Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
After a pretty hard freeze the other night, I went out to check on my little toy that has some things planted in it. Man, the glass was iced over. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a bad thing, but we'll just have to see. If any of my readers have experience with coldframes, please feel free to chime in at anytime - because I don't know anything about using one! I'll learn, though...
Photo below - here's a shot of the current contents, which includes seeds of carrots, lettuce, pansies, cabbage, and collards. I just had to try something in there...Oddly enough, it's the pansies that i'm really looking forward to growing. I've never grown a flower from seed before. They're planted in yogurt cups located in the white colored tray....
Photo below - I built another one! Ha! Hey, you know if I have 4 days off from work - something's gonna get built around here...Oh, I was careful not to aggravate my current back problem. I really enjoy making these things, but won't make another one - I promise. heh.
Here's a shot of it opened up. It's a little different from the first one constructed, but like the first one - made entirely from scrap lumber laying around. My wife can't stand looking at my pile of scrap, but it sure does come in handy sometimes. Hmmm....I wonder if there's enough left to make a third one....Nah, just kidding...Two's enough!
And for you dog lovers out there, here's a photo of ol' Jude. She's such a good dog, and can't wait for me to get home each day. We're big buddies, and had a great weekend!
Take care, and happy gardening!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Photo below - check out these massive posts that will be used for the framework which will support the compost turner. For size reference purposes, a piece of 4x4 post was laid on top of one, and you can plainly see that they are quite massive. At a full 6", the 12ft long poplar posts weigh somewhere around 250 lbs., and will be kinda tricky to get in there respective locations (vertically of course).
Photo below - Just from the color alone, there's no mistaking these boards. Western red cedar....At a full 1" x 6" dimension, these will be added to the ones currently in use for the 4x25ft box - making it 14" deep in the end. It'll be filled with the current batches of homemade compost, as well as a 4 cu.ft. bag of coarse grade vermiculite. I just love the look and smell of this particular wood. It won't look like that for long, though...
I hope everyone's weekend was fruitful, as you surely know that I stayed quite busy. I took it easy, though. With the backbrace on, I gently eased around doing some things that normally occupy my time. It's definitely healing, and I will continue to refrain from doing any hard manual labor.
Take care, and happy gardening.
Man, this shed is proving to be exactly what I needed to keep all of my things in order. These particular views are of my propagation and gardening section, which has allowed me to group everything together in one area. Previously, things were scattered everywhere in various locations on the property, and I know it drove my wife crazy. (as does most things I do) Oops!
Photo below - Here's my many fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides used for the yard, garden, and fruit trees. I've accumulated just about one of everything, as you can plainly see. That black colored bottle is my favorite "aggressive" pesticide, because it's every bit as good as sevin, but much cheaper.
Photo below - the propagation chamber in its final location. Many of you haven't seen this thing before, but it works really good, and is a completely self-contained propagation system. It has 2 T8 light fixtures inside (fully adjustable), and thermostatically controlled with 2 fans mounted in the top. As stated in an earlier post, it will be sold after this next tomato plant propagation cycle, and will hold a total of thirty six 16oz. cups, or two 1020 flats - whichever you prefer. I really like the unit, but need more capacity for selling plants to the public.
Photo below - Here's another unit I built from an aquarium stand. At 2 feet long, the lights themselves costed around 100 bucks. Yeah...that's what I said.The capacity is the same as the chamber..It'll most likely be sold as well,....Why you ask? Because i'll eventually build a system that will hold 600-800 seedlings, that's why. Hehe....The whole "think of a better idea while building something" got me again....If you only knew the torment I go through while designing or building something, it would probably shock you....
Finally, relocating the propagation chamber cleared enough space in the old playhouse to allow storage of the growing medium used in the earthtainers. This is good, because i'll use the same mix year after year....See those cat litter buckets? Those are some of the ones that were saved from our own personal use, and will be used for growing tomatoes in next spring. I only get about 1 bucket a month, so it takes me a long time to save a significant amount. BTW, the cat litter companies are gonna phase out using plastic buckets, and instead package it exclusively in the boxes made from cardboard material. What a bummer....Oh well, at least I have saved enough over the past year to make 6 swp's from, and of course use them in the garden.
I'll also extend the homemade ledge that the earthtainers sat on last summer at least 5 feet. This will be used for accomodating several swp's made from buckets. (Mine, not the ones for the workshop).
Take care, and happy gardening!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Anyway, on Sunday another improvement was made to the first coldframe constructed a few weeks ago, by applying weather stripping and backer rod to the areas of window that would allow cold air to come in at the edges. More improvements are on the way, but I wanted to show this one to ya for now. These two things were picked up at Lowes.
A closeup of the 3/4" weatherstripping at the top. You can tell that it seals very nice, but the triangular hole below it will need attention as well. A small piece of weather stripping on the bottom side of the window frame in the photo should do the trick.
Here's a closeup of the backer rod installed into the groove of the window encasement. A generous bead of caulking was applied first - then the backer rod pushed into the groove. This provides an adhesive for the foam backer rod, as well as forcing the foam rod out past the edge of the window. This was necessary to make a good seal with the side of the box, when the lid is closed. This idea was thought of while playing with Jude one evening. Come to think of it, that's when I get all of my best ideas - while playing with Jude.
I even found a good spot for it, right where the earthtainers were previously located. The area gets alot of sun even in winter (at least 6 hours), and the little coldframe fit perfectly onto the landscaping timbers. I also lined the entire area with scrap pieces of roof shingles (from the shed project), which will keep weeds from growing. That just goes to show, that almost everything that gets put into the landfill can be used for something. There might even be enough room for a second coldframe, which has yet to be constructed of course. However, over the next 2 weeks that will hopefully change. I'll at least get all the pieces cut for it, but won't do anything strenuous of course.
The gap at the bottom/front was filled up with a scrap piece of lumber after this photo was made, and all other cracks were sealed off with foil tape. Now, I can monitor the internal temps of the unit, and adjust ventilation as needed.
As a matter of fact, I went ahead and winter sowed some viola seeds in it. Oh, i'm enjoying this coldframe/winter sowing thing, because it's a piece of cake. This little dude will see alot of action over the next 4 months, as I intend on starting lots of veggies in it. I'm working on designing a homemade opener that works off of temperature, but all of the components priced so far are way too expensive. It'll come to me one day, I'm sure. Even though most people just go out and buy one of those automatic openers, I would be more satisfied with something created by these hands, and thoughts.
*Just to let you know - I haven't forgot about the 4x4 greenhouse project. It's not time for it to be used, so the project has been put on the back burner for now. The next time it will be addressed will probably be around the end of March/first of April, as I'm sure it will be needed for holding the larger transplants once they outgrow the propagation units. Man...we've just got all kinds of things going on around here, but a busy EG is a happy EG. All of the current projects need to be finished before early spring, because gardening will take up most of my spare time then. (which isn't too far away)
Take care, and happy gardening.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Anyway, I decided to tackle the clumped up grass clippings that remained in the center bin, as well as add shredded leaves to all three. In the photo below, you can see how bad some of the clumps were. Oh gosh....it was a mess to deal with, let me tell ya!
Photo below - the one on the right was easy - just added shredded leaves to it, then watered the pile.
Thankfully, the pile of leaves out front has been reduced drastically, and I know my Dad is ready for them to be gone. I ran a water line in his house over the weekend - so maybe he'll be ok with the pile for a few more weeks. I'm sure it'll be just fine....
Lastly, I took advantage of those apple cores from the recent apple butter extravaganza, and added them to the barrel that I cursed repeatedly 2 years ago. This is the final time to try this stupid thing, as i'll really watch how many "greens" are added to it this time.
In other news, I am injured again. Excruciating back spasms have me down for the count right now, and i'll have to take it easy over the next 2 weeks. That sux, because I was really wanting to get started on the construction of the compost turner. Pain medication, muscle relaxers, heating pad, and a back brace are my best friends right now. As you can imagine I've worked extremely hard my entire life, and will have to reduce the workload one of these days. I just keep forgetting that I'm not 21 anymore.......
Take care, and happy composting
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
***Revision - the I-beam will not be mounted underneath a 6x6 as the picture suggests, but will span the distance alone. I just had to change that....sheesh. OCPD drives me crazy sometimes.
This entire structure will be connected by pretty large fasteners, because we certainly wouldn't want it to have movement in any direction. Now, let's talk about how pulleys can create a mechanical advantage.
To lift the weight off the ground as shown in the picture below, a person would have to exert a pulling force on the end of the rope that is equal to how much the object weighs. "Work" is rated in ft. lbs, or newton meters - this one of which is depicted by the latter of the two. This setup has a mechanical advantage of "1", which can be multiplied by adding more pulleys. You can read all about Archimedes and how mechanical leverage works Here .
However, if the pulley is allowed to move upward as the rope is pulled, then the mechanical advantage is "2".
Now, let's talk about gear reduction. Gears are used to reduce speed, change direction of motion, and multiply turning forces. My apparatus will utilize 2 of these : reduce speed and multiply force. Since a typical 4 pole electric motor turns at 1800 rpms, an auger turning that fast would probably (a) be dangerous, (b) be limited to the amount of horsepower applied to it, and (c) also make a huge mess! I'm sure Jude would enjoy compost flying everywhere, but I wouldn't! So, slower is better - and the added benefit of extra force is good, too! To get the reduced output speed of the gearbox, I simply took the motor nameplate rpms (1725) that will be driving it, then divide that number by the ratio of the gearbox (160:1)
1725 divided by 160 = 10.78 rpms will be applied to the auger
In the process, the torque of the output shaft has been multiplied as well. The formula used to find the torque value is : motor torque x gear ratio = torque
(1.5 ft.lbs.) x (160) = 246 ft.lbs.
This is the actual force that will turn the auger, which will be doubled (by increasing motor horsepower) if not strong enough to get the job done. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, but I imagine it's gonna work pretty good.
Potential problems -
I can already think of 2-3 potential problems that might be encountered when this crazy contraption is turned on - which mainly involve the auger staying stationary as it drills down into each pile.
1. Bouncing (since the power unit is not rigidly connected to the overhead frame)
2. Walking (as Tom pointed out in the comment he left for part 1)
3. Some other unforseen problem
The only one that troubles me is bouncing, because there's not much that I can do about that. However, the possible "walking" issue is easily fixed, should it become an issue. The fact that it will turn at a slow speed will help matters - I can tell ya that much.
Anyway, part 3 will have current progress photos of the project, and the last post will be a video of it in action! WooHoo! I'll try to get part 3 posted in a few weeks, as it'll take 2-3 weekends to get the framework in place.
I picked up the 6x6 poplar posts today, and they must have weighed at least 300 lbs. each. When you order 6x6 posts 12 feet long from a sawmill, they are really 6" - not 5.5" like in the stores.Getting them unloaded and moved approximately 100 feet was pretty interesting - let me tell ya! It took some real ingenuity, and my son Chance helped me with them. I really don't know how i'll get them set into place, but an idea will pop into my head, I guarantee it. This will be the strongest outdoor structure I've ever built.....
Take care, and happy composting!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Anyway, i'll have several posts this week (probably everyday), because there's lots of new stuff to show ya. It was one of the most productive weekends i've had in a long time, and if you know me - that's saying alot!
I'd like to say Hi to family in Kentucky!
Take care, and happy gardening!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Here's the largest head - which is approximately 3" in diameter. I know a very wise gardener from Louisiana that consistently grows them to around 5-6" in diameter, and I'm gonna have to ask him a few questions about fertilization of his plants. Osmocote was used on these plants, but he probably uses something different.
Here's the other one, which is probably about 2" across. It was a smaller transplant, so I reckon that's the reason for not being as large as the other one right now. If left in the garden longer, i'm sure it would do well.
A quick scan of the onions in the 4x8 ft. box revealed that an armadillo has been digging in it. I'd love to catch the thing out there, because his life would be short-lived. Hehe...
Some 4x4's that are used to keep the tarp in place that covers Jude's dog pen have become the object of one of the family's little ones' artistic expression, as they decided to write on them.
They seemed to be having a "60's - 70's moment", being free-spirited and obviously happy.....
Then came this one. Those little turds!!!! I'm planning on using these for posts, later! No wonder I couldn't find my Sharpie Pen - they used it up!
Oh well, no biggie - i'll just turn the posts away from view, and nobody will know the difference. Hehe...
Take care, and happy gardening.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Anything that is posted about on my blog is backed up by research with documentation to go with it. I must admit that I hate being wrong about something (the OCPD thing), but analyze the situation for what it is, and use the mistake as a tool to become more knowledgeable. Ok, i'll stop ranting......
I hope the weekend is fruitful, because there's alot that needs to be done around the property. With family coming in next week, the house will have to be immaculate of course - which means hours of cleaning for EG.....sigh. But, as soon as that's over, i'll start building the compost turning system. Yay!
The lumber is ready for me to pick up (for both the turning system and the deeper raised bed), and i'll get those items during my lunch break on Monday.
The main raised bed in my garden is made from 8" cedar boards, and i'll add 6" on top of that. We'll see how a 14" deep raised bed performs in 2010, and hopefully increase the yield from it. It'll look funny for a while - especially with the addition of fresh-cut wood, but after a years' worth of weathering will look just like the first boards to be attached.
Oh! I almost forgot....EG will make apple butter this weekend for the first time, and use Daphne's recipe for it. Hers was the only one on the internet that made sense to me. Thanks, Daphne!
I'll post pictures!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Ya know, building a system for my workplace would be a piece of cake, because industrial equipment is what I've worked on for over half of my life. The possiblities would be limitless, because we have electric motors as large as 2,000 horsepower, and have voltages as high as 13,000 volts. But at home, the various tools, equipment, and utilities just aren't available. So, I had to put my thinking cap on, and design a system that was relatively small - but had alot of torque characteristics to effectively turn the piles in place. Talk about tricky! The confinements of the bins themselves was the biggest obstacle, so I decided to design a vertical machine to lower into each bin. The idea will be that the screw will lift the contents from the bottom to the top of each pile, which will effectively cause the contents to heat up again. Using a stick of some kind, I should be able to push the outer part into the middle, which will allow the screw to grab hold of everything.
Anyway, this is my initial drawing of the system, which at least gave me something to kinda go by. It's not precise/complete, but serves the purpose of at least illustrating the general idea. I had to mark the corners of the page that was scanned so that it would upload correctly, in case you're wondering what the slashes in pen are.
According to my calculations, about 247 ft.lbs. of torque will be available at the screw section, which should easily drill right through each pile. The idea will be to let the screw lift compost from the bottom to the top, while maneuvering it around the internal area of each bin. I'll just have to try it out to see if it's strong enough to lift the contents, once they become compacted from the decomposition process. (That's when the ingredients get pretty heavy) If not, the motor will be increased to 1 horsepower, which should theoretically double the amount of torque. Due to limitations with electrical supply power in this location, I wanted to try the 1/2 hp first - which should require around 8 amps of current @ 115 volts ac. Increasing the horsepower to 1 will actually double the current draw (16 amps), which is right on the threshold of what most heavy duty extension cords can safely carry.
I searched high and low for something similar to this on the internet, but it seems that I'm the first
The next installment of this series will discuss the support structure requirements, and how to get more force by gear reduction. As noted in the post title, this will be a 4 part series, and I hope you enjoy it!
Take care, and happy
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The shelves on the opposite wall of the shed were completed last night at around 8:15 pm, but there's only two, because I needed alot of height between them for removing the top portion of the propagation chamber. If any of my readers haven't seen the propagation chamber that was built 2 years ago, then you're in for a treat! It's pretty weird! heh. Anyway, like I was saying....my brain almost went into overload while finishing that last shelf, and a brilliant idea came to me. The large space between the 2 shelves on that particular wall gives me all kinds of possibilities later. Although I won't tell of my plans yet - let me just say that 2010 will be the last time the propagation chamber will be used for growing seedlings....hehe. I will most likely sell it to someone, because next year i'm gonna upgrade a bit. We'll see how many plants are sold this spring, and i'll go from there.
In other news, I wanted to let everyone know that I won't have any burgundy okra seeds to trade with this year, because mine molded! :-( Crap......I blew it. However, I think there are maybe 6 seeds left in the pack, and i'll grow them this next year to get seed from them for the following years to come.
Hmmm....what else? Oh yeah! The broccoli plants had to spend the night inside my parents' house the other night when the temps were really cold, and are trying to go to seed because of the really warm environment they were exposed to. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they won't bolt. Eh - no biggie if they do, because the experiment is already a success, in my opinion.
Well, that's about all I know to tell you right now, but there will be lots of pictures taken during the upcoming weekend. WooHoo!
Oh! I almost forgot....Please check the box at the top of the sidebar. It's the only way I can determine how many readers visit the blog. Please only use it once. Thanks!
Take care, and happy gardening!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Sunday morning was spent helping my wife clean the house (I hate this chore!), but the sooner it was finished - the quicker I could get outside and really get something accomplished. That is - finish the shelves on one wall of the shed, and fill them with some of my many gadgets and supplies that are laying all over the place.
After completely organizing everything on that side, I realized that the benefits of this shed were going to surpass what was initially expected. Yeah...there's tons of room in there!
As a matter of fact, i'm even putting the propagation chamber AND the two level propagation system that I frequently refer to as the "shelf" system in there too. Every inch of wall space will be utilized from floor to ceiling, and even things with a long profile (like shovels and rakes) will be supported from the rafters . Hehe... I love it! Also, it looks like the compost turning system will be started on a little sooner than anticipated. As you might imagine, a trip to the local landfill will be necessary in the very near future, because some items laying around are nothing more than garbage or waste material. It's a good thing I have a really big truck!
Sorry for the absence of pictures, but it wouldn't be smart to show any. I'm sure you understand. With 6-8 more pieces of lumber from Lowes, the second set of shelves will be finished-and the 2 propagation systems will be put into their new home. Sometime in the spring of next year, the little 7x5 playhouse will be fixed up pretty much the same way. Doing so will allow me to store all of the earthtainer stuff in there, as well as the buckets full of growing medium that goes in them.
The only thing that didn't go as planned was addressing the compost bins. There just wasn't enough time left, and the shed was more important. I'll get to them soon....
Anyway, that's pretty much what EG got done over the weekend, and I hope yours was fruitful, too.
Take care, and happy gardening
At 2:15 AM on Saturday morning, I finally had it working well enough that I decided to go to bed. The trending chart would need some more work, but it would be addressed another day. Besides, I needed to get up early on Saturday to work on shelves for the shed.
Anyway, here are some pics of the actual components being used, as well as screenshots of the software used to create the various buttons, numerical displays, and different screens for the operator interface panel (touchscreen).
Photo below - Here's the main screen of the OIP itself. It will display the temperature value of 4 different places (inside the propagation chamber, the 2-shelf propagation system when enclosed with 6 mil plastic, the interior of the 4x4 greenhouse, and of course the outside temperature.)
Since I only have one channel wired for now (chamber), it's the only one displaying a value (66.5 degrees fahrenheit). The accuracy and sensitivity of it is absolutely mind-blowing, and just to let you know - this was the actual temperature in the upstairs portion of our house. Yeah.....the digital thermostat for the hvac showed 69 - but I promise you that this 66.5 reading is what it actually was at the time. With 12 bit resolution and the entire span of the signal being displayed as only one of 4,095 increments measured at any given time - this system is dead-on. As you might guess, I bumped the upstairs thermostat up by a couple of degrees. That just goes to show that most digital thermostats available to homeowners read pretty close, but not perfect.
And here's a screenshot of the same thing as created with the software. This is the same way touchscreens are created for various restaurants, kiosks at the airports, etc. It's really not that difficult to do, but takes alot of concentration and time. Each "part" is placed in the area of choice on the grid, and addressed with reference to the plc variable memory locations. All kinds of internal parameters must be set to the desired values, too - but that's as easy as adjusting fonts, text to be written on the part, and stuff like that. Communication protocol between the OIP and plc can be tricky at times, but the RS-232 link I use is not too difficult. The main thing is to make the baud rates match between the two.Touching the "To Manual Control Screen" area in the picture above with your finger will open up a brand new screen, as shown below. The memory capacity of this particular panel will allow a person to program up to 999 different screens to use, but who in their right mind could navigate thru that many different screens? Not me! This project only has four, but I may add more functionality later.
Today will be spent on finishing the shelves on one wall of the new shed, which should only take about 2 hours to complete. Some of the many items that are tucked away in various outbuildings will be organized when placed on them (also today) - as I know that my family is getting tired of looking at my big mess always laying around. It's pretty ridiculous, I have to admit...Ha!
Later in the day, my time will be spent on stirring up all 5 of the compost piles a little bit. Notice I said "stirring", not "turning". I don't mind a little hard work, but i'm not that crazy!
Take care, and happy gardening!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Now for a composting update.....Since some of the grass clippings got rained on inside the bags (from the plastic busting open), I've got a few nasty clumps to deal with. No biggie - they're being put into one bin by itself, so that it will be the only one with that problem. Even if it takes until the end of summer to get that particular bin finished, i'll still have 5 more to use in the spring. Below is a photo of the nasty looking clumps that will be gradually broken up by hand as I let Jude out to play each day. I would let her help, but she'll just eat 'em. Little stinker...
Photo below - here's one of the original bins that is pretty full, now. It'll be turned by hand in a week or two, and will have alot of kitchen scraps added to it, too. Gosh, I sure do dread turning these two piles by hand. It's gonna have to be done though, because the turning system will be built for the new pallet bins, not the old ones. These old ones will have to be done manually. :-(