Many years back, during the 80’s I subscribed to Mother Earth News magazine. I found it interesting back then, but now it is clinging to more ideologies that do not match mine. But one of the most intriguing topics was hydroponic farming. It is where plants grow in a base other than old fashion dirt, like the stuff I played with when I was an innocent child.

I always told myself I will try making a hydroponic system someday, which did not happen right away. I didn’t get to fulfill that dream until I reached retirement. But I have now succeeded.

Now a quick side story here. All my life, young and old, I made my projects with scrap I could find. I worked as an electrician at a manufacturing plant for about 15 years, and it was the typical plant that didn’t want to spend money. So, any repair I did used parts gathered here and there, and the plant had many places where they stacked old equipment, so I had plenty of pastures to roam for parts.

Now, fast forward to this day and age, I still have that mindset not to spend anymore that is necessary. So, as I collected items on Amazon, eBay and Home Depot, I did more cost cutting than I should have. What I came up with looks like crap, but it is about a third of what it could have been, had it been properly built.

Add all that to the fact, I am an impatient fabricator, unlike my father who was very meticulous. I used cheap wood that was warped and twisted, thus requiring me to add shims and spacers.

But, like the words of Doris Day’s, Que Sera, Sera, I have what I have. So, here is the masterpiece I have created. My consolation is it is just the first attempt.

The concept: A pump that squirts water with plant nutrient into the top pipe, which then runs down to each of the others, then back to the tank. That of itself sounds easy. But what I wasn’t expecting, after reading many articles on the World Wide Web, is I also have to provide the proper PH of the mixture, aerate the mixture, and provide plant lighting. I also had to add a UV light mounted above the tank to kill any algae.

Now, all that has been completed, and with the help of my amazing wife, we planted the herbs she cooks with. It will be about a week before the roots extend down to where they can absorb the nutrients, and when that happens, the pump will cycle on and off several times during the day.

So, in the coming weeks, I will update you on what is growing, or not.

Irritations #1 – Food Waste

No matter how angelic we may be, (me included) we will undoubtedly irritate others at times . . . and some of you more than most.

I grew up in a large family which has its advantages and disadvantages. I cannot complain too much, because as Doris Day once crooned, Que Sera, Sera. And when we sat down to eat, we may have silently wished this piece of meat was steak instead of liver, but we certainly kept it to ourselves. Or being told we had to eat X number of prunes before we left the table. I distinctly remembered slipping a few of mine into my sister’s pocket who was sitting next to me.

When I first arrived in Kandahar years ago, those of us who arrived together would eat breakfast together for the first few days. I distinctly remembered a tall dark guy who had come in with us. He had a good sense of humor and bragged how he was a preacher and was going through a divorce at home. Because we ate anything we wanted, the first time we sat at breakfast, he had two full trays of food. He had enough food to feed three or four people, but he ate just enough to taste each item, then threw the rest into the trash bin. I was so pissed by his actions, I made a point to never sit near him again.

Several years ago, I was staying at the Garden Inn in Woodbridge, Virginia which has a nice full breakfast. I would fill out a form for what I wanted from the kitchen, and a few minutes later it would arrive. I had to get juices, bread and fruit myself. A nice breakfast. One morning when I came to eat, there were three large women and a young girl about 15. They were chowing down and yapping. I watched the waitress trying to keep up with their demands as they kept ordering more food, even though this was not all you can eat. They were even asking her to get them some more of the self-service items like juice and fruits. And before leaving, they asked for meals to go. When the sows finally left, I saw the table covered with food, some of it they had just ordered left untouched. There was so much wasted food that there were plates sitting on other plates of food. They did leave a couple of dollar bills for a tip though.

I saw the look of sadness on the waitress’s face as she started cleaning their mess, putting good food into the trash. When she passed by me, I told her, “You sure have a lot of patience.” She stopped and looked at me, and I saw tears form in her eyes as she said, “Thank you for noticing.”

She had every right to limit them on their orders, but those heifers were the type of people that would have made a horrific scene.

We like going to the buffets, especially the Chinese buffets that also have sushi. That is one place you will see food being wasted. Our favorite place has signs that say, Take What You Want, But Eat What You Take, yet some people just don’t care. There are people who see themselves as supreme, doing what they want regardless of others. I have dealt with many of these people throughout the world, and I firmly believe there is a special place for them in the Afterlife.

I remember the times we sat at the crowded table in the evenings with Mom and Pop.  When Pop finished eating, he would lay his dinnerware across his plate along with his coffee cup. Any napkin would go there also. I picked up that habit and when eating out with my wife, we will stack all dishes to where they could be easily picked up, and often the waitress will thank us. I am a people watcher and I notice the messes left by others, especially if children are involved. And even though I have a great desire to kick butts, (literally), I refrain because my wife has more common sense than me. I am doing my best to change that in her, but the woman is too damn bullheaded. I will keep trying though.

` been busy – a boring read for some.

Now that I am an old retired fart, I have purchased a home in the South of Texas. The home is ten years younger than me, and like me, needs constant repair.

The electrical panel was like a pimple on the nose that needed to be squished. Definitely needed to be replaced. Luckily for me, I am an old retired electrician. In all honesty, I stood for hours looking at it, salivating on how I was going to do the work. I purchased all the material and when I was ready, I called the Electrical Provided (EP) to pull the meter so I could begin work.

The young guy who came out apologetically informed me the EP requires all work on electrical services to be 200 amps. I had purchased and prepared to install a 100 amp service. So, back to the design board.

So, finally all the gods were in line and the work was completed with the help of a pretty Brazilian assistant. Here are pictures of the pimple on the nose.

And here is the upgrade:

If you look at the closed panel above, you will see two arrows. One pretty red arrow and one pretty blue arrow.

The blue arrow is pointing to a receptacle I mounted to provide temporary power to my shop. The red arrow is pointing to a full house surge suppressor that all of you should have on your house service, if you get frequent electrical storms. It is the same thing that is in many power strips, except this covers the whole house. If any of you would like to inquire about it, let me know and we can discuss it over whiskey and cigars.

More later.

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022)

In the summer of 1961, the Russian-controlled East Germany started erecting the Berlin Wall to keep people from crossing over to West Berlin. This would be the start of over three decades of cold war between Russia and the World. The East German (GDR) border guards were permitted to shoot anyone trying to flee. It is estimated that 600 people were shot while trying to escape. In some places the wall was 12 feet tall and 4 feet thick. It seemed that it would never be broken. Below are images of the wall being erected.

Then something bizarre took place. This is from an excellent article from https://www.worldhistoryedu.com:

Additionally, the 1980s came with hopes of relative peace between Soviets and Americans. Due to change of leadership, U.S. President Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union had several meetings to lessen tensions between the two countries. Gorbachev wanted to revive his economy; so he had to welcome liberal changes by extending a warm hand to the West.

During a press conference on November 9, 1989, Günter Schabowski of East Germany answered questions about emigration reforms. His answers appeared to have given the go-ahead that the Berlin Wall would be opened that day.

As rumors of the Wall opening spread throughout the nation, larger crowds went and gathered at the checkpoints and demanded border security to allow them entry. At about 10:30  pm on November 9, a guard stationed at the Wall – Harald Jäger – out of anger, frustration, and security concerns, controversially disobeyed orders by opening the Bornholmer Straße border to traffic.

Hell broke loose to redefine German history; 30 years down the line, pundits still question whether the fall of the Berlin Wall was accidental or a well-thought-out strategic decision.

I distinctly remember seeing the interview re-aired and translated. Günter Schabowski was very casual when he said, “Das tritt nach meiner Kenntnis … ist das sofort … unverzüglich.”

(To the best of my knowledge, that occurs…is that immediately…immediately.)

Even the interviewer paused to recover when he heard his answer. Below, one of many groups tearing down the wall.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan became close friends and even spent time at the Reagan Ranch.

Here is a story I love. When we lived in Moscow, Terese had the job of finger-printing applicants for visas. One day when all the applicants had finished, her Supervisor asked her to stay a little longer. After a few minutes, in walks Mikhail Gorbachev! The hairs on my neck still rise when I think of that, yet as I write this, sadly I realize the Millennials today have no idea who he is, so allow me to explain. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, having been General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, when the party was dissolved.
(Wikipedia). There is a famous speech by Ronald Reagan, when he profoundly stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall divided West and East Berlin since 1961. This was an astounding moment in History, and the man who dissolved the USSR to become Russia stood before Terese to be finger-printed! Terese usually spoke the process in Russian for those who did not understand English, but her natural diplomacy asked Mr. Gorbachev if he wanted the instruction in English or Russian, thus acknowledging his proficiency in our language. He smiled and said, “English, please.” Afterwards, as a show of respect, she complimented him on his excellent language skills. A few months later, Terese finger-printed Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya, Mr. Gorbachev’s daughter.

I would have loved to see Terese’s reaction when he walked in. He was always a man I respected deeply, as well as Ronald Reagan himself. There were many people who made the world a little better, and sometimes, a great deal better. Mikhail Gorbachev was one of them.



Ever heard of barklice?

We have a large tree in our backyard which has barklice. Sounds bad, huh? When we first noticed it, it looked like I would have to make another trip to Home Depot to ask the guys in the garden department what this was. I took these pictures of it.

It looks like a long spider web and travels up into the top branches. Click on the pictures and you will see better details. So before heading out to Home Depot, I did some research first. I found it is not caused by lice or spiders, but by a small bug about an 1/8″ in size. This little critter eats algae and fungus and has no ill effect on the tree. I remember earlier seeing algae growing on one side of the trunk, which then became covered with barklice, which has since moved elsewhere. So since it is not a deadly organism that will kill me dead if I touch it, I touched it and found it to be like fine fur.

Mother Nature is an incredible Woman, yet what we know of her is minuscule. I often think of those who pass on before us and wonder how amazing it must be to see how all the Universe is connected.

Next time I want to tell you about a recent chicken I sacrificed with a can of beer up its butt.


Action from the Backyard

As the previous postings told, the birdfeeder has many creatures taking advantage of the free food. Unfortunately, the squirrels are chasing the birds away and gobbling up the seed. The below image I captured capped off my anger for them. It’s as if they are taunting me.

So my research has told me that I can use safflower seed, as the squirrels do not have a taste for such, or I can add cayenne pepper to the seed. Since I had just purchased a large bag of seed, (not safflower) I have to use this up first. So, it’s the cayenne pepper.

Now, if you are like me, your first thought would be, doesn’t the birds mind the spicy taste of cayenne? Well to determine this idea, I took about quart measure of the seeds and added cayenne to it, and poured it into an empty bird bath in the yard to see what critter would eat it.

A sparrow came in first and touched the seeds here and there while looking all around for cats, dogs, humans and the occasional pterodactyl, then flew away. I realized the bird bath was too close to the ground. So I scooped up most of the seed and went ahead and put it in the feeder.

So, while sitting in the sunroom at my writing desk, watching the backyard, I spotted a squirrel at the bird bath chowing down. So, my thinking is I did not put enough cayenne in the seeds, but it gave me an opportunity to use my slingshot and some paint balls.

If you are like me, you are thinking I have perfect shooting abilities with the slingshot after dealing with monkeys, barking dogs nine floors down and the unsuspecting pedestrian on their way to the subway in Sao Paulo; not to forget the occasional police car at the intersection below, but not so. When I unpacked my slingshot, I decided to replace the bands. I ordered some red ones which anyone would think has got to be better that the regulator yellowish ones. But they are stiffer and I will have to get used to them before I am a deadly shot like I used to be.

But I took the opportunity to try my luck at the squirrels while they were feasting at the bird bath. Below is a picture of the bird bath and my shots. Not perfect, but I will eventually get there.

If you look closely at the image above, you will see where my paintballs hit. They are circled with a kinda red circles, but you will also see a squirrel that was accidentally captured in the image.

I am convinced the birds don’t mind the cayenne as shown in the video below.

All I can do, is keep up the good fight. Will let you know more when I know more.