Saturday, September 16, 2017

DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT!!!! (Castor Bean Poisoning Story)

DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT DO NOT EAT THIS PLANT DO NOT EAT IT DID I MENTION DO NOT EAT THIS?
I had seen this plant for years, growing just about everywhere they don't use lawn mowers.  It seemed logical that if they were letting this plant grow so commonly, that it couldn't possibly be harmful, and if it were, somebody clearly would've told me by now.  No words could've ever been so untrue.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Trip to Portland

Around this time last year, I went on a trip to Portland.  It was about time, I was finally able to see the city everybody's been telling me I should move to.  While the city's motto is "Keep Portland Weird", I was surprised to find that this was easily the most normal city I'd ever been to.  I arrived with the expectation of a city full of hippies, with farmers' markets on every street all day and lots of guys obsessed with craft beer, handlebar mustaches and riding fixies... For better or for worse, my expectations fell far short.  I cannot stress how much of a regular city this is.
satellite view of portland downtown

Monday, August 28, 2017

Vineyard Relocated and Wine Progress

I was able to get my vineyard relocated to my new place. Thankfully, since I harvested a few weeks ago, I didn't have to worry about grapes falling off. Nearly all the vines had rooted from their container into the soil. No wonder they were always doing so well.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Taking Apart a Refrigerator Compressor

One day I was watching a Huell Howser episode on refrigerator recycling.  I was curious about the compressor part for two reasons; 1. I was considering building another bicycle powered compressor for a full fledged bicycle foundry vegetable oil burner, and 2. I'd read during a research project that they use permanent magnet brushless motors in applications like this and wanted to build a generator with them (also bicycle powered of course). 
Immediately after watching the episode, I went for a walk and conveniently, found a refrigerator next to the dumpster.  I jumped at this amazingly obvious scrap alchemy opportunity.  I noticed somebody else had already cut the copper pipes that would contain the freon, so I was already exempt from having to deal with that issue.  I went out with some tools and within a matter of 10 minutes had taken off the compressor and also the cooling fan.
Let's take it apart!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

2017 Estate Blend


For those who didn't know, within the past month, I've had to move out of my old residence due to unforeseen circumstances. Luckily the timing of the move was right as the grapes were ripe enough. So I was able to harvest grapes from my portable vineyard for this year's estate blend.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

CC Pale Ale Bottling


Following fermentation of CC Pale Ale, secondary fermentation and coffee treatment had to be completed.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Homemade Walnut Pesto

From today's harvest, I pulled quite a lot of basil in. Since I still had some walnuts left over from a special gift last year, I decided to make some pesto.

4th of July Harvest and Garden Images


The garden is progressing along well in this heat. The new tomato bed is slowly but surely catching up to the other bed.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bicycle Camping: O'Neill Park & La Pata Extension

Deep behind the "Orange Curtain", (and I mean really deep, deeper than Irvine), there exists a region that is of utmost niceness.  However one wishes to describe it, it is distinctly separated from the rest of the surrounding area by a canyon which is  passable only by one of four bridges (which probably didn't even exist 30 years ago), a toll road, or a 2 lane undivided highway.  This is the area encompassing the communities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto De Caza, Ladera Ranch, etc.  I have come to refer to it as the "Holy Land" of Orange County, not only because of the seemingly high concentration of churches or the naming of Santa Margarita, but because of the symbolic crossing over Trabuco Canyon required to enter.  You see, Trabuco Canyon was named so because of some Spanish explorer who had lost his gun (trabuco) in the canyon.  Thus making it a land devoid of violence... or at least that's how my imagination puts it together....  I know that many famous people live in the area especially since Coto De Caza is an entirely walled city, (meaning only the people that live there and their gardeners are allowed in). Last time I checked, 2 members of Linkin Park, and Warren G were among its residents (which also means he must not have been very far from home when I saw him perform at How The West Was Won in Irvine).
The "Holy Land"

5 Vegetables to grow during Extreme Summer Heat


If you live in an area that regularly experiences high temperatures exceeding 95°F, you may have difficulty growing certain plants. Fortunately, there are many varieties of vegetables (including greens) that can withstand the heat. Here's a list of 5 of my favorite varieties for the summer.

1) Basil

Basil loves sunshine and hot weather, and it pairs well with many plants in the garden. As it is able to be quickly and easily propagated from seeds or cuttings, it's hard for it to not thrive in the garden. And for those who do not have land, it is a great container plant.

Featured Variety: Genovese

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Much like the other Swiss Chard I've grown, Bright Lights is a winner. It's especially fancy because it grows in many different colors, namely yellow and pink.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Annexing and Irrigating more Garden Areas


I had a lot of tomato plants extra in my nursery, but the main garden was full. I especially did not have enough containers or extra soil to plant them all in. So what did I do? I figure I can make the most of some more space in the backyard and create a satellite garden plot.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

CC Pale Ale -- Brew Day + Recipe

*The Cs stand for Coffee and Cascade.


A cool day appeared on the horizon. I took inventory and realized I needed to make some more beer. The next recipe I had in mind involved combining beer with some home roasted coffee... so I decided to make a coffee pale ale.

Friday, June 9, 2017

San Marzano Tomato

San Marzano is a classic Italian paste tomato. As I intend to make a lot of salsa and sauces, I chose this tomato as it is an indeterminant variety, as compared to a tomato like Roma. This one should be fun to cross with some of the other tomatoes I've planted this year.

Red Russian Kale


Red Russian Kale is unique variety of kale, in that it can be grown to full size, or enjoyed as a small leaf plant. It can be harvested multiple times in a year before going to seed.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Displeasures of Machining Fiberglass

For part of the <secret project> mentioned in the previous video on wood turning, I needed an insulating material for an electrical connection.  I had found this mystery piece of plastic on the side of the street and figured I'd try using it.  When I first picked it up I actually thought it was aluminum because of the weight and stiffness, but after scraping it on the ground, I started thinking it was chalk or something. I tried parting it off in the lathe, and it appeared to machine pretty decently and left a nice finish, clearly some type of resin or something.
Then I tried turning the outer diameter.... Aww SH*T! It's fiberglass!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Counting the wine bottles before the grapes ripen

Now with the new grapevines established, let's see what I can expect this year in terms of a harvest and 2017 Estate Blend.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ruby Queen Beet


I decided to give beets a try again this year. I had never had luck growing them well in the container garden, guess they didn't get enough sun to develop a nice sized root. I'm planting these in with the Swiss Chard, as those tend to do good. They'll be grown for dual purpose, the leaves and the roots. The thinned out beet microgreens had a nice buttery taste to them.

Genovese Basil


This is the basil you grow if you want to make pesto. My seeds seem to germinate reliably, and this basil really develops well indoors under the grow lights. Will be cloning this variety off to populate the garden.

Buttercrunch Lettuce

Decided to try out a new variety of lettuce this year. This lettuce is a semiheading variety that can supposedly resist some heat. After seeing how prolific it is in other people's yards/hydroponic systems, I decided to go for this one. I've had good luck getting this variety to germinate too. The transplants I've put in my garden are also holding up to the hot weather my climate gets!

My first crop I've harvested out right before the heatwave was about to hit. Lettuce hardly had any bitter taste to it. Had the traditional buttery texture! This variety is an early summer champ.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2017 Garden Expansion Overview -- Plants and Strategy

Now with all the field work out of the way, here's what's going to be growing out in the backyard.


I've designated 3 different zones with the landscape fabric. One is spaced with 6" centers, while the other two are spaced with 8" centers.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Lathe Machining 16" Diameter Wood


More detail not covered in the video:

It all started when the law of Scrap Alchemy provided me with a bunch of free wood to experiment with.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Field Prep Pt 3 -- Erecting a Tomato & Pepper Trellis


Once the tomatoes and peppers get established in the yard, they'll need some support. Since the spacing on all my plants is such where traditional tomato cages would not have enough space to be viable (and too costly), I thought of a more practical solution.

Field Prep pt 2-- Creating the Crop Rows


With the rows formed in the yard, I decided to try a trick I learned from some urban farming videos.
The idea is to cover and plant my crops using some weed control fabric. In the fabric itself, you can cut holes to where the plants go. This is especially useful for keeping the distance inbetween plants consistent.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Field Prep Pt 1 -- Tilling the Land -- Playing with new Toys

So what is all this indoor seed starting leading to? Big thinking. A massive garden expansion.

Since the yard has absolutely nothing growing in it, I figure that this would be a good year to actually do something to it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Indoor Seed Starting Shelf

Inspired by many videos of practical farming, I finally learned why much of my past seed starting has resulted in failure. 1) Lack of light & 2) Poor soil media. In this guide, I build a proper seed starting shelf to start my seedlings indoors.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

DIY Soil Sifter

Inspired by many videos of practical farming, I finally learned why much of my past seed starting has resulted in failure. 1) Lack of light & 2) Poor soil media. In this guide, I build a soil sifter to help with the second issue.

Most of the soil media I've tried using to start seeds has had a ton of wood chips or has been compacted beyond belief. A soil sifter will help with that problem. Here's how I built mine:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Vineyard Additions for 2017

Continuing my annual tradition, this year I acquired some new grapevines from Picnic Day.

See vineyard additions from past years: 2014 -- 2015 -- 2016 -- 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rye Stout Batch 3 Bottling


Got the latest batch of Rye Stout bottled. The beer finished at 1.010, giving it 6% ABV. This is what the previous batch ended up at, so we're off to a good start with consistency!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Crucible and Casting Brass

I had never really gotten around to buying a "real" crucible for melting anything hotter than aluminum.  The one time I made it to the foundry supply store, I forgot that they closed at 3 PM, and it was 3:15 or something. 

2 Years later: I got invited to American Foundry Society/ North American Die Casting Association annual vendor's night.  This is an event where people from the industry get together and showcase their products, hang out, and have a good time.  Personally, I was just there for the free food.  Long story short, each vendor booth had a raffle prize, and judging by the proximity of this crucible to the ticket jar, I thought it was the prize.  I asked if it was because I had been in the market for one, but it turned out they were only giving away $100 cash.  Still, I bet most of my tickets on them since it seemed like one of the better prizes compared with all the alcohol, golf accessories, and gift cards for restaurants that don't have enough vegan menu items... But I really wanted the crucible!  At the end, I didn't win any of the drawings, but the nice people at Advanced Ceramics and Crucible decided to give me the crucible anyways!  I guess when you're young and have your own foundry, people treat you differently or something (it's because in an industry like this, they're hard pressed to find young people interested in it, there's actually quite a shortage of people to replace those retiring).  Hey, it worked before when I accidentally got a free lathe.  This goes along with a discussion we had there was about "what got you interested casting?"  Of course for me it was the concept of being able to melt and recycle your own metal, and cast seemingly unlimited parts from a single pattern, and in the case of a vegetable oil furnace, for practically free.  Going back even further, it was probably the "Foundry" level from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 where I first learned the word "foundry".
OSHA's gonna sue somebody
Anyhow, it's a silicon carbide crucible which, if I remember correctly from chemistry class, is nearly identical to diamond in its molecular structure and almost as hard, but who cares?  Let's melt some metal!
Grapefruit for size reference

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Coffee Roasting Log #2

Upgrading roasting capability
For my roasting, I've acquired an air pop popcorn maker. I'm more familiar with this method as opposed to pan roasting as I have roasted with the popcorn maker before.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bicycle Basket Modifications

My welding teacher would always joke that if welding was too difficult for you, you could always quit and go into basket weaving or something.  What he failed to mention was that basket weaving is actually more difficult than welding!
I had been looking for some larger baskets for my bikes, but they don't seem to come in convenient sizes or shapes (at garage sales at least), so I figured I'd try experimenting with buying some oversized ones and cutting them down to size.
I found this first basket, presumably designed to hold vinyl records, which I wanted to put on the front of my bike from the Bicycle Upgrayedd 2 project.  Clearly, I don't want my stuff falling out the side of the basket when I'm riding, so I'll have to modify the shape a bit.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mini Seed Starting Greenhouse

I needed something to start my pepper seeds in. I discovered that I still had a tray lying around from the old microgreens project a while back. I also found some PVC pipe and fittings from a different failed experiment. A few snips from the pipe cutter later, tape, and plastic wrap later, and I had a mini greenhouse to start my seeds in.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Making the Rye Stout again (Batch #3)

I liked the Rye Stout so much, I made it for a third time. This recipe is very tasty!
Can't make beer without grain

Monday, January 30, 2017

Macadamia Nut Porter Bottling Day

(Continued from earlier)

The Macadamia Nut Porter fermented for ~2 weeks before I popped the lid and racked it to secondary. Seeing the top of the liquid was a little unnerving as I initially was thinking it was an infection, but after seeing the blowoff from the Burton Ale yeast the week before, I doubt that this batch went south. I concluded it was yeast cells trapped in the nut oil.

Following initial fermentation, oil from the Macadamia nuts floated to the surface, trapping many yeast cells

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bike Pedals

Back in high school, my 2nd most ambitious project (the first being the foundry of course) was to make my own bike pedals from scratch.  I had used and broken some pathetic plastic pedals in my time, and decided enough was enough.  It was a great project because I got to learn how to use a lot of equipment usually unavailable to the rest of the class including a CNC lathe, mill, and waterjet cutter.  This was also when I learned how to do lathe threading, so I could cut those 9/16"-20 LH & RH threads for where the axles thread into the crank. 
custom made ice cream sandwich bike pedals
I had a visionary idea to start a business selling bike pedals that look like ice cream sandwiches.
One of the problems with the pedals was the fact that I had opted to use plastic bushings instead of ball bearings, and I had no concept at the time of what a tolerance was.  The bushing idea came from watching an episode of Edge Factor about a bike pedal company in Canada that used them. Furthermore, I had never used a CNC lathe before and I actually was the first one in the history of the school to learn how to use it (even before the instructors!).  What I ended up producing were axles that were several thousanths larger than the specified tolerance range provided with the bushings which caused them to wear prematurely.  I remember spending considerable time at the belt sander grinding them down just so they would fit.  If I had known how to use a micrometer, I could've inspected the axles while still in the lathe and readjusted the tool offset so I could hit the correct dimension.
custom pedals without diamond plate
Image from the failed pedal straps post
On top of that, I couldn't find the metal supply store that stocked 3/4" chromoly round stock, so I was forced to make the axles out of whatever was lying around.... bad move.
In the case of the pedals that went on my main bike, one of the pedals had an axle made of cold rolled 1018, and the other one was hot rolled.  Guess which one broke first?  Yes, the hot rolled one, since hot rolled is weaker due to its larger grain structure, making it softer and more flexible.  Notice the breaking pattern on the cross section, it's clear that the axle had been cracked part of the way through for a while before it finally broke off.  This happened after 5 or so months of use.  I had actually machined a new axle to replace the broken one, but over time, I just abandoned the whole project altogether.  I knew without the proper steel and heat treatment, this would eventually happen again.
broken bike pedal axle
Fast forward a few years later: I bought some more pedals at a garage sale with hopes of rekindling my interest in toe straps.  These pedals looked really nice with the leather straps, metal clips, and everything, but for some unknown reason, the designers thought it would be a good idea to hold it all together with a PLASTIC pedal body!!!!  Now, you don't have to be The Mike Tyson of Engineering to know that plastic threads strip far easier than metal ones (take the waffle iron project for instance).  I didn't want to waste this perfectly good opportunity throwing out pedals with so many useful parts in tact, so I decided to take the initiative and give pedal building another chance... except this time I would already have a decent axle/ bearing set to work with, so I wouldn't suffer the same fate as before.
bike pedals with cheap plastic bodies

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fraudulent Vise Grip Repair

These fraudulent vise grips appeared in a convenient scrap bin one day, so I took them.  I can always tell them apart since the real ones only have one rivet instead of three next to the upper jaw.  The reason they were scrapped appeared to be a crack on the lower jaw.
So I just welded it.  Of course, it might crack again, but there's always a situation where some semi-lousy vise grips can come in handy.
I used to confuse "vanadium" with "vandalism"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Recycled Notebook Binding Fixture

Since the last time I made a recycled notebook, I've devised a cunning and ingenious fixture to make them easier.  I also got some brass shim stock and a bunch of colored printer paper from a rummage sale to make some with.  For covers, this time I decided to try using a record sleeve and a recycled concert advertisement, both of which are stiffer than paper, and more waterproof than cardboard, and not too thick.
a bunch of stuff to make a notebook
A closer look at the jig.
notebook binding jig

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Waffle Iron Repair

We had this waffle iron that broke, so I tried to fix it.
broken waffle iron
It seemed that the people who designed this thing thought it would be a good idea to thread the screws into plastic bosses, which over time melted enough to compromise the threads.
waffle iron plastic screw bosses