King of vertical gardens

Patrick's private wall - aquarium is under the floor (glass) and is 6x8 meters.

Here’s a great thing to share with you, a video of  Patrick Blanc giving a presentation on vertical gardens at the California Academy of Science.  The video is an hour and a half long and is broken into parts.  I didn’t have any trouble with buffering, so give it a try.  He talks about all his walls, what was good, what was bad and includes maintenance, inspiration, plants he used, insect control, maintenance . . . it’s well worth watching at least once if not more.

Critter litter

Bug stuff

This is just under the upper rim on the outside of my upper biofilter tank for the outside aquarium.  Anyone have an idea what buggy thing this is?  Click the image and enlarge.

I know it’s buggy, just not what flavor of bug.  Whatever was inside the mud or exudate shell is no longer there.  The outside is covered with round . . . they can’t be seeds.  They might be eggs but they aren’t like any egg I’ve ever seen.  They’re round with a tiny dimple in the face.

 

New growbed setup

Half-buried tank, two grow bed trays.

back side of the grow bed. Note flush bottle. When the water reaches a set level in the bucket above, it then overflows into the tubing feeding the coke bottle. When sufficient weight is reached, the bottle pulls on the cord and flushes the valve in the bucket. A small hole in the cap of the bottle allows the water to drain out and the cycle repeats.

This is my new setup, sans the second bucket.  I am waiting on tee-less connectors to add the second bucket to the dump tank (existing bucket).  I’ll use a short piece of 1½” plastic pipe near the bottom of the buckets to connect them.  The two buckets, connected together, will give me the volume I need to fill both beds in a single dump.

Here’s the list of parts.

  • 2 five gallon buckets – mine used to contain pickles and were obtained from a local deli.
  • 1 pump
  • black tubing running from the pump to the bucket (visible in the top picture as the black loop to the right of the bucket and in the bottom picture).
  • 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank (buried to first step in the tank side).
  • 2 mortar mixing trays (the 8″ deep ones).
  • miscellaneous scrap lumber – none of this lumber was purchased new.  I’ve got 4×4 for the four legs (mix of pressure treated and cedar – it’s what I had), 2×6 for the between post supports and 2×4 for the top plate on which the tray rims rest.  The bucket rests on a notched 3×4 and a notched 2×4 held up by 2×8 scraps screwed to the tray frame.
  • a handful of 3″ decking screws
  • 1 toilet flush valve.
  • 1 16 oz plastic coke bottle (flush valve counter-weight).
  • black tubing to feed flush valve counter-weight bottle (visible in the second picture – connects to a piece of aluminum tubing which inserts through the bottom of the coke bottle.
  • miscellaneous hardware including a collection of stainless nuts and washers to act as the flush valve weight (offsets the weight of the plastic bottle so the flush valve flap closes completely).
  • Plumbing parts – some 2″, some 1½”.
  • Tee-less connectors to gang the buckets together.  I never order enough tee-less connectors.  They are the first connector I reach for when I have to fasten pipe to pipe or insert pipe into something.  I could have replaced the 2″ tee with a tee-less connector for less than a quarter of the price of purchasing a 2″ tee.

It took me an afternoon to take apart the old single-bed stand (I needed to reuse the legs and some of the shorter lumber) and another afternoon to construct the new two-bed stand.  You cannot see it from the picture, but there is a 2×6 that supports the center of the beds underneath going from left to right.

It took another afternoon to get the new bucket and flush assembly put together and get the tray flood plumbing set up.

I still need another 100 liters of hydroton.  It should only take another 50 liters (1 bag) of hydroton to fill the beds, but I want to increase the size of the gutter for my plant wall so want some extra to ensure I have enough.  Until I get the additional hydroton, I’ll let the beds cycle and build the nitrite/nitrate eating bacteria colony.

Growbed Updates

The new and updated dump bucket
The roller assembly gizmo hanging on the side of the bucket. Note the notch in the bucket collar to accommodate the gizmo.
The outboard end of the gizmo assembly. Note the notch in the lid to allow the lid to (mostly) set down on the bucket.
The back side. Note the notch in the bucket collar.
Stainless long necked bolt.

 

Yesterday was a  beautiful day, mild, sunny and quiet.  Wadly was off visiting family and I had the peace to putter to my heart’s content.

I managed to get the dump bucket for my grow bed rebuilt.  This time I added a genius gizmo for the flush counter-weight assembly.  This crafty  gizmo was the happy confluence of circumstance and available parts and it all started with the proximity of the flush valve to the edge of the bucket.

Because my 5 gallon buckets have a lot of ridges and raised lettering at the center I mounted the flush assembly against the side of the bucket.  This gave me a smoother flatter surface for sealing the toilet flush valve to the bucket and, by mounting the toilet fill assembly next to the side of the bucket, I was able to reduce the distance between the rollers that lift the toilet flush flap and support the flush valve counter-weight.  I saw the lock assembly for a sliding window sitting on the bench ready to be taken out to the aluminum pile to recycle.   That started the mental wheels turning and I was able to scrounge the remaining parts to pull this gizmo together.

The new roller carrier is small, requiring one small notch in the bucket collar for installation and support.

The rollers are from the bottom of a sliding glass door.

The bolts holding the rollers are stainless.  I have no idea where they came from.  Whenever we disassemble something for recycling, we take any potentially interesting small hardware and stick it in one of our multiple cabinets with plastic drawers.  We had this particular bolt type in two lengths.  The shorter was twice the length I needed but they do a perfect job.  The additional bolt sticking out is more of a design statement than a flaw.

The holes in the center of the rollers was just a bit smaller than the circumference of the bolt which allowed the bolt to be pressed into the roller assembly.  A bit of judicious encouragement from my rubber mallet did the trick and the rollers are now pressed onto the bolts.

The holes in the aluminum slider window lock handle were just slightly smaller than the threads on the bolts.  Because the piece to receive threads was aluminum and the bolts were stainless,I was able to force screw the bolts into the holes to create the necessary threads in the aluminum carrier.  You see what I mean about a confluence of circumstance?  The bolts were the right size to press into the rollers and the holes were the right size to accept threading from the bolts.  Kismet.

Each bolt has a fiber or teflon washer and a stainless washer to ensure proper spacing for the roller.

The rollers aren’t stainless and aren’t designed to be out in the rain.  Terry painted them for me to help keep the rust at bay.  As to the bearings, an occasional squirt of WD-40 (water displacement 40th formula tested) keeps rust in check and the rollers turning smoothly.  the arrangement allows the cord to be lifted off the rollers and the roller assembly to be taken away from the tank/growbed assembly for maintenance.  At some point I’ll make a plastic cover for the roller assembly to keep the rollers drier.

If you’re wondering what I used to extend the overflow tube on the flush valve . . . it’s a vacuum cleaner hand wand extension pipe.  We’ve got a shelf under one of the benches that gets all the plastic pipe chunks we might need for a later project.  Wand extension pipe is just plastic pipe and the taper makes them perfect for fitting onto other pipe or into openings of not exactly the right size.

 

 

New ferns

Gutter fern

Two more different new ferns

The new ferns seem to be doing okay.  I have a couple that are more vigorous, but they are different varieties so the differences in growth are easily explained.

The gutter fern is a delicate thing when compared to the stems of the Hawaiian begonia (Ricinifolia Immense).  The stems of that particular begonia grow to be bigger around than my thumb. The other two ferns aren’t as big as my original wood fern, but they’ve just gotten started.

Orchid cactus – new growth

Increased growth on heliocereus

It’s been almost four weeks since I changed the watering frequency for the wall. The difference is really starting to show.

The heliocereus is putting shoots out of its shoots. It’s acting like it’s spring!

The peperomia is finally producing new growth both at the base and at one of the nodes on one of the stalks.

And finally, the wood fern shows the most dramatic difference. The part of the frond that had grown prior to the water frequency change looks really stunted. The part that grew after the change looks very different.

Peperomia is finally showing some life.
Change in a single frond shows the biggest impact.

Outer Shaper

Outer shaper molded and trimmed.
Ready for sole trim and rhino-coating.

I’ve got a pair of shoes in the works.  I don’t know how successful this design will be.  The upper is a single layer of bison and all the support is built into the insole. The single pieced shaper is stitched through the bison layer.

The sole still needs to be trimmed very close to where it joins the upper.  Once the sole is trimmed, I will reinsert the last, get the shaper wet and reshaped.  This will close up the awl holes I made stitching the shaper to the upper.

Once the shaper’s completely dry I’ll paint bed liner over the shaper and the side of the sole.  The end result should be a funky looking sneaker.

There are two things I didn’t do that I probably should have.  I didn’t add a welt around the ankle opening.  That may have been an error and only time will tell.  This is something I can go back and do if I feel I must.

The second maybe oops is, I didn’t stitch the outer sole to the shaper before applying the shaper to the upper.  The one person I know with the machine to do that has developed a really mean case of early onset Alzheimer.  <wince>  Sadly, avoid is the name of the game there.

The side rings are to accommodate a strap that goes around the back of the shoe, through the side rings and across the top of my instep to secure the shoe for heavy duty things like running after horses.  The strap under the foot is, I believe, too long, but I won’t know for sure until I wear the shoes for a while.

Aquaponics Startup

Yesterday I rebuilt my aquaponic system to accommodate an additional grow bed.  The single tray I used last year was just not enough.  I have switched out the gravel I used last year for hydroton (expanded clay balls) so (theoretically) the beds will be light enough to move inside when the weather grows too cold to sustain growing.  A single bed filled with gravel would require four muscle men, a pygmy goat and some special equipment.  That so won’t work for portable beds.  With hydroton I should be able to lift the bed onto a rolling cart for transport indoors.

Now that I’ve got two beds to flood, last year’s system won’t work as is.   Two beds means at least twice the water volume.  I will gang together two 5-gallon buckets to make up the required flush volume.  By ganging buckets together using a short length of 1½ pipe and tee-less connectors, I can supply the volume for both beds using my existing fill and drain system bucket.

So far I’ve got one tray filled and water cycling through but I have more to do before I’m ready to consider planting. I need to cut new piping for the drain system.  I want the system to flash-fill the beds so I don’t have to rely on an auto-siphon for drainage.  That reduces the complexity of the system and reduces the parts needed to get additional beds attached to the system.

The tank’s water temperature is still below 55° [brrr] but if I’m going to get a head start on the season, I need to get my beds functioning mechanically now.  To get the beds up to temperature a little more quickly, I’m thinking of installing a solar water heating system for the tank.  We’ll see if I manage to get it done before the tank gets up to temp.

Seafood Bouillabaisse Redeux

Months ago I made seafood bouillabaisse a la Julia Childs.  The leftovers were frozen in two-person sized lots for later use.  I’ve managed to put them to very good use.  I’m making seafood chowder using the frozen stock.

This one is really easy, but it does require some basic cooking skills.  Other than making sure the seafood is ready to add, the rest of the work is chop as you go.

In a sauce pan on medium heat, melt 2 tbsp butter.  Chopped three slices of bacon and add it to the pan.  While that’s cooking, dice a quarter of a large onion.  Before adding it to the sauce pan, stir the pan’s contents.  Layer the onion over the top and do not stir it in.

Chop 1/4 each of a red and a green bell pepper.  Before adding these to the sauce pan, stir the pan’s contents.  Layer the peppers over the top and do not stir them in.

Grate two well washed medium carrots, skin on (remove both ends).  Before adding the grated carrots to the sauce pan, stir the contents.  Layer the carrot over the top and do not stir.

Grate two smallish well washed yukon gold potatoes, skin on.  Knife off any bits whose look you don’t like before grating.  Before adding the grated potato to the sauce pan, stir the contents.  Layer the potato over the top and do not stir.

If you have frozen bouillabaisse, plonk the frozen lump down on top the grated potatoes and put a cover on the pan.  Turn the heat down just a little and keep an eye on the liquid level in the pan as the bouillabaisse melts.  You’ll want to pull the still frozen lump out when the liquid level reaches the right height (visible but not covering all the contents.  Stuff the remaining frozen lump in its container and stick it back in the freezer for your next foray into seafood chowder.  If you don’t have frozen bouillabaisse to add, use Kitchen Basic unsalted seafood stock.

This is the point where you will need to add tomatoes if you’re going to.  Adding tomatoes is completely optional.  You don’t want a lot of tomato, just enough to brighten the flavor.  Two smallish tomatoes or one large tomato should be adequate.  Remove the skin and chop.  Stir into the contents of the sauce pan.

It shouldn’t take very long for the potatoes and tomatoes to cook.  You’ll need to add your seafood shortly. Once you add the seafood, stir it as little as possible.  The more you stir the more you’ll break up the seafood.

Here’s the scoop on choosing seafood for this recipe.  You can add almost anything.  I bought a 16 ounce package of mixed seafood on sale ($1.99) at the market a couple weeks ago.  It had squid, cod, octopus, shell-less clams and muscles as well as some fake crab (which I chose not to use).  Half the mix, with the judicious addition of a dozen shrimp and a dozen small bay scallops, made an awesome batch of seafood chowder.

You can use salmon.  You wouldn’t think to use salmon in a chowder but it’s truly excellent.  Whatever fish you use, make sure you debone it.  You can use whole clams and mussels (well washed) as part of the mix.  I usually have  frozen tilapia on hand.  I cut the fillets across into 1″ strips and add with shrimp and scallops.  Whatever you decide to use, use a variety and add enough to make it a hearty seafood stew.

Here’s the bit on adding the seafood to the recipe.  Once all the veges are cooked through, you want to stir in the thawed and/or fresh seafood.  Turn off the heat, cover it and let it sit for about 20 minutes.  The residual heat will cook the seafood through without overcooking it.  Overcooked octopus is like chewing on rubber.  Correctly cooked octopus is delicious.  Some seafood loses it’s texture when overcooked, becoming mushy.

At the end of the 20 minutes, stir in up to two cups of milk.  I used almond milk, but whole or 2% milk works great as well.  Fold the milk in very gently and only add as much as you think you want.  Adding cold milk stops the cooking process to ensure the seafood isn’t overcooked.  Be careful stirring.  You don’t want to break up the pieces of fish.

This seafood chowder recipe, depending on how much seafood you add, will give five or six people a nice sized bowl.