Solarium Reptantis – building an outdoor sunroom for Ike to get him some fresh air!

A Saturday of rest, a Saturday of work

After a very tiring week (the drive back from Ohio last Sunday, while visually pleasing due to the scenery, was quite exhausting), I realized that the best cure for  that was to NOT rest on Saturday and instead build an outdoor play area for Ike!

extra materials = the devil's planning chamber, helps fuel the devil's workshop

extra materials = the devil’s planning chamber, helps fuel the devil’s workshop

More seriously, I watched something like 14 hours of BBC’s Planet Earth on Blu Ray, and re-rekindled my love for flora and fauna doing their best to be wonderful and amazing.  I also know that the IkeHaus, so cleverly designed to make it easy to take apart for transport AND cleaning ::smug:: needed some deep cleaning, especially of the tiles.  So my fate was sealed; another project was upon me, Ike needed an outdoor area to hang out in while I cleaned the IkeHaus, and generally so he could be used to more than one environment.  If I’m lucky, perhaps I will even begin feeding him out there and have him make his Ike-messes out there, too… directly down through the mesh floor and onto the lawn.

The build

A quick trip to the ‘Despot and some money spent (ughhhhhh), I had the industrial strength stapler, remaining lumber, and extra metal mesh needed to make the project happen.

industrial stapler purchased, as well as additional mesh, and it was time to start

industrial stapler purchased, as well as additional mesh, and it was time to start

The sidewalk cement around the back and side of my house is not anywhere close to level, but at least a few segments of it are flat and in the shade, so I had my workshop spot selected.

its been months since I last constructed L's from poplar for a reptile project. 3 months, specifically

its been months since I last constructed L’s from poplar for a reptile project. 3 months, specifically

It was hot outside when I worked, which meant Ike was going to love it outside… except I started around 3pm, so when I finished at 6pm it was in the 70s unfortunately, which is nighttime temperature for my scaly friend.

the solarium begins to take shape

the solarium begins to take shape

So, even though I have a shoulder injury and ought to use it as little as possible, I still had a great time (gingerly) moving the materials needed to build this little solarium…

zip ties are still a strong contender for The Best Thing

zip ties are still a strong contender for The Best Thing

The finished product

At the end of the afternoon, and for SIGNIFICANTLY less money than the IkeHaus, Ike had a new and outdoor-friendly home.  Not especially small compared to the IkeHaus, either – 5×2 foot of floor space, as opposed to 40 x 36 inches.

Ike seems to be enjoying some fresh air and natural sunlight

Ike seems to be enjoying some fresh air and natural sunlight

The weather was a bit chilly  by the time he got outside, but given how hot the next couple of months promise to be (and the autumntide arrival of a greenhouse which might allow him to still get fresh air outside the house), this is a project that will last for years to come, and make for a happier (albeit still equally dumb and cute) Icarus.

at 5 by 2 by 2 foot, Ike has a lot of space to sun himself and run around

at 5 by 2 by 2 foot, Ike has a lot of space to sun himself and run around

All that remains is to apply 3 or so coats of non-toxic water sealer onto the wood, so it lasts longer (though I am planning on covering it when it is not in use), and then this project is done. I also am going to fashion some kind of tent out of the spare canvas from when I built the IkeHaus, I am thinking… maybe a hammock as well.  This goddamned reptile is so stupidly spoiled.

On Saturday, Alisha came by to check out our thriving Victory Garden, and given that we weren’t frantically building and planting in the rain this time, finally got a chance to meet Ike. I think they became quick friends.

Ike always enjoys meeting new people, like Alisha

Ike always enjoys meeting new people, like Alisha

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Summer vacation, 2013 Edition – Steven’s graduation from high school, relaxation galore

Home for Steven’s graduation

This past week I was at home for my brother’s graduation from high school, and in general for some much-needed vacation away from CT.  All told, it was a lovely time at home!

I am very, very proud of my brother for graduating high school and preparing for OSU in the fall!!

I am very, very proud of my brother for graduating high school and preparing for OSU in the fall!!

Games Galore (“GG” as they say)

So, the majority of my fun and games whilst at home, as it were, consisted of, well, fun AND games!

a slew of gaming with old friends, on my family's lovely deck

a slew of gaming with old friends, on my family’s lovely deck

The games for this vacation at home included Cosmic Encounter (a game of intergalactic politics, which is quick to learn and has 50+ different alien races to try out, so high replay value), 7 Wonders, Bohnanza, Star Fluxx (a science fiction-flavored version of Fluxx), Chaos in the Old World (the uplifting experience of competing, as daemonic gods, to do the most damage to humanity in the Old World!  Fun for the whole family!), and Talisman (my friend Pat’s favorite game, a quick and easy adventure board game that is entertaining and quick to learn).  All good stuff!

Cosmic Encounter is a new addition to my game library

Cosmic Encounter is a new addition to my game library

Being a bad good big brother, I have always gotten my brother involved in gaming with me… and gave him one game as a graduation gift… and now he has begun to purchase games, himself.  Yessssss 😀

Steven's girlfriend Audrey even got involved, with some 7 Wonders... Steven's copy of it, as I have begun to addict him to gaming :)

Steven’s girlfriend Audrey even got involved, with some 7 Wonders… Steven’s copy of it, as I have begun to addict him to gaming 🙂

Working on the car

Obviously, it wouldn’t be an official blog post if it didn’t at least mention my car, right? 😛

The most important fix while at home was replacing the vacuum lines in the engine, which allow boost to be passed to various components and thus tell them how hard the engine needs to work at any given moment (say, when it is going up a big hill).  My friend Tom gave me a hand, and we got them in place.

Tom the Wallet Destroyer, giving me a LOT of help getting the vacuum tubing replaced in my car

Tom the Wallet Destroyer, giving me a LOT of help getting the vacuum tubing replaced in my car

Additionally, we installed a boost gauge into the center c0nsole, so I can easily see a mechanical reading of how much boost the car is producing (in case my phone ceases showing accurate readings, or the car’s engine computer decides to die on me).

... and then installed a boost gauge so I can diagnose that issue from the driver's seat, in the future

… and then installed a boost gauge so I can diagnose that issue from the driver’s seat, in the future

Without a doubt, that was the most important fix.  Even so, my time at home also saw the right rear door handle being fixed; the cupholders in the front seat being fixed; and Leon replacing the condenser in the engine, to get the air conditioning working anew.

I fixed me some cup holder as well, finally

I fixed me some cup holder as well, finally

Fun with family and friends

The majority of my time at home was spent relaxing, and with friends and family, but I wouldn’t be me without squeezing in at least one other project, right?  So, to help my parents in their quest to not produce any garbage but recycle all waste, I asked them about what garbage they DO throw away (approximately one small bag per week, for the whole family)… and it turned out to be mostly food waste.

So, I sat and thought about the least work-intensive method of helping them compost said food waste, both in terms of building the thing AND in terms of upkeep for them, for years to come.  And I drew out a simple sketch of a compost bin that would aerate from slats but never require turning, and also have high volume (it is a 6 foot cube).  I built this while home with their help, and now my folks officially produce zero garbage from their house!

Father-son-son time, building  the compost bin I envisioned

Father-son-son time, building the compost bin I envisioned

the finished compost bin for my parents' house

the finished compost bin for my parents’ house

The summer (hike) ahead

This morning (Monday the 10th of June), I had an appointment about the shoulder injury I managed to get from krav maga a couple of weeks ago (and the MRI I got 2 weeks ago).  It turns out I have at least a torn capsule, if not torn cartilage as well… so this will be a hiking-heavy summer, like 2012, I guess.  More on this as it develops. :/

The trip back

So, after 10 days off, I drove back to New Haven with the MFALCON and was MUCH better able to handle the big hills… so the vacuum tube replacement made a big difference in performance, it turns out.  I am blessed to have a car and the ability to get home, but particularly to have such gorgeous terrain and scenery on the way home.  The Allegheny Mountains are breathtaking, for a good part of the drive.

 the open road and hills and dales, between home and CT

the open road and hills and dales, between home and CT

Victory Garden – now with more gutter gardens!

So, on a suggestion from my co-gardener Alisha, who has friends who are redoing the gutters on their house, I decided to give gutter gardens (albeit in modified form) a try in the Victory Garden, as well.  The story follows.

Construction

The design you see here is another Michael A Repas Special (namely: it is from scratch and overly well-secured with more screws than are entirely necessary, but will never EVER fall apart as a result).  Came up with this as I went along, but from the beginning I figured the basic design of the compost tumbler’s base was sturdy and rugged, so start there – 2×6 pieces of pressure treated lumber so it could be free-standing (early on, I recognized that the fence in my yard likely isn’t strong enough to be load bearing, so I nixed that part of the plan).

The rack is built, with one gutter for sizing

The rack is built, with one gutter for sizing

My schedule being what it is (unholy, busy, unnatural), I have done a lot of “come home after work and then make progress on the gutter rack until after dusk” evenings recently.

the gutter rack is approx the same height and dimensions as the compost tumbler

the gutter rack is approx the same height and dimensions as the compost tumbler

due to my work schedule, many nights of working under moonlight have occurred

due to my work schedule, many nights of working under moonlight have occurred

The basic intention with gutter gardens is to do leafy greens and have them thrive… but I figured if I was going to build a rack, it would make sense to include smaller gutter sections on the sides, for spices and the like (especially things like mint, which will spread like a weed if left unchecked).

planting some alma paprika indoors to get it prepped to go outside. Please listen to this while viewing this image.

planting some alma paprika indoors to get it prepped to go outside. Please listen to this while viewing this image.

MFALCON easily handles gutters longer than its internal length

MFALCON easily handles gutters longer than its internal length

The actual gutters we were going to get from Alisha’s friends came in an initial installment of two 6’ish foot sections, with some rust on them… which, after a slowdown in the ETA on the remainder of the gutter getting to us and considering the longevity of the pressure treated lumber rack versus metal… I realized I would just go get vinyl gutter new from the ‘Depot, to make this project last for many years to come.  The gutter itself was less than $6 per 10 foot piece… the damned fitted end caps, however, were not so cheap 😦

wooden shims, even cracked, are a cheap and low profile way of securing the gutters to the rack

wooden shims, even cracked, are a cheap and low profile way of securing the gutters to the rack

a little bit of end cap silicone'ing prior to work so I can go home and plant

a little bit of end cap silicone’ing prior to work so I can go home and plant

Extra gutters, extra planting

To get the 6-foot sections of vinyl gutter I wanted, I had to buy six 10-foot sections of gutter… which meant a fair amount left over.  Given the six 1-foot sections for spices on the sides of the rack, that left four 4-foot sections and an oddball size… which meant a small stand-alone inclined plane for the uniform sections; and then bolting the metal gutters and  the remaining oddball vinyl piece to the side of the raised beds, within which I will try my hand at growing corn!

(photo of stand-alone gutter sections)

(photo of the corn gutters mounted to the side of the raised beds)

Composite garden, next to the compost

The other, other, other, other, other (etc ad infinitum) way I spent money at Home Depot on this Victory Garden was on three large, blooming foxgloves, which were on sale for $3 each.  Though the Transmogrifier compost tumbler does a good job of keeping the smell down, it does still smell directly around it; also, I love to try and leave places better than I found  them… so I am going to buy seeds of different perennial flowers native to this area of CT, and plant them in this small flower bed (and perhaps around the yard), as an investment in the house’s future once I am  gone.  Plus, it will make the air around the Transmogrifier smell better, too!!

Planting

SO.

After a lot of work in rain, shine, darkness, and calm… and then 10 days spent at home, things have begun sprouting rather nicely, wouldn’t you say??

planted and sprouting

planted and sprouting