Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tomato Update #2 - 2016

All the plants referenced below were purchased from Tomatomania in March and planted in the beginning of April.  

Aiko is a Japanese olive sized and shaped cherry tomato.  I was convinced at Tomatomania to purchase this from a regular shopper who buys them every year, loves them and says it's a huge producer.  Well, check out this picture.  It surely is.  It is apparently not as sweet as the Sun Gold and a bit larger.  Very healthy in the TSK and fed the PCH today 8-10-10.  I've started to pinch him at the top because well, it's just a lot of tomatoes!



My Sun Gold is in the hanging planter.  Very healthy this year.  Fruit ripening already and I've actually eaten about 5.  Very sweet.  Almost every cherry is cracked.  Perhaps the hanging planter is not right for this tomato.  I used to grow the sweet 100's in it and they never really cracked but this is year 2 or 3 for the Sun Gold and every year it cracks.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tomato Update 2016

Wanted to write an update to some of the plants I've got in containers and the ground.  All the plants referenced below were purchased from Tomatomania in March and planted in the beginning of April.

Black Sea Man - has nice sized fruit already, about the size of tennis balls.  Healthy looking plant and it's planted in the Tomato Success Kit from Gardener's Supply. We'll call that TSK for the rest of this blog. Fertilizer 5-6-5 was applied mid May.

Blue Gold - aka Siberian -- Healthy plant in TSK.  I just got around to fertilizing him today and when I was aerating the soil for the fertilizer to go through I discovered two inch long caterpillars of some sort in the soil.  The bottom of the plant had holes in the leaves so clearly they were the culprits.  They weren't horn worms though.  After fertilizing I spread some organic slug killer down. No idea if that will help but what the hell.  This one got PHC fertilizer today 8-10-10.  Obviously higher in calcium.  It will be interesting to see what the difference is.  It's water soluble and you feed from above and it will soak through the container soil.

Chocolate Cherokee - full size tomato not the cherry - This plant is in my wooden wine barrel.  It is off the hook!  The stalks are about 3/4" thick and it is a strong, sturdy plant.  Fruit is growing everywhere and I'm excited to see how big they get.  Fertilized mid May with 5-6-5.

Jaune Flamme - not sure how I got talked into this one.  It was "sold" to me by a Tomatomania staff member as a "early girl" replacement but it clearly is not.  It's actually a golf ball sized tomato not a full sized.  Disappointing as I have too many smaller fruiting plants.  It's also a spindly thing.  It's in the other wine barrel that was started with expensive organic amended soil but still it's a skinny thing.  It has fruit and perhaps it knows I'm irritated with it?  Flamme got 5-6-5 in mid May.

More later on the others.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Addition to our "smart" Home

Recently our timer on the front porch lights went out.  Frustrating as I had only just replaced that timer a few years ago.  Like most timers they are all frustrating as you have to keep setting them depending on time changes and the setting sun.

I was wondering how I could solve all these problems once and for all.  My solution was to add a smart switch to our Wink system.  Currently we had two GE wink bulbs that I purchased in a kit that included a hub.  These smartly do what I easily programmed them to do and that's to go on at dusk (whenever that is) and go off around 6 hours later.

The smart switch I decided on was the Leviton Decora Z-wave compatible one.  I ordered it from Amazon and installed it when it arrived.  The issue was when I tried to add it to my existing Wink system.  What I didn't realize is that the GE kit I purchased just had a little GE controller in it for the lightbulbs and not a real Wink hub.  Off to Home Depot I went and purchased the real Wink Hub.  It is extremely large for what it does in my opinion.  

Set up was a piece of cake and quickly I had the light switch categorized with my other two GE bulbs (one for the living room lamp and one for the outside side light).  I really just followed the on screen instructions in the Wink app on my iPhone.  On the iPhone 6s now in order to edit a light or group you press and hold.

   As you can see by the photo those are my lights.  They are all in the same group - I call it the "security" group.  Wink added some new icons which are adorable, especially the holiday ones.  They even have a Menorah.

So we have an even smarter home now!  Two lightbulbs, a light switch and a Nest thermostat.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Northern California

After a very long Sunday drive from Los Angeles to Red Bluff, Monday was more about the journey while Sunday was about the destination - aka just getting some mileage behind us.  500 miles on Sunday to be exact.   Monday we headed out of Red Bluff - east.  Some people love to do the coast but we really wanted to see Lassen Volcanic National Park and then do the entire Volcanic Scenic Byway tour up through Oregon.

In some ways we hit Lassen at just the right time and in some ways it wasn't.  The park had just opened the roads a couple days before and as a result the park was virtually deserted.  This allowed us to do the park quickly and give Geppetto a great snow play time.  There was tons of snow as we ascended up towards the peak of Mount Lassen.  I'm sure much of it had melted but at the highest point on the road there was probably a snow bank of about 3'.   Normal snowpack for this area in winter is 331 inches, this year - 71".  23% of normal.  In a normal year this park doesn't open until June.

The bad news was that most hiking trails were closed - but that's ok because dogs are not allowed on any trails.  I had planned for that.  Just outside of the park were several trails we were going to hit.   As we cruised out of the park on the Northern end we stopped to admire Lake Manzanita.  Beautiful.

Off to Old Station, CA just up the road and a hike at Spatter Cones trail.  For some reason as we drove up to the trail head the gates were closed but I noticed a service road a little ways up.  We took that and snuck into the area behind the bathrooms.  You can look at some info of the spatter cone trail here.  We saw a cool looking jack rabbit at the start of the trail.  Silly Geppetto didn't even see him.  Bright orange inside his ears, never seen anything quite like that.

After that we drove the short distance into Old Station and stopped at the only place in town - JJ's Cafe.  Wow.  The BEST pastrami sandwich I've ever had.  I think it was equal to Carnegie Deli in New York frankly.  Dena and I split one which was accompanied by some fantastic french fries.  All the beef used is cured locally and is raised right behind the restaurant.  Yummy!  I regretted  not being hungry enough to try a hamburger too!

After that it was off to the subway lave tube.  That was truly amazing.  It was huge, about 1/3 mile long and pitch black.  We had a flashlight and my cell phone which were quite inadequate.  Geppetto had no issues in the pitch black.  I was a little nervous to tell you the truth.

Sorry, no time to upload pictures, check Facebook.  We also hit Burney falls before going to our AirBnB stop in Fall River Mills (best IPA I've ever had!).

Sunday, August 24, 2014

VMworld 2014 - Day 1

I'd call this Day 0 but apparently it officially started yesterday.  Or early this morning.  I landed at SFO at 1pm and never got a second break until 9pm.  That's just day 1 for me.  I walked over to Moscone West and let me tell you - I felt the room vibrate from anticipation - and I don't just mean the vibration from the 6.0 earthquake in Napa early in the morning!

I picked up my free backpack, notebook, t-shirt and water bottle - the essentials really to a successful geek fest.  From there I tried to check in to my hotel but the room wasn't ready.  Back over to Moscone South this time.  Webcor Builders is remodeling or expanding or doing something to the Moscone complex.  I'm not really sure exactly what it is but it's already huge! wow!

At  2:30p I wandered over to Moscone South - trying to find my way.  The first thing I ran in to was the VMware store.  Is it just wrong that I am more thrilled about shopping there than at Nordstroms?  After salivating over all the VMware stuff there I wandered down to my first session - v101 - basically - the "how to" navigate VMworld for newbies.  We were handed a button upon entering the session with a baby pacifier on it and the words - vmworld baby.  Telling.....

After that it was no break and straight in to the Solutions Exchange "hall crawl".  I have worked and perused many a exhibitors area before and thought my experience would serve me well. It did but Wow!.  It's huge and overwhelming to some extent.  I was there for over 2 hours and worked the floor methodically and calculated like I am want to do but I didn't even come close to doing about 20% of it.  SWAG wise?  Total score.  For the 1/2 day today I walked away with 12 t-shirts and all manner of trinkets.  it's not for me - it's for my guys.

I met some great people and got some valuable information but quickly came to the realization that significantly more time would be required.  I've vowed to start at 7am sharp Monday morning.  Wish me luck

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tomato Mania is here!

I love spring.  There are 100's of reasons to love spring - tomatoes are just one of them.  This year, as with the last, I couldn't contain myself at the Tomatomania event at Tapia Brothers Farms in Encino and came away with eleven plants.  Yes, 11.  I think last year was ten, so I'm getting worse.

I'll regale you with the details now and you can salivate.  You can click on any of the highlighted links for more details.

Sweet 100's - typical small cherry that I plant in a hanging self watering container.  99% fail proof.

Cherokee Chocolate - I made a mistake here as I wanted the cherokee chocolate cherry tomatoes but I didn't realize they were out of those and only had the full size.  This is a beef steak sized tomato and should come out looking like the picture.
Cherokee Chocolate
Italian Ice -- a 1" - 1.5" they move from green to ivory white/light yellow cherry tomato that is sugary sweet and is a wonderful summer snack.  

Taxi - I bought this one for Dena as she has been bugging me for a sauce tomato.  Saucing tomatoes are normally Determinant plants, meaning that you can determine their size and ripening cycle.  They are usually all ripe together so you can make your sauce.   Taxi matures its bright yellow tomatoes in just 65 days. This determinate variety grows to about 2 feet tall and 2 feet across. Expect heavy yields of mild, non-acid tomatoes for 3-4 weeks.

Red Zebra - This is thought to be a naturally occurring cross between Green Zebra and an unknown, though certainly red, parent. The beautiful and tartly flavored offspring are gorgeous 2 to 3", round cherry-red fruits with rich orange streaks. I'm sure I'll regret buying this one.  These smaller hybrids are always trouble makers having all sort of issues.  We shall see.

Red Grape - A typical grape shaped red cherry that grows in large clusters. If you like cherry tomatoes I'm going to have a shit load of them!

Sunchola - What was I thinking?  Another cherry? Yes.  Sunchocola fruit has more smoky, sweet flavor, juicier texture and lower acid. Productive, dark green, indeterminate plants produce clusters of 8-12 fruits measuring 1" wide x 1/5" long and weighing slightly more than an ounce.

Dr Wyche's Yellow HeirloomThis heirloom was introduced by the late Dr. John Wyche, who at one time owned the Cole Brothers Circus and used the manure of elephants to fertilize his heritage gardens. The 1 lb fruit is solid and smooth; their color is a glowing tangerine-orange and has a tropical, sweet taste.

Crnkovic Yugoslavian - This one I'm really excited about.  Because it's supposed to be BIG! Extra large 1 - 2 pound pink beefsteaks.  Yes, it's really from Yugoslavia - at one time.

Japanese Black Truffle - Russian Heirloom - The deep burgundy color, with undertones of purplish-black, is as rich as the flavor. We find it high in both sugars and acid, creating a sweet, strong, complex flavor that is hard to beat. The 6-8 oz. pear-shaped fruits.  Again, what was I thinking?

And last but not least - Champion II - A step up from the original Champion, Champion II has the same flavor with much-improved disease resistance for easier gardening success. This variety is a garden favorite, producing large yields into the fall.  Disease resistant - yes!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Technically Frustrating Weekend

Frustrating weekend from a technological standpoint.  I started to extend my WiFi signal as my AT&T Uverse modem (the HGV3800) has such a shitty WiFI range that it won't reach to the front of the house.  It also won't reach back to the guest house.  So Thursday I installed an additional Netgear WNDR4500v2 in the office to extend 2.4Ghz and add 5Ghz to the guest house and yard.  Then, it was thanksgiving and cooking the turkey called.  Next day - Friday, it was raining but I decided to complete the installation of my Sonos system.  I was getting extremely frustrated as the controller (my ipad) kept wanting to upgrade the components but the upgrade kept failing. Also, the components at the front of the house wouldn't pair up even though I installed a wired bridge up there.  Little did I know that all of this was because I was losing tons of packets on my Uverse connection.  I only figured it out Friday night when the TV kept freezing and then the DVR wouldn't reboot properly.  Continuous ping tests show big gaps of packet loss and high latency.

I called uVerse, got cut off 5 times (this is why I have a land line....you can't do online tech support if your internet is down and you can't call them if you have VoIP, because your internet is down - which is how VoIP works.  Also, I have Sprint wireless which means that cell connectivity in my house sucks.)   After a frustrating experience just trying to reach somebody in India I was able
to get through and they are sending a tech for Saturday morning.  I finally had to force Dena to go to bed because she was getting mad because she couldn't do her homework.  No internet, hello!

Saturday morning arrives - The guy arrives at 9:15 am.  It's 11am now - he's still here.  I now have a new modem, all the connection wiring under the house is new, still dropping packets.  He just moved it from Coax to twisted pair - dropping packets. 

12:30p AT&T guy leaves - he's out of ideas.  We still have packet loss and pixelating on the TV.  So irritating.  I'm going for a hike to walk off my frustration and anger.

Update: came home tonight after a Hannukah party and tried to print something and it wouldn't work.  I pinged my router and my printer and was experiencing the same latency inside my own network!  I started unplugging things to find the culprit and discovered it was my Sonos Bridge.  Now, how do I fix that?  At least the internet and TV are fixed.