More Garden

How do you know when your domain points properly to your blog? When the spam starts pouring in… I found the setting to turn off comments on old posts and all was well again.

I’ve now restored the images to all posts except 2005 & 2006 and the dyeing pages. It all has to be done manually – uploading all the photos, editing each post to point to them correctly, and editing internal links as I go (having moved the blog from Typepad to self-hosted Movable Type to self-hosted WordPress to, there are a few layers of bad links that have crept through).  I lost the comments to the posts that weren’t in the backup file. I’ve learnt my lesson and will ensure I backup more regularly!

I couldn’t help it – I went to Spotlight:


The top two are Cloud9 fabrics which I quite like and wish they did a few more in fabrics besides quilter’s weight…  Pretty posies is first up for sewing.

While the weather was good today I got a new layer of mulch onto the garden. Going back through all of the blog posts and photos was great to see the progress of the garden, and how small some of the plants were when first planted!  I added a new category of “Garden” so just those blog posts can be pulled out to view.

This is the “natives end” now – with the same (larger!) Grevillea “Lady ‘O'” at the far end:


On the left are a cumquat I bought six months ago that has not grown at all, and the Eureka lemon that has taken two years to start earning its keep, having produced just one lemon in the first year – I’ve had five so far this year and the tree is laden with plenty more!

All of the other plants have changed: the Philotheca and Rulingia both died and the aphids and other pests attracted to the paper daisies deterred me from planting them again. In their place there is a Convolvulus (I planted two: one here and one down the side passage of the block and can’t remember which one was which variety!), Grevillea “Goldfever”, Scaevola (again, two, but I think this one was “Sunfan”), Acmena “Allyn Magic” – which I hold fears for as every time it gets a flush of new growth the possums graze it back – and some Mondo grass. The two Grevilleas are fought over by the local birds as they flower prolifically.


Up the other end, with the rosemary in the distance that was once just a wee plant, we have all the possum proofing:


Behind the fencing are some new tomato plants, snow peas and silverbeet. Beyond that is an older “cage” I’m about to replace that has some capsicum plants that have lasted two seasons (and are mostly dying), and last year’s parsley that has bolted.  Most of the time the parsley is grazed back to the wire – the local brush-tailed possums seem to have better pickings elsewhere at the moment and haven’t visited in a few weeks.

This year’s tomatoes are a low growing variety that should stay well within the fence. I had a lovely yellow tomato last year that grew large and flowered and fruited well, but the possums raided all the fruit when still green and I only got two tomatoes. I tried everything to try keep them out (heaps of netting, water guns, possum off spray), but they ripped everything apart to get the tomatoes.  The second plant last year was a different variety of low growing cherry tomato that I mostly got to keep, and I’m hoping these two with be the same.  The fencing will be reinforced over these holidays – I had to put it up hastily when the possums went after two previous attempts of silverbeet seedlings and the snow peas – eating them down to the ground! (they hadn’t taken interest in the snow peas before – bastards!).


I’ve had plenty of snow peas though (I’m only just keeping up with eating them), and the third planting of silverbeet is finally picking up. And I’m never short of rosemary! The possums don’t like it.

Posted in Garden, Sewing

Almost there

I’ve restored all of the blog posts, but not yet all of the images.  I’m waiting to stop seeing this rotten screen:


because I’m currently trapped in a loop that keeps dropping me back to the soon-to-be-ex-web-hosts until my internet service provider’s domain name servers are updated (along with everyone else’s) to point to the right place.  When that happens, I can choose the fastest method of restoring the images because I can’t presently see what works and what doesn’t.

Meanwhile, while I wait, I’m trying to decide which blouse to sew next, and which pattern. And talk myself out of a visit to Spotlight.


So many possibilities, but I’m not inspired.  I don’t need more fabric stash, but…

Posted in Sewing, Stuff that Happened

So the blog moved…

The blog has had a happy home on the same web host for six years without incident. Then, at the start of July, there was a billing problem that I caught fairly quickly and rectified. No biggie. Moved on. Had other stuff happening.

Last week I opened up my stats email (some days late; been very busy) and whoaaaa!!!  Traffic indicated things were not right.  Not right at all.  My charming web hosts have “suspended” the account.  No functioning blog or web pages. No functioning WordPress login.  No cPanel login.  But I can login to the “client area” and see my account is “active”.  Great!  Several support tickets (unanswered) and a phone call pushed to their “call back” service after waiting on hold forever (I’m still waiting for that call back a week later) and I can confidently say they are my very-soon-to-be-ex-web-hosts.  Meanwhile, I’ve had to let the renewal of my domain proceed (effective on Monday) and now that the school term has ended, I will begin the process of transferring the domain to point here.

And start rebuilding the blog. *sigh*

Yes, I have backups.  I’m ashamed to say how old the newest one is – it goes back to a point shortly before the blog posts became erratic.  But I haven’t lost anything.  I have every image.  I have retrieved all the text.  It’s just getting it all onto this new space is going to be a bit time consuming.  I was hoping to get back into the old site to make the transfer easier, but since my web hosts have been ever so communicative (not), its a waste of time to wait (especially as I can cut off the hosting at the end of this month – the billing problem has been repeated on the account for the next quarter).  My soon-to-be-ex-web-host’s status page has a notice from 3 September stating that “cPanel6 is offline” with “Current ETR 15.10”.  After my unanswered enquiries, I could really believe they may seriously mean the 15th of October…

Posted in Stuff that Happened

Adventures in RPi and soldering

Apart from home improvements, I’ve also been tinkering with computers and electronics, especially over the Summer break.

It started with buying a Raspberry Pi last September. A Raspberry Pi (RPi) is a small computer designed to be tinkered with. Rather than explain it, go read about it here. My aim was to play around with some time lapse photography and to learn to code in Python.

First up I played around with time lapse with a camera connected to the Pi with a ribbon cable. I wanted to capture the lunar eclipse in October and did a lot of playing around with the exposure and shutter speed at night.


In the picture above the RPi (in a plastic case with the red power LED lit) is sitting on top of the rechargeable battery pack that’s powering everything and the white ribbon cable runs up from the computer to the camera on the tripod. The camera itself is tiny and you can’t really see it there. I was running it “headless” without a monitor, keyboard and mouse – instead I can log into it over my home network from my Mac and run commands from there. To preview images, I used Berrycam on my iPhone that also connected over the network (there is a wireless dongle on the RPi).


With a bit of fiddling with the exposure and white balance (depending on cloud and a few other factors) I was getting good images, but I didn’t capture the eclipse because the moon was hidden behind cloud. I will try again some other time. For the image above I had a long exposure – a plane has left a trail over on the right near the moon.

The RPi runs on Linux, which was new to me, so to learn more about Linux and the RPi I went and did a course over two Sundays in late November/early December. The course was very helpful in getting me started. Suddenly having one RPi wasn’t enough – I bought a second to use as a media centre.


Setting up a media centre was so easy – there are many tutorials, but I used this Lifehacker one, an Adafruit tutorial to set up the remote control (you can see the infrared receiver above the RPi bottom right in the picture above) and this one on setting up Aussie catchup TV. It’s a bit clunky and a few of the catchup TV services don’t work, but those that do are great – it runs smoother than Airplay from my iPad to the Apple TV has been doing lately (I’m still running an iPad2, which is a tad old now!). I can also run video files off a USB stick connected to the RPi and I could set it up as a PVR but haven’t bothered for now. It cost about $100 all together, sourcing most bits via Tronixlabs.

My next Rpi project was going to require some soldering and I sucked at soldering, so it was time to do something about that. I participated in a Kickstarter by Soldering Sunday and three “Chip” pixel pals arrived just before Christmas for me to solder together.


This one with blue eyes was the first one I put together – I scorched the board just above the first resistor on the left, but otherwise it went well. By the end of the third I was getting better, though the red eyed one has a dodgy connection somewhere because I have trouble getting one of the eyes to work sometimes.


The pixel pals are designed so they can be plugged directly into an Arduino, which is a different electronics platform, also meant for electronics and programming. But just so I could play with some Python coding, I’ve connected up a Chip to the GPIO (general purpose input output) pins of the RPi (via a cobbler and breadboard in the image below) and made the LED eyes flash just for fun.


So now that I could solder better than before and with a bit of coding knowledge, I moved on to a more ambitious project – a couple of waterproof temperature probes connected to a LCD display and able to log data to a file. The purpose of this was to monitor the temperature of solar dye baths (Yup, there’s some fibre crafts hidden in here!). I did attempt some solar dyeing a few years ago (it seems I did not blog it) but the dye never took too well and my guess was that the dye baths weren’t getting hot enough and I didn’t have a thermometer. Making a RPi-powered LCD and temperature sensor rig is complete overkill – I could just buy a thermometer – but that’s no fun!

I should have taken more photos while I was building this – first I connected up all the parts with the cobbler and breadboard to check it all worked, then I worked on the code to get the temperature readings to be displayed on the LCD. Once I was sure it worked, I assembled it in a plastic box with a clear lid (so that it is relatively waterproof), soldered the wires and insulated them with heat shrink and, as I only needed seven of the first ten GPIO pins, plugged it all into the RPI using a 10-pin IDC cable.


Here’s a photo of it doing not very much because I forgot to photograph it while I had an experiment running on the terrace to see how hot a dye bath would get in the Sun.


And this is the LCD screen output. The time and date refreshes along with the temperature data which tells me the program hasn’t crashed. I can add more sensors if I want, but two sensors gives me the ability to make some simultaneous comparisons. I set this up with two different sized dye baths on a very hot day and collected data over about eight hours using a second Python program that wrote the data to a file that I could later import into Excel…


And the dye baths didn’t quite make it to 50 degrees – not hot enough to fix the dye. Bummer.

Posted in Stuff that Happened

Home Improvements

Last time I mentioned the myriad of home improvements in progress in my new home (I played yarn chicken and lost) my storage cage was stuck at half-built, no one could make me a gate for a reasonable price and I had six moving boxes still to be unpacked.

Firstly, I built myself a gate and, with help from my brother Tim, the gate was installed in late December 2013, complete with lock (no more opportunistic attempts at break ins or prowlers on the terrace).


After more drama than I care to revisit, I finally had the second panel of the storage cage installed in mid-February.



And I promptly retrieved the remaining belongings stored in my parent’s garage and filled the cage. It’s not quite so messy as in the photo below – after amalgamating my belongings I sorted through them and placed some of it on Gumtree and sold stuff, and some stuff went in kerbside garbage collections.


So with the freezer shifted to the storage cage, some other rearrangements had to happen – for a time the microwave oven was a problem, taking up precious bench space and needing an extension cord across the kitchen. I was just about ready to drill holes in the back of the cupboard over the fridge to make access to the spare power outlet above the range hood, until I accidentally flooded the dishwasher and by happy accident discovered there was a double power outlet behind the cutlery drawers. One power outlet was for the dishwasher, the other was for the stove ignition system that is broken. I’m happy enough using a gas match to light the stove, so the microwave went into the slot (perfect fit!) and the cutlery drawer contents went to the sideboard – they will get a new set of drawers back in the kitchen down the track…


The next wave of change was to reconfigure the book shelving into a taller, more compact arrangement. This is an Ikea system (Ivar) that I’ve gradually expanded over many years to replace old bookcases that didn’t survive previous house moves too well. By replacing the side units for taller ones, and adding about another 10 shelves (all of which had to be sanded, stained with Japan black and sealed with Cabothane) the whole lot now goes up to the ceiling and takes up less floor space.


It took weeks to sand/stain/seal and two solid days in April to construct and bolt to the wall. But the improvements to the layout of the open plan living/dining/kitchen were huge – mostly because I moved the sideboard across the room and moved the dining table against the wall so that I stopped colliding with furniture that was too close together! The other benefit was that I was finally able to hang pictures on the walls – knowing which bits of wall were going to stay visible. The place finally started looking less temporary.

And then not a lot happened, because I was consumed for months of 2014 on a teaching appraisal that sucked every spare moment of my time. With that successfully completed (hurrah!), in October I ordered the parts to undertake the next major improvement – the pantry. At the start of my summer break in December, I whittled down the six remaining moving boxes (that became five at some earlier stage) to two.


That’s yarn (of course!) in the box on top, and the three other smaller boxes were the pantry parts. I hope to empty those last two boxes soon – then I might finally do something about decorating my bedroom. It is the last room to get any attention as it has been the ‘dumping ground’.


The pantry has been a danger zone from day 1. It isn’t just the angle of the photo above – it really does have a lean on it. And that’s as far as the pull-out mechanism could safely(?) go, which means accessing anything inside it was awkward – especially for the fixed shelf right up the top. And then random pieces of broken plastic and steel fittings started springing off it somewhere, just to add to the level of risk of opening the darn thing. I wanted to do something about that cupboard from when I first moved in, but it is an awkward size – 45cm wide (about 42cm internal width) and about 60cm deep. Most cupboards are 40, 50, 60 etc. not 45cm. So it took a fair bit of searching to source a solution – individual pull-out shelves that came in the right size. Thankfully they did exist! Then I had to have two clear days to take the old pantry apart and install the new shelves and re-hang the door. That was last weekend.


First, everything had to come out. I used the new wire basket shelves to stack the contents into on the dining table. The new baskets are slightly wider than the old ones, and much sturdier.


Then I had to take the door off the front – it weighs about 16kg (I needed to know that for the hinges later) was held on by just five screws – but had about 12 holes drilled into it as someone clearly had problems when they installed it (the door was also catching before but doesn’t now so I think it was crooked!). Then the pull-out frame had to come out – and it was held by 10mm screws that must have only barely had enough grip on the particleboard. And it had originally been installed backwards – there were already filled holes in a mirror pattern to the ones I now needed to fill. Had I known how little had been holding up the pantry, I would have been terrified to touch it! Anyway, gone now. Lots of holes to fill.


Then in with the new shelves. I was very relieved to find they fit perfectly, though I didn’t check the sides walls of the cupboard were exactly parallel – the width is a few millimetres wider at the back, so fitting each basket was a bit tricky, but works. I gained an extra “shelf” on the floor of the pantry where the old rail had been and I made the first pull-out shelf high enough that items like oil and spaghetti would fit (some of these things have be stored under the sink until now).


All the shelves and all the food! The last part was the door. This took the most time because I had to hand chisel out the recess for each hinge (which took about five hours!). I also had to measure very carefully (and repeatedly) so that the door would be in the right position.


I managed to slot the door back on and get it lined up perfectly. For the moment the handle is still in the middle. It is a little awkward, but if I move it across to the side, I will have two holes in the door that I will have to do something about.

The next stage of the kitchen improvements goes to my strata AGM next month – extending the tiling. Actually, I can’t match the existing tiles, so pulling up the current tiles and retiling a larger area. Then the temporary island bench will be replaced by a permanent island (with new cutlery draws to replace the ones I’ve removed) and I will replace the tile splash back (more than half the tiles are cracked). I’m expecting that to take at least until July (tiling in the Easter break; island bench in the mid-year break).

Posted in Stuff that Happened