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.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Kayaking Cedar Key

Preparing to kayak to Cedar Key
We woke at 6 am and did our language lessons before going down to take the dogs on a 40 minute walk through the neighborhood. When we got back to the house, we had a breakfast of oatmeal and bagels. Mark & I loaded the kayaks and gear on the pickup, and we left for Cedar Key a little before 9 am. The drive to Cedar Key was about 90 minutes, but we made a quick stop at Gulf to Lake Marine so Mark could pay for the new boat.

As we drove into the town of Cedar Key, it was apparent that the area had been hit hard by last August’s Hurricane Idalia. Several buildings had lines indicating the high-water mark. It appeared that most homes and businesses had made a quick recovery, and the town was ready to greet visitors.

Taking a break on Cedar Key

We were able to park right at the beach and unloaded the kayaks quickly a little before 11 am. We paddled the half mile over to Cedar Key in the shallow water. While paddling around the island, we watched an osprey diving for fish near our boats. The bird didn’t have any success while we were watching but seeing the beautiful bird in action was a treat. We paddled to the back side of the island, sometimes against strong currents watching the different birds and even a raccoon on the beach. We floated through a canal that cut through the island and came out near where we started. We ate some snacks on the beach and chatted with a couple visiting from Minnesota. 

 Ruins of the Eberhard Faber pencil factory

While walking around and saw some structures on the other side of the island, so we started paddling around the island in the opposite direction. We stopped near the destroyed dock by the ruins of the Eberhard Faber factory, which made the wooden slabs for pencils in the 1860s. There were some bricks scattered as well as a few iron parts. We walked about a quarter of a mile into the island’s interior where we saw a cemetery with graves from the late 1800s and the first decade of the 20th century. We returned to the kayaks and paddled from the island to the area where parked. We loaded the kayaks quickly and started driving back south toward Homosassa.

The lunch choice was at Robinson’s Seafood Restaurant. I felt bad because I tracked a lot of sand into the restaurant on my water shoes.  I had tried to get the sand off before I came in but still made a mess.  Cindy and I had the platter which included grouper, shrimp, oysters and a crab cake. I had fries as my side while Cindy had chowder. Mark had the shrimp dinner and Mary had grouper. Only Mark was able to finish his meal, so we brought grouper filets back for leftovers. 

Sunset from Standish Drive

We were back at the house by 5 pm and took the dogs on a short walk before walking across the road to watch the sunset.

We made popcorn while we watched an episode of Astrid and an episode of Vienna Blood on PBS after doing our evening language lessons.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Paddling in Morris Creek

We woke at 5:30, had our morning drinks, did language lessons and ate a slice of toast before taking the dogs on a 90-minute walk in the neighborhood and up to the nearby wildlife observation tower. When we returned to the house, we had scrambled eggs and bacon for a late breakfast.

Mark and I took off in a kayak to check the pinfish trap and to try fishing in Mason Creek. The wind was a lot calmer than when we were out yesterday evening, so it was easy to reach the trap which had no baitfish. We paddled around and fished a little but did not catch anything. Mark had a large fish follow his lure to the boat.

We got back to the house around noon, ate quesadillas from leftover chicken, and then Mark and Cindy left for the boat dealership. They took a test drive of the 20’ Xpress SX20 boat, which they purchased at the end of the test drive. The boat will be ready for pickup on Tuesday after the Bimini top and power poles are installed. The boat will be great for Mark to fish in the near shore areas around Homosassa. It will be outfitted to be able to comfortable fish 10 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sage sunbathing on the dock

Mary & I stayed at the house since a mattress for the Murphy bed was delivered by UPS this afternoon, and we did a little laundry. Mary knitted while I showered then basked in the warm sun. It was nice to just relax a bit this afternoon. I called Steve Minor and planned a visit to Sebring for lunch on Saturday. It will be good to see him and Marcia.

Mark & Cindy returned after purchasing the boat around 5 pm so Mark, Mary and I removed the mattress from the box but not from the shrink wrap and got it up the spiral staircase. Once the mattress was on the Murphy bed, we opened the vacuum bag holding the mattress and were shocked to see it grow from an inch thick to a firm mattress over 12 inches thick. We were impressed with the quality of the mattress and the fit of the queen-sized mattress on the Murphy bed.

We took the dogs on a shorter walk in the neighborhood then came back to the house for dinner. Cindy made beef and broccoli over rice, which was delicious, and we all had seconds. After dinner we did our evening language lessons, watched an episode of Serpent Invasion on Sling TV then an episode of Astrid on PBS. Everyone but Mary slept through a good bit of the hour-long Astrid episode. We planned an all-day kayaking trip to Cedar Key for tomorrow, which should be a lot of fun. Cindy watched a little more television, but Mark went out to the patio for a sauna while Mary & I turned in.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Shopping for a boat

After waking at 5 am we had our morning beverages, did our language lessons then took the dogs out for a 90-minute walk through the neighborhood. We had a cold cereal breakfast when we returned to the house.

After breakfast we went to the neighbor’s house to help move some things. The house next to them has been vacant since Whittingtons bought this house. The owner, Jimmy, is 90 years old and is giving the property to his two daughters. The three of them were in the house cleaning, replacing the flooring with vinyl planks and making repairs. They needed Mark and me to take a washer, dryer and dishwasher down to load in their pickup. The house is built on tall stilts in the flood prone part of the state. The area under the house is a place to park cars. Getting the appliances down was easier than we feared since Jimmy had built an elevator powered by a large electric winch. He had welded the elevator’s cage from angle iron and steel mesh. It was impressive for a homemade job. Jimmy and his daughters were very pleasant, and he is as sharp as a tack.

When we finished, we drove toward the nearby town of Lecanto, near Inverness, where Mark wanted to revisit Gulf to Lake Marine, a boat dealership where he had shopped previously. After looking at a number of fishing boats, he and Cindy selected a 20’ Xpress SW20 boat with a 115 horsepower Yamaha Vmax outboard motor. He liked that the boat is all aluminum with a tunnel hull allowing travel into very shallow water. The boat can seat six people and has two livewells, lots of storage, a hydraulic jack plate to raise and lower the motor in varying water depths, and a Bimini top can be installed. The trolling motor has a built-in GPS that can hold the boat in any position regardless of current or wind. Two “Power-Pole” hydraulic anchors will be installed on the transom that will hold the boat steady in shallow water. The boat is an impressive craft. Mark plans to take it on a test drive on Wednesday.

Once back at the house, Mark and I launched a kayak to place a pinfish trap in order to see if we could catch some baitfish. The wind was pretty strong, so it was difficult to stay in the position we wanted for placing the trap. While we were moving the kayak along the water’s edge, a school of large fish began feeding all around our kayak. Mark rigged a fishing rod quickly and started casting, but the school has started moving away. He hooked a large sea trout that was able to get off the hook before he landed it. We fished a while longer with no bites, so we paddled back to the house.

Mark had made chicken enchiladas earlier today, and Mary baked them while we were out as well as making a mixed greens salad and warming some refried beans. Everything was very tasty.

After dinner Mark and I installed lighting on the new Murphy bed. He bought two wired LED puck lights that would be positioned over the bed, and we prepared to install a larger LED light that would shine up, reflecting from the ceiling brightening the otherwise poorly lit room. Running the wires took longer than we anticipated but we think the result looked very attractive. A power strip is out of sight on top the Murphy bed with its power cord hidden behind the shelving as it runs to an outlet behind the bed. The two downward pointing reading lights and the upward pointing light were plugged into remote controlled outlets on the power strip. A small remote can turn the lights on individually or all at once.

While we were cleaning up and putting tools away Cindy had an online meeting with the scholarship group in Oregon that she helps support. When we all had finished, we watched an episode of Vienna Blood on PBS then turned in.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Hog Pond Trail - Withlacoochee State Forest

We slept well and woke up after 6 am. We did our morning language lessons and had morning beverages before going downstairs around 6:30. At 7:30, Mark and I drove to Mavis Tire and Brakes. Mark drove Cindy’s Toyota Highlander, and I drove his Ram pickup. The tire shop was unable to repair the tire since the nail was so close to the sidewall, so it would have to be replaced. Since all of the tires were badly worn, Mark had four new tires put on the car. While the car was being serviced, we drove to Home Depot and bought two eight-foot-long sections of ¾ inch polymer quarter round molding and some high strength construction adhesive. When we got to the house, we cut the molding to fit the sides of the shelving on either side of the Murphy bed and attached them with the adhesive. We also used the multi-tool to round the ends of the 2x4 boards on the bedframe in the room where we are staying. While we were working in the upstairs bedrooms, Mary and Cindy were cleaning and dusting, helping us clean up our messes.

We had grilled cheese sandwiches with a slice of ham for lunch, then went back to the tire store to get the Highlander. The four Michelin tires for the car cost over $1300 installed but should last well. I drove the Highlander back to the house and was impressed with the ride of the car.

Cindy & Mary on the Hog Pond Trail

Mark & I put tools away from our morning projects, while Mary & Cindy planned for our April trip to see the total solar eclipse. At 1:30 we loaded the dogs into the Highlander and drove the short distance to the Hog Pond Trail area of the Withlacoochee State Forest where we took a 2 hour 15 minute walk covering what we guess was over 5 miles. The trails were still pretty muddy from the past two days of rain. We didn’t see any wildlife, but there were lots of tracks and signs where wild pigs were rooting up an area near the ponds. We stopped at Twisty Treat for ice cream on the way back to the house.

Mark made pasta with andouille sausage and sauteed vegetables for dinner along with a Caesar salad. Everything was good. After showering and doing our evening language lessons, we watched an episode of Astrid on PBS followed by an episode of Evening Shade on Prime. We were in bed by 9:30.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Relaxing Day in Homosassa

We awoke to the continuing rain, which was steady and sometimes heavy. By morning we had received over an inch of rain, and more was forecast until Monday morning. We did not take the dogs on a morning walk but hoped the rain would slow for an evening walk.

Finished back door

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon, Mark and I took Cindy’s Toyota Highlander to Mavis Tires & Brakes for a flat repair. The shop was very busy and couldn’t look at the tire until Monday, so we had them air up the tire with the nail so we could make it until Monday. From the tire shop we drove north to Rural King in Crystal River. Because of construction beside and in front of Rural King, we drove past it the first time, so we had to turn around and come back to it. We got jars of honey and apple butter as well as a plastic jar of chocolate covered almonds. We were embarrassed that neither of us could open the jar of nuts. We even tried having both of us gripping the jar, and it still wouldn’t open. At Harbor Freight Mark bought a small pancake compressor and a set of inexpensive drill bits. We continued to Home Depot where we looked at options to trim around the Murphy bed and to put reading lights over the bed. We liked the polymer quarter round molding for the trim and saw some LED puck lights that should work for the reading lights.

When we returned to the house, we had the leftover frittata from Saturday’s breakfast. In the afternoon, Mark caulked around the new backdoor that we had installed on Saturday. I did some reading while Mary and Cindy played cribbage. It was nice to have a relaxing day.

Dinner was chili with cornbread which was very good. We took advantage of a lull in the rain to take the dogs on a short walk through the neighborhood. Since it was after dark when we started, we just walked enough for them to have their evening bathroom break. As we were returning to the house, Mary lost the chain that held her glasses. She didn’t realize that the chain was gone until we were back at the house. The chain was only a couple of dollars at Walmart, so she wasn’t concerned too much about it, and it was too dark to look for it at that time.

We did our evening German lessons then watched the last episodes of Monsieur Spade on Acorn TV with Mark and Cindy. We were in bed a little after 9:30.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Installing the Murphy bed

An all-day rain had set in that started late Friday night and was forecast to last until Sunday night. Since the rain wasn’t too heavy yet, we took the dogs on a morning walk. As expected, the intensity of the rain picked up when we were at the furthest point from the house. We were all soaked by the time we made it to the house.

Mark caulking the bottom of the new door

Mark made an excellent baked frittata with eggs, cheese, ham, potatoes, onions and peppers. Everyone enjoyed it. Mark had purchased a new back door to the house with a large built in dog door. On Tuesday we removed the trim from the existing door as well as the locks and knobs. This morning, we removed the old door along with the jambs and replaced it with a new door, which fit very well. We made sure that everything was level and square and that the door opened and closed easily. The only major slowdown was with the door handle assembly, which had a left-handed set screw. To install it, we had to tighten the screw (backwards) all the way to remove or replace the handle. Once the handle was on the door, the set screw was loosened (backwards) to bring the screw out to secure the handle. We replaced the trim around the door and planned to caulk around the trim on Sunday.

Lunch was leftover pulled pork from Sunday night. We had pork on slider buns with chips on the side. It was just as good as it was last weekend.

Murphy bed
After lunch we installed the Murphy bed in the bedroom that Cindy uses as an office. The bed kit is an excellent design that fits together very well. We were able to get the bed put together with minimal complications. We planned to install two reading lights in the bed that operate with remote controls and to put trim molding around the shelves on either side of the bed to give it a finished look.

We checked the security cameras at our home in Kentucky and saw that there was a good coating on snow on the ground.  The temperature had been in the teens and 20s for the past week so the snow may be around for a few days.  We were happy that we were in 70-80 degree weather here in Florida.

Snow in Kentucky

Cindy made chicken with dumplings for dinner. She was a little disappointed because she didn’t put enough baking powder in the dumplings. They were a little heavy, but we sure didn’t have any trouble finishing the pot. After dinner we did our language lessons and watched an episode of Monsieur Spade on Acorn TV then an episode of Evening Shade on Amazon Prime before turning in at 10 pm.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Anastasia Island

Our stay at the Day’s Inn at St. Augustine was fine. The room was clean and quiet, which satisfies our main criteria for vacation lodging. We did our morning German lessons, showered and met the Whittingtons for breakfast. We walked to the McDonalds a block from the Day’s Inn and had biscuit breakfasts then walked around St. Augustine’s old town. We especially enjoyed the area around the Fountain of Youth Park with the coquina walls made from compacted coral, mollusk shells and sand. Coquina is a young limestone that is used in many buildings in the St. Augustine area. We went by a couple of coffee shops so Cindy could get her caffeine fix as we walked.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm

After our walk, we checked out of the Day’s Inn and drove to the Anastasia Island where we visited the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. We were pleased that our Cincinnati Zoo membership card got half price admission for all four of us. We saw every imaginable species of alligator, crocodile, gavial, and caiman. There is a large pond filled with American alligators of all size. Twice a day, at noon and three pm, they put on a show when the alligators in this pond are fed.

Galapagos Tortoise 

The feature attraction is Maximo, a 13’ 9” saltwater crocodile, and his mate. Maximo’s predecessor, Gomek, was one of the largest crocodiles ever in captivity and was over 15 feet in length. A full-sized replica of Gomek is in a display building. In addition to crocodilians, there was a variety of birds, mammals, snakes, and lizards at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

After leaving the alligator farm, we drove south of Highway A1A to Anastasia State Park which is a beautiful beach on the island. We spent a good bit of time walking along the beach, trying to identify the gulls and other shore birds. It was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed our walk.

We continued our drive south on Anastasia Island to Fort Matanzas National Monument. Along the way we snacked on the Aldi Tuscan trail mix and candied nuts that we brought. At the park, we went to the visitor center and attempted to get a ferry pass to the fort on a smaller nearby island. The earliest we could get on a ferry was a 90-minute wait, so we decided to skip the fort for this visit. When we were here last, the ferry wasn’t running because storms had damaged the docks. We hope to be able to ride over to the fort on our next visit.

Fort Matanzas

After exploring the Matanzas River, we started driving back to Homosassa, arriving a little after 6 pm. The dogs were happy to see us returning. We had a leftovers meal of grouper tacos, asparagus, chips and crab dip. After dinner we walked the dogs, watched an episode of Monsieur Spade on Acorn TV then turned in.