Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bodi and How to Chill

Bodi is not the chillest of horses around human beings. It's not that he's afraid of them or wants to beat up on them or anything. He mostly seems to think that human beings are great and whenever they show up it means food or playtime. Hence the problem- I can not get him to chill.
Bodi, Prince of Not Chill in the kingdom of Playlandia

Today I decided I would create some chill time with Bodi. I showed up with nothing really in mind other than spending time in the pony paddock, standing. I walked in and Bodi immediately trotted over to see what I was up to. I was holding a water bottle! Play toy! So he tried to bite the water bottle. I did the pressing on his cheek to get him to turn his face away. That worked for about a second. Then it was my pockets. Did I have treats? What are these, keys? Are keys tasty? No Bodi. I pushed on his face again. And again. There was a lot of face poking. I'm sure he got pretty tired of me poking on his face, but at least I was consistent in NOT poking his face if he wasn't bothering me...


To be fair, most of what we do IS playtime.
I can see where he'd get the idea.

Eventually he started eating hay and just occasionally checking to make sure I was still going to push on his face if he tried to play with me. I told him yeah, that was still a thing. He tried smushing his body into my space and I poked him in the side until he moved. He tried eating my boots. He tried faceplanting my leg. He tried the water bottle again. Meanwhile I poked and pushed and stomped and waved my hands around every time he got in my space and then just went back to standing as soon as he got out of it.

Somewhere along the line I got this weird idea that maybe if I could convince him that I wanted to graze with him he'd figure out that I wasn't standing in his paddock because I wanted to play. After all, playing (or training) in the ring is really the only reason I go back there and get him normally. He might think that I was just taking a long time. So... I bent down and rummaged around in the hay with my hand and sighed really loud, like the horses do when they're done with nonsense and are ready to go back to eating. Bodi looked at me for a second, nudged me (I poked him back out of my space) and then started eating hay alongside me! He still got in my space a bit, but he was no longer grabby and playful. He was more trying to figure out if I had something tastier than he had and if I would sharesies.
"She's good at scritches.
Maybe she's good at finding tasty things to eat too?"

Upside down is an odd perspective to be in with a horse. Weirdly it was easier to bump him over when inverted. My elbows were more effective in shielding both my face and bottom half (at least from a miniature horse. I don't think I'd try this with a big horse). It was also easier to get him to react without me having to touch him. If I rotated my body toward him he swung his head away faster. I sort of wonder if horses communicate more often with each other in this chill, head-down position so they're better at reading it, or if they just feel more chill in general when grazing so they don't want to cause as many problems. Eventually he legit lost interest and wandered over to graze next to Pudge.

I don't know exactly what I accomplished with this other than learning more about how horses interact with each other while grazing. Bodi may or may not have learned any personal space lessons. I guess I'll see in future interactions. Thankfully no one was like "what the crap are you doing" while I was busy pretend-grazing with the ponies. Maybe I would've made something up like I lost something in the hay and was looking for it... haha. But now you ALL KNOW how I spent my afternoon. Judge all you like. I will continue my quest to learn more about horses, whether right side up or upside down!


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Start of Summer Garden

The porch garden has been loving the warmer weather and growing into its summer look. Though the beginning of summer has fewer flowers, the leaves of plants go crazy, as seen in the sudden burst of growth in my young cucumber plants.

Last week's baby cucumber plant, starting to climb the lattice.

Cucumber has reached the top of the lattice, starting to climb the porch railing now!
Other plants had to wait until the warm weather to come outside. I'm trying out a Venus Fly Trap this year. I'm hoping to keep it for multiple years. Apparently they are native to North Carolina bogs and can be kept in the refrigerator for winter dormancy in colder climates? In any case, they're a bit picky about their surroundings. They have to be kept somewhere humid, without any fertilizer, bright sunlight, and only rainwater or distilled water. Hopefully this plant will make it... 


The sea thrift is thriving! I'm happy that it likes its super airy pot and well-draining soil. I may have to move it to a larger pot when the weather gets hotter so it has more root mass to keep it from getting too thirsty during the day. (PS: Check out the little lavender plant in the background! New perennial flower for beeees!)



Lack of root mass was what made my poor rose lose all of its leaves during the few 90 degree days we had a few weeks ago. The weird thing was that the leaves didn't droop, they crisped. I've never had a rose before, so I would look out, see the leaves all perky and think it was ok. It was definitely not ok. :( By the time I looked closely at the leaves it only had a few un-crisped ones left. I soaked it in water and trimmed it back a bit, trying to keep all of the un-crispy leaves. It slowly dropped the ones that had died. Now, however, it's in a larger pot and I noticed that new leaves are sprouting from the leaf nodes. Give it a few weeks and hopefully I'll have a picture of a healthy plant to show you.


Beans have been sprouting! These are Bush Beans, which means they grow in sort of a low, shrubby shape instead of trailing. I've heard they're good for pots so I'm trying them out this year. 

I really like sitting out on my porch and enjoying my garden. It's very calming. :) 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The End of Lettuce: A Summary

The first of the lettuces has bolted, signaling the end of lettuce season for this year. After the lettuce bolts its leaves become much more bitter which makes them less tasty for salads, though I can probably still use it with a lot of salad dressing or on a sandwich. I'll pull the other lettuces before they bolt to keep them nice and sweet in the fridge.

This is what bolted lettuce looks like.
The middle stem is now quickly growing a whole bunch of tiny leaves up a stalk
instead of forming one big leaf at a time from the center.

Lettuce bolts right before it starts flowering. Usually this corresponds with the much warmer weather of late May/early June, but this year has been weird and we're in the middle of some 80-90 degree days. The lettuce thinks it's time to flower.

I still have some very juvenile lettuces surrounding one of the cucumbers in a big pot. I'll wait to pull those, as I'm hoping that the deeper soil and larger mass of it might keep the roots cool enough to make it through this warm spell. Maybe they'll make it to maturity before wilting or bolting.

The young'ins. You can see a Green Salad Bowl lettuce variety
in the side of the pot closest to the camera.
Big Buttercrunches in the back.
In summary, the lettuce mix I got from Benkhes was fantastic. I especially liked the Buttercrunch variety in there- they're hardy and have a really great flavor. My second favorite was the Lolla Rossa, though its leaves were a little more delicate it had awesome color contrast and tasted good. The other varieties in the pack were Black Seeded Simpson, Green Salad Bowl, Red Oakleaf, and Rouge d'Hiver. The others also tasted fine, but sometimes didn't have the oomph to get going in a two month span and/or got leggy and paper-thin leaves. This was especially evident with the Green Salad Bowl lettuce. I had only the Green Salad Bowl variety last year and it was the same way- I eventually just pulled up the whole plant in order to use it in salad because picking off leaves left the other leaves flopped over and trailing in the dirt. Next year I'll probably just get a whole packet of the Buttercrunch and Lolla Rossa.

Buttercrunch and Lolla Rossa being fabulous.
I got four or five lunch salads out of these three alone,
with the plants still looking full and pretty after picking.
Grand total probably seven or eight salads after I pull them.

Also weird discovery: the hardware cloth that I used as a cage to keep the squirrels out also helped with keeping dirt off of the leaves of the lettuces. Since I gently pulled the leaves over the top of the hole cut in the cage wire as the plant grew, the leaves all stayed clean and ready to just pick off of the plant and eat as opposed to the ones in the big pot which got gritty and needed washing. (I mean, really you should always wash your lettuce before eating it, but sometimes you just get impatient.)

Some Red Oakleaf in the front there.
All in all this was a great success. I'll now have three empty pots for bush beans and flowers! :D I'll plant lettuce again in the fall.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bodi and The Pros and Cons of Clicker Training Him

So firstly, I'd like to report that Bodi did GREAT at the Unicorn Festival demonstration this weekend. Granted, the only people at the fence watching us were a handful of kids and Bodi's sponsors, but it's the first time I've ever done anything with a horse in front of an audience, and Bodi's first time too so huzzah! He was wonderful. <3

Us preparing for the Unicorn Festival demo.

I started trick training Bodi three weeks ago with a pouch full of treats and a clicker. I'd done some previous work with Aspen but he's a different age and personality than Bodi. Old horse who is super timid about things vs bold two year old. I wasn't sure what to expect.

"Look, I'm a unicorn.
Also not scared of things on my head apparently."

The first trick was associating the click with the treat which took next to no time at all. This was quickly followed by a need for a "get your face out of my pocket" trick. I started bothering him by poking on his cheek when he was getting grabby, and clicked and treated when he moved his head away from me. Eventually I stopped clicking and treating for it and just stopped poking his cheek whenever he turned away. It works...sort of. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a longer "face away" time. I currently have to keep poking it every three seconds.

"treat? Treat? TREAT TREAT TREAT?!?!?!?!"

The second trick was touching things with his nose. First a wand with a bright card at the end of it, then cones and the magic wand I was going to be using for the Unicorn Festival. He picked this one up in no time. Sniff it and get a treat? Yes please. 




Thankfully Barbara had already trained him to stand still when held by the halter under his chin, so I used that when treat feeding so he didn't bite me. I also learned that part of the reason he'd take nose-dives at my hand was because he was concerned about me snatching it away before he got all of it. Slowly presenting the treat and letting him lip around on my hand for a few seconds after eating the treat helped with that.

Bodi also learned to follow posture directions. He can now gauge inviting toward (turning a hip away) and pushing away (hip turning toward him) and with this we zig-zag through cones and do the cha cha.

Stopping with big, exaggerated motions on my part.

Bodi's favorite seems to be going over a tiny jump pole. He only does it two or so times though, before he starts knocking it down and kicking at it. I'm not pushing it right now. He's got too much other stuff to learn. :-/ 

Trot poles are fun too!
The week before the Unicorn Festival I learned how to do round pen join-up with Bodi under direction from Barbara. He spent about 15 minutes trotting and cantering around and attempting to kick at me when he didn't like being driven. I tend not to want to discipline animals even when I probably should. Having a horse, even a tiny one, kick at you makes me a little bit more ok with moving him away with the lunge whip. O_o Like, cat getting feisty and nipping at your hands is annoying. Horse kicking you is more like "ahh, get it away before it hurts me." I'm glad Bodi is a mini so he's really only capable of bruising my shins. Anyway, he stopped trying to kick me and started listening to directions to slow down and turn left and right, so we ended the session. We both got good exercise out of it and the next day he still came trotting up to the gate to meet me for training, so I guess he doesn't hate me for bopping him in the butt a couple of times. Yay.



We're starting to work on not following me so closely now. Even though he's a mini and can't run me over so much as smack into the back of my legs it's still good to have him stay a couple of feet away when I'm leading him so he's not tripping me or running a tiny kid over. I'd also like to teach him how to stand on a box and pick things up off of the ground! I'm grateful for all of the direction that I've been getting from Barbara and for them trusting me enough to work with Bodi. He's always enthusiastic and fun to be around. It seems like he enjoys it too. I look forward to seeing his little inquisitive face at the gate when I come to get him. :)


Friday, March 24, 2017

Lettuce!

If you've been following the blog, back in mid-January I went stir crazy and decided to start growing some lettuce. Yesterday I had the first delicious salad made from my home-grown lettuce. It was about two months from seed planting to harvesting. The seed packet was correct!





Four generations of lettuce...

These varieties are looseleaf lettuces, which are harvested by picking off only a few leaves at a time off of each plant. The picture at the top is of the three lettuce plants I just picked the outer leaves off of. As you can see, they still look great and will continue growing new leaves in until the weather gets too hot and they "bolt," aka- start flowering. The reds seem to do better in direct sun, and look gorgeous next to the bright green. I love the variety in this mixed looseleaf lettuce seed I bought.

I've been phasing my lettuce plantings so I've got several generations of lettuces growing at this point. I think once the current 3 day old seedlings mature, that'll be the last batch for spring. After that I'll be starting the bean and cucumber crops! 

The newest baby lettuces

Lettuce grows best in cool to moderately warm weather. On nights under around 27F I brought all of my looseleaf lettuces inside. (Kale stayed out until 18F). Usually, though, the nights were mild enough that I could just leaf them out there. Haha...leaf. 

Kale is in no danger from light frost...just from squirrels!
The one in the middle got damaged by a squirrel despite the cage. :(

Lettuces and other cold-weather crops have the ability to survive because they can increase the amount of sugars they produce in their leaf cells. Normally plants get frostbite when the water inside their cells bursts the cell walls. That's why they go all mushy. Cold tolerant plants use sugar as an antifreeze, to lower the freezing temperature of the liquid in their cells. That's why lettuce and kale taste sweeter if grown in cold weather! 

Look at that colorful bowl of sweet, sweet salad greens. Mmmm.

I hope to start getting most of my salad greens from my garden instead of the grocery store in the next few weeks as the plants all start to mature. Hooray growing food! :D

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Arduino Adventures in Cat Entertainment

Arduinos are little computer boards that come with all sorts of sensors, motors, lights, and other fun add-ons that you can use for projects. Starting with lighting up an LED, the Arduino guides available online for free can get the brain-juices flowing and soon you end up with...well, you end up with this.

The Self-Operated Cat Treat Feeder

Ticky now has a cool fun toy that gives him treats when he pushes a button. The trick is now to get him to relate button-pushing with treat-getting. (And also to keep too many treats from being released out of the tube at once.) He's working on it. We're currently to the "paw at the button and Allison pushes the button for me" phase and it's only day one. Give it time.

Here's a quick breakdown of the parts: 

Electronics: 
-  Arduino Uno board
- Breakout breadboard
- 10 kOhm resistor (servo circuit)
- 220 Ohm resistor (LED circuit)
- Pushbutton
- LED 
- 5V servo motor
- various lengths of jumper cable and soldered-on 22 AWG wire

Mechanical: 
- A crapton of duct tape. Like a LOT of duct tape
- 2 Cereal boxes
- 2 round plastic containers w/lids (I think they had cashews in them originally)
- The cap off of a bottle of Ranch
- A bubble tea straw

Tools: 
- Soldering iron (tiny tip) and solder
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutting pliers
- Scissors
-Exacto knife
- Hot glue gun
- Computer w/(free!) Arduino software installed
- USB cable for the Arudino

Tools I WISH I had purchased for this:
- One of those wire-gripping gooseneck gadgets that I see the technicians at work use, because it is GODAWFUL to try and hold wires in place next to each other with tape.
- Ohmmeter, because it's nice to know that it's your soldering's faulty, not your component, rather than guessing.
- Solid core wire, not stranded wire. I have no idea why I purchased stranded wire. I guess I hated my future self. (Or more likely didn't look at it closely enough when I bought it.)

Ticky says he can solder too. And by solder he means sit on my work area.
I had to sequester him to the bedroom during actual soldering. I was afraid he'd burn himself jumping up to investigate.


I started out with combining the example codes from the Servo Motor example, the Button example and the Blink Without Delay example from the Arduino's Examples folder. I wanted to be able to move the servo motor 90 degrees and back again in a certain length of time when I pushed the button. The motor would have a little plastic arm attached to it which would block the bottom of the treat straw when closed, open when the button was pushed to drop a treat, then close the straw back up. The LED was just a last minute addition because it was neat to have a light indicator when the button was pressed. I'll include the code at the bottom of the post for people who want to try it. I don't have any Fritzing diagram software installed, so you'll just have to figure out how to do (individually) Button Circuit, LED Circuit, and Servo Circuit. They aren't really combined on the board itself. The software handles the inputs and outputs. Just make sure you're following the diagrams from Examples 1, 5, and 8 in the Arduino SIK User Guide: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/sik-experiment-guide-for-arduino---v32/all


Then came the hard part: Soldering. I've only soldered maybe three things in my entire life, way back at the beginning of undergrad, and had no idea what I was doing back then either. I practiced first on some lengths of wire before I switched over to my actual hardware. Turns out that was a good choice, as I destroyed several wire ends with over-cooked solder. Once I wasn't routinely frying wires or dribbling solder all over, I soldered wires to the ends of the LED and the pushbutton to extend them out so they could be used off of the breadboard. I also had to tin the ends of the wires that would go into the breadboard because for some reason I bought stranded wire??? I need to get solid core.

I taped everything into the inside of a cereal box, and then cut a slit in the corner for the servo arm to move 90 degrees through. The straw was taped just above that. A hole was cut nearby for the LED to poke through. I duct taped the jumper cables to the breadboard and the Arduino before putting them in the cereal box just to make sure they didn't pop loose.

Top view of cereal box housing
(Arduino power plug needs to be facing up...
That was fixed for this pic. haha.)

Cutting a side door in the housing makes the breadboard easier to get to!

The treat hopper arrangement.
The Cinnamon Toast Crunch flakes look excited about it?
The pushbutton was mounted to an inverted round plastic container, pushbutton poking through a hole cut in that. Then a second plastic container with a hole for the Ranch lid was positioned on top of the first container to act as a guide so the Ranch lid button slid up and down but didn't fall off.

Button Assembly

The Ranch lid was initially too deep, so I cut some cardboard to shove in the bottom of it to make it the correct depth for pushing the button with one bop of a tiny paw.

Then I duct taped everything down so it isn't suuuper easy for Ticky to destroy. He still can if I leave him alone with it, but hey- its prototype stage.

Ticky has been trying it out, but I don't have any good pictures of it yet because I'm trying to keep him from destroying the machinery in search of treats at the moment. I do have a video of it working though! It's apparently too big for Blogger but I've posted it on my Facebook page. I hope to create more cool Arduino stuff in the near future!

Code for the Arduino:

//This code was created to drive a servo motor and light an LED
//with the push of a button.

#include <Servo.h>  // servo library

Servo servo1;  // servo control object
const int pushButton = 2;     //pushbutton on digital pin 2
const int ledPin =  13;      // LED on digital pin 13

void setup()
{

  // Attach tells the Arduino to begin sending control signals
  // to the servo. Servos require a continuous stream of control
  // signals, even if you're not currently moving them.
  // While the servo is being controlled, it will hold its
  // current position with some force. If you ever want to
  // release the servo (allowing it to be turned by hand),
  // you can call servo1.detach().

  servo1.attach(9);

  // initialize serial communication at 9600 bits per second:
  Serial.begin(9600);
  // make the pushbutton's pin an input:
  pinMode(pushButton, INPUT);
   // initialize the LED pin as an output:
  pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
}


void loop()
{
  int position;
  int buttonState = digitalRead(pushButton);

  // print out the state of the button:
  Serial.println(buttonState);
  delay(1);        // delay in between reads for stability
  //Note: Still playing with the above two lines.
  //Can't seem to print in real time with it.

  // check if the pushbutton is pressed.
  // if it is, the buttonState is HIGH:
  if (buttonState == HIGH) {
       // turn LED on:
    digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);
     // Change position if button pressed:
  servo1.write(0);    // Tell servo to go to 0 degrees

  delay(200);         // Pause to give it time to move

   servo1.write(90);    // Tell servo to go to 90 degrees
//
//  delay(1000);         // Pause to give it time to move
  } else {
    // turn LED off:
    digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);
  }

}



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Space Crops

In a fun parallel growth cycle, my lettuce seedlings and the lettuce on the International Space Station have been maturing at approximately the same rate this past month. Astronaut Peggy Whitson harvested the ISS crop of Chinese cabbage on Friday, saving some leaves for eating and some for sending back to Earth for analysis. My lettuce just got big enough to transplant it into the garden containers. Unfortunately the Veggie grow container on the ISS isn't big enough to hold full-grown lettuce, so they had to stop while the plants were still small. 


My lettuce grown in my apartment on the ground
The cabbage grown in the Veggie module on the International Space Station

Plants are hard enough to grow on the ground, so why do we grow plants in space? Astronauts on several different space missions have grown, harvested, and even eaten plants they grew while in space. They have been grown for a variety of reasons. The following are just a few:

Arabidopsis, a weed with a very well mapped genome, is used for all kinds of experiments both in space and on the ground. Astronauts used this plant to study root growth in the APEX-TAGES experiment. It turns out roots don't grow down because of gravity! This meant that plants could grow perfectly well without gravity. 


Wheat was grown on the Mir space station to study the effects of space flight on future generations of plants. Wheat seeds from plants grown in space were planted and scientists found no difference between them and the control group grown and re-seeded on Earth. 

Last year Zinnias were taken to the space station and flowered, showing us that flowering plants can also be grown in space, given the right care. Astronaut Scott Kelly earned the title "autonomous space gardener" after he saved the crop from mold damage by assessing crop conditions and adjusting accordingly. Don't talk to me about space flower. I get emotional. lol. 

Space Flower, tiny pioneer for flowering plants

If we are going to go visit other planets someday we have to know how to grow healthy plants to take with us for food. Lugging enough food for a few years' stay on a faraway world is nearly impossible. Carrying seeds is less so. Sometimes I wonder if the plants wanted to go to space all along, and we're just their mode of transportation. ;) 

Back on Earth my lettuce crop needed the same things as the space plants for awhile, since it was too cold outside to grow them. They had grow lights on a timer to keep them well fed, were watered in little cups full of soil, and even had exercise. That's right- just like people need exercise to grow big and strong, so do plants! I set up a fan to blow across the seedlings for an hour or two every day to encourage their stems to grow sturdier. We jokingly called it the lettuce elliptical. 

My seedlings have their own personal gym.

All of that care has paid off. Now that the weather has warmed up enough my lettuce is outside where it can get natural sunlight, water, and breezes. On the space station... the lettuce is harvested for research. The next crop is being installed and given its first good watering under the purple-tinted LED lights. Soon there will be a second Veggie habitat installed, giving twice as much room to grow! Someday maybe we will be harvesting lettuce on Mars, boldly growing where no food has grown before.


PS: If you would like to grow plants that have grown on the International Space Station, try these varieties! They are also sold here on Earth. :) At some point I'll have a themed garden which contains only plant varieties grown in space...
- "Outredgeous Red Romane" Lettuce
- "Tokyo Bekana" Chinese Cabbage
- "Profusion" Zinnias
- Mizuna Lettuce (Unsure of exact variety)
- "Super Dwarf" wheat

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Slow Lessons with Horses

It's been about a year and a half since I started volunteering at The Big Purple Barn. I've fed and brushed every horse there. I've picked up everyone's poop and hauled everyone's water bucket. I've even picked most horses' hooves and put lots of blankets on. (Both myself and the horses in some cases. hehe.) I've seen a lot of changes in myself since I first arrived there, both physically and mentally. I can pick up and sling hay bales around first of all, which is useful.


Yeah bro, I lift.

I've gotten better at throwing poop accurately into the wheelbarrows from the inside of the stall instead of having the fork catch the side and dump poo everywhere. (Pee-soaked sawdust is even worse to dump everywhere.) I manage to mostly remember to take small steps when hauling full wheelbarrows so I don't run it into my heels, lift from the legs not from the back, and keep my feet out from under horsey hooves. 

Mentally I'm learning the difference between "yelling" and "screaming," which appear to be two completely different things. Yelling is when you're doing something slightly differently than its supposed to be done, or when you're too far away to hear the directions at a normal volume, and screaming is when you're in imminent danger and need to GTFO now. I'm slowly learning to only freak out when "screaming" is occurring, a process that I think many of the horses have also learned over time. lol. Mental improvements also include being more attentive to detail, something that I've tried to improve on for years that is just now getting a big boost. The "something about this is different, I wonder why it's put there that way" thought process is really useful when working at the barn. I'm even slowly learning all the necessary steps to put Abby in the upper field properly, or let everyone out for breakfast properly, or dear God not to lead a horse through the wrong field if other horses are out. (There was screaming involved in that one). All of these require memory and awareness of where I am and what I'm doing at that moment. It's a bit zen, in an active sort of way. 

"I impart my wisdom, two legged one, and also promise
not to crush your puny skull beneath my hoof."

My favorite form of lessons is from the horses themselves. These are slower lessons, as the horses communicate in their own speech instead of mine and sometimes it's hard for me to interpret. A lot of it is observing them when they're communicating with each other, then trying to apply it to their interactions with me. Sometimes I fail at it. I tried getting Jewel to move her head away from me without touching her and she didn't pay a bit of attention to it until I was forcibly pushing on her cheek. Other times it's worked pretty well. I can get Maggie to move out of a stall I have to clean just by moving toward her or standing and staring at her intently. 

"Stall inspection! May I come in?"

One of my favorite learning moments was one evening when I was about to brush Aspen. He was eating hay and as usual I showed him the curry comb before I started brushing him. He looked at it and then looked away, so I started forward to brush his shoulder. Usually he just lets me start brushing with no break in eating, but this time he looked directly at me with a face that said "wait a moment." I hesitated, and he moved over, took a drink from his water bucket, then went back to eating hay. At that point he didn't react when I moved forward to brush his shoulder. It was a request, which I hadn't seen before in horse-speak. Later that week I was putting Aspen back in the field when Miles decided to come over to see what we were up to. Aspen started backing up because Miles was getting too close too intensely. It wasn't a big deal, because I already had Aspen's halter off, but I wanted to spend a second with Aspen before he was run off, and I looked at Miles and tried to imitate the "wait a moment" face and stance I'd seen earlier. He stopped moving toward us and looked kind of puzzled. I pet Aspen on the nose for a few seconds, then went back to the barn to put his halter away. It seemed to have conveyed what I wanted it to convey. Who knows if it would work again or in different circumstances, but I think I learned something at least! 

I think this is the "Do you have treats, but also I'm a little concerned about Taz sneaking up on me" face.

I'm reading through the books I got on trying to communicate more effectively with horses, and some stuff seems to apply to The Big Purple Barn herd and other stuff doesn't. At the very least I'm learning what other people think about horse communication. It seems like books are a rapid starting-point way to learn, but don't necessarily convey everything or apply to everything. A lot of my lessons are just watching the horses chase each other around in the field while I'm shoveling poop out of their stalls. I'm enjoying this slow process though, and look forward to learning more.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Super Early Seedlings

I've only been encouraged by the purchase of our indoor grow light to start trying to plant things indoors when I really have no business growing any sort of vegetables. Still, the enticing thought of home-grown lettuces to snack on in February was too much for me. I bought seeds. 

My other enabler is Benkhe's nursery, which mentioned that they had spring seeds in stock in their newsletter. I bought some that can't be transplanted outdoors, so those will have to wait. However, three of them are prime too-early-to-plant-these material: Bell peppers, lettuce, and kale.



I also bought seed starting mix and a plastic cover to put over my seedlings to keep them nice and moist. I didn't want to buy seedling trays, since I'm only going to use them once. Paper cups it is! I punched some holes in the bottom of the first paper cup for drainage and nested that into a second paper cup in case the plants need a steadier supply of water as they grow. 

Holes for drainage

I labeled the cups so I'll know what's coming up. I found a type of bell pepper called Yolo Wonder, so they've officially been deemed my YOLO peppers. An apt name for an annual that I'm starting in mid-January... 
A pepper plant living on the edge.

Next I wet the soil thoroughly. I accidentally put the pepper seeds in before wetting down the soil. That turned out to be a mistake because the seeds just floated to the surface and I had to re-plant them. Oops! The others I wet the soil down first and they weren't shifted around by a slow draining puddle of water on the surface. 
It seems like all of my favorite things involve mud.

The lettuce and kale seeds did not mess around, man. They started sprouts on the second day. That's the fastest germination I've ever seen!

Growing like there's no tomorrow...The day after planting!

You can really tell how fast they are growing by these two pictures from Day 3- 7:30am and Day 3- 5:30 pm. The time to harvest listed on the package said they could be ready in as little as 21 days. I guess that means the seeds have to move pretty quickly! I'm still waiting for signs of life from my pepper seeds. 

Kale and lettuce seedlings at 7:30 am today, still yellow and emerging from the soil

Seedlings at 5:30 pm today, first set of leaves formed and green.

I'm just misting these with water every morning for now. In a few weeks I can start watering from the bottom of the containers and hopefully by mid-February I'll have some greens for salads! I'll keep you updated. :)