Tomato Gardening in Self Watering Containers

This is the beginning of my latest attempt at having a garden here in Albuquerque. I put out six of these five gallon self watering buckets ten days ago. I had to move them into the kitchen for four days because the weather went to below freezing in the mornings last week.

While it is not obvious, these are homemade self watering containers. The bottom bucket holds the water and is filled through a plastic pipe (behind the plant) which goes through the top bucket (on the inside bucket edge) to the bottom bucket. The top bucket has an ~ 3 inch hole cut out (the size of pop bottle bottom) in the middle. The bottom part of a plastic pop bottle is pushed into the bottom of the outside bucket. The plastic bottle bottom has holes cut into it so the water can get in.

The dirt in the pop bottle bottle and the dirt above it act as a wick, drawing up water for the plant. At least that is the claim. Seems to work so far. The height where the top bucket meets the bottom bucket is a small hole in the outside bucket. When I fill the bucket, water runs out the hole when it is full.

These are “container bush tomato” plants. I have no idea how big they will get or how big or small the tomatoes will be.

Tomatoes in Self Watering Buckets

Look up self watering containers on youtube if you are interested in trying them out yourself. Pictures are better than words, and a video is better yet. I had to watch a few different videos before the concept made sense. Of course after I figured it out, I found better videos that showed and explained all the steps needed to make self watering containers.

I am also working on two raised beds in the Square Foot Gardening style though they will not be 4′ x 4′ but about 3′ x 6′ because I am using a roll around closet I found in a second hand store. It helps to be creative when it comes to gardening.

DYI Wheelbarrow Alternative – Simple and Cheap

Gardening season is upon us in the southern part of the country. Northern gardeners already have some of their seeds started indoors for a few weeks now. The race is on to get those flowers and vegetables in the ground and growing. Bragging rights are at stake and bragging rights is serious gardening business.

I am caught up in the excitement of gardening this year too. The soil in my back yard is rock interspersed with some sand. The last rose bush I put in took a pick and shovel, and about 30 minutes of pick work to plant a gallon sized container. Creating a garden plot was unthinkable.

This year I am going to try raised bed gardening which does not care what soil conditions are because the soil is custom made, and mixed together before adding adding into a raised bed. I picked up a book case for $11.00. I found a portable closet for $12.00. The closet is eighteen inches deep, so I can cut it in half and have two raised beds.

I found a truck load of free compost. The compost owner even helped me shovel it in to the back of my truck. I bought peat moss, and steer manure from a Borg Store. I found 3 cubic feet of vermiculite at a local nursery.

The big problem was getting all that soil to the back yard. I owned a wheelbarrow previously. It was an average size wheelbarrow with a plastic barrow (what hold the dirt). Of course over time the plastic barrow became brittle and cracked apart. Plus it took up valuable garage floor real-estate. I did not want a repeat as the long term problem is worse than the solution. Then the cost of such a seldom used tool made me rethink a purchase of another wheelbarrow.

Necessity being the mother of invention I found a practical and I thought simple solution. I bought four 14 gallon storage containers from the Borg Store. I own a dolly which I find is very hand to own tool for many odd jobs. I used my dolly and the four containers to move all the soil easily – for the most part – from my driveway to the my back yard. I must admit by the fifth load I was getting a little winded.

Wheelbarrow alternativeI had to pull my improvised dolly & container wheelbarrow through a stretch of small rock. It was manageable, easier than I remember pushing wheelbarrows of soil over the same rock to the back yard previously. If you need to move soil, and own or have access to a dolly, this may be a good solution for you. This combination saves space and has added usability.

I thought I would share my modified wheelbarrow with you, as you may also have limited space, and the need to move a lot of soil easily. Total coast was about $30.00 which is less expensive than any wheelbarrow I could find. Another plus is I do not have the problem of storing a wheelbarrow which is used rarely by the average urban or city dweller. Happy gardening!

Mac Note Taking Made Easy

As with almost any OS, there are any number of note taking applications for Mac. Here are three note taking applications I use almost exclusively. I would not be happy if I had to stop using any one of them. Like you, I find I take a lot of notes. Notes may last for a few hours to notes saved for the long term. One of the biggest drawbacks with notes, is long term notes.

Long term notes

My long term notes have been created Windows, copied into Linux, and finally onto my Mac(s). Keeping notes in text file format is incredibly helpful when it comes to both long term and cross platform notes. Generally every file system recognizes the .txt ending, and every platform knows how to display text files. As long as long time notes are kept in text format, they can be emailed, placed in dropbox, put on a usb stick or backed up for long term storage.

Note taking should be simple

Three note taking apps I use on my Mac make taking and keeping notes simple. Why three applications and not a single application? I have been through the realm of organizers, one long document made up of smaller notes, and sticky notes, both paper and virtual. They all have their limitations.

Organizers tend to lock you into their format, or they duplicate your notes. Long single documents keep everything in one place, but cutting and pasting into and out of a long doucment gets messy. Sticky notes multiply until there are too many to keep track of. Too many loose sticky notes in itself become a problem.

Easy and fast note taking

Total Note Control

Take Great Notes

I use Notational Velocity, nvALt which is a modified Notational Velocity, and a third app named xPad. All three are free apps. All three apps fill a niche. Notational Velocity and nvAlt no longer share the same database, so you have two separate databases for different types of notes.

All three of these programs easily export notes as text which is critical for long term note keeping. They are simple to use, and can be used almost entirely from the keyboard of you wish. There only drawback, though use and ability override this is they are not the prettiest applications out there. There strength and ability far outweigh what they lack in looks.

Encrypted notes

I use Notational Velocity with the option of an encrypted database to store private information. The plethora of personal information we need to share grows weekly, and Notational Velocity handles it all easily. My notes are safe via encryption, and retrieved as fast as I can type in a search word or phrase.

Note Syncing, Markdown, more

nvAlt is a modified version of Notational Velocity. I use it for public notes, which if seen by others does not matter. For example, urls, command key sequences for programs, HTML examples, Markdown, any note that is not personal or sensitive. nvAlt works with drop box, so notes can be sync’d across your computers.

Short term Notes

xPad is my all around scratch pad. I use xPad for short term notes, or to jot down some important blurb of information. I am using xPad to write this post. Once this post is written, I export it from xPad into a folder. Other notes are deleted when no longer needed. xPad has a sequential directory of your notes. One icon click and your documents are displayed. If you do not name your document, xPad saves your note in as Untitled xx, with xx being the next number in the untitled note sequence you have already stored in xPad.

Save as not needed

All three applications share the freedom of not having to manually save your note. This feature ensures your notes are there when you need them. Notational Velocity and nvAlt want a name first before you go on to create your note. One that is done, your note is being saved as you type it.

These three applications cover almost all of my writing needs. I have tried most of the other popular formats, and for me, they all fall short on one way or another. These three are very straight forward, easy to use and cover all my note taking and typing needs.

Exporting notes

The ease of exporting notes is a must for keeping notes. In Notational Velocity and nvAlt, when I have stagnant notes [notes I want to keep but seldom reference], I use the export feature and save them to their own topic folder. For example, all my blog posts are kept in on one main folder. All my other long term notes find there way into a folder named by subject.

I have all my notes handy and easily located. My commonly referenced notes are mixed with notes I seldom have a need to reference. This makes searching for notes simple, without adding any additional overhead to my notes such as keywords.

More information and Downloads

If you are not using these three note taking programs already, you are missing out on something good. Try these three apps out. After a few days, I am sure you will agree, they make your note taking simple, complete, and safe. You are not sending your bank account information into the cloud and across the net. Best of all you will have the perfect note taking app for each and every note you want to create.

Notational Velocity – http://notational.net/

nvAlt – http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

xPad – http://getxpad.com/

Charity Has Limits

Homeless Horror is Human Being after all

From a distance of about 25 feet between two vehicles it was hard to decide whether her hair was a really bad dye job, or a really crappy wig. Her clothes were earth colored. And she looked scary like a very good Halloween Costume, only it wasn’t. A hesitant little girls voice emanated from where she stood. It was hard to believe it was her voice.

Mister… Mister, can you spare some change? I hate it when this happens. I feel like there is a neon sign above me, announcing to the world this guy is a sucker. Hit ’em up, he is good for some change. I am usually selective about who I give money too, but it always feels like every panhandler in the area closes in on me.

There was a real need in her voice, something I couldn’t quite know for sure, but it was there all the same. I heard a real need in her little girl voice. Sounding as if she really needed money, and was not out panhandling for her next fix.

As I stepped closer I looked at her as if I was looking at her for the first time. What I thought I was looking at was something else. This was a woman who was destroyed by whatever life she had led. I imagined alcohol in massive quantities. I had never seen anyone still breathing look so bad.

Begging is all that’s left

This woman could have been in a horror movie without additional make up. It was a terrible thought that went through my head as I walked closer. I thought, ‘…this woman could never prostitute herself. No man would ever have sex with her. Begging is all she has left. She is so ugly scary looking’.

Her facial skin looked like it was made out of cracked clay. A trip to the beauty salon that was stopped after the facial was applied. The yellow stuff cracked apart as it dried out. It was a sickly shade of yellow. As I walked closer, I could see her hair was real, dyed and thin, looking like it would break off if touched.

Not only was the skin on her face yellow, her hands were also yellow, as were the whites of her eyes. It wasn’t skin die from some job she had once upon a time. Even her pupils were a darker shade of yellow, only a little darker than the rest of her.

I thought her clothes were layered as some homeless people are want to do. From a few feet away I could see what I thought was layered clothing was distended stomach. My God this is was the most jaundiced person I had ever seen who was still walking. For that matter, I never have seen anyone look that bad even in the hospital.

“Can you spare some money? I need a little money.” That jarred me back to reality. It wasn’t a monster, it was a real person, a woman, probably younger than I am. She is real sick, maybe a few days from dying I though. She stepped back slightly, standing in between two packed vehicles.

Horror Film doesn’t pay for actors

If there was ever a horror movie where the main character did not know it was a movie, this was it. We were less than two feet apart, and it took all I could do to not show emotion on my face. She was hideous looking. In that instant, if she had grown claws and fangs, and launched herself at my throat I would not have been surprised. In fact I was prepared for it…too much Walking Dead.

At a loss for words

I could only imagine the hellish life this woman had lived. It took a lot to remind myself she was a human being. I wanted to say, “Get away from me, you look more like something from a horror show than a person!”

Instead I mumbled something about helping her out, and took out my wallet. I gave her some cash, and mumbled again that this money should get her going. My God she was a wreck. It took a lot not ask what the hell she had down to herself, and how many days did she have left before she fell over. I wanted to stare, I wanted to look away, and I wanted to ask.

I fail the screen test

What I heard instead in that trembling child’s voice was, “God bless you”. I could not get my brain and my voice working. Here before me stood this walking nightmare, and maybe that is being generous, giving to me God’s blessing. The best I managed was mumbling, “Thank you.” This was six days ago.

I see in my minds eye, people getting scared and walking, even running away, dragging their children to safety. More people scared than people willing to spare some change. I would like to think otherwise, but we have our limits, and she passed those limits with ease.

Back in the Day

In earlier times, she would have been killed for looking so hideous. Probably killed for being a witch like the young woman, Kepari Leniata in Papua, New Guinea a few weeks back. No one who would want her around. She would have been chased, kicked, and had garbage and fecal matter thrown at her. Today, few are going to help her. She would be a problem at any homeless shelter. No hospital spends money on homeless dying people if they do not have to.

I was thinking about her blessing of me today. Her blessing prompted me to write this out. I gave her some money I did not need, and she gave me something which is beyond value. Whether it was was a practiced phrase of a long time panhandler, or genuine, I will never know. I choose to think it was genuine.

My Prayer for her

Homeless get Bus to Heaven

Dead and Homeless Bussed to Heaven?

These last few days I wonder if I should have done more. We both knew in the moment there was nothing more I could do for her. She is on the last lap of her final race. She runs this lap alone. I offer up what for me passes for prayer – I pray her end is easy and peaceful. She wakes in a better place with people who love her surrounding her. May God bless her.

Hockey Sticks, Golf Clubs, Baseball Bats – TSA Ruling

Great news for Airline Passengers to fly without fear through domestic skies.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) declared each passenger on a domestic flight may soon carry on at least one the following for domestic flights:

  • 1 Hockey Stick 
  • 2 Golf CLubs
  • One small pen type knife with a small blade
  • Limited size baseball bats, less than 24 inches in length

Sounds like a protest uproar is being led by the Airlines. How about domestic Airline Passengers not in an uproar over terrorists bringing these items on board?

Think about this. If every domestic airline passenger brought one hockey stick or two golf clubs as carry on, what chance does any possible terrorist have?

A possible terrorist can wield one hockey stick. Say there are three or four terrorists. That is three or four combinations of hockey sticks or golf clubs.

Let’s pretend the flight has one hundred passengers, most being adults carrying their hockey stick or golf club to their seat.TSA Hockey Stick

I say bring it on!

No contest!

Round one, and any remaining rounds going to the now armed passengers.

Take advantage of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ruling and protect yourself as you fly. We have guns at home, or on our person. We have mace in our purses or on our side. Some of us have golf clubs in our front seat next to us as we drive.

Get eighty plus percent of passengers on any given flight armed with a club of their choice, and I am confident there will be no trouble on any domestic flight.

 

 

 

Health Benefits of a Diet Plan

Sometimes a post just does not flow. I started writing a post to help you create a Diet Plan last week. It stunk, plain and simple. Here is my second attempt on a Diet Plan just for you. You will have a Diet Plan that actually works for you and does not drop after six or eight weeks. I hope you read about a Diet Plan, create one, follow it, and refer to it often.

You have probably been on one or more diets with varying levels of success. I have been on a number of diets too, and they all work in the short term. I lose weight, keep it off for a short time, and before I know it, the weight is sneaking back on, and at first I am not sure why.

Healthy EatingHealth effects of these on and off diets can not be good. Many of the diets I tried, gave me horrible cravings. Often for food I did not normally eat. I would get hyper, be overly tired, sleepy all day, or not able to sleep at night. The worst part was I was always hungry. I spent a lot of time thinking about food I could not eat. But I lost weight over the short term.

I believe Robert Pritikin was the first person to create a real, healthy diet for readers everywhere. You may want to read about his story. Mr. Pritikin created his diet to save his life. Diets that follow in Pritikin’s footsteps have a lot in common with fresh vegetables as the main focus. Daily servings of fruit, no to very little meat, nuts, selected grains in limited amounts, and finally healthy fats such as Avocado and/or nut oils wrap up these healthier ways of eating.

Robert Pritikin’s diet holds the power to effect your health for better forever – if you can follow it. I found I could not follow his overly strict eating plan. Little did I know just how bad my eating habits were. Most of the conflict was it was Pritikin’s plan, and not mine. Making your own plan helps you be more successful.

I found these basic and very healthy diets  are best.I suggest you adapt one, or create your own diet from these offerings:

  •  The Thirty Day Diabetes Miracle Diet
  • Eat To Live
  • Eat More, Weigh Less

These book/program diets in a way introduce you to your own personal Diet Plan. I wish I would have understood more about eating correctly when I first discovered Pritikin. At the time I thought he was too strict and narrow minded about food.

A Diet Plan helps take weight off sensibly and keep weight from creeping back. Your Diet Plan becomes your eating plan guiding you for life. You can create your own Diet Plan in just a few minutes.

To create your Diet Plan create a text file. Add these lines in any order you prefer:

  • I want to weigh this much in the future
  • I want to look like this in the future
  • I want to be able to wear this in the future
  • I want to be able to do this in the future
  • I want to learn about eat food I will enjoy now and in the future
  • I want to eat healthy nutritious foods over my lifetime, not lose weight right now.
  • Add any other thoughts which are important to you concerning eating and food

Modify those bullets as you need to fit you and your life. Change the order to suit you. This is your Diet Plan. You may continue to modify your Diet Plan to suit your individual needs. For now, use it as your starting point, pointing you where you want to be in the future.

The health effects of a wholesome, healthy diet, and your own Diet Plan are life changing! When you alone are in charge of you, not someone else’s idea of what you should be eating it is a very different. You know what changes you want, how fast you want to get there, and how to maintain once you arrive. You will feel satisfied each and every day on your eating journey.

You won’t be suffering the side effects of short term diets that do not work. The best part is, you will become your future vision of yourself, and you will easily maintain your perfect weight. All this will happen because you have a Diet Plan you created – one you want to follow.

Arriving at your perfect weight, your Diet Plan is there to remind you where you started. A Diet Plan shows you what has worked for you and what has not. You can’t fall off your Diet Plan, because your Diet Plan is created by you, and managed by you. You can follow your Diet Plan for life. You will feel the wonderful health effects of a sound diet following your own Diet Plan in a few weeks, maybe less. Best of all you will enjoy every meal and snack you eat because you chose the food, not some book.

This is not a fly by night, drop twenty pounds in four weeks diet. This is a balanced, sensible, and highly achievable way of achieving your weight and health goals. You decide how fast or slow to go, and how to stay there when you arrive.

You are in charge of you, and not left with a good luck line six or eight weeks later, as other diets do when you lose the pounds you wanted to lose. You will have everything you need to once you arrive at your perfect weight, because you have your Diet Plan and you feel healthy. Make a few small tweaks and you have your plan for the long term.

 

 

3 Virtual Machines for Mac

Virtual Machine on a Mac

I did some testing of Virtual Machines on my Mac. I wanted a VM (Virtual Machine) to run linux. I wrote down my thoughts to share in helping you in your decision. Following is a general overview of my likes and dislikes of each Virtual Machine. I am using a 17″ Mac with a quad core processor and NVidia graphics, 4 gigabytes of memory. My Mac is about one year old as of this writing.

Virtual Machine basics

For those of you who have never used a Virtual Machine, virtual Machines are an interesting piece of software. What they do is allow you to run almost any operating system as a Virtual Machine. This is good if you need to use a program that only runs on another operating system, or like me, you want to use another operating system for other reasons. With enough memory, you can be very exotic with Virtual Machines.

Virtual Machines are versatile

For example, running Windows as a Virtual Machine under MAC OS, which is running Linux inside of another Virtual Machine, which is running MAC OS inside of it. No one I know goes to those lengths, but it can be done. Most common uses are to run a second operating system as Virtual Machine. In the case of my Mac, I wanted a Virtual Machine to run Linux Operating System, and check out Google’s Chrome Operating System.

Virtual Machines for Free

Free is always better. Most people will use a free program is they can and save their money for other things. I am no different. One free Virtual Machine I used before is from Oracle’s VirtualBox.

For running a 32 bit operating system VirtualBox works well. This time around I wanted to run 64 bit Linux and things were quite different when to came to VirtualBox.

There were two stumbling blocks I came up against with VirtualBox. I could not find a 64 bit switch to run 64 bot Linux OS. 64 bit software will run in a 32 bit environment though slower than normal. A bigger problem was screen size of the VirtualBox. The best resolution I could get was 800 x 600 screen size. I wanted at least 1024 x 768 and I could not adjust the screen to a higher resolution. Free is good though, and VirtualBox is excellent for a 32 bit OS, and a smaller screen size. Plus it is free.

VMware is a long time player

VMware has been around in the Windows world for a long time. As far as I am aware they were the second player in Mac OS. I used VMWare in the past and it is a great program under Windows OS. VMware ran every Operating System I wanted to run. I had high expectations for the Mac version of VMware. I went to the website, signed up and downloaded a thirty day trial copy.

The VMware software practically loaded itself. Virtual Machine creation was painless. Setting my preferred screen resolution was painless. Everything worked as advertised, just as it did under Windows. I was very happy with VMWare’s performance under Mac OS. VMWare is geared towards running Windows as a Virtual Machine under Mac OS. That is VMware big selling point. For three days I was happy with VMware running Linux VM under MAC OS.

One small Glitch

I found a switch (setting) for full screen and tried it out. The Virtual Machine made its adjustments and came up full with an escape key to return to normal resolution. Everything ran well and I was impressed with the full screen. When I reduced the screen size to my previous settings, I found a glitch. The screen locked up between full screen and original settings. Linux was frozen as was my Desktop.

I waited some seconds and nothing changed. I retried the full screen escape commands, tried to escape the mouse from the Virtual Machine, and still no response. I had a dark empty screen and no way to give input to either the Virtual machine or Mac OS.

After deliberating some seconds about whether to force my MAC into reboot by turning off power, the Virtual Machine produced a few tremors, paused for a few more seconds, and finally, screen resolution returned.

Third time is the charm

Virtual MachinesIt was time to try Parallels Virtual Machine. Parallels was the first serious Virtual Machine for Mac OS. I was a registered user of the first Virtual Machine release for Mac OS by Parallels. After some months, I no longer needed a Virtual Machine, and it obsoleted itself.

Parallels loaded simply, and went right into setting up a Virtual Machine. Available settings are clear and choices are straightforward. There was little difference between the three Virtual Machine softwares in their setup and operation. Parallels is on its second week, and every option has worked without a glitch for me. One surprise is having Ubuntu and Chrome OS available through Parallels and pulling in and converting a Virtual Machine already on my hard drive.

Windows VM support and Test Drives

I can not comment about Windows as a VM. I have Windows 7 on a laptop only which I rarely use. In wrapping up, if you want to be thrifty, VirtualBox works well and it is free for home use. There is nothing seriously wrong with the two pay for Virtual Machine Software within the limitations I mentioned. Either free, or thirty day trial is available for you, so you can check each one out and put them through their paces yourself.

If you want to run Windows on a Mac Virtual Machine, I read either VMWare or Parallels reportedly work equally well with Windows as a VM. This is their main selling point for Mac users. For me with Lion OS running a Linux Virtual Machine, Parallels was my choice. I think you should happy with any Virtual Machine software packages if they fit your needs.