Thursday, December 22, 2016

Journal - Using a trail camera for bird photography

Yeah, I am digressing from hydroponic gardening with this post, however, I thought I would share a technique that I recently tried.  The technique is to capture wild birds without much effort on the photographer's part using a trail camera, sort of letting them take selfies.

Oh, and yeah, I have a few hydroponic projects going on, but the olive trees are taking up so much room in the basement I am very limited.

On to bird photography, another pastime to occupy my retirement hours.  Instead of sitting outside freezing my butt off in the cold I decided to use my Stealthcam trail camera to photograph birds, automatically.

In order to accomplish this I purchased an inexpensive set of close up lenses on eBay.  As I recall they were about twenty dollars, delivered. 

In order to have a natural looking environment I scoured the woods looking for a tree stump that I could cut a depression in to hold something to attact the birds.  Next, using one of Ava's elastic hair bands, I attached a close up lens to my trail camera and set if  for photos.

After a few days of using the stump to feed the birds I found that they would feed from it even though I was moving it around the property trying to select the right background.

For the photos I found that a #2 lens at a distance of 20" gives excellent results, but you should experiment if you decide to try this.

Below are photos of my setup and results.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Journal August 14, 2016 - Olive cuttings in sand

The olive trees are enjoying our very hot summer outdoors on the deck; so much so that I am going to have to prune every one of them before I can think of returning them to the greenhouse this fall.

Somewhere I had read an abstract comparing the success rate with olive cuttings with various media.  According to one abstract,  the best success rate was obtained using simply sand.

As I am lightly pruning the trees anyway, I decided to try a few cuttings using sand as the rooting media.  This of course is an ideal time to take cuttings with the trees actively growing. 

Four cuttings were struck, dipped in rooting hormone and placed in moist sand exactly one month ago on July 14, 2016.  A dome over the cuttings maintains a high humidity level,  while the heat mat provides essential bottom heat.  A 150 watt multi-spectrum LED grow light with a photoperiod of 16 hours is being used for this trial.

As of today, not a single leaf has dropped from any of the cuttings, so all is looking well at this point.

The Arbequina olive tree had six olives at the top of the tree that were turning purple, so I decided to cure them in brine as a test.  To debitter the olives they were soaked in water that was changed twice a day for three days before being placed in the brine.  A slice of lemon, some red pepper flakes and fresh thyme was placed in the brine to flavor the olives.  A thin layer of olive oil was poured over the brine before the jar was covered.   They have to cure until early September and I am really looking forward to tasting them.

The cucumbers and tomatoes that were growing in the greenhouse are finished and have been removed.  The greenhouse will be cleaned in the next few days and made ready for the olives and figs in the fall.

This was the best season ever for greenhouse tomatoes though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Journal July 19, 2016 - Greenhouse Harvest

We have already had several tomatoes from both the garden and the greenhouse.  The greenhouse tomatoes are much much larger than the garden tomatoes; so much so that I have had to remove some of the fruit before it ripens to prevent the weight from pulling the truss from the plant.

The taste of a tomato still warm from the plant brings summer to life for me.  After the season I most likely will not eat another tomato until next season.  I don't know why they even bother to grow greenhouse tomatoes during the winter.

As I think about it, if I can grow fantastic tomatoes in my greenhouse, why the hell can commercial growers not grow a comparable tomato in the winter?  The answer must be: money, of course.

The above photo illustrates why I am growing only tropic tomatoes in the greenhouse.  After several years of trying other varieties I have found that tropic works best for my conditions.  Still, today a man gave me seeds from Italy, so I will start a few next year for the garden and see what they are like.

Another batch of dill pickles is underway in the crock, and, I also have four olive cuttings planted in just plain old builder's sand.  

So far the cuttings look fine, while the sand should definitely eliminate fungus gnats, as there is no organic matter to sustain them.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Journal June 12, 2016 - Growing mushrooms on coffee grounds continued

The oyster mushroom kit shown in my May 21, 2016 post got moldy, so I threw it away.  It really was not worth the purchase price, as we did not even get enough mushrooms for a single meal from it.  

Coffee grounds with some of the mycellium from the culture vessels also became contaminated.  It may be that using corrugated may not be the way to go, even if it is autoclaved.

That said, I purchased a 10 gram bag of natural organic grain colonized with oyster mushroom mycellium on eBay for $2.95.  The grain was placed in used coffee grounds on May 18, 2016, and yesterday I found a tiny oyster mushroom cluster beginning to form.  By clicking the photo to enlarge it, the mushroom is visible above the letter d in the watermark.

Today I filled a quart jar with sterilized coffee grounds and placed a single piece of mycellium covered corrugated in the jar.  A coffee filter, sterilized with alcohol, was placed over the jar to allow air exchange.

This whole process is beginning to be more trouble than it is worth, but it has been a learning experience.

ps The photo below was taken 24 hours after the photo above.  Now the mushrooms are growing as quickly as I expected mushrooms to grow!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Journal June 2, 2016 - Tropic tomatoes

The tropic tomatoes are almost at the top of the supports, so soon I will have to terminate the growing tips.  As a comparison, the garden tomatoes, planted the same day, are a little over a foot tall.

While the garden tomatoes have golf ball sized fruit, the tropics have pretty good sized fruit.  

Even the red bell pepper plant in the greenhouse is much larger and more advanced than the plants outdoors.  

Protected growing working its magic.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Journal May 21, 2016- Cucumbers being hardened off.

The cucumbers for the greenhouse and garden are being hardened off in the greenhouse.  This year I will be growing Little Leaf in the greenhouse and Straight Eights outdoors.

Today I put together a fruiting chamber for the mushrooms.  It is simply a container with moist perlite on the bottom.  There is a glass jar with water in it and an airstone being fed by an aquarium pump.  The objective is to keep the humidity above 90% and the temperature in the mid 70s F.  For lighting I will be using a 6500K grow light, plus a blue LED grow light with a photoperiod of 16 hours.

The coyote continues to visit the trail camera on a regular basis now.  I don't know when it sleeps, as it is photographed late at night and during the day.

It has some competition in so far as a Fisher, also called by some a Fisher Cat, also drops by.  The Fisher. a member of the Martin family does not take fish, and is not a cat.  The Fisher has no enemies other than humans, so it goes about its business with a confident John Wayne swagger.

Now that I know these critters are hanging around the trail camera I never go there anymore without my friend Sam Colt.  There are several of them that the camera has captured, with this one being the largest so far.  It is plainly as large as a German Shepard, but I doubt it will come wagging its tail to lick hour hand.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Journal May 19, 2016 - Tomatoes Flowering and setting fruit

The tomatoes in the greenhouse are flowering and setting fruit, so they are taking in a lot of water.  Today I connected the waterlines to the large tank to automate the watering process.

Also, I planted the garden tomatoes, only this year I have covered the soil with black plastic to control weeds and retain warmth and moisture.  Can't wait to see how this works!

The first bloom of oyster mushrooms will be just about ready to pick in another day or so.

In just this short period of time mycelium is forming on the sterilized corrugated that I placed in the tissue culture vessel.  The book I received from the library says that as long as it is white, everything is OK, any other color and it is contaminated.  Sterilize, sterilize, and sterilize some more.

 I read that mycelium will continue to form as long as it has cellulose to consume, so I intend to transfer some of this batch to another vessel with sterilized corrugated and try to keep the process going.

The inoculated grain I purchased on eBay has been placed in used coffee grounds that I sterilized and vacuum sealed.  For the fruiting stage I am simply using a pastry container from the supermarket.

When we went for ice cream last night we asked the girl at the counter for used coffee grounds, so I have another batch to process.  At this rate the mushrooms will cost practically nothing at all to grow.

If this process works, no one will be more amazed than me!