20090730

What's New in the Garden

A few random updates. . . we just discovered that there are small watermelons all over the place! Yay! The bright pink flower was a gift, the only thing on our property when we bought it that was not a goat head (horrible weed with spikes). I've since saved seed and I now grow it in patches. It's called globe amaranth. And there's mikey with the century plant stalk we harvested yesterday. He wanted to kill me when I dragged him out to help me harvest it and he saw that it was almost 20 feet long and weighed a ton. But I think the effort was worth it! We're drying it out on saw horses and then will safely erect by my porch where we need some shade. These are like New Mexican holiday trees, garnished with lights and garland around the holidays.

Sesame's Beds


Sesame's Beds
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Walking around the yard I noticed that Sesame has "constructed" several sleeping areas for herself. First it was the clay pile during the cooler spring weather. I suppose the clay could radiate enough heat to keep her comfortable all night. As the weather warmed up she made a new bed in the papercrete and recently I found one in the shade behind our sand piles. She really does a good job of clearing out the materials to make room for herself. BTW, she rarely sleeps outside.

Sesame's Beds #2 Sesame's Beds #3

New Nalgene


New Nalgene
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've not used a Nalgene bottle to hold drinking water for at least two years. We had switched to glass for all of our drinking water. Since we had a few Nalgene containers I found they did a okay job holding frozen water so that we could toss them in a ice chest for road trips and camping. Unfortunately we managed to bust one Nalgene open from having too much water in it. Lucky for us Nalgene has a life time guarantee and issued us a BPA free replacement. I wonder what other toxins the new bottles have.

Baby IO's Recovery


Baby IO's Recovery
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Baby IO has been doing a pretty good job of recovering from his last cat bite. Wendy has been giving him calendula on the bite itself and a homeopath remedy orally. There was small hard spot around the bite which is most likely a puss filled infection. It has been subsiding into more of a scab. Glad to not have to go to the vet and deal with this one at home.

Baby IO's Recovery #2

Cure for the Squash Bug Attack

I hate to admit that twice a day I engage in a focused half our of killing. I kill my squash bugs every day. "It seems wrong in every way," I think as I leave the house knowing that I'm about to take many small lives in an effort to keep my squash plants alive (not to mention the melons!). All my other bugs I celebrate as I watch the diversity of the bug community advance each year. I welcomed the squash but at first, then I saw what it can do to a garden. It took out all my squash. I replanted and now my squash is back and strong and I'm fighting back. Everyone says kill them by hand every day and maybe you can win the battle. Then last week a friend gave me a few ounces of a curious product and suggested I try it on them. I diluted it 10 to 1 with water. I sprayed the bugs and they died in place instantly. The product is a non bacterial, bio degradable enzyme. I cant quite get my head around it even after reading about it on the company's site. They claim "safe for gardens, plants, children and pets." The picture with the brownish marking in the leaf's center represents where I sprayed. Keep in mind I sprayed in the AM and the hot NM sun likely fried the spot. Today I tried PM spraying. Check it out for yourself. The specific product on the site is Kleen Free Naturally. Kleen Free

Eggplant lasagna a la skillet

Today I tried an odd mix of cooking styles merged together into an eggplant parm made in a skillet with layers of home made pasta sheets like lasagna. Here's how I made it: I fried our garden's eggplant in thin strips breaded lightly with flour and bread crumbs. Then I layered this in a skillet with sheets of home made pasta, and smoked mozzarella (acting as glue holding it together). I sprinkled fresh marjoram from the garden in as I layered. I topped it off with the home made pasta sauce I made earlier this week and some shaved asiago cheese. I turned up the skillet for a bit until the cheese on top started to melt. PS: I did not use the two peppers in the pic, I just picked them while grabbing that eggplant! Wa la! Or should I say ooh la la!

Preserving Tomatoes

I'm getting the hang of it! This is my second round and we're now amassing a stock of tomato sauce to get us through the winter. Yahoo! It is time consuming and messy but rewarding. I followed most of the rules: sterilized the jars and lids, hot bath (low boil) 50 minutes, but I did forget to add lemon/lime juice and salt which I understand insures a good preserve. Fingers crossed!

20090728

Glowing Mountain


Glowing Mountain
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We had a crazy sunset the other day. Lots of storm clouds around us combined with the setting sun to make intense quality of light. We stopped eating dinner and ran outside to capture the moment.

Glowing Mountain #2 Glowing Mountain #3

A Century Plant Stalk


A Century Plant Stalk
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy referred to this as a miracle of nature. Quite a few century plants have shot up a nice stalks all around town. They occasionally get over 40' in height. We picked up this little one off the side of the road. Wendy has a plan to dry the stalk out and mount it beside our porch. It is impressive both how quickly these stalks go up and their strength.

A Century Plant Stalk #2

More Sauce Anyone?


More Sauce Anyone?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've been dehydrating tomatoes for days, but the next round will go towards tomato sauce. There are still more on the vines. I believe our dry monsoon free summer has helped speed up our tomato harvest. Last summer they tomatoes just sat green on the vine and we received a good amount of regular rain through July/August.

20090727

Tampon Alert System


Tampon Alert System
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

A local business has been having trouble with their sewer drain backing up. This is typically due to tampons getting flushed down the toilet and clogging the grinder pump. I was asked to build a text messaging system on top of their current alarm which consists of lights and horns. No trouble I thought. I was at least partially correct. Putting together the electronics and writing the python code were easy enough. What has turned out to be more time consuming than expected was working out the cases, wiring, and mounting. Next time I'm going to stay out of the installation business. Tampon Alert System #4 My solution was to use two Xbee modules. The remote module is stealing power from the existing alarms flashing light and it transmits data to a desktop computer when the alarm is triggered. The desktop has another Xbee receiver module and a python script which generates a text message and alerts the proprietor. Simple enough. Still has a few kinks around SMTP authentication and resetting the python script after a alarm incident, but it is pretty much done. Source, schematic, and flow diagram included.

Tampon Alert System #6 Tampon Alert System #2 Tampon Alert System #3 Tampon Alert System #5 Tampon Alert System #7 Tampon Alert System #8

A Few Grapes


A Few Grapes
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Despite my complaining about our grapes not doing well this year, we actually got another half dozen from the vines. Next year we will be on them for trimming. These are some pretty sad yields, but tasty.

Tubing


Tubing
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

One of our favorite summer past times is tubing down the Rio Grande. We drop in beside the Elephant Butte Damn and it takes about 1.5 hours to get out at Rotory Park near our house. The water is incredibly cold since it comes from the bottom of the lake. There are two small rapids and you always leave your tube with a pleasant numb butt feeling.

20090726

Do You Like Parsnips?


Do You Like Parsnips?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

You should...They kick ass. They are the most nourishing vegetable in the carrot family. Wendy likes to make them into long french fries cooked in olive oil with potatoes. Sage, rosemary and red pepper go well with them. They are great for autumn. This is our first round mixed with onions. Ours might not be so great since our soil is pretty warm. Apparently they get sweeter with cooler soil temperatures.

Black Gold


Black Gold
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We had not fed our worms anything for the last couple of months. We finally got around to giving them some additional compost today. They did a excellent job of breaking down everything from the compost pile and turning it into black gold.

Black Gold #2 Black Gold #3

Cat Bite


Cat Bite
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our cat IO got bit again. Not sure if it was yesterday or today. We treated it with soap, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. It looks like another cat got him in the neck and that means possible infection. We have to keep checking around the byte to see if it gets hot or swollen in the next few days. Also his behavior is a big deal. It's too bad this cat keeps getting bit.

20090725

Kicking It with Mom


Kicking It with Mom
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

My mom stopped in for a visit to TorC this week. We showed her our relaxation routine of gardening, swimming, tubing, movies, and meals. She is off to Lakewood, WA now and we will resume our usual work schedule starting tomorrow.

20090722

Seasame on Make and Craft Blogs


Seasame on Make and Craft Blogs
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Our dog Sesame managed to make her way into the lime light again. She was featured on both the Make and Craft blog this week. Wendy and I wrote up a story in early July about how to make doggie treats that humans can eat too.

Scary Spider


Scary Spider
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I spent a long hour cleaning up the battery dome. The batteries needed water and a wipe down. It would have been easier if a black widow had not been the first thing I saw when I walked in. This one looked particularly threatening with with it's long legs extended on the web detecting bugs. It is dead now.

20090721

Cheap LCD


Cheap LCD
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've been trying to get the cost of my electronics projects down. The most significant savings I've found so far is to use processors with a single UART (atmega169 which goes for $3.81) and to avoid LCDs with a serial interface. This meant I had to get used to using the Hitachi parallel interface for writing to the LCD. It wasn't a big a deal and now I'm saving $7 on each processor and $12 on each LCD. I found this site the most concise and functional for connecting a Hitachi LCD to a raw AVR part.

Tomato Canning


Tomato Canning
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy is canning some tomatoes tonight. We had been struggling to keep up with the tomato growth and this canning is our latest solution. Should be nice to enjoy our own sauce throughout the winter.

Tomato Canning #2 Tomato Canning #3 Tomato Canning #4

Fridge Air In-Take


Fridge Air In-Take
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I had been vacuuming the plastic air-in take cover at the bottom of our refrigerator on a regular basis for years now. It felt good thinking I was keeping our energy star unit running at full performance level. Today I was shocked when I pulled off the cover and saw a mountain of dust around the coils. Looks like just vacuuming the cover plate was ineffective in stopping the build up of debris around the coils.

Mesquite Milling


Mesquite Milling
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Still hacking up mesquite pods. I'm up to about .7lbs after three collections that I did while walking the dog. The flour goes a long way so if I can get to 2lbs this season I'll be thrilled.

Melon Screwup


Melon Screwup
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy picked up a melon from the grocery store. When we chopped it open we were shocked to see a commercial hybrid. Cantaloupe innards and honeydew skin. It is nice to see how commercial farmers make the same mistakes that we did last year with our melons.