Thursday, September 30, 2010

Roll-up Blinds

Previously I used a shower curtain with reflective coating attached to block and reflect light from the aeroponics unit. Unfortunately that meant it was a real pain to access the plants even though I could lift up the curtain from the lower right and clip it to the top of the shelves. Now I have invested in two roll-up window blinds.

Both blinds needed to be trimmed to size. The curtain itself could be cut with scissors. The hollow steel rod could be cut with a handsaw or band saw. I took about 10" off each curtain, one originally 53" and the other originally 24".

A roll-up blind on the front and on one side provide more than adequate access to the plants, lights, and electronics. The remaining two sides were covered with a permanently mounted shower curtain with reflective film. About four inches of overlap around the corners helps keep the light in.

Now I have perfect access to the growing plants! I apologize for the unfocused pictures, my camera has started acting very strangely. I'll try to get it fixed before I work on more projects.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bite-size Garlic Baked Potatoes

I bought some small potatoes at the super market a while back. I've decided to bake them. First I coated them in some vegetable oil and poked them with a fork to let out steam as it cooks. Next I rolled them around in some garlic and Greek seasoning.

The next step is to wrap it in tin foil. I cut a piece that was maybe 5-6" long. Put the potatoes in line vertically on the foil and then folded it in half long ways. Curl up the edges over themselves to make a good seal. Next twist once or twice between the potatoes to seal each one individually.

Now it looks like a little snowman! I preheated the oven to 400F and put the foil pods right on the rack for about 25 minutes.

To be sure they were done I pulled them out of the oven and tried pressing on the potatoes through the foil with the back of a spoon to see if they were getting soft.They cooled off pretty quickly and I just untwisted the foil.

Voila! Yummy bite size potatoes.

They were good when they came out... buuuut why not make it better? I melted some Parmesan cheese, mixed it with a little garlic, cut open a slit in each potato, and put a bit of cheese inside. Delicious!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Knit Plarn Grocery/Tote Bag

After a few weeks of collecting bags and knitting, I've finally finished my plarn bag. This bag doubles in green potential - it upcycles grocery bags and replaces them in the future! It's much more durable and strong than regular grocery bags, and the wide handles won't cut into your hands like the cheap plastic ones can.

The pattern I used can be found here. It's an excellent and straightforward writeup for the beginning knitter. I mostly used Walmart and Kroger bags since they're both blue and white. I did use some of the white parts of Target bags. The Target bags were harder to knit due to some higher friction coating, but were a shinier brighter white.

Chocolate Waffles

This is the first attempt at chocolate waffles! I made them using a chocolate chunk muffin mix. The batter is a bit thicker than a usual waffle mix is. I used the same amount though.

The lid of the waffle cooker poofed up a little, but once it was all done I just cut off the edges that had gone outside the circle (because they aren't cooked as much).

I didn't have any chocolate syrup which is what I'd guess goes best with these. Instead I took some mint-oreo ice cream and put it on top of the waffle. It was pretty soft so I used a knife to spread it like butter.

As the ice cream melts it is caught in the waffle squares just like syrup!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rainbow Ponytail/Pigtails Knit Hat

This pattern is extra warm and snuggly! I used Jiffy Thick & Quick Lion Brand yarn with size 15 needles. I've found it's especially good after showers in the morning when your hair is damp. It keeps the hair underneath warm, and the part that drapes down from touching the back of your head or neck and keeping you cold. I got inspiration from these cute little hats here. However I only have really thick yarn so couldn't really follow the pattern given. Below is roughly the pattern I used, but I mostly made it up as I went!

Here's some closeups of the pony tail flaps.

The button holes (I don't have any buttons yet) are invisible when not in use, but definitely need to be there because there's not enough space in the stitches to fit a button through anywhere.

The ponytail holes were plenty big enough to fit my hair through. Plus they stretch to size anyway.

The Pattern

Need size 15 circulars and size 10 or so straight/circular

You will stitch the ponytail flaps first out of three segments of yarn. These will then be attached to the hat. Do this first so that you will have a continuous piece of yarn to use while knitting the hat.


On straight needles, going back and fourth switching lead needle, or using circs as straight needles.

CO 6
K 6
K1 K2tog K2tog K1
K2 Add two loops to right needle (opposite the way you would wrap to knit), K2
K6 (next 5 rows)

Now you're done a flap! Repeat three times.


CO 56
K2, P2 for 13 rows
K2, P2, K2 then cast off 2 stitches. Continue the K2, P2 pattern around until 10 stitches from beginning of row. Cast off 2 stitches then K2, P2, K2,P2. You should be back at the beginning.
*note the holes are not symmetrical around the beginning of round. This is ok*
K2, P2 around. When you come across holes for flaps, knit into the flap which you should have left on the needles from before. There will be tails that you can weave in later.

Now where you had two stitches before, you will have six above the ear flap. To decrease those six stitches do as follows for the rows above it:
Start with the 6 knit stitches
K2tog K2 K2tog (4 stitches now)
P2tog P2tog (2 stitches now)

Continue to K2, P2 for a row

To add the center flap, cast off the two before the end of the row. Repeat the same process as for the previous flaps.

Decrease the top as it fits your head, but try to keep the order as follows:

1st decrease: P2tog where the two purl stitches were
2nd: K2 tog where two knit stitches were
3rd: K2tog, P2tog all around
(repeat 3rd decrease as needed)
Thread yarn through remaining loops when it's small enough.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Plant Growth Update

The plants are doing very well!
The lettuce is getting pretty sizable; perhaps time to try a leaf or two. (day 14)

The peas also have shown significant growth. I will need to get working very soon on a support system for them since I don't want them sprawled all over the place making it impossible to lift out the net pots if need be.

The broccoli and other plants look pretty healthy. However I did find some slight damage on one of the broccoli leaves. I didn't think there would be any pests in my room. Perhaps it is light damage from getting too close to the bulbs early on? Somehow I doubt it, but the alternative is less pleasant.

The roots are really starting to develop. The onions and carrots are both doing well, but surprisingly they don't have any visible root growth outside the net pots. The lettuce has some small roots (day 14).

The broccoli has even smaller roots, but on the other hand it is growing out of a much larger net pot (day 20).

The pea roots were super impressive! (day 7)

Nutrient Mixing and Monitoring

The following tools have been purchased to provide maximum growing nutrients for the plants:

First thing's first, calibrating the meters.

Pour some of the pH 7.0 buffer solution into a cup. Remove the cap and submerge the pH meter. It should be around 7.0. Mine was a 6.4 so it needed some calibration with the included flat head screw driver.

To calibrate the TDS meter you should probably also pour some solution into a small container. I don't have too much buffer, so I calibrated for the first time directly in the container. I know this is a big no-no, but the meter was fresh from the case and perfect accuracy may not be so important. It was close enough to be calibrated for my purposes.

Now that calibration is complete, we need some baseline measurements.

I got a half gallon of tap water then mixed in the appropriate amount of Pure Blend Pro Grow as recommended for seedlings (1.5 teas / gal so 0.75 teas/half gal). Using the TDS meter, I measured 243 ppm. Using the pH meter I measured 6.5. This was the perfect pH! All my plants grow best between a pH of 6.0-7.0.

Next I measured the ppm and pH of the nutrient solution that has been in use the last 2-3 weeks while the plants have been sprouting. The pH was 6.1 which indicates that as the plants use the solution, the pH goes down and some pH UP may be needed. However much to my dismay, the ppm was 362. I think this is likely caused by either plant waste or dust from the clay pellets. The only solution is to replace the entire batch of nutrients to get a good reading. To avoid this problem in the future, I will potentially add an internal filter; probably one designed for an aquarium. This regulator is needed so that I can use the lowering of ppm to determine how much nutrient solution to add as time goes on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Oreo and Sprinkle Waffles

I've started a pattern of Thursday morning waffles with a few friends. I had just thought regular Belgian waffles, but today we added a twist. We put some crumbled oreos and rainbow sprinkles in the batter and made a colorful treat. They were pretty good. Need to add more sprinkles next time even though it seemed that the batter was full of sprinkles.The oreos also got pretty hard in the cooking process. Next time M&Ms or cookie dough!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Found Photos

Seen in a local Publix:

Seen hiking in Pennsylvania:

Second Attempt at Bread Making

I used the same recipe as before, except making a 2 lb loaf instead of a 1.5 lb loaf. Right when the bread machine finished mixing, I looked in the top window. I could see there was still a lot of bread flower along the edges of the pan. So contrary to the dire warnings in the bread machine manual, I opened the lid and used a spoon to mix in the flour as well as I could. This didn't alter the bread's cooking at all. However, I must have missed some because part of the loaf still had some dry flour on the outside.

I had plenty of bread so I just cut off the parts of the crust with flour on it. The bread inside those sections is still just as good. Lots of nice warm bread! The crust was still pretty light, even with all the bread flour mixed in.

Plants taking shape

Now just two weeks after transplanting the first seeds over to the aeroponics system, the plants are becoming recognizable. All except the peas of course, which were just planted two days ago. The very first leaves are starting to show up though.

The lettuce looks the best. Seven little lettuce plants that I can clearly recognize by the distinctive leaf shape and pattern.

Not being too familiar with the way cauliflower and broccoli grow, it doesn't look that recognizable to me. The cauliflower below looks quite similar to the broccoli (2nd picture down). All those plants seem to be pretty healthy though, so that's good.

Finally the two carrots are doing pretty well. Hopefully more little leaves will sprout making it look even more like the familiar carrot plant.

Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the single onion plant. Not a big deal though, as it is just one green shoot. There are no leaves and the tip is whitish. I suppose that is typical for the onion family, but it would be nice if some more leaves would show signs of budding. Tonight I will break out the meters and see if the plants are getting enough vitamins to make them big and strong, or if I'm just feeding them water.