there's still 2 weeks left in august, but if we keep our production constant, for sure we'll break last august's numbers. already we've had 10 days above 40kWh+; last august we only had a total of 10 days of 40kWh+. we might even challenge last month's production, which set the record for the single highest production in a month.
i woke up early, renee's contractors starting their work by 7:30am. my window was opened but out of principle i didn't close it.
from the backyard web cam i could see that the lotus aerial leaf had started to unfurl. i decided to check it out for myself, as well as water the backyard in the meantime. i left by 10:30am.
the lone aerial leaf sure seems to be taking its time opening up. i suppose it takes a lot of energy to build up enough turgor pressure to unfurl that leaf. while i was examining the lotuses i also snipped off all the dead leaves, read that's okay once they go completely brown. while looking around, i noticed one furled leaf that was half poking out of the water. typically a coin leaf will do that before it opens up, but this one was poking out farther than normal, which made me think it was also an aerial leaf. i traced the stem and discovered it was coming from the same container as the first aerial leaf, except it was emerging from the bottom of the pot. it must've traveled at least 8 inches to reach the water surface; had it gone the normal route, it would've likely been an aerial leaf. that means this lotus plant is ready to be fertilized with a pond pellet.
i did another survey of the buttercup squashes:
the southeastern squash patch only has 2 squashes. this is an area that gets plenty of sun, so it's kind of a shame that it didn't produce more squashes. it was however attacked on several occasions by critters that nibbled off the tender terminal ends. now that we've blocked all the access points, maybe there's still a bit of time for this patch to make new vines and squashes. one of the southeastern squashes has a perfect cylindrical shape.
of the southern squash patch, a few smaller squashes (7,8) i saw over the weekend were now aborting, turning yellow. there are also vines that are climbing over the spiderworts and hostas, making a few squashes as well (5,6); those are kind of hard to keep track of and maybe we'll get a few surprise additions once the season is over. there are definitely 5 good squashes here (1,2,3,9,10), number 10 being the largest (and oldest) of all our buttercup squashes this season. whether any of the others will grow into mature squashes we'll see.
of the western squash patch there are two columns: left column closer to the raspberry bushes, which is composed of multiple plants; and the right column close to the perennial flower bed which is composed of a single plant sending out a long vine. none of the squashes on the right column seem to be able to mature, their fruits turning yellow, not sure why. and of the left column, all the mature squashes are located near the tip of the vines, zero squashes in the middle. of these, we can most likely harvest at least 4 mature squashes (2,3,4,5).
a subset of the western squash patch is the honeysuckle patch growing on top of the honeysuckle vines. of the 3 squashes on top, i saw that my father had snipped off the end of the climbing vine to conserve energy as well as removing the 3rd squash which last i saw had already turned yellow. these squashes are developing beautiful, but have a bell shape because they're growing suspended. the only danger is they're entirely dependent on the root stem, and if anything should happen down below (like squash vine borer), the entire vine will wither and die.
i clipped off a leaf from the honeysuckle patch when i noticed borer damage. it was right at the petiole such that i couldn't do a surgical removal and had to amputate the whole leaf. sure enough, a borer was hiding on the inside. i also picked off a few new SVB eggs from the honeysuckle squash leaves, i didn't realize adult SVB's are still active this late in the summer, makes fighting them even harder.
the squash plants along the southern edge of the yard seem to be suffering the most from borers, as their base stems are all scarred with borer damage. i want to cut them out to kill the worms inside, but i'm afraid of killing the plants in the process, although at this point the vines have put down enough secondary roots they're no longer dependent on the original stem. i'll take another look over the weekend, the more borers i destroy this season, the less of them showing up again next year. my strategy for next summer is to spray with Bt and wrap the base stems in aluminum foil.
i suppose we've been lucky that despite all the problems with SVB's and critters eating our squash plants, none of them have ever touched the squash fruits themselves. of course their actions have an indirect consequence on the health of the plants. apart from insects (vine borers) and critters (woodchucks and rabbits and possibly skunk), the third thing that can attack the squashes are fungal diseases, in our case powdery mildew. i've also seen a lot of three-lined potato beetles which feed on the squash leaves and flowers to a small extent, but they can bacterial wilt, which i haven't seen affecting the squashes. i've been spraying with serenade fungicide every weekend, hoping it can stave off some of the diseases, i don't know how well it works.
7:30am. that's when i woke up, the tandem noise of the contractors getting a head start on finishing renee's forever backyard deck and renee's first floor indian neighbors having a loud heated argument in hindi. even if i had my windows closed i could still hear them. it did give me the chance to use my zoom H1 audio recorder, which has sat neglected on the shelf for many years. one day these indian neighbors will be gone and i will yearn for these halcyon days where every morning i can hear the shrieks of the angry shrew and her henpecked husband, now with bonus comfort dog barks and construction sawing and nailing sound effects.
i called belmont highway department this morning to request a clean up. on one of the intersections approaching my parents' house, there's a pile of sand on the corner. it's not a big deal for cars, but on a bicycle and especially on a motorcycle, it's a dangerous slipping hazard. all that sand were washed there from recently weeks of torrential rain. not sure how fast they'll get to cleaning it up, but at least i finally made the call, meant to do it for weeks.
in the late morning i heard my upstairs neighbors outside so i opened the door to greet them. they were supposed to leave tomorrow, but have decided to come back next friday to spend the night before returning to holland the next morning. they told me in the week that they're gone paul might come back to install the dryer. i let them come inside my house so they could check it out. their kids couldn't get enough of the house, apparently i have a lot of things that kids find interesting: my digital weather station, my remote control lights, google voice activated ceiling fixtures and television, postcards taped to my fridge, aquarium, infrared sensor, baseball gloves, and 100-year old door bell. ting couldn't get over how much larger my place seemed on the inside, said the colors really made the rooms feel more expansive. she also really liked how i had lights everywhere, unlike upstairs where it was darker. they had rented a car and were on their way to pick it up and drive down to the JFK library. i didn't have the heart to tell them that traffic on I-93 was insane and it was better simply to take the subway.
i went down to the community garden to water my plants. i ran into dave, whom i haven't seen all season long. he was harvesting a bag of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants. he asked me about hong kong, what i thought. i told him the chinese government would most likely wait out the protestors - most of them students - since soon they'd have to go back to school. anyone remaining they'd simply arrest. i left with a few tomatoes of my own, along with a long slender japanese eggplant.
afterwards i went to market basket to pick up a few things, mostly drinks as they had a sale on polar seltzers. they also had a sale on häagen-dazs ice cream ($2.99/carton) but the shelves were cleared out, i'll come back tomorrow to see if they've restocked. i also got some ingredients for making smoothies, started to get a craving for that fruit elixir, while the season is still good for cold drinks.
the hours between 4-6pm is a dangerous time for me, as i'm often at my lowest energy point. if i should happen to be lounging on the couch, it's more than likely i'll fall asleep. such was the case today, when i slept from 5pm to 6pm. i'm against napping, see it as a sign of weakness, something that babies and old people do, not me, even if my body is telling me to lie down and sleep for a while. i also feel like it's a dangerous habit to have. if it happens again tomorrow, i'll fight it with some coffee, modern society's answer to napping.
solaredge seemed to have fixed the dashboard energy this month versus month production graph numbers: now they match. but in fixing that they broken the comparative energy graph, which now shows us with past monthly productions of 2.5MWh, which is impossible, meaning we'd need to average 80kWh of production per day. i'm hoping the issue will fix itself, otherwise i'll need to call solaredge again. it's a little worrying that the data keeps on glitching like that. the strange thing is all the data for the 3 months we've had the new inverter are correct; it's just all the monthly with the old inverter that the numbers are off.
i reheated the ribs and sausages for dinner. reheated ribs didn't taste any better, they were simply too greasy. ribs taste best fresh.
i motorcycled to belmont this morning to grab my spare infrared illuminator since the plug and extension cord arrived yesterday. i wanted to get there before it started raining, the forecast said as early as noontime. it'd also give me a chance to check the perimeter for rabbit/skunk/woodchuck intrusions as well as the status of the lotus aerial leaf. i'm happy to report that no critters had gain entry into the backyard (at least not by digging underneath the fence). the aerial lotus leaf still haven't opened up however, maybe it needs a sunnier day to trigger the leaf to unfurl.
i noticed some tiny squashes by the woodchuck defoliated stems have aborted, turning yellow. likewise, of the strand of 3 squashes growing on top of the honeysuckle vines ("honeysuckle" squashes), the one on the farthest end seems to be aborting as it's turning yellow instead of remaining green; that makes sense, as the two squashes before it are so large, they sap all the nutrients. squash vines continue to grow, especially along the southern bed, where it has free reign over the hostas and spiderworts and sensitive ferns; any squashes that develop there are just bonus squashes, since they're aerial stems that can't put down roots to take up nutrients from the ground. it takes about 100 days for buttercup squashes to mature. we already had squash seedlings (from seeds and transplants) by memorial day weekend (end of may), so hopefully we can harvest by september, although if we don't need to, we will probably leave them on the vine until the end of autumn to collect. last year we didn't harvest until the end of september, when most of the plants had already withered, leaving just the squashes behind.
rain barrel water level gauge:
i stopped by the cafe to installed the infrared illuminator. the outlet was close enough that i didn't need the extension cable after all.
so i waited all day for this forecast of torrential rain but it never came, just a sprinkle at best, definitely not enough to fill the rain barrels. extended forecast shows relatively clear weather from now until the end of the month (though keeping in mind these 2-week forecasts are the least reliable and prone to change). my father spent all that time reconnecting the rain barrels, and it looks like we're not going to be getting any rain for at least a few weeks.
i walked down to star market to get some snacks. there was a sale on green mountain coffee so i got my mother a box of keurig hazelnut ($4.99). i got some cheetos and snacked on them when i got home but regretted the decision immediately as they were super salty.
around 5pm i called solaredge. i tried them this morning, got a message i was 14th on the queue. i waited for about 35 minutes before giving up. this time around it told me i was 4th in the queue, but the estimate wait time would still be 30 minutes. i ended up not waiting that long, about 10 minutes, before i got an agent. coincidentally his name was tony as well. tony was not too helpful, immediately asked if i'd contacted my installer yet, before even asking what the issue was. i told him in the monitoring portal, the energy this month is different from the monthly production graph number, even though they should be the same. at this point the different is nearly 200kWh, with the dashboard number greater than the graph number. he told me sometimes this happens if the meter needs replacing, but it sounded more like a server data issue. i'm no expert, but i could tell when somebody is telling me something they themselves don't understand. he put me on hold momentarily while he checked something, then came back and said he'd escalate the issue, create a case file. i told him i'd already created one, and gave him the case number.
for dinner i ate half a slab of ribs along with a taiwanese sausage. i ate it cold, but i think the ribs would taste better heated, so i'll remember to heat the other half. i watched game 2 between the red sox and indians. these are important games not because boston is trying to advance in the standings, but cleveland currently has one of the 2 wild card spots so any wins over them will put up that much closer to the playoffs. there's just 40 games left in the regular season. boston is currently 8.5 games back in the wild card race, behind the indians, rays, and athletics. in order to get in, they not only need to win out the majority of their games, but also need one or two teams above them to implode. thank god football season is about to start.
* pick up tuned-up snowblower ($400 including replaced carburetor)
* collect money plant seeds, disperse seeds
* crabgrass weeding
* mow the lawn
* squash vine borer removal
* high speed fountain spray photography
* rain barrel project
* prune jasmine plants
* water garden plants
* check backyard barriers
* weekly serenade fungicide treatment
first thing i did when i arrived in belmont this morning was to check the perimeters. that's when i spotted the rabbit sitting in the eastern shady garden bed. my father and i tried to flush it out onto the street but it was too stupid to run through the open gate and instead ran to the southeastern corner of the yard, behind a stack of raised wood piles, and disappeared. i looked along the fence and spotted the rabbit hole. repair work would have to wait.
it was a sunnier day compared to yesterday, and the solar water fountain was working at maximum capacity. my father found a large plastic dish (the bottom tray of a large pot) so the water won't spray out. i took the opportunity to try the different nozzle heads. there's one that's just a nub, which puts out just a constant dribble of water, almost the same effect if you didn't have any nozzle attached at all. the one i'd been using has 6 "orbital" holes and one center raised hole. that one gives a clean controlled spray. the nozzle with 13 holes has the most sprays, but the resulting spray is kind of a mess, not suitable for a small dish. the final nozzle has 6 orbital holes and 1 flat center hole: that spray forms a tight stream, as the side holes combine with the central hole.
after some egg pancake with pork floss for breakfast, we left by 11am for a supply run: costco, restaurant depot, finally super 88.
the everett costco was surprisingly empty given that it was a sunday afternoon. most likely because it was a nice sunny day, those who could were out enjoying the final few summer weekends.
my parents decided to skip restaurant depot, as we had too much frozen items in the car and not enough insulating storage to keep them from defrosting. instead we went to the malden super 88 market. along the way we passed by a new asian supermarket that'd opened up, new wei feng market. super 88 seemed to have less products than usual. they didn't carry any of my usual snacks.
we arrived at the cafe by 1:30pm to drop off the supplies. we returned to belmont by 2pm.
first thing i did when we got back was to patch up that rabbit hole behind the log pile. i first had to clear away enough logs to reach the hole. along the way i found some large leopard slugs which i quickly dispatched, i'm no friends of slugs. it was in an awkward spot that i couldn't install a 4x1 ft. length of wire fencing, so instead i used a length of chicken wire and stapled it to the fence, burying 3in. worth of chickenwire at most. i'm hoping it's mostly rabbits who come into the yard from the eastern fence, and rabbits aren't as strong a digger as woodchucks, so a little bit of chickenwire will hopefully keep them out.
while playing around with the solar fountain i glanced at my lotus plants and was surprised to find a single leaf stalk poking far out of the water: an aerial leaf! finally, with august midway through, we have our first aerial leaf. hypothetically anyway, since the leaf was still closed. it could very well flop back into the water. i could really care less if we get aerial leaves or not, but aerial leaf production indicates that the lotus needs fertilizing. however, all the online info i read said to wait until 2 or more aerial leaves before fertilizing.
i moved the bird bath to the DIY fire pit since it got more sun exposure. i hadn't seen any birds visiting but i knew they were there from evidence of bird droppings and feathers floating in the water.
moving water makes for a great photo subject. you can shoot it slow shutter to gave it a smoky dreamy look, or a fast shutter to capture all the individual droplets. i went with fast shutter, testing the upper limits of my 80D shutter. i pushed it as far as 1/2500 sec., the water drops like crystal beads floating in the air.
buttercup squashes are one of our success stories. they're easy to grow and once they get started they grow pretty. however, we weren't expecting to encounter all the things that feasted on the squash. i knew about the vine borers, but i wasn't exactly the rabbits, skunks, and woodchucks to all take their toll. despite it all, from a cursory count, we have around 20 squashes at this time, of varying maturity.
as for those pale squashes, i was worried that they just might stay pale, but i checked through my records, and all buttercup squashes develop that way, eventually turning deep green as they mature.
i got out of bed at 7am, nervous that annie and her mother would leave beforehand if they thought i wasn't going to be up, seeming like it'd be the sort of thing they'd do. the kitchen was warm, like they'd been cooking breakfast, and annie was finishing a container of frozen greek yogurt while her mother was in the bedroom packaging up the last of their things.
i retreated to my usual spot in the living room, waiting for them to leave. at 7:20am her mother started bringing their things outside: a small travel suitcase, their backpacks, some hand-carry items. i went to the bedroom briefly to do a quick surreptitious inspection, making sure they didn't take some of the things they'd borrowed, like my travel books. i was surprised she left behind a stack of GRE books, although they would've been too heavy to haul around.
annie and her mother were a little awkward as they left. we made niceties, but for the most part they were still strangers, not much else i could say other than good bye and have a safe trip. i noticed in the nearly 2 weeks that her mother was here that annie seemed more withdrawn. just when she was starting to open up a bit, her mother's presence made her revert back to her original private self.
instead of leaving, they stood outside momentarily, almost like they couldn't decide which way to go, while i stood in the doorway awaiting their delayed departure. finally they left, one final wave, as i closed the door and watched them walk in the direct of star market, the complete wrong way. i watched as they walked off, then minutes later walk back, having reoriented themselves, now in the correct direction to harvard square.
and with that they were gone. i'm curious about how they'll do in new york city, but they're such private people, i don't think i'll ever know. not that i really care. they weren't bad people, kept to themselves most of the time, but also never really made any effort to connect, so even after more than 2 months, i still felt like strangers were living in the house. there were so many things i wanted to show them about boston, but they had their own agenda. annie herself was a little weird, missing out on the pride parade and the 4th of july fireworks; when that happened i knew she was a lost cause and didn't bother asking her anymore. her mother definitely saw way more of the city than her daughter, i'm glad she was able to do that, though a little sad i never got to show her around since it's one of the things i love doing.
i went to the community garden at 8am to do some neglected watering, as i don't intend to come back the next few days. i picked some red tomatoes and a few hot peppers and dropped them off at home before going down to the somerville whole foods to get some soaps on sale (using my amazon prime subscription). i thought it was the fancy fragrant multi-layered soaps (which sells by the ounce), but instead it was the more generic good soap ($1/bar). i bought 2 peppermints and 1 black soap.
around 9am annie sent me a text on wechat, letting me know they were already on the bus and thanking me for the past 2 months.
even though annie had accumulate a lot of stuff in the year that she's lived in the boston area, she didn't leave a lot behind. the essentials she packed up and shipped to urbana-champaign. anything else she donated to her friend. and what little nobody wanted (like shoes) she simply left on the curb for anyone to take.
as with most people, she left behind some condiments she couldn't take with her. sticks of butter, carton of whipping cream, a jar of fermented tofu. she also left an assortment of sushi sauces, but i have a feeling those were donated to her from friends when they left the US, since i almost never saw her using them. she left a stack of her chinese GRE books. these were books she'd been pouring over for months, i never saw her without them. maybe she has other GRE study guides, or maybe she's maxed out on her GRE studying. unlike some of the things she left on the curb however, she simply left these behind on the bookshelf (even though she didn't want her GRE books, she couldn't bear the thought of throwing them out). there was also a plastic container of dried shrimp on top of the refrigerator. i think she simply forgot about it, because it wouldn't be hard to pack up. there was also a container of blue ink, not sure what that's about, maybe she does calligraphy in her spare time. there was zero fresh ingredients in the refrigerator, she and her mother ate everything they had. i noticed her mother had brought a bunch of mooncakes with her, they took all of it. they did leave me a bowl of leftover chicken stirfry from yesterday. the only thing remaining was in the freezer: a frozen fish head wrapped in 2 layers of plastic bag, which i will throw out on the next trash day.
i left for belmont around 11am. low in fuel, i went to the mass ave speedway to get some gas. across the street i saw my 2nd aunt's apartment: she's still in taiwan, but my 2nd uncle was probably home. they didn't bother with the hassle of installing an AC, he just left the windows open to cool off. i stopped by the cafe briefly to show my father the solar fountain. he told me my mother was at yoga at the cambridge YMCA, so i decided to hit the nearby burger king first to get some lunch. i wanted to try the impossible whopper ($6), got an order of chicken nuggets as well ($1.50). there were a lot of senior citizens in the restaurant, but the busiest was the long of drive-through customers. i even heard a woman order an impossible whopper as well.
there's been a lot of buzz about impossible burgers, the plant-based meat substitute so close to real meat that it's hard to tell the difference. look-wise it had a uniformity that said artificial processed food, but a typical burger king patty made from beef is already heavily processed anyway. bit-wise, it didn't have the graininess of real ground beef, there was a uniform texture, reminded me of a jimmy dean breakfast sausage. taste-wise that's where it excels, but apart from a slightly off texture and look, it tasted about the same as a real burger. but that could also be because the patty has been flame-broiled and seasoned, and combined within the matrix of the whopper, any off-taste is easily disguised. i don't know if i would get it again, but it was an interesting experience. vegetarians - which seems like the target audience - are actually against the impossible whopper because burger king uses the same broiler for these vegetarian patties as their real beef patties. calorie-wise, i think it's about the same, and i think i read somewhere that it might even be slightly more caloric, if that's even impossible. finally, price-wise, because it's a new item, there's no discount, unlike the heavily subsidized whopper, which you can normally get for cheap with discounts or BOGO offers.
i'd already seen the breach in the southern fence when i first arrived in belmont. the critter couldn't dig across the wire fencing so it simply moved a few feet to the right, to a stretch that had no wires. it took tremendous will power for me to not do the repair work immediately but instead have my impossible whopper for lunch first. as soon as i finished eating, i was back outside, digging a trench to lay down another 8ft length of buried wire fencing. it was easy until i got to the second half of the fencing, where i encountered buried tree roots. my legs and arms covered in dirt, sweat dripping from my face, long hair strands sticking to my forehead, as i bent down to cut the roots with a pruning saw. finally i managed to get enough clearance to put down a 4ft section of fencing. i must not've been paying attention, because as soon as i left the area, i walked but the coil of fencing and managed to snag my leg on a piece of exposed wire, sustaining a 4-1/2in. gash.
it'd been 5 days since i was last in belmont, my father said he'd been checking the perimeters to make sure no critters were getting in, but the ravaged squash leaves tell a different story. a segment of stapled chicken wire by the bottom of the eastern fence seemed to have been poked by a large animal trying to get out but the fencing held together so it wasn't able to. later i checked the backyard webcam. quality-wise it wasn't that good, so i had to scrub hours of pixelated videos to see if i could spot whatever it was that ate the squash leaves. sure enough, on 8/8 thursday around 3pm i saw rustling along the southern edge of the yard. there was 9 minutes worth of footage where i could make out a woodchuck going to town on the squash. 3:05pm something spooked it and it ran off the screen to the right. a minute later, a critter appeared from the left of the screen, most likely out the hole it'd dug earlier. same woodchuck? or a different woodchuck? it'd be great if i could set up the webcam in the back of the fence, so i could capture any critters in action, day or night. but the wyze cam requires wifi connection, and that's about the farthest range the signal will reach. nevertheless, something to think about, a future project.
i got a chance to use my new solar fountain. the instructions weren't very helpful but the gadget was pretty self-explanatory. unfortunately today was a cloudy day, and when the sun isn't shining directly on the solar panel, it doesn't have enough power to run the pump to create the fountain. when it was working it was pretty glorious, but the pan i used was too small and over time water came out to the point where there wasn't enough water to run the fountain.
around 3:30pm i went out to check the perimeters again, to see if the woodchuck came back. i was shocked to see a new hole had been dug right where hours ago i'd barricaded it with wire fencing. i couldn't tell at first which direction the woodchuck had dug, afraid that i might've inadvertently trapped the woodchuck in the backyard. but a closer look showed that the woodchuck was trying to get in, not out, despite the mess of fresh dirt. the woodchuck was no match for the wire fencing and after chewing on the wooden bottom edge of the fence, it gave up. ideally i'd want to extend the wire barricade, but the further west along the southern fence, the more tree roots. not just tree roots, but dead bamboo roots as well, and those things hardly ever decay, so little chance that a woodchuck would try to dig through that. for the time being we're safe.
elsewhere in the backyard, we have a few good-sized buttercup squashes. the honeysuckle squashes have a weird teardrop shape because they're growing semi-suspended, unlike the regular buttercups that grow on the ground and have a new compact shape. a few squashes in the western field have a pale appearance. either this is a mutation (after all my father used seeds he saved from last season's squash) or these squashes will turn green once they mature. my father has also been germinating some yellow dragon fruit seedlings. the possibility of actually producing fruits is slim (i read it'd take 6-7 years), he's growing them just for fun, see how long he can nurture them.
i returned to cambridge by 7:30pm. it'll take me a while to get used to having an empty house again. i did a load of laundry and moved my computer setup to the bedroom so i could fold my clothes and watch television at the same time.