Fully Operational

December 13, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

It seems like I've been working on the compost tumbler all Fall.  As of a few minutes ago, it's now installed in the backyard and everything works.  I tossed in some dead leaves, gave it a spin, and so begins the miracle of dirt creation. 

The spray painting has finished, I stained the wood, and tightly put on all the brass fittings.  The door seems to be plenty strong, though it takes some effort to open and close.  I may fiddle with it some more should I want to put the kids to work composting.

We've been collecting food scraps in Nancy's Yogurt tubs in preparation for this day.  They have this neat area that reads "I'm reusing this for:" into which I've written "Baby Compost".  People seem to like the double entendre.

This is only the start of many garden projects.  The next big one is putting in raised beds, with the prerequisite of hiring someone to rearrange the watering system.  The first harvest of vegetables is going to taste so good, if only because of the amount of work I've put into the things.

Making Dirt

November 30, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

After my organic gardening class, I came across some plans for a compost tumbler.  When I was a kid, we had compost piles for the garden, though I haven't had one in years.  It's always bothered me, throwing out perfectly good food scraps.  With my recent gardening kick, I decided it was time to screw up my courage and do something about it.

I picked up the supplies some weeks ago, heading over to my dad's to help cut out a door in the 55-gallon drum.  The drum itself came from Pasta Plus, where they make industrial volumes of pesto out of olive oil.  Over several weeks, I've been putting parts together, and today I finally assembled the thing.  There was a brief moment of excitement when I realized the measurements were off, but with a little improvisation, I managed to make it work relatively well.

There's still more I could do, such as painting the drum and staining the wood.  I'll see if I can do that before throwing it out in the elements.

Still, it was satisfying seeing it together.  Soon I'll be making dirt like the best of 'em.

Garden Plans

November 19, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I was talking with Seraph tonight and she asked that I post the plans for the new garden.  You can click on the picture below and theoretically make it bigger.  To the right are two big boxes with another labeled "future" that represent the raised beds.  To make things more confusing, the long box labeled "Planter Box" is the existing one with all the flowers.

In terms of what I want to grow, I have all sorts of plans: spinach, arugula, kale, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, green beans, and maybe potato and onion too.  We'll see what I actually have room for.

I also need to find the time to assemble the compost tumbler.  I actually had some time tonight while Jamie took the kids swimming.  I ended up chatting away with Seraph for an hour, though, which I considered time well spent.

I made an H1N1 pumpkin at the pumpkin carving...

October 25, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I made an H1N1 pumpkin at the pumpkin carving party last night. Unfortunately the squirrels thought the "pumpkin innards vomit" was pretty tasty and immediately took an interest to it.

My last organic gardening class was last nigh...

October 22, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My last organic gardening class was last night, and I'm full of inspiration to start a backyard garden. It turns out that Pasta Plus has endless cheap 55-gallon drums from their pesto making operations. Since they were used for olive oil, they're considered "food grade" and can be turned into a compost tumbler. I picked one up and am going to see if I can get my dad's help to turn it into something useful.

I may end up trying to get some wood for raised beds, though I may not start filling them with soil until I talk to a water guy. I think I want a faucet smack dab in the middle and pick up a timer to attach soaker hoses to. That seems the most sensible low-cost option.

It's fun to think about.

I've started resurrecting the odd project the...

October 18, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I've started resurrecting the odd project these days. As it's looking like I'll be staying in the house, my interest in gardening is blooming (pun intended). Mostly it's at the level of graph paper and scribbles, but I moved the dirt pile left over from the shed to make the beginnings of a flower bed.

I've also been canning like mad, doing applesauce and apple butter this weekend. I'm sure it's deeply symbolic, stocking up for a long, cold winter before Spring finally comes. Fortunately it's both symbolic and tasty.

I think the shed is finally getting to the po...

September 13, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I think the shed is finally getting to the point where I'm going to call it done. Over the last couple days I added my mom's hooks she got me for Christmas, put up shelves using shelf holders from Rejuvenation, nailed baseboard in the loft, and screwed an existing shelf into the wall. I also added a touch of Victoriana, changing out the typical light switches with old-fashioned push-buttons.

It's strange working on the shed when I'm not sure what's going on with my marriage and the future of the house. It could be that we sell it, in which case this is all for the buyer to appreciate. I'd love to stay in the house, but it's hard to say how financial things will fall out.

Or maybe it's a small measure of hope, that there is a future where our family stays together and is happy. I take solace in creating beautiful spaces, places of calm serenity.

The shed continues to get increasingly awesom...

July 12, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

The shed continues to get increasingly awesome, to the point where we've started to refer to it as the "garden cottage". We made a family run to Jerry's and picked up molding and painting supplies. The walls are now a lovely green, and the ceiling is a cheerful yellow. I think I've scraped most of the splatters off my body, but for awhile it was a useful discussion point when explaining what colors I'd painted it.

I'm slowly getting to the point where I'm going to declare myself finished. I replaced the single weirdly positioned light with halogens. They'll probably keep things nicely warm in the winter. I have the windows to frame and baseboards to put in, and then I turn the keys over to Jamie for furnishing.

To top it off, I ran through the remaining stain for the balcony. I have more to do, but Jamie should be able to start buying furniture for it.

Finally, our ten year-old television is dying, so we're buying an HDTV to replace it. Even though I consider myself a tech guy, I tend to use equipment until it disintegrates. The resolution is pretty good and I might hook up Emma's computer to it. The Fossil case is way too pretty to keep down in the nerd cave.

I've been slaving away at the shed these last...

July 02, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I've been slaving away at the shed these last few months. The exterior is mostly painted, but it's the interior that has really taken up my time.

We weren't quite sure what to do with it, but Jamie declared that it should have a real floor. Sam and I put down laminate wood floor and it looked so good, I decided to put in real walls.

That kicked off a major undertaking of insulating the walls and hanging gypsum board. Over the weekend I put up the last of it and have been busy with putty and tape. I think I have a texturing technique that I like and should be able to finish the walls relatively quickly. After that, it's priming and painting.

While I wish that were the end, there's still window casements to put up, and Jamie's wanting a desk and storage. Though it's been a ton of work, it's been quite fun watching it come together. It's a nice, manly contrast to my usual programming projects.

Last night Sam and I were working on the robo...

May 19, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

Last night Sam and I were working on the robot some more. The big challenge is getting it to support the weight of the new netbook and continue to move around. Our first attempt sort of worked but needed to be improved. I'm half-tempted to switch to tank treads, but we may end up with skids as the simpler approach.

The overall goal is to get it to be completely independent, moving around by itself in search of escape.

I bought myself a little toy, one of the new ...

May 15, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I bought myself a little toy, one of the new cheap netbooks. On the practical side, I'm hoping to take it on the trip to England. It'll make for a good repository for books on tape for Sam's Sansa View, and hopefully let me stay connected to everyone as I travel. We have a fair number of trips planned this Summer, and it makes for a good in-car entertainment system too. Plus it's cute and little.

On an impractical note, I'm thinking I can hook the robot up to it and possibly get it free from it's current cords and such. Maybe we can let it run around the play room or something equally silly.

It has a few problems at the moment due to a failed attempt to install XP on it last night. I think I've figured out the issue, though, and hopefully will get it ready to go this weekend.

I've been spending a lot of time with the rob...

April 05, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I've been spending a lot of time with the robot lately.

It started with Sam really wanting to get a Lego Mindstorm robot kit. After a couple weekends of frantic playing, it fell by the wayside. I'd been reading about various things you can do with the Mindstorm kit and decided that I'd hook it up to a web page, which you can find here.

The setup is actually very complicated. Clicking the buttons on the control page sends commands to my personal computer, which sends Bluetooth messages to the robot to do things. I've also got a webcam hooked up which drops jpg files every second on to the web server. There's also a page where people can post log messages in the robot's name.

Up until a few days ago, the main problem was that the batteries kept going dead. I decided to do my part to help the global economy and bought a new lithium battery pack and recharger. It now stays plugged in at all times, so robot power shouldn't be an issue.

Range is limited, though, as it has both a webcam and power cable hooked up. It would be fun to get one of those tiny, cheap laptops and hook up Skype to it. Then people could talk through the robot and move it around without the need of power cables. It's probably too frivolous to get past my self-imposed practicality, but it's fun to think about.

As I started plugging tons of USB cables to my 4-port hub, I quickly ran out of space. I ended up buying a new one and assembling a steampunk-style hub. This one has an LED in the base that cycles through the colors, giving the entire contraption an eerie mad scientist glow.

My dad gave me some of his old speakers, whic...

March 26, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

My dad gave me some of his old speakers, which were destined for Sam's Steampunk computer. It was fun spray painting them, and they have an added bonus of not hissing horribly when the computer is off.

At this point, I'm feeling done with Sam's computer. Everything looks great, especially the keyboard which took forever to make. It goes nicely with the rest of the computer desk, which lies below the old civil war rifle. Very cool.

I'm in the process of getting Sam's Mindstorm...

March 11, 2009 by Adam in Adam's Projects

I'm in the process of getting Sam's Mindstorm robot fully operational. At the moment, you can control it from a web page, drive it around, move the webcam, and post logs. It's still off most of the time, but it's very fun to play with.

There are some obvious tricky parts around privacy when you let total strangers drive a webcam-enabled robot around your house. Fortunately it's tethered by a webcam cable, so it can't get far. I think I'll also turn it off periodically and review the logs to make sure nothing inappropriate is posted.

If you're wanting to take a look at my experiments, feel free to visit robot's blog.

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