Sunday, 17 May 2015

What does well in bed and up against a wall?

The fine selection of vegetables that we planted today of course! To continue a recent theme of being super productive we embarked on building a raised vegetable bed. Last year we planted vegetables in planters placed in a sunny spot on the deck however the yield was poor, very poor. I think we had a few leaves of lettuce and some baby spring onions - micro-greens if you will. This year, we shall not let mother nature slap us in the face with another paltry harvest.

Firstly we hope that by growing the vegetables in a raised bed we will avoid the drought/swamp situation that we witnessed in the planters last year. The location of the bed which mostly gets the milder morning sun will hopefully give us enough time to get home after work to water them before they dry out completely.

The building of the bed was moderately hard work but mostly because underneath the crappy grass we encountered a Kevlar-like substrate that was impervious to our blunt spades. It took much pogo-ing atop the spade in order to penetrate it but when we did it did not go to waste. We transplanted the best tufts of grass to cover dead spots around the side of the house. Nothing went to waste.

The construction was very easy. The total cost was about $24 of lumber $7 of deck screws. Here's a picture of me building it.

As you can see I'm wearing safety goggles. Exposure to gardening has been shown to accelerate the ageing processes so I take every precaution possible and I strongly encourage you to do the same.

Here is the complete vegetable bed:

One half of the bed has been seeded with carrots and something else and the back half is loaded with lettuce, kale and cabbage. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Sign Board

A quick Saturday afternoon build. My wife needed a sign-board so she can advertise her loose-leaf tea truck, the Tea Wagon when she is out on the road. It is surprising how poorly some event organizers signpost their event so this way we can be sure people know where the Tea is at!

The construction is from 3/4" plywood and pressure treated 1x1s but that is only because I already had these materials. The hinge is actually the best part. I made it from some 1/2" dowel and a 1/2" forstner or spade bit. I didn't really think it would work so I was a little surprised.

The arrow will be fitted to the dowels sticking up which rest within two angled holes so that the arrow can be flipped around depending on the location of the truck and the road. It's going to be painted to match the Tea Wagon colours and someone with a steadier hand than me will do some sign writing.

Readers with the most careful attention to detail will notice that I have used the same 4'x8' sheet of crappy plywood to build THREE projects:

  1. It was the tabletop surface for the aquarium stand project
  2. It was the base for the coffee table project (I never posted a picture of this so you'd have to have to be paying very close attention)
  3. And here it is again in the sign board
Features include:
  • Luxuriously spacious display area 20"x24"
  • But wait! Multiply that by 2 because you get the same area on both the front and the back
  • Bi-directional arrow
  • Sufficient clearance to be placed in deep grass or a shallow hole
  • Double's as a child's easel 
  • You get the idea... 

Pump Action

The pump arrived! 740 turtles gallons per hour of pump action. I promptly sped to Home Depot to buy the fittings that were necessary to connect it up to the rest of the system. This was not that easy because I needed to join two different size hoses together in a way that household plumbing never requires one to do. I spent my one-good-idea-for-the-week on solving this problem and came up with a cunning plan which worked. I'll post a separate blog post on that later in the week. 

The picture below shows the rough set-up. Priming the filter was messy which is why there is so much water over the garage floor. I went about it all wrong but I think I know what I need to do differently. 

The hoses are far too long right now but I'm not going to cut them until I'm sure how it will work. The upturned plant pots are integral to the filter support mechanism - this needs to change. There is still no media in the filter, this will make some impact on the flow rate but I'm really not sure how much.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The British Canadain

A good friend handed me a copy of The British Canadian. This is awesome.

Leak testing the turtle filter

The purpose of a turtle filter is to achieve the difficult task of separating turtles from water. Turtles enter through the top but more importantly, they do not exit out the bottom thereby achieving filtration.

Seriously though, this is actually a water filter for an aquarium which will house a Red Eared Slider turtle. The tank is 90 Gallons and the turtle is much less, but it's waste will be significant so I need good filtration to keep Mr Turtle (name to be decided) happy and healthy. This type of filter is called a canister filter and must be fully sealed as it will be completely filled with water. A pump will return clean water from the outlet at the bottom back up to the tank against gravity. In doing so, water from the aquarium will be drawn into the top of the filter under vacuum. Because the inlet and outlet will be in equilibrium, the pump should only have to overcome friction due to the filter media and hoses. Gravitational forces should cancel out.

The canister filter is made of 4" (100mm) PVC waste pipe. The top is a plug & cleanout adapter so that the filter can be disassembled and the media removed for cleaning. The bottom is a drain cap which is PVC cemented to the pipe. The bulkheads are watertight electrical conduit fittings made by a company called Carlon under the trademark LiquidTight. They are the sort of fitting used on hot tubs and other outdoor electrical equipment. I think they are intended to house electrical cables and therefore keep the water out but they don't know that and function just nicely as plumbing parts.

The filter media will be a mix of mechanical (sponges and filter floss) and biological (ceramic media and bio balls). 

For anyone wanting to build this style of filter, I found YouTube a wealth of information on this type of construction. My recommendation would be to glue one joint at a time, testing for watertight at every step so that you don't have to throw away loads of material when you make a mistake.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Rhythmbox Playback only works as root

A fresh install of Fedora 21 and all the right codecs yet still Rhythmbox refuses to recognize any music files and won't play anything.

This turned out to be a gstreamer/rhythmbox caching issues whereby after installing the new audio codecs the cache was not updated and so it behaved as if no codecs were installed. To fix this, assuming you've already installed all the right codecs for your audio files, just find and delete the caches. Note this is not specific to Fedora.


This information was courtesy of OpenSuse forums: and reproduced here for my own records and to help anyone else find it more easily in Google searches.