Seeds Are In, a Homemade Ladder, and a New Computer

All the things in the packet from Terroir Seeds

All the things in the packet from Terroir Seeds

I got the last of my seeds in nearly a week ago, just before heading out on a business trip.  Now all that I really need is for things to warm up a bit more before I can start planting.  The most exciting thing I ordered was the Bloody Butcher variety of maize (corn) which has a very deep red color.  Besides the corn, I have lettuce that should do fairly well in the Oklahoma heat, carrots, peppers, sunflowers, buckwheat and some Vitex seed.  The last one is a shrub/tree that will primarily be for bee feed.  The buckwheat will also be a good nectar source, but it also will provide seed that can be turned into flour.  Vitex, also known as the Chaste tree, appears to have some herbal medicine properties, but I haven’t ventured down that path so far.

20130223181603

A ladder-like construct made from 2x4s

Before the business trip, I spent some time cleaning up one of the sheds I have on the property that is somewhat of a workshop.  There was already a workbench in place and was wired for power, but after moving in, we have just been using it for storage.  In the process of cleaning up the shed, I decided to put everything we were storing there in the loft area.  The difficulty in this was that it was difficult to get up to the loft to pack things in tightly because there was no ladder.  So I built one.  I don’t think many people besides myself could use it and using it feels more like climbing a tree than a ladder, but it fits my needs right now, so it will stay until I decide otherwise.

The driving reason for the shed cleanup is to have a space to use the band saw and a table saw I got from my father-in-law.  They have been sitting in his garage for several years without use and somewhat in disrepair, so he decided to let me use them.  I’ve been working on repairing them as best I can.  The table saw has a non-functioning motor and is rusted up badly.  The band saw was in better shape and after lubricating just about every part on the machine, it was working well.  Then the lower tire started coming off the wheel and now needs to be replaced.  Once both the table saw and band saw are up and running well, I will be able to start making bee frames, boxes and probably much more.  This makes it a lot easier than driving an hour and a half to my mothers to use the equipment at her house and so I will be able to do a lot more woodworking that I have recently.

20130302100129After my computer died about two weeks ago,  I read an article on Ars Technica about a very cheap computer that was less than $400 for everything including the monitor.  Using this article and the computer parts that were still good in the dead computer, I put together a system for just over $200.  The case is a nice 4U rack mount server case I purchased over a year ago for when I decided to build a server-class machine that I have yet to get around to.  I spent yesterday evening putting the system together after getting home from Virginia.  Everything went together smoothly and started up without issue.  Some basic benchmarking puts it at six to seven times more powerful than the machine that died.  This is not too surprising as the old machine was purchased in 2005.

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Computer is Most Likely Dead

Guts of my dead computer

Guts of my dead computer

About three weeks ago when I got home from a business trip, I found that my desktop computer was not booting.  I quickly setup my small netbook to function as my main computer until I got around to troubleshooting the system.  Today, I finally got around to doing some troubleshooting and it looks like parts of the system may be functioning – most notably the 375W power supply – but the system is not booting.  This leads me to think the motherboard is not functioning anymore.  So I doubt that I will be getting any more use out of the desktop computer.

I’m not really upset about this happening.  I got the computer in 2005 a couple of years after I graduated from high school, so it has been going strong for seven to eight years.  When I have the time and money, I’ll be building a new computer from scratch that will run circles around the recently defunct computer.

Continuing Spring Cleanup

As the weather has been getting warmer recently, I’ve been spending a lot more time outside. With all the extra time I’ve been spending outside, I’ve been able to get several projects started. Things will be picking up more once I get seed and it gets warm enough to start the seeds in the greenhouse and even more once the ground is warm enough to start direct seeding things like beans and corn.

I’ve managed to turn the compost pile over as much as it is going to be and wet the whole thing down as I did so. I’ll probably give the compost pile another month or so to cook before I start using it for seed starting and amending the garden soil. Now that I have the space, I can get the leaves from around the property raked up and start a new compost pile for next year and get the leaves out of the way at the same time.

I’ve been inspecting my seed starting equipment and getting it ready for use this year. I don’t think the seed starting trays are going to survive much longer. The clear tops have discolored a brownish-yellow color that will probably affect their usefulness and the bottoms are slightly warped. I would really like to have starting trays made from a more resilient material like a hard rubber, but I haven’t really gone looking for such a thing yet.

The new door fit into the door frame

The new door fit into the door frame

The greenhouse has also been getting some work. I’ve filled a few more cracks that had cold drafts coming thru them by cramming newspaper down them. I’ve also been building a new door out of scrap pallet wood. The old door was destroyed in the wind last year. Because of this, I’ve made sure the new door is very strong to the point of over-engineering. I still need to finish the door, but first I need to get more pallet wood as all that I have recovered, I have used to build the door to where it is. At least it now fits into the opening. The frame is somewhat crooked, so the door had to be adjusted to fit in.

Planting a potato from the kitchen counter

Planting a potato from the kitchen counter

Yesterday, my wife gave me a bag of potatoes that has been sitting on the counter long enough that the potatoes sprouted and told me to get rid of it. So I when out to the garden and stuck them in the ground. I don’t know how well this will work, but if any of them survive, it will be more than I would have otherwise.

Fence relocation in progress...

Fence relocation in progress…

I’ve also started to relocate a fence on my property. My puppies – really large dogs – have been getting the better of a couple of sections of the wire fence held up with metal poles that are anchored only in the dirt. So to remedy this, I’ve been moving a section of fence that has been an annoyance since moving in. Taking down the horizontal boards was fairly straight forward because of my experience with taking pallets apart, but I ended up breaking a couple of the board because the boards were so old and fragile at places where there were large knots in the wood. The verticals are going to take a lot longer because about a whole third of the poles are buried in the ground, making them very solid.

Do-It-Yourself Home Repairs

One of the downsides to owning your own home is that you are responsible for fixing everything yourself, or hiring somebody else to fix it for you.  I’m not about to hire somebody else to do what I am able to fix myself if I don’t have to.  So today I spent some time fixing various things around the house.  Most of this was tightening down the hardware on cabinets, closets, and drawers of everything in the house.  Most of these were quite loose, which is what prompted me to go around tightening everything.  The more involved fixes were replacing the cylinder of a door knob and re-glueing a wood panel on the entertainment center.

The door cylinder after being replaced.

The door cylinder after being replaced.

A few weeks ago, my wife noticed that one of the bathroom doors was being difficult in turning the door know.  I finally got around to checking things out today.  It turns out that the cylinder, or whatever its real name is, was not retracting the door latch and needed to be replaced.  Luckily, one of the previous owners to the house had taken a door off and stuck it in one of the sheds and I was able to scavenge the cylinder mechanism as a replacement.  If another cylinder goes bad, I will probably have no choise but to purchase a new one.

Using books instead of clamps to re-glue a wood panel.  Large, textbook like programming books work well for this.

Using books instead of clamps to re-glue a wood panel. Large, textbook like programming books work well for this.

The other fix I did today was to re-glue one of the wood panels on a door in the entertainment center.  The panel has been attached on only a single edge since I moved into the house.  Today I detached the door from the entertainment center, pushed the panel completely out of the door, removed the remaining glue with a razor blade, and then glued the panel back in with wood glue before putting the whole thing under a stack of heavy books.  This should allow the glue to hold the panel well.  After the glue cures, the door is going back onto the entertainment center.

Home Made Frames and Hive Inspection

All of these were made yesterday from 2x4's

Yesterday, I tried making frames for a beehive from scrap 2×4, a table saw, a miter saw and a sheet of plans.  I wasn’t able to make everything I wanted because I ran out of time.  But I managed to make ten top bars, ten bottom bars, and started twenty-two deep side bars and completed one of them.

I only had about two hours to spend learning how to use a table saw in somewhat creative ways, making several mistakes, and then finally making usable products.  All without loosing any fingers.  For which I am glad.  I won’t have another chance to make frames for another two weeks, so I had to break down and order new hive parts for the larger of the two swarms.  The smaller swarm can probably last a while before I need to expand its hive.

A finished vs unfinished deep side

Speaking of hives, all the hives currently have laying queens.  David was here today to help me inspect all four hives.  The blue hive finally requeened itself and there are eggs in at least two full frames. The green hive is still filling supers and drawing out comb.  The one frame with no foundation in it at all still has nothing in it.  I will be putting some foundation in it sometime in the next week.

The larger of the two swarms is doing exceptionally well.  It is quickly drawing out frames.  The bottom of that hive is made up of an open box.  I suspect that the bees will start filling that with comb before I get in the hive body parts, so I will be learning first hand how to do a cut out.

The queen of the smaller hive was spotted today, along with eggs and larva.  It has also done a good job of pulling out the foundation, but for some reason it started at one side of a super.  It has expanded the brood nest to three frames and is working on a fourth.  The frames with bees got moved to the center of the super in the hope the bees will expand the brood nest more quickly that way.