Sunday, November 2, 2008

My Vege Garden

Other garden posts
My Vegetable Garden - First Photos
My Vegetable Garden - Later Photos

My Diet Posts
My Diet - The Beginning

My Vegetable Garden - The Beginning

I thought I might write a little about my vege garden. One of my interests is food. I am sure many will relate to this topic.

Some time ago I watched a video at a friends place. It was done by this lady who went around the world teaching people how to grow vegetables in their back yards. She said she was promoting a method called the Mandala Garden. This is a circle of growing area with a narrow walking path inside and another smaller central circular garden in the middle.

Really kool way to grow food. You do not have to dig up your yard first. This got my attention straight away because me and hard labour just do not mix anymore. Serious back injuries tend to limit what you can do. So no digging sounded just the way to go. So I settled back with pen and paper with my tape recorder going to get the bits I missed and watched the video.

Before you do anything you need to develop a collection of mulch. Most people would use about two or three bales of barley hay and a couple of bags of horse manure. If you just want to use grass clippings you probably want to mow your lawn a few times and keep the clippings in a heap. You need to make sure the mulch stays moist and turn it over every few days so that the heat stays in the pile. Hot mulch kills the seeds that are in the mulch. You don't want grass or barley growing in your vege garden. Make the pile of mulch in the place where you are going to put your garden. That way you keep any goodness that leaches out into the ground and also do not kill grass that you want to keep growing.

You also want something like sugar cane for your pathway. This takes a long time to break down so your path is easy to separate from your growing area. Maybe a bag of pebbles will be good too. That way your sugar cane will not just blow away in the wind.

Once you have a nice big pile of mulch the next thing to do is decide what size you want your garden. You should squat down on the ground at the point where you want the centre of your garden and see how far you can reach with your hands. Put something down to mark both the centre and how far you can reach.

Next you start off with heaps of news papers. Newspapers kill the grass and stop weeds from coming up without making the soil sour. The new inks are not poisonous so no risk to your health. Just do not use any shiny paper. This has plastic in it and would not be good for your health.

You should use them complete, just as they come from the printers. If you are working in a windy area, it is best to soak the papers in a bit of water before you start the next stage so they stay where you place them. Lay them down on the ground in a circle at the distance from the centre that you could reach when squatting down overlapping them by a few inches. Now place your feet on the paper and reach out again. Mark this spot. This is the width of your outer growing circle. Lay another row of papers, again in a circle overlapping them the same as before. Now you fill in the area between the two circles with newspapers overlapping as you go.

Finally you prepare the central area.

If you want you can make the centre into a water feature. You could use an old truck tire with a sheet of plastic for this. Dig a hole big enough to fit the truck tire in, put the plastic in the hole with the edges up and over the surrounding ground, put the truck tire on top of the plastic to make it stay there, and finally cover the plastic with some clean sand and pebbles. You can grow water chestnuts or some other water plant in this area. Or you could just put fish in there. If you want to hide the truck tire you can put some pavers or some other clay or stone based material on the tire to hide it.

I didn't put a water feature in my garden. I made the centre my herb patch. So I put more newspapers down just the same as everywhere else.

Next step is to put your sugar cane down to mark your path. If you want you can have little stand areas round your garden. This way you can break your garden up into smaller areas to help when planting. If you are doing this, you just put an extra bit of sugar cane mulch infront of the walking circle at even intervals around the circle. Make these standing areas just big enough for you to place your feet while you squat down. Once you have your path way and standing areas covered with sugar cane mulch, sprinkle your pebbles down so that the wind doesn't blow your path away.

Now you are ready to put the mulch down around your path. For best growing results you should make the mulch about 8 to 12 inches thick. If you want to grow carrots or other in-ground vegetables and you do not have your mulch thick enough, you will finish up with the root of the plant sitting above ground. This grows green carrots and potatoes. Not a good thing to be eating. Green potatoes are reported to be dangerous to be eaten.

The above instructions are how the lady showed on the video. I did my garden in stages so I didn't have the whole area covered with paper to start with. I used my garden hose and a few wall tiles to mark the circles. I did my central area first then did the outside a bit at a time as I collected the mulch.

When planting seeds, I use a trail of potting mix on top of my mulch to sow the seeds then I cover with another layer of potting mix. I find the seeds start better that way.

So that is how I started my garden. The next post will have a few photos of the garden in various stages of growth. I have been taking the occasional photo whenever there has been something worth remembering. These are the photos I will include.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Setting up the web server

This is a follow up to my last entry and specifically relates to lighttpd , MySql and PHP5.

Prior to my getting my Eee PC I have mostly worked with Slackware for setting up web servers. When you stay with one distribution for some time you get to know where everything is installed. When you try to move away from this you sometimes get a little lost. Oh well, that is part of life.

So I have been told the most successful way to install on the Eee PC is with apt-get. This is a method I have not had much to do with without someone beside me who was experienced. I don't consider that I have become very good at this method at this time, but after much reading of websites and a lot of experimenting I have managed to get my desired result.

When I tried to install apache on the Eee PC, apt-get informed me that it was not available for my system but that lighttpd was its replacement. I nervously accepted this and went ahead with the install. Not wanting this package to run everytime I started the computer, I put a script in /usr/local/bin to start it instead of editing the rc scripts in /etc.

When I first tried to view a .html page I only got a blank screen. Searching the web with the error message I found in the log file I discovered that I could edit the config file and add a command to use writev().

I installed the MySql on my sata drive and used symlink to mount it in the /usr/local directory. I used my previous experience with MySql to initialize it and set my root password.

I used apt-get to install the PHP5 components and edited the lighttpd config file to call php5-cgi for my access to MySql.

I copied a bunch of files from my existing web server into my user home directory and set my public_html for access by the web server. Then I ran my web browser and called on my home page. All seemed good for the first screen. Then I called my php login script to access MySql. Ooops. Screen goes blank and the system hangs.

Several hours pass with much accessing of the internet looking for someone who has solved this problem. What I find is that there may be some problem with my MySql port. It seems that php5 looks at /etc/services to get the port by default. After playing with some of the scripts in the MySql collection I found one that showed the port I was using. This did not match the one given in /etc/services. I edited the php.ini file and told it which port I was actually using and Bingo, everything works perfectly.

Now I have this tiny computer I can take on the train and it has all my MySql data. What a thrill.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My EeePC

I thought I would put down a few thoughts about my laptop.

I have avoided moving into the laptop market for two main reasons. The first reason is because if the thing dies I can't fix it myself. I have no difficulty pulling a desktop or tower to pieces and replacing the dead cards or even the power supply, but I am no good with a soldering iron.

The second reason is that I do not like working with Microsoft. I have always said that if I was going to have a laptop it would have to be Linux compatible.

So now I have a laptop. There are several things that encouraged me to buy this unit. First and foremost, the price. Half the cost of any other laptop I had looked at. Then there was the fact that it came with Linux installed. :-) And there was not much to go wrong with the thing. No inbuilt DVD to start with. And I got a full years warranty.

Now I have added some bits to it. I don't always take all of this with me when I travel, but being able to plug these bits into the USB system gives me a huge amount of flexibility.
  • An external DVD. A double benefit. I can use this with any computer I have access to. If it dies, I am not buying a new laptop.
  • A 250GB mini SATA hard drive. This also can be used on any other computer.
  • An external mouse. There is an inbuilt mouse/finger board that works fine if you are traveling, but it is not as easy to use as a standard mouse.
  • An external keyboard to use at home. The on board keyboard is great when you are out and about, but I can type at normal speed with a full size keyboard.
  • An external full size monitor. The on board screen with its scroll bar is adequate if you are not at home, but if you plug in the external you get the benefit of whatever pixel size screen you use.
I was quite happy with the setup of the unit as it came. It has this easy to use set of icons. You just move to the category you want to work with and select the program. Any new computer user would be able to work this system without any lessons in Linux at all.

But then I was surfing the net and discovered a very interesting website dedicated to this little thing. The Link I found on Google is here. Eee PC Tips: A crash course in Linux - Download Squad
This site helps you to move from the newbe type screen to a standard Linux desktop. I followed the instructions and now I have two choices. I can stay in the simple desktop or move to the standard one after booting.

Once I had this installed I decided to look further. I tried the Debian site mentioned but was not able to connect. Not to be put off, I searched for other Debian sites and found one that was available. Now I have MySql, lighttpd and PHP5 on the SATA hard drive. Everything you would ever need :-) Well this week anyway.

So my overall opinion? I realy do not think you would be sorry if you got one of these little Eee PC units. I am very happy anyway.

Monday, October 13, 2008

First Entry

This is the first entry of my blog. Who knows where it will go to from here.
I have no idea what I will put on this blog. It will not be anything that you would not want your mother or your children to read so you can safely subscribe to it.