Gas station without pumps

2016 November 2

Halloween 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:47
Tags: , , , ,

Halloween was a bit of an impromptu arrangement this year. I was at the iGEM Jamboree all weekend, and my wife and I only got home from Boston a little before 7 p.m. on Halloween, so we did not have time to carve a pumpkin this year.  Instead, I decided to improvise a very fast pumpkin surrogate:

First, I found a cardboard box large enough to hold the LED stroboscope that I had made for the mini Maker Faire.

First, I found a cardboard box large enough to hold the LED stroboscope that I had made for the mini Maker Faire.

Then I cut out a stencil pattern from a piece of heavy paper.

Then I cut out a stencil pattern from a piece of heavy paper.

I made one mistake when cutting the stencil, cutting away the opaque center for the lower part of the B. I just used blue painter’s tape on the back of the paper to stick the piece back on, and recut the B.

Initially, I tried taping the stencil over the opening in the box, but the light was not diffuse enough—the individual LEDs were visible and the stencil pattern unclear. I then tried taping the stencil to the cutting mat and taping the cutting mat to the front of the box. It wasn’t very secure (painter’s tape is not very sticky—by design), but it worked for the evening.

The final result looked much better in the window than a 20-minute project had any right to.

The final result looked much better in the window than a 20-minute project had any right to.

2012 September 6

Volunteer pumpkins

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:12
Tags: , , ,

Step 1: the leaves

Last fall, after raking the leaves and mulching them with the lawnmower, I left a pile of shredded leaves on the driveway, with the intention of moving it with the wheelbarrow to the compost heap in the backyard.  But the wheelbarrow has been full of sand for the past two years, and I didn’t get around to finding a place in the yard to deposit the sand in order to free the wheelbarrow to move the leaves. As a result, the shredded leaves sat on the driveway all winter, turning into fairly rich compost.

Step 2: the seeds

Last fall, for Halloween, we had bought several pumpkins.  We carved the big ones and put candles in them, but displayed the little ones intact on fence posts.  The big ones rotted rapidly and were moved to the compost heap, but little ones were kept as decoration for most of the winter.  The squirrels knocked one of the pumpkins off its fence post and ate the flesh of the pumpkin, but (surprisingly) not the seeds.

Step 3: growth

When I finally got around to cleaning up the leaves in the spring, I noticed that there were pumpkin vines growing out of the inch-deep compost.  I was curious to see how well the vines would do, so I decided not to clean up the leaves after all.  (Any excuse to avoid doing garden chores.)

What the pumpkin “patch” on the driveway looked like by 5 Sept 2012. One of the vines has died (with a couple of ripe pumpkins on it), but the others are still doing fine.

Step 4: water

I live in coastal California, where it doesn’t rain from about May to October, and the “soil” was only about an inch thick above the concrete driveway.  We have a high water table (an aquifer ends here, and the water is only about an inch below the surface), but the roots can’t grow through a cement slab, so the vines needed to be watered. There was no way that I would remember to water the vines often enough, and I didn’t want to waste city water (we have water restrictions this summer) on a volunteer pumpkin.

I came up with an ingenious solution that required no money and miniscule effort. The patch of leaves was on the driveway just below the sump pump which normally pumps water collected from under the house out to the gutter. The sump pump runs a few times a day, discharging a gallon or two of water each time.  All I did was disconnect the drain pipe from the sump pump and arrange a little diverter to spread the water out to wet the pumpkin patch.

Automatic watering system: the sump is under the wooden box on the right, and the drain pipe is normally connected to it. Removing the drain pipe and propping up a concrete block to divert the flow was enough to water the pumpkin patch several times a day.

The only problem with this automatic watering system is that it kept the pumpkins too wet. The mulch that the pumpkins are sitting on is so wet that it harbors a lot of slugs and sow bugs.

Step 5: the pumpkins

The first two pumpkins look nice sitting on the driveway, but picking them up reveals a lot of slugs and sow bugs feasting on the bottoms of them. The pumpkins on live vines seem to be resisting slug attack better, and I’ve moved them a little to try to keep them drier.

The pumpkins are small ones, because the seeds were from a small variety. I wonder how well a larger variety would have fared in this shallow-rooted environment.

%d bloggers like this: