Archive for July, 2010
It’s good to regularly check that the pH balance of the nutrient solution feeding your plants is correct. Plants have an optimal growth range of about 6-6.5.
First you need something to test with. Electric testers are cool but expensive. pH testing solution takes a bit more work but not much, it simply consists of a dropper of solution and a small vial to test with.
Fill the vial half way with the water you want to test. Add 4-5 drops of testing fluid and shake it up.
Compare it to the diagram on the side. This looks to be about 7.5-8 pH, it’s going to have to come down at least a full point.
To actually adjust the pH you need pH adjuster, one up and one down. They come printed with the measurements to adjust the pH, in this case 1 tsp adjusts 4 gallons.
I found using an medicinal dropper is the easiest way to get the right amount, you don’t want to spill and get this stuff on you.
At 10 gallons for the nutrient reservoir it’s 2 tsp to adjust down (better too little than too much). Now another measurement is showing much closer to the ideal 6.5 range.
First the major common ones that everybody should know:
-Start slow. Work your way up to difficult hikes.
-Let the slowest person in the party set the pace.
-Hike in a group or if you can’t let people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
-Plan ahead. Plan for any eventuality.
-Stay on trails. Only bushwhack where it’s allowed and if you’re a good navigator (without resorting to using GPS)
-Drink lots of water.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind that may not be commonly known:
-In addition to drinking lots of water keep in mind that water only helps you if it’s IN you. If you “save” it in your canteen it’s doing no good. Try to keep sipping a small amount of water at regular intervals so you don’t get too much and have to pee it out, but you don’t have too little and start suffering from it.
-Drink a lot of water to pre-hydrate before you hike. Better to have to pee when you get to the trailhead than to drain your canteen in the first 100 yards because you were dehydrated before you started.
-When hiking a strenuous trail try to keep your heart rate at a steady rate as if you were jogging. When it’s flat walk fast, when it’s steep or rocky slow your pace.
-Step over logs and rocks rather then up them and back down. There is no use lifting your body mass up 2 feet only to drop down one stride later. Hiking is all about using your energy in the most efficient way, usually slow and steadily.
-Stop in the shade if you can. Pretty obvious but you’ll cool down much better if you hike just a little further and rest where it will do some good.
-KEEP YOUR FEET DRY! Moisture invites friction, friction causes blisters. I put a ton of baby powder on my feet before a hike, the talcum soaks up sweat and keeps your feet dry and blister free. Keep a pair of clean dry socks and a small bottle of baby powder in your pack incase you step in a puddle or ford a stream.
-Hiking poles help more than you think. A lot of muscles are used just to keep balance, poles allow them to relax a bit and save some energy for the hike. And going downhill with poles is a dream that your knees and shins will thank you for.
-Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Better to be ready for anything and have nothing happen than to not be ready and have everything happen.
In regards to the last one I’m a bit of a fanatic to when it comes to being prepared, for me half the fun of hiking and camping is preparing your gear and knowing that you’re prepared for any eventuality. In fact even though I always hope for a safe enjoyable trip a part of me is hoping that the weather will turn to a torrential downpour, or I’ll be stranded and have to live 3 days in the mountains till rescuers can get to me. I have the gear to make it, but I’ve never had to test how well prepared I am.
Maybe one of these days I’ll purposefully spend a couple nights in the mountains living off my daypack contents, just to see if I can.
Here’s my pack. I got it for free for test driving a Nissan Xterra back in 2000. I already knew I wanted to buy one, but some friends on an internet message board pointed me to a deal where you print out a flyer, test drive the Xterra, then get your choice between the day pack or a pair of FRS radios.
To this day it’s still the best daypack I’ve ever seen. Although I had to add the Velcro loop to keep the hiking poles strapped in.
It even has this cool rain proof cover that zips up into the bottom of the pack. It keeps the shoulder straps free when it’s on so Cover+Ponco = dry hiker and gear.
Here’s all the gear I carry. In reality all you need to survive is shelter and water (you can go 3 weeks without food*), the rest of the gear is really just enough to keep you comfortable and make the hike pleasant. Obviously the more you carry the more weight you have on your shoulders, all this is 15 pounds; but I carry it on every hiking trip so my body is conditioned to feel that this is a normal amount.
-Spare Pair of dry socks
-Solid Fuel Stove
-Space Blanket (Mylar blanket)
-MRE, one of the best additions I’ve made. Nothing is better than getting a warm meal at the end of your hike. It’s also very good to keep your strength up, see below.
-First-Aid Kit (with extra moleskin)
-Commercial survival kit
-20ft of parachute cord.
-Map and compass
-Aerial Flares (got them at a boat store)
-Flower ID book (My parents know them from memory, I want to learn too)
-headlamp style flashlight
-antihistamine (I get bad allergies)
-Candy for snacking along the way.
The solid fuel stove I got is pretty cool, it all folds up to the size of a deck of cards but I can’t remember where I got it; all the printing on it is in German. The survival kit is the metal tin for boiling or cooking water, remember that you can’t use a stove without a water holding metal cooking container. Canteen cups from the Army/Navy Surplus store would also work well.
The survival kit is pretty cool too, but again I can’t remember where I got it. But I do remember making my own in a wilderness survival class I took in High School.
One very important thing I’m currently missing is iodine tablets to purify water. I usually fill the 1 liter CamelBak up and carry an extra 1 liter bottle for backup. But if you’re isolated from civilization for more than a day you’ll likely use that amount up and will need to purify water from a stream.
More pics here: Flickr Hiking Set.
I want to say a word about MREs. When I was in the Army I lived off them for about 3 months, it wasn’t the best of meals but it was still better than some shitty food I’ve had in the US too.
Real military MRE’s are balanced in their nutrition content. They’re designed so that one MRE a day can keep a man alive indefinitely, and 2-3 a day will provide enough energy for an active soldier that is expected to hike 10+ miles a day. I’m proof that you can live off 2 a day for months, and we had problems where we were actually gaining weight eating more than 2 a day.
The reason why is because the food in the MRE is fortified with vitamins and nutrients. Ironically the main meal isn’t much more than filler carbs for energy, the crackers and peanut butter are like a vitamin pill, the beverage powder has electrolytes like Gatorade. With the Military MREs they recommend that if you can’t eat a full meal that you eat a little bit of everything to get all the vitamins that different parts of the meal are fortified with.
And in the last decade the military has done a good job of making them palatable now; they’re not just emergency rations, they’re shelf stable meals that are actually more balanced an healthy than your standard fast-food fare. Plus the fact that they’re designed to energize highly active soldiers makes them ideal for hiking and camping (the Army word for it is “Force-Multiplier”).
I definitely recommend having one in your pack for when you reach the end of your hike or when you get up to the peak and are taking a break before heading down. You’ll find you recover a lot better when you’re properly nourished throughout your trip. The trick is finding them, the government doesn’t allow sale of them since 1997, the survival stores have civilian versions that are put together using the same components. Luckily they’re common on Ebay if you want the real thing. If not just get the civilian kind, they’re basically the same and for one meal it won’t matter if it’s not as well balanced as the menus for the real ones.
You can find more info here:
And BTW. Yes the “chicklet gum” is a laxative. And yes you should chew and swallow it.
With the way an MRE diet will back you up you need mild laxatives just to return to normal. Being backed up for a week then finally dropping an MRE brick is one of the most unpleasant experiences you’ll have.
*The rule of threes for survival:
-You can go 3 minutes without air.
-You can go 3 hours without shelter (in extreme conditions).
-You can go 3 days without water.
-You can go 3 weeks without food.
This can help you get your priorities straight.
Well the visuals look excellent and it looks full of geek porn (still loving the recognizers).
The clean smooth lines and dark locales may work very well in 3D and will hopefully not be a “Clash of the Titans” mess. Although I already see alot of 3D gimmicks in there which I don’t like.
The biggest question is if the story is compelling or this is just another piece of eye candy. Can’t be any worse than Unobtanium can it?
The reservoir for this system only holds 10 gallons and in the recent heat the plants go through about 3-4 gallons of water a day. But because of the way hydroponics systems work as the nutrient passes over the roots they absorb the water and what nutrients they need. The rest drains back into the system and is recycled.
So while the water may be run through in a couple days, the nutrient lasts a couple weeks.
After a couple weeks the water is no longer providing anything but moisture. Plants will still grow, the majority of their mass actually comes from the CO2 they absorb from the air, but without the extra nutrients the growth is slow and stunted. So we have to dump the old depleted nutrient and put in new.
It’s best to dump out the depleted nutrient rather than keep adding more to the system, some nutrients may have been used less so you could end up with high Phosphorus content or something. Just dump the reservoir out on the lawn or soil garden and mix a fresh batch.
Before I dump out the nutrient I usually turn the system on to get a fresh layer of moisture on the roots. It only takes about 10 minutes to dump and refill everything but I’d rather not run the risk of drying out the roots too much. The more shock and abuse the plants suffer they slower they will grow.
First step is to dump out the old. The problem is that you don’t want the pump to get dirty so I like to put all the gear into a small tray to keep it off the ground. It’s also a good time to back wash any filters you can get to.
I mix the nutrient in a small bucket so I can get it all to dissolve (it’s a solid water soluble fertilizer). The ratio for this is 1tsp fertilizer to 1gallon water.
Get it all dissolved in a small amount of water. Now it’s super concentrated liquid fertilizer; in reality this is probably still more diluted than liquid fertilizer you spray on a normal soil garden.
Then rinse the equipment and reservoir off. And reassemble.
Pour the nutrient in, then fill with water till full. Before leaving it alone I like to check and balance the pH levels since with new nutrient it can be a little off (next blog post we’ll cover that).
According to Scientology, when a person dies — or, in Scientology terms, when a thetan abandons its physical body — they go to a “landing station” on the planet Venus, where the thetan is re-implanted and told lies about its past life and its next life. The Venusians take the thetan, “capsule” it, and send it back to Earth to be dumped into the ocean off the coast of California. Says Hubbard, “If you can get out of that, and through that, and wander around through the cities and find some girl who looks like she is going to get married or have a baby or something like that, you’re all set. And if you can find the maternity ward to a hospital or something, you’re OK. And you just eventually just pick up a baby.”
Surprisingly long, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
Had a little problem last week. Temperatures in Utah have been reaching triple digits with sunny clear blue skies all day long. I had gotten used to the water requirements of the hydroponic garden being about a loss of 4 gallons every two days or so. However with the days getting hotter and the plants getting larger (more surface area and breathable surfaces), the water requirements have been getting bigger.
The problem was that I let the plants go 3 days without topping off the water supply.
I knew that with the smaller nutrient reservoir watering would be more frequent and even thought I might setup a second reservoir with a siphon of something to double the usable volume. Unfortunately this all came to a head when I checked my plants and they had been basically dry for most of the day.
Everything was extremely wilted looking and a few leaves on the cucumbers had dried up (they feel rough and dry even when healthy so it’s hard to tell). I immediately refilled the water and turned the pump on to wet the plants again. By evening everything was looking better but it was obvious the cucumbers hadn’t weathered the dry spell as well as the peppers.
The cucumbers on the far ends lost the tips of some of the leaves but bounced back really well besides that.
The peppers looked just fine afterward. I can only figure this is because their roots are thicker than the cucumbers which have fine roots. Enough moisture is retained in the plant that the cells didn’t die and when water was brought back they revived like putting a dry sponge in water.
But the cucumbers nearest the drain didn’t do so well. While enough survived that I could probably have kept them alive they weren’t likely to produce much fruit and what they did would likely be at the end of the season. Better to just chuck them and star anew with a late season plant.
So when the weekend came round I got the tallest pre-planted cucumber at the farmers market and swapped it into place.
The first evening was a bit rough, the above picture was taken about 30 minutes after transplant in the middle of the 100F afternoon. In just 30 minutes the plant went from looking normal to looking faint. Obviously the shock of going from soil to liquid + heat + a root system not adapted to the hydro system was a bit of a shock. But although the leaves looked and felt flimsy they were still soft with moisture and not dry like the plants that had been left without water; by the next day they looked vibrant and were already perking up.
Here’s the wilty peppers from the same time. Obviously it’s hard on plants dealing with 100 degree heat just like it is with humans. It’s no wonder they’re going through about 4 gallons a day right now. Luckily I don’t need to re-do the nutrient each day. The plants take what they need from the nutrient and leave the rest, so as the water level goes down it’s mostly H2O being used and the nutrient solution becomes more condensed. Adding water brings the nutrient back to the normal PPM. Although for that reason it’s good not to let the water get too low and the nutrient solution too condensed.
Here’s the cucumber that needed to be removed. A shame to lose it, it was the largest and had already produced 3 cucumbers this year. As you can see one plant was still very green and could have pulled through, however since they’re both in the pot together there is no easy way to separated them and just replace one.
Also notice how dense the root mat had gotten, it actually continued to the right just as far but because of the peppers next door I couldn’t separate the roots and had to cut them off to get the plant out. The ½ to 1 inch thick mat at the bottom of the planter retains a lot of moisture due to wicking action once the pumps go off (or water runs out) which probably helped them survive going a day without water. It would also explain why the plant closest the drain fared the worst, since it drained off quicker than the cucumbers at the other end of the planter.
Here the root cup after the plants had been cut and tossed to the compost. You can see how much the roots come out of the cup in every direction, the cup is held above the bottom root mat so most of these roots are held above the nutrient with the sprayers spraying the sides. But the plant still branches out in every direction to soak up every drop it can.
Jump started my plants a week ahead.
Something I noticed today. The cucumbers that I planted about two weeks ago in the beans place is just starting to adapt and start growing. But the cucumbers that I planted just a couple days ago have already caught up and might be passing them.
The different was when I planted the first set I just let the roots sit at the bottom of the net pot and put “dirt” on top. With the new ones I cut a small hole in the bottom and threaded some of the roots through.
The result is that the new plants have roots on the bottom of the planter where they can soak up fresh nutrient. The older plants needed to slowly absorb it from the “dirt” and grow their own roots to the bottom; then once on the bottom they started growing quicker.
First the older plant:
When planted they had the two seed leaves (Cotyledon) and one true leaf. During the transition I noticed that the first true leaf (that was grown while in soil) seems to be burned and suffers a bit. Then the second true leaf (grown while in nutrient solution) has adapted and there is less or no damage to it.
Second the 2 week younger plants. These guys replaced the cucumber that was crushed and torn out in the wind storm.
I planted more than what was needed so I can thin the two weaker plants later. As you can see having roots go to the bottom of the planter has given them a good headstart. They were transplanted the same as the others, with the two dicot leaves and one true leaf. They already have a second leaf and their first true leaf didn’t look as poorly as the other plant.