy’s fun and games.  Last week our March calendar was empty but now it’s brimming over with events and we’re starting to run into scheduling conflicts.   Many of the events are still doctor visits but even so – the juggling has begun.

A couple of big news events since this time last year.   Simon and Amy are expecting – meaning we could become great grandparents.   Aaron and Kayla are likewise expecting, I think within a month of Amy.    That will make us great great Aunt and Uncle again.   Olivia is blasting thru PA school in Knoxville TN in top of the class fashion.   We even call her now and again for medical consults.  Chris and Vic bought a home in Chester NJ.   It’s surprisingly rural on a big piece of property including a pond.  They have a steady stream of deer visiting so you know it’s out there.  I’m guessing wild ducks will be visiting the pond when it thaws.  

On the potentially negative side, Barbara next door has put her place up for sale.  Since my garden is on her property, that could signal the end of the garden for me.   I took a chance that it wouldn’t sell quickly and went ahead with planting a fall – winter garden but not sure if it makes sense to move forward with a summer garden.  She says she tells all prospective buyers that it’s a package deal – comes with a share cropper neighbor – but…….   I personally think she has it priced too high to sell and she says she’s not lowering it so…………  I’ll have to make up my mind by the end of next month whether to plant a summer garden or just forget it.   Another low risk option is to plant the whole garden in corn.  I’ve not had much luck with corn before but if I do the whole garden in that crop, it will require very little attention and give me a little leverage dealing with a new neighbor.  

Be that as it may, I still spend a good deal of time with the garden.   We’ve had a fairly cold winter (so much for global warming) and had to completely  cover the garden 5 times.   Normally I have to do that once or twice.   Most times before a cold front moves in, it rains and gets windy so covering the 1200 SF garden in a gale is tricky going.   But I managed it and actually experienced not too much loss.   So entering March we’re harvesting a bonus crop.  The greens are doing exceptionally well.  That would include swiss chard, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and collards.   Plenty of lettuce, carrots, radishes and, this year, turnips.  This should continue thru April.   Normally I give away more than half of the crop to Nancy’s bridge ladies or her crochet group.   Since they’ve been shut down and my other customer at the Irish Pub in Palm coast closed also – I have an excess that can be overwhelming.   So we’ve tried many new recipes to deal with the surplus.   Two pasta recipes are great because they use a load of greens and are delicious – a cabbage pasta and a swiss chard pasta.   On the surface that may not sound that great but trust me, they’re incredible.    

Another plus during this boring period has been the quality of the spec fishing in the lake.   It’s been consistent enough that if Nancy wants fish for supper, I can go out and fill the order – usually in less than an hour.  March is usually a switch month where the fishing focus switches from spec’s to bass.   I’m ready.  I’m also ready to hit the surf again.  This is the start of bluefish season on Flagler Beach.

The last good thing from all this lockdown – we’ve had more communication with our kids than before.   We have almost daily conversations with all three.   Tom and Joey usually come up to the lake on the weekend to help around the house and take Nancy shopping.   I just can’t get my arms around shopping trips!!

A little Excitement – very little

Not much going on – staying pretty close to home.   Having said that, I am picking some tomatoes and lettuce from the garden.   Wimpy but at least something.   The bugs have been ferocious this year and attack whatever pops up in the garden.  We’ve just had a cold snap so maybe that will slow down the critters.

We had a great Thanksgiving but missed having the grandkids here.  Olivia decided to stay in Knoxville since she had been feeling poorly all week and was nursing a low grade fever.  Yep, turns out she tested positive for the covid right after Thanksgiving so we missed what could have been a bad thing.   Ditto Simon and Amy who were exposed to the virus with several friends and business acquaintances testing positive.  Little Tommy and Kate also felt it made more sense to stay put in Chicago rather than risking the public travel.   Good decisions on everyone’s part.   Olivia seems to be improving day by day.   Hope we don’t have to repeat all this at Christmas but …………..

I started fishing again in the lake with the cool down.  I put the poke boat in the water Sunday and proceeded hitting my favorite spots with my favorite bass lure.   After about an hour the score was Joe 3, bass1.   The last one I caught gave a last minute lunge when I tried to remove the hook which imbedded deeply into the my left pinky.  I didn’t have clippers to cut the lure from the line so had to maneuver the kayak with the paddle under my arm.  That was tricky but I only had a few hundred yards to go.  Getting in and out of a kayak is a bit tricky under the best of conditions but doing it while attached to the lure, rod and reel is even more so and I figured there was a 90% chance I’d dump the whole thing trying to land.   Somehow I got it just right, kept my balance and avoided a disaster.   Walked up to the house, got some clippers and cut the lure from the line albeit still dangling from my hand.   That gave me confidence that I could drive myself to the emergency room – which we did.   Once there,  the doc hit it with a lidocaine injection and numbed the finger.  He had good cutters and the hook was removed in a few seconds.  I never felt a thing after that.   They bandaged it up, gave me a prescription for an anti biotic and sent me on my way.   3 days later I removed the bandage and could barely even see where the hook was – zero pain.    Lesson learned – don’t go fishing without a pair of good clippers handy.  I’ll be hitting the lake with more vigor now with the start of spec season.  They usually start congregating after Thanksgiving and move toward shore till March.  Last year was not all that good so maybe the ones that didn’t show up last year will be in full force this time and much bigger. 

Nancy’s bridge almost started again both in Palm Coast and Crescent City.   They scheduled openings and then when things got worse, cancelled them.  They did restart her crocheting group so she’s going strong there.   The extent of our social life is once a week making a trip to Deland to shop for groceries and have lunch at a downtown brewery, the Half Wall.   Tom usually comes up either Saturday or Sunday and we travel all the way to Daytona for special shopping and lunch.  Joey and Mark come up every other week and do fixup/cleanup stuff around the house.  Last week we completed a round of scrubbing and power washing the whole patio – under the screen and out front.   That plus power washing the screen porch, cleaning out the gutters and roof, and tightening loose roof hardware – an annual job with a metal roof.   And the Gators and Knights are having great seasons while the Seminoles are getting crushed. 

Closer to Normal

The garden is starting to take shape.   Most of the indoor seed starts have been transplanted into the garden and taken hold.  I lost quite a few to critters and weather but those that survived are putting on great growth.  I over plant just to account for those losses.  Additionally, in the past few weeks I’ve planted seeds directly in the garden and most have germinated and look really good.  I usually let those grow for a few weeks then thin out and transplant in empty garden spots.   That way I get max use of the space and have a continuous stream of veggies through the season.   The seeds planted in the last two weeks include collards, more chard, more carrots, spinach, lettuce and cauliflower.  All have germinated and will be spread around to open spaces in the next couple of weeks.  Depending on how much space I have available at the end of the month, I’ll start new cabbage seeds.  We’re having some kind of late season tropical storm which has cooled the temps and dropped inches of light rain – just perfect for early stage seedlings.     

Good news for Nancy – the Palm Coast Bridge club is reopening next week.   That surprises me a little since the “covid’s” seem to be ramping up again.  Palm Coast, in Flagler County, has had very low reported cases throughout this whole period so we’re not concerned.  Maybe I’ll get back to my walking along the inter-coastal.   I was doing 4 miles twice a week before the shut down but will probably have to work my way back up to that distance.   Remember, I was way younger then.   I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok with the pub part at the end of the walk.  I’ll also have to renew my annual state park pass which I let expire when I was isolated to Barberville.  Oil my surf gear.  Nancy is a little concerned that she won’t be able to find a partner but I think that will work itself out.  Her vision problem presents a little extra work for a partner which she’s concerned will prevent someone from stepping up.   When last opened, there were games 7 days a week.  The new plan is two days a week – which is how much Nancy played anyway.  It was a Monday and Friday event for us;  the new opening is only Tuesday and Friday.   I think we can make that adjustment.   Update – two people called Nancy to play bridge so looks like that hurdle never materialized. 

Garden Taking Shape

I was telling a guy about the celery experiment and he said I could do the same thing with onions.   Cut off the root end of any onion and root it.  I tried it with two onions we had in the fridge – cut off  an inch or so above the root and placed in a saucer of water.  Within 2 days there were sprouts on each onion.   Unfortunately, in the mean time the celery crashed a few days after moving it to the garden.  I think it’s just been too hot for celery and I will give it another try.   It’s cooled down a bit and I’ll be more diligent in keeping it watered and shaded for the first couple of weeks in the garden.

I’ve started moving my seedlings to the garden and have a row of broccoli and a row of cabbage that seem to be doing just fine.   I moved green peppers and they made it one night before grasshoppers had a feast on them.   Not sure if they’ll recover or not.   I also popped in a couple chard plants but it may be a little early.   I also noticed something when thinning the carrots.  In that same location I had planted cilantro and parsley last season and I spotted two micro plants that popped up that could be either cilantro, parsley, or a closely related weed.  It’s not unheard of to have them self seed but they are both nominally difficult plants to start from commercial seed – at least I’ve had trouble.  Usually I end up buying plants at Publix and skipping the seed trial.   Later this week I’m going to transplant some tomato plants.   I have some growing in the garden that self started and they were doing great until an attack by the giant green caterpillars.  One of those critters can totally strip a 3’ tall tomato plant in a matter of hours.   I’m hoping they’ll re-foliate and go on to produce fruit but…………

A New Crop

I read something that tweaked my interest re the garden.   A couple of weeks ago we picked up celery at Publix.   It was a standard package with the top greens trimmed off.   Nancy put it in the fridge veggie drawer and then cut it off horizontally as she used it – from the top and working down toward the heel.  This as opposed to using it a stalk at a time.   What I read was that you could cut off the heel and plant it directly in the garden.   I decided to try it but didn’t really expect anything happen – since the celery had probably been out of the grounds for weeks and mostly refrigerated.  I set it out on the porch in a shallow bowl with an inch or so of water.   Less than a week later, it was putting out green leaves from the center of the heel.   No roots showing (yet) but clearly the plant was alive and well.   I’ll give it another week on the porch and then move it to the garden.  I’m stoked about this since I’ve tried growing celery from seed several time with less than great success.   I’ve gotten celery plants but the stalks are small and stringy.   We usually pick up celery each time we go to Publix – probably one a week – so in a couple of months we could be celery independent – the same way we are now pineapple independent.  

According to the article, 4-5 of these plants in the garden should take care of a family of four year round.  

Farm to Market Job

Got up early and walked up to get the paper – looking for the weekly Publix ad.   Nancy had said she wanted to go and pick up a few things.  The ad, this time, included a $50 Shell gas card for $40.  One card for each $50 you spend.   Since we’re driving very little these days, we have an inventory of Shell cards but it’s hard to pass up a 20% discount on gas.   We also knew that  if you get a flu shot there you get a $10 Publix credit card.   So for a purchase of $100 – not a challenge for Nancy – we would get a $20 discount on today’s grocery cart via the flu shots and two $50 gas cards.   No brainer.    The trick is trying to load the grocery cart and hit the $100.   Nancy keeps track of that in her head as she’s shopping along pitching things in the cart.   She normally hits it within $10 but today was the all time record – she spent $100.04.   Remember, no pencil and paper and not knowing the exact numbers on any particular item since we’re both loading the cart.   When I have to go alone in that same gas card situation, I make a list on the laptop and then fill in the prices as I shop along – keeping a running total. Much clunkier than Nancy’s method.

In the last post I mentioned planting winter garden seeds on Sept 15.   I mentally program a week for germination so I was surprised again when a substantial number of the seeds popped out in two days.   What’s going on this year?  I’ll be transferring these little seedlings to small pots – yogurt cups with holes drilled in the bottom to allow bottom watering- in the next day or two.   The first to repot will be the tomatoes and green peppers but the kale, cabbage, and cauliflowers are right behind. 

Here’s an interesting one.  I mention often last year about my afternoons in Palm Coast – dropping off Nancy at bridge and then going to Waterfront Park for a long walk.   The end destination of the walk was  a Pub and a brewery in the European Village.   I made friends with the bartender at the pub and used to bring her vegetables from the garden for her vegetarian daughter.   She quit charging me for the beer and I had a home for excess veggies.   I haven’t been there since February and was fairly certain the place would be shut down or operating in a much reduced mode.  Imagine my surprised when we got a call this morning from “Denise”.   She’s not working until the place can operate 100% but decided to open a small, farm to market, breakfast place in the Village.  That’s an upscale operation.  She asked if I would sell her greens and other veggies for the restaurant.  I told her that I wouldn’t commit to anything because you never know with a home garden but that she was welcome to my excess – no charge.  I’m thinking maybe an occasional breakfast for us.   The new place is about 2 doors down from the pub so I imagine she’d run restaurant in the morning and then pop over to the pub in the afternoon.  So I’ll have to plant little more Kale and Chard than usual and make a more concentrated effort on getting spinach to grow.  

In full garden mode

The garden is making decent progress.   Beans started sprouting 5 days after planting the seed; 2 days later for the tomatoes – both with a high germination rate.  The squash seed went in on the 11th so I’m expecting to see action there by the end of this week.   In all these cases, I’m using new seed so my expectations are for nearly 100% germination.   I’m going to plant a few lettuce seeds in the next day or so.  It’s a little early but we’re getting so much rain that it might just work.   The seed for the lettuce is a year old so germination will be diminished, maybe.   But why not try.   The weather is forecast to be cooler and wet this coming week so why not try.  

Update.   Believe it or not, the squash seeds germinated overnight.  I planted 5 seeds each of two varieties and all 10 had popped out overnight.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that rapid a response.   Also yesterday, all of the tomato seeds have popped – about a week and consistent with past experience.   The only seeds that haven’t popped are the green peppers and I don’t expect to see them for another week. 

Moving on, planted a single row of carrots, probably 50 or so.   I’ll wait for those to germinate, estimate 10-14 days, and then plant another row.  So I’ll be planting new rows every couple of weeks – should keep us going from November right thru to next May.   I’m proud of the carrots because I had such a hard time with them when the garden started but over the years improved the soil enough that the crop is not even in question.

Also started, indoors, the real bulk of fall/winter seeds.   That includes several varieties of kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and collards.   The seeds should germinate in a week to 10 days then be transplanted to little yogurt cups to put on growth.   If all goes well, they should be ready for planting in the main garden towards the end of October.   

No wonder I’m worn out by the end of the day!

Official start of the fall garden

I’m officially designating Sept 7 as the first day of the fall garden season.   I finished weeding enough rows and tilled them – about half the total space.   Then I planted seeds indoors – 4 different tomato varieties and green bell peppers.   Two of the tomato varieties are one’s I’ve never tried before.  I waited too long to order seeds and some that I’ve had success with were out of stock.  

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll start planting green bean seeds directly the garden.   I spread out the bean planting, doing two rows every two weeks, so they don’t all start producing at the same time.  Target for first planting is two ten foot rows with seeds planted 6” apart. 

Before the end of the week I’ll plant squash seeds directly in the garden.  My plan is to have one row with 5 squash plants, 36” apart.  Two varieties.   Sometimes we have a great squash season, sometimes not so great – depends on bug and weather conditions more than anything.  I’ve used both varieties in the past with reasonable success.  One problem with squash here in the fall is that the plants are really large with big leaves making them susceptible to wind damage.  

In a couple of weeks, maybe Oct 1, I’ll plant carrots.  The carrot strategy is the same as the beans – plant a row every couple of weeks to extend the harvest.  This year I bought nothing but pelleted carrot seed.  Carrot seed is to tiny that you have to over plant and then thin the tiny plant as they germinate.  Doesn’t sound like too big a deal but it’s hands and knees kind of work.   Pelleted seed is much more expensive but I planted some last year as well as using traditional seed and was well satisfied that the pelleted seed was worth the extra money.   

Maybe a small patch of lettuce even though it’s a bit early.   This is a hedge just in case we get a cooler than usual fall and there’s a variety called Black Seeded Simpson that handles heat fairly well.

The green peppers are a variety I’ve planted for the past 40 years with consistent results.   So now we just hope the weather is favorable – no early frost, no hurricane winds.

So we’re off and running