This, That and The Other Thing

8 08 2009

“Week in Review” has been out the window for a while. Let’s make this a catch-up post and see what happens from here forward. I’m making no promises.

AJ and I work together auditing liquor for bars. We save the bars many times the value of our audit fees in saved profits. Despite the fact that the service pays for itself, there are always accounts who fail to realize the value of the service, or just don’t have the gumption to use the management tools we provide. (Yes, I said “gumption”). Not long ago we lost three bar owners, for a total of 5 accounts, in a single week. Since we work together and this loss was more than half of our business, it was the equivalent of one of us losing our job. We are independent contractors, but the owner of the auditing company treats us as though we are partners. He has jumped in with us and done an intensive sales push to rebuild the client base. Things are slowly picking back up, but it has been a tough road.

The reason I even mention this is that I ran out of Atomic Grow™ right about the time we had our financial crisis. The garden budget was slashed; and even though Atomic Grow™ is very affordable and lasts a long time (due to being so concentrated) I had to put my next purchase on hold.

My blog service shows me what people search to arrive here (some pretty amusing stuff, by the way), and one of the most common searches is “Atomic Grow™”. My guess is that you’ve heard of it and wonder if it will solve your gardening problems. It’s not magic, but it’s pretty darned incredible. My best results have been with plants becoming healthier and happier overnight. After a single application they start flowering and fruiting like there’s no tomorrow.

I’ve also had remarkable results with fungus. Leaf spot fungus seems to be stopped in its tracks with Atomic Grow™. “Leaf Spot” and “Tomato Disease” are two more common searches that lead people here; and I can verify that my tomatoes are still hanging on because of Atomic Grow™.  Since I’ve been out, they have gone into a steady decline. However, I think they will prove (once again) the amazing properties of this stuff, once I get back on my application schedule. I will dedicate some future post to tomatoes in particular. Aphids and other hard-bodied insects are defenseless against the direct application of Atomic Grow™. It’s not a pesticide, but it affects their exoskeleton after which they die of dehydration. Jim Shellenback of High Yield Industries (Parent company of Atomic Grow™) told me that “People get addicted to the stuff”. I agree completely, and have been anxiously awaiting the day when I could replenish my supply.

The one (and only) shortcoming of this product is that caterpillars seem to get the upper hand. I love butterflies and moths, but I do not care for most of their children! Over the summer I have fought a constant battle with Pickle Worms (Diaphania nitidalis (Stoll)), Cabbage Worms (Pieris brassicae) and Leafrollers. They do not like Atomic Grow™, but many seem to shake it off or avoid contact with it.

I have been researching bacterial control of caterpillars and was planning to get some Bacillus Thuringiensis (B.T.) to take these buggers out once and for all. Up until now I have been fighting a losing battle of smashing lepidoptera eggs, caterpillars and stems infested with Pickle Worms.

I turned over a brocolli leaf the other day and found these guys fat and happy!

Cabbage Worms (Pieris brassicae)

Cabbage-Worms

The good news is that I got a call from Rita Curry Porter at the Atomic Grow™ test gardens, yesterday. She was bursting with excitement over a product that complements Atomic Grow to eliminate insects once and for all. I have done some research and am bursting at the seams to give it a try. For now, I am going to leave an air of mystery until I have a chance to document the effects in my garden. One way or another the caterpillars will soon be gone!

AJ has been busy, despite excruciating back pain. The VA clinic assures him that his lower back damage is minimal and reversible. I don’t buy it. I get to see him suffer, and there is more going on than some minor glitch. I am pushing for an MRI and some real answers.

Unfortunately, I cannot find the photos of the process, but he tore out the old bamboo fence and built this one, using cured timber poles and a reed screen; all treated with water seal:

Fence-3

I like the way it jogs at the halfway mark. It gives us plenty of room to access the car, and additional space for the grill and smoker. He worked hard on this, and it turned out gorgeous.

Fence-2

Fence

He also finished and treated the bamboo wind chimes. They are “tuned” and sound great.

Bamboo-Chimes

It would be a full-time job were I to document all of AJ’s activities. Over the past week he has been busy building seats for the boat. To date, we have been sitting on coolers placed on the floor. This is neither safe, nor practical. The seats he built are sturdy and user-friendly. I will take some pictures of the finished product for a future post.

Making-Seats

Here is one of the seats showing the heavy-duty Velcro that holds them to the inside of the boat:

Velcro-on-Seat

Our friend Jay has a veritable orchard in his yard. We stopped by his place last week and received an abundance of mangoes, avocados and limes, all of which were delicious. Thanks Jay!

Fruit

This eggplant has me stumped. At some point in its development it became “frozen in time”. The plant next to it has produced a single, gorgeous, dark purple eggplant. Shortly after that one appeared, this specimen began to grow. It got to this size and then ceased development. The skin was streaked and had a leathery patch on the other side. When I finally plucked the thing and cut it open it had dark colored seeds, but the meat was green and smelled unripe. I don’t know what to make of this.

Bad-Eggplant

I guess I’ll wrap it up for now, as I’m on my way to pick up some more Atomic Grow™ and the exciting new miracle product.

For now I leave you with cats…indifferent, intimidating and uninhibited.

Cats





Mr. Fix-it and more Silly Cat

3 07 2009

Why should these last two weeks be any different than the rest?

There are two things I can always count on around here.

1. AJ will be fixing something or researching how to fix something at all times. Here he is preparing to replace the radiator on the car:

AJ-Fixes-Radiator

He also helped the neighbors work on their broken stuff and is now working on the broken computer that has a devastating virus (thanks to me). When he isn’t fixing, he’s doing something else like smoking a pork loin. Yum. I’ll post photos of this (as well as a great gift we received yesterday) in my next edition.

2. The other thing I can always count on is that our neighborhood cat, Smokey, will continue to nap in entertainingly silly postures.

How can any of this be comfortable?

Smokey-on-Bin

Smokey-Chair

Smokey follows me around on all of my garden inspections, and (as though to demonstrate his cat prowess) he runs up the palm tree and hangs there for a brief few seconds before jumping to the ground.

Good times.

Smokey-Tree





Week in Review…Preview

21 06 2009

This is really a bit of catching up for the last two weeks. When I finish this post I am going straight to the garden to do some more stuff. Changes have taken place, and I will share them later.

Garden

When we got back from Jacksonville I couldn’t wait to check out the garden. This is an outdated shot, now; but the Poblanos were getting bigger.

Poblano

We needed a salad so I did a mini-harvest. I selected one of the carrots I had transplanted. It had a nice big top, but when I pulled it up, this creature was revealed. Sorry for the bad focus. Lesson learned? Don’t transplant carrots.

Crazy-Carrot

The salad was good with Chives, Cilantro, Cherry Tomatoes, Celery, Carrot and Carrot Creature all freshly picked.

Today's-Harvest

Mr. Fix-It

This is what AJ has looked like for the past two weeks. That is, when he hasn’t been on the phone dealing with insurance companies, parts stores and our financial matters.

Here he is fixing the battery tray on the truck.

Mechanic

Here he is changing the brakes on the Mercedes. He has fixed so many things that we can’t even remember them all. I’m sure he has sweat at least five gallons worth in the hot Florida sun.

Brake-Job

Smokey the cat, does not work so hard. He just finds various ways to look silly.

Smokey Hose

Mystery Guests

Remember the little bird poop look-alikes?

Mystery-Guests

They got more interesting…

Mystery-Guest

And much bigger.

Mystery-Guest2

This one ate up the whole dill plant it was on. I caught it going for a stroll as I was vacuuming the garden. Lucky thing it was so colorful or I might have accidentally sucked it up.

When they go for a stroll, that means only one thing happens next. I relocated this one to my potted dill plant, where it nibbled a little more and then built a silk hammock. It stayed like this for the entire day.

MysteryGuestHammock

The next morning I found this lovely green chrysalis. I’ve raised a number of these beauties (sometimes right on my desk), but I’ve yet to capture the moment they transform from caterpillar to chrysalis. Maybe next time… The fun part is what follows. In a week or two the chrysalis will turn transparent. This is the signal to get the camera ready for the emergence. Afterward I’ll post a specific page for this guest and disclose its identity to those who don’t already know.

MysteryChrysalis

Here’s another guest I discovered last night. Wish I could give some perspective as to how huge this thing was. I saw it from halfway across the yard. My heart jumped at the thought of being invaded by two inch monster mosquitoes. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but it was at least 1.5 inches tall.

I got closer and was relieved to see that it was a Robberfly; so named because they often mimic their prey and attack when the victim unwittingly approaches. I had never seen one like this, before.

After moments on the internet I discovered that it is Diogmites sp., or “The Hanging Thief”; known for hanging by its front legs while eating its prey. These crazy looking flies are predatory and eat a number of intimidating insects, including bees, wasps and dragonflies. Here is a site with some great Robberfly shots, including the hanging behavior.

Diogmites (?) Robber Fly

Seed Swap at the Funky Chicken Farm

This past Wednesday I went back to the Funky Chicken Farm for a seed and  plant cutting swap. Suzanne Malone gave a great tutorial on growing and collecting seeds from your garden. I met a lot of great people and saw a couple of whom I had met before, including Carol (who was at the previous meetup) and John Rogers, AKA “Bamboo John”.

I explained to John that I had killed the bamboo cuttings he had given us. He generously offered to let us come get new cuttings. This time I won’t subject them to lime overdose.

I got a lot of seeds and some cuttings, which you will see in my upcoming posts (provided I can keep them alive). I am still working towards a page listing all of my seeds.

Etc.

Allan Sr. and Barney the poodle came to stay with us last night. They brought steak and booze; so we had a pre-Father’s Day celebration. Good times and good company!

There’s a good chance I will get caught up on my writing goals, as we just lost over half of our income over the past week. Three of our clients canceled our service, due to the financial downturn. It’s depressing, but I do believe in the saying “When one door closes, another one opens.”

AJ has become “The Pina Colada King”, having perfected a Pina Colada recipe that helps dull the pain. It just takes two of these tropical delights to brighten things up for a while.

I’m sure I’ve got a lot more to say, but the garden beckons…the garden and a “Rum Punishment” as AJ has named his new favorite cocktail.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the Week in Review.






Week in review – A reprieve from the rain

31 05 2009

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Everything is green. The yard is packed with baby grass, and the garden is growing fast.

If you read Things are a bit Spotty, you may recall that I was having a fungal issue with the tomatoes. I’m calling it Grey Leaf Spot until someone tells me otherwise. Last year this stuff completely ravaged my tomato plant to the point that I had very little yield.

Last week I treated the plant with Atomic Grow™ and trimmed off the terminal branches. I left a few of the branches with the initial stages of yellowing to see what would happen. One week later, the leaves are virtually unchanged and it appears that the fungal invasion has been stopped in its tracks. The new growth is green and healthy. I’m not going to go overboard with excitement, but things look promising!

Leaf-Spot-Halted

I know I said I would make my next Atomic Grow™ application yesterday. I reserve the right to change my mind, and so I have declared Sundays to be “Atomic Sunday”. I will make the application this afternoon and post some quick photos. There are some new guests in the garden (one for which I have planted a specific herb), and I will not be spraying that plant because I want to encourage the guests. Sorry for the vagueness, but I think I’ll let you watch them progress and see who can guess what they are. Their momma dropped them off on Friday, so stay tuned for some baby pictures this afternoon.

Here is the Oasis this weekend. Doesn’t everything look happy?

Oasis

A closer shot of some of the herbs. This is my first year with celery. I’m learning about self-blanching and how celery needs to be grouped together. I had thinned out the clump and moved some plants to outside areas. They are easily identified because they turned pale yellow. The central clump is still green. I guess we will wait and watch to see how they turn out.

Herbs

The cherry tomato plant has officially reached tree status in my book. It is upwards of 5′ tall and growing by leaps and bounds. If it didn’t make those yummy tomatoes I’d think it were a weed.

Cherry-Tomato-Tree

Time for a salad.

Cherry-Tomatoes

The succulent garden is doing great. Notice that green grass in front?

Succulents

Over the course of the week our banana flower has opened up and exposed the first hand of six bananas.

AJ explained to me that this is only the beginning. Each layer of the pod will open up in succession and reveal another hand. He estimates five or six more to come. This has been the highlight of my week.

Banana-Flower-Preopen

Banana-Flower-Opening

Banana-Flower-Opening-more

The poblano peppers got off to a rocky start, but now they are loaded with babies.

Baby-Poblano

Can I have more than one highlight? The Marketmore 76 cucumber has exploded in size.

Marketmore 76 Cucumber

And I found three new babies on a single branch. I’ve got to keep my eye out for those pickleworms. They are not allowed to eat our cucumbers.

Baby-Cucumbers

The muskmelon took a beating from the winds this week. The older leaves are fairly shredded, but there is so much new growth that it hardly matters. This plant is loaded with babies.

Muskmelon Vine

Dead frog walking. Yes, here is another Cuban Tree Frog. This one has set up housekeeping inside one of the bamboo stakes. The stake has filled with water, thus forcing froggie to poke out of the top in the daylight. These are nocturnal frogs, so you can see its determination to stay home. I was able to get extremely close and the frog didn’t budge. I’m still building the fortitude to round up and kill these invasives. I even bought some Benzocaine to put them gently to sleep before popping them into the freezer. AJ is promoting the idea of just stomping on them. Is he mean or what? Actually, it would probably be the most humane way. I just don’t think I could do it.

For now I am building a collection of photographs for their memorial. Eat up little froggie; your days are numbered!

Cuban Tree Frog in Bamboo

Mr. Fix It is still at it. This week the rains exposed another problem with the car: leaking tail lights, which allowed water to get into the trunk. AJ took them apart and found that they were both crazed and that one was cracked in various places. Here he is trying to salvage the blasted thing until we can afford a replacement part. Anybody want to buy a 1985 Mercedes 300D? 😉

Tail-light-repair

I’ll leave you with “Gravel Cat”, Jorgi.

Gravel-Cat

Check back later for a harvest update and some shots of the baby guests.





Week in Review: Reigning in Chaos

20 04 2009

The overall theme of this week has been finding or restoring order.

If you’ve been reading along you will know that the park has been cited by The Health Department for a plethora of minor violations.  The inspector made it known that they are cracking down across the board in order to compensate for budget cuts. It’s a blessing in disguise because enforcement of park rules has gotten quite lax. We try to keep our lot tidy, but are subjected to the mess of a junk hoarder behind us and blowing trash from a few surrounding lots. The cat situation has gotten out of control creating a crisis of disease, fleas and fighting as the cat population pushes its bounds.

In The Cops are Coming for the Gray Brigade I described how the cat situation affects us and our small herd. Today (April 20th) was the deadline for everyone to get their act together, including cleaning up their lots and leash training their cats, Ha! One resident put collars on some of her cats. One seemed particularly pissed and went about kicking ass all over the park. One look at his backside tells me that he is an un-altered tomcat, or one that was not properly neutered. At least he’s clean, because he took more than one shower from our hose this week!

Even though our lot escaped the scrutiny of the inspector, we had a mess going on in our eyes and set a goal of getting projects finished before today.

Oasis2 “O2” Completion

If you don’t know about the bamboo and Oasis2 made of buckets, barrels and tires…well, I don’t know what to say. Go back and read about it.

I spent a great deal of the weekend on this chair, cutting up this bamboo with this circular saw.

O2 Work zone

I also spent a great deal of time installing said bamboo around the border of O2.

O2-progress

Finally, by Sunday evening I was finished. O2 was done, bamboo scraps cleaned up and gravel dispersed.

O2-Complete

O2-Front

O2-Side

O2-Back

Harvesting and Pruning

The flea market tomato produced the first full-sized ripened fruit.

Tomatoes-ripe

Combined with some baby lettuce and purslane, we had a nice salad.

1st-Real-Harvest

Within two days another tomato is ripening.  Yesterday morning I cut back the branches of this massive plant. It was out of control. At last count there were over 30 tomatoes in various stages of maturity. I started a Harvest Log to document the weight of all produce collected from the garden this season.

Tomatoes

The Inspector Arrives

By early afternoon I was on the couch working, and had almost forgotten about the dreaded Health Department inspection. From the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red. It was a woman in a scarlet polo shirt, clipboard in hand, walking behind our lot with the park manager.

I glanced out onto the patio and saw something that looked like this.

Gray-Brigade-another-day

Perhaps she was completely immersed in her inspection of the septic tank lid repair, or maybe she was kindly overlooking our gross violation of the cat leash law. For whatever reason she seemed completely oblivious to what I did next. Quickly, I sprang into action, snatching up each cat and throwing them inside. Jorgi was shocked and momentarily paralyzed with fear, Smokey was befuddled and Llami just thought it was time for a cheese treat. Bedlam ensued for the next 30 minutes as we waited for the inspector to leave. Once she was gone and I opened the door the cats returned to their normal routine.

Smokey wants to play, but Jorgi doesn’t understand this.

Gray-Flash

Painting

These are the neighbors who left us the box of sealers and stain salvaged from the dump transfer station. I don’t know how else to describe them other than “compulsive painters”. This is their third unit in the park. When they first moved here they had lost their house in the hurricanes. They arrived in a homemade RV made from what amounted to a utility trailer with vinyl siding and a window unit AC. As shabby as it was they painted it multiple times. Next they bought a slightly larger travel trailer in the park. It too, went through various color iterations. Last year they bought this mobile home, which they immediately set about fixing up and painting.

The driveway has been painted more times than I can count and they even bought a boat and painted it (including pin stripes). In a reaction to astronomical electric bills they are now painting their trim a lighter, and much more attractive color. I give it four months until it changes again. Looks great, though!

Painting

AJ has gotten attached to the dumpster chair and titled it “The Epiphany Chair”. It is also getting a coat of paint.

AJ-Paints-Refelection-Chair

Mechanics

A little late, but here is our anniversary present to each other. Our anniversary was on February 21st. AJ has turned into a Mercedes diesel mechanic in this short time, and now knows as much about these cars as anyone. His weekend was spent working on this car, as has been most of his free time since we got it. This project was especially chaotic as it involved removing, disassembling, repairing and reassembling the instrument panel. This was as tedious and frustrating as anything I’ve seen him do. Of course it has all been done with his trademark precision and attention to detail. He promises to start his own blog to document all the “guy stuff” he does.

For now, here’s the car:

Mercedes

Turbo-Diesel

Weed Rescue

And finally, here is a little gem I rescued from certain destruction by the mower. It must be some sort of wildflower, although I have yet to identify it. It adapted quite well to being yanked from the ground and potted. Now it graces our beautiful steps.

Mystery-Wildflower-Pot

Unknown-Wildflower

Exhausted from this grueling weekend I left for work today without my cell phone and forgetting an important piece of equipment. On the way back home I managed to lose my coffee thermos mug. Now that the outside looks great I must get busy restoring order to the inside (of the RV as well as my head). I’m only grateful that the Health Inspector didn’t look in here!