Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Saying goodbye to Whittingtons for now

We woke at 4:30 am to get Mark and Cindy to Cincinnati Airport. Mark’s flight to Boise, Idaho was at 8 am but Cindy didn’t flight to Tampa until 3 pm. Mary dropped Mark off at the airport then she and Cindy went to several of the outlets in Northern Kentucky then had lunch at Izzy’s in Florence. Cindy seemed impressed with the reuben sandwich and the kartoffelpuffers (potato pancakes) from Izzy’s. Mary dropped Cindy at the airport around 2 pm.

We were very happy to have them visit. They enjoy doing the kinds of things that we enjoy and are just fun to be around. We look forward to seeing them in Florida in less than a week. They are promising to return to Kentucky in late May.

While they were away, I took advantage of the warm day to mow. I cut the front and back yards as far as the stream but didn’t mow in the field or in the back garden. After mowing, I showered and watched an episode of Gunsmoke.

Mary got in around 3:30 and started preparing for our Master Gardener’s meeting at 5:30. We called the Extension Office to confirm the availability of the room and learned that we needed to go over 4:30 to get the room before the Extension Office staff left for the day.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Total Solar Eclipse

We slept until nearly 6 am then had more of the breakfast casserole for breakfast. We packed lunch and some snacks to take for the 2024 total solar eclipse viewing. Mark and I loaded lawn chairs in the car and we left a little after 8 am. We drove up I-75 to Cincinnati where we picked up I-275 then I-74 West into Indiana. 

We were planning to find a place in Greensburg, Indiana to see the eclipse since it would be in the range of totality. When we were about 30 minutes from Greensburg, we stopped at a rest area on I-74 near Batesville, Indiana. There were a number of people sitting in lawn chairs and preparing to watch the eclipse. We decided that the rest area would be an ideal spot for us so we picked a spot to put the lawn chairs. 

It was only 11 am when we arrived and the eclipse wasn’t predicted to start until after 2 pm but Mary and Cindy would take a walk then Mark and I would take a walk around the rest area. The temperature was warm but there was a nice breeze that felt really good. We chatted with a man near us with a solar telescope and digital camera. Two older ladies visited with us and took snapshots of our group. One of the ladies is from Union, KY near Florence and the other is from Beattyville in Eastern Kentucky. Both were very pleasant.

We watched as the moon covered the moon starting at around the 5 o’clock position then covering the sun little by little until the sun was completely covered. As the coverage approached totality colors looked odd, perhaps warmer. The sky grew increasingly darker and we saw the “diamond ring” effect as the last of the sun’s surface remained exposed. Totality lasted for three minutes making the sky eerily dark and the air temperature became much cooler.

I-74 westbound rest area near Batesville, IN

After totality, we loaded the folding chairs into the trunk and drove the short distance west to the Batesville exit where we got back on I-74 eastbound. There was a good bit of traffic but it moved. Police cars were parked in each turnaround on I-74 to prevent U turns on the interstate. There was a slight slowdown where I-74 joins 275 then where 275 connects to I-75 South. We made a quick stop at Costco in Florence, Kentucky for a few items that we can’t get at Sam’s Club then continued south to home. In all, the return trip took only about 30 minutes longer than the trip west this morning.

We had pulled pork and coleslaw left over from Saturday for dinner then watched a couple of episodes of Moonshiners on Philo before going to bed.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Hiking at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

Mary made an excellent breakfast casserole from a recipe for Holiday Scramble that her friend, Dawn, gave her. The mix of eggs, sausage and cheese was excellent and we all enjoyed it. While the casserole was baking, I put a pound of bacon in the oven and we had a few slices with the casserole.

Sampling bourbon at Castle & Key Distillery

Mary, Cindy and I went to the early service at church then came back to the house and changed clothes to go for an outing. We drove to the Glenn’s Creek area near Frankfort where we stopped at Castle and Key Distillery in the old E. H. Taylor Distillery that had sat vacant for many years before the recent renovation. The grounds at Castle and Key are beautiful and we walked around the botanical trail then bought a flight of bourbons made at the distillery. I believe that everyone preferred the wheat whiskey over the other offerings.

Castle & Key Distillery

We drove the short distance to the Glenn’s Creek Distillery in the former Old Crow Distillery. We didn’t go into the distillery but just turned in the parking area. Our hike for the day was at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary, a privately owned property. We put a donation in the box then selected one of the longer hikes taking us through the wooded areas and meadows. There wasn’t much elevation change making the hike easy. We pulled some invasive garlic mustard plants as we walked. Once we returned to the parking area, we sat in the bird blind and watched the large variety of birds at the feeders. There were several bird identification books in the blind and pictures lined the walls of some of the birds that are frequently seen from the blind.

Hiking at Buckley Wildlife Sanctuary

After leaving the nature preserve we drove to Woodford Reserve Distillery. We hadn’t scheduled a visit so we briefly walked around the visitor center and gift shop then came home.

Mary made her popular Schmidt’s meatloaf recipe with spätzle, Caesar salad and a few stalks of asparagus from our garden. We watched some episodes of Swamp People and Serpent Invasion on Philo before going to bed.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Visiting with the Ferrells

We had Kodiak cake pancakes and bacon for breakfast then Mark and I went to the Community Garden to pick up a load of compost. We put about half of the near ton of composted leaves in the raised bed at the back of the house and left the rest in the bed of the pickup to use once we return from Florida near the end of April.

Mark and I went to Planet Fitness for a 60 minute workout, Mark did the elliptical trainer and I did the treadmill. From there we went to Rural King and Lowe’s to look at materials and supplies for a drip irrigation system that we are planning to put in for the blackberries, blueberries, apple trees and asparagus. Neither place had all of the items that we will need so I decided to order everything from Amazon. We will need ¼ inch soaker hose, drip emitters and a collection of T and elbow fittings. The controller that seems to fit our needs is an Orbit with 4 timed circuits.

As we were leaving Lowes, Cindy called to say that they had picked up lunch from Dave’s Blazin’ Barbecue. They brought brisket, pulled pork, slaw, corn pudding and a variety of sauces to Ferrell’s house. Ian’s parents, J. K. and Deanna, were visiting from Maryland and planning to go on west on Monday to view the total solar eclipse. The meal was fantastic and everyone had plenty to eat with lots of leftovers.  Mark and J.K. were college pals so they were glad to see each other again.

Murphy and Chester

After lunch we came back to the house and didn’t do much in the afternoon. We walked out back to check on the asparagus bed and to see whether trees were blooming. Thompson's dog, Murphy, walked back with us and met Laudin's miniature horse, Chester.

No one was hungry for dinner after the large lunch so we had some snacks in the evening then watched the western movie, Open Range, before turning in.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Rhonda Vincent at Renfro Valley

We had omelets with peppers and ham for breakfast then Mark and I went to Planet Fitness for some exercise while Mary and Cindy played cribbage and looked things up on Ancestry.com.

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

We had an early dinner of sausage casserole with some of the Cajun seasoned wild boar sausage that we all enjoyed. We left around 5 pm for Renfro Valley for a bluegrass concert by Rhonda Vincent. Mary got excellent seats for us in the center of row N in the New Barn Theater. There was a long line to get in but, once the doors opened, the line moved in quickly. We were surprised that the concert was not sold out. We had seen Rhonda Vincent and the Rage at a free concert in Georgetown Park in the summer of 2021 and they always put on a great show. When we had been to Renfro Valley for John Anderson, Emmylou Harris and, just last week, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, all seats had been sold.

The Creekers at Renfro Valley

The opening act was The Creekers, a local band from Leslie County, Kentucky. They had two guitars, electric bass, a violinist, banjo player and a Cajon box which is a percussion instrument that is played while being sat on. They were really good and performed some of their original music as well as some traditional bluegrass favorites. We teased Cindy because she was critical of a lady a couple of rows in front of us who was using her phone to record her son in The Creekers.

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent was outstanding as always. She is the consummate entertainer and played many of the songs from her new album along with several of her hits.

On the way home we stopped at Buc-ee’s around 10 pm for a bathroom break. We didn’t buy much but enjoyed walking through the large travel center with 120 gas pumps outside and several food bars inside. We were home a little after midnight, turned in and slept well.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Cincinnati Museum Center with Whittingtons

Cast of a Pompeii resident

We picked Whittingtons up at the Cincinnati Airport (CVG) in Northern Kentucky around 11:30 and drove to the Cincinnati Museum Center where we purchased tickets for the special traveling exhibit on Pompeii. We had seen this display of artifacts before but it had been a number of years and we were interested in the items of daily life that were on display. The timeline and videos of the eruptions that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum with ash, lava and other volcanic were of special interest. There were several recreations of people, pets and items that had been covered by volcanic debris and left in as they had died in 79 AD.

When we left the Pompeii exhibit we went to the service desk and renewed our membership and purchased tickets to the museum and the Omnimax film on volcanoes. We walked through the Cincinnati history museum and the Museum of Natural History as well as the ice cave before going in the surround theater for the film on an explorer, Carsten Peter, studies and photographs active volcanoes.

Hofbrauhaus Schnitzel

After leaving the museum we went to Hofbräuhaus in Newport, Kentucky where we all had different types of schnitzel. Mary had the Bayern Schnitzel, I had a Jager Schnitzel, Mark had a Parmesan Schnitzel and Cindy had the Bayern Jager Schnitzel. Mary had water, Cindy had a cider, Mark had a Weissbier and I had a Dunkel. Everyone enjoyed the meal.

We came home and watched a little television and visited before turning in.


Saturday, March 2, 2024

Driving Home from Florida

After waking around 4 am, we loaded our last-minute items into the car and said our goodbyes to the Whittingtons. They are coming to Kentucky in early April to view the total solar eclipse with us then we will be going back to Florida in mid-April to fish.

We pulled out of the driveway a little after 5 am and made our way to Gainesville where we would pick up I-75 which would take us home. Other than stretch breaks and fueling the 2018 Camry, we were planning no stops. As always, dreaded the area around Atlanta from McDonough to Smyrna, but the drive was not as bad as we expected. We suspect that because it was Saturday and not during a busy travel season, our drive wasn’t as unpleasant as we had experienced in the past. We stopped at an Arby’s along I-75 in Kennesaw, Georgia, and had a good meal before continuing.

We arrived at home a little after 6 pm and brought the cooler filled with wild boar meat to the basement. The cooler was quite heavy with all the frozen meat, but Mary managed to get everything positioned in the basement’s chest freezer. I brought all the bags of clothes and gear in. The rifles went back to the gun safe, and dirty clothes were laid out for laundry.

We made all our calls to let people know that we had arrived home then had frozen chicken cordon bleu meals from Sam’s for dinner. We stayed up until 10 pm so we wouldn’t wake too early but slept well once we got to bed. After our 1200 mile trip back home, we were ready for bed.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Silver Springs State Park

We slept well last night waking around 5 am. We did our morning language lessons on Duolingo while we had our morning beverages. The walk with the dogs was over the usual roads making up what we called “the square” then out to the wildlife viewing tower. We saw the usual kingfisher, a few wading birds and some smaller fish.

Back at the house we had oatmeal with raisins and nuts then prepared for a trip to the Ocala area. Circle S Ranch, near the West Shore Outfitters hunting area, processed the boar we killed. Since we would be picking up the meat around 2 pm, we decided to spend some time at Silver Springs State Park. We learned that this park, once famous for its glass bottomed boats, was Florida’s first tourist attraction dating back to the 1870s.

Glass Bottomed Boats at Silver Springs

Mark used their Florida annual state park pass to get us into the park at no charge. We walked through the botanical areas then watched the glass bottomed boats floating over the springs and along the stream. Some of the nature trails were still closed following damage from last August’s hurricane Idalia and the tornados after that. A large population of rhesus macaques and other primates live in the area, but we didn’t see any on our walk. We had considered bringing kayaks to the park, but when we saw the number of people paddling in the area, we were happy that we didn’t. We supposed that several factors played into the attendance at the park: it was a beautiful day, it was Friday, and the park’s spring celebration starts the next day. We decided to return next year midweek.

Cindy, Mary & Mark at Silver Springs

We learned that a lot of movies and television were shot at Silver Springs including the 1950s television show, Sea Hunt, as well as two Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Rebel Without a Cause, The Yearling and scenes from James Bond movies, Thunderball, Moonraker, Never Say Never Again. While at the park we chatted with several locals who come regularly and reaffirmed that we would put this on our last of places to return.

We went back to the truck around 1 pm and ate a lunch of snacks that we had packed. Mark called Circle S Ranch to confirm the pickup of our meat. He also called Cody, the guide from West Shore Outfitters, to let him know that we brought the fishing reel that we picked up for him. We made the short drive to Circle S Ranch and used the code for the gate that they provided. We saw that the ranch stocks several species of exotic game for hunting trips as well as operating a butcher shop.

We were pleased with the amount of meat that we had from the two large boars that we shot. When Cody arrived, he told us that one of the dogs was badly gored by a boar this morning. He has been giving the dog medications but didn’t know how the dog would be. He also gave us three packages of ground bear meat and two packages of spicy fallow deer sausages.

We left Circle S Ranch and drove back to Homosassa, stopping for a bag of ice at a gas station along the way. Once at the house, Mary and Cindy divided up the meat. They had to move a lot of things out of the freezer in their refrigerator but managed to get all the meat stowed. Our half went into a larger cooler that belongs to Mark. The cooler is a Yeti knock-off and should keep the meat frozen until we get home almost 24 hours later.

Since we were returning to Florida less than six weeks from now, we decided to leave things like T-shirts, shorts and water shoes here. We loaded the remaining items in the car with the rifles and cooler of meat taking up most of the room.

Mark made stir fried chicken with broccoli and noodles that was very good. After double checking that everything was loaded, we streamed an episode of Astrid on PBS and an episode of Evening Shade on Amazon Prime Video. Knowing that we wanted to get an early start, we turned in early hoping to get a good sleep before our long drive home.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Preparing to return to Kentucky

We woke a little after 5 am on this Leap Day.  Mary and I did our German lessons and had morning beverages before going downstairs. There was a good bit of fog, but the air temperature was warm. Mark and I took advantage of the calm wind to paddle out to retrieve the pinfish trap that we placed a few days ago. There was only a 6-inch sculpin in the trap, so we released it when we returned to the house.

We did the usual walk with the dogs ending at the wildlife viewing tower. The tide was a little higher than yesterday, and the wind had picked up, so we were unable to see the numbers of fish that we saw yesterday. We didn’t see the rays in the water, but there was a fair-sized dead crab visible. We watched a kingfisher moving around in the grassy area and saw a great blue heron wading in the stream.

When we returned to the house around 10:30 we had cold cereal and a bagel for breakfast. Cindy chatted with Mike, the neighbor across the street for a while then she and Mark went to the Outpost Shooting Range on Lecanto Road where Mark bought the gift certificate for Cindy. They took my Taurus .380 and Glock 9 mm to try out at the range. We had a light lunch after they left then I read while Mary knitted a cap for the newborns at Georgetown Hospital. Mary sorted clothes that will come back to Kentucky with us when we leave on Saturday morning, keeping some shorts and T-shirts here for when we return in April. I loaded the rifles, tools and some of my fishing gear into the trunk, leaving one rod and reel for our April fishing trip.

Mark & Cindy returned around 3 pm and appeared to have had a good time at the range. They both liked shooting the 9 mm better than the .380 and brought back targets from their day. On the way home, they stopped at the marina supply store and bought the items that the Coast Guard requires on boats like a throwable life preserver, flares and a horn. They also bought an anchor and chain although the Power Poles will typically be used in the shallow area off Homosassa.

Mark & I fashioned a wooden plate to cover the large bolts on the piers on their dock. We were concerned that the bolt heads would damage the boat despite the bumpers. We floated out in the kayaks for the quick job. Mark attempted to saw the old wooden piers off with the reciprocating saw that he bought at Harbor Freight, but the wood was surprisingly hard so we let the old pilings stand where they are.

We put the tools and kayaks away then cleaned up for dinner at The Freezer. We took the dogs on a very short walk, around Battle Creek Road and out to the stop sign at Standish and Mason Creek.

Since it wasn’t a weekend, The Freezer wasn’t especially crowded, and we were able to get a table inside. Unfortunately, they were out of mullet dip, so we all had steamed shrimp. While Mark & Cindy split a half order (1 1/4 pounds) of shrimp, Mary and I split a full order of 2 ½ pounds of shrimp. Mary had water, Cindy had a Bellini, Mark had a Blue Moon and I had a margarita. We all enjoyed our meals.

After returning to the house, we watched an episode of Astrid on PBS and two episodes of Evening Shade on Prime Video. Mark went out to his sauna and the rest of us turned in for the night.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Configuring the new boat's electronics

I woke around 5 am and went downstairs until Mary woke 45 minutes later. I brought her tea, and we did our German lessons. We were glad to talk with Emily and hear about the weather in Kentucky that had been making the national news. Reports of heavy rain, large hail and tornado warnings in Kentucky were on all the television and radio stations. Emily said that there was a lot of rain in Georgetown and sometimes strong wind gusts but no hail or other extreme weather. It sounded like Thomas had a good report from the pediatrician, and he wants to play outside once the weather improves.

We walked the dogs after Cindy got up, taking them through the neighborhood streets and up to the nearby wildlife viewing tower. We watched a school of large mullet swimming back and forth in the stream. We also saw what we thought were two rays or skates in the low tide. They didn’t move when the fish would swim by, so we threw some rocks into the water near them. As they didn’t move, we assumed that they were dead. After our walk we came back to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and pork belly from one of the smaller wild hogs that we killed on Monday. The boar meat was a little tough but otherwise tasty.

After breakfast Mark and I started setting up some of the electronics on the new boat. The Minn Kota trolling motor is something else. It can use GPS to maintain a constant position regardless of wind or current. It can also be steered remotely through a smartphone app. We saw how the Power Poles work with the remotes to anchor the boat in the shallow near coast waters. We started configuring the Garmin charter and plotter, but we needed a 32 GB SD card to continue.

We took a break for lunch and had sandwiches of deli turkey and chips then got in the kayaks to remove oysters from some of the pilings under the dock. We tried a pry bar, shovel and a scraper, but the best way to remove the oysters was to strike them with a large hammer. Although we were unable to remove all the tissue from the oysters, we were pleased how much better the poles look. Mark is going to try and arrange for someone to wrap the PVC poles with a rubber material that effectively prevents the oysters from building on the wooden dock posts.

Mark prepared some of the ribs from the smaller hogs that we killed on Monday. He mixed up a rub and started cooking the ribs slowly at a low temperature. Afterward, we made a list of things we would need to complete the jobs that we hoped to complete on Thursday. We started at Walmart to get a microSD card for the Garmin chart plotter in the boat. This card is required before setting up Active Captain app and updating the GPS unit. We also picked up a few grocery items and a small jar of plant rooting hormone for cuttings of plants that Cindy likes. We made a quick stop at Wyoming Guns, a small gun shop on Suncoast Blvd. where Mark bought a box of .380 and a box of 9 mm ammo to take the range on Thursday. The next stop was at the post office so Mark could mail tax documents to their accountant. Our next stop was Harbor Freight where Mark bought a reciprocating saw and 12” blade that we could use to cut the old wooden dock posts from beside the newer concrete filled PVC posts. Our last stop was at Home Depot to buy a treated 2x6 for the dock and some large stainless steel band clamps.

Once back at the house we installed the SD card in the chart plotter and continued configuring and updating the unit after syncing it to Mark’s smartphone. Because the unit’s operating system is unfamiliar to us, the process was slow. In addition, downloading updates and syncing between the app and the unit took longer than we expected.

By the time we finished setting up the boat’s Garmin, the ribs were ready for dinner. We didn’t know what to expect from the ribs of the small wild hogs, but the way Mark prepared them was excellent. They had more meat than we expected, and it was surprisingly tender and tasty. He also prepared a garden salad and baked potatoes that were oiled and salted making the skins slightly crisp. We watched an episode of Astrid and Evening Shade before Mark went out to the sauna and we turned in for the night.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The new boat arrives

After an early wakeup and long day on Monday, we slept well last night. We walked the dogs for a longer walk then returned to the house for a breakfast of cold cereal. Mark and Cindy drove to Lecanto to pick the new boat up from Gulf to Lake Marine while Mary & I vacuumed the interior of the 2018 Camry. We then drove to Beth’s Car Wash and selected the wash package that included an underbody wash. We were having ham sandwiches for lunch when Mark and Cindy arrived with the new boat. After several attempts, Mark was able to back the boat between his garage and the neighbor’s house.

Mark & Cindy with the new boat

While we were at the house, Mary discovered that we could return to Florida next month via a highly discounted flight from Allegiant. The flight to Clearwater was less than $40 before taxes and fees. The return flight from Clearwater to Cincinnati was a little more but was still less than we would spend on gas to make the trip. She scheduled us to fly down on Monday, April 15, and return to Cincinnati on Friday, April 19. Mark and I hope to get a lot of fishing done that week.

We removed the expensive high tech Minn Kota Riptide Terrova trolling motor and considered ways of storing it safely and securely in the workshop area of the garage. We decided to craft a holder from two 5” angle brackets that we mounted on the block wall inside the garage. We also wanted to put stainless oval head screws in the bracket for the Bimini top to replace the panhead screws that tended to drag on the sliding mounts. The local True Value had everything we needed, and we finished up around 5 pm.

Mary awaiting sunset on Morris Creek

We covered ourselves with Skin-So-Soft to repel the no-see-ums that were coming out then took the dogs on a short walk on nearby streets that Mark refers to as “The Square”. We had the leftover Schmidt’s meatloaf with rice and broccoli for dinner then prepared the kayaks for launching into Morris Creek.

We paddled out just in time for a beautiful sunset and didn’t have much problem with biting insects thanks to the cream we had applied. We were back at the house before 7 pm where we unloaded the kayaks. I listened to part of Marshall University’s TedTalk that was organized by our friend, Dr. Brian Kinghorn. Afterward, we all watched an episode of Astrid on PBS and two episodes of Evening Shade on Prime Video. Mark headed for the sauna and the rest of us went to bed.

Sunset from Morris Creek

Monday, February 26, 2024

Wild hog hunting in Florida

Mark and I were up a little after 3 am and left the house before 4 am. The drive north to Fort McCoy took less than 2 hours, so Mark and I took a nap outside the ranch gate until our guide from West Shore Outfitters, Kolby, arrived at 6 am. The guide briefed us on the hunt procedures including safety considerations and had us sign waivers before driving us to elevated blinds in a modified Jeep. Mark and I were placed about ¼ mile apart in metal covered boxes that were about 8 x 8 feet. The blinds were about 8 feet above the ground and had a 10-inch slot all around permitting a shot in any direction. We were the only hunters on the property this morning.

Smaller first boar

The air temperature was 39 degrees when we got set up in the blind, so we were a little chilly. Mark and I texted each other as we sat waiting for hogs to come into view. As we waited, we heard whip-poor-wills, sandhill cranes, barred owls and other birds. Both of us could hear rustling in the palmettos either from squirrels or hogs. A group of three smaller hogs walked into view around 6:40 am, so I leveled the 50-caliber muzzleloader and dropped the larger of the group with a head shot. I called the guide to check in as instructed, then texted Mark with an update. A little before 7 am I heard a shot from my 30.06 rifle and had a text that Mark had taken a small male pig. Kolby came to pick up the dead pigs and drove us to the shed where he cut both pigs into sections that we could take home for the freezer.

Mark's second boar

Since the hogs were small, we decided to not have them processed because the fee is the same regardless of the size of the animal. However, in discussions with the guide, we decided to take a second hog, this time using the dogs to find the game. Another hunter from Minnesota came who was also doing a dog hunt for hogs, so we went in two vehicles with three dogs, our guide, Kolby, and the Minnesotan’s guide, Cody. Because the other hunter had booked his dog hunt earlier, he would get the first animal. Mark and I would be next.

My second boar

The guides stopped in a dense area of palmettos and released the dogs. The dogs were a mix of cur and other breeds but were surprisingly friendly. The three dogs worked the underbrush in widening circles until one dog found a hog. There was a brief chase, but the hog jumped into a pond and the guide said that it would be easier to find another hog than to pursue that one.

We made a few stops with the dogs until they located another hog. The dogs are trained to surround the hog rather than chase it. When the guide and hunter arrived, the guide gave a command and the dogs backed off allowing the hunter a shot with a 20-gauge shotgun with BB size pellets. His first shot took the hog’s left ear off. At the sound of the shot, the dogs are trained to engage the hog again to keep it from running. We were instructed to not fire a second shot until the dogs were called away from the animal. Once the dogs backed off, the hunter fired a second time putting the hog down. However, the pig still had a lot of life and was full of fight, so Cody borrowed my 9 mm Glock and dispatched the animal. When we dragged it out of the brush, we saw that it was an exceptionally large male. Once loaded into the bed of the ATV, the boar continued to kick so Cody borrowed my pocketknife to pierce the animal’s heart.

Our hogs being skinned

We took the ATVs another 100 yards or so when the dogs surrounded another large male hog. Cody called the dogs away, and Mark put the large black boar down with a single shot to the neck. This hog wasn’t quite as large as the one the hunter from Minnesota killed, but the tusks were significantly larger. Before the boar could be loaded into the ATV, the dogs flushed another hog. This boar was slightly larger than Mark’s and slightly smaller than the other hunters’ kills. Once the dogs had the animal surrounded and were called off, I killed it with a head shot.

Mark's boar

Kolby and Cody hung the three large boars in the processing shed where they skinned and gutted the animals. They cut the carcass into sections for processing by the nearby Circle S Ranch. Mark elected to have the head of his boar made into a European mount which is basically a cleaned skull. We paid our fees and chatted with the guides and the hunter from Minnesota. When Mark mentioned that he lived in Homosassa, Cody asked him if he would mind picking up a large saltwater fishing reel from someone in Beverly Hills. He gave Mark the $250 for the reel and asked us to bring it when we came back to the area to pick up the processed meat. We said our goodbyes and headed south.

We made a quick stop at a Circle K gas station to buy a bag of ice for the two smaller pigs that we had in the tub in the bed of the pickup. We continued to Beverly Hills where we picked up and paid for the reel then drove home as we ate the lunch that Mary packed for us.  Mark and I had one of the soft drinks we packed and I asked him if he can finished his tea.  He said that he had not but that I must have accidentally given him an herbal tea that he didn't care for.  I noticed that the hot water that I had for myself had an odd taste but I attributed it to the Florida water.  It wasn't until we got back to the house that the mystery was solved.  On Sunday evening Mary noticed that the hotpot that we use to heat water for tea was getting a lime scale buildup.  To clean the pot, she filled it about one third with vinegar.  When I got up in the early hours on Monday, I filled the pot, heated the water and made tea not realizing that the liquid already in the pot was vinegar.  No wonder the tea tasted odd.

Once at the house we cleaned the guns and put them away then kicked back a little. We saw the neighbor, 90-year-old Jimmy, and his daughters had a range out on the deck. We went over and took the stove down the homemade elevator and loaded it into their pickup and tied it down. We chatted with Jimmy for a bit, mostly about his former career running a sawmill. He told us about his countertop that he made from a single slab of cypress that was 24 inches wide and over 2 inches thick. The cypress log was recovered after being submerged for over 100 years.

While we were away, Mary and Cindy walked the dogs. Mary did some laundry, cleaned upstairs, and knit while Cindy finalized her tax documents and made flight arrangements to visit us for the total eclipse in April. Later in the morning, they went out to Ollies to look for lamps and other household goods. Afterwards, they went to the Homosassa Springs branch of the Citrus County Library. It’s in a spacious new building by a large public park with ballfields. Cindy registered for a library card while Mary browsed the shelves. Cindy found a Tom Clancy book that she hadn’t read, then they returned to the house.

After a shower, we did a quick walk with the dogs then drove to Marguerita Grill. We enjoy this place since the food is good and the owner is a very outspoken conservative. There are signs throughout the restaurant supporting various branches of the miliary and espousing American values.

Mary had the stuffed grouper, Cindy had crab cakes, and Mark had coconut shrimp. Mary had spoken well of the restaurant’s crab cakes when she was here in November, so that was my choice. Everyone enjoyed the meal. Mary and I traded halves with me giving her one crab cake and giving me half of the stuffed fish.

After arriving back at the house, we watched two episodes of Astrid then went to bed.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Cindy's Birthday

After the usual dog walk in the neighborhood, Mark made French toast from a loaf of French bread. It was very good using a new recipe that he found that uses a batter with a little cinnamon flavor. We sang happy birthday to Cindy wishing her a happy 66th birthday.

Mark & I put a few things together for our Monday hog hunting trip, making sure that the rifles and pistols were ready as well as ammo, loading supplies and clothing that we might need.

We were to be at Mark’s sister’s house by 3 pm for a birthday dinner, but we left at 1:30 for the hour drive so we could make a few stops. We went to a Walmart on the way so Mark could get some 9 mm and .380 ammo to take Cindy to The Outpost Firing Range near Lecanto. Once in the store, we learned that Walmart doesn’t sell pistol ammunition in Florida. He will probably buy the ammo at the range. We also went to Aldi to stock up on travel snacks, cereal and a few other grocery items. Our last stop was at Chase Bank to get cash for the hog hunt. The outfitter offers a 5% cash discount, so we wanted to get money for most of the hunting fee.

We arrived at Grant and Jodie’s house in The Villages around 2:30 and visited with them and their neighbor, Carolyn while the meal was being completed. Jodie was worried that the turkey breast was over-cooked, but Cindy and Mary added some broth and moistened the meat nicely. We had the turkey, dressing, corn pudding, green beans and mashed potatoes followed by strawberry shortcake for dessert. Everything was very good.

After dinner, Mary, Cindy, Jodie and Carolyn played Sequence while Mark and I took a walk around The Villages. We didn’t realize what a huge area The Villages comprises. We only walked through a tiny section of the Buttonwood area. We saw as many people driving golf carts as cars. When we passed the golf course, we saw four alligators of varying size in the pond.

We drove back to Homosassa and packed with truck with rifles, ammo, coolers and other things that we would need for our hog hunt on Monday morning. Mary packed lunches and snacks for us since we had booked an all-day hunt and didn’t know when we would return. Once the truck was packed, we walked the dogs and watched some television before heading to bed.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Visiting Steve & Marcia in Sebring

After waking, having morning beverages and doing our language lessons, we took the dogs on a short walk on the street. When we returned to the house, Mark warmed the breakfast burritos that he had made the night before. They were tasty and filling for our drive to Sebring.

We were able to get out by 8:30 and chose a route that avoided I-75 and the Tampa area. Even though it was Saturday morning, we knew that traffic would be bad around Tampa. While driving we heard a pebble fly up and tap the windshield, fearing a crack, but we kept moving not seeing a chip.

Progress on the "hippie van"

Once we left the Gulf Coast and started driving through the less populated central part of Florida, the landscape was very pretty. Some of the citrus groves had fruit hanging, and lots of cattle were in fields.

We arrived at Steve and Marcia’s place a little before noon and had a great visit. Steve updated us on his job as an elementary special education teacher, and Marcia took us out to see the progress on restoring her “hippie van.” She had removed the wrap and repaired areas with dents or rust. Although the top of the van will remain white, she painted most of the van’s body an almost turquoise blue. The amazing thing is that she painted the van with spray cans of Rustoleum. I couldn’t believe how smooth and uniform the paint looked. She hand-painted some of the graphics and used an air brush apparatus on other graphics.

Marcia & Steve

After our visit, we took them out to Dimitri’s Restaurant for lunch to celebrate Steve’s 66th birthday which is on February 25th. Marcia had a flounder sandwich, Steve ordered the Philly cheesesteak, Mary had a Cuban sandwich, and I had fish and chips. Mary and I swapped some fish for half of the sandwich. We all enjoyed our meals. We appreciate that Dimitri’s has a good selection of Greek, Italian and Cuban menu choices as well as American favorites.

We returned to Steve’s house and spent some time in his gardens assessing the needs of his lime tree and examining the tiny bagworms on the palm trees. It is always great to see Steve and Marcia laughing about old times and planning new adventures. We left Sebring around 3 pm for the 3+ hour drive to Homosassa.

Looking at Steve's garden

The drive to Homosassa was uneventful, although traffic was heavy. We saw a large group of Jeeps that had apparently been to an event and were heading north. We stopped at a Walgreens to get a birthday card for Cindy then got to Whittington’s a little before 7 pm. Dinner was the Schmidt’s meatloaf that Mary had prepared on Friday along with green beans and rolls. We watched an episode of Astrid and Professor T on PBS before going to bed.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Running errands in Homosassa

We had bagels and morning beverages after doing our language lessons then took the dogs on a 40-minute walk. We saws a hawk sitting on a wire on Eldred Lane as we walked.  

Mark & I ran some errands for most of midday. We started by visiting the Outpost Shooting Range in Lecanto. We were very impressed with the number and quality of shooting options at the range including a 600-yard range for very long-distance shooting. Mark bought Cindy a gift certificate, and we plan to return and have her shoot the pistols that I brought with me on this trip.

After leaving the shooting range we went to Walmart where Mark got some fishing supplies and treats for the dogs. I bought an inexpensive pair of boots for hog hunting on Monday. From there we went to West Marine where Mark found out about possible mooring options for the new boat as well as secondary GPS units that are compatible with detailed maps of the Florida coastline. He bought two dock cleats, three boat bumpers and some ½ inch rope for mooring. The clerk at the marine store gave Mark the name of someone who could cover the pilings on his dock to prevent as much growth of marine invertebrates like the oysters that are currently crusted on the posts.

Our next stop was Harbor Freight where Mark got a ball and hitch for the boat and a 10,000 lumen LED light assembly for the top of the Murphy bed. Our last stop for the day was at Publix to get a few groceries for the weekend.

Back at the house, Mary and Cindy worked in the gardens repotting some plants and pruning others. Mark straightened the garage, and I hooked up the light over the Murphy bed. Mary made a Schmidt’s meatloaf for dinner on Saturday then Mark finished preparing the Asian chicken salad as well as breakfast burritos for our drive to Sebring tomorrow. About halfway through the preparations for the meal, the electricity went out. Fortunately, most of tonight’s dinner was already prepared except for the chicken which could be grilled outside.

We took the dogs on a longer walk through the neighborhood, noticing that lights seemed to be working except on Standish Drive. Toward the end of our walk, Cindy got a text from the power company that electricity was restored to the street.

After returning from the walk, we enjoyed the chicken salad. Mark thought he had overcooked the chicken, but it seemed fine to us. After dinner, we watched an episode of Astrid on PBS and an episode of Evening Shade on Prime Video.