Saturday, 23 June 2012

Confluence of Aspirations

On locally appropriate crops, some Alpine Strawberries that I planted out along the swale wall from pots are doing fine, and I hope to give them some rhubarb in between for company soon by separating some of the rhubarb that's already growing around here.
This Alpine Strawberry plant is just going through flowers and starting to grow fruit at the same time.

Speaking of which, a single patch of rhubarb in a garden here made a bumper crop this year, producing about 6kg of usable stalk (leaves were composted), which with a handful of cooking apples made enough jars of jam to last a small family a whole year.
I told you those leaves could get big.

I've only managed to germinate two tree seeds so far:
The monkey puzzle seed that previously had me concerned with spots of mould was the first one to shoot up, gradually pushing the seed out of the soil over the course of about a week. This photo was taken nearly a month ago, after ~5 weeks in the soil, and since then it's fallen on its side and barely grown a few millimetres.

This Scots Pine seedling is planted in a re-used Yakult pot, see where I cut the tiny bottle such that the top half would fit in the bottom half, which acts as a drip-tray (it helps to puncture the side above where water will sit, so that air pressure doesn't stop water draining through to the bottom).
In the background were some trays that I'm trying to grow more perennial herbs in, such as rosemary and sage (which are supposed to make good companions) and lemongrass. Most of the nasturtiums that I planted straight outside earlier in the year haven't germinated, and those that have are tiny, so I'm trying to see whether I can get any of those to germinate in pots inside now too.

Here the rhubarb, asparagus and blueberry that I kept inside are doing very well though, after all growing from seed.
Divided asparagus and rhubarb growing strongly.
The only highbush blueberry that I germinated from what I sowed, growing in its own pot. At least I hope it is; the stem should become a bit woodier if it really is blueberry.
Frustratingly I haven't managed to get chives or onions to germinate much so far either outdoors or indoors. I don't think they like it here.
The 'fiddleneck' green manure that I sprinkled in many places seems to be the most successful plant here though, so I guess the soil quality is quite poor, and hopefully this will improve things. Here you can see one in flower.

Meanwhile, I've only just set up my reprap again, after having trouble going through ridiculous numbers of boxes trying to find the right bolts to put a desk back together to support it on. Hopefully now I'll be able to get back to sending reprap parts to other makers, prototyping my rotary hydroponics rig, and working on a safe small wind-turbine over the next few months.
After travelling a few hundred miles, getting everything connected back up, adjusting the Z-axis height and prodding the bad connections on the extruder hot-end to get it to heat up, it quickly knocked out an upgrade part I designed for the x-carriage, with just one false start on the bottom layer. I'll have to replace that hot-end with something better soon.

It was good to get back to chatting with reprap developers on the freenode IRC though, and something very interesting turned up today. A new user going by the name Doxin came on asking about calibration and PLA-use, and then asked a question that was a bit outside the current box, whether printer paper could be used as a 3D-printing surface instead of tape or glass. I know masking tape has been used a lot for PLA prints, so figured it might work and encouraged them to try (though suggesting a fire extinguisher be handy :). The results were very pleasing to see.
A test print stuck down just fine to paper held on by clothes pegs. I'm told that with the ultimaker that this was printed on, the bed remains stationary and extruder moves in 2 axes; stronger clips would probably be needed with a moving printbed as on a reprap or makerbot.
While the plastic stuck so well it tore up some paper, this was apparently very easy to scrub off with a fingernail and damp cloth.
That maker reckons this is far more convenient than using tape. If large sets are printed on a single sheet, I reckon it could even be better for the environment, especially if some scrap like newspaper is used. I'll probably try it out myself next time I'm printing with PLA. The related photo album is here.

In more salvage efforts, I got this heavy-duty motor from an old and busted washing machine:
Such a high-powered motor, if I can build a controller for it, could be very useful for a DIY industrial machine such as a lathe. There are no stickers making it obvious, but I think this thing might run off high-voltage AC from the mains.
It appears to be an induction motor though, so wouldn't be any use for generating electricity. There are strange wires around the back end here and a chunky connector with 7 flat pins just off the bottom of this photo.
There's also some odd wire-pulled lever next to the shaft that looks like it might be a brake, but I haven't figured it out yet, and might just get rid of it.

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