20090530

The Garden Tour (Summer 2009)

A 17 minute tour of our garden. Wendy explains our process for growing food and exactly what we are growing here in southern New Mexico.

20090529

Crazy Cloud Day


Crazy Cloud Day
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have had storms threatening to give us more rain from each direction today. We actually had a east wind of 17mph (very rare) and a brief enjoyable sprinkle this afternoon. Wendy and I could not get over how good the clouds looked today.

Crazy Cloud Day #2

A Moment of Weakness?


A Moment of Weakness?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy has had packages arriving each day this week. Books, clothes, bed covers, CD's. Somebody seems to have broken down and bought a bunch of crap.

Creepy Alien Face


Creepy Alien Face
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Coming out of my morning coffee. I guess this was a strong batch.

Assembly Line


Assembly Line
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I have 4.5 Mini-D's so far. I had forgotten how enjoyable thru hole assembly is. With the exception of the processor this is all thru hole. The units have checked out good and are starting to ship out to customers.

Assembly Line #2 Assembly Line #3

20090527

First Mini-D assembled


First Mini-D assembled
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Say hello to Mini-D. This is my first printed circuit board battery desulfator. The unit is pretty small about 2.5" x 2" in size. I laid out the circuit last week and the printed boards arrived today. It took me about two hours to assemble and test the first unit. Oddly enough everything worked perfect. The pulsing sounds good (you can hear it whistle), the components are not over heating, I am able to pulse at 180mA while the other desulfators are only doing 60mA. At this point I'm just going to confirm a few more short tests then start selling these units. They will go for $50 each (assembled) and I'll post them up for sale next week. You can write a comment to this post if you think you want one. These units should do a good job of restoring neglected lead acid and Ni-CD battery chemistries.

First Mini-D assembled #2 First Mini-D assembled #3 First Mini-D assembled #4 First Mini-D assembled #5 First Mini-D assembled #6 First Mini-D assembled #7

Oxygenated Water


Oxygenated Water
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Last week one of my favorite blogs "Cool Tools" reviews the Lotus Sanitizer. I was pretty skeptical of a device that simply oxygenates water and claims to be a more effective cleaner than vinegar. Despite being skeptical I still went ahead and ordered one just to find out. Today the Lotus Sanitizer arrived and I had a chance to try it out. I went around the house spraying the oxygenated water on furniture, bathroom tiles, kitchen stuff, mirrors, windows, laptops, even my office desk. It seemed to be just as effective as the vinegar/water/ammonia mix we used to use on everything. I like that the sanitizer just smells like ozone rather than vinegar. It also uses very little power to generate the O3 (55W for 5 min). Here are the downsides.

- The unit costs $100
- My unit does not make it 100% full only 98% then errors out
- There is a "boost cartridge" that needs replacing at some regular interval
- The O3 only lasts for fifteen minutes in the spray bottle

Scaffolding Update


Scaffolding Update
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The scaffolding is working really well for us on the dome. We have managed to reach the hard to get to areas. It is a lot more comfortable to be sitting on the scaffolding than to be standing on the rebar all day.

Worm Maintenance


Worm Maintenance
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Every few weeks we need to check-in on the worms. They need some sand, more compost, and some sort of carbon. Right now the carbon is newspaper we shred up. The worms are watered daily, but this kind of maintenance is different. We managed to kill a bunch of worms that we were storing in a old cooler. Someone (not sure who) watered the worms, but didn't drain the water. The worms die if they can't breathe.

Oatmeal


Oatmeal
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have about 12.5lbs of oats. Wendy made oatmeal cookies the other day that turned out great. This morning I made oatmeal which is surprisingly fast and cheap. One cup of oats mixed with 2.5 cups of water bring to boil and stir for a few minutes. I added dates, cinnamon and brown sugar to my oatmeal. Wendy said it was too mushy, but she ate some.

Taos Swap


Taos Swap
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Saturday, June 6th there will be a Swap-O-Rama-Rama in Taos. Wendy and I plan on attending.

Pulling Coriander


Pulling Coriander
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy had been trying to decide the right time to pull seed from our bolted cilantro. Patience is a virtue. This photo does a poor job illustrating the difference between the first batch Wendy harvested and the second. Just wait until you see big green coriander seed balls.

Dome Lath Slow Down


Dome Lath Slow Down
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We have been moving at a snails pace on the dome. We have finally reach a point where specific areas are getting very difficult to access. The biggest headache has been the awnings. They tend to block out areas that would otherwise be easily accessible by ladder. We did manage to setup some scaffolding, but it hasn't actually helped yet.

Dome Lath Slow Down #2

20090525

Parsnips


Parsnips
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy is really into cooking parsnips. It is pretty uncommon to find them on restaurant menus. We usually eat them like french fries. I'm surprised they like our climate so much. The leaves look a bit like giant parsley.

Volunteer Tomatoes


Volunteer Tomatoes
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We get a enormous amount of volunteer tomatoes. Wendy is regularly pulling tomato plants out of beds we don't want them in. A few of our plants that have full light throughout the day already have fruit. All the others are at the flowering stage.

Volunteer Tomatoes #2

20090524

Lithium iRobot Battery Repack


Lithium iRobot Battery Repack
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

After months of watching my little robot vacuum friends slowly fade away due to their battery packs getting weak I finally had enough. I ripped apart three "dead" laptop batteries and both of my iRobot battery packs (dirt dog and roomba). Within a hour I have what I feel to be a elegant solution. A irobot which will run for over one hour on free batteries. Not only does the vacuum now pickup more dirt and pet hair than I ever recall it doing. It also weighs a lot less. Since I have changed from the Ni-MH chemistry these devices come with to lithium-ion I need to use my own charger on the batteries. I'm excited to go collect more "dead" laptop" batteries from thrift stores and convert some of my power tools to lithium-ion.

Lithium iRobot Battery Repack #2 Lithium iRobot Battery Repack #3 Lithium iRobot Battery Repack #4

Planting Sesame


Planting Sesame
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Don't worry, this post isn't about our dog. It is about our sesame seedlings which are looking strong. Wendy decided to move them out of the seed trays and into the east facing bed. That bed is still crowded with some winter stuff, but she yanked the radishes which went to seed without producing a actual radish.

Planting Sesame #2

20090523

New Moon == More Transplants


New Moon == More Transplants
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy pulled some of our seedling trays off the kitchen window shelves this afternoon. Now we have more watermelons, pumpkin, and cantaloupe in the ground. All of which were planted around the base of our young trees. I've read this is ideal to do during the new moon due to the high water table. We also received .57" of rain the last forty-eight hours which should help.

A Volunteer


A Volunteer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Not sure if we intentionally planted this sunflower. It is the tallest in the yard now peaking over our 6' front fence. Probably trying to get the setting west sun.

Rigging the Weed Whacker


Rigging the Weed Whacker
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The scythe does a good job of clearing thicker / taller weeds. The weeds that are thinner / lower weeds are best handled with cordless electric weed whacker. The big drawback to the cordless is the crappy batteries it comes with. I have not cracked the case yet, but I'm guessing 700mAh Ni-CDs stacked in series to get 18V nominal. That is not much juice. After we weed whack for ten minutes we kill the two factory batteries and have to wait until tomorrow. Today I tried rigging up a 18V lithium-ion car battery pack designed for RC cars and it seemed to run longer. I need to make a better connection to use this more often.

Rigging the Weed Whacker #2

Replacement Coffee Roaster


Replacement Coffee Roaster
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our Poppery II popcorn maker (used as a coffee roaster) has been slowing down on us. I can roast beens for 10 minutes and only obtain a light roast. While thrift store shopping this week I found a coffee roaster with the side vents for only $4. It looks identical to our poppery II except for the fluorescent green case. Our new coffee roaster is now burning beans if I leave them in for seven minutes. I hope we will not have to replace these units every year. I bet the heating element wears out.

Replacement Coffee Roaster #2 Replacement Coffee Roaster #3

Checking In on the Community Garden


Checking In on the Community Garden
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Lots of progress here. It is really nice to have a community garden to visit even if we are not part of it.

Checking In on the Community Garden #2 Checking In on the Community Garden #3

20090522

garlic

It seems an eternity from the time I planted this garlic back in November. Alas, it's ready. I picked the plants that had an equal part green and dried leaves. Overall the bulbs are smaller than one might get in the market, but this I'm told is to be expected when growing your own. They're lovely though! I also noticed that many are a single round large bulb as opposed to many cloves that make up a bulb. This too I'm told is common for the home grower. When I have enough I'm going to start making garlic braids. Oh, I also learned that garlic should not be washed. You can see in the pic the first two I picked I washed. Then I read that one should not wash it, just let it dry and thumb off the soil. I'm so excited to scratch garlic off my shopping list for the next 6 months (we probably grew 100 bulbs) and also to reclaim the garden space it's been taking up which will now go to sesame seedlings that are ready to go in the ground.

Irobot Battery Repair


Irobot Battery Repair
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

One of the irobot vacuum battery packs was no longer holding a charge. The robot would go green when plugged in, but would immediately die when vacuuming. I pulled the battery pack apart and noticed that two of the internal Ni-MH cells had reversed polarity! I did a .1A trickle charge on each of the reversed cells and dropped in a similar sized yellow Ni-CD cell. Now the whole pack is charging with a .1A trickle. I think I can recover this pack just from a single slow trickle charge and replacing the temporary AA Ni-MH I had been using.

Irobot Battery Repair #2 Irobot Battery Repair #3 Irobot Battery Repair #4

Some Much Needed Rain


Some Much Needed Rain
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Last night the sprinkles started. We have had a pretty regular drip drip drip going on for most of Friday. Late this morning the storm has been getting a bit stronger. I'm hoping we get at least a 100 gallons of rain water out of this deal. I bet a rainy memorial day weekend is going to effect the towns tourism.

Some Much Needed Rain #2

20090521

Garden Layout: Lessons Learned

This year I'm doing a couple of things differently based on what I learned last year.

  • a written garden plan so I know what I planted and where
  • a spreadsheet with each plants needs (temp, conditions etc)
  • I'm pulling volunteers (too many hybrids last year such as the bland and seedy cucalope)
  • almost all plants were started indoors as seedlings
  • a second and third round of the same seedlings were grown to replace any early die offs. this gave me a chance to fix errors such as locations with too much or little sun
  • various structures were built for special needs such as climbers or plants that need shade

The plan is always changing, as you can see it offers a good location for reminders of what will rotate in. I also used our trees as sites for watermelon, pumpkin, and squash. Last year these volunteered under the trees and did quite well so this year I'm doing it by design. Summer Garden '09 Layout

Mini-D


Mini-D
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

After months of dragging my feet on a battery desulfator I was finally ordered some circuit boards. I dumped all the bling that I was planning like data logging, voltage monitoring, led displays, and temperature monitoring. These are just raw desulfators with some PWM control at the firmware level. I'm trying to produce these for less than $60ea. It will just depend on how long it takes me to solder them up. These will be for sale next week if they pass testing.

Mini-D #2 Mini-D #3