Rex Begonias

Angel Wing and Napolane or Snow Man

Spotted Angel Wing

I got my new begonias in the wall yesterday.  They arrived in rough shape, which I think is to be expected when live plants are shipped.  The box was a bit smooshed.

In the wall I’ve got two angel wing, two that are pale silver (Napoline and Snow man) and a couple that have curly leaf edges (Curly Annie and Curly Eyelash). There are even two that are a combination of all the above . . . okay, maybe not the Angel Wing bit, but a pretty green spotted or ringed in silver. I’ve also put two small plants that broke off from the parent in the gutter to hold them over for LouAnn’s wall.

I didn’t put all the new begonias in the wall.  Of the dozen I received I still have four in pots.  I’ll put those in LouAnn’s wall as well.

The spring of Chuck

Warming up after an outdoors foray.

I think I’ve finally got a solution for keeping Chuck relatively comfortable.  Fleas have been driving him nuts.  I had a flea collar on him for a while and that did nothing noticeable, even when  I sprayed him with Cedarcide each time he came in.  The Cedarcide helped, but it only kills the fleas that are on him and does nothing to discourage more from jumping on.

The combo that appears to be relatively effective (I hope) is a combination of Ortho’s Home Defense sprayed on the rugs (one application lasts for ~12 months), Zodiac Flea and Tick Spray on Chuck (good for ~2 months) and a quick once-over with Cedarcide when he comes in from outside.  No, I am not going to try and treat our property for fleas.  I have free range chickens and we have 12 acres.  Between the chickens and the property size, treating the outdoors for fleas is not a reasonable idea.

There remains a very small amount of scarring on Chuck’s right eye which doesn’t significantly impede his vision.  I think the surface of the eye has healed as much as it’s going to.

Drain change

Updated overflow

I updated the overflow drain on the larger bog filter tank.  I’m still using electrical conduit elbow, but it’s 1½”, not 1″.  The outlet pipe is also resized for an 1½” tee-less connector.  I enlarged the hole in the piece of perforated drain which keeps the roots from plugging the conduit.

I’ve been finding more uses for inner tube.  This plumbing change includes a piece of bicycle inner tube for connecting the two pieces of pipe together.

The only thing I wish I’d done before assembly was to paint the conduit black, but once the water hyacinth is added to the tank the leaves will hide the gray.

Pond willows

Willows in pea gravel filled pots

I couldn’t leave the corkscrew willows in the upper biofilter tank.  The hydroton grow medium is not heavy enough to keep the willows upright and in the tank when the wind blew.  I knew putting them there was a temporary solution.  Yesterday I implemented a more permanent fix.  The willows are only in the water for this summer.

The half-gallon pots have recycled window screen in the bottom to keep the gravel from migrating out the drain holes.  The willow trunks are held in place against the side of the tank frame by truck inner tube pieces and staples.  The pots are held up against the side of the tank by cord hangers over hex head screws.  Everything can be easily removed when it comes time to plant the willows out after they go dormant this fall.

Cape Primrose update

Two stalks showing and many more in the works.

Another plant showing a blossom stalk

The Cape Primrose has started it’s continuously blossoming cycle.  After the initial single blossom stalk, each new leaf will produce at least two stalks with two blossoms per stalk all the way through the summer.  Unlike begonias whose blooming period comes and goes, the Cape Primrose will just keep producing gorgeous blossoms.

The plant showing the single blossom is one of two or three.  If you click on the second image you will see a new stalk starting on another plant.  If you look closely you can see the base of the blossom stalk comes out of the base of the leaf.

The wall has gloxinia in it as well.  I don’t know if or when it will bloom.  The fun is in watching to see what happens.

New growth

I've lost one spider plant at the top. I have others in the gutter I can put in its place, I just need to do it.

The hoya is finally showing gwoth. The small leaf is new.

The wall is doing really well.  The gutter begonia is ridiculous and the floor is littered with discarded pink petals.  The flowers are appearing in a slow wave from the bottom of the cascading growth to the top.

The avocado all have multiple roots, though no stalk has appeared.  I am expecting to see that feature shortly.

The hoya has finally started to grow.  This is a very promising sign.

I got an email from Keith at Rex Begonias.  My plants should be here today or tomorrow.

I’ll be filling in some of the empty spots in the next couple days.

OMG pressure cooker barbequed pork

Our local market had pork ribs on sale.  I had just picked up my stainless Presto pressure cooker from Walmart and was primed for a meal I could cook in my new toy.  Barbequed pork ribs sounded perfect.

The book that came with my pressure cooker had a recipe for barbequed pork, but I didn’t have all the ingredients AND some of the recipe ingredients are things I can’t eat so recipe ad lib was required.  The result was FABULOUS.

Here’s what I did.

I added one cup of water and 3 pounds of pork ribs to the pressure cooker and cooked it for five minutes.  That’s misleading.  If you’ve ever used a pressure cooker, you know it takes a bit of time to get up to temperature/pressure.  You start timing from that point, not from the point where you stick it on the stove.

After five minutes I set the pressure cooker in the sink and ran cold water over it until the pressure released.  I drained off the liquid (saved it for our dogs’ dinner tonight) and added 1-10 oz can of Safeway brand Southwest Style Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles, 1/4 diced onion, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup xylitol (birch sugar safe for diabetics), 2 tbsp maple syrup and 3 roughly chopped roma tomatoes.

After the pressure cooker came up to temperature/pressure, cook time was 10 minutes.  At this point you have to turn off the heat and let the temperature/pressure drop without any quick cooling.

After the pressure released, I pulled the pork out and reduced the sauce, stirring occasionally with my whisk.  The pork was served cubed with the sauce on top.  OMG.

With this I served oven fries.  Wadly cut two potatoes in wedges.  Ideally, 1 potato per person and 8 wedges per potato is good but go with what works for you.  Put the wedges in a bowl and toss in freshly ground pepper, sea salt, basil and olive oil.  Toss this combination and lay them skin side down on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet.  Cook at 400° to the done-ness you prefer.  I like them golden brown ~30 minutes.

This was easily the best meal we’ve had in a while.   It was awesome!

To this I will add . . . this recipe produces a fairly chunky barbeque sauce.  If you want a smoother sauce, puree the ingredients before adding them to the pressure cooker.


Corkscrew Willow

Corkscrew willow in upper filter. Terry's antique toy trucks look great on the shop deck.

I had a lovely visit with my brother Dan and his wife Vala yesterday.  They live far enough away that I don’t get to see them often.  I was gifted with some corkscrew willow cuttings which I’ve stuck in the upper bog filter until I can get them rooted and ready to plant.

Growbed finalized, bog planted

Wintered over and new plants out in the bog filters
3 gallon buckets ganged for flooding the grow beds

Missing end cap allows the near bed to flood more.

It’s still too cold for starting seedlings outside.  The water in the tanks has finally reached 55° which means we can start feeding the fish, but that’s still a bit too cold for plants to grow vigorously.  Within the next two weeks that should all change.

I put the plants I’d wintered over in the laundry room out into the bog filter tanks.  I also stopped at JMH Gardens and picked up some penny royal, fairy moss and some kind of pond bean.  I can’t remember what Jill called it.  I’ll ask when I go back in a couple weeks for the water hyacinths.  I’m pretty sure “bean” is right, but given how I’d managed to mangle all the other things I purchased (fairy frost is a fabric not a plant), I’m feeling a bit less confident at the moment.

Instead of rock in the upper (smaller) bog filter I’ve added hydroton this year.  The lighter medium will facilitate the take-down of the filter in winter.

The grow bed plumbing is finished with the exception of one 1½” end cap.  Three 3-gallon buckets are ganged together using tee-less connectors and 1½” pipe.  Terry painted the buckets black which will facilitate warming the water over the next few weeks.

Once I’ve got the new end cap drilled with holes and installed the flood depth can be fine tuned.  I’ll plant the beds with seedlings the first of June if the water’s warmed enough.

Awesome marinade

I’ve been working on a marinade for beef for a while.  I’ve finally got something I really like.  It’s soy and gluten free, low in sodium and really delicious.  The recipe will season two steaks but might stretch to three if the portions are smaller.  I can comfortably treat two rib steaks or three New York strip steaks with this recipe.  It would probably do steak for beef kabobs for a family of four.

Grate ½ a large bulb of elephant garlic using a fine grater.

Grate ¼ of a large yellow onion using a large grater.

Add ½ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper and two tablespoons each of Lee & Perrin Worcestershire Sauce, red wine vinegar, maple syrup and Organic Tailgate Rub by Morton and Bassett of San Francisco (garlic, rosemary, pepper, parsley, thyme and marjoram).

Mix all that together thoroughly.  Add two tablespoons of olive oil and mix.

Put the marinade and steaks in a gallon ziplock bag.  Press out the majority of air and seal the bag.  Massage the bag until the steaks are thoroughly covered with marinade.  Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Take the steaks out of the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature.  Take the steaks out of the bag and scrape off all the marinade bits and dry the steaks (I use paper towels).

I cook these in a cast iron skillet on medium heat in butter until rare to medium rare.  Cook yours per your preferred method and degree of doneness.


Second pair of “real” shoes

Lining stretched and drying
Inner tube added after drying to hold lining in place while trimming and gluing
Trimmed, lifted and glued
Glued and set to dry

Rasped and ready for filler

So here’s where I’m at on the second pair of “real” shoes.  These are oil tanned bison outer and vegetable tanned kangaroo lining.

I sewed the upper and lining pieces together then joined them via a row of stitching around the opening.  The rivets I got with the speed lacers where too small so I sent them off to Albert at Sunshine Shoe Repair for rivets to hold on the speed lacers I got at an online shop specializing in fittings for those who build S&M harness and clothing.  <wince>  What can I say, it’s where I found them.

After a good soak, I stretched the lining over the last and nailed it in place.

After it dried I added a ring of inner tube to hold the lining in place while I denailed, trimmed and glued the lining to the insole.

After the glue had dried I trimmed off the excess and rasped the bottom to a fairly regular surface.

Now I need to add the filler, a piece of leather the thickness of the lining leather.  Once the glue holding the filler in place is dry, I’ll build the shapers.  My butt stitching is improving and I hope to have a not too lumpy shaper over which the outer will be stitched down to the midsole.

I’m using 7-cord waxed linen thread for the hand sewing bits.  I’m using nylon upholstery thread for the machine sewn bits.


Biofilter update

Upper tank with hydroton

It’s still too cold to put out any of the biofilter plants I’ve tried to winter over but it is time to get the tanks in and circulating.  This upper tank is foam.  I got it at a year end sale two years ago for $10, a great buy.

Last year I used a tee-less fitting and a piece of rubber hose for the upper tank outlet.  All last summer I had issues with the upper tank overflowing due to a too small outlet with penny royal root blocking the flow.  I’m hoping I’ve solved some of that with this year’s setup.

I pulled the tee-less connector and inserted a tapering vacuum cleaner wand extension pipe into the hole.  After determining I would get a good seal, I pulled it out, trimmed it accordingly and reinserted it into the hole.  No sealant was required to give a good water tight fit.

This change allows better outlet flow and the mean level inside the tank is lower decreasing the chance of overflow.

What you can’t see (I’ll drop the water level and get a snapshot before I put the plants in) is the 3″ PVC pipe that keeps the hydroton out of the outlet and inside the tank.  The pipe is one foot long with a 45° angled end.  This angle fits over the outlet and is fastened to the tank with a 2½” screw.  The other end of the pipe is a straight cut which is covered with a piece of 30% sun shade cloth.  The length of the pipe has saw kerfs to increase the ability of water to enter the pipe.