Category Archives: life

Another one about plants

Here’s what the garden looks like right now. Compare to this time last year.

We had our backyard professionally landscaped last fall, and the landscaper decided to put in an empty bed next to the house instead of incorporating my unsightly DIY planter box into the design. But that area gets sun only half of the day, so I planted both this year, reserving the landscaper-approved bed for the experimental plants (mostly tomatillos and some extra basil). In the photo you can see the tomatillos in the background on the right: they have grown as tall as I am, with plenty of flowers but no fruits yet. Still, the pollinators are visiting so that could change:

Meanwhile, there are baby tomatoes and baby peppers everywhere, and lots and lots of basil. Having eight basil plants means making pesto every other week just to keep up. I picked my first jalapeno yesterday. Although I tried hard to label all my plants this year, I found that one of my intended habeneros was a mislabeled poblano. No worries, poblanos are great. Looking forward to stuffed peppers next month.

We have a family of wild rabbits living near the house, so I stayed away from lettuces or other rabbit-friendly fare. Perhaps I’ll try lettuce in the planter box next year since it is high enough it might evade their grasp. I planted a few onions in the lower bed to keep the rabbits away from the other plants, having heard that they hate the smell of onions. Naturally, onion stalks are the only thing they’ve eaten so far.

This is still the quiet times before the Japanese beetles. Once they show up a few weeks from now, they will require thrice-daily purges, a not so fun task.

Posting on posting

After several years of working at popular infosec startup, I’ve now moved on to giant tech company. It was pretty crazy watching the former grow from “hey, we have a cool idea” to a company with hundreds of developers — at turns gratifying to see people describe your software as life-changing, and incredibly stressful when a bug landed on the top of Hacker News.

In the new gig, I’m working on Linux wifi again, so, apologies in advance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do a bit more work upstream now that it is kind of my job. And yes, this post exists just to break up what would otherwise be a long string of consecutive garden blogs.

Garden 2018

I’ve started my seedlings for the 2018 gardening season. On March 24, I planted jalapeno, habanero, roma tomato, green onion, and basil seeds into jiffy pods. A few days later I planted some tomatillos and poblanos in another tray. By this time everything has sprouted and the plants are under grow lights for 15 hours a day on a timer (an innovation since last year the plants got a little leggy on the windowsill). The first tray is about a week ahead of the other tray, so it’s been getting full light for a week and had its first watering this morning. The tomatoes have their first true leaves as of today.

I’m targeting planting out sometime in mid to late May. I can’t remember when I potted up the plants last year but it must’ve been some time in late April / early May. That’s at least a couple of weeks away for these 2-week old seedlings.

This year I hope to have better tomatoes by planting fewer of them and giving them more space. I was originally planning to do just two roma plants with two-foot spacing, plus one tomatillo plant. Then I learned that tomatillos won’t self pollinate so I’ll need to do at least two of those also. If those plus all the pepper plants work out, we’ll have way more than we can eat. Of course, the rabbits may still have other plans.

New Year, Old Me

2018 is finally upon us, and now is the time one would usually look back at the wonderful events of the previous year, and look forward to what great things one might accomplish in the next.

Instead of that, I’ll just write a meandering blog post.

In 2017, I leveled up on pizza and bread making, capturing and raising my very own colony of hyper-local, non-GMO, swimming-in-gluten yeast. The colony still thrives as it approaches its first birthday, and has fed us many delicious loaves. I think I have the basic no-commercial-yeast dough down now, so it is time to start tinkering with the bulk fermentation and proofing times to get different flavors and textures out of the bread.

Speaking of cooking, after 20-something years of preparing the same three proteins with not so much variation, I feel like I could use more inspiration in the kitchen. So I’ve started working my way through an Asian cookbook someone gave me for Christmas. Tip: homemade Thai sweet chili sauce (using peppers from our garden) turns out to be amazing on roast beef and aged cheddar sandwiches. Who knew?

We’re still working our way through the garden vegetables in the freezer, so I can say that the garden worked out and I will have to do it again this year. This time I probably won’t plant so many tomatoes right next to each other, and I think I’ll select pepper varieties rather than doing a mixed seed blend. I might play around a bit with controlling irrigation through an SBC or some such just to bring some nerdiness to the party.

Six years into my consultancy, things are going well enough, but this year I may start looking around for the next big gig. Lately I’ve been doing mostly infosec work and it is ridiculously draining in the age of we-can’t-even-get-hardware-right. If you’re one of the three people reading this and whose programming team needs an old, feel free to reach out. Bonus points if you are working in a language that has a compiler, and infinity points if you are sending code into space.

The crossword construction hobby grew a bit in 2017, culminating in my submitting a crossword to the NYT for publication. That one will probably get rejected, but even so it was fun to make (and perhaps as fun making the software to make it). I think with just a bit more practice and some theme inspiration, I’ll have the hang of this nascent hobby. Meanwhile, my javascript puzzle solving SPA is getting used in a few more places, including on some commercial puzzle sites; I hope that trend will continue.

Of course the biggest news in 2017 was growing our family once more. In addition to the usual resolution to be the best parent I can be to Alex, Ian, and now Sam, I also hope we can get more sleep in 2018. That would be kind of great.

In which I ate the garden

The garden is now in its 16th week, I think. Despite the fungus problem with the tomatoes, I have to say it has been a fairly successful experiment so far: the chilies and basil have done great, while the tomatoes have still produced over a dozen softball sized fruits with lots more still on the vine. The ones in containers did less well (blossom-end rot) — I think there’s no use in venturing outside the planter box next year.

The chilacas have been the big producer. I have two plants, including one that hadn’t yet set fruit by the end of July. That latter since became top-heavy enough with peppers that a couple of stems broke off in high winds last night, so I hauled in around 20 peppers this morning. Salsa-to-be.

Some chilies

Anyway, this is what we’ve eaten thus far:

  • Tomatoes, by themselves
  • BLTs, of course
  • Caprese salad
  • Chicken with sauce chasseur
  • Sausages and mushrooms with fresh tomato sauce
  • Pepper steak (bell peppers, poblanos)
  • Pesto, normal and spicy with Hungarian peppers
  • Chilaca cheese dip (chilacas, yellow jalapeno[1] and poblanos)
  • Poppers (cherry peppers, chilacas, and Hungarian peppers)

The only fruit we haven’t meaningfully consumed in some way are the Thai chilies, which are incredibly hot. I’ll probably make those into some form of sriracha or chili paste.

[1] I think? Middle of the above photo — not really sure what these chilies are but they look similar to jalapenos on the outside and turn red when ripe, but the similarities largely end there.

Garden Week 7

The garden is now jungle-like. There are real concerns that people have wandered into the garden and never returned, having lost their way out. I have a little bit of black spot on pretty much every tomato plant. My fault, I should have pruned the tomatoes more. I sprayed them with fungicide.

Even so, they have set fruit. I have a few per plant, maybe twenty in all.

Oh, I identified, and ate, the yellowish-green chili from last posting: the Hungarian wax pepper. Great sauteed in butter and spooned over salmon.

Garden update

My garden experiment continues, mostly successfully so far. Here are my notes for how it’s worked out, to remind myself what to do next year.

I built a 6′x4′ cedar box from 1″x6″ planks, all cut to nearly the right length by the helpful folks at the local home center. Some stainless steel decking screws and nearly a ton of VegMax(tm) dirt later, I had my raised bed set up.

While hardening off, the seedlings were getting watered about once every 1-2 days, with 4 cups of water per 10 seedlings. By May 28th I had them all planted out in the raised bed, staked, and mulched. At that time they looked like this:

I put a pair of tomato fertilizer spikes about 6 inches from each plant that same week. Since then I have been spraying with epsom salt every two weeks, and since last week I have started alternating that with fertilizer. The bugs are numerous but I’ve used insecticidal soap sparingly: so far, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of insect damage except on lower leaves. I haven’t pruned the tomato plants that much, just leaves that are obviously low and touching soil. As this has been a very wet spring so far, I’ve only had to water them once since planting (15 min on soaker hose).

One of my peppers (serrano? yellow cayenne?) has yielded fruit. I’m not sure what the final color is supposed to be, but I may pick it soon anyway to speed along some other buds on that plant. I also have a 1″ bell pepper on another plant. Part of the fun of using a mix of pepper seeds is that I have no idea which plants are going to produce what.

I lost one pepper seedling shortly after planting due to high winds snapping the stem in half.

The basil is doing fine, and much more prolific outdoors compared to my indoor plants.

My largest tomato plant got its first flowers yesterday. I’ve restaked some of them with 6′ spikes as they’ve outgrown the 2′ spikes already. One definite mistake I made was to plant the tomatoes with only 1′ spacing. I moved three of my smallest plants yesterday to containers so that at least one or two of the remaining garden plants will have the proper spacing. The others will fight it out, so we’ll see how that goes.


Baby basil

Building on my success last year of managing to not kill a basil seedling, this summer I’ll try having a garden. To that end, I started in March with basil, rosemary, peppers, and tomato seeds. So far, some 24 plants, mostly tomatoes and peppers, have survived to the hardening-off stage and are ready to go in the ground in a couple weeks’ time.

On top of that, I have a few basil plants that will remain indoors, and a couple of very poor looking rosemary sprouts that may never reach adulthood. This represents quite a few levels up in my plant-tending acumen, as until now the only things I have been good at growing are dandelions in my lawn.


Halloween, 2014 ed.

2014 Halloween CostumesI believe I added just enough blog posts this year that there are not two years’ Halloween posts on the front page at the same time. That would be sad.

Alex told me in September that October was his favorite month of the year, “because Halloween.” And every day for the last few weeks, he would ask, “is it Halloween today?” I can only hope that this year’s candy crawl met his expectations. He went as Captain America, a decision that was entirely his own. Ian went as a penguin, or at least he wore parts of his penguin costume throughout the night, rarely all at once.

2014 PumpkinsFor jack-o-lanterns we went with a space theme this year: a space shuttle on one and Kodos on the other. I tried etching rather than carving but I couldn’t get the technique down, so I wound up carving for the most part. One fun addition, albeit short-lived, was the use of sparklers instead of LED candles as lighting. Next year we’ll use rocket engines.