19 July 2012

Little Garden

I've been growing a garden every year for a few years now. Up until now I've stuck with the standards: carrots, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, peppers, onions, potatoes, etc. This year I wanted to try some perennial eddibles. Something unusual, maybe difficult. I've already had my strawberries for a year and a half, but that's a pretty normal plant. After careful runner control, this year the plants are quite large and healthy. I've enjoyed several berries and my kids even more than me.
  This year I've planted four dwarf fruit trees. Dwarf types dont get very big. Like 10 feet tall max. I had a semi-dwarf apple tree when we moved in, but the fruit was sour and left a mess all over the yard. I pulled it out and now have pear, peach, red apple, and apricots. It will be a few years before I get any fruit, but when I do it will be awesome.
  I also thought I'd try asparagus and artichokes. The asparagus came up nicely and next year I'll be able to enjoy some sprouts. They take a couple years to get established, but will provide for several years after that. Artichokes have a harvest time of 180-365 days. I was not expecting to get anything this year, and frankly expected the plant to freeze over the winter. However I was very surprised to discover the other day 5 artichoke heads on my plant! I'll be eating them this season. If the plant dies this winter, I'm still happy I got one harvest, and I'll likely plant another.

Here is my perennial garden. Strawberries along the front left, artichoke at front right. apricot tree in the corner (yet to be planted), Black beans (not perennial, but it was a good spot) on the fence, and asparagus. There is a pumpkin plant, but it's not really going to get anywhere. I had garlic between the strawberries and the artichoke. They have been harvested already.
  I plan to let the strawberries take up the whole front raised area. Maybe let the asparagus spread along the inner wall a bit. Dwarf tree in the corner. Artichokes or something else in the rest of the space. Melons or cucumbers could fit.

12 July 2012

Little Engines

I realized that I don't have photos of all my engines on the web. So here they are. All the little engines I've made over the last 4 years.
 Connecting rod model. This is a single acting model to show the connecting rod mechanism. The valving is done inside the bearing with the shaft.
Here is a wobbler model. This was my first engine. Valving is done by moving the entire piston so the ports align.
 This is the largest layout so far. large 3" flywheel driven by two double acting pistons. It's not super smooth running due to defects in the valve box. I might go back some day and try again. I still need to string up the rope and belt to spin the generator at the far end, and build the governor.
 This is a model of the Scotch Yoke to convert linear to rotary motion. It works well but is not balanced. Valving is again done in the bearing with the shaft.
 I picked the Grasshopper because of all the unusual moving parts.It's actually pretty smooth and works well. single cylinder double acting with a home-cast 3" flywheel.
The latest engine. Designed to run in model boats. The  valving is on top using an oscillating rod. Hard to get port alignment clean. I have a whole post about this engine posted earlier. Very smooth runner, in fact will run on lung power which is about 3-4 PSI!

02 July 2012

New Motorcycle Computer

That little bicycle computer I have been using was a lifesaver. However it has a bad habit of resetting itself on occasion. That really throws off my efficiency calculations and I don't like it. I've also been considering adding a tachometer. Not that I need one, but I like to see data! So my bike speedo reset again recently and I was mad enough at it that I bought a TrailTech Vapor computer. It does nearly everything. Speed, tach, and engine temperature! With a backlight so I can see it in the dark! I didn't want to spend the $100 for it.. but bought it anyway mad as I was.
  Well, I received it and figured out where to mount it. Pretty much right where the bike speedo was! I like to see my gauges without having to look too far off center. It just turns out this is a good place for me. I made a mounting bracket from some scrap aluminum I had and painted it black. Looks clean!
  I had to extend the RPM pickup wire and the temperature sensor. Easy enough to solder another 12" in. I wired the power to the key switch. This make it function like you'd expect it to. The backlight comes on with the key. I don't know why they recommend to wire it always hot. I hooked up all the sensors (wheel pulse, spark plug temperature, RPM wire) and it looked great! However when I started the engine the MPH jumped all over the place. I had this same issue with the bike speedometer but thought it was because it was ungrounded or poor design. I was expecting a speedometer designed for a motorcycle to not be susceptible to electrical engine noise.
  After some tech-support and forum messaging the solution is simple: disconnect the tack pickup wire from the computer. It can still pickup the RPM from the general noise (very sensitive!) and it doesn't affect the speed. Now I'm quite happy with it and love to see my RPM and engine temperature. Now, I'm glad I did it and probably should have done it earlier!