Peanut and Banana Sandwich by Squirrel

To quote a wise man from San Juan, Costa Rica:

We live in the tropics.  If you drop a seed on the ground, it will grow.

I noticed that here years ago when I moved in.  People have plants dripping with plants dripping with more plants.

If you don’t want a giant mess in your yard, if you’re looking for something a bit groomed, don’t blink.  That “clean” look takes a lot of work here in Florida.

I could go a while before weeding my backyard in Philadelphia.  The soil was somewhat fertile, but things took their time to grow.  Sun angle up there is 14 degrees lower at any given moment than it is here so it will be proportionally less effective, proportionally less bright.

I have a yard inspection every morning, on a clear morning, at 7:30.  I have to inspect the irrigation systems, clear out the palm fronds, remove any debris that falls from the trees into the pools, and basically police the perimeters of the yard.

I have help with me.  Mr Dog, my one and only Dingus, Rack the SuperDog (TM)  will follow me around the yard, and go into places that my own nearly two meter height will not fit.

I found out that he will answer to Dingus because when someone does something a bit wrong, a bit silly, and a bit dumb, I have a habit of calling them a Dingus for doing it.

I am not exactly sure that it is even officially a Word according to the O.E.D., or Webster, or anyone else, but I use it.

Frequently.

 

So much so that my Dog adopted it as one of his names.   He figured out that he is Mr Dog early on, so why should I be surprised?

Stepping outside, we hear chattering and rustling in the Utility Easement behind the property.  It is, predictably, very thick with plantings, even though Rack goes back there for relaxation.  Yes, we shall call it Relaxation.  As in Rest Stop at mile marker 108.

I see something grey flash in my right eye and go on about my own business.  Spray the Milkweed for Aphids.  Wiggle the drip-feed water bubblers to clear them from any debris inside that blocks the flow.  Inspecting the pots in the backyard is a daily occurrence.

I get to the banana tree that I have been babying and think “What on earth is going on back there” when I spot that the tree had been planted itself.

 

There was a peanut.  Wedged deeply enough that it would have to be removed or else I’d have a Peanut and Banana sandwich there about chest height.

Then I woke up.  I realized what was going on.  The chattering got more insistent, so I walked to the corner of the yard.  Deep Jungle, or what passes for it here in Florida.

I had Squirrels.  Arguing.  Loudly.  For dominance.  Who knew?  I thought they were a peaceful species.

Squirrels arguing was like a pillow fight with Marshmallows.  Nobody really was going to get hurt but they were really going at it full blast.  It looked like a Cartoon.

I threw that errant peanut into the corner hoping the squirrels would break it up and move on, but it wasn’t enough.  I was within a yard of them as they’re running up and down the telephone pole and the palms and the bamboo back there.

Realizing that I am taller than my banana tree without the peanut, I had to back up.  They were running on the outside of the plants back there instead of back in the brush, and I was concerned that they’d mistake my own self for a tree.

Luckily I was dressed in Blue, not Green.  Squirrels are not terribly smart.

Shrugging, I thought to get involved.   I clapped my hands loudly.

They stopped for a second.  Then I got cursed out in whatever Rodential Squirrelish Language that they use here that I am not aware of.

Back to it they went.  Running up and down the pole when one of them, the smaller of the two, ran back to the other side of the yard, up my banana tree, looked around then ran off into the distance.

Argument was over.  It was now about time for the drip-feed irrigation to stop for the day.  Today’s Squirrel War had ended.  Who knows who was victorious, whether it was about a Peanut and Banana Sandwich, or whether anyone really cared.

Peace was once again supreme in my strange little yard full of constrained banana trees, Bonsai, and cultivated plants.  Rack got to my side, leaned into my right leg, and looked up.

“Yes, boy, it’s time to go inside.  Coffee is calling.”

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Rack Can’t Help Fix A Cellphone, or Can He?

I’m that guy. I can repair a piece of electronics down to “the board level” and replace the components that are on it.

Lets be fair, some of the components are beyond me, smaller than a grain of sand. But the larger things are possible.

If I go out and buy a piece of electronics, I look into how repairable it is. I’ve replaced volume controls on a transistor radio, and the USB port on an external hard drive case.

I guess I was lucky that time, everything was spaced out just so.

Some of that can take a small forever to fix too, but I will give it all a try.

Once the warranty is up, I’m going to at least look inside the case of something.

In this case, it was much more involved. “It” was my HTC One M9 Cellphone. “It” was also rated “Very Difficult” to work on by www.ifixit.com and that was fair.

You see these days, you find things sealed up, glued together and made so that you the owner never have a chance of putting a knob back on something. Specifically I am thinking of anything that comes out of Apple these days.

It’s also why I don’t use Apple laptops. I’ve had to replace bits on my own Thinkpads, Dell, and HP computers. There’s a limit with those too, but I demand the ability to easily replace the hard drive and the memory.

Try that on a Mac. I’ll wait.

Didn’t think so!

I waited for the house to be empty. Had to. Humans being social, they demand attention. Since the replacement of the battery on iFixIt was rated “Very Difficult” and at 30 minutes, I knew that I would probably have to take double the time to put a new battery in the phone.

It took a half hour alone to find the tools to do the job, and I have the tools. We keep them here specifically to do this sort of thing.

Started the whole mess at about 10:30. It would give me time to get it done, shower before lunch, and do it in a leisurely manner.

Nope.

That first half hour of very carefully taking off the plastic fascia, and a few very strange screws had me stressed.

Then the wet nose happened.

Rack was checking in. He padded across the tile floor in the quiet house without my knowing. I had a tickle at my elbow and looked over at the familiar black and white face.

Then I glanced at the clock. 11:30. I frittered away an hour getting tools, and a plastic sliver off the top of my phone.

Oh and two “T5” Torx screws from the top of the thing. I wasn’t completely lost.

Basically I was taking it slow. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware, but it’s ridiculously difficult to work with.  In comparison, my older Samsung Galaxy S4 snaps open with a plastic cover in the back I can run a fingernail under.  The battery is user replaceable as well as my SIM and my memory chip.  Done in seconds.

I took the rest of the time to Noon to get the entire case open and splayed out in front of me.

Sighing, I got up and let Rack out for a walk in the back yard, and to make my lunch.

Lunch, Shower, and back at it in about a half hour.

The disassembly of the phone is a fourteen step process.

Remove screws.

Remove antenna wires.

Remove ribbon cables held in by ZIF connectors.

Lift motherboard.

Remove battery.

It was about 3 in the afternoon before I had the thing disassembled and reassembled.

Each half hour I had a wet nose looking in on me. I guess that I was worried, Rack probably smelled it. He’d come in, look in on me, sit down, make me clear my head.

I’m glad he did. Oh he can’t handle a screwdriver or a soldering iron. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs. But he did serve a very good purpose.

He made me pause and look around. These pieces are so small that in some cases I used another cell phone to take a picture, zoom in, and look at it.

As a result Rack stopped me from having total vision failure from eye strain induced by bad design and teeny tiny itsy bitsy electronic parts.

Well, great! Time for a Smoke Test. You know, press the magic button and see if it comes on?

Oddly enough I had bumped it trying to seal the back and the phone came on before it was snapped in place.

Camera did not work. Flashlight did not work.

Rack came back. I paid attention to him. Set that phone down. I couldn’t see the monitor without

being right on top of the thing now.

When Rack left, I pried it all apart and re-seated all the connections.

Success! I could tighten those screws down and begin to charge the battery.

That half hour repair took me six hours.

Including lunch and a shower and letting Rack out when he needed it.

I think I needed that pause more than he did but I’m not letting him know that.

Trust In Dog, They Know.

That’s a mantra here. There’s a certain something that having a Herding Dog around the house will enhance. They learn. More importantly, they learn YOU. They also know when you need a distraction.

It’s not a weirdly bark at anything that moves thing. He actually knows when there’s too much going on, time to take a break.

There’s that wet nose.

Postie coming by and you’re involved in something? “Moof.” Rack says. Pay attention. Go get the mail, there’s a wee little box in there as long as some circulars and a J. Peterman catalog.

Like I said, Trust In Dog, They Know.

Now the Parrot? He’s shady. Needs to be watched over. He’s got his eye on the woodwork in this house…

Growing Ginger in Containers or How We Stumbled Upon A Thing

I say Stumbled Upon because like a lot of my ideas, it was due to a rapid fire exchange of ideas with a good friend of mine up in the Atlanta suburbs, Craig.

800px-ingwer_2_fcm
Picture from https://en.wikipedia.com/wiki/ginger

You see Craig and I have been exchanging ideas on what to plant for a while.  The Climate there is about the same as I had in Philadelphia, Zone 7a or 7b depending on whether you live on the East or West of Philly.

When I lived there, I would fill my back deck with dozens of pots that would all march their way indoors by Halloween or whenever the first cold snap into the mid 30s would happen.

That would be a low of 2 or 3 C for the Fahrenheit Impaired.

Apparently with Ginger, you don’t have to be so concerned.  The plants will die back in colder areas and Zone 8 should be fine – that’s 10F or about -7C.  Colder than that and it’s a container plant.

I had mentioned that we were given a pot of Variegated Ginger and wondered if it was the same “stuff” that I use when I stir fry chicken.  He said No, but you can grow that stuff from the stores.

We banged it back and forth and the method we put together was this.

  • First, get yourself a piece of ginger with a lot of “fingers” on it.
  • Select a finger about the length and size of the first joint of your thumb to the length of your thumb.
  • Wash all the pieces you wish to plant in Dish Soap thoroughly.
  • Don’t bruise the skin while washing the pieces.
  • No, you didn’t wash it enough, repeat the wash another two or three times.
  • Plant in well drained soil, or a pot, and wait.
  • Water periodically and hope that the Squirrels don’t put peanuts in the pot.

The reason why I mention those damn Squirrels is my neighbors feed them raw peanuts.  They grab the peanuts and bury them in my pots.  I have peanuts growing in about a quarter of the pots I have out back.

It is the same thing with me, I guess.  I’m the kind of guy that throws pieces of tomato or fruit that is past its prime in the garden and watches to see if it grows.  Win-win, if it doesn’t I get fertilizer for this beach sand we call soil here.

I had actually forgotten that I put those thumbs in the ground in my front garden because when I walked out there one afternoon, I noticed that two ginger plants were mixed in with all the other confusion that I have out front.

I dug them up and then put into a pot, minus the peanut plants, so I could watch over them.

Ginger does not seem to mind being crowded in a pot, so you can plant it and grow it “Up North”.

Now, if you live in a zone that is on the edge, like my sister does in Zone 7b Cherry Hill, NJ, you may be able to “get away with it” in the ground.  Find a south facing wall of your house.  Plant close to the foundation because the sun hitting your walls will warm the soil just a few degrees, and it may be just enough.

Here, 8 miles south of the freezing temp lines, I don’t have to worry at all.  But as always, your mileage may vary.

Why would you bother?

My friend Craig got further along than I did with this.  Of course you can go to your favorite market and buy ginger root, that’s not the point.  The point is that the flavor of absolutely fresh Ginger Root is much more complex than some that has been shipped, treated with anti-growing chemicals, and sitting in the store waiting for you to use it.  Any natural product will taste different depending on where it grows.  In fact, certain plantings in certain fields in certain farms will yield different results.

Oh and the green parts of the plant?  You won’t find those in stores, but Ginger Greens and Stems are edible as well.  They can be tough, so you may limit that to tea or used in soups or stirfry but it’s worth a shot.  You may find a new favorite. Chop fine until you realize your own way of using them.  You will have a lot since the plant grows waist high.

That is called the “Terroir” by the French and is used to describe the effect of the environment on the grapes that go into the wine.  Similar effects happen with Coffee where one specific estate on one specific mountain will taste different than the adjacent field because there’s just a tiny difference in the amount of water or sunlight or …

Well you get the idea. 

So give it a shot, the worst thing that could happen is that you get a “pretty plant” and a great story to tell the nosy neighbors.

Cooler Weather, Potatoes, and A Weird Dog Walk

Roasted Potatoes Picture from Wikimedia.com

I am not expecting any more hurricanes this season.

No, it’s not like Granny saying her “Rheumatiz” is firing up and predicting the weather.

It’s more like the pool is cooling, the house is cooling, and the windows are open.

There are just some things you don’t want to do when the weather is hot.  Roasting a chicken or some potatoes, or both is one of them.

Of course I know some people who would say that they would never want to do that, for various reasons.  But if the temps are in the mid 90s and will be for two months, you tend to hold off doing that sort of thing.

It’s that “Who Needs More Heat” mindset.

But this week has been what passes for cool here.  High in the 70s and warming to the low 80s.

Blistering hot for anyone living in the northern latitudes.  For us here in Sunny Florida, it’s perfect weather to roast those root vegetables.

No, it’s not a recipe, but since you asked.  Scrub the potatoes well, score the flesh, rub with a little olive oil and perhaps salt or pepper or both.  Wrap in foil.  Toss in the oven at 450F for an hour.  Should be close enough.

Larger potatoes take an extra 15 minutes to 30.  Test with a fork.

That’s how I have been heating the house.  Or at least I did when what passes for cold here arrived.

Yeah, cold.  Get out the survival gear, it’s 56!

Someone who is Farenheit Impaired would wonder what on Earth I am talking about.  Then do the conversion and wonder why I am complaining about a 15 C Day.

Here, when that happens, we’re all in black, and sunning ourselves on a rock.  Yes, Florida turns you into a big lizard.  We get cranky and dress for sub freezing temps when things are merely “cool” to the rest of the world.

Tropical countries would agree.

So when we go to the market later this week, I will look long and hard at that Roasting Chicken, and debate getting more potatoes to “Heat the House”.

Wandering around town, I noticed that the people aren’t the only ones noticing.

Rack the SuperDog (TM) also has more energy.  The walks are getting crazy long.
Having a smart dog means that they aren’t just a lump of cute.  You see, my boy learned the neighborhood.  He knows its bounds.  He knows where to go and where not to go.

I got up that morning and said “Lets go, Show me walk”.

Bad idea.

I was cold and cranky.  It was two hours to sunrise.  I just wanted to get back inside.

We went out, and got walking.  He did his business quickly.  Now normally a lazy middle aged dog coupled to a cranky and tired man means a short walk.

Nope.  We got out a half mile from home.  He turned back toward the house.  When we got to the turn to the house he stopped, looked up at me, smiled, and did a 90 degree turn wrenching my arm out of my socket.

I bent down, picked up my detatched arm, slid it back inside the leather jacket that would have been unnecessary had we lived in a more normal climate, and attached it into position.

Turbines whirred, lights flashed, pilot noises happened with servo noises and beeps.  My arm was reattached with a metallic click.  Handy to have a way to take a trip into the future.

“Rack!  Wait up!”  I plodded after him.

We walked another half mile out.  Usually at this point he is ready to go home.

Or so I thought.

We got to walk back to the house, but when we got there, he spun up his robotic space-legs, and pulled me through a warp in Space-Time past the welcoming abode.

“Boy, are we going for more?”

He looked back at me, smiled again, and I shrugged as we passed into another dimension.

Or maybe not.

Total walk was a three mile long one.  Five Kilometers.

He is a herding dog after all.

But that’s the thing.  Take advantage of the day, whether it is blistering hot, or frigid cold, or what ever you call it.

There will be fresh potatoes waiting for you when you’re back.

Ginger Blossom and Frog

Travel.  Broaden Your Horizons.

Bring a camera.

All that.

I don’t actually get into the Jeep often.  15 year old car with only 46,000 miles on it.  So when I do go for a drive, there has to be a reason, and I almost always really enjoy it.  It’s a fun vehicle to drive, and I’ll get there.  You may not, but I will.

The occasion was that I got to visit one of my favorite people, my godmother Kathie.  She’s a prime example of love makes a family.  The godparent tradition came from our childhood, and we both have found different spiritual paths.  But we stayed in touch via her moves to Florida, my much later move, and many years.

Plus she’s great company.

I got a message in my email asking if I wanted to come up and enjoy a lunch in the restaurant.  Sure! Great! When?

When became a rainy trip up.  We’ve had a lot of random smallish rain storms.  Fun.  I’ve got the right car for it.  30 inch rubber donuts, no lifts, it’s a Jeep not a Mudder.  My theory is that 10 mpg is no fun, and while the car is rated 15, I drive gently and get 18 city, 22 Highway.

Not a Prius.  But I don’t fit in a Prius.

After watching people do stupid things on the back roads, and one clown spin out, I got there.

We chatted, I added her printer to her Mac, and we went out to look at the Preserve.  Hurricane Irma took out a few trees, including a Honeybell Orange that I will miss.  But she did point out the Ginger plant.  We’ve got one too that I just planted, so I was interested to see it in bloom.

You know that motto, Always Bring A Camera?

She lifted a fallen leaf to show me the blooms and right there, sitting on the flower was this wee little Frog.

“I need a Picture of that!”

“For Ramblingmoose.com?”
“Of Course!”

So there it is.  We still don’t know if that is an Ornamental or Culinary Ginger, but it is a pretty thing.  The flowers merely smell Floral instead of smelling like a Gingerbread.  That may be what I will get out back by the shed.

The ginger, not the frogs.   Frogs are welcome too.

With an Intelligent Dog, You Get Opinions

I have read that dogs don’t disobey.  They interpret.

You just may not understand how they are interpreting things.

Of course all of that interpretation will change based on where that dog finds himself in a pack.

A dog who is confident will decide that it wants to go for a walk, so it decides it will do so.  Whether it is on its leash or not.

Of course they tend to only do such a thing if they are not getting exercised enough or are deadly bored.

Don’t want your dog to wander off?   Walk him.  Long walks.  Three miles for a dog in a day really isn’t a lot unless you have one of those fussy little things that bark at a leaf moving in the next county or an airplane over head.

That’s your burden.  It still needs a walk.

Beta dogs are a puzzle.  They require careful handling.  After all, they are looking to you for guidance.

Constantly.

Rack is a Beta.  He’s also incredibly intelligent just like any other McNab Dog.  Intelligent breeds are that way.  Anything-Shepard.  Herding Dogs are used for their intelligence because they think.  In a house, they can get bored.   A Beta who is Bored is going to still find things to do and interpret what he thinks the rules are.

Luckily Rack isn’t bored often.  He’s happy to lay down and sleep next to me for most of the day.  My chair that I do most of what ever it is that I actually do is near a window.  I see things that happen, after all it is a busy street.

The other day I saw something go on.  Rack was asleep.  But being a herding dog, it was almost like there was someone whispering in his ear what is going on.

Then I spotted that something.  Could have been anything from the feral ducks to a neighbor getting landscaping to a passer by.

I made the mistake of saying “Oh.”.  Not particularly loudly mind you.  Just a slightly louder than a whisper “Oh.”

Rack had an opinion.  “WOO WOO WOO WOO!”

Standing up, he ran to the front door.  Fur up on his back.  I guess he didn’t like what was going on.

“Damnit Dog, go take a look, there’s nothing out there!”

“WOO! WOO woo grumblegrumble mmm”

The grumbling went on for a bit, then he lay down and go back to sleep.

“Knucklehead”.

I go back to entertaining myself answering emails.  Reading tech websites.  I realize that I have a website that needs attention.  He’s fast asleep and jogging in his sleep.  Alternating between running and wagging his tail.

“Hmm, better log into that site.”
“WOO WOO WOO”  He didn’t like my tone of voice.

“Rack!  Nothings wrong, go look!”

My standard thing is to keep him busy when he’s interpreting what I am going on about.  I won’t tell him to look if there’s a delivery in the area.  That would set him off again.

I get the same cycle of winding down and walking back to his place where he can continue watching me, getting things wrong, sliding into sleep, and wagging his tail.

When he’s not doing dippy things, he’s actually very quiet in the house.  But twice a day…

You see, the UPS truck comes through the neighborhood every afternoon and that would set him off.

Opinions.  Interpretations.  Two Plus Two are Five.

That’s what you get with an intelligent dog.  A Police Officer who worked with dogs once told me “On their best day, they’re still a dog”.  I can see that.  They just don’t always get it right.

But, I can easily tell him to walk around in the front yard to dry off his feet after I wash them at the end of a walk.  Even if his best dog friend the giant Rottweiler named “D.O.G.” is out there.

Yes, D.O.G., and no I don’t know what Double-Oh styled agency that he’s a part of or what it is short for.  It’s just 165 pounds of mostly black love sponge who whines at me from across the street.  And yes, he interprets as well since that whine is him saying come on over I am lonely.

Weirdly, Rack is now comfortable enough with that that he hasn’t taken the Once Around The Car “Walk in the Grass” order as being conditional and up for interpretation, but who knows.

After all, on his best day, he’s still a dog.

Safflower and Milkweed

Why do you want to grow those things again?

Because they’re DIFFERENT!

But they look like weeds, the thorns on the leaves pinch, and then the flowers dry up and …

I said they’re different.  Besides, we’ve got the seeds.  Why not grow weird plants?

I have basil growing in my garden so I can make pizza.  Green onion in pots make so much that even I can’t eat it all.  My Rosemary has grown into a carpet of green.  I have banana plants in a pot that are taller than I am by a solid two feet that I need to break into separate pots for gifts. I can’t give away my spare coleus or mango trees.  There are peanuts growing all over the place…

Yes, PEANUTS!  As in Jimmy Carter’s pride

And the conversation petered off at the end.  People let their artichokes grow all the time and they end up with a big purple poof that looks like the yellow safflower blossoms.

Beauty is where you find it.  No, I mean YOU find it.  I may not agree, so don’t let that hold you back.  Be creative.  Grow what you like, especially if you like it on a pizza.

Gardening here is simple, drop a seed, it grows.  It may grow out of control.  Up North, that hardy Asparagus Fern you grow in your bathroom.  Down here, it is a noxious and invasive weed.  I can’t understand why someone wants all those thorns growing inside their house anyway.

But they like it.  *sigh*

So I’ll grow a few more oil seeds in my garden.  The flower bloomed, and stayed intact. I put the dried flower in a plastic bag, rolled it between my hands, and got more seeds.

You might ask where I get safflower seeds?  We ordered something electronic online.  It showed up saying that it was shipped from Bahrain of all places.

Bahrain?  Don’t they usually sell products in barrels?  Crude Oil?  Safflower oil too I guess.  There has to be a reason why you live where you do for centuries, so enjoy.

I put some seeds in the front garden and watched.  Landscapers came by and raked them up.  I put more seeds down and will “box” them off with old roof tiles.  They are good at figuring that all out.

I hope.

As for the Milkweed, well it was in the pot first.  It made it to the seed pod because the Monarchs never discovered it.  I carpet bombed the neighborhood with milkweed seeds where ever they were left to grow from the last time I did that.  The butterflies will enjoy that,  they’re back already eating the daylights out of what is in my yard.

Now, if I can only figure out how to squeeze inside my hedge so I can plant that variegated hibiscus to fill in some bare spots, I may be getting my flowers back!