Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tersano Lotus really works

Hey, I got a Tersano Lotus for Christmas. It does all it says. These should be as ubiquitous as vacuum cleaners. It will really come in handy with my various projects.

Also, I finally got some neem oil to try to keep spider mites offa my succulent aerogreens.

Finally, it's been one year since I got my AeroGarden. The basil is still going, stems as thick as tree branches.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Electric bike overhaul 95% complete


Well the black bike is about back on the boulevard. The overhaul is 95 percent complete; I would just like to do something to tidy up the cabling up front.

I took it out for a very short spin today but had trouble with the next rack. I think that has been corrected now. It rode very well until the rack tumbled off, sending the battery-laden rear back crashing to the ground behind it. Tore up a zipper and a strap, unfortunately. . . something else to potentially replace.

After I got the right length spokes---180mm for my 2006 vintage 406 model Crystalyte wheelhub---the wheel turned out to be not as bad as I expected it to be. It was a bit tedious, but I think I have got the thing trued up pretty well, just by tightening up spokes where the wheel was rubbing against the brakes. I don't think the rim is perfectly round any more, though.

The whole spoke replacement thing was a good experience. I think I understand wheels better now, and feel that much more affinity with the cog and chain set. The black spokes look nice contrasted with the giant silver wheel hub. Hopefully they will last. At 14 gauge, they are finer than not just the ones that came with the hub, but the spokes on my rear wheel too.

The new tires also look great. They are huge! Some big baloony type from Schwalbe (Big Apple). They look like motorcycle tires. I have them at full pressure, 60 psi, to lessen rolling resistance. Like I said, the bike rode really well today. The reflective stripes on the tires look snazzy with the bike's black and silver theme.

I feel a certain sense of accomplishment. I'm not sure exactly what to do with the loose cables up front, the Office Max approach or the AutoZone approach. Probably the latter would be better for wear and tear and weather issues. I'm not sure exactly what to get, at least just a sleeve to protect the main cable, and maybe some Velcro ties. If I had more skills I would get some kind of weatherproof project box to house the computer.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Electric bike overhaul

Well the good news is I was able to replace the throttle successfully, even though the one I got online came with the wrong connectors.

I have discovered other problems, so the electric bike is in the midst of a major overhaul. While looking at the front wheel, pondering whether to upgrade the spokes (one is broken), I noticed the hand-me-down tire is beginning to burst at the seams! This could have led to an ugly accident, if it blew in traffic.

I just ordered some new Schwalbe Big Apple tires (they're said to have some ballooning suspension feature, and my bike has no cushioning whatsoever right now), some new DT-Swiss spokes (in black!) in 191mm length and 14 gauge (based on hours of Internet research; originally the Crystalyte hub probably came with 12 or 13 gauge spokes but of a lower quality manufacture). I also threw in some bottle cages and bolts for good measure.

Combine this with the rack I just replaced, and you can see this little beauty has been an expensive proposition. I'm also starting to think about new batteries. In fact, I am really starting to doubt it's been cheaper than driving this past year. The main financial savings is in the capital cost, but I've probably exceeded $1,000 in total expenditures on it so far. Still, it is easy to drop a grand on a single car repair.

It is a good time of year for the bike to take a little vacation. I might still bring out my conventional mountain bike. Gas is cheap and I am lazy, however.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving of sorts

Well. It's Thanksgiving and I'm stuck at home alone with a cold.

Also, my e-bike is grounded. I suspect the throttle. I hope it's just the throttle. I have opened up the controller and didn't see anything obviously awry. Next step is to find a voltimeter to test that throttle. Fortunately I found some technical advice online. I don't know any repair shops within 500 miles though (perhaps that could be a good business niche).

Sigh. On the plus side, my redneck fake-AeroGarden-in-an-aquarium is doing surprizingly well. I've even gotten a lot of cilantro to sprout! And there is a snow pea in there that is going nuts. I've strapped the aquarium's fluorescent light to a microphone boom stand.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Squirrelling in progress

A stupid squirrel keeps digging up my snow peas... some of them have sprouted though.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gratuitous electric bike pic


I don't think the folks at Practical Pedal will mind if I share this picture with you; it's for an ad for some grocery panniers in their "Bigg Amazing Catalog." It might even send them some business.

Upon close inspection you might notice it's an electric bike, with the motor in the rear hub. I wonder why they put all the weight in the back like that. Perhaps it helps get traction in the Montana snow. Something tells me it would be easy to do wheelies on that thing.

The opposite would be a front hub motor with something like a Cetma rack up front. I've never seen that particular configuration. They should have a grocery-hauling-in-the-snow contest to compare the two.

AG6 Sighting ( ( o ) )

Hey guys, I saw an AeroGarden "SpaceSaver 6" display in a mass market retail department store. Can you guess which one? Rhymes with "zhay." That's right---Target!

They had a display on an aisle end, replete with silk plants for illustration purposes. They had a few different seed pod kits (cherry tomatoes, Italian herbs, etc.) and a lot of paraphrenalia like the AG scissors and the herb mixer.

The SpaceSaver 6 was selling for $150. I would have taken a picture but I was too self-conscious.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Daily Dump


Daily Dump is not what you might think. It's a compost-products company in Bangalore, India.

Their big thing is stacking terra cotta pots. Innovations include the rat-proof lid.

This is simular to what I've been trying to do with giant flowerpots on my deck. It's a great idea, but I worry about the possibility of mold, with the pots being enclosed like that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Catching up

Well the situation at the fuel pumps has settled down, but I have not been driving much lately. The Jeep is attracting cobwebs.

The weather has been so nice I have been biking in to work in the mornings. We just had a cold snap, so I had to pull out some of my SLC-proven Cold Weather Biking Gear: Specialized biking gloves, a fleece jacket (allegedly wind resistant), and some reflective 180s ear muffs. The last item was surprizingly relevant today; it was windy and wet (low last night wsa 38'F), but at least my ears weren't cold.

It was a beautiful ride. The wind was driving the mist off the canal, like a big magical boiling pot. Just much colder.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Scary oil situation

Last night I drove past six gas stations before I found one with any gas to sell... very scary. Odd how unorganized the fuel supply is more than a week after a couple of relatively minor hurricanes.

I am well insulated against such crises. I can ride my bike or walk to work if necessary. Most of the people in my office live 20 miles or more away. I wonder if they'd be able to work from home in times of crisis.

I considered buying a locking gas cap last night, too. Major civil disorder was on the horizon, with people starting to queue up at the pump. What if this were winter and there was no heating oil? My survivalist/permaculture inclinations are validated.

Trying Out the CaféPress


My latest online scheme involves CaféPress. I found this site when I was looking for a lion rampant t-shirt to use as my tennis team's uniform. I found a pretty cool one, too. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, CaféPress is a print-on-demand shop: they don't make the stuff until someone actually buys it.

I have a few pictures of my own so I have put some of them up there in my own store, hoping to snag a sale some day. If you have the notion, check out my "storefront": cafepress.com/fridrix

I have basically two categories right now: some USC Gamecock merch based on a design I scribbled myself many years ago in college, and notecards based on my nature pics (as above).

I have not actually sold any stuff to third parties yet, but I have bought some cards for testing purposes and as gifts. I also had the gamecock printed on a coffee cup and long-sleeve t-shirt. It all looks pretty damn good. They also get the stuff to you surprizingly fast... freakishly fast, even. The main drawback: it's not cheap.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urban Bikes



We've had some nice cool, dry weather recently and it's got me biking to work regularly. With repetition I have refined my route considerably, esp. on the inbound leg.

I pass egrets in the mornings as I pedal along a canal. I have managed to cut the steepest hill out of the picture by turning left into a lightly traveled residential area near the Governor's Mansion.

On the way home, I generally follow the traffic lights. I do stay on the sidewalk if the roads are crowded. Basically I am following the free space. The only time I am assertive is when a light turns green and I am in the pedestrian walk, then I go in front of the cars.

I see several other bikers every day. There is one girl in particular that rides a bike with a basket past my office. Trek is playing to the commuter segment of the market with its "Urban Bikes." The models are named after cities; I wonder if Specialized had that idea first with their Langsters. They offer decent refinements like fenders and racks but the frames are aluminum, which I hear is a rough ride.

I am glad to be riding more regularly, even if it's not very far. It is so much more fun than driving. It makes more sense than ever with the hurricane-inspired gas shortages lately. There are still some stations out of fuel in Atlanta. After two years though, the batteries on my e-bike seem noticeably less efficient. It's still enough to get me to work and back, but yet another of many bike costs lately. Even so, it doesn't compare to paying near $50 to fill up every time. Last time I bought gas, a couple of weeks ago, it was $4.29.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wasp in mint


No it's not a new recipe... whilst at my parents a few weeks ago I noticed the flowering mint was attracting a surprizing variety of wasps. . . here's one. (The picture's not upside down, he is. No he didn't sting me. . . but I was close enough to be nervous.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hemingway's War Bike


Saw an interesting photo today, a bicycle Ernest Hemingway rode while in Italy, around 1918 I suppose. It was configured to carry a rifle along the top tube.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Baby lizards


There were a couple of baby lizards on my porch this morning. One was brown and the other was green. How cute is that? They were much more shy than their presumèd parents.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The river was angry and swollen


Another day biking to work. I ditched the Riverwalk this time in favor of a lesser used street.

The way in was otherwise routine but during lunch my bike showed further evidence of falling apart. The cover came off one of my tail lights and I ended up losing one of the AAA batteries (I need to secure them with a rubber band or something). On the way home my left Grip Shift somehow separated so that I only had the lowest gear up front.

It was amusing to think that I was down to one derailleur, and one brake. I had a skinnier wheel in the back from my mountain bike and the brake was too loose to grip it. Why the wheel swap? I just got the spoke repaired on the original one---$20 right there. Me and my redundant systems. If it got dark I would be relying on just a single tail light too.

The general feeling I got was of substandard readiness, if not pending collapse. I swapped the rear rack with the one on my other mountain bike, but even that doesn't seem heavy duty enough for the 30 pounds of lead-acid batteries. The newest thing on the bike is the seat, and it's not really all that comfortable. I'd like to redo everything so it is all aviation grade.

The river on the way home was brown and swollen from all the recent rain. It seemed kind of cranky.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

End of passive aquaponics experiment

I just shut down the passive aquaponics experiment I had on my porch. This was basically a cheap styrofoam cooler stocked with some guppies and some AeroGarden plants floating on top.

The main reason I took it in was the cooler, the kind you get when you buy steaks by mail order, was beginning to leak too much.

Amazingly, the little experiment worked pretty well. The fish survived a couple of months with no motorized filter even though it got to up to 111'F out there. I got a little bit of basil out of the deal and my chives even came back from the dead (both of these originally planted last Christmas).

The fish are now chilling in a small aquarium and most of the plants are back in the original AeroGarden.

I do believe the concept works on a small scale. If I were to do it again, I would get a real cooler with a drain on the bottom for waste purposes. I would have to figure out some way to put in the seed pods, probably just cut holes out of the top with a template. That should make a very efficient---and portable---little garden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spider mites again :(

Spider mites have again proved the downfall of a promising AeroGarden. This time it was my cherry tomatoes. I did not get a single fruit off of them. They look like crap so I'm chucking em in the compost pile. I was unable to grow a single tomato this year by any method.

I suspect it's still getting too hot in my little side room, although I tried to keep the ceiling fan running. Maybe my squalid apartment is just infested, which wouldn't surprize me, as it's home to almost every other kind of bug.

I do have a few healthy plants like the pobablano and the squash... just not a lot of fruit action. One of my lemons is turning ripe though, after several months. I should get a half dozen in all.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I'm a real bike commuter now


It's hard to be a real bike commuter when you work at home. Now I've taken a real job a bikeable distance away: about three miles, part of it along a river walk.

There is a short but incredibly steep incline involved. I actually rode my bike to the job interview yesterday and arrived in reasonably presentable condition thanks to the electric drive. I carried a blazer in my back basket. Temperature was only in the mid-80s.

Of course, the lifestyle is not always a walk in the park. I have to ride next to a canal where an alligator is known to live. I am more concerned about maintenance issues right now. That broken spoke presents a thorny issue, one that may require the services of my local bike shop. In general, my electrified entry-level mountain bike is showing the strain of hard, fast riding under a heavy payload of lead-acid batteries.

On the plus side, I have some nice scenery in my daily life now. This will get me out of the house more. And the repair issues give me an excuse to have two bikes.

They noticed I rode a bike yesterday but didn't mention it until after they offered me the job. Apparently they don't hate bikes/bikers. Maybe it is the cool thing to do now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Late summer bikin'


It's hard to believe fall is just around the corner. It is so green down by the river. The green of Ireland or Hawaii. That's how green it is.

It's still been getting hot as heck lately, 98'F today. My patio plants are holding on though. I harvested some aquaponic herbs and a couple of little ornamental peppers lately. My remaining poblanos are looking good, but they'd be happier in bigger pots.

I have been biking more and even pedaled to a tennis tournament. After playing two hard matches it was quite a slog riding it back home. Fortunately I found two new pedestrian bridges near the university that cut out two busy street crossings. Still, the ol' e-bike has not been performing too well. I must have forgot to charge it because the low battery light was on when I left and it was completely dead on the way back.

I found part of the problem today: a broken spoke. This put the wheel out of true and made it rub against the breaks. These cheap bikes are high maintenance. I also had a staple in the tire, giving it a slow leak, which is the only reason I was even looking at it. I am also trying to bolster the lame rack in the back, but there is still a wobble.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quote du jour

"When the Republican governor of the reddest state in the union is promoting bicycling as a preferred mode of transportation, you know people are paying attention to the price signals."---Keith Batholomew, U. of U., on the State of Utah's bike-to-work program, in Jim Carey's "The Real Question: Should Oil Be Cheap?" Business Week, August 4, 2008, pp. 54--59.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Any day on a bicycle

It has oft been said, any day that involves riding a bike is a good day. I was reminded of that after I opted for the electric bike when I had to mail something and go to the bank. The motor took the edge off the 94'F degree weather, but I was pedaling the whole way for the fun of it. It made me feel invigorated.

I think my batteries are crapping out though; the low charge light came on even though I only went a couple of miles. I'd like to upgrade to something better than lead-acid but that's a matter of a few hundred dollars. This is not the only thing that's crapping out on the bike. The left grip shift seems to be separating. And the cargo rack is buckling from the 30-pound weight of the batteries.

Still, it's usable, and it's fun. I have been bundling my errands into my Jeep rides to tennis matches so I haven't been out on it a while. Tennis and biking is a whol other entry though...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blueberries



Fresh blueberries, blueberry pie, blueberry pancakes, blueberry-as-sports-recovery-drink-substitute, blueberry and beef soup...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Novak mows down pedestrian, gets $50 ticket

Visit to George Washington Trauma Center...$50,000.
Failure to yield to a pedestrian...$50.
Star-struck cops... priceless.
http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0708/537957.html

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shortcut


A much-awaited link in the Riverwalk has been opened, allowing me to bike along the canal on the way to the post office. Saved me 1.5 miles of baking sidewalk and traffic.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I SOLD SOME BLUEBERRIES

I was going to share some with the cutie at the coffeeshop... she insisted on giving me $4... I'M RICH!!!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Summer storms

Like a t-storm sweeping across the plains, is the pace of change with my plant projects.

The spider mites are kicking my ass inside, at least in the AeroGardens. My regular houseplants have not been much affected. I have also had a very hard time sprouting peas in the AGs. I think the cause for all of this is that it's too hot and dry inside. I shall have to keep more ventilation going since those lights get hot.

I finally got some containers, so I was able to transplant them outside (in as much shade as possible). These are made of compressed rice husks and things and are meant to eventually decay. Saw them at World Market. Inside the pots I'm using 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 homegrown compost (it's rich and ready), and a topping of clay pellets. I planted the plants along with their AeroGarden/AG3 pods. Mental note: water the hell out of this stuff. It's been raining a lot so it should be a good time to get them outdoors.

Out of three AeroGardens, the only things I have planted now are two little, slow-growing tomato plants and one pea plant. ALL the other peas either rotted or got covered in spider mites. My two green beans are in pots outside now, since they are too big for the AGs and hopefully that will get some kind of balance on the spider mites. The AeroGardens have really disappointed of late... two of them are unplugged. Like I said, it could be the heat; it is probably mid-80'F's where they are during the day. Still, I expected more from the AG3.

On the plus side, right now I have no plants with spider mites inside. My little aquaponic experiment is looking good outside... even my chives are coming back and the six-month-old basil plant is reaching for the sky. Also, my hops plant is looking much better outside! It has branched out like I thought it would.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Status at summer solstice





I'm sorry I have been derelict in reporting on all my various ecogronomic projects. Here is an attempt to bring things current. Overall, I have had mixed success. The sum output has been much less than I expected, but there are some positive developments.

I have so many things going on I don't know where to begin. At last count I had three dozen individual plants indoors alone. Plus an equivalent on my patio.

In general the AeroGardens have not produced as expected. I have been able to get seedlings pretty easily in most cases, but getting real plants with real fruits has been elusive. I'm sure a good deal of this was from my relentless moving plants around, trying them in bottles or outside, etc. Still, I was disappointed by some kits, like the Cherry Tomato. I have only got one big plant out of it. It's important to note that I did have that bowl outside. It also grew a giant zuccini, but it lost its blossoms too.

I was disappointed by a couple of the kits. My Aerogarden 3's Green Bean kit (out of three seed pods) produced two leggy plants that got so tall I moved them to an AeroGarden Classic. Also, the Baby Greens are gone, daddy, gone. They don't like to be above 78'F and I think my air conditioner may have dried them out. They ended up getting covered with some kind of little red plant mites.

So, the theme for the last couple of months has been disappointment, be it self-induced or not. To have four AeroGardens going and an empty salad bowl is a little discouraging, and I have spent around $50 on seed kits alone. My little cherry tomato plant looks like shit. It had some blooms but it lost them. I dumped out all the old water and started anew in an attempt to revive. Right now it is parked in a Classic AeroGarden with just the two leggy Green Bean AG3 refugees. My last remaining hops plant is hanging on, beginning to branch out, but it's still just a sad little diseased looking twig. The little coffee plant I got on eBay has some leaves but it is an unhealthy yellowy shade of green. These last two, parked outside.

My pride and joy is my little lemon tree. I think I got this thing started earlier than the rest. It has about eight fruits on it and they are larger than limes. Also, one of my several poblano pepper plants is looking like something after I moved it to get a lot more shade during the day. It has been so hard getting stuff going on that baking (115'F) patio, but the lemon tree is full sun all day. The key is, use oversized pots and get stuff established early in the season.

My aquaponics experiment is going, though I downsized it. Now it's basically a styrofoam cooler with a raft on top holding some AeroGarden refugees. The basil is alive, after all the abuse it's been through in the past six months (I planted it around Christmas).

I also have a purple basil in the window in a vase, and a cutting from it is finally establishing itself in a pot on the patio.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Riding at night

A musicians' guild meeting prompted another night bike ride. I left my guitar at home tonight. Carrying one on a bike at night is kind of a drag. I only did it a couple of times in Salt Lake City, clipping the soft case to the pannier rack in the back. This leaves you with a big saddlebag and a pointy end on top you have to take into consideration when moving around trees. Mostly it makes you look like an ass, like you're almost homeless or maybe have a DUI.

On the face of it, riding a bike at night is inherently dangerous. But there are also safety advantages. Cars' headlights give you cues. It can be less crowded.

It can also be more pleasant, especially in the summer. It's almost 10 p.m. now and the temps have only started to fall below 90'F. The breeze is refreshing, the pulse of city nightlife exciting.

When I go night biking, I feel in control. I know where everyone is, as far as moving vehicles. However, I tend to stick to the sidewalks more than usual. Also, I'm lit up like a Xmas tree. I believe in having two sets of lights in case the one fails due to batteries or something. This goes for front and back. Also lots of reflective tape on my cycle, packs, sometimes even my clothes.

Night biking. I'm for it. But don't be out too late---there have been some bad attacks on cyclists after dark. Be careful. Be aware. I feel a bit safer when mounted high on a bicycle than as a mere pedestrian. But I stick to neighborhoods that feel safe to me anyway. There are risks, but they can be managed for a rewarding night ride.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's a cruel, cruel summer

That little praying mantis drowned in a glass I left on the patio overnight :(

It's been a cruel, cruel summer as far as the plants go. I have seen temperatures on my patio as high as 113'F. I can't imagine transplanting anything from the hydro outside into that.

I think I need larger containers, in general. My poblano peppers aren't really doing anything.

My AeroGardens are growing various seedlings, and I have had an awful lot of duds among the seed pods. One of my AGs has just two plants, as they are both statuesque, budding beauties: a cherry tomato and a monstrously huge zucchini with leaves the size of small pancakes. Zucchini seems to be well suited to hydroponics. I wonder if my AG Classic will be large enough to house the full plant.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Animal kingdom


Bizarre start to the day. There was a dead frog in my kitchen. How does one get a dead frog in one's kitchen living in a 2nd story apt? He was covered in dust like he had crawled from under something; I wish I had gotten to him before he was all dessicated. How sad.

It was quite a day for the animals. Went for a bike ride by the river and spotted a little green grass snake. His head was about the size of a pea. It is odd how no one else on the trail seemed to notice him. These snakes are very inquisitive and I was afraid of him getting too close.

I later saw an osprey land up in the canopy. Afterwards, having a Miller Chill on my back porch, I noticed it was 92'F---at 9 o'clock. This was a half hour after the sun went down. The moon was the barest splinter in the pastel sky.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dis-Mayed


Suddenly it's June 1... May was filled with joyous events but before you know it, it's gone.

How are things im mein garten? Alles klar, Herr Kommissar? Well not really. It has been getting into the 100'F's on my porch, and the heat is really getting to my less-established plants.

My hops plant was not doing so good after I pruned it, attempting to get another one going with the pruning. It is leggy and some of the leaves at the bottom are yellow and covered in spider mites. I brought it inside under a grow light in case the heat was a factor, but I really have no idea what is going on or how to fix it. I might have been keeping it too moist. There is some brown on the tips of some of the leaves, which is usually a sign of dryness.

Some things are positively thriving outside. My lemon tree is going bananas, so to speak. It even has a few new blossoms! The little lemons are about half the size of ping pong balls, larger than marbles. They all look healthy. I have been watering the crap out of it. Ditto for my strawberry plant: it doesn't have any flowers or fruits, but is putting out a runner.

I have some new additions to the fambly. I started another AeroGarden 3 with green beans. These sprouted in just two days---not the six to eight days the label indicates. I'm taking that as a good sign. I would really like to get some protein into the urban homesteading equation, hence the legumes. The only other way I know to do this is grow mushrooms or raise chickens or something. I will be on the lookout in case a chicken falls off the 10:50 a.m. chicken truck that passes my house.

I have been having mixed results with my AeroGarden Classics. One of them has evolved into a sophisticated, successful, and diversified mini-garden with a magnificent cherry tomato tree (it looks more bonsai than bush), parsley (planted at Christmas (!), it's been thriving since I removed the basil), a couple of newly planted snow peas (no sprouts after two days), and a very precocious zuccini I grew from my own Burpee seed. The first zuccini I transplanted outside in a little pot got flowers but then it got burnt by the sun or perhaps excessive nutrients from the fish water. However, my newer zuccini plantings have been really taking off. I have been able to get them started quite easily just by placing them in some foam at the top of a water-filled bottle. It's that easy. I have a couple of plants floating on top of the fish vat outside, but the one in the AeroGarden is outgrowing all the others.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Speed blogging à la gwadzilla


urban homesteading
the gardens are looking a lot better
but it's a lot of work
labor intensive
life on a farm

the aerogarden 3 lacks (sorry but it does)

Hydroton is da bomb (thanks Red Icculus)

baby praying mantises on my mini purple peppers

nature on my side for once

first crop of coffee compost rich thick and sludgy
food for future poblanos
food for fridrix

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Friday, May 2, 2008

Another Pugsley

I saw another of the Pugsley diaspora tonight, parked outside a trendy Mexican joint called Yo Burrito (they should call it Slow Burrito). This one had the big tires all right, but the handlebars were of the beach cruiser variety, which I thought was odd. Sorry no picture. I looked inside for the owner; a cluster of bike helmets belied the party most likely responsible, a group of ruffians oft seen at yonder coffee house.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Charleston bike fitting vid

Rather than critique, I just repost: A sad little video with some redeeming feetures. DON'T FORGET THE LUBE.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rode to the mailbox

A nice bike trip to mail a document. There were a handful of fledgling wrens twittering in the bushes by the path. I tried to record them on my phone but the frequency was too high.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thyme in a bottle




Poets have often wondered if they could save thyme in a bottle. The answer is "oh hell yes." After about a week, the purple basil and chives are looking pretty good too. :o) (Not so much for the dill, but it was already ill.)

Basil outside and in the office




I have been experimenting with transplanting GrowPods into containers. Meet Basil. I was having a hard time keeping up with the basil, and I wanted to lower the lights in that unit so I could get other stuff started, so I yanked him out and put him in a vase, with my formula of one tablespoon coffee grounds (for nitrogen and carbon) and a little java moss (for oxygen). He spent some time indoors and out, even in the direct sun, and he looked OK for a few days. Now he's starting to look dried out though.

Fuel



I had lunch on campus yesterday. It was excellent, a half a "Napa County wrap" which involved grilled vegetables and some kind of Tuscan vegetable soup. But the portions were not terribly substantial, so I went for the dessert. Did I ever. Photo attached. No I did not finish the whole thing. It is a fresh-made chocolate cheesecake that uses a layer of plain cheesecake as frosting, topped with cherries. Probably weighed about three pounds.

Hops at two weeks


After two weeks, I have a serious little hops plant. Thanks, ABC.

Crisp and cool


No I'm not talking about my new AeroGarten lettuce. It's the weather to which I refer. Even though it was treacherously windy I snapped a pic on the bridge.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Somebody moved my Vitaminwater


I am having a hard time finding the Vitaminwater in the grocery stores of late. I see Gatorade and the SoBe spinoff LifeWater but no Vitaminwater. That is odd since you'd think their new owner The Coca-Cola Co. would have some channels. I need the Vitaminwater bottles for my 'dro projects and it tastes good anyway.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thorny branch



I was out walking by the river a couple of weeks ago when I saw this thorny branch and thought, "Damn, that is one thorny branch." I took a picture of it so you could say the same thing.

Heaven in springtime



With temps in the 80s'F, it's been like heaven in springtime around heah.

Hops a daisy


Seeking to alleviate the global hops shortage, I ordered some rhizomes from Alternative Beverage and damn if they aren't the liveliest little sprigs. I put this in a pot and it was sprouting leaves in a couple of days. I didn't refrigerate it or soak it or nothin'.

New pepper army


I believe peppers are the key to our future and have assembled this division of poblanos to lead the way.

A day in the sun



I put the original AeroGarden and the AeroGarden 3 out in the sun today for several hours. I didn't kill anything. Temps got into the mid-80s'F, and I thought it would be too hot for my vulnerable baby greens AG. While the pump was no longer circulating water over the roots, I expected them to stay moist since the tank was enclosed.

Here are the AGs with some of my seedlings and other projects. The AG is in the center with the flower. Front left are some poblano pepper plants; the one I put in the terra cotta pot has been flopped over for a couple of days but seems OK otherwise.

The original AG in the back has the original herbs kit in the middle, and the corners have tomato plants---the seedling on the left is from the cherry tomato kit; the colossus on the right is my Burpee BigBoy freak. On top of the AG on the left, you can see I have started making my own seedling cups out of newsprint, thanks to a tool recently given to me by my bro.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Aerogardens gone wild

My original AG is a mess: the dill is dying out, and there is a mutant Big Boy tomato plant hanging off the left side of it. On the other side I've got a single cherry tomato grow pod, breaking all rules of spacing and propriety. I removed the thyme and put it in a sports bottle as I did not use it that much. The Italian basil has grown completely to the top and I have to trim it to keep it from touching the lamps. I've resorted to giving the excess to acquaintances in a vain attempt to curry favor. Also, there are various seedlings and sick plants huddled about the periphery. It's a mess.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dyson vs. wasp

I have a method for dealing with stinging insects with a Dyson vacuum cleaner. I use the extensible wand and by the time it's near enough to the bug, it's too late for it to escape.

I applied this method to a paper wasp I found inside the storm door to my porch. While I believe in beneficial insects and nature and all that stuff, paper wasps are just to aggressive to allow a foothold near my guests. Heeding the advice of the Tao Teh Ching, to uproot things before they become big problems, I set out to nip this in the bud.

I suppose I should have been warned when the thing held its ground as the great wand of suction approached. Finally, at the last possible minute before I was actually poking a bee with a stick, the legendary filterless vacuum scooped up the hapless wasp and I felt a click as it bounced its way down the hose into the canister. Ah, the canister.

The transparent canister that lets you see what you've sucked up. I am very thankful for this feature. To my surprize, the thing has survived the 90g's or whatever force in those famous vortices within and is groggily stumbling to its feet. Usually this ordeal kills roaches or whatever bugs go in. Not this guy.

There is a fair amount of vacuuming debris already inside, so I can't just dump it out and step on it. I am afraid of it climbing out the opening in the top, so I replace the canister, and start vacuuming.

I vacuum my floor, in the hope the extra wind will slay the beast. After a few minutes, I look. I finally see a wasp, except instead of red and black it is a dirty gray from all the dust. It is walking, better than it was before. Not good.

I can't dump the cargo w/out making a huge mess, and I am afraid of clogging up the toilet with it, so I put the canister in my freezer in its entirety. I don't think it will kill it. It will probably just slow it down. There is an opening in the canister and it will probably crawl out to hide behind the ice cream, then fly out and sting me in the face when I open the door and the warm air revives it.

I figure I have to keep the door shut at least 24 hours to let it freeze. I can't have ice for my tea. The wasp is winning this one. I have a wasp in my freezer. I have a vacuum in my freezer. I'm an idiot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Transplants


I'm pretty sure my transplants will thrive in a sunny window. I can't say I haven't got pane for the thyme.

Catching up

I have not posted in a week but things have been happening with the AG's. Not all of them good.

My cilantro in the peat cups is doing very well, same for the zuccini, which is growing tall and a very dark shade of green. However, the tomato seedlings are all turning yellow. Is it chlorosis? Is it because I have not thinned them? Also, even some of the seedlings in my AeroGarden baby greens have dried up. Is it because they were crowded by so many peat pot stowaways? They seemed to be getting enough light. It says you don't have to thin them.

I have also been doing some top secret bike mod stuff.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Unattainable beauty



A Euro design house called Smeg has come up with its own product for countertop gardeners. It's called the Home Garden, and it's gorgeous, the supermodel of the category. I like the modular pots. I think you could stack a few next to each other to create a mini-greenhouse. That is if you have £900 to spend---each.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ridiculous

How many peat cups can you park on your AG? I'm up to 14 (in addition to the seven official seed pods in the unit). The little domes come in handy for this.

Easter

My Easter included some time cultivating; it was nice to be outside for a while, participating in the spring.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What the hell is this?



Is there another kitchen garden appliance on the scene? It's called the Ultimate Kitchen Gardener and it looks like a six-pod AeroGarden. I wonder if it is the same as the SpaceSaver6 that AeroGrow was supposed to be developing. Maybe they are running it through alternate sales channels (like HSN) to keep competitors from popping up.

Egglings


I don't know if they grow a lot of herbs, but they sure are cute. These excellent Egglings may be found at elseware.com

Friday, March 21, 2008

AeroGarden magic

My second attempt at cilantro is proving successful. I have made sure to keep the stuff moist, even putting a little clear plastic hat on the peat cup. Also, I've started a half-dozen pea plants pretty easily this way. The peas I planted outside in the dirt haven't done anything as it's still too cold.

Biking myth #1: China

Some cycling advocates are fond of saying what a biking Shangri-La China is supposed to be, but things I'm reading suggest it's not true any more. The reason bikes were so big there is that there weren't many cars until the 1990s. Now, the growing economy is putting more automobiles on the streets, and the government is accommodating them by in some cases banning bicycles from certain downtown areas. FYI.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thyme for a cool change

I am thinking about moving one of my herbs out of the AeroGarden as I am having a hard time finding uses for it. In theory it will still be there if I put it in a flowerpot, it'll just slow down. Then I can use the AG slot for more pressing priorities. I'd like to put it in a sunny window, but I haven't got pane for the thyme.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clever accessories for the AG3


I am very impressed with a couple of the new accessories AeroGrow has come up with for the little AeroGarden 3. There are accent vases that you can use to hold flowers from the AG3---apparently while they are still living happily in the grow pods. They also have a basket that will hold the whole bowl for use as a centerpiece.

These address a couple of perceived drawbacks of the AG3 while opening up exciting possibilities. The main drawback to the AG3 is it is a bit mechanical, techno-geeky, and appliance-looking. Also, while you have the flower pods on display in the vases, maybe you can stick some herbs in the AG3. Maybe you can use the vases as a way to grow things in a sunny window, sans AG. I've had good luck with cuttings so far, so I am very interested in trying this.

I would say these tools make the AG3 a very good gift for anyone who likes flowers. I'm specifically thinking of females. I'm also thinking of the vases as a way to exploit AG technology on the cheap (remember that the AG3 pods are a different shape than the original grow pods). I am very impressed with creativity of the AG designers; if I had $30 I would get this stuff.

Gas is the latte

Has anyone ever wondered whether gas might be some kind of status symbol? Obviously some people view their cars as ways to prove they are superior to the lowly masses. Do these people really care about how much gas costs, any more than they care about the price of coffee? Isn't it just another way to prove how important they are?

Monday, March 17, 2008

AG2 4ME




The Universe and a terribly generous friend have conspired to provide me with a second big AeroGarden (as opposed to the miniaturized AeroGarden 3 I mentioned earlier). I actually got this for Christmas but only recently set it up after giving up on trying to return it. The FedEx man left it at my door and sped away before I could answer, disappearing like a bandit. I tried to return it numerous times but was thwarted or refused. Like Caesar accepting the crown after thrice turning it down, so do I accept the electronic garland. [THANK YOU.]

So after three months I finally plug it in. I ordered some baby salad greens for it as I already have intense herb action in my original unit. It is supposed to be a mix, but all the seed pods have the same label. I think they are all going to be different plants though. It would be nice to know what is what for planning purposes. I'd like to just plant half of them---I mean I don't want to explode from eating too much salad---and maybe start a trade in surplus pods on eBay. I never did use the mint seeds from my original AG, as I am already growing a boatload of the salvia via soil and toil.

I have lots of other stuff going on right now, and I have been lagging behind in the blogging. I shall summarize. Working: new patio (meyer) lemon tree, PEAS!, tomatoes. The new greens sprouted after a couple days and then grew freakishly fast: a measureable difference in just a few hours (the two pics above were taken at noon and 8 p.m. on the same day). Not working or unsure: hops seed :(, zuccini in styrofoam egg crate near under AG3, green onions. The cilantro seeds bloomed but I think they dried out. It's odd to think that three months ago I had no AeroGardens, now they are a critical tool steering me into urban homesteading.

AG hacks that worked



I am happy to report a couple of my tricks for capitalizing upon the excess energy flow of the AeroGarden have proved fruitful. What you do is plant seeds in the little peat pots and set them in range of the grow lights. In this environment you have to water them every day; in some cases I recycled the little clear plastic caps that came with the AeroGarden seed pods.

Peas sprouted in a couple of days. So did cilantro, an herb that AeroGrow removed from its herb kit because it is so hard to grow! Hopefully it won't curl up and die on me.

The aquaponics experiment has also proved successful. Basil will root very well within a week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gorgeous weather

I really don't have the words to describe how lovely is an early spring day in yonder Carolines, nor will a crummy cellphone picture do it justice.

Fortunately I was able to get outside and enjoy it, picking up gardening supplies at yonder Hardware Hut and tackling a couple of repotting/planting projects. Thanks to Red Icculus I got some Hydroton clay pellets and used these as a top dressing for my wild strawberry and lemon tree, which moved into larger dwellings today. The clay pellets look very cool; if they provide a bit of moisture management insurance all the better.

This stuff is getting expensive though. I just dropped $41 on pots and implements.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Crisis and BIG BIG NEWS

The "Add Nutrient" light on the AG3. I think it is just a matter of adding a pill.

I have big news. Hops seed #22 actually sprouted! It is a wild, hairy little thing. This was one I preconditioned in the fridge for six weeks like the directions said.

In other news, the tomatoes are doing great, and the nearby coffee shop is giving me all their grounds. Much future growth forecasted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Instant aquaponics


I have also started an aquaponics experiment buy putting a basil clipping into a vase with a fish in it. It is parked in the light of an Aerogarden 3, which by the way warms up the water quite a bit; I'll have to watch that.

Back at the AG


Back at the orig AG, the tomato seedlings are leaps and bounds over their soil-bound brethren.

Off-label tomatoes sprouting


My "off-label" tomatoes began to sprout today, a couple of days after their in-Aerogarden counterparts (actually those are not company pods either). I am referring to the seeds I put in little peat pots clustered together next to the AG3. I call them off-label because they are an extracirricular addition to the approved Aerogarden application. Tomatoes seem to be the easiest plant to grow, ever. At this rate I should have plenty of seedlings to nuture or find new homes.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Precocious plant


The Mountain Meadow pods are supposed to sprout in 4 to 10 days (it sounds like they are hedging their bets, doesn't it?). The calendula was ahead of schedule, making its debut on the third day. It's definitely the alpha plant here.