Monday, May 21, 2012

Annular Solar Eclipse

So this morning at 7:30 there was an annular solar eclipse visible. Wow, that was something else. It wasn't a total solar eclipse, what with the moon being so far away from Earth at the time, but it was pretty nifty to see the ring.
Don't look directly at the sun! But a digital camera viewfinder is fine.

A pinhole projector shows the eclipse starting

Dappled light through the trees takes on crescent shapes!

The moment- the moon fully inside the disk of the sun!

On my way home, I noticed some light clouds, so I got out the camera and took a few dozen shots as the eclipse waned.
It was definitely a wonderful experience! Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience. The next one is scheduled to hit our area in 300 years! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Archery Target

Well, since I have become the Backyard Bowyer's biggest fan (made four bows so far, all shoot great!) I have a need for some archery targets and backstops.
First I tried sandwiching twenty or so sheets of cardboard and pasting a target on that. It was OK, but a lot of my blunt arrows just bounced out, since cardboard is very springy on the flat.
Then I had a great idea- use the stiffness of the corrugations on edge to my advantage!
Make a cardboard archery target backstop.
You need 6-7 boxes (the same size is best), a scissors or box cutter, duct tape, and a pencil.

  1. Cut the boxes into strips of 10-15cm wide against the grain of the corrugations.
  2. Start to roll the strips, taping more strips on as you come to the end of each one. it doesn't have to be super tight. Stop when you reach your desired size and tape the end down.
  3. Trace around your roll on a large piece of cardboard, and cut out two plates- for the front and back.
  4. Tape the front and back plates on the roll tightly, and either draw on or print out a target to paste on the roll.
That's it, now find a nice embankment to rest it against and start practicing!

It works great! The stiffness of the backstop keeps the arrows from bouncing out, and if the front plate gets too ragged, I can just flip it over or tape on a new one!

UNofficial target from wikimedia

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2012 Rice Planting

I know I said I would switch to "Mostly Flowers" but I can't help but grow vegetables!!!! And grains!!!

That being said, the 2012 rice planting has begun.
As I outlined in a previous post, I am using last year's paddy as a warming pond, and made the new paddy over the winter. The new paddy is also 5x5 meters, so I can compare the results easily.

Yesterday I dumped in about half a cubic meter of clay in the flooded paddy and stirred it around with my kuwa (Japanese long bladed hoe). I mixed the top 10cm or so of sand with the clay, and it made a nice texture. Of course, most of the  clay was in suspension in the water. The sand settled first, and the clay made a nice even seal of about 3cm over the whole paddy. Then today I added about 12 wheelbarrows full of composted steer manure and spread that around in the water as well. That came to about about 5cm. Add that to the roughly 15cm of clay and loosened sand, and I have a 20cm depth to work with. A lot  better than last year's 2-3 cm.

The neighbor gave me a flat of organic rice seedlings, and I will plant them just as soon as possible.
And of course, I will have the results tested at city hall for Cesium, but around here, that goes without saying.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A New Take On Green Manures and Compost

Most people I know (and myself until this spring) grew green manures to either :

  1. till back into the soil to add organic matter
  2. make compost of the tops, and till the roots back in (especially legumes)
  3. prevent erosion
But now I grow them for a different reason. Phytoremediation. (Cleaning the soil with plants)

Around here, all compost piles have become bio-accumulators of cesium. 
Everyone knows that your compost pile shrinks up to 60%. Well it came to me over the winter, that means that the compost I made has 3x as much radiation contamination as the original leaves and stems did! And I harvest weeds and grasses to compost from all over the acre or so that I mow. If I spread this back on my garden, it would greatly increase the concentration in the garden beds! Thank goodness I realized that over the winter, and not after I spread it! The goat's manure is also a no-no, since they only eat local grasses. But the cow manure I bought should be relatively clean, since cows here eat mostly imported hay and feed from the US. No grazing for the poor things. 

So now I am reverse green manuring. I take the plants and roots out, and trench compost them in a clay lined trench in the corner of my property, and don't return the compost.

This strip mining will probably wreak havoc on my soil. Only time will tell. 

By trench composting, I can cover it with thirty centimeters of soil- which will cut 90% of the gamma rays. And cesium binds to the clay lining, which should keep it from penetrating further. 

But it looks like I will have to use imported organic fertilizer, or chemical fertilizer for at least a few years. Sigh. I draw the line at pesticides/herbicides/fungicides though.