The arrival of spring! This weekend has really ramped up the workload around the old rancheroo, though.
Among the projects in our household right now:
- Finishing up a visual theme in the master bedroom. We decided to theme it as an art studio. (What goes on in there approaches “art” [sleeping, lol, perv!].
- That led to getting some drawings put up on the wall and making sure everything flowed together. Nearly done, but waiting on parts.
Out in the shop: There are boxes of projects demanding attention.
- A number of these involve ham radio antennas, but…
- One involves a CNC machine project. SainSmart has come out with a modification to upsize their smaller Genmitsu 3018 – Pro series CNC machine. Resized to 300 mm x 400 mm, it gets to be a useful size.
- Another project is setting up aadditional 3D printers for a ham radio parts micro-company idea.
- One of the problems of 3D printing in a dusty shop is keeping freshly printed parts clean. The way around this is to (order some inexpensive clear plastic sheet and…) make a large box like cage. Clear — so you can see the prints. There is an additional benefit to such an enclosure: you can run the prints with smaller temperature variations which will… over time… Result in higher quality. Again, waiting on parts.
- A number of boxes are labeled “SORTING.” Which gets us to…
The Art of Sorting
I came up with the idea while – talking to Oilman2 – to take all of those loose nuts and bolts that accumulate in the shop and sort them into reusable product. OM2 does his sorting while watching television. I think his approach is just a simple board with a couple of rails so things don’t spill into the couch.
Ure, naturally, had to over-design and print some ideas. One that didn’t work well?
I mean, looks purdy and all. But it doesn’t have the capacity of Sorter Box V 2.0:
I have a little different take than OM2 on TV time: I figure if the TV is on, I better be watching it or it’s wasting my time. In which case, I should really leave the room and focus on something meaningful. Dollar store bowls, by the way.
Still unresolved it the machine or system to separate the M2, M2 and M3+from the 8-32, 6-32, and 10-32’s. If you could just sketch that up for me and tell me how to fab it for under $50, we could all get filthy rich…
[Some people are just blessed with an ability to multitask. I’d get into a long discussion, we do not have time for because he could drag out for weeks. I like to be totally immersed in whatever is at hand. Reading and a drink is about the limit of multi-tasking for Ure.]
Outside, I started to move some of the concrete blocks around that will eventually result in that lean-to on the north side of the shop/office building. More for shade in summer than rain shelter. I hadn’t realized how much time I was waiting for the rain to quit or for the Sun to drop low enough to offer shade.
Electric welding – or plasma cutting – standing in the rain does not seem like an especially bright idea. The lean-to might get done this week – we’ll see which crises arrive in the meantime. Taxes loom….
With the arrival of the new moon last weekend, a number of plants were added in the greenhouse.
Some of these will turn out to be good eating at the dinner table. But as usual, in East Texas, you never really know how much will go for humans and how much will go to the various predators. The deer, of course love to jump the fence. There are tomato bugs. The size of your thumb and larger. And then there are the fire ants. Damn those fire ants!
One of the tricks being tried this year, to reduce the labor input on things and not be as daily routine intensive as hydroponics, is we put a bunch of cardboard on the ground last year, along with a bunch of worms ordered online (Jim’s?). Mulch keeps down weeds.
Over the winter, the idea is the worms should have turned the cardboard and soil around it into something nutritious. And now, the 3 inch thick (and deeper!) worth of left over mulch from our logging operation last year, may become a low-weed garden.
Unfortunately, not all of the weeds have been kept at bay. Some of these are stubborn(like democrats) and come back. Despite the nearly 0° temperatures during the Texas blizzard this winter, or voting machines.
There are two ways to approach the problem: one is on your knees while the other is standing up with something to squirt napalm=like at your fingertips.
I chose the latter: fire is a lot more fun to play with than gloves and sticker bushes on the knees. There is also the opportunity for vengeance on the fire ants.
Burning out a garden is an art. Starts with a controlled border around the outside perimeter.
A day or two after a good rain. If you do not do this, the fire can get away from you. Out here, a forest fire or range fire is serious business. Liability and life savings come to mind as issues to be thought through carefully.
Pick a relatively calm day. With a judicious amount of flame being applied you can run a pretty good line down the fence and within a foot of a building – depending on your appetite for risk and what’s the foundation made of?
On the outside of the fence, there are some leaves but under those it was wet enough so the fire didn’t really take off. The main risk is wind; if it comes up you can get in trouble fast. So to prevent difficulties, a longer than you need water hose – charged, long range nozzle – at the ready.
You can see how the mulch is still mostly in place. Piles of pine straw and a few leaves left over from winter had blown in. Strangely, not on the lawn (where they are naturally attracted, at least previously).
Picked up a new product from Amazon recently (CowPots 3″ Round Cow Pot Planter (12 Pack), 175mL) that may improve our gardening success. The company is making small starter pots for vegetables and plants out of compressed cow manure. I know it sounds kinda grody, and they don’t smell like a gardenia when you hold it up to your nose…But in theory, the roots will grow right through the manure adding finding nutrition along the way. A shake of fertilizer and such pots will be planted in that nicely mulched and burned garden area.
Every Car Green in East Texas
This is the time of the year when the tall pines of East Texas start blowing yellow pollen all over the place. Because of the cold snap this year, there is an abnormal number of pine needles coming down as well.
We’re not sure what will happen in the front yard. The good news is that the pine needles themselves eventually will turn to mulch. But, is that before or after killing off the grass? A pass with the flame thrower may be in order.
Deer Proof Flowers
Another project that was done this week. It was the planning of deer – proof flower seeds. You can find these on Amazon, too.
We picked up a pound or so and wildly over-planted. We should have a pretty good display around the garden, near a power line pole brace line in the front yard and around our front security light.
Motivation is to increase the number of hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators so the tomatoes will not have to be manually handled with an electric toothbrush or a paintbrush. That was one of the major drawbacks I found to doing the hydroponic gardening last year. That and the greenhouse getting too hot to set fruit most of the summer.
Still kicking around a fully-enclosed lean-to on the side of the house up against the studio wall. We have the space, it is a semi-shaded area (late sun), and with a spare swamp cooler, we should be able to grow lettuces and other greenery inside that with good output.
Do not know if you have ever driven through coastal areas of California. But the area is great for lettuce growing; not particularly hot. 85F as a high is plenty for table greens.
I tried a few of the lettuces that are designed/hybridized for hot weather. There are some coming out of Israel ( a variety of kibbutz romaine) that looked pretty good on paper but didn’t produce well here. If I had to survive on the output, I would be about 200 pounds lighter.
Power for the swamp cooler is easy: Should just be taking additional output from the solar panels and setting up a separate inverter so that the swamp cooler runs all on its own. Without getting involved with the grid-tie system.
If we stick additional loads on the grid-tie part of our solar system, I would have to get new inverters because I can only really generate about 2 ½ to 3 kW of grid-tie sell mode, even under ideal conditions of no load at home.
The problem is 3 kw (ea.) grid-tie sine-waves that stack aren’t free this week.
Try $2.500 bucks a throw and up. Even if you shop around.
If we expand on the grid-tie side, it means more inspections from the power company (and fees) and them coming out to do a new signoff. And a new Co-gen agreement. It just spirals from there.
Anymore, it does not make as much economic sense to add to an existing G-T system. The local utility co-op has bumped us down to just over five cents a kilowatt hour because they are no longer buying back at the rate we pay. Instead they make up an “avoided cost rate” which is a stab through the heart of renewable, but gee, who’s surprised?
Right now, we pay about 10 ½ cents per kilowatt hour for energy coming from the power company. But when they’re buying power back from us we get paid only about 5 ½ cents.
The song and dance was amusing. No, I do not buy it at all. It is just a way for the power monopoly to slow down the onrush of solar. By adding additional inspections and layers of cost and lots of bureaucrazy, it’s as anti-climate as you can find. Lots of small would-be solar operators will be squeezed out or just turn off the “sell-back to grid” option on their system menu. I almost did….
The answer for us is to simply use additional solar panels which are cheap and split the system. Making your own subsystem is a matter of a hundred dollar charge controller and just tying into the same battery bank.
Two things happen this way. First, your battery bank fills up a little more quickly from the additional source, and secondly, you do not have to buy new inverters, go through new signoff, and additional inspections. Because, at least technically, the additional solar panels are not touching the grid-tied gear.
The grid system uses sophisticated charge controllers for regulating how much is generated and so forth.
This is enough of a ramble for this morning… busy as all heck out here.
Maybe next weekend I will walk you through the steps of putting in Mr. Ure’s hundred dollar emergency lighting system. I think you will get a kick out of it. It involves 3D design and printers plus some cheap emergency lights from Amazon. But more on that next weekend.
Off to snag some chow and then work on antennas and projects without end, Amen. You cannot have 30 acres of big trees and have blocks of spare time, simultaneously. No idea how our neighbors out here had time to raise children.
Oh…wait! Out here, they still help….why, children with utility value – imagine!
Write when you get rich.