Thursday, February 25, 2021

Dirt Rockets 2, Vegetative Boogaloo

There's always that lingering doubt after you put seeds in the ground. Will these actually turn into a plant, or will they just sit there and do nothing forever? Until something pops up out of the ground, there's just no way to shake that feeling.

Thankfully I can now shake that feeling. It's a good thing Google Images exists so I know what radish seedlings look like, because there's still a lot of weeds in this patch.

Knowing what to pluck out of the dirt, and what to leave grow, is definitely helpful in assuring good yields. There's more sprouts than this, and hopefully over the coming week or two this whole patch will start to fill in.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Green Thumbing

Today I decided to get out into the front yard and take care of a few landscaping issues that had been bothering me for a bit.

First up was repotting some plants. The larger one was in a wooden pot that had half rotted, and was too light for the heavy succulent that tended to lean out over the edge. As such, it would often tip over if the wind picked up when the soil wasn't wet enough.

The last time it tipped over and I tried to lift it back up, only a small part came up in my hand.

Lesson for you all: never make pots out of material that will decompose. I certainly wouldn't have picked this pot myself, but it was leftover from the previous owner so free is free I guess.

Anyway, I picked up a new pot at the Home Despot, roughly the same size, and after peeling the remains of the pot off the root ball I dropped it in place and shoved in a bit more dirt to pack things into place.

Much better. I also tilted the old root ball a bit so the succulents weren't leaning so heavily over the side.

Next up was this tiny pot with a very oversized succulent in it.

The pot has a few cracks in it, too, which doesn't help matters. Pulling out the root ball showed it to be quite heavily root bound, so I upgraded it to a concrete pot that had been in the back yard, previously holding some plant I can't remember that had been left behind by the previous owner as well, and which had since died.

This is much more appropriately sized.

I kept the cracked pot rather than tossing it in the bin, as I figured it might make a good candidate for kintsugi if I happen to get bored enough to try that. It's got a good color for it, at least.

Next up was filling some holes in the front yard. I think some of the holes were from plants that died, either under the care of the previous owner or thanks to my darwinian approach to plant care. Weed out the high maintenance plants the natural way!

I didn't put too much thought into it, I just surfed the aisles at the Home Despot on my way to getting the replacement pot and found a couple of plants that looked nice.

First up is a Spanish Lavender that found a home to the left side of the yard near the front. There's a few larger shrubs here so I figured this one would fit in nicely.

Next came a Mexican Heather, which is a bit smaller and should be a good fit for the middle of the yard. Oddly enough, when I dug in the small depression that I assumed was the remains of a previous plant, instead of finding a bunch of nursery soil and rotted roots, I just found a hole filled entirely from top to bottom with mulch. I think the landscapers who originally put in the front yard must have been intending to plant something there, then I guess they forgot and just covered the whole yard with mulch, empty hole and all? Weird.

Worked out well for me, though, as some other parts of the yard are a little bit thin on mulch and it saved me having to haul another bucket of sticky, sandy clay to the back yard.

Finally I planted a pink blueberry (which is a bit of an odd thing, I have to admit) under the palm tree. This may or may not end up being a mistake, as the plants around the palm tend to get a little bit bruised when the palm gets its beard trimmed every year. I guess we'll see how it fares.

It's just a wee sapling right now, but it should shoot up to 3-4 feet high. This will be a refreshing change from having to bend over to pick the blueberries from the low bushes around Flin Flon.

And here's the after pic. Doesn't look like much yet, but it'll grow in over time.

Of course, after doing all this I remembered that there was a fourth spot I wanted to stick something in, next to the driveway. Oops. Well, there's always next weekend.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Dirt Rockets

 So with the winter rains comes the usual crop of weeds. The yarrow is doing a decent job of keeping the dirt behind the retaining wall looking reasonably nice, but down in the flower bed it was mostly unwelcome things sprouting up.

With this in mind, and seeing as the soil in the flower bed is kind of garbage, I decided that it's time to plant some fracking radishes.

Daikon radishes are a good plant to start off a patch of dirt with (or to refresh a previously planted patch) because the taproot is incredibly invasive and will break up compacted soil, and if you leave them to die off and rot then that taproot becomes decaying organic matter that brings a bunch of nitrogen and other nutrients to the party.

They're also tasty, if you want to go to the trouble of digging them up once they're grown. The leaves are likewise edible if you're into that sort of thing.

So, into the dirt they go. This is the before picture.

For the after picture, just imagine the exact same thing except raked again. They're seeds, this isn't an instant gratification type of thing. Once they do sprout I'll be sure to post updates here, so stay tuned.

Oh, also I moved the blue pot out of the way. I guess that's slightly more than nothing. Whatever, just imagine it gone.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Sparky Time, Again

The battery on Rabbit Season, my R1200RS, was going flat awfully quickly compared to my usual expectations and compared to my other bikes. This might usually be a sign of an old, weak battery, but in this case I had recently replaced the battery with a brand new LiFePO4 unit, at the same time as I did on Scooty-Puff Sr.

So I set out to do a bit of diagnostics. I hooked up my DMM in series with the negative terminal on the battery and poked and prodded at the bike to see if I could get it to draw too much current. But, no matter what I did, the current draw would always drop down to 200µA after a few seconds, which was far too little to be able to drain the battery in less than a year or two.

I consulted with the hive mind and did a little thinking and eventually decided that the most likely cause was an internal leakage inside the battery that was draining it between rides. I took the battery back for a warranty exchange and when the clerk told me they needed to run their own tests to check and see if the battery was faulty I prepared myself for them to do only a cursory examination and claim that there was nothing wrong.

Surprise, surprise when a few days later I called back and they confirmed that the battery was faulty and they would give me a replacement. Nice!

Now I just have to wait another month to see if the new battery suffers the same fate. Here's hoping it stays strong!

But on to part 2, the PedoVan, my 2007 Dodge Sprinter. (I'm mentioning the actual models here for the sake of future Google searches by other people suffering the same issues)

I've been having intermittent starting issues with it that seem to be completely unrelated to the battery's state of charge, given that I'd progressed through installing a solar panel float charger, hooking up a plug-in battery tender, etc etc without any luck in addressing the issue.

The basic symptom is that I'll put the key in and turn the van on, and everything comes to life, but when I try to actually start the car I'll just get a click if I'm lucky and then nothing happens. If I turn the van off, wait a few seconds and turn it on again it'll start right up no problem. In fact if I just go back and forth turning the van completely off and starting it again back-to-back-to-back it'll start perfectly maybe 2/3 of the time, and completely refuse to start the other third.

Consulting the hive mind, the usual suspects for Sprinter starting problems are either the Y cable getting crusty and burned out, or the ECU relay misbehaving. It's labeled R7 on this diagram of the under-dash fuse/relay board.

What nobody ever bothers to tell you, though, is the model number of the relay. It's A0025422619, often written A 002 542 26 19. It's a fairly generic Mercedes multi-purpose relay.

I ordered a replacement and I have some small amount of hope that it'll fix the issue I'm having, but I'm not 100% convinced that it'll do the trick. I pulled the relay out to do some diagnostics on it and I couldn't reproduce any issues in isolation, so there's a reasonable chance that there's something in the wiring that's gotten corroded or chafed or whatever.

The good news, at least, is that there's little chance of the ECU being faulty. It's apparently a very robust unit and not prone to failing.

If nothing else, I'll have spent $12 and a little bit of my time to end up with a spare relay, which isn't the worst outcome. But hopefully this solves the problem.

Update: problem not solved, but at least one candidate eliminated.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Being Strung Along

Not long after I moved to California I picked up a few pair of sunglasses to replace the old ones I had been wearing, which were by that time getting a little scuffed and scratched. They each came with their own little pouch with a drawstring closure to keep them relatively clean and safe from harm.

That is, up until recently, when one of the drawstrings just up and broke. I wasn't even pulling all that hard, it just fell apart in my hands. Then just this week a drawstring on the other pouch broke, same deal.

This would not do.

So, off to Amazon to order up some 2mm satin cord and get fixing.

Conveniently, this also gave me the opportunity to differentiate the two pouches, as while the sunglasses were the same model, they had different coloured frames and lenses. One frame was orange, the other grey.

Conveniently, I can now easily tell them apart.