i wasn't expecting much on this 4th of july, not with the annual boston fireworks cancelled due to the coronavirus. but when i arrived at my parents' place in the late morning, my mother informed me we were having a barbecue, and that she invited my aunt as well. they've been meeting a few times a week at the cafe for knitting projects so my mother felt it was safe. however, she told me that my sister cancelled at the last moment (my sister who was supposed to bring all the food), all because we weren't eating outside because my mother didn't want to get mosquito bites. my mother called my sister back and convinced her to come so the barbecue was still on.
i had some taiwanese 滷飯 (braised rice) for lunch, a new dish my parents will be introducing at the cafe once they open next week. this one had some minced pork along with some pickled daikon radish. before i finished eating my father told me that raccoon had gotten into the lotus pots again. this time it was the barrel by the basement. he said he inspected the lotus and it seemed to be okay, but a raccoon had definitely gotten in.
the basement lotus barrel was the weakest leak. instead of a continuous hard wire mesh fence, it only had half, while the rest was just soft chickenwire. chickenwire is not much of a challenge for raccoons, they go through it like confetti. but up to this point the raccoon left it alone so i thought it was safe. i was wrong.
when i saw the barrel, the side with the chickenwire had caved in. the water, instead of clear, was a muddy opaque tan color. the raccoon must've tried climbing on it and its weight bent the chickenwire as it fell into the water. while perched above the barrel, it tried digging in the mud, looking for something to eat. the wire did protect the lotus somewhat, but the raccoon still managed to partially uproot the plant. just like my father said, none of the coin leaf stems were broken except one, and that leaf was already turning brown anyway so it wasn't any loss.
the mud was thick enough that there was nothing i could do but put a new layer of sand over the basin and gently repot the central lotus root ball. i scooped out all the opaque muddy water from the barrel (used it to water some plants) then washed the inside before refilling it with rainwater collected in a bucket from the rain barrel outflow spigot.
inspecting the other lotuses, i noticed some disturbances in the middle lotus barrels. a raccoon tried to get inside these barrels but it couldn't. instead it must've stuck its paw as far as it could reach through the cages, clawing at the edge of the basin, scooping out some clay mud. if these cage barriers hadn't been tougher, the raccoon would've gotten into these as well. for maximum protection i should also put chicken wires at the bottom so there'd be no chance of a raccoon trying to paw at the lotuses.
instead of cutting up new fencing for the basement lotus barrel, we just happen to have some tough wire mesh which used to serve as my sister's compost bin before she decided she didn't want it anymore. it's the perfect size to fit around the barrel, slightly smaller circumference, but i just had to open it up a little bit at the bottom. this wire mesh has smaller holes that a raccoon can't get through, but it's also taller so i'd need to remove the fencing if i want to get access to the barrel.
today we finally set up the seaflo series-42 on-demand 12v pump. it's been a long journey, nearly 2 months, from when we first decided to get the seaflo series-33 (5/7), then figuring out that the 42-series (with variable flow) is a better pump for the same price since it reduces cycling, returning the 33-series and exchanging it for a 42-series (5/15), clerical error at seaflo that caused a delay in the shipping of the replacement pump (5/27), pump finally arriving (6/2) but us realizing that the brass 1/2" to 3/4" adapter fitting would strip the plastic thread on the pump, ordering nylon garden hose fittings instead (6/2), waiting for the fittings to finally arrive (also factory delayed, 6/16), having all the necessary parts during a long dry stretch where our rain barrels were nearly empty, and finally setting up a base for the pump with an on/off toggle switch.
to think, this all started because the transfer pump we use to pump the rain barrel water had stopped working, only for us to fix it. so we weren't in any hurry, the old transfer pump still worked. but it was time for us to try the seaflo, the fruition of all those months of waiting. i was actually worried that it wouldn't work. when we tested the series-42 pump when it first arrived using just short lengths of flexible tubing, it didn't perform all that well, the pump kept on stalling and the only way to get it to restart was to reconnect the battery. but that was just a test, it wasn't a real world situation, with garden hoses and spray nozzle. but if it didn't work for few feet of tubing, how would it work for 100+ ft of garden hose? i figured worst case scenario, it works the same way as our old transfer pump, that we'd need to switch it on whenever we wanted to use it, and at least it was quiet when operating, unlike the transfer pump which is obnoxiously loud.
my father had already built a base for the seaflo pump using some plywood and pvc boards. he also installed an on/off toggle using an AC light switch. it's kind of an overkill, we could've just as easily built a simple switch using the assortment of light-up toggle switches i bought last year. we tested the pump with the nylon hose fittings and to my surprise everything seemed to work, and work well. there seemed just as much pressure coming out of the spray nozzle as when it's normally attached to the faucet. but more importantly, the pump automatically turned off when i turned off the spray nozzle, and turned back on automatically when i turned on the sprayer. i did it a few times, it worked every single time, even when i turned on the sprayer just a little bit. there was also no cycling issue (which is hard to compare since we never tested the 33-series, but after seeing a demonstration online, the 42-series is still the way to go).
the only thing we did notice was a leak at the outflow valve. we fixed that problem by rewrapping the outflow thread with plumbing tape, that stopped the leak. we attached a quick release hose fitting on the outflow garden hose so we could have a way to easily detach the house if we ever need to use it with the faucet (when the rain barrels run empty). with all the various nylon fittings and strainer and quick release attachments, it made the inflow and outflow valves very long. we put wooden blocks underneath to support some of that weight. we also positioned the hoses so there wouldn't be any kinks going in or out.
the seaflo on-demand pump works so well, it's a shame we only discovered it until recently, otherwise we could've been using it from the start. the way we used to pump out the rain water seemed ancient by comparison: attaching the alligator clips of our transfer pump to the metal leads of wires running into our basement marine battery that in turn is charged by a 100W solar panel. the transfer pump only ran at one speed, and it was loud, and if you had the nozzle on anything other than full blast, the pump would work even harder trying to maintain that pressure, which in turn would heat up the pump. that's probably what killed the transfer pump in the first place, overheating. the melted wires to the alligator clips is testament of that fact. and did i mention the old pump was loud? sometimes i felt a little embarrassed running it, seems like the whole neighborhood could hear us (though no louder than the ancient central air compressor outside our neighbor's house, that thing is super loud).
i pulled up some garlics today to see if they were ready or not. disappointingly, they were smaller than i'd hoped. maybe because it's been a dry couple of months. i put them in the unused grow room, with the hopes that the cool darkness will help them to cure.
my 2nd aunt came around 5pm with my sister and her dog for the 4th of july barbecue. nothing too exciting, i didn't even make my burgers. the only new dish was a bowl of purslane salad.