Doing the MinxPrep

I’m vowing to update the blog as often as I can. This update will be short: I got a scholarship to take part in the MakerPrep course and I started it last night. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the full immersive course at MakerSquare in September and to be able to emerge as a full stack software engineer.

I’m extremely impressed so far with the course. In four weeks we’ll be covering more, and in much greater depth, than what was covered in 4 of the courses I took via ACC. We meet every evening except Friday and Sunday from 6:30-9:30 and meet also on Saturdays from 1-5. The guy who is teaching the course is absolutely fantastic. I’ve already met some really great folks who are taking the course.

I’m really, really excited about it.

The Epsom Salt miracle on our garden – experiment over!

Summer heat and our garden is suffering. The problem seemed to go beyond just the heat and difficulty with keeping things hydrated, however. Both the cucumbers and eggplants had yellowing leaves and flowering (thus fruit production) has been really reduced from what it was in May. The tomatoes have also been looking –yikes. While they have been flowering (not a lot of flowers but a few), I haven’t really expected any new fruit production because the temperatures at night are now out of prime fruit-setting range. I’ve been looking sadly at the maybe 10 or 11 pounds worth of green tomatoes and thinking that, once they ripen, that will be it for tomatoes until the fall.

About a week ago, I came across a post on what would cure leaf curl on Poblano pepper plants — all our Poblano’s have curling leaves and watering them more didn’t seem to do anything for it. They’ve also been flowering but not setting much fruit. Epsom salt mixed with water and sprayed on the leaves (foliar application) was said to be just the thing. So I had to look more into this Epsom Salt thing and found tons of folks touting it as being great for tomatoes, peppers and roses. There were claims that it made the plants bigger and healthier, produce more flowers, set fruit better, and make the fruit bigger, tastier and all but cure world hunger. I also found some research saying…meh, no.

I figured it was worth a try to see if it would cure the garden ills but, because I’ve got that scientific bent of mind, I decided to get some and try it on half of the plants: half of the cucumbers, half of the eggplants, half of the tomatoes, half of the okra, and half of the peppers. If it did anything, I figured I’d see a difference between the treated plants and the untreated plants in a couple of weeks.

That was 3 days ago that half the plants got their first application and I’m already declaring the experiment over and every plant in the garden, even the squash and watermelons, are going to get a shot (or rather, a serious squirting down) of the miracle stuff this evening.

YO. Too high temperatures or not, the treated tomatoes and ONLY the treated tomatoes all have new baby tomatoes forming and a host of new flowers. The treated eggplants have come out with a major flush of flowers and the leaves are already a deeper green. The treated peppers now have double the number of flowers, compared to the untreated peppers and have already set a bunch of baby peppers. For the Poblano peppers, their leaves are still curling but way less than those on the untreated Poblano peppers.

I’ve not seen a noticeable difference in leaf yellowing on the cucumbers but the treated okra have shot up compared to their untreated brethren –no difference between them on number or flowers or fruit-set yet.

You guys know me and so know that I didn’t decide to apply it on plants in half the yard vs the other half of the yard as that could introduce too many other variables that could explain the differences (differences in soil, amount of sunlight). No, I did every other plant across the entire yard, so you’ve got treated Poblano A right next to untreated Poblano B next to…

I am totally sold and I didn’t even have to wait for two or three weeks to get the results! A tout a lours, we are going to have some tomatoes to eat in August.

June update on the garden savings goal and a neat gift

I’ve updated the D.A.R.A. Sanctuary garden page ( to reflect the savings we’ve gotten from harvesting the garden during the month of June. We are well on the way to meeting the garden challenge I set for myself: Grow $1500 worth of organic food in 70 sq. feet during just one year.

I’ve written about the problems we’ve had with people stealing food off the plants and the guy who ripped out all of the things in the small garden box (the pepper and tomatillo plants that were growing in there) but I’ve not written about some of the nice things that have happened as a result of growing food in the front yard. Our eggplants, in particular, are show-stoppers and so I’ve met some really nice people who have stopped to stare and admire them — we literally have had people drive past then back up, and sometimes get out of their car, to look at them and take pictures.

Well, a couple of months ago I had a nice chat with one young lady who frequently walks past the house on her lunch-break walk. She told me about her father’s garden and how he loves eggplants but has had no success with growing them here. I ran into the house and wrote down for her the seed packet information and where we ordered our Astrakom’s from (Baker Creek) so that he could give them a try. I’d have given her some seeds to take to him if I’d had any left. During the conversation, I was lamenting that it would soon be too hot for lettuces and greens and that we’d really miss them during the hot summer months. She told me that her father grows Malabar spinach in abundance over the summer and she’d see if she could get a few transplants for me.

I’d completely forgotten about our conversation until last Friday when, coming back out to the porch (my “office”) after feeding all the critters their evening meal, I found 4 little pots outside the door, each with a beautiful and healthy Malabar Spinach plant.

Kindness and thoughtfulness from strangers. It more than made my day (week, month, year). I still can’t get over the fact that she not only remembered our off-hand conversation but went to the effort of potting them up and making a special trip to deliver to them to someone she just has a ‘waving hi’ relationship with. Just. Totally. Awesome.

Happy U.S. Independence Day

Happy July 4th — the day celebrated as the day the original 13 American colonies gained independence from England and began to chart their own path. As odd as it may seem, a large percentage of Americans have no idea how, when, why and from whom the U.S. gained independence. Just about as odd is the way most folks here seem to celebrate it –while banks and government offices are closed, just about every store is open and many have ‘come in for specials’ sales.

We’ve rolled out the flag and are observing it just as we do the lead up and celebration for our independence day: Tomorrow will be a solemn day of reflection focused on the sacrifices made by American men and women in uniform who fought for freedom, justice, and right from the founding of the country right up to the present day and including those who died in terror attacks (sadly, adding the 3 university students killed just yesterday). On Monday, we’ll do a veggie barbecue and watch the fireworks.


C’mon people, no line dancing spots…isn’t this TEXAS I’m in?

So, I really want to learn country line dancing. I’m tired of being a slug (sitting at the computer all day) and I am very much not a ‘go to the gym and lift weights/do yoga/pilates/you-name-it’ kinda girl. No, I want to learn something I can go out and use and have fun with it. So why country line dancing? Well it sure looks like a heck of a lot of fun (check the vid below and if it doesn’t make you want to leap out of your chair and join in I don’t know what would!). It also doesn’t involve a partner. I, ahem, don’t have a partner and I am so not into being paired up with some random dude.

Since I’m in the actual capital city of Texas, I thought surely there would be just oodles of places to learn the Texas version of line dances (and, honestly, if you are going to do country line dancing, you can’t get better than Texas style: Isn’t everything supposed to be bigger and better in Texas?!).

Well, it seems there are oodles of places in Texas where line dancing is the hip and in thing…just not in Austin. I’ve called more dance studios than you can shake your fist at and country dance halls/bars that host tons of (bring your partner!) two-steps and waltzes and, ya get the picture, with nary a one doing the line dancing thing. I’m not giving up.

In the meantime, check out this vid and shake a foot with a boot on it or not!:

A very long over-due update

Sorry guys for the radio silence for so many months. I’ve been putting in 60-80 hour weeks and haven’t had time to spit after taking care of the animals and the garden. I’m going to do a quick round-up of where I am, plans, the cats, and the garden.

The cats:
We’ve been dealing with a real mystery illness or illnesses. I posted about some of the issues here and it is still unclear if they are related (Flora and Gingi with the mystery paralysis), 7 cats (two of whom we lost to it, Maddy and Emily) suffering from this strange upper respiratory illness that goes away and then comes back with a vengeance. I haven’t written about our Batya who came very close to being put to sleep after getting a diagnosis of having an extremely aggressive form of cancer — she’d developed a slight limp that not only didn’t get better but very rapidly over a week’s time became crippling and had her in terrible pain. Luckily, when the vet said to take the weekend to do a bucket list for her and bring her in on the next Monday to be put to sleep, I went online and found that there are some fungal and bacterial infections that can mimic the particular kind of cancer they thought she had and we went back the next day and said, hey, let’s try treating for both of these just in case….well, 3 months (and about a thousand dollars) later she is running about like nothing was ever wrong. It definitely wasn’t cancer, but what it was we still don’t know — either fungal or bacterial but which? You can read more about the current kitty travails with the mystery illness Click Here: or go to

Someone has also been dumping cats on us. We know it has to be another rescuer because the critters (showing up on our front porch in multiples) have all been spayed or neutered. One of them, arriving healthy, has already gotten this mystery illness. Thankfully, his brother (whom I rather aptly named Lucky as it turns out) is showing no signs of it, but Liberty has been quite sick with it.

The garden:
This morning we had a rather unsettling and upsetting discovery. When I woke up this morning my Ema asked if I had moved stuff around on the front porch. I was like…nooooooo. The welcome mat was moved out of place, several pot plants had been taken out of the pretty little iron plant-holder and were sitting on the small marble table, and the top of the plant holder itself had been removed and was sitting on the porch floor. It looked like someone had been looking to see if a house key had been hidden under the plants or mat. Then I looked out at our front garden box and was like….what the….!!! Someone had ripped out and taken one of the Tomatillo plants (too bad for them, you need at least 2 plants to get fruit), and 4 of our pepper plants, that had all been laden with fruit. Despite the theft, the garden is doing so much better this year. I’ve got a garden page showing just how much we’ve managed to save so far this year by growing our own food and the challenge I’ve taken on of trying to produce $1500 worth of organic food from our small 70 square foot garden space: You can check it out Click Here:

Where I am:
Obviously, still in Austin:) But what I really mean by this, is where I am in my coding journey. I’m going full stack rather than just front-end as far as development (more challenging and thus more fun, as well as more employable:) I’ve got my first responsive app built — I will be adding more veggies to it once I’ve gotten the research on them fully nailed down, along with more information and bells and whistles but it is up and functional. I’d love any critiques/comments/complaints/suggestions about it from folks here. You can check it out out Click Here (or go to: It was coded up using just Bootstrap and Javascript. I’m nearly done with a second app using Angular.js, Javascript and jQuery. I’ve still got more work to do on the DARA site — several pages unfinished, a couple needing to be changed/updated in light of new arrivals and some kitties we have lost.

I’ve got the web specialist certificate for front end development under my belt. This summer I am taking 8 courses covering Java, Angular, MongoDB, Node and Bower, Sass and Less, Scala and Big Data, React, and brushing up on my PHP and MySql. The courses just started yesterday, hence my bit of breathing space to update the blog:) I may not be able to breathe after today:)

Succinctly, to come back home. I’m scouring the job market in Israel. I’ve got some applications in but the reality is that I need to have a better grasp on Angular, Node, and MongoDB at the least, not only to secure a job but one that will be exciting and fulfilling for me (and I am really falling in love with Java!)

Studying hard, making plans

At the end of this semester, I’ll have one more official course and three teach thyself languages still to conquer, before being qualified for a front end dev job. I keep checking on the tech listings every week coming out of Israel and so have a pulse on the minimums needed to score a decent job. At the end of this semester I’ll have core JavaScript, PHP, Python and MySQL down (and fluency in HTML and CSS goes without saying). I’ll have JSON, AJAX, XML, and XSLT under my belt with a fingernail’s grasp and need to work with them more. Next semester should see the official Photoshop course (and the certificate for front-end dev) completed. I’ve got to add a really good grasp of Node.js, JQuery, and Ruby on Rails to my arsenal. I need to put together a portfolio showing off all these skills. Then, hopefully, I’ll be ready for bear.

On the garden front: The weather here is only just starting to turn chilly and I’ve got to steel my backbone to pull out the okra. It is still producing, though the productivity has really fallen off and, rather than 24hours from flower to table, it is more like 3 days. Someone came along and stole approximately 30 of our eggplants (and a few cucumbers and tomatoes) in two ‘sweeps’ a couple of weeks apart. They did leave us one of those “decorative” wooden eggplants in their place. Ummm, yeah, thanks but no thanks. I’ve got 9 cabbages in the ground and 7 cabbage seedlings nearly ready for transplant. The cabbage and lettuce seeds I’d planted two weeks ago were killed in the flood we had, but I’ve got more started.

I’ll update on the cats soon.


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