6/27/2011

Cottage - June 2011

Up-North in June.
Saw 4 deer by the lake back in the woods. deer walking along the shore line, lake, michigan
Then saw a mother and 2 baby's while on a bike ride.
baby deer, fawn, running, in the woods
While raking the beach.
catfish on the beach, baby, bottom feeder
crayfish, crawfish, walking on the beach, back to the water
While in the woods. dandelion in the sun, woods giant dandelion in the sun, nature, grassy field
A largemouth bass i caught early in the day.
largemouth bass, lillypads, lake, caught from the dock largemouth bass, caught on a lake in michigan, long lake
Here's a bigger bass i caught later around 8pm. huge largemouth bass at sunset, twilight, shoreline, michigan
Digging up lilly pads to take home.digging up lillypads, transplanting, backyard pond lillypad and root ball, michigan lake, long lake, transplant lilly pads from lake to backyard pond

6/21/2011

Italy Ideas

I'm looking for any tips, ideas, food, hints, places to go and what to see while in Italy.

On September 26 i'll be going to Italy with Karrie and her mom and some of their friends. We are going for 10 days, 2 days spent flying, and coming back October 5th. Our hotel for the 8 days will be in Rome.

Here are the places we are planning to visit. Most city's are +- 350 miles north of Rome and we plan to visit for only a day each:

  1. Rome - Trevi Fountain (5 minute walk from the hotel), St. Peters Basilica (30 minute walk from the hotel), Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Piazza Navona, The Sistine Chapel
  2. Florence - Academia (Michaelangelo's David)
  3. Venice - ???
  4. Milan - ???
  5. Vatican City - what is a good day to go? Sunday or during the week?
  6. Pisa - the tower with the poor foundation
italy map, map of italy, rome, florence, vatican, milan, venice
We are thinking of getting a 4 day Eurail train ticket to get to the different cities, but it will cost around $250.

Anyone have any thoughts as to things we should see?

6/20/2011

Gutter Drainage Again

The first drain pipe in installed by the side of the garage works perfectly. 1st drain pipe The second one i made doesn't. 2nd drain pipe

There's 2 reasons why it doesn't work. First, all the soil in my backyard is clay, which doesn't let the water drain. Second, is that my backyard is basically flat, which also doesn't let the water drain.

So i tried extending the pipe another 10 feet.

assembling PVC pipe for drainage in the backyard, roof drain, gutter
Then instead of just backfilling the trench with clay i added, then compacted, logs and grass clippings.
more PVC pipe needed for roof drain, underdrain, trench, backfill, sandPVC pipe from gutter to backyard, better drainage I then put the dirt back on top of that. I'll probably have to fix this again next year.

Penny Auctions

A while back i was all fired up about trying to figure out online penny auctions. Since then i sort of gave up, but i wrote down what my plan was.

In case you don't know there are tons and tons of sites on the internet called "penny auctions." They are sort of a combination between an auction and ebay. The trick is that you have to pay for every time you bid.
Quibids.com is just one of those sites. It's the site i decided to focus on.QuiBids Logo, how to win at penny auctions, trends, predictHere you pay 60 cents for every time you bid. At first glance it looks like an amazing deal. Tv's being sold for $50, two-hundred dollar gift cards being bought for $9. The thing you have to remember is that the bidding started at 1 cent and for it to get up to $30, that means that it received 5000 bids at 60 cents per bid. That means that the web site made 5000 * 0.60 = $3,000 for the TV. The site makes it's money when things are being bid on thousands of times. There are hundreds of these sites and they all basically look and work the same way.

Quick, hurry up and bid on that Xbox, you have 19 seconds and you can get it for $1.42. So you bid $1.43, spending 60 cents in the process. Then 3 seconds later someone else bids $1.44. This process keeps going and going.
quibids, penny auction, screenshot, when to bid, how to win
You sign up, buy a number of bids (100 bids costing $60 at Quibids.com) and then you can start bidding on whatever you'd like.


A great site is bidcentz.com which keeps track of some of the items sold, at what date, time and price Most people just bid without any information, sometimes they get lucky. But my goal was to have as much information as possible about history, trends, etc, so the site bidcentz.com helped a lot. Let me just say now that this is still a total shot in the dark, i didn't try any of this, it was just an experiment to see if it could work.

I decided to look at 2 of their popular items. 1 expensive item and 1 cheaper item.

  • Item #1 - Apple iPad 16Gb Wi-Fi. This, along with the 32 and 64 Gb models are very popular on the site. They can sell for as little as $3 and as much as $90
  • Item #2 - $100 gift card. They are not as popular and usually sells around $10

Again, t
he key thing to remember here is: the website doesn't make money on the final price, they make money on the number of bids. The iPad retail price is $600. That means at 60 cents per bid, the website profits anytime the price reaches $10. 1000 bids * 0.60 = $600 on average the iPad sells on their site for $35. That means on average they get $2,100 for each one they sell.


The trick, I THINK, is to follow the trends to find a date and time and you can narrow down when to bid. For example IF on every Friday at 6pm one sells for between $30 and $40, then there's no real point in bidding between $0 and $30. Odds are that it won't sell then.


I started tracking what would be the best times to buy and iPad. It turned out to be early on Tuesday's and 4pm on Friday's. Around those times they usually sold for less than $4. It was basically just a little bit of information to narrow down times and prices, giving you an advantage of when to bid. Sort of like investing in the stock market.

But this is the point where i gave up. I never signed up and tested to see if the bidding strategy would work.

Mailing Coconuts

While in the grocery store i saw coconuts on sale so i bought 3. I read somewhere and then i saw it was on Mythbusters, that you can send a coconut in the mail. Not in a box, but just by putting the address and a few stamps on it. I decided to mail them to Adam in Arizona, John in Colorado and Katie & John in Michigan.
how to drain coconut juice, milk, drill out coconuts
They each weighed over 2 pounds at first, but at home i drilled a small hole and emptied out the liquid.
hole drilled in coconut, to mail, mail cocunuts in the mail, stamps
Then i used hot glue to fill the hole.

seal coconut hole before sending in the mail
I wrote their addresses on them then went to the post office. At that point, while waiting in line i realized how dumb this was, but the lady there said ya it's no problem.
At the post office they weighed about a pound and a half. Postage was $5. how to mail coconuts, in the mail, stamps, mythbusters,
Katie and Adam said the coconuts arrived so i guess the stamps stayed on. I'm not sure what happened to the one i sent John, it's M.I.A.

Salsa and the Pressure Cooker

I borrowed a pressure cooker from someone at work because Karrie made lots of really good salsa. We did the first batch, 4 jars, but then figured that since we had the pressure cooker we should do more. So we made another pot.
homemade salsa, canning, pressure canning, jars, simmer on stove, tomato, cilantro, onion,
We had to look up online how to use the pressure cooker, how much water to add, how long to cook and at what pressure.
Mirro 22quart pressure canner, cooker, canning salsa on the stove
We ended up doing 10 pounds of pressure, 15 minutes after it started boiling. Here's a video of what it looks like when you are at the correct pressure.
video


The first batch was fine, all the jars sealed. The second batch had 3 jars that didn't seal properly so we re-pressure cooked them.

Here's all the jars and lids, ready for the second batch.
all jars, lids, seals, cleaned and ready to be filled with salsa
Boiling the lids, just before sealing.
boiling the lids before pressure canning, salsa, jars


Lotus in the Sun

Well i know now what it takes to get them to grow. Abnormally warm Michigan weather. It's been very warm, it was even 90 degrees here for several days and the plants grew great.how to grow lotus in your backyard pond, bucket
collect lotus seeds, american lotus
Add caption
The best thing about having them outside is that the pads don't dry up and turn brown. Growing them outside is definitely the way to go. High heat/humidity and lots of sun. The water in the buckets got up to 80 degrees. optimum lotus temperature, optimal, best, to grow lotus, hot
First though, let me go back. I originally learned about the American Lotus when working at the CE Power Plant in Monroe Michigan a year ago. consumers energy coal burning power plant, erie, monroe michigan, ce plant, lake erie
It has a bay next to the plant, which is part of Lake Erie.
consumers energy coal burning power plant, erie, monroe michigan, ce plant, lake erie
The seeds were everywhere, i picked up a few over the course of 3 days. old lotus seed pods, washed up on shore
pile of lotus seeds, hard shell
This is what the bay looked like last year sometime around July or August. You can see the huge lotus bed.
lotus beds, nets, ce plant, lake erie, channel
Early this year. It's foggy there a lot.
lotus beds, nets, ce plant, lake erie, channel, fog
A month and a half ago, still no signs of the lotus, but by now they are probably visible. The nets are used to stop plants and dead fish from getting into the turbines.
lotus beds, nets, ce plant, lake erie
While i was there last year i saw some weird seed pods and grabbed a couple of seeds that had washed up. I tried growing the plant indoors during the winter, but it didn't go well.
Here's what i've learned about trying to grow a lotus, inside, in Michigan, during the winter:

1.
High heat - keep between 70-80 degrees, if it's too cold it slows down their growing. Heater, light. Not only for growing but also for starting the seed.

2.
High humidity - don't let the leaf dry out once it reaches the surface, for me that meant covering the bowl with Saran wrap.

3.
Let the roots start before planting in the mud - i noticed that if i put the seed and stem in the mud too early that the roots never started growing. But if i let the plant grow in a bowl of water the roots started fine. Then i was able to carefully transfer it to the mud.

4. Change the water frequently - i'm not sure if it's bacteria or algae but a white scum develops in the water during the first stages of growing.

Here's what i saw when i finally figured all of that out. If i planted the seed too early it would die. But if i waited till the roots grew an inch or two then planted it in mud it did ok.
lotus seed, starting to spread roots, tubers, rhizomes
I even checked the PH of the water. It's suppose to be between 6 and 8.
phydrion paper, ph scale paper, test water, optimum ph, lotus Link
The plant will grow just in a bowl of water for several weeks. There's enough energy in the seed for it to develop roots and put up around 4 lilypads.
lotus seed sprouting, spreading roots in water, mud
These were grown in just water.american lotus, asian lotus seeds, how to sprout how to grow a lotus plant in water, in a cup
This is what it looked like in March earlier this year. It was still too cold for the plants to start coming up.
Although i could get them to start growing, they would turn brown and soon die. brown lotus leaf, lillypad, humidity, grow indoors
Early this spring, on the way to the CE plant i got off I-75 at exit 11. There's another power plant on Lake Erie where the lotus plant grows right near the road.
You can see last years stems in the water.
lotus beds in the winter, stalks, power plant, lake erie
I already commented on what i thought about the lotus being protected here in Michigan. In Missouri, Rhode Island and other states it's a nuisance species, you can get fined for planting it. Here in Michigan it's protected, you get fined for taking it out. That's dumb.
the american lotus, protected species, do not disturb, lotus garden club sign, michigan
washed up lotus seed pods, shore, lake, winter
Anyway, i found it very difficult to grow them inside during the winter. But since it warmed up and i moved the buckets outside they are doing way better. Outside now there is high humidity and high heat, the two things i was having problems with inside.
I'll know by the end of summer how well they grew.

Garden - June 2011

This is the 3rd year i've had a garden and the 2nd year with good soil. I planted more seeds then last year, i didn't space the rows out as much, so we'll see how it goes.
  • 3 rows of corn
  • peanuts
  • sunflowers
  • 3 types of tomatoes
  • lettuce
  • gourds
  • squash
  • 3 types of pumpkins
  • carrots
  • peppers
I planted everything when it was 80, then it went down to 40 degrees at night and rained for a week. But i did mix in mulch and pearlite.spring garden, till rows, fertilize, Preen, weed
Charlie on guard duty. Again this year his job is to kill any animal that try's to eat my corn.
cat in garden, protect tomato plants
first plants growing in the garden, spring, warm sun
The corn and sunflowers are doing great, squirrels ate the peanuts and most of the potatoes though.
wood lathe and string for sunflowers to grow tall, support, garden