A pressed specimen

Tanacetum vulgare,

Wanna see some plant pressings? This here is my first ever - a tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), cousin of the chamomile, which you can tell by the smell. I bought a tansy to try and ward off ants. It didn't work. Or maybe it did work and I only got four million ants instead of twelve.

Mentha viridis,

This is a mint (Mentha). I'm fairly certain it said "peppermint" (Mentha x piperita) when I bought it, but the rounded leaf-tips don't match photos online. For now, it's Spearmint (Mentha viridis), also sometimes referred to as common mint.

And this one's a creeping fig (Ficus pumila). They can grow big and sturdy, and bust out some fat fruit. But I'm hoping this one ends up cute little leaves forever up the wall.

I submitted my final assignment tonight and feel bloody good. Just a verbal assessment to go, and I'm done, assuming I pass.

So, that's it then. A year of my life already. I'm happy I spent it the way I did, though some things could have been done better. My one regret is having spent so much time afraid of so many things. I was afraid of getting sick in Japan, of not being good enough with anything I did (when all that matters is doing something), afraid of playing football with strangers, work experience, gluten, and just... everything.

Even though things usually turn out less scary, I still feel afraid. Right now, in fact, I'm afraid my sprained knee won't get better, that depression will come visit, afraid I'll catch a cold before I'm due to give blood and not be able to, or that I'll be able to just fine and the needle will hurt.

Those fears are always there and I'll probably be scared tomorrow too. But I'm going to be now not afraid just for what's left of tonight, because I finished an assignment I've spent a whole year working on. It is time for a break.

Playing with arduino

assembling the spaceship console

Three weeks since unpacking the arduino kit, and I'm halfway through the book of projects. Wanna see some bits?

This is the spaceship console. Comes with a cute cardboard chassis that sits awkwardly over the top of everything.

hotness meter using temperature sensor

This is the 'love-o-meter'. It uses a temperature sensor to pick up how hot you are; the LEDs light up accordingly. Turns out @niaalist is 3-lights hot. I'm only 2-lights hot. So obviously, this machine is faulty.

colour mixing lamp, arduino controlled

The colour mixing lamp was fiddly to build, and the lamp colour didn't turn out in the photo, but I'll blame my phone camera. The three light sensors are set up to read red, green and blue light levels, and feed it back to the arduino controller. The controller then sends a signal to the LED, which lights up to match the colour of light in the reading. Pretty neat, huh?

I like this one. ^___^ Uses a tiny servo motor, a tiny potentiometer, and a hand-drawn sign to tell the world how you feel.

And here is the most annoying theremin in the world. Uses a light sensor again, and makes noise based on how much light it picks up.

A music keyboard. I should have had the foresight to make the 4th note a G, but oh well. Junior flavour 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' will do.

I must say, this is a lot of fun. Suddenly, electrical devices feel seem less like magic and more like awesome, hackable toys. I can't help but wonder how I might recreate some of these things after the apocalypse.

Probably very badly.

Rainy Friday nights are best spent indoors, thinking about outdoors

grey evening in Perth

It's Friday night and I should be at the pub like a young cool person. But instead, I'm at home like an old boring fart because it's raining and I want a pizza. #yolo

tree stump planter with soil

I finished my stump last weekend and sowed alyssum seeds (Lobularia maritima). They're a wee, cute plant with masses of tiny white flowers. I needed something shallow rooting, because it was too hard to dig deep into the stump. We're working with a depth of at most 10cm.

Apparently alyssum attracts all sorts of beneficial insects - particularly wasps. I don't care what the internet meme says about wasps not being bros. Wasps eat the insects that eat my plants. They are totally my bros and I can't wait to make friends.

Though, my first hope is that tonight's downpour doesn't flush it all away.

Sempervivum tectorum babies, I think

My rosette succulents had many babies. I think they might be Sempervivum tectorum, but I'm not sure. I can confirm these are not currently protecting me from thunderstorm, so I either don't have enough, or it's not the right plant after all.

tiny cactus flowers

And lastly, I was surprised by two tiny cactus flowers. This was really nice. Cacti of all sorts make me nervous. The prickles, the hairs, the blunt force trauma - arg! So it was lovely to see something pretty where there was previously trepidation.

OK, well, my pizza has arrived and I'm going to go eat it while I dream of sunny weather. Bye bye!

cute cactus arrangement

Terrarium surgery

jar terrarium v2

My jar terrarium had spent a loveless 2½ years on our shelf. Soon after making it, I did replace the sphagnum with stringy moss purchased from a florist warehouse. But after that came months of sealed, airtight neglect.

Tiny gardening was so satisfying when I started, but that changed suddenly. I was annoyed at how hard it was to find nice moss in shops, and annoyed at having to buy it in the first place, because I didn't want to upset an ecosystem elsehwere by stealing pieces of it. My attempts at moss milkshakes sucked, and pouring milk on things seemed kind of disgusting.

More recently, I came into new moss - unwanted surface 'weeds' in pot plants, and furry green winter stuff growing between the garden bricks. Arf ya luck! Into the terrarium they went. It was a slapdash job, and in my attempt to pour out excess water, I upset a number of things.

So, fine - whatever - I'll just redo the damn thing. Cue Sunday project.

terrarium in pieces

This meant taking everything apart. Here's what it looks like when the world is in pieces.

The pebbles in the jar are the bottom-most layer of a terrarium. They provide drainage, so you don't end up with a jar of swamp - though that might be cool too.

Just below the plants in the photo is a pile of sphagnum moss. This sits between pebbles and soil like a filter, so you don't end up with a drainage layer full of dirt. In hindsight, I should have bought new sphagnum, but hindsight rarely occurs when you need it most, so I had to be very careful extracting materials for re-use. This includes the tiny chips of charcoal you sprinkle in a terrarium to absorb odours and help balance the pH.

I decided to add a plant as well, though I'm not sure what kind it is, or how big it will grow. Hopefully, at least one root will tendril down into the pebbles and help manage any water that pools in the bottom. I once had a terrarium with a tomato plant, and noticed water bogs could be taken up within a day just through transpiration. So in terrarium v2, I'm trusting the magic of science.

I'm older and more patient now, and I miss tiny gardening. :) I'm more comfortable with plants, and how much you can take from an ecosystem without spoiling it. I would still cry if milk went everywhere, but paintbrushing it on things might be okay. Did you know you can spray milk on plants to fight powdery mildew? It's not that gross if it's totally a thing.

I'm hoping for more rain and gentle shine for the next few weeks, so the garden brick moss can thrive for harvest before the season's out.

My first circuit

Arduino starter kit contents

My Arduino starter kit arrived today. I have no business being this excited - I'm no engineer - but fuck it, I'm so ready to have my mind blown. This was kind of a blind purchase, as the explanations for what it actually is aren't great for total, utter noobs. But it makes sense now, after spending some time.

Basically, an arduino is a little hardware board thingy that acts like a brain for... stuff. Say you have a circuit with a bunch of lights, and you want the lights to flash in a certain order, you attach the circuit to the arduino, programmed with instructions for flashing, and then it happens.

And you can connect sensors to it and do tricky things - like say you only want the lights to flash when you clap your hands. You attach a sound sensor, and tell the arduino, "When the sensor picks up a clapping noise, make the lights flash," and it'll take care of it.

red LED light in a hacked circuit

Tonight, I made my first circuit. It used some wires, connectors, a resistor, a push-button switch and a red light. The arduino didn't do anything brainy here, just supplied the circuit with USB power from my computer.

This was the first of 15 projects in the starter kit. I'm going to do them all, and hopefully learn some of the basic "here's how shit works" things I failed to pick up in school. The next project is a spaceship control box that you can make a cardboard chassis for. The one after that is a love machine, so I can find out how hot I really am!!

description of Love-o-Meter project

I don't have a goal in mind, but I want to learn anyway, because I think the more you understand, the more you can imagine. One day, this could dovetail nicely into my dream of connecting things. Or maybe it won't - I don't think I would wear a crocheted hat with LEDs on it. :)

It's my bedtime now, so I'll leave you with photos - night night, everyone!

Arduino microcontroller

Arduino starter kit box and PCB ruler

inset for Arduino starter kit box

intro page of Arduino starter kit book

Breathing out, then in again

whole chicken in the slow cooker

I am ready to take a breather. Last night, I sensed the creeping fingers of depression and fatigue. They tend to come after an eventful period. Even though it's good eventful, the mind and body need to rest.

Today begins a personal embargo, which involves not making any plans. Last time was a fortnight, but I'm taking a month now.

Though life is full of things I want to do, there are lots of little things I don't make time for. This is the time for those things to happen when the mood strikes. The intention is to do less, though somehow this ad-hoc approach means I end up doing more. But that's fine, so long as it feels like less, like relaxing.

This evening, I'm slow cooking a chicken. I've wanted to for a while, and the urge finally overwhelmed. Tomorrow, we'll have roast chicken, veggie & stock soup, and a stub of cheese. I must say, it's tempting to have a soft, bready dinner roll too.

On that note, foot's off the pedal with eating Primal now that we're better with our food, but I still prefer our "less bread, cake and cookie" diet. Coeliac testing week was an interesting experience. My tummy doesn't like it when I have too much... something. Gluten maybe, or sweets. Maybe certain carbs or starches? Sushi is pushing my buttons, but I can go to town on other types of rice.

Anyway, I'm not coeliac, and science says NCGS is nowt to worry about, but keeping the easy, fast, convenient wheat foods away has forced me to eat more veggies, fruits and fats. And eating more fats has made me conscious of picking healthier fats. Only time will tell if this is all just a crock of shit. :)

The house smells amazing right now, with that chicken bubbling away. I have to be up in a bit to take it off the boil, so good night, everyone.