Monday, July 29, 2013

Getting to Know Your Food: Peppers Anyone Can Know and Grow

I am sooo into sustainability, you guys!
Wait, what? Grow food? You mean,
like with dirt and ants and bees?
Ugh! (photo from Wikimedia)
So, you fancy yourself a conservationist, environmentalist, doomsday prepper, or sustainability guru, and you don't grow any food.  Huh.  Yes, I know a few of you live in 110sf apartments with half a door and no windows and no roof access, but most of you do in fact have at least one sunny window and probably access to a rooftop or courtyard garden.  A lot of  you, whether you know it or not, also have access to a community garden space, which usually runs between 100sf and 500sf (150sf is enough  to grow lots of food, most of the year).  My current garden (new in 2013) is roughly 125sf of intensely planted and irrigated beds, to give you an idea.

So why aren't you doing it?  Like a lot of things people-related, perhaps you just think you can't.  Or you never have, and you don't have time to learn.   But here's what you need to do:  You need to grow peppers. You need approximately 0.75 square feet of sunny, decent soil to grow a pepper plant.  Don't misinterpret me as saying that home pepper growing will have any significant impact on any of the world's problems.   But if you don't grow food yet, here's why you should start with Capsicum spp.and only then make the educated decision that you "just can't grow food" - because here's my bet - I think you can.




Why grow peppers - The Gateway Drug to Urban Gardening?
1. They are hard to kill
2. There are hundreds of varieties, many of which (listed below) are easy to grow
3. If you have a limited tolerance of taste (or heat), there are varieties for you
4. Peppers are easily pollinated, even by household insects like kitchen ants, houseflies, and gnats.  You can also pollinate them by hand if you really like.  Takes 30 seconds.
5. It will give you a direct relationship with your food, which psychologists have learned is an important thing for people living in a turbulent time, say, 2001 to present.

So let's look at some peppers!

Please disregard rat trap
1. Mini-Bell and Baby Bell Peppers.   I can't say enough about these peppers.  If you don't like hot peppers, and you're only somewhat of a "pepper person" when it comes to that distinctive, smoky flavor, then Baby Bells (usually modern hybrids) and Mini-Bells (usually heirlooms) are for you. The pepper walls are thin, and seeds are easy to remove.  They are easy to slice into thick chunks (for those who love pepper flavor) or very thin slivers (for those on the fence....use paper thin slices as a pizza topping).  They produce many small fruits, which you can pick whenever you like.  I started growing the Ohio Mini Bell (heirloom) in 2010, but this year switched to the "California Wonder" Baby Bell, a modern hybrid.

2/3. Jalapeno Peppers and Mild Jalapenos.  Speaking of smoky pepper taste, here's the Jalapeno!  It's a hot pepper with the shortest growing season of all the hot peppers!  If you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, that's important, as growing habaneros can be a roll of the dice in mild, shorter summers.   Jalapenos can be used for all kinds of things, and now, several varieties of "non-hot" Jalapenos are available, to impart that smoky taste to anything, without adding the heat.  On a summer morning, you can pick an entire bowl of these things from two or three plants, and feel really good about your food growing success.

Cayennes from Etsy Seller Seven Acre Woods



4. Cayenne Chili Peppers.  Cayenne chilis - your standard "chili pepper" - are really not difficult to grow, and produce tons of fruit.  Unlike Jalapenos, in my opinion chilis do not impart much flavor but do in fact bring a bit of blazing heat.  Unlike most other peppers, they can be effectively dried and stored for a year or longer, and crushed to bring that same heat to a mid-winter recipe.



5. Thai Chili Peppers.  I really like Thai Chilis.  They are easy to grow, even inside the house, and they magically get pollinated by something, because I sure never see any bees on the plants.  Grow in a pot next to some Thai Basil and YOU WIN!   Thai chilis have that distinctive form of many "indoor" peppers, with fruits sticking straight up in the air.






Always proud to have fish peppers growing in my garden


Honorary Mention:  The Fish Pepper and Friends.  Some of you ethno-food people out there really need to get on the stick and grow your own food.   I'm not going to waste time explaining why.  Just do it.  In our region, the Fish Pepper is an important one.  Brought to Baltimore and Philadelphia by slaves who had lived and cooked in the Carribean, the fish pepper was grown in waste soils in the worst parts of town.    As those cities didn't have significant levels of slavery into the 1860s, the African-American communities were "free" to live on prior trash dumps and other undesirable areas, and work in relative servitude for the upper echelons of the white communities and businesses.  The fish pepper was an important "secret" ingredient in fish sauces and soups through the early 1940s, and then it disappeared until someone found a jar of dried fish peppers in the 1990s.   Now it's sold in limited quantities by specialty seed dealers.   It has a semi-hot, very fragrant smoky taste.  See, you should grow a plant like this and impress all your friends with the story.

What's not on this list:
1. Habanero Peppers et al.  Okay, you all think you want to grow Ghost Peppers and Scotch Bonnets and Habs, and that's great.  I love them all!  But first of all, those need 90-110 days of HEAT to grow.  This means you may likely have 0 habaneros per week for the entire summer, and the week of September 20th, you will have 400 ripe habaneros on your hand.   This is problematic because a standard "hot" Caribbean recipe calls for roughly one half of one pepper, which can be purchased for roughly 12 cents at the supermarket (preferably you will drive your SUV to the store and throw trash out the window on the way there, while menacing bicycle commuters). Oh, back to the point -these peppers require attention and plenty of water once they set fruit, so they are not easy.    I hate that I grow these peppers - it's kind of a waste of soil, water, and effort.  I plant four to six plants of Ridiculously Hot Peppers every year, and usually fail to get peppers off of at least 50% of the plants before the October frost kills them.

Delicious Emerald Giant peppers (1963) from
Rareseeds.com (their photo as well).
Be on the lookout for descriptions like:
"A good variety for the South" and
"A vigorous spreader!"
2. Heirloom Bell Peppers.  Y'all don't know about tobacco mosaic virus, but if you try to grow your grandmother's favorite heirloom bell pepper, you sure will. Tobacco, tomatoes, and peppers are all in the nightshade family together, so they share things like giant hornworms and tobacco mosaic virus.  Heirloom bell plants, unless well cared for and in optimum soil, set relatively few fruits per plant.   Most of the heirlooms have very thick walls, which are great for stuffing with tasty deliciousness, but ensure that it takes forrrrrreeeeevvvver to grow a single pepper.  If you can put in a garden plot with a row of 10 bell pepper plants, that is how you grow heirloom bells.  Not one plant in a container.

3. Poblano Peppers.   Poblanos are one of my favorite, but dang, are they hard to deal with sometimes.   My experience is that they require more water than any pepper except the habanero, which is annoying.  The big problem is the utility of poblanos.  Like big bell peppers and unlike Carribean hot peppers, you usually want several at a time to complete a single recipe for a family or a group of guests.   In my three years of growing Poblanos, I've been very disappointed at how they seem to ripen one at a time, and if left in the kitchen, grow moldy within a few days - as you're waiting for just one more to ripen.   Like big bell peppers, only trifle with these if you have a large garden space (around 300sf).

 Additional resources (seriously, check these out):

Raised Urban Gardens - Articles About Peppers in Small Gardens
Ohio State U. Extension - Growing Peppers in Containers
You Grow Girl - Pepper Articles

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wandering the Sassafras River


I hit the river bluff with wide eyes for what may be ahead of me on this morning.  Unfortunately the summer rain and steam meet me, boiling off the surface of the Sassafras River.   I park the truck on the top of the bluff, looking out over the river's mouth at the upper Chesapeake Bay.  I finish my coffee.  I wait.  Eventually the rain stops.







I haven't fished here before, but I'm in need of some real success.  2013 has not been a kind year for fishing.  In minutes, the kayak is down to the water, loaded, and then shoved off into the water lotus.  Its kevlar leaves and bulletproof stems tell me that nothing will be easy today.

The rain has muddied the creek, and the creek has muddied the river.  Storm flows across the Bay are actually pushing water back up into the creek here, and so I decide to fish the tide at some of the inlets.


I beach the boat and target hungry stripers on the incoming tide.  No action, just stormwater ripping up into the creek where only saltwater should be headed.


Headed back into the creek to target largemouth, who I think were hunkered down due to the stormwater and turbidity.  Nobody can say I didn't try.












Fish started jumping, and I was curious what they were.  I worked the vegetated shoreline pretty heavily on the leeward side of the cold front.   Most of my heavy assortment of tackle got a good workout.  The smacking sound of small fish feeding on the surface made me wish I had brought my fly tackle.  Finally I figured it out, running a 1/8oz black inline spinner with a gold blade right across the edge of the lotus patch.





Figured these guys out too:


He's actually more important, since he would have made wonderful bait for large striped bass, just a half mile downstream.  Oh well, I know for next time.  I ended up catching 20 or so white and yellow perch. Which, I suppose, is better than 0 perch.  Also found out that some jerk has been using our offshore duck blind all summer - him and his bratty kids:


And though I was a bit salty over missing out on bigger fish, I look forward to my next trip to the Sassafras.






Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting Real About The Brutality of Growing Food

This is Rattus norvegicus, the Norway Rat.  He's kind of cute, even for a rat.  How'd I get the photo? Well, when he turned away from me, I  lined him up with my pellet gun's primitive iron sights, and when he turned back toward me, I put the pellet through the area right behind his shoulders, right through the heart and lungs, bounced off of a bone, and tore back out the same side it went in, near the stomach.  He died in less than two seconds.

Beyond pooping all over our deck, our yard, and my garden (rat feces are known to contain many diseases contagious to humans), this rat had decided to try out my cucumbers.  You may say, "Just eat around it!" or "Just grow more, so the rats can have theirs, and you can have yours."  He'd been destroying about half of my crop, actually.

Typical rat damage to cucumbers; yes, we threw out
this cucumber
No.  I understand the cost of getting food.  I am not competing with invasive, disease-ridden Norway Rats for the food I'm growing and irrigating in my own yard.

An article called "Backyard Chickens - A Growing Problem" was featured on Yahoo earlier this week.  The author, Ms. Simone Lai, discussed several problems with the popular movement to grow chickens (for egg production, not meat)  in suburban and urban environments.   One of the problems, although I might also refer to it as an opportunity, is that many of the Young Aspiring Wayfarer-Wearing Chicken Growers have never grown anything.  Not a garden.  Not chickens.  Not even a windowbox herb garden that might be pecked away at by spider mites or city pigeons.  They don't understand the basic ecology of energy limitations in the urban/suburban ecosystem, which dictates that if you create new sources of calories, guess what, the critters are coming to get them.  And life is going to ask you, "How bad do you want it?"

The first deer lease I ever got was on an organic vegetable farm.  The owners were non-hunters and in fact, rarely ate meat.  But they wanted those deer gone.    I tell people that story (with more details) a few times a year and people are frequently confused....."But I thought they loved the pretty animals?! It's so horrible and brutal, sigh."   People don't understand that as soon as you start growing food, you are going to have to compete if you actually want to keep, sell, or eat any of that food for yourself.   So that's right.  The harvest of your organic cruelty-free tofu almost assuredly requires an annual slaughter of the deer who would otherwise eat it, resulting in a quadrupling of the price of that already expensive cruelty-free tofu.

Hunters pay a pretty penny to be able to hunt over fields of food intended for American vegetarians.   If you think Whole Foods salad bar is expensive now, at $8.99 per pound, can you imagine if rodents, deer, rabbits, and geese ate 10-50% of the year's crop?  We're not talking just a 10-50% increase in price, because those crop fluctuations actually impact the agricultural markets.  If ethanol producers are buying corn at $13/bushel, Whole Foods is buying it at $11/bushel, and half of the crop is lost to geese and deer, then guess what....Whole Foods won't have corn.

One of the problems discussed in the Yahoo article above was that people are getting fed up with cleaning up after their chickens, feeding the chickens, and protecting the chickens from their own stupidity, and so farm animal rescue facilities are being overwhelmed with thousands of unwanted high-end fancy chickens.   I asked myself, "Why not just kill the chicken? After all, it's going to die in the rescue facility."  But I got back to the same exact point as the "Cruelty Free Tofu,"  being a responsible food producer means being able to make difficult decisions like, "This particular chicken is not a good match for our needs," and to move forward with the lethal decision to terminate the animal.   No different than killing a rogue fish in your aquarium, putting out mouse traps in the kitchen, or having to put a pet to sleep.  Yes, those are all very different things, but the moral consequence is the same - an animal is going to die because you decided it's time for that animal to die.

Apparently most of these folks purchase chickens with no intent of killing the animal (either for food or another necessity), and just hope that "when the chicken is done, maybe it will die in its sleep, and even better, maybe it will bury itself somewhere!"  But the reality of growing food has not changed since the Agricultural Revolution 7,000 years ago.   If the raccoon eats the chicken, then you don't get any more eggs. If the chicken gets sick, it won't lay more eggs, and it might get your other chickens (or your family) sick.    If you're fine with that, why did you purchase a chicken in the first place?  If you're not fine with it, please approach the topic with an adult attitude about what your responsibility as a human being (and food provider) truly is.

I knew that rat was around the garden somewhere, hiding in the slightly wider swath of destruction caused by a suburban raccoon (who was fenced out and did not return).  Nibbled leaves, destroyed tomatoes and cucumbers, and even a tuft of fur tipped me off to Sir Rattus.   I set traps for three nights, a month ago, and trapped three rats (You gotta love City Living).  Yet this rat remained.  I largely decided to let it be.....until I saw it in the garden, in broad daylight.  Once I had seen it, I couldn't pretend it was only rarely in my garden, there was no chance it would survive the week.  And it didn't.  After I killed him, I strolled into the garden and picked seven cucumbers - four ruined by rat bites, and three without a single toothmark.

If you're going to grow lettuce, or herbs, or chickens, or goats, don't pretend that problems won't occur.  Plan for the inevitability that you'll be faced with a decision about whether your food is more important than food for the feral cat down the street.  Failing to make a decision on how to act (including possibly giving up) is not an option, and when livestock, even chickens, are involved, that failure is unethhical.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Gear Review: Emotion Mojo Angler Kayak

Where to begin with this review.  My attempt to purchase this boat in 2012 was a fiasco.  It was on sale online at Cabela's, and the kayaks are made right here in the USA.  Sounds great so far, right?  Fast forward six weeks and no one knew where my boat might be, or if that particular boat had even existed.   Fast forward another week, and an additionally discounted Mojo Angler was almost literally dropped out of a drop-freighter's truck, and left with a busted up stern.  But there it sat, in the parking lot for my office.   My new boat.  Not without some signs of hasty assembly, though:

Ouch! Drill much?



In the last several months, I've paddled this boat in several different conditions, and also caught some fish from it.  I think I've finally figured out what I think about this boat - I kinda like it.

It's a moderately heavy boat, at 12.5' and 55 pounds, and it's difficult to drag.  Handles on the side make for very effective carrying for short distances on level terrain, but impossible for stepping over logs, etc on the way to the water's edge.  You, my friend, are going to need a kayak cart.  Not sure if this is true for all 12' fishing 'yaks but it's worth mentioning here.

Paddling/tracking:  Other paddlers have complained online that the Mojo is tippy, but I have a feeling they might be entry level boaters.  Anyone used to being in a canoe or kayak is likely to feel pretty stable in this boat.  In fact, its relatively wide profile (popular now with kayak anglers) tends to slow it down in the water a bit, which can either be a small blessing or an annoyance, depending on whether you are trying to move or stay put on a spot.   Now, when you lean to one side, the boat does move.  But it stops - to actually tip it, you'd need to keep leaning farther.


The boat tracks fairly well in open water, but it does sit quite a bit out of the water compared to specialized "open water speed" kayaks.  I'd say the tracking is comparable to other 12-13' sit-on-top fishing kayaks (I've paddled at least four other brands in the 12-14.5' length). It is definitely not a race boat, and you are not going anywhere fast.  However, on my most recent trip, I enjoyed the fact that so much of the boat was above the water, as I somehow sliced through a 15 acre patch of Water Lotus.

 And it does track well enough, and sit high enough, that often your momentum carries you farther than you really wanted to go (i.e. into the big clump of brush you're trying to fish, and are now batting away from your face, as the boat careens full speed into it.    But again, this is common for yaks, canoes, and even mini-skiffs of this size.  No big deal once you know that's how the boat behaves.     Grade: B

Well-designed flush-mount rod holders
Fishing and Fishing Features:  The Emotion Mojo by itself has very minor adaptations for kayak fishing, including a squared-out rear compartment that just so happens to fit milk/kayak crates.  The front hatch is pretty useless for my type of fishing...more on that below.   However, the "Mojo Angler" package, which I purchased, includes two flush-mount rod holders and a third Scotty rod holder which fits conveniently in the adjustable/removable center console - which happens to be my favorite feature of the boat.

Casting is extremely easy from the Mojo Angler, and would be even easier if I purchased a real seat pad and got another inch or two of elevation.  I haven't tried fly fishing from the boat yet, but that's coming soon.   Effective trolling would have to be from the center console rod holder, since the two flush mounts are outside of the paddler's peripheral vision.  I've tried to troll several times and can't see any part of the rod from my seat without fully turning my head.  On the plus side, it means the rod holders are out of the way of the average 'yakker's paddling motion, which obviously is the reason for this placement.

Retrieving fish is....exciting.  Because so little of the kayak sits in the water, any fish over about three pounds will cause the boat to take a little spin in one direction or the other.  Be mindful, don't be surprised, you're not going to tip over unless you lean.  Again, this is typical for most if not all similar size boats. Grade: B+

That's your extra rod or paddle holder.  Yup. 
Storage.  There are a few cargo slings around the boat, which are handy though only about 80% secure; I wish there was a hard plastic or aluminum paddle holder, rather than just ditching the paddle in the netting.  I'll probably install one (eventually).   The front hatch is connected to the entire hull of the boat, and is basically unreachable from the kayak seat.  The Emotion Mojo is not stable enough to lay forward and retrieve items from the hatch.  You'll have to beach the boat (or dismount) to get anything out of there.   The hatch lid is a clear, very rigid plastic that I am 100% sure I will break.  It was not a good choice for this boat, which should have used some type of rubber, gasketed hatch cover.

One helpful hint I read is to create a sprayfoam wall slightly aft of hatch, thus creating a "live well."     Only downside to that would be the inability to drain water out of any other leaks aft of your new "live well wall."

The rear compartment, as mentioned above, is super handy, perfect sized, and well within reach.  I have never felt like the boat was at risk of tipping while I turned around to reach for gear in the rear compartment. It fits a milk crate perfectly (an intentional design element).


The Mojo Angler also features a removable, adjustable center console (shown above) that fits a drybox (included, the yellow box above), drink and a standard GPS/smartphone holder (although not sure how it would stay put).  I love this, it's perfect.  It seems like you could easily place the GPS receiver or a fishfinder on the console and run the transmitter through the nearby scupperhole, making for a temporary install (always a plus for us traveling anglers).  This is a brilliant design and not one I've seen on any other boat.
Grade: A-. 

Comfort:  The Mojo Angler comes equipped with a cushioned seatback, which is nice, but a pre-molded "butt cheek" seat in the plastic boat, which is horrendous.  I've been working on a better seating arrangement, and trying to coordinate it with a seat for my young son right in front of me.  If you have such a product, please contact me.

I wish this seat had been designed to hold a seat cushion, my lower back literally goes numb after a straight 80-90 minutes of paddling. The foot pegs are highly adjustable and are a well-sourced component for this boat.  It's even fairly comfortable to throw my legs over the boat and cool off my dawgs.  Grade: C+. 

Summary:  If you are looking for a kayak that's set up for fishing "off the rack," and your projected budget is in the $600-900 class of kayaks, give the Mojo Angler a try - it has more positive attributes (and not all of the shortcomings) than other similarly priced boats.  The craftsmanship was really all over the place.  Parts of the boat seemed to have been expertly assembled, while other parts appear to have been drilled in by my three year old son.  If you can afford to go up to $1,100, I'd instead recommend the Wilderness Systems Tarpon (which I've paddled many times) over the Mojo Angler.  Overall Grade:  B/B-. 

Note: for any fishing kayak, I highly recommend that you purchase from a company with a local store, dealer or outlet.  That way, you can inspect the boat when it's delivered locally and refuse it if it's all dinged up, as mine was.  If you have the boat shipped directly to you, it puts you in a bad position to have to refuse it as the contracted driver is impatiently waiting for your inspection to end, and then you'll (at minimum) have to pay the shipping cost anyway.   Go see the boat of your dreams in person before it shows up at your house!

Monday, July 8, 2013

And On That Sign, It Said No Trespassin'....And No Fishin'!


Skunked again - freakin' thunderstorms.  What's worse is that I got a chance to run out in the early, early morning to some spots I hadn't fished in two years or more.  I had a great game plan, I had all the right tackle.  I was ready, boy.  But wasn't ready for this.


Or this, just a few miles away.


What a bummer.  I still ended up fishing four different spots, all of them either reclaimed sandpits or relatively deep beaver swamps.  I had a few very wimpy bites but no big blowups and certainly no fish to hand.  I tried fishing big weedless stuff with no luck, and once the "no luck" became obvious, the landscape didn't seem to lend itself to anything "not weedless...."


This fishing season was going in the right direction (after starting extremely poorly), but after two consecutive bad outings (at least I caught some juvenile bass the previous trip), I'm starting to have a bit of doubt about what the hell I'm doing out there, and if it's worth my time.  True, there's lots of fishing pressure at every public hole around here.  True, poachers are taking a heavy toll too, especially on our designated catch-and-release waters.  And true, it's rained almost every other day for the past four months.  I don't know.  I'm tempted to run out before work and fish this week, but I kind of feel like a bolder fishing trip might be needed to shake off the skunk....guess we'll see!


As I went walking I saw a sign there 
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." 
But on the other side it didn't say nothing, 
That side was made for you and me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beachin' It Up with the Toddler Crowd

One of my favorite east coast surf spots...Hank sees it for the first time.
For years, we've made annual treks to the beach each spring between late April (our anniversary) and mid-June (Amy's birthday).   Sometimes, several trips in that short period.   All of it started when I moved away from the beach (2.5 hours instead of 25 minutes), 14 years ago.  In 1999, it was my best man's wedding in Va Beach.  In 2000, my bachelor party in Va Beach.  In 2001, trips to the Outer Banks, RI shore, and Cape Cod.

Since the advent of this blog, I've written about these trips almost every year.  Here's 2008's trip (DE/MD).   And 2009's trip (Charleston, SC).  And 2011 (Delaware). And 2012 (Delaware).  We already made a trip to Virginia Beach in April 2013 (here).

Hamming it up at the mouth of Delaware Bay
The nature of these trips, which actually date back to 1994 (a cold ass April surfing trip to Va Beach in my sophomore year of college), continues to change as the years move on, and that's something with which I struggle.

 Even after we got married (2000), I would make a point to charge pretty hard in the outdoors at least a few times during the trip.  For a few magical years that Amy's parents had a beach house in Southern NC, we'd go down in September and always get hurricane swells.  We'd time the trip for dawn low tides, and I'd surf from dawn until 10am every day, and possibly get a quick evening surf in, spending the rest of the day lounging around and attending venues and activities that my wife was interested in - hey, the system worked.  

Delaware sunset, June 2013
Not anymore, with Sir Hank, Mayor of Crazy Town. Having a kid has made these beach getaways a mental health necessity, but has also prevented those trips from being really exciting from an outdoors standpoint.  To be honest, at least twice I've scheduled (post-child) beach trips without checking a tide chart. Quelle horreur!   I just knew that nothing outdoorsy and fun would happen.  What a bummer.


Things are changing.  In the last few months, Hank has sat through an entire movie at a movie theater, caught his first fish (well, ermm, mostly), and swam/thrashed about in the open water of the Chesapeake Bay without going all crazy on me.   I'm hoping that translates into a calmer boy who doesn't destroy Mommy's Will to Live in the three hours it might take me to go fishing or surfing down the street from our rental house.  In the long run, I'm hoping it translates into having a little boy who enjoys something about the outdoors, even if his tastes aren't mine!

We'll see.  I miss surfing.  I miss saltwater fishing.  I miss the ocean in general.   It is so exciting to be teaching my son about all of it, and now that he's seen surfing actually happen, he's pretty excited to try it.  I'm not ready for that, though!  Hank's swimming skills leave much to be desired.

We'll get there.  He loves the beach.  He loves the waves.  That's a pretty big gift for a dad to get.

Henry and one of his partners in crime

If you're very quiet, maybe you can catch it?! 


Monday, July 1, 2013

Fishing Around Thunderstorms...And Runoff

I feel like I begin too many posts with the phrase, "We live in the I-95 corridor."   Hmm.

That being said, we live in the I-95 corridor.  When it comes to planning fishing (and to a lesser extent, hunting) outings, I have to be wary of the fact that the slightest bit of rain is going to turn into a sludgy runoff plume headed straight from the area's cities, suburbs, and farms, and right into the creeks.

Due to busy work and home life, and pouring every spare minute of free time into fixing up the garden for what I hope is a two month relatively maintenance free period, I hadn't been fishing in about three weeks.  I was showing a colleague around a restored wetland site one day, and despite 99 degree temperatures, a good number of largemouth were hanging out on the water's surface at 10:00am.  The previous night, we'd had a thunderstorm at home, so I didn't even consider bringing any tackle the next day.  The water at this swamp was crystal clear.
Caught several 6-9" bass but nothing bigger

I watched the weather all night at home - not a drop of rain - and planned on hitting the site at 6am for a little pre-work fishing the next day.  On the way to the swamp, it was clear that I'd been fooled, as small puddles started to appear on the roadside, and shrubs in the right-of-way were hung low with the weight of rainwater.
Weedless. Your jig, at least.
Sure enough, the water was turbid and brown from a small storm that must have passed through, undetected by me, the night before.   I really didn't have a backup plan as far as tackle or places to fish - I was already committed.   I threw a good selection of plastics out, hooking up well - again - with the YUM Shakalicious Worm, but the bass were few and far between.  Also typical of plastics (and a lack of treble hooks), I lost several fish after the hookup.  The bigger fish were especially hard to come by, and in some cases clearly did not see my lure in front of them or on top of them.  I called it quits around 7:40am with five bass and three redbreasted sunfish brought to hand.

I had enough time to grab a cup of coffee and slather on some sun lotion for another 99 degree workday outside, and enough sense to hope for - but not count on - another fishing day that might skirt around the edge of a thunderstorm, rather than suffer through it.