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November 1,2006

A scaled down version of Patric Blanc's "living installations" would make a great RainyDayGarden project.  We will attempt to make a small indoor one this Winter.  

There is one of Patrick Blanc's installations somewhere in NYC.  We will have to track it down on our next trip into Manhattan.  If you find it first, take photo of you in front of it, send it to us...we'll send you something for your efforts.

One of the plants we will use for our "living wall" are these AirPlants or otherwise known as bromeliads.  Some varieties of these plants get their moisture and nutrients directly from the air.

They have very interesting flowers, are virtually maintenance free, and should be perfect for this project. 


October 22,2006

Today was one of those amazing New England weekends.  The temperature was perfect for a top-down drive.  We didn't want to spend the entire time on the road, so we packed up the car and took a forty minute drive out to Walden Pond

We also thought it would be a good opportunity to give the "foliage" setting of our new Canon IS2 camera a workout.  After a day of shooting, we were quite impressed with the IS2's responsiveness, especially with the speed in which it was able to autofocus and capture the shot of the Great Blue Heron flying across Walden Pond.  The shutter lag was so minimal that we were able to compose and shoot reflexively... a key factor in capturing action/nature shots.

The "foliage" setting worked well with reflected colors as well as high contrast shots.  Some of the brighter areas did get washed out, but there was still quite a bit of detail in the darker sections.  Quite acceptable for an "automatic" setting.

On the grounds is a replica of the 10x15 "house" which Thoreau built in 1845 for $28.  The plans are available in the gift shop ($30) should you want to try your hand at building one.

If you have time and can get out to Walden Pond, we would highly recommend it.  The colors are intense and the trails are quiet.  Spend a few hours experiencing what Thoreau must have felt over 150 years ago, then go get a latte at Starbuck's and get ready for Monday.


September 4,2006

A day off from work just means more time for doing stuff around the house :-)  It has been raining in Boston for the past few days, but today we should see some sun.  Local readers would probably not need to do any watering outside, but still might appreciate reading our write-up of the ReelSmart from Hydro-Industries.

The unit came assembled and ready to be hooked up to the spigot and your water hose.  The reel is large enough to hold about 150' of hose.

Setting up the unit was very easy and took less than 10 minutes.  We didn't have to really refer to the instructions.  We did check them at the end just to make sure we didn't miss anything.

Most of the parts are made of plastic so it should have no problems with being outside all the time.  We have been using the ReelSmart for a few weeks now and it has worked exceptionally well. 


September 1,2006

Erin Brayton, owner of 18 Birch Home and Garden, and Julie Brandlen, Sanctuary Director of the Boston Nature Center (BNC) in Mattapan, exchange a check for over a thousand dollars. 

The money, which will help to support the BNC’s environmental education programs, was raised at a benefit held at 18 Birch, located in Roslindale Square.  Erin and Julie are pictured with the “Hawks”, attendants of the BNC summer camp.  The camp provides an all-inclusive, safe and educational opportunity for children ages 6 –13.  The BNC and 18 Birch plan on continuing this successful partnership!


August 26,2006

After about three months of harvests, the lettuce plants appeared to be ready for the compose pile :-)  Actually we have been waiting for this moment because we wanted to see just how much work it would be to clean the unit!


August 9,2006

Another item which generated a lot of email was the ReelSmart.  Most of the emails were requests was for a video showing this thing in action...a lot of you were VERY skeptical.  We decided to break with our usual FirstLook/FirstUse format and just post some quick vids now to give our email server a breather.

The left video shows the normal extraction of the hose from the storage unit.  The right video shows the ReelSmart's auto rewind feature. 


August 8,2006

For the RainyDayGarden, we got this interesting device called ReelSmart which is suppose to automatically reel in our garden hose when we are done watering...and it does it with water power!  We'll hook it up and show you whether and how well it does what it claims.


August 4,2006

The AeroGrow herbs have definitely taken longer before they were usable (as compared to the AeroGrow lettuce).  The herbs seemed to take longer to grow and are meant to be used before they flower. We think it might be the two basil plants have a faster growth cycle than the others--cilantro, dill, chives, mint, and parsely--and so might be blocking the other herbs' light. Perhaps the outside spots might be a better location for the basils... 

We are currently on Week6 and the folks in the RainyDayKitchen have used all of the herbs for something...including the mint for a few mojitos!  The dill never did sprout.  Hopefully we'll be able to have the garden going all Winter. 


July 6,2006

Our first time-lapse movie missed capturing most of the opening of bloom (left movie).  So, as promised, we increased the capture rate to an image every 4 minutes, and this time did managed to capture the Passiflora blooming (right movie).  However, it looks like we have to work on the focus :-)


We played around a bit with our "macro" lens trying to get a good close-up.  The problem is the shallow depth-of-field with our set-up.   This flower just have too many layers.  To get everything in focus, we really need to shoot with a much smaller aperture.  We got some usable shots, but situations like this really points out the weakness of a $6 macro lens and a seven year old digital camera :-).


July 5,2006

Last June a few folks from the RainyDayGarden made a trip to Logee's.  One of the plants they purchased was called a Passiflora or Passion Fruit plant.  This plant has the most amazing flowers...the bloom below opened yesterday.

We had rigged up the Apple iSight to take some time-lapse photos of the bloom.  The capture frequency still needs some adjustment.  We hope to capture a better time-lapse series today. 

Not everyone will be able to replicate our sophisticated setup, but the KEY is to put the camera/plant somewhere out of the way.  The capture software's current schedule is one image every 15 minutes.


June 23,2006

We set up another AeroGarden in the RainyDayKitchen.  This one is a newer model with some improved timer programming, some cosmetic updates, and a different color...black. 

There are seven (mint, two kinds of basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chives) different herbs in the seed kit.  Some should germinate a a few days while others may take up to a week and a half.

The black color blends in well in the kitchen especially if the device is out in the open.  All of us are quite eager to see how well the AeroGrow works for growing herbs.  Our lettuce growing experience with the first AeroGrow unit was incredibly successful.  Three months later, we are still getting lettuce from our first planting.  We really like the idea of having a constant herb garden in the kitchen... we will try to keep this unit going to see if we can have fresh herbs from now to next Spring :-)


June 2,2006

Another way which helps some folks here relax is to go work in the garden.  Because of all the rain this year, the RainyDayGarden has been thriving...even without much work.  

Some of the Spring blooms have exploded (clemetis, alliums, and some irises).  Others are just getting ready to show their colors (peonies and lillies).

Boston is expecting more rain this weekend.  This has been a very wet Spring.  All this moisture has been a problem for some, but it has been great for the RainyDayGarden.


May 17,2006

A sunny day!!!  After a week of record rain and widespread flooding, we are finally getting a beautiful day.  The first thing we did was to check on the RainyDayGarden.

All this water has really kicked things into overdrive.  There will be a lot of weeding for the interns today!

Most of the flooding around Boston were isolated, unlike some of the area around the state and New England. 

Parts of downtown Peabody are still under 11 feet of water.  The water level in the Merrimack River in Lowell reached as high as 58 feet (4th highest on record) before starting to recede.

With all the water around, it reminded us of this "self-watering" planter from Eva Solo we got last year, but never used.  These pots work by using a simple "wicking" principle for keeping the plants watered.

The Eva Solo planter works by suspending the soil and plant above the water.  The water is drawn up from the bottom by capillary action into the soil.  This is different than the hydroponics method used in the AeroGarden.  These planters will also work perfectly well as a vase.

We are going to give these planters a try this year.  We will take two of the plants that we often forget to water and transplant them into these planters and track their progress over the next several months.


May 15,2006

Some may have heard there has been a bit of rain in New England this past week.  Many may have received more water than they needed for their garden. We sure did.

The office cat has been going a little stir crazy the past few days.  She bolts out every time someone comes in, but instantly realizes her mistake and demands to be let back in.  We are considering embedding her with her own RFID tag so she can come and go as she pleases.

Just how much rain did we get?  Well, this was the first time the Eva Solo Rainy Gauge had overflowed.  At least the irises doesn't mind all the water.

The rain stopped briefly this morning and we heard the finches at the front entrance making a ruckus.  A few of us decided to see what all the noise was about.

Apparently, the office cat, was on the railing looking up at the nest...and that was too close for Papa Finch.  We got out the ladder and climbed up to see if the finches are about to be proud parents for the second time.  The answer is "Yes!"


May 9,2006

Some photographers go out West and bring back beautiful scenic images of big sky, open country, and majestic mountains.  Others capture the ruggedness and realities of living so directly with nature.  Boston MFA's upcoming exhibition, Laura McPhee: River Of No Return (May 13 to September 17), showcases an artist who manages to see something a bit more.

Laura McPhee's images are big...as big as Kodak paper will allow.  Her images are stunning in detail...as detailed as can be when an 8x10 view camera is in skilled hands.  And when those details are examined, the viewer may be startled to find out what the image really is. 

What first appeared to be beautiful mist on a mountain lake actually turned out to be a cyanide evaporation pool from a mining operation.  There are many such images with contradictory realities in this 40-piece exhibition.  We highly encourage you to go see this exhibit when you are in Boston.  Do read the titles carefully, you may be very surprised at what you are really looking at.

Brunton's motto is "Get Out There" and they mean it.  They make a wide variety of high-end adventure gear (optics, GPS, stoves, power packs) specifically designed to enable folks like us to get out, enjoy ourselves, and make it back to tell you, our readers, about it.

When we are "out there," sometimes we like to get a little closer to things of interest...when we can't get there physically, we can now still get there virtually by using a pair of these Brunton Echo binoculars.


May 6,2006

Some of you have noticed we have added a "FinchWatch" link to the upper right of this page. 

Thank you for all the emails and comments!  The last three finches will probably be gone by this weekend.


May 4,2006

We have a pair of finches that come back to the RainyDayGarden and nest every year.  A few years ago, their nest was raided by some starlings.  Some here (you know who you are... the same folks who have trouble thinning out seedlings) insisted we put up protection of some sort for the finches.

Well it appears the new steel cage is working fine.  A new charm of baby finches are happily bunched up and chirping their little hearts out... much to the curiosity of the office cat.


April 26,2006

We were flipping through the May 2006 issue of Business 2.0 and noticed an advertisment by Philips.  In the ad it mentioned a concept called the Herbarium.  The Herbarium was conceived as part of Philips' Sense and Simplicity vision of "simplicity-led" approach to product designs and innovations back in 2004.

As most RainyDayMagazine readers already know...AeroGrow has a product called the AeroGarden and we have been testing it for almost a month.  We have had at least two salads from our crop of lettuce and hopefully we'll be setting up an herb garden soon.  It is nice when the "future" happens exactly as promised.  We are, however, still waiting for our jet packs...


April 19, 2006

Some of you have been asking when are we going to try some of the lettuce from the AeroGarden.  Well, today was our FirstHarvest!

We enjoyed our hydroponically grown lettuce on a whole wheat english muffin with what else...a veggie burger!  Amazingly delicious.


April 8, 2006

Two indicator lights came on today (Add Water, Add Nutrients).  This was the first time in 2 weeks we had to do any type of maintenance on the AeroGarden.

We replaced about a quart of water and added two nutrient tablets to the tank.  When we opened the tank, we also noticed the roots have reached out of the pods and have grown quite long!  This may explain the faster growth rate we have been seeing the past few days.


April 7, 2006

Two weeks have passed since we flipped the switch and started the AeroGarden.  The progress has exceeded our expectations! 

The RainyDayKitchen folks have started naming the individual pods.  I hope it won't be an issue come harvest time!  I think there is even a pool going as to which pod will grow the fastest.


March 31, 2006

For those following along on our hydroponic AeroGarden experiment, this is the end of Week 1

We are happy to report that the lettuce crop is growing vigorously.  The domes will be lifted tomorrow.  We can't wait to see what happens in Week 2!


March 29, 2006

Today is Day 5 for our AeroGarden.  We are happy to report that ALL seven of the pods have something growing in them!  Many of the pods have multiple sprouts. Some have poked out beyond their paper cover.

Things are growing in our own RainyDayGarden as well.  The signs of Spring are everywhere.  Finches that nested in the front entry way have been spotted checking out their nest from last year.  The Tiger lillies, tulips, and irises are coming up out of the ground.

There is also a rumor that we may see a brief period of 70º temperature this week!  We are still keeping the snow tires on the Boxster until the end of April because that last snow storm WILL come :-)


March 28, 2006

What is NOT tricky is getting things to grow in the AeroGarden.   The RainyDayGarden folks planted it over the weekend.   By the second day, a sprout had already poked its way out of one of the pods.

This morning five of the seven pods have sprouted.  Some of the sprouts even have leaves!  You can follow the updates all this week in our Featured Review section (upper right on this page).


March 26, 2006

Hydroponic gardening has been around for a long time.  Techniques and systems for growing plants in soil-less environments have been successfully created by amateur and professionals alike.

While the concepts and equipment necessary for a hydroponic garden is pretty simple to set up, it is often quite industrial looking and definitely not something one would want in the kitchen.

AeroGrow has created a system that is both simple and attractive. The AeorGarden was quick to assemble, easy to plant, and looks great anywhere in the house.

We will track the progress of the growth of the garden from planting (March 25th) to harvest.  We'll post the updates and photos every Saturday. BTW...the first reader to send us email correctly identifying the makers of the 3 cylindrical "things" in the photo will get a little something in the mail :-)


March 19, 2006

The Vernal or Spring Equinox is just a few days away.  We took a quick hike in the Blue Hills today to see if we could detect any signs of Spring.

We did a quick five mile hike around Fowl Meadow and are happy to report that even though the air temperature was 36º, things are starting to feel more Spring than Winter and the birds are definitely chirpin'.  Of course, we are hoping for one more large snow storm before it is all over.


January 24, 2006

We took a some time out yesterday to play in the little storm that hit Boston during the morning rush hour.  Instead of fighting the traffic, we strapped on the Tubbs and headed to the Arboretum. 

It was pretty quiet there and the snow was fresh...but quite heavy.  By the time we left, the snow had stopped falling and had already started to melt.  Got to get out when there is a chance.  Besides, what's the point of having interns if you don't let them DO anything:-)





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