30 July 2017

I’ve always had a passing interest in hydroponic and aquaponics – growing vegetables without soil – but never enough to bother setting up a system. With the pond up and running we found ourselves with a spare IBC container and expanded clay pellets, left over from a previous filter setup. Since it was “free”, a test bed was set up; a small pump constantly feeds water to the container and when it’s within 2″ of the top, a siphon dumps the water. By doing so it avoids drowning the roots and also sucks air into the media, necessary for healthy roots. The pond water is nitrate-rich, being the final product of the biological filter. The setup has the additional benefit that the plants suck up some of the nitrate, so it’ll help cut down how often water has to be drained from the pond. The AN race car part on the siphon was an on-hand solution when constructing the siphon.

The last picture, yup, I actually took the car out for a drive – first time in eight months – she’s just as insane as I remember 🙂

24 July 2017

Took some time off and completed a number of errands/chores/projects around the house – including dropping the intercooler inlet ducting off at a paint shop. Yes, it really will get done! Was going to drive Midlana today but surprise – for the first time in about five months it’s raining on and off.

15 July 2017

So with my dad passing away several years ago, mom’s been doing well, until we got a call early this morning that she was in the hospital. In short, she’s fine, but there’s another story which could have turned out much different.

After the ambulance was called and they and the firemen arrived, they walked into a dark house, which was a good thing because it was easy to see that a built-in wall heater in the kitchen was glowing bright red. They estimated that the house was minutes away from catching fire, and due to its construction and where mom was, both she and her dog would have been goners.

The wall heater is an odd story in itself. None of us kids can remember it every being used (>50 years), and when we arrived 8 hours later it was still somewhat hot. Being an electrical engineer I wondered if they’d really shut off power and asked my sister to switch it on. With a loud pop and sparks shooting out of it, we turned it off!

To be absolutely sure this could never happen again (maybe mom absent-mindedly turned it on) we decided to cut the wires to it. (Dad didn’t label the circuit breakers well enough to figure out which circuit powered it, and that circuit probably powered other stuff she still needed.) When I took off the front cover we found something very interesting sitting on one of the heating coils, something looking like maybe a Pringles potato chip lid. Many decades ago mom used to run an in-home daycare and we suspect one of the kids slipped that lid into the heater. Given that it was never used we can’t figure out how this happened now, the odds that it was (ever) turned on, and that firefighters just happen to find it.

Life it fraught with little how-different-things-could-be moments.

4 July 2017

Yes, I’m still here, just busy (still) working on the the pond project, which is past the most laborious portion, which is a good thing because it’s getting into the hot part of the year. I do continue to be a regular visitor on the Midlana Builders’ Forum as there’s a growing group of active builders. It’s looking promising that there’ll soon be several more Midlana’s on the road, which is good news all around. It gives readers more input on the car than just from myself, and also helps spread the word that there’s life outside Locosts!

So the pond – it’s basically done, though it’s a bit like having a car project “90% finished” – meaning there’s still all sorts of odds and ends to complete. Since the last update:

  • We gave away half of our koi (15)
  • The remainder were transferred to the new pond
  • The old pond was filled in
  • The new filtration system has consumed vast quantities of time.

The new filter’s way more effective than the old system, which was completely passive but didn’t work very well. However, as my wife pointed out, “the new setup works better but doesn’t seem as reliable.” Yup, more moving parts means more stuff to break. The rotating drum filter has the main problem, or rather, my inability to design a dead-reliable unit the first time. This one’s been very much a prototype, with many changes being made even after it was “done.” (Just this morning I filled in about 8 unused holes in the housing just because.)

Drive motor #1 didn’t last due to the needed torque (when the drum is full of dirty water it’s several hundred pounds; even on rollers it’s very difficult to turn). About the time the chain broke, both were upgraded.

Drive motor #2 was, frankly, intimidating, producing so much torque that it could literally rip the filter housing apart – which nearly happened when the heavier-duty chain came off, which happened all too frequently. More and more modifications were made to try and contain the chain, which kept wanting to come off the sprockets. No matter how well aligned it was, I’d frequently come home from work and find once again it had jumped off. This stops the drum from rotating, it loads up with waste, and becomes extremely heavy. While the water finds its way around, the weight eventually broke one of the drum’s rollers, and that’s when I finally got fed up with a chain-drive setup.

What I originally wanted was direct-drive, where a motor and integral gearbox drive the drum on its axis with no chain or sprockets; the catch being that they’re very expensive. The sad irony is that I spent more on other approaches than just doing it the right way the first time. Even so, drive motor #3 was a compromise, a motor and gearbox designed for – no kidding- hog roasting. Running on 12V, it produces 60 ft-lbs torque and its unloaded speed is 5 rpm, or one rotation every 12 seconds. That’s a bit too fast but it came with a speed controller so it was backed off to 3 rpm, or half a rotation every 10 seconds. (Only half the drum is submerged so only half of it has to be cleaned each time.)

In the pictures below is the entire filter setup. The white and black pipes in the foreground are the drains and returns. The drum filter is the tan container, and the black container under the brown cover is the moving-bed bio section. On the output of that is a homebuilt UV light. The two brown barrels are sand and gravel filters, which filter what the skimmer catches and produces near swimming-pool-clear water. The black container next to the pond is waiting to go into its spot; it’s the “header tank” for the filteration system that every overflow and drain will lead to. It’ll hold a sump pump that can be directed to feed the future vegetable garden or the front or rear bank. Since we already have the water, may as well use it on the plants instead of wasting it.

So yeah, there’s still a lot to do, but as of this morning – finally – the direct drive is installed and working, so I can hopefully now work on the pond when I want to, rather than having to constantly babysit the situation during this transitional phase.

Working in the yard everyday means seeing various yard guests. This dragonfly was attracted by the pond so I took the chance he’d hang around long enough to get the camera. This 200 mm macro lens is pretty amazing, though being effectively manual-focus makes a tripod almost a requirement. I didn’t want to take the time though and just took a lot of photos and picked the best one. He was pretty skittish but I was able to get about two feet from him, which fills the frame with this lens. The fine detail in his wings and face is really something, but I’ve always thought macro photography of plants and bugs was pretty cool.