Now for something different.

I’ve gotten a couple of complaints suggestions that my blog doesn’t focus on anything other than my hydroponics. One reader suggest I mention Howie now and then seeing as the blog name is Howie’s life. So here it is, a non-hydroponics related post.

Yesterday I suffered a massive computer failure which has bricked my Lenovo. I lost power during a BIOS update, and now it is dead for good. Luckily I have 3 backups and I can still access the hard drive of the computer via a dock. With that being said, I have some photos of the house which I’ll post here, and but I’ll have to wait to get them up on my Google Photos site.

We installed window blinds on the front window of the house over the weekend. Previously there were only light curtains that didn’t cover the entire window. The new blinds are cordless, cellular blinds that insulate really well and look good to! We got a style like this, but in silver/grey look. The photos don’t show them up.

Howie is doing well here. He has a couch that he lays on in the front room which allows him to look outside (in addition to the bed in the kitchen that lets him look out back). Last week we picked up a dog house from a family member that has a bed in it. Slowly he is spending more and more time outside, and usually lays in the house without much complaining. When spring arrives, we plan to fully fence in the yard so he can run without a tie out, and spend more time outdoors.

That’s all for updates for now. Back to the thesis writing! Be sure to subscribe to this blog either via RSS or by email to be notified of new posts. The subscription options are on the right hand side.

Here are some house photos:


I’m back!

After a long hiatus, I’m back. I was in Kingston for a week, and didn’t have the best internet access, so I didn’t get around to updating. After that, I became busy with my MSc thesis I hope to finish someday. After numerous requests, I thought I’d make a post. Here’s what’s been happening.

The hydroponics system is up and running! I planted the beans and tomatoes in the pots before I left for a week, and let them grow while I was gone. I decided against adding the lettuce because it requires a lower nutrient solution than the beans and tomatoes, so they shouldn’t be grown together. I ended up using vermiculite as the growth medium, and it seems to be working okay. I lined the pots with toilet paper to hold the vermiculite in, with the hopes that the paper would break up when the roots tried to leave the pots. This did not work, and I have to manually break the paper up for the roots to exit. I ended up using a generic plant nutrient solution that I got at Home Depot.

So far I have been unsatisfied with the results. Only a few of the plants began to sprout out of the pots. The ones that did seemed to begin to dry up. The ones that didn’t sprout may be due to one of  a few possible reasons. First, some of the beans became disoriented in the pots, and somehow managed to grow upside down out of the pot. Remember, I transplanted these, so they already had a general up/down direction. The ones that did this seemed to have died/rotted. Other beans didn’t take at all. These may have been ones that I tried planting at different depths in the pot to see what would work best. As for the ones that did sprout, and dried up, I added some more water to raise the water level that had dropped, in hope that the roots will reach the water now.

Things I’ll do differently next time include planting the seeds in starter plugs, and using a hydroponics solution. Garden season is fast approaching, so the availability of resources is much greater than 2 weeks ago. Using plugs will be helpful during the transplanting phase. I hope to start this second round using plugs soon, and just add them to the pots that didn’t work. As for the hydroponics solution, I hope to pick some up out of town and use it next time.

All in all, I chalk this round of hydroponics up as a beta test of unconventional materials. I’ve finally decided to post some pictures of the hydroponics setup. They are below. That’s all for now. I’ll try to get back on top of this blogging. Look for another non-hydroponics post soon!

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Getting the ball rolling

I took my girlfriend to the airport this morning bright and early. I’ve got the house to myself to work on my thesis and of course my hydroponics system.

I’m getting into the hydroponics right now and hope to have it up and running Monday. I have a few problems I’m still working out however. I’ve been posting on blogs asking questions. One such blog,  Xponics, has been useful in getting started. This evening I’ve exchanged comments with the author of the blog, but I realize I can’t get my questions answered until I have my plan laid out to show veterans from other sites. Below is my preliminary plan for my deep water culture hydroponics system. Keep in mind I’m trying to keep costs minimal, so much of it is makeshift. Also, the town I’m in doesn’t have a hydroponics store and it is still winter, so garden supplies are hard to find. Because of this, I’ve had to adapt. I am basing my plan off of this and this idea.

Here’s the plan. I’ve italicized parts that I am unsure on and need input with. Crossed out parts are ones I’ve solved (I’ll change it as they are solved).

  • I’m creating a deep water culture where the roots are submersed in water.
  • I’ll be using an opaque rubbermaid  tote for the container.
  • I’ll be feeding in an air pump line into the tote through a drilled hole in the lid. There is a bubble stone at the end.
  • I could not find Netpots, so I will be using standard plastic pots with holes drilled in them. (Maybe 0.5″ holes) (0.5″ holes). The netpots will sit in cutout holes in the lid, and be partially submerged in the nutrient solution.
  • In the pots I will put in a growing medium (I do not know what yet. My options are limited, but I am thinking marbles or vermiculite).
  • I will fill the tote with a liquid nutrient solution (Options are limited, but I am thinking a mixed liquid standard nutrient solution. Suggestions on NPK values?).
  • The entire unit will be sitting in a sunny window with an artificial light source overhead (for nighttime) which is housed in a reflective lightbox  (the artificial light source will probably consist of two CFL bulbs with a temperature of 6500K). ( I will use two CFL bulbs, 6500K at the begining, and 2700K at fruiting time).
  • I plan to grow tomatoes, beans, and mixed lettuce. I have started germinating the seeds in a separate container. I am unsure how I will suspend them in the growth medium. I will suspend them in the growth medium using paper towel.

Well, that’s the basics of my plan. I’ll post some photos soon outlining what I have.Comments and feedback on my design/plan are encouraged! Thanks.

First post!

I’ve decided to create a blog to document some of the  “experiments” I’m trying at my new house. These include  renovations, gardening (indoor/outdoor) and general observations.

Why is my blog called “howieslife”? It’s named after my Australian Shepherd/Bernese Mountain Dog named Howie. He’s like velcro, always by my side watching what I do. He’ll be my sidekick in many of my projects.

One of the first projects is starting a hydroponics system to grow some veggies to consume immediately. After that, I plan to start younglings for our new outdoor garden at the house. I’m still in the elementary stages of the system, but I’ll blog as I go along.

Yesterday, I started germinating some seeds. I hope to grow tomatoes, mixed lettuce, and green beans. I layered some seeds between some damp paper towels in a plastic container. The container has been sitting on a heating vent to keep warm. Within the first 24 hours, some of the seeds have already begun to sprout! I’ll post some pictures soon enough.