Thursday, May 30, 2013

Purple Beans and Corn Tassels -- Spring Garden Weekly Update 8

Here we go again. It turns out that it is easy to overlook how some plants are doing, especially in such tight spaces.


Left side balcony garden
Right side balcony garden

Red Cherry Tomato (Large Fruit)

A very easy tomato plant to grow, and an easy one to clone too. It can be grown in containers as small as 1 gallon, but a larger container is better. Plants will grow larger in bigger containers. The Kratky method and other hydroponic techniques can be used for this plant. Produces lots of cherry tomatoes throughout the season. Not as sweet as other varieties, but that's because the fruit is larger.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

DIY Hashbrowns

Have you ever bought a large bag of potatoes and ran out of uses for them? Have you ever left your potatoes lying around too long that the eyes started to grow? Well, I'm going to show you how to make really fast and cheap hash browns as good as the restaurants do so you won't ever waste potatoes again.
10 lbs of potatoes
Why can't I hold all these potatoes?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tomato Cloning Experiment

When you buy a tomato plant at a store, the chances are the plant wasn't started from seed. It was likely grown from the cutting of another plant. There are many plants that can be cloned in this fashion, but tomatoes are arguably the easiest plant to clone.

The experiment was simple and easy to do. All that is required is a branch from the mother plant. Take that cutting, snip off all of the lower leaves and branches, and stick it in wet soil or a hydroponic grow medium. I chose the soil path since I do not have any space for more hydro experiments. Some recommend using root growth hormone to help the cutting establish itself, but I don't have that on me.
Tomato cloning mother plant
Day 1 Mother Plant

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Beans and massive Hydroponic Growth -- Spring Garden Weekly Update 7

It's that time of the week again. On Tuesday I harvested my first beans. I still have yet to see green beans at the farmers market, so I beat them to the punch. Over the weekend, I was able to get a bunch of free seed packets from a campus event. I haven't planted any yet, but I will be using some in winter. Let's take a look at everything.


Left side balcony garden
Right side balcony garden

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cloudy Day with Verdant Fury -- Spring Garden Weekly Update 6

It was a difficult decision, but I had to destroy the cucumber plant that is featured in the banner of this website due to disease drowning it. One of my hanging planters with a corn plant fell off my balcony a few nights ago, prompting me to go rescue it. I am not sure if it will recover yet. Regardless, the past week of slightly warmer temperatures, followed by a nice cloudy day today led to some impressive overall growth.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Building a Die Casting Mold (Soap Dish Mold Part 1)

This is my granddaddy project, the whole reason I chose to go to school for tooling was to be able to make permanent casting molds for my foundry.  Unfortunately, the information I learned from the tooling class helped little with the mold making process.  Even the internet has low to no information on mold making, well at least not in English, so I had to learn from word of mouth.... It isn't that complicated actually.  The only difference between this and a sand mold is instead of sand it will be made of steel.  How hard can it be?

As mentioned in my evil plan, the mold is for a soap dish.  I started by taking the dimensions of the soap dish and finding a piece of steel that will give me adequate room to make the cavity.  The problem is, the only thing I could find was a round piece 6" in diameter 8" long.  This meant I would have to machine it square-like and cut it in half for the 2 halves of the mold.

The first step was to put it in the lathe and face the ends clean so it would fit in the mill vise correctly.  I had to use the biggest lathe in the shop to fit this monstrosity.

Building a tray

I got tired of carrying stuff from the kitchen like this, so I built a tray from scrap aluminum and wood.
Aluminum angle pieces courtesy of the scrap bin at school:
Is it still called angle iron if it is made of aluminum?
Thin wood piece from shelf drawer, I cut it with aviation snips to this size.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with cutting wood with aviation snips.... well until it cracks.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dial Indicator/ Camera Stand

All the other machinists at work have their own dial test indicators & bases like the one pictured above and whenever I have to do a setup, I always have to borrow one.  It was implied I should get one too, but my distaste in expensive delicate things that need to be taken care of led me to make a stand for my $15 Harbor Freight indicator.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas

Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea Plant

For the time period I grew this plant during, it survived the heat well. The heat burned away some of the bottom leaves, turning them brownish yellow. I didn't get a great harvest though. This variety is tasty and is worth growing when your area does not get freakish heat waves in the middle of March. The edible pods are very sweet. I would recommend growing this variety to shelling peas.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I accidentally killed my cucumber plant -- Spring Garden Weekly Update 5

Another week has passed, the last week being significantly cooler than the previous week. We got a little rain too. Production has picked up in the garden. Several more female cucumber flowers have emerged and a few have been pollinated. Additionally, pea and bean flowers have emerged and a few pods have begun to form.


Right side balcony garden
Left side balcony garden

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hard Apple Cider Batch #2

Due to popular demand (and tastiness), I have decided to make another batch of hard apple cider. I'm using the same recipe as before, except this time I am using 4.5 gallons of juice instead of 4. This will lower the starting gravity slightly, but I doubt it will have too much impact on the flavor. The flavor of the other batch was extremely strong, so I'm not worried. I did have to find a new place to put my fermenter, as I don't think the table in my closet cannot support the weight of two filled buckets (about 80 lbs).
Yeast ready to pitch
Saccharmomyces cerevisiae. The yeast

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Beer Batch 2: Red Rye IPA

Homebrew while you homebrew
Have a homebrew while you homebrew!
It is time for another batch of homebrewed beer. Our stout came out well, so this time we decided to try adapting a recipe for an IPA. The kicker here is that aside from rye, the beer is formulated to be a reddish color and uses brown sugar. I'm sorry to all the passionate brewers out there that brew pure malt, but we are pragmatic brewers here; the brown sugar doesn't even compose 10% of total fermentatable material. Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chair Repair

The chair I use finally broke due to a serious design flaw I saw coming from a mile away.  As illustrated below, it has a geometry for weight distribution that puts all the stress on the weld joints on the front.  This would only be a problem if the manufacturer used paper-thin tubing, and they did.  Also, I had taken off the back of the chair and have been sitting on it backwards which may have added to the problem.
The breaking point
I'm pretty sure it was designed this way on purpose per planned obsolescence, or to give it a nice "spring" effect, but I have a welder and can show them who's boss.  If I had paid any money for this chair, I would want it back.

Wind and Cucumber Flowers -- Spring Garden Weekly Update 4

The weather has been hot and windy, but my plants are still doing fine. Let's see some photos.


Right side balcony garden
Left side balcony garden

Spacemaster Cucumber

I have grown these cucumbers in soil and with the Kratky method, and the ones via the Kratky method have done so much better than the soil grown ones. The Kratky ones have grown at least over one foot tall, while the soil ones have only grown about 4 inches tall. These plants do not need too much space, so they are perfect for those on balconies or patios. However, they can grow out of control if you do not give them enough space. The cucumbers have a nice, crisp flavor that is not overwhelming.

Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is one of my favorite vegetables. It is a member of the beet family. These seeds readily germinate, but getting the plant to establish itself in warm months isn't easy. I would recommend keeping the plant inside while it is young. Once it gets going, keep it outside. The plant will keep producing leaves, so harvest the plant down to 5 leaves to ensure it can regrow its lost ones optimally.

Leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sauteed, and possibly other ways. One of my favorite ways to eat chard is to chop up leaves and stems and throw them into a pan with olive oil and garlic. Another way you can prepare chard is to bake them into vegetable chips.