Monday, September 28, 2015

I've got WORMS!

Just when I thought I'd extended the ideas of being more of an Urban Gardner, I'm clearly on my way to becoming a homesteader.

The Hydro and Earth gardens have done extremely well this year and of course I continue to learn as I go.  With the addition of some new vegetables (squash), and fruits (strawberries), and spices (a bunch) the garden is quickly becoming a nice source of fresh ingredients and minimizing the trips to grocery stores.

So what's next?  for starters I've decided to already start planning out the garden layout for 2016.  We are planning to almost double our edible growing space with some new raised beds and DIY-SIP earth boxes.  I'm very happy with the Hydro setup. Surprisingly, even though I have a 75 gallon setup just for the hydro of nutrient enriched water storage, it still goes through most of that in less than a few weeks.  The system works great, it's just that I've expanded it so much that once fruits and veggies start blooming it just drinks and drinks :) but that's a good problem to have because the rewards are plentiful and the crops bloom quickly.
I've decided that for 2016 I'm going to keep the current size and crops for Hydro the same footprint size and will instead focus on more creative planting for earth bound edibles.  Since our dirt in Oceanside is crap I decided to see how I can "grow" my own more enriched crap!  Through the beautiful magic of WORMS... big fat squishy ones, little bitty skinny ones.. lala la la la lalala...

With the garden season soon slowing down just, a bit I figure it's time to start harvesting something that can build up during the rainy season and be used for the first 2016 crops. Worm castings, Vermiculture and Vermicomposting by it's proper names.  While our garden has done very well it also meant we had an abundance of green waste.  I was not happy with the time it was taking to breakdown enough for useable compost by our standard compost bin.  Generally it would be about 12 months before we had useable stuff from the bin.  Worm casting are an incredibly dense and rich plant nutrient, plus worms can eat their body weight in waste.  Double good news then.  Worms love our garden waste of fruits and veggies plus they will turn that into uhmmm... something Delicious!? Crap for my plants!

Since I don't usually do anything in a simple form, I of course researched for weeks about worms and farming of them.  We decided on a wood worm bin because they are way more functional when you think of the cycle of life for a tree.  Plus wood has several terrific inherint properties that benefit this little eco system of worms.  Additionally scrap wood is free, people give away the coolest stuff on Craigs list (Too bad that beautiful Oak desk just got massively severed by my saw).  The bright side is that what may have gone into landfill has now been re-used and converted into a beautiful two bedroom worm condo.

Look!  It's a bench or table top... or is it...

Yes to both above answers.  This is a strong oak based new bench that will be perfectly happy living outside or in the garage, inside is a wonderful worm habitat where scraps will now be diverted after dinner.
  After doing the math based on poundage of potential worm food we create each week, we are starting our farm with about 1,000 (verified) Red Worms which are specific to this type of composting.  These are not native to North America but will be used specifically just for harvesting castings, as they wouldn't have much use or benefit inside my garden beds.  Perhaps if they populate too profusely they may be used to feed fish (in a future Aquaponic setup).  Perhaps I'll farm some extra wigglers if any local friends want to give this a whirl.

Happy Farming and let's hope this experiment pays off.  It will be amusing to see how quickly they eat up what goes in.  They got the first feeding and Condo introduction last night so we'll see how things go over the next few months and try to report back.

Monday, April 27, 2015

HydroGarden 2015

Last year was a learning curve with hydroppnics.  Despite it being completely unknown to me, the result was a total success!

So I decided this year to ramp things up and I'm excited for the possibility.  I've doubled the number of Bato style buckets being used and also cleaning up my Kratkey rafts and buckets, also expanding those as well to experiment with some spices in a smaller reservior.  Also started a Horizontal tube of strawberries and added a climbing wall for the cucumbers and cantaloupes.

Here are some pics of the started garden and I'll get some more after a few months when we should see a dramatic difference.  I've expanded what works and added some more experimental buckets and plants... we'll see how it goes.

(asttempted) Overhead pic

Floating Lettuce Rafts and Spice tube above (no medium)

Winterized buckets from 2014 already growing for this year

New drip buckets, climber veggies and potato buckets

Strawberry tube in front of fence, climbing wall on right

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Javelina Jundred Day of the Dead costume - Success!

I'm not really going to eleborate or blog on the event itself as my crew had a tragic incident happen due to some extremely negligent people, and we are still and will continue to deal with the aftermath for the months to come.

Rather here is just a quick recap of some pics and my test video of the El Wire costume.  I did run about 60 out of my 100 miles in this costume, and I think it looked really cool and was totally worth the $$ and endless hours put into the design.  Unfortunately I did not "win" the costume contest and have no idea or pictures of what or who DID win it, but that's ok because what I did was appreciated by those who saw it and that's all I ask for.  Besides, I'm sure that whomever won the contest probably had a pretty cool costume, just wish I could have seen it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

JJ 100 'Dirt Nap Gaucho'

Good Ole' Atomic Number 15.  For those who love science you have to appreciate an element that makes things glow; Phosphor.  Add some super basic electrical concepts to it and whala, you have ElWire in all it's fragile glory.

Ive used El before but in very small projects and always on something somewhat stationary.  Add to the confusion and problems of not just wearable electronics but stretchy fabric that you intend to be very active in over a consistently long period of time.  The intelligent short attention span person would smartly step away.. Uhmm, maybe run away from such a task.  At least you would if everything had to be done by hand and you had zero helper hands.  Somehow in my alternate reality state (think, Steve Jobs) I could only envision how super awesome it would be and what kind of reception it would get from others if I could pull it off.

In comes my vision of what you already saw in my first post, the painting of running tights and top to try and make a "Day of the Dead" themed costume.  The painting came out fine and to make it even cooler I layered all the bone structure with a glow in the dark textile paint.  The effect of that is way better than I had expected.  I just finished the running top with the wiring and what a pain in the ass it was to figure out how to make El work with stretchable fabrics.  After trying a couple of different things I finally landed on what I think is an excellent solution.  I sliced tiny 1/4" segments of a 3/8 clear pond pump vinyl tubing.  Let me back-up, sewing El straight to fabric was just fine until I tried to put on the tights and "stretched" all the stitches out and broke some El connections in the process.  I needed a free floating solution while still trying to outline the bones.  Originally I wanted to outline the full bone on each body part but later determined one line of El is plenty due to cost and time constraints.  For those who've used El before you can appreciate that I had to strip, find, solder, sand, and connect more than 85 segments of El for just a mere 29ft of wire.

Picture on right better explains my method.  Best part is it not only can account for the stretch of the fabric without putting strain on the delicate El Wire but as segments break I can just cut it out and re-insert a new piece without having to sew :) YAY because my fingers are trashed from all the needle threading and trying to strip and solder all those dam angel hair connectors around the copper wire.

Just the top of shirt took about 22 hours of labor and thankfully the pants will be so so much easier as they have only 1/8 of the connections.  To help keep the wires in place a bit I just used a dab of hot glue for a spot-weld, works GREAT.  Though most of the costume is still yet to be finished (and I only have about six hours to do it) I consider the short to be by far the most difficulty and pain staking, but it came out so well I'm confident the rest will come together with ease.. even if I just have to slap it all together with safety pins.

I have gone through running motions with wire attached and did have to make a change to where the joints are.  For those areas I used 26gauge stranded wire for it's very nice flexibility and to prevent any "breaks" in the phosphor coating.  I'm pretty confident everything will hold up relatively well and best case scenario is I'll try to wear this for 55 or more of my 100 consecutive miles being run.  I'll get some video posted to better show the "Tron" aspects my self proclaimed "Dirt Nap Gaucho" costume, but here's a couple pics with lights on and off.  BTW - get it.. Dirt Nap as in Dead, as in Muertos.  Gaucho because I should have some hand sewn accoutrement's to depict the old style of Spanish Cowboy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Javelina Jundred and Day of the Dead

Coming up rather too quickly for me will be my second running of the JJ100 in Arizona.  This is a really terrific race with super support and and a fun vibe that represents what Trail Running should be.  I felt like everyone out their was just having fun and do the best they can.

It's also a bit of a costume contest being that it fall on Halloween weekend.  What's really cool are all the awards are in the "Dia de los muertos" theme.  It sounds crazy but last year I also decided to run the race for fun and participated in costume.  Seeing as I traditionally don't take the easy route I decided to make a costume to suit my tastes and creative freedom.  Several of my friends who were running also decided to costume-up.  We decided on the group theme of super heroes and villains, i went as the Riddler and gave my costume it's own flair with a touch of home made silkscreen and some remnants of el wire.  It was not only a thrill that the costume actually came out good but I also won the costume contest and brought home a slick hand made trophy.

This year I've decided to try and notch one up on the costume.  Again I could not find a costume or pieces of what I wanted to suit my themed goal... so once again, I'm making it from scratch.  After a couple of visits to the fabric stores and a few of my favorite online Maker sites I've got all the pieces.  The critical part and lesson learned (the hard way) last year was NOT to make the costume one piece, as it was a real pain in the ass to disrobe every time I had to pee.  This year, 2 pieces!  I picked up a cheap running top and using some old running tights that have been sitting around for years I have the basis for a skeletal print.  You would be surprised that nobody sells a front and back print of a skeleton outfit.  Not to worry as a little research and proper fabric paint will yield exactly what I'm looking for.  I may not be the best artist in this medium but I'm proud of it being home made, and not only that, once it's all put together it will certainly have some 'Wow' factor... 'course that's assuming the vision in my head can be physically reproduced even part way.  We'll know in a couple of weeks.

My biggest concern is that I want to keep as authentic as I can since this particular outfit I'm creating could be construed slightly controversial amongst cultural beliefs.  True celebrations of Day of the Dead are held passionately with the people that take part in the tradition.  It's a celebration of the lives that were lived by ancestors.  Since the race actually begins on the first day (of the two day) celebration I wanted to honor the day in my own way.  It's with hope that it does not offend as I'm not trying to take away from the heritage of this day, nor poke fun at it.  Personally I think it's a wonderful way to deal with lost ones and revisit and honor the great lives they hopefully lived.  My twist is to take a sort of Caballero style and give it some modern day electronics seeing as I'll be using it mostly at night in the middle of the dessert while I'm all alone.

Here is a bit of progress so far:

Painting is completed and now begins the testing of the el wire and lots of fragile soldering and sewing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weber Genesis Grill restore is Done!

After a few weekends and lots of scrubbing, drilling out rusted bolts and sanding, etc.. I'm really pleased with the final result.

This may not seem like much to most people but it's the first time (on something non electronic) that I tore down to the bare nuts and bolts, literally.  I learned a lot and had a blast seeing my "new" grill take shape.  My 1985 Weber grill is like new and I'm anxious for my first real cookout on it.

Enjoy the before and after:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Refurbishing an "Ol' Redhead" - Weber Genesis that is

The much older Weber grills featuring a Red Hood or lid are affectionately known amongst grilling\bbq enthusiasts as the Redhead.  I've learned a tremendous amount about grilling\bbqing in the last month or so.

Our 9 year old Charbroil, which should have only been kept or used for a few years finally gave its last flare up!  The burners have long since burned up (likely as metal mercury flavoring in my steaks, yummy) and for the last several weeks I've been "molding" burners from aluminum foil for each cookout, what a pain and waste.  So the search began for used grill to just get us by.  In my searching, researching and ad perusal I'd like to think I became educated on being a better grill consumer.  My research quickly surfaced the Weber brand to be the default must have grill.

Price points seemed high but then again so is a stove\oven, which likely gets used just as much, at least for those of us lucky enough to live in California.  Over several weeks I started searching exclusively for a used Weber and yet still they are not cheap nor easily found.  Seems just like car makers and such Weber has a strong fan-base.  Due to their similar model creation since they started back in the 70's (I think) and high availabilty of parts regardless of model year, people love to hang on to their Webers and fix them up.  For me this was a great sign and confimed my decision to attempt for a Weber purchase.   A few Craig List ads got away from me as when one does show up, it does not last and was always sold before I got a return call.  I continued to scour and crawl listings and to my delight was the first to respond on a pretty "Redhead" Weber Grill still available.  Even luckier is that it was actually still in working condition and was covered much of the time... though clearly still needs work!  We gladly gave the guy his requested $60 for this beauty and hauled it away.  Included he gave us a full propane tank along with genuine grill cover, what a deal!

Seeing as I've been without a grill now for over a week I'm really anxious to get this one cleaned up and fired up.  Thus begins the rehab.

After a couple of days or finding parts and talking to Weber I learned this grill was originally purchased between 1985-1988 and is a Weber Genesis 3 (though a manual I found declares it as a Genesis 3000 Platinum C), what excellent years those were to start with so I how can I go wrong on this one.  I've never done this kind of rebuild but it seemed like a cool thing to do, and hopefully not easy to screw up.  Since they don't make this color or wood slat style anymore, I thought it'd be a cool classic look in the yard.  After researching the current year model it looks like really small differences except for the exteriors.

Ahh a beautiful way to start my Sunday, a cold beer (or three), great sunny day and a few hand tools.

Another beer and some power washing later I'm really happy with how well this one is cleaning up.  Still some work to do with sanding, scraping more layers of 2,000 heat resistant paint, and perhaps another beer!
I completely gutted this thing down and did my best to maintain what I could to keep some costs down.  Even though these are older parts are expensive but U.S made (before Weber started facilitating production out of China) and durable.  With the new Stainless Steel parts on order I can see this grill getting another easy 10-15 years of use with proper maintenance.  Hope to be done in another week or so once the new grates and bars get here.  For now enjoy my redhead fully undressed :P

She's getting some new make-up,  ain't she puuurrty Jethro?