Monday, June 15, 2015

Collected Bonsai material

Inspired by +Harry Harrington's beautiful work and guided by his website bonsai4me I have begun a new collection.
These are a few of the trees I collected earlier this spring. The maple and wild plum are still in the soil I found them in. You can see that the soil in the maple's pot is a heavy clay so I'll have to repot him soon. I am working on some home made akadama from that same clay so he may be the first to test it. The little wild plum looks like it survived the lawn mower at some point.
The willow is a cutting from a tree in my yard. This is one of the six that rooted. I was a bit surprised how easy it is to propagate willow. Only one of the seven cuttings died. The willows that I have observed around here make me think that this species should be a good beginners tree. They grow in the middle of the swamp and seem survive fairly devastating storm damage. The oldest trees are very gnarly and full of holes. I have high hopes for these little sprouts.
I literally tore the two juniper out of the ground. Rescued them from a landscaped area where they were not welcome. I began digging but soon found that the majority of the roots were underneath the weed barrier. I just pulled them out when it became clear that I would not get enough of a rootball to keep them alive. The smaller of the two only had one feeder root and about an inch of tap root, but I could not bring myself to compost them. I put them in dirt and placed each in a zipper closure plastic bag which I inflated with breath. I hoped the co2 and moisture in my breath would help them out somehow. Surprisingly, they both have survived a couple of months now. The new growth has hardened off, though a bit distorted from being a bit confined. I think they should stay in their private greenhouses a bit longer to be safe. I wish I had planted them in a transparent container to keep track of root development. I would like to do some experiments with seedlings to see if the same Ziploc method would speed growth at all. There's a project for another day.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Avocado tree started from a seed. I'm not entirely sure the date I collected and planted the seed or when it finally began to grow but the  time stamp on the first photo is August. I cannot remember for sure but it seems like it had been growing for a couple of months by time I transplanted and photographed it.  The other photos are from February 4. In these photos then, we're probably looking at an eight month old tree.  I pinched off the top in December I believe, and since then it has developed two branches. I've wired them to keep them growing horizontally for awhile yet. The original seed seems to be growing too. It's twice as big as it was when it came out of the fruit, and it's turning green on the top. I keep this tree at the office for now. It gets plenty of direct sunlight and constant temperatures upwards of 65f which would not be the case at home. 

Monday, June 9, 2014


Populus deltoides

Cotton wood  seedlings found in a parking lot. I dug them out of the gravel to see if I can transplant them to our yard. I may try to grow a few as bonsai.

I also took a few willow cuttings from an old willow stump. Most of them didn't look happy this morning. I wasn't sure what the correct method for propagating them is so I tried a few things. We'll see which one works.

**Quick update, they all died. I believe they need high humidity to keep from drying out while their roots regrow. I'll again with a moisture tent. I tried to dig them gently, but I am sure that the gravel was destined to break off the secondary roots. They looked like there should have been enough remaining when they came out. Another possibility is that the roots were too wet. Not sure, but I'll try again. Come spring there'll be a whole new generation coming up that will need to be saved from the indiscriminate blades of the lawnmower.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mkay. So I've had a change of plans. I'm just going to use this space to keep track of my own stuff. If  you stumbled upon this page, sorry, it's not actually intended to be inteligible by anyone else. Feel free to snoop anyway.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I see potential:
When I first started looking into microcontrollers (an MCU) it was like trying to sneak into an exclusive club where everyone speaks a secret language. I was excited to learn of all of the great stuff people were doing with Arduino, but a little discouraged at the price. If you'll only ever need one for experiments, then the price is fantastic. If you plan on building them into a lot of different projects it could get pricey. Soon I deduced that the chips that are on the Arduinos can work as a standalone device and can have a much smaller form factor and price. These days there are books and tutorials everywhere explaining how to roll your own Arduino clone. Arduino is awesome, read up on it!

The super basic undetailed outline:

Write some code: gotta do that part in C.
The Arduino IDE (programming software) makes this all so much easier. You could make a text document, compile it into hexadecimal format, and then upload it to your MCU directly through AVRDude, OR just type it up in the IDE and hit the upload button. The other cool thing the IDE does is plug libraries of code into the code you've written just by typing #include <Library name>. There are certain things you might want the MCU to do that would require monstrous amounts of code. If there is a library for it though, you might only have to write one line (vs. 50 lines).

Program it:
There are some pins on the MCU that you connect to a programmer that's plugged into your computer. The program on your computer turns the code into a bunch of 1's and 0's and sends it down the cable into the MCU to make it do your bidding. Mwa ha ha ha! The Arduinos have some code on them already (a bootloader) that allows them to be programmed through just two pins, RX and TX. Other programmers need to be connected to six pins, but they don't need the bootloader.

Once you have done all that and failed several times, eventually you will be successful, and you will have a little electronic brain to do your bidding. Make stuff automatic. Make stuff smarter. Make stuff be amazing. Make stuff sparkle and blink. Build your own minion.

A quick list of the things you might want the MCU to do:
Turn stuff on/off
Drive DC motors, steppermotors, or servos
Connect to WIFI
Monitor sensors like:
  • Temp
  • Moisture
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Position
  • Orientation
  • Distance
  • Sound
  • Weight
  • Angle
  • Pressure
Connect things to your computer....

Hmm, lemme think about it a minute, there's more

So the moral of the story is that micro controllers do amazing things and the interwebs are now full info to help n00bs get started. Check the links box over there --->
for resources that I have used to git goin'.
If you end up using and loving the Arduino IDE and think they're an awesome company, buy some kind of Arduino product to support the development of more awesomeness.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Never get tired of starting new things. That's not so difficult to do. Maintaining momentum in the middle of a project is difficult. When you first come up with a new idea motivation is fueled by the excitement of possibility.
 I get stuck. An idea, method, materials, execution, product. The execution is most often the hanging point for most of my projects. Often the original plan for execution sometimes is not possible due to unforeseen details. It becomes difficult to enthusiastically rethink a method after the initial excitement has worn off. Here are a couple tips to get over the hump:
Create an idea bank.
It's a place to dump all the crazy ideas. If you're like me the ideas come much faster than is physically possible to execute. I often get an idea and realize it's not the first time it's bubbled to the surface of my conscious. I wish I had noted it down the first time, maybe I would have already acted on it.

 Sidenote: A cool fact about your brain is that the stuff you do, say and think about is just a fraction of what is actually going on in there. What else could be lurking in the depths of your intellect? It would be cool to know what processes are running to allow certain things to surface and others not. Maybe they're not in a format your conscious can handle. Maybe that's what dreams are, your brain making abstract thought comprehensible to the higher (or are they?) functions.........

Anyway, back to the idea of an Idea Bank. I have mine on Google Drive so that I can pull it up from anywhere as the ideas occur. I really like the Mindmeister mind mapping software. There are a lot of great options out there though. This is just where I started and havn't taken the time to try the others, so you might find on that works better for you. Other people have written up thorough reviews of all of the options out there, I'll let you google that out for yourself.
Create a Project Log.
Sometimes it's good to let a project sit for a little while and work on other things for awhile. On the other hand, you can end up repeating a lot of research.
Make a document to contain all the little notes, links, resources, and discoveries you make in the process of fleshing out an idea. You'll save yourself a lot of backtracking.
Comment below to tell us how you maintain momentum through a long project. Stay tuned! Up next: How to make an Arduino Clone!