December 28, 2010

Fake Label - December Installment

It seems that any shack near a vineyard in France is a Chateau.  I thought I'd whip up a little tongue-in-cheek parody here.  This is a fake label.  If'n there ever is a real label, it will most likely have pirate ships, islands, parrots, cannons and probably be rendered in glorious paintmash style.

December 21, 2010

Tron Legacy

Viewed the movie Tron Legacy yesterday.  It's a visually impressive movie, which was fun to see in an Imax theatre. The plot was actually kind of interesting philosophically.  I was slightly surprised by what is essentially post-modern philosophy as part of the resolution of the movie.

I just finished reading George Washington's Diaries (abridged) edited by Dorothy Twohig.  The book was interesting at times for some backstory on who George Washington was, but not very explicit or generally interesting.  It was fun to learn that he fell in a frozen river, while running away from indians.

I've been reading The Wines of California, the Pacific Northwest and New York by Roy Andries De Groot.  This is an interesting book, as it contains much information (about North American wines) gleaned from years and years of being a food expert for various magazines and publications.

November 27, 2010

Aerial Photos

Here are some aerial photos of the island vineyard project. 

You can see the cabin, and it's proximity to the edge of the river.

November 15, 2010

Sagebrush Burning

My brothers and I went down to the Island last weekend to inspect the cabin.  The riverbank has encroached in the last sixty years, and it's probably a good time to think about moving the cabin, before it floats away.  We also cleared some sagebrush.  My dad had chain sawed much of it, and we just needed to burn it.


I've been playing alot of Minecraft lately.  It's creator has described the game as a mix between Roller Coaster Tycoon and Dwarf Fortress.  Dwarf Fortress having an immense learning curve but an super impressive dungeon crawler, and the iso-metric ease of approach of a Roller Coaster Tycoon type game.  The game is still in Alpha development, but has already sold an amazing 600,000 copies.  With my love of rogue-like games, this is a fun dungeon crawler, and it has cool physics and mechanics.  And it's still in Alpha development, so it should eventually be a barn-storming smash (if it isn't already).

November 6, 2010

Loading the boat

I loaded a few poles onto the boat.  Next weekend, I am planning on going down to the island to survey the cabin.  Over the last sixty years, the edge of the island has slowly been moving towards the cabin.  As a result, we need to move the edge of the island away from the cabin.  This will probably mean jacking up the cabin and rolling it inland.

Mobile Reading Experiment - Nov 2010

Just finished reading Chicot the Jester, by Alexandre Dumas.  A fun book, but with a bit of a quick ending.  I read the entire book on my phone, which was an interesting experiment for me.  I heard about a person who reads 2-3 books a year (on his phone) while waiting.  It was handy to have a book to read at the ready when I was waiting for things, but could be a little cumbersome when I was wanting to relax and read (which is easier with paper).

October 6, 2010

Vineyard Hardware - Episode 1

I bought some vineyard hardware off of craigslist.  I purchased a few different parts of the hardware needed to construct a trellis.  I still need to get wire and anchors, but this is a great start.
  • 50  2"X8' metal trellis posts
  • 50 trellis post top brackets
  • 50 trellis post lower brackets
  • 6 rolls of drip line with emitters
It was fun going to get the hardware.  The seller used his loader with forks to lift the poles en masse into the trailer.

October 5, 2010

Garden Cart

Another purchase off of craigslist; I bought a garden cart to help move heavy stuff around.

October 2, 2010

Fertilizer Cam

Fertilizer tour

Sagebrush removal and fertilizer

We endured another round of rototiller, and working on sagebrush removal.  This time we made great progress.  Using good tools sure does help!   I used a sawzall (reciprocating saw) with a small generator to help remove the sagebrush, and a bar to get down to the roots.  The fertilizer spreader worked really well.

September 28, 2010

Fertilizer Spreader

I am planning on spreading the ninety pounds of fertilizer for our pilot eighth of an acre with a lawn fertilizer spreader.  I was thinking of using my parents' spreader for the task, but because its wheels are small, it is not exactly a good match for the island terrain.  Thus, I looked on craigslist for a better one.  I found a good one for an excellent deal.

The Last Cavalier 9-28-10

I recently finished The Last Cavalier, by Alexandre Dumas.  Dumas was a masterful storyteller and this book, collected from newspaper serials, while unfinished and a bit rough, was a great read.  It fills an area in Dumas' literature's historical timeline.  Placed after the time of the French Kings (Three Musketeers, etc) and the Revolution, but before the fall and return of Napoleon (in Count of Monte Cristo).

September 26, 2010

Tilling the vineyard

After laying out the borders of where we wanted to put the vineyard, we started to till out the vineyard.  First I drove a perimeter line with the rototiller.   Then we started doing some runs.  We quickly learned that we needed to adjust the depth of the rototiller in order to work out the weeds.

There is a big bush that needs to come out.  I worked on it for a while, and then Melissa took a turn.  With the right tools, it would come out much faster.  So next time we visit, we'll hopefully be returning with a chain saw and a bar.

Vineyard layout and plotting

After making an initial survey of the island, the choice of where to put the vineyard wasn't too hard.  We decided to place it nearer to the landing, and in the relative middle of the width of the island.

Vineyard plotting and tilling tour

September 24, 2010

Signage - Episode 2

Finished the island sign, which I'm thinking it turned out okay.  It ended up with a John Deere-ish color scheme. I'm hoping that the sign won't get too vandalized by any armed flotillas heading down the river.

September 22, 2010

Signage - Episode 1

Visiting the island a while back, I put up several "no trespassing" signs.  This is necessary from lessons we have learned there.  I thought it would be a good idea to have a new sign designating the island by name.  So I started building one out of wood.

Using a free online logo construction tool, Logo Ease, and the font Duality, I came up with this:

September 21, 2010

Soil Nutrients Ahoy!

After receiving the comprehensive soil report, I ordered some granulated vitamins for the soil.  Rather, I ordered a blend of soil nutrients that I will be able to add to the soil when I till.  Grapevines grow deeper than many other crops, and as a result, fertilizers and soil nutrients near the surface tend to have a lesser effect on them.  Thus the concept of terroir is very important for a vineyard.  Still, it is wise to prepare your soil as best as possible.
In order to do that, I had the soil analyzed.  The analysis showed that there were several avenues to improve the fertility of the soil.  One avenue was to add fertilizers that plants need as food.  Another was to lower the soil pH to a more hospitable range.  Another was to add micro-nutrients that plants needs (much like vitamins).

September 15, 2010

Soil results

I received the soil results.

The soil is...
much like the rest of Idaho...
Alkaline (basic)

The soil is very chalky in feel, and is considered a loam in texture/makeup.  It is very high in Calcium, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Growing things takes water.  Grapevines in antiquity were usually dry farmed, watered by the rains.  Apparently, it wasn't until around the 1960s that growers started irrigating vines in order to amp up their production.  In many regions of France, irrigation of vines has been illegal, but some parts have recently allowed some irrigation.
I'm hoping to collect a little rainwater to water the vines for about a month in the spring after they are initially planted.  After that, I'm planning on generally leaving them to the mercy of the weather and the soil.
Getting ready to collect some rainwater.  In order to do this, I bought some water barrels off craigslist.  I'm thinking about making some gutters for the cabin, to collect the water over the winter/spring, and then to make a solar/battery powered pump to help automatically water if there is a dry spell in the springtime.

September 13, 2010

Soil Testing

My soil samples are now in the capable hands of Western Labs.

Complete Soil Test
pH, texture, soluble salts (ECe), Cation Exchange Capacity (true), percent lime, percent organic matter, nitrates, ammonium, phosphorus (alkaline soils – sodium bicarbonate extract, acid soils – Bray extract), potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, iron, manganese, copper, sulfates and boron

Hopefully the results will be good news, or the vineyard project could soon be winding down.

September 12, 2010

Shady Acres

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a good vineyard needs shade.  Not for the grapevines, but for the people.  I went down by the Boise river the other day and fought the squirrels for some nice acorns.  I have a bunch of acorns for some beautiful Oak trees (Mostly English Oak and a few Swamp White Oak).  I also picked up some Planetree seeds.  The squirrels weren't very interested in the Planetree seeds, however.
I had also bought some seeds of the Oregon Maple (Big Leaf Maple) for another project, and am going to plant some of those also.

September 11, 2010

Island Tour


We took the rototiller down to the island this weekend.  I wanted to get some soil samples, to have them professionally analyzed.  We were able to get some soil samples, after a little trial and error with how to collect them into our ziplock baggies.

We tested out the rototiller by tilling a path between the cabin and the proposed location of the vineyard.  Needless to say, it worked great and helped make a path through the weeds.


September 7, 2010


One of the necessary aspects of planting a vineyard is choosing a location and preparing the soil.  In order to do this, I will be going down to the island to survey possible sites, and then to take some soil samples to find out about the soil.
After choosing the location, and taking the soil samples, I will be able to start preparing the vineyard for planting the root-stalks next spring.  This entails tilling the soil, so that it will be able to breath, and soak up more water.  This allows the roots from the vines to grow quicker and better.

Depending on the soil consistency, I also might need to add something to balance out the soil pH levels.  I can add these components when rototilling the ground to prepare it for planting.
In order to breakup the ground, I purchased a used rototiller off of craigslist.  It's not too big, which is good and bad.  Good because it will be easier to transport it across the river, and bad because it will take longer to till the ground.  It's a front tine craftsman rototiller.

Island Vineyard Research

My family has an island in the Snake river in Idaho/Oregon.  It's a large Island, about 18 acres.  In the past we've used it to hunt on.  My grampa had a cable barge that went across one side of the river, which allowed him to move over a tractor, and the materials to build a hunting shack.  That cable and barge was removed a long, long time ago.  And the only remnant of the tractor was the steering wheel sticking out of the muddy riverbank.
We haven't been down to hunt at the island for quite some time.  I've been thinking of ways to use the island, and one of them is to plant some grapevines.  I've been doing some reading on the subject, and checked out several books from the library.  One of the best was From Vines to Wines, by Jeff Cox.

September 2, 2010

Reading 9-2-2010

Recently picked up the book Bearers Of The Black Staff, by Terry Brooks.  I've read all the Terry Brooks books, and this one is another plank into the deck of the Shannara universe.  Brooks weaves a good tale, and his books have a great balance of interesting details and developing characters.  This book continues to fill out the grand story of his series, in his characteristic style of writing.

September 1, 2010

Island Rototiller

I'm looking into planting some grapevines on our island.  I have been reading several books from the library on how to go about doing that.  One book, Vines to Wines seems especially knowledgeable and helpful.  Part of the process is choosing a location and preparing the soil: so I am going to take some soil samples, and till up the dirt in preparation for next year's planting.  In order to do this, I bought a rototiller off of craigslist.

August 29, 2010

Reading - August 2010

I've been reading through a few different books of late.  One is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the Cameo Classics edition, by Rudolf Erich Raspe.  This old book houses the surrealistic and absurd tales of Baron Munchausen, which were later made into a movie.
Another interesting book to read has been From Vines to Wines, by Jeff Cox.  This books details the process of planting grapevines all the way to making your own wine.  Definitely an interesting read, and possibly related to an upcoming project.

Move from Drupal to

I've been mulling over moving off of Drupal and onto a free hosted blogging platform.  I've been looking around for a while (and used livejournal for quite some time), and decided to go with blogspot/blogger.  It's part of the google platform, and I've just changed over the website (along with my 250 previous posts).

August 12, 2010

Costa Rica

Recently returned from two weeks in Costa Rica.  I went down with my work, MAFLT.  I was doing survey work, and looking for ways to support our Latin America team.  Melissa went with me, and we had a great time experiencing the culture of Costa Rica, and also of South American influences.  We visited the volcano Arenal.  We also stayed a few days at Playa del Coco.  And took lots of photos.

July 19, 2010

Touring Old Boise

The North end of Boise features an array of old houses.  Many of the houses have interesting architecture and entertaining facades.  Melissa and I have a plan to walk or ride around the neighborhoods of North Boise to look at the various old architectures.  Yesterday, we started our touring with a short walk starting from Memorial park.

July 14, 2010

Ye Ole Homestead

 Last weekend I took a trip out to Buck Flat in the middle of nowhere, Owyhee Country, Idaho.  I went out with my parents to look at the area that my Great-grandparents homesteaded in the 1920s.
  I had previously traveled down to the Owyhee country courthouse and looked up the deed, so that we could match up where the homestead is actually at.  We suffered two flat tires in the trip, but were amply prepared and made it back to Mountain Home.  It was a fun trip to go out to the middle of nowhere to see the old homestead.

June 14, 2010

Sharles I - Underwater ROV

I've been working on an ROV for the last month or two.  It's based on an Arduino mega with web control (at this point).  It's been a fun project so far, and I will post some video and photos once it hits the water.

May 27, 2010

Crooked House Coffee Espresso - Ten Years On...

Back in the last millenia...
my roommate Rocky worked at the Crooked House Coffee shop in West Salem, Oregon.  He bought some ground espresso coffee as a topping experiment for ice cream.  He stored the espresso roast in his freezer, and there it sat for over ten years.  Moving from freezer to freezer in apartment to house moves.

And then one day...
Rocky arrived with his portable espresso maker, and the espresso grounds we hadn't experienced in many moons.   Some might dare to say that perhaps the finest espresso the 20th century had to offer was on display here.

And it was awesome.  Just as we had remembered it, it transported us back to a different time and place.  It was inordinately smooth, with a pronounced bean flavor (earthy vegetable).  Some might even have said it had a slight mushroom-y aftertaste.  ;-)

May 24, 2010

Space Shuttle Time Lapse

Here is a video of the Space Shuttle being readied for launch.  Very impressive, especially the Vehicle Assembly Building.  See it here at Air and Space.

April 29, 2010

Team Fortress 2, Fortrix, and Starcraft 2

Recently been enjoying the game Fortrix.  Fortix is kindof a remix of the game Qix. A fun throwaway game that has a nice retro feel.
I've also been playing alot of Team Fortress 2 in the last few months.  A fun FPS that allows the play to have different roles.  It's very similar to the original Team Fortress, excepting a new game engine, and cartoony fun graphics.
I'm also super excited for Starcraft 2 to come out, which Blizzard has stated that should happen in the first half of 2010.  What that really means it as good as anything with Blizzard's record of delaying and canceling games.  The good news is that it is in Beta, however.


 I recently read through Michael Crichton's Travels.  An interesting book detailing his travels and various adventures, and also his progression away from traditional science, towards metaphysics and New Age learning.  It's an interesting book, with a critique of the modern science mindset that is very profound.  He also has lots of interesting adventures and many involve SCUBA diving.

Spring Break vacation

  We drove down to Southern California last month, and stopped at the Huntington gardens.  They were having their annual Bonsai tree festival, so we got to see hundreds on neat Bonsai trees.  We then went to Disneyland, and it was Melissa's sister Kim's first time to visit the magic kingdom.  We then headed to Arizona, and had a wonderful time relaxing and playing shuffleboard and swimming.  We also went to Mexico for a day.  We then headed back to Idaho, to recover from out vacation!

March 22, 2010

Canon 500D

Turning thirty three years of age of recent, we piled up our doubloons and purchased a new digital camera. We went with a Canon 500D: the Digital Rebel EOS T1i. I've been hoping to get a digital SLR for the last decade, so it's exciting to get a camera with lots of possibility. Let's hope it doesn't go in the lake, like our last Canon camera. :D