Archive | July 2016

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.