i biked down to the cafe in the late morning to 1) deliver some kimchi, 2) defrost the freezer, 3) bring in the trash cans, and 4) let hailey out to use the bathroom. i made the kimchi saturday night. i usually like to wait 3 days before i put the kimchi away in the fridge to stop the fermentation, and though today tuesday was technically the third day, it hadn't been 72 hours yet. when i tried a piece it still tasted a little raw and could use some more fermentation. nevertheless, this was the best time for me to delivery them, as i put 3 jars in a cardboard box stuffed with packaging paper and strapped to the back of my bike. my 2nd aunt agreed that it could use more sourness and left the jars outside to ferment some more. saturday was also the last time i was here to defrost the freezer. after just 3 days, there wasn't a lot of frost on the fins and i managed to melt everything in a few minutes. finally i went to my sister's place to bring in the trash cans and let hailey outside. i noticed my sister had already placed a rug in the living room.

i'd set up my grow closet 10 days ago (bought dirt and a new light) so it's long overdue that i finally plant my seeds. the trick is to time the planting just right so as soon as the garden is warm enough to transplant, my seedlings are ready to go. the usual method is to find out when the last frost date and work backwards the number of weeks. average last frost in boston is may 1st-10th, so planting my seeds now gives me a good 6-7 weeks of starting time. it's also fitting that today is the first official day of spring.

i was going to plant the seeds yesterday, but was still waiting for a few items i ordered online from park seeds to arrive. as if on cue, they showed up in the mail yesterday, so now i had no more excuses.

gather the trays. i use plastic cafeteria trays my parents had left over from the cafe. pretty much anything is okay as long as it's waterproof and has a slight raised edge to it.

fill the trays with gravel. this was something i came up with a while back. by adding water to the trays, it creates a more humid environment for the seedlings so the soil don't dry out (especially in my house with the forced air heating). the gravel also creates a bit of drainage so when i water the cups the excess water can leak from the drainage holes and have somewhere to go instead of just pooling underneath the cups. i got a 50lbs. bag of generic gravel ($2.50) - the cheapest kind i could find - and i reuse them year after year. ideally i'd want small gravel to give the cups an even surface to rest on, but not so small that they become compact like sand, since i still want a bit of drainage. i just put down enough gravel on the tray to create a layer, you don't need too much.

create planting cups. i just happened to find a lot of old planting cups i could reuse, about 40 of them. but that wasn't enough so i needed to create more. they're basically just 16 oz. plastic cups with drainage holes drilled at the bottom. in the early days i used a drill to make the holes, which was a real mess (lots of plastic shavings) and not all that easy (you'd be amazed how difficult it is to drill through a stack of plastic cups). but then i realized i could make the holes by using a stovetop-heated awl (i have gas heat) and then just sort of melt through the plastic bottoms to create the holes. it's also not that easy and probably more dangerous as there are open flames, burning hot spike, and the occasional whiff of melted plastic (which i'm assuming is toxic). there's also a limit as to the number of cups the hot awl can go through, usually about 6-8 before it becomes too difficult. if i'm lazy i only make 3 drainage holes, but if i'm inspired i make 5 holes.

lay out the empty planting cups and figure out how many containers of each plants. i went with a 4x3 configuration this year instead of the more compact 4x4 arrangement. it means i lose 4 cups per tray, but the advantage is i can group the cups more in a central location so they all get an equal share of the lights. the problem with the dense 4x4 grouping is that the containers along the outside edges don't get enough light and the seedlings grow crooked as they slant inwards towards the light source. so in the end i'm planting:

hungarian wax heirloomburpee6
tomato 'summer choice hybrid'burpee6
tomato 'super sweet 100 hybrid'burpee6
tomato heirloom 'rutgers'burpee6
eggplant 'zhikou hybrid'park12
basil 'siam queen'burpee6
malva zebrinalivingston6
shasta daisy 'white knight'burpee6
chrysanthemum 'robinson red'burpee12

not a lot of hot peppers this year, a conservative amount of 6 habaneros and 6 hungarian wax. peppers are slow to produce and we're lucky to get a few by summer's end. a good collection of tomatoes, 18 total, i usually like to grow 3 different varieties: cherry, medium, and large. tomatoes are good producers and make economical sense to grow them, although in recent years late season blight kills them off by late summer. i'm growing a dozen japanese eggplants. these were the special seeds i ordered online, after not finding them locally. japanese eggplants have deep purple stems. i've had a lot of luck with them recently, and they're good producers too, about an eggplant per week per week on the hottest days of summer.

i had some leftover flower seeds from last year, malva zebrinas and shasta daisies. i think i will have some self-sown malvas in the garden, but i'm growing 6 more as insurance, or maybe to plant in the front yard of my house. i'm still not sure if they're perennials, i get the feeling they're productive annuals that self-sow readily. i planted a dozen red chrysanthemums, though they look like red daisies. these are supposedly perennials as well, they might look nice growing in the front yard too. since paul and steve won't be here all summer, i'll have the backyard/frontyard all to myself.

filling the cups with dirt. i'm using miracle-gro potting soil this year ($8.99 cubic foot). last year i tried the vigoro brand potting soil and it wasn't very good, a lot of non-soil debris, like chunks of cement and even a piece of wire. at a cubic foot a bag, that comes out to 958 fluid ounces, and with each cup being 16 fl.oz. that means i can fill about 60 cups with one bag of potting soil. but i ended up filling 72 cups with a bit soil left over, because i don't fill the cups completely to the top. at this stage you need to be careful because a cup of soil can easily be knocked over creating a mess. that didn't happen this time but i've done it in the past. for extra tiny delicate seeds, i can't use potting soil and have to using a finer growing mixture. these plants (usually perennial flowers) will be grown in plastic inserts once i get my hands on a suitable growing medium.

soaking the cups. i was actually debating this because the potting soil looked pretty moist as it was. but i've always soaked the soil before planting, so i wasn't going to mess around with a well established system. this is how i could tell that the miracle-gro potting soil ('premium') was the better soil: there was no shrinkage when i soaked the dirt from underneath (dipping them into a bucket of water), the soil didn't float like in past cases, it soaked pretty quickly (a matter of seconds), and afterwards the water drainage out just as quickly, with very little leeching (i.e. the water came out clear, not muddy, which means the dirt was draining away). when the cups are soaked with water they're heavy and less chance of tipping, but you still need to be careful, as wet soil can be even more of a mess. because i don't let the water draw up to the surface, the top of the soil is drier. i fix that problem by spraying the surface with a water bottle.

planting the seeds. this was the more entertaining step, as i made little holes in the dirt, dropped in a few seeds, and covered them up. some of the tinier seeds don't even need to be buried, just pressed firmly into the wet soil. afterwards i watered the surface again with the spray bottle. the water spray also has an additional function because it helps the plastic wrap to stick better.

cover the cups with plastic wrap. i don't know if this is a necessity, but i've always done it, helps the soil to retain moisture so they don't dry out before the seeds germinate. at this stage the gravel is dry, so the water in the soil is the only water available to the seeds until they emerge (in which time i'll begin watering the cups regularly and filling the gravel tray with water as well).

put trays in grow closet. ideally they should be placed in a warm area to help with the germination. in the past i'd put them in the guest bedroom, the warmest place in the house. but i have so many cups each year, there's just not enough room. and sometimes i have roommates, so the guest bedroom is not always available. but i found that putting them in the grow closet works just as well. maybe it takes them a few extra days to germinate, but i've had no problems, despite the temperature in my house fluctuating between 59°F and 65°F.

i'd heard that clouds would begin to roll in this afternoon in preparation for the fourth'easter arriving later tomorrow. i wasn't expecting much production but was pleasantly surprised to see by day's end we made 37.08 kWh. still 8kWh shy of our current peak, but still good production number, 3rd highest this month, 4th highest all time. this will hopefully make up for the lost production come tomorrow and perhaps the day after, though i heard the storm wouldn't really pick up until evening, so maybe there's still enough daylight to eke out some energy.

for dinner i had two slices of the beef pie i made last night. they're so dense that after heating them up in the toaster oven for 20 minutes, they were still lukewarm at best. i was so hungry by that point i didn't care and ate the two slices while watching episodes of altered carbon. at 10pm i watched the 2nd episode of for the people.

my parents sent me photos of them arriving in beijing from shenyang (afternoon our time, late night china time), then waiting at the airport for their 8:10am (8:10pm US time) flight to taipei. both of them had digestive issues while in china, hopefully it clears up once in taiwan. my aunt lili and matthew are coming back to boston tonight; i don't know if their flight will get delayed or cancelled due to the storm. i heard they were flying into new york city, which is ground zero for the worst of the four'easter's impact.

gearbest is having an anniversary sale and i managed to snag another xiaomi mi band 2 for my 2nd aunt for just $20. my mother really loves hers (especially the sleep tracking, she's obsessed over her low deep sleep rating) and my aunt seems to want to get into the fitness tracking craze as well. she even bought a pedometer a while back to keep track of her steps, but it wasn't one that could sync up with internet devices. the only bad thing is gearbest ships from china, and if the last time is indicative of the shipping speed, i probably won't receive it until a month later.

i also got a pair of loneyshow-brand wifi smart plugs for $16.99 from amazon.com. fakespot says the 39 reviews are all counterfeit (a rating of F) but i checked camelcamelcamel and this used to sell for $35.99 a pair, not sure why now it's so heavily discounted. there are other generic-brand chinese smart plugs out there, but this is one of the few that does energy monitoring. it also uses the same app as the yidian smart plugs. it doesn't look as fancy as the yidian, but it has a small-format shape. i figured the worst that could happen is they don't work and i'll simply return them to amazon.com. i really need just one, for the living room lamp currently on a timer, i'd like to turn it off remotely when nobody is home.

i finally got around to updating my tp-link router's firmware to DD-WRT. it wasn't hard, the worst of it was updating all the port forwarding rules and fixed IP addresses i have going on with my various internet devices.