Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Monster - 2009 Garden Stunner

So, I followed the guidelines for soil preparation put forth in "How to grow more fruits and vegetables" using the "grow bio-intensive" method. It was a lot of hard work as the soil here is just about 100% clay. But, judging by the pictures below, it was worth it. Not only did I have a bumper crop of radish seed pods, tomatoes and acorn squash, my carrots, which never do well in the clay, were phenomenal!

Check out this ginormous specimen.

2 inches wide...

16 1/2 inches long.

What's most interesting is I did have some of the short carrots I usually get - notably orange. The Big Carrot of 2009 and many of its lanky brethren were quite pink on the outside and yellow on the inside, and much sweeter than the usual orange carrots. And the seed all came from the same package.

While preparing the soil was a lot of work this spring, turning the garden under by hand today was a dream. The texture of the soil is so rich and light from not having been walked on all summer. It's going to be amazing for our next year garden. I'm toying with the idea of putting in some winter wheat but I don't know where to get it in seed form.

Some things did not do well in the dense planting plan used with the double dug soil. Beats, swiss chard and onions did not quite take to the soil. In the past, with mostly just tilled clay, we've had tennis ball sized beats. This year produced only acorn to ping-pong ball sized specimens. The swiss chard I think cares more about space around it than the depth the soil is dug to as they typically put down very deep roots even in hard soil.

Other good performers were lettuce and Basil. Lettuce I planted from seed and the basil from starts. I took the opportunity to harvest a good about of the basil seeds so maybe we can grow it from seed next year.

Another great performer was the purple bush beans. We had plenty to eat from 20 bushes and I was able to get a good number of seeds from what dried on the vine to start us out next year. Will probably put in 60 plants next year and try to put them on the menu more often.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reproductions, Rapidly

This, to me, is insanely cool. The RepRap project, based in the UK, has free plans and software for MAKING your own 3D Printer! Yes!!!

I had been toying with the idea of making my own 3D extrusion mill, but this is a much more efficient approach as you only use material that you need rather than obliterating that which you do not need.

It is not a task for the meek, however. There are parts to buy, circuits to solder, and the thing itself to assemble. Still - for the determined, what an amazing device. Many years ago I wrote a mechanical doctrine of cell style community interconnectedness and partial self sufficiency. The underlying premise was that if you had a prescribed set of mechanical devices within a small collective, there was almost no need that could not be met. Having a Mendel RepRap device would potentially reduce that number, or at the very least make the upkeep of said devices much more simple.

This is one I may have to set aside time and funds for, maybe this winter. Certainly intriguing!

Update: Well, trolling through tonight has been a gold mine. Here I find, in addition to RepRap mentioned above, CupCake CNC. I think I'm going to faint.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tips from the Shop: Recyled Ear Plugs

Getting my shop in order was one small oasis of peace and tranquility in my otherwise chaos ridden world. Having had some time to play there (every man should have a play place!) I managed to snap some pics of little tips I came upon as I was going about being resourceful in my quest to do things that are fun.

Today's tip is making your own comfy recycled ear plugs - without the wax. :-) Yeah - the first thought I have when I hear "recycled" and "ear plug" is --- eeeeww! Well, stop wasting money on those throw away foam inserts that just get sticky and gross and then lost, dirty, found, washed in an attempt to salvage and then tossed.

Start keeping the ruined shirts you would throw away due to stains, tears, or other conditions that render them undesirable as clothing. I have kept a few torn pairs of jeans, a few shirts ruined by bleeding colors in the wash and the like.

From one such shirt, I chose a soft bi-layer cotton rayon mix, I cut strips of cloth about two inches long and a half to three quarters inch wide using, of course, tin snips. It's a manly shop - we can't do with ordinary scissors!

Pencil provided for size comparison.

Just role this up like you would a very stout cigarette....
... and twist it into your ear canal in the direction of the wrap.They fit my ears quite well at the size specified and cut noise from the table saw by about half. Some important notes - the cloth is wider than my ear is deep - important! You don't want to stuff something in your ear you can't get out! Also, the cloth is soft and of a material I am not allergic to. Use your good and common sense when using make-do safety gear!