Toad Takes Her First Swim

Shouldn't it be centered?

Shouldn’t it be centered?

Boca Ciega Bay, Florida, November 14, 2015

Today was the official launch of my new jon boat, Toad. Rich and I drove a couple extra miles to Boca Ciega Bay because she isn’t registered yet. Lake Seminole Park has too many government officials hanging about. Yes, I know there’s a 30-day grace period, but who needs the hassle?

I was pleased with her performance using the little Honda 2.3 outboard. Toad got up on plane at less than 80% throttle with just me.

What am I forgetting?

What am I forgetting?

With both my son and me aboard, she handled the confused seas and powerboat wakes with aplomb. I did manage to scrape her across an oyster-encrusted rock and run into a mangrove tree; fortunately the damage was only cosmetic. I need to add bottom runners or a skeg. Directional control was iffy.

We only went a quarter-mile offshore, staying out of the main boat channels where the 30-40 footers were running on plane. I wasn’t as comfortable as I might have been; I forgot to bring something to sit on, and my tiller extension.

Darned mangrove trees

Darned mangrove trees

It wasn’t until I saw the photo of Toad zooming along that I realized I had forgotten to cut the notch in the transom. She might work better with the prop all the way down in the water. Good thing it’s an air-cooled motor.

I built Toad for two purposes: 1) Proof-of-concept for some different construction ideas and, 2) boat building practice for me. This is the first boat I’ve built. My (former) ignorance of proper technique is obvious. The finish is rather rough.



Launch conditions (per NOAA):
Wind 7 knots, gusting 12.
Chop: Moderate (6 to 12 inches, very confused seas)
Air Temperature 74º F
Water Temperature 81º F

The Boat:
LOA 10′ 6”
Beam 4′ 0”
Depth 17”
Draft maximum 4.1” at 620 lbs.

I think someone is following us

I think someone is following us

Empty weight: 46.8 lbs. (as launched)
Foam flotation: 840 lbs.
Material cost < $300
Construction time (designing on the fly) < 26 hours

Installed hp: 2.3
Displacement as tested: 270 (one up), 500 (two up)

According to my calculations, the recommended Coast Guard limits are:
Displacement: 620 lbs.
Horsepower: 5
Person capacity: 4 skinny people, 485 lbs.

A Quick Update

What strange fall weather! Until a few days ago the daytime temperatures have been 88 to 92 and, at night, nearly 80. It has been tough on the plants.

Still, I’m picking jalapeños and the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.

The brassica are looking kind of sad.

There are two surviving turnip plants with roots forming. How can I tell if they’re ready?

Planting Begins

The Inspector

The Inspector

Today is my first planting of the fall 2015 season. While I was working, a neighborhood critter stopped by to inspect my job. The photo shows him next to a hole I was preparing for a tomato plant. He must have approved – he didn’t say anything.

I planted one tray, four plants each, of broccoli, cauliflower, and jalapenos. There were no varieties listed on these plants. I also planted a tray each of “Copenhagen Market” cabbage, “Beefsteak” tomatoes, and “Purple Top White Globe” turnips.

Did I say Turnips? Yep. They’re an experiment—I’ve never tried growing them. I was surprised when I spotted them in the nursery so I asked the woman behind the counter how they grow in Florida. She looked a little evasive when she said, “we sell a lot of them.” I guess I’ll see.

I ought to pick up the empty trays

I ought to pick up the empty trays

Just in case there’s any confusion: these are turnips, not rutabagas. Rutabagas are yellow. Turnips are white. Turnips are also one of the few root crops I really like.

The second photo shows turnips in the foreground with jalapenos to the right, broccoli and cauliflower to the left. Cabbages and tomatoes are out in left field.

Just Tilling in the Rain


Ah, sunny Florida!

Ah, sunny Florida!

I’m trying something a little different this year; actually tilling the garden. With a power tiller!

The weather report claimed that light thunder showers would begin about ten this morning and last all day. It’s Sunday and my neighbors prefer quiet before 9 AM; I headed over to Home Depot about 8:30. HD’s smallest rental tiller is a Mantis XD – thirty-seven dollars for four hours.

After waiting in line – and waiting in line – at 9:30 I was finally ready to load the tiller in my car. Just as the heavens opened. This was not a light shower! But I couldn’t wait to see if the weather improved – I only had four hours.

Halfway done (on the right)

Halfway done (on the right)

The Mantis owner’s manual euphemistically refers to it as a “traditional tiller.” That means it is operated by brute force. The manual also waxes enthusiastic about how efficient their tiller is at chopping up grass and weeds. The reality was somewhat different.

I carefully followed the instructions – walking backwards through the garden as the little Honda motor tried its best to wrench my arms from their sockets. Fortunately I got a break about every 5 to 10 feet. That’s how often I had to stop, turn the tiller on its side, and unclog the tines. I estimate that the motor was actually running about fifteen minutes out of two hours.

Tines? What tines?

Tines? What tines?

But the job was eventually done and it was much quicker and more thorough than using a shovel. The rain, by the way, never let up once while I was working. But it stopped, for good, at 11:30. The rest of the day has been clear and sunny. Why do I even look at weather forecasts?

I’m Back!

Yes, our soil always looks like this

Yes, our soil always looks like this

It’s about time for a new planting season to begin in Florida. For your pleasure I have included this lovely picture of typical, highly fertile, black Pinellas County soil. And if you believe that one…


The weather this summer has been very strange: hot – cold – hot – cold. Of course, when I say cold, I mean 78°. And the rain… For a while I thought I was living in India during monsoon season. Now it’s settled down to only raining a couple of times a week.


Cardboard, palm fronds...any mulch will do!

Cardboard, palm fronds…any mulch will do!

This afternoon I began preparing the garden for planting. Step one: rake off the branches, logs, and mulch that were rotting all summer. Step two: weeding. The worst were the purple sweet potatoes; they’d spread very aggressively beyond their allotted bounds.




The biggest tuber is about 12" long.

The biggest tuber is about 12″ long.

After I pulled up a couple of pounds of tubers I decided to just run the lawnmower over them. I don’t eat very many carbs but I might as well cook these up. Tomorrow.

One of the compost piles has been aging all summer; I broke it open and dumped eight wheelbarrows full (50 ft.³) onto the garden area. After spreading it out, I sat back to admire the view. Imagine—what if the soil really looked like that?



Wheelbarrow load one--of eight (about 2000 lbs.)

Wheelbarrow load one–of eight (about 2000 lbs.)

More work to do tomorrow.

More Planting


Baby cabbage

I always buy my seedlings too far in advance – with the best of intentions, of course. On Friday I picked up nine Copenhagen market cabbage seedlings at Lowe’s. I was going to plant them immediately but…

On Saturday I had to drive down to Pinellas Park so I picked up eight Packman broccoli seedlings at Willow Tree. I had plenty of time that afternoon…

Sunday I decided to relax. Monday was drizzling – I changed my oil instead of gardening. Isn’t that life?


Kale and Cabbage

Finally, after work today, I got my planting done. Stepping on the thick compost felt like walking on a foam mattress.

For no good reason, here’s some pictures of my five-week-old kale and cabbage. There’s a profusion of blossoms on the purple sweet potatoes.




Broccoli Harvest

I began harvesting broccoli from the first planting.

Monday, 12-1: One head—10 oz.

Thursday, 12/4: One head—13 oz.

Saturday, 12/6: Three heads—15, 22, and 25 oz.

Sunday, 12/7: Shared 3 lbs. of broccoli with the fellowship. Many smiling faces!


Up to Date

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne more quick post to bring us up to date.

On the fourth weekend in September, the 26th and 27th, I planted eight broccoli (Packman variety) and four tomatoes (Celebrity). You can see them in the background of the photo.

Last week, on Monday the 3rd, I planted eight cabbages (Copenhagen market), four cauliflower (no variety listed), and four kale (ditto).

I Have Been Remiss


Working on the second bin.

I started work on my fall/winter garden on the weekend of September 6 and seven. I figured I would need about 175 ft.² to grow sufficient Brassica over the winter—so I prepared 200. I broke open a couple of my well aged compost heaps and dumped about 100 ft.³ of compost on my garden area. That’s seventeen wheelbarrows full. Maybe I overdid it.

I soaled the whole thing down before spreading the cardboard.

I soaled the whole thing down before spreading the cardboard.

I didn’t bother to dig the garden area – just left it “as-is.” I spread scrap cardboard over the area to discourage the weeds. It didn’t work too well.