Earthtainer – not just for corn or tomatoes!

On a whim (and pure laziness) I’ve been using my Earthtainers as compost bins, putting whatever I can in them, occasionally stirring and planting my leeks, creeping thyme, mums and other odds and ends as I find them.

So a few months ago the old and wrinkled spuds I put in there mostly broke down, but some sprouted. I put green bamboo stakes next to the seedlings and used some clamps to hold the plants steady.

They grew quite fast, much to my amusement, now in August the potato plants are just over five feet tall (from ground to tip – includes Earthtainer). The plants themselves are about 4 feet…

I’ve even had a neighbour ask what they were, asking if they were flowers… he was impressed when I grinned and said “Nope, they’ve got pretty flowers but they’re actually potatoes”

(we talked about the different kinds of potatoes – red, gold, white, peanut/fingerling, purple…)

Anyways, I decided to root around (heh) the first few inches of soil and found some surprisingly large potatoes – all red right now, the purple potatoes in there are slower to grow (but getting there – I found some still-attached little ones).

Sometimes minimalistic input pays off more than fretting and fussing (which is what I usually do).

On the subject of potatoes, I put some in my side garden as well, and there were a few lurkers from last year that popped up.

Working on a theory that the more room for roots the better I cut the bottom out of a square pot and plunked it over the strongest one… it happened to be in the middle of the back of my patch, so the look of it was a bonus.

I then filled in the container about two inches, reaching deep into the new soil (half compost, half sandy soil) to scratch at the old (mixing the two and breaking up any surface compaction). Topped off the container, watered it in twice and then mostly ignored it.

It grew reasonably well, flowered and died back as it’s supposed to. I was putting off digging it up so the skins could thicken.

About a month ago my landlady decided to help me in my garden and take the dead “flower” out – lifting the pot up and out… I guess she didn’t notice the two fingerling/peanut potatoes dropping on the ground… the roots held the soil in.

I came out a couple hours later and stared at the “dead flower” in a pot in confusion, then flipped it onto it’s side – there, clearly visible, were two potatoes. I dug around and got a nice handful, grabbed my shovel and shoes and dug up the rest… picking up the dropped ones as a final cleanup.

They didn’t last long – I cooked them up with some garlic butter. Yum.

As for the red potatoes I gathered today? Making some potato and hard boiled egg salad with them. … it should make a double or triple recipe.
I wonder if it freezes well… Anyone know?


Wi-fi USB in Ubuntu

Three times I’ve run into the same issue with getting someone’s wireless USB fob to work, and each time I’m pretty sure it’s the same thing.

No, not the drivers, or any wrappers needed, not the obvious stuff.

It’s the /etc/network/interfaces settings.

Every fricking time!

Here’s how it tends to go:

I look up what’s needed (in this case it’s a Dlink-g122 version A2), install everything and the computer plays clueless.

lsusb says the USB wireless fob is there, everywhere else plays dumb.

I go into ndisgtk and it says the drivers are fine but the hardware isn’t present.
(Sidenote: I just dump all three driver files into a folder – the .bin, the .sys and the .inf; it refuses to work with just the .inf)

Round and round I go, until I found my old thread about this THREE YEARS AGO and I finally see the problem.

No setting for wlan0 in the /etc/network/interfaces … yes, it’s that STUPIDLY simple.

Here’s the ideal /etc/network/interfaces:
# beginning
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp

auto eth1
iface eth1 inet dhcp

auto eth2
iface eth2 inet dhcp

auto ath0
iface ath0 inet dhcp

auto wlan0
iface wlan0 inet dhcp

# end

See how the bit after the auto matches the bit after the iface? Yeah…. I had the latter without the 0.
Or nothing about wlan0 at all.

Stupid ‘Manda.

Two glitches upon upgrading Ubuntu

I tend to put off updates to official versions of things I use (beta software I freely update)… Mostly because I find glitches in both and delaying the official updates means they’ve hopefully been addressed.

I ran into two things that I didn’t like upon upgrading to the newest version of Ubuntu.

  1. The minimize / maximize / close buttons were on the LEFT (a la Mac OS)
  2. It’d spontaneously restart back to the login screen

The first was an easy fix:

  1. Alt+F2 to bring up the Terminal
  2. type in gconf-editor
  3. Navigate to apps > metacity > general
  4. Look for an option called button_layout
  5. If they’re on the Left they’ll be: close,maximize,minimize:menu
    If you want them on the right: menu:minimize,maximize,close

The later is detailed in hackademix but the command given is faulty:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bryceharrington/purple && apt-get update && apt-get upgrade

should be:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bryceharrington/purple && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

This forces all three commands to be at sudo (root aka superuser) level.

(Edited after posting b/c of a copy / paste issue, ended up repeating the top part of the article)

Earthtainer – use it to compost too!

I’ve had a niggling thought in the back of my mind for a while, and it finally came into the light recently.

It seems a bit of a waste of space to have both the Earthtainer and a compost pile. Don’t get me wrong, having a separate compost pile is great if you’ve got a lot of waste, or even a lawn to mow, but what about those that lead smaller-scale lives? The people who live simply and don’t create a lot of waste over time.

My thought: Collect ingredients for the compost, but put them in the dirt section of the Earthtainer! If you grab a few worms while out for walks on rainy days, you’re set!

This is also ideal for tomatoes – when you plant them you’re better off half burying them a few weeks later (they put out more roots from the buried stem), and when veggie waste breaks down it shrinks.

Here’s the how-to:

Create the Earthtainer’s bench (the platform that has the wicking basket in the middle and holds the earth out of the water) like normal and put in the landscaping fabric like normal (keeps the dirt out of the water). Then put a big mound of dirt over the wicking area and surround it on all sides with compostable material. Repeat until the Earthtainer is 1/2 to 2/3 full, then top it off with a layer of dirt and toss in some worms.

The core in the middle will wick the water like normal, the worms will go into the scrap veggies and gorge – creating compost (vermicompost, technically).

Locust Plagues – a curse or cure for hunger?

Over the last while there have been biblical-proportion storms of locusts in areas that are already famine-ridden.

My question is, if locusts are edible (and they are)… instead of spraying them to try to kill them, why aren’t they catching them and eating them?

Yes, the locusts devour everything they can touch, but why not turn that into a positive?

Just a thought.

EarthTainer – my customizations

The EarthTainer is a wonderful idea, but over time I think the Rubbermaid totes in the stores will get thinner and thinner (and less and less opaque) as the corporation cuts costs; this may make my tweaks required instead of preventative steps.

1.) After the main tub has been prepared (holes drilled and such) use the landscaping fabric to make an inside curtain from the top of the tote to the bottom in a full circle (if you like the look, feel free to do it on the outside – the black will absorb the heat from the sun).
This curtain should slow the sunlight and algae growth.

2.) Put in your support bench and cover all inside surfaces with the landscape fabric – much like a fabric cup. This should make it easy to pick up the soil as a package (no digging in the fall) and may keep most of the roots out of the water.

3.) Do NOT drill a hole for the feeder tube but cut an upside down U just below the bench level – best on the side facing away from the sun to slow algae and evaporation. This stiff flap stays closed until top up time.
Random tip: drill the ends of the cut so the cut doesn’t turn into a travelling crack as the plastic gets more brittle.

I plan to use a flexible hose (that’s stored away from the sun) to top up the water. I will probably have rain water in a large bucket and use a simple syphon to move the water.

Also: the second cup-like wrapping of landscape cloth will come in handy shortly… I forgot to drill holes in the bench for drainage into the water section. Heh, oops.

Dollar Store Gardening

I’m an avid fan of dollar stores, and with good reason: the ones in my area ROCK.

Here are some of my plans for uber-cheap gardening:

1 Plastic window box (these come in 1/4 round, square or long. I prefer the long ones – they disappear fast, though.)
1 nylon scrub pad cut in 2 pieces (the ones that don’t include soap)
1 packet of nasturtium seeds
1 packet of lettuce seeds
1 packet of calendula seeds
1 kid’s watering can
1 sheet of emergency blanket (the thin reflective kind. cut into smaller pieces – this is to reflect the sun back onto the plants)
1 package of bamboo sticks (the long ones – to support climbing plants OR to hold the reflective blanket)
And if I wanted to I could buy the soil in the dollar store too, but it’s cheaper in big bags.

Take the window box, flip it over and gently carve the recessed O’s out for drainage.
Flip it back to right side up and place the halved scrub pad over the holes; this acts as a filter to keep the soil in.
Fill with your choice of soil
Water with kid’s watering can (if you can’t get one with a sprinkling head, place a small square of scrub pad on the surface of the soil and pour on / into it; it absorbs the force of the water.)

Let your box drain for 5 minutes and then plant the seeds.
Put the box in a WARM place until the seeds germinate – the lettuce should pop out in a day, the nasturtiums shortly behind them.

Or: keep in a dark spot to encourage root growth (a day or two), then harden off or just stick them in the window.

My only concern is that the plastic may contain something that should not be in food / has chemicals the plants will absorb.