New position within IBM

It’s been effective for a week, so I guess I can spill the beans here and say that I’ve shifted to a new executive position within IBM, namely to be the Vice President for WebSphere Foundation Product Management in the Software Group. I’ll have more to say about this over time, but basically it means that my team works with development, sales and marketing to drive the WebSphere Application server line and products like WebSphere eXtreme Scale. These are significant unto themselves but also underlie some of the most important software products that IBM sells. That’s not a totally inclusive list, but you get the idea.

Obviously we’re not just concerned about what we have already but also will be driving the plans for new products and the next generation of current ones that fit within that “foundation” area of the stack of IT software. Stay tuned.

Some of you might ask “didn’t you sort of do something similar about 6 or 7 years ago?”. Yes and no, sort of.

When I was last here in 2003-4, the world was just figuring out the commercial benefits of applying XML to business problems and web services was pretty new. There were several open source app servers and Oracle had not yet bought BEA and Sun. We were about to enter into the SOA era that led us to the current cloud era. Also, I had a marketing position, something I had never done before. This role is more of a blend of the business and the technical.

I learned a lot during that time but the IT world has evolved significantly, as have our products. We’re all right on the cusp of doing even more wonderful things with this core technology we as an industry have developed, so it’s a great time to move back and help drive it from the inside.

What does this mean for the blog?

  • I will not use it as marketing vehicle for products, though I may provide links to things I think of interest.
  • I’ll still talk about all those extraneous topics like gardening, sailing, cooking, and not playing the guitar well.
  • The discussion of standards will probably increase again.
  • I’ll keep talking about Linux and providing links to interesting articles, but more from a user or enterprise consumer perspective.
  • The amount I’ve said about open source lately has decreased primarily because I’ve largely exhausted many of the discussion areas that interest me, and I don’t like repeating myself. There will still be some content about open source, but it will be at about the same level it’s been for the last six months.
  • I’ll be ramping up the discussion of Java and other languages, programming frameworks, tools, cloud, mobile, runtime considerations, and application integration. Much of this has been present from time to time, but will increase.

Boat in the water, mast almost up

Today is the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The weather this spring in northwest New York has been unusually wet with rain at least five days out of seven every week. Gardening is delayed, lawn mowing is catch-as-catch-can, and it’s been a chore getting our sailboat Amanda ready and into the water.

The boat came out of the water early last October slightly earlier than expected because of a frayed forestay, the cable that runs from the top of the mast to the front, or bow of the boat. Since I had no idea how old the other cables were, I decided to replace them all. That meant that the forestay, the backstay, the two upper shrouds, the two front shrouds, and the two aft shrouds had to go.

While I was at it, I ordered a new jib halyard and mainsail halyard, the ropes that raise and lower the two sails. All these replacement parts arrived during the winter and I stored them with the other boating odds and ends I kept inside for the winter.

Starting a couple of weeks ago, I began working on getting the boat, a 1988 Catalina 22, ready for the season. Last week my son Will and I completely removed the mast from the boat and put it on sawhorses in the garage. Then, little by little, I started taking things off and replacing them with the newer counterparts.

I began with the halyards because there were only two of them and I could claim progress faster. These ropes go entirely through the mast, so it is unwise just to pull out the old ones. Rather, for each halyard I used a needle and thread to sew together the new rope to the old, and then covered the joint with some tape. I then pulled the old halyard through the mast and out, the new one following it and installing itself.

The shrouds were more time consuming since I had to remove pins holding the tops of the cables. These were held in place by small cotter pins that were not easy to grab and then remove. I worked my way through them, along with the fore- and the backstay.

During the evenings this last week I refinished the tiller, the curved oak piece that moves the rudder and hence is used for steering. The finish on it was chipped and it had several rough spots. I removed all the hardware, sanded the tiller down to the bare wood, put on five coats of exterior grade polyurethane, and replaced the hardware.

For the rudder itself, I thoroughly cleaned it and put a new coat of antifouling plaint on the portion of it that stays under the water for the four month season. This paint contains copper and that’s now the color of the bottom of the rudder, though I have it on good authority that it will turn the intended blue after a few weeks in the water.

Yesterday and today I loaded the boat with all the other things I need on it: the battery, the gas tank, the GPS, the portable VHF radio, the above mentioned tiller and rudder, some water, soda, and some snacks. I also remembered to put on the new license plate that also arrived this winter.

Today I gave the boat a final scrubbing and then Will and I put the mast on top of the boat and strapped it down. I did not connect the shrouds to the boat at this point, though normally the center and aft shrouds would be for transport. We attached the trailer to the car, checked that the lights worked, and put the outboard motor in the back of the car.

Bob and Will getting ready to bring the boat to Lake OntarioTogether with my wife Judith we drove to our yacht club on Lake Ontario east of Rochester, NY. Once there, we removed the mast to make it easier to get the boat in the water.

It was at this point that I remembered that I left the key for the three locks on the boat at home. This was not a problem for the cabin since I had not locked it, but it was for the gas tank. Luckily a fellow club member walked by and told me about some bolt cutters in the utility shed. They made short work of the lock (scary, actually), and I had access to gas for the motor. Will and I then mounted the Tohatsu 6hp outboard.

With Judith directing and Will in the rear of the boat, we backed the trailer down the boat ramp and eased the sailboat into the water. The lake, like most bodies of water around here right now, is higher than usual and I didn’t have to get the trailer very far into the water to give the boat enough buoyancy to rise and move off. The motor started right up and we slowly moved the boat around the marina into our slip.

We set the fenders and the dock lines, placed the still-not-raised mast on top of the boat, and headed home.

On Monday Will and I plan to head back up the lake on Monday to raise the mast. Connecting the shrouds and the forestay will be easy, but we have a some work to do on the new backstay. Its configuration is different from the old one, so it will take some staring at the under-documented instructions and experimentation to get it right. After that, we’ll put up the boom and the mainsail.

If there’s a fair wind, we might even get Amanda out on Ontario, but I would settle for raising the mast and getting her ready to go.

Visit your local farmers market

There was a very good article today in our local newspaper, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, about farmers markets in the area. The paper listed many of the local markets along with the days they start their seasons, when they are open, contact information, and, often, websites.

Even if you do your own gardening, farmers markets can be a great place to pick up local prepared foods like baked goods, jams and jellies, as well as crafts. It helps you support your local economy and cut down on the carbon cost of getting your food to you.

The US Department of Agriculture maintains a website that will help you find a market near you.

Gardening 2011: Getting ready to start the seeds indoors

Two months ago I bought my first vegetable seeds for this summer’s growing season here in northwest New York, climate zone 5b. On that day in February it was 10 degrees F (-12 C), today it is 49 F (9 C) at 11 am, and sunny. Today’s weather doesn’t make too much difference because I’ll be starting the seeds in the basement.

Over this and several more blog entries, I’ll chart their progress. Here I’ll review my seed inventory. These are the seeds I bought from Seeds of Change two months ago:

This is what I ordered and just received from High Mowing Organic Seeds:

Many of these will be started directly in the soil around the third week of May. However, I’ll need to get the tomatoes and peppers started this weekend, and then the broccoli in two weeks.

As I looked at the lists above, I realized that I forgot to buy basil seeds, so will need to pick some up later today.

Perusing the High Mowing catalog now and seeing what is sold out might be a good way to get a jump start on seeds you may want to order next season, albeit quite early.

Next up I’ll look at getting the seeds into some soil.


In my search for basil, I was not able to find organic seeds locally, so I had to go with some standard ones. I also took the opportunity to pick up a couple of other packets:

The Gardening 2011 series

More spring cleanup

Two weeks ago I posted an entry about checking up on the grounds around the house to see what was happening on the first day of spring. Since then I’ve had two business trips (POSSCON and NASA Open Source Summit) and the weather turned colder and gave us half a foot of snow. Spring is trying to happen again, so I got outside for another couple of hours. Here’s some of what I did.

Woody border cleanup

Between us and the next house down the hill there is a woody border containing about a dozen black walnut trees, a few scrubby pines, odd bushes, some ground cover plants like ivy, and sumac saplings.

The sumacs are weeds. Several years ago I spent days cleaning out all the trees but the saplings keep coming back. This is the best time of the year to cut them out, before they leaf. I probably lopped off 50 saplings an inch or less in diameter and perhaps a dozen two to three times larger. The area looks a lot better now, albeit not very green yet. I added them to the big pile of brush I’ve been building and will need to move them into the woods at the back of the property with my son.

There are very few choices for things to plant under black walnuts, but this year I plan to put in half a dozen young maple trees. They will survive the juglone put out by the black walnut roots, but it might be too shady under the walnut canopy for them to grow very fast. It’s worth a try.

The border between the grass and the woody area is irregular, mostly what I establish when I mow the lawn. We have many hosta growing on the property and these transplant very well, so I plan to start moving some over to better define the boundary.


The boat is still out of commission, covered with large tarps behind the garage. I didn’t put quite enough support under the tarps last fall so water collects in pockets on top. I’ve drained them several times, but they came back with the snow and rain of recent weeks.

My general process is to put a short length of hose in a watery area and then siphon out the liquid. Sometimes I can get underneath and lift the tarp so the water flows out. Two bad things can happen, and do with disturbing regularity:

  1. The water comes off the tarp and onto me. Cold water soaking and running down my arm is really unpleasant. Today a burst of water hit me in the head and filled my left ear. I really was trying to avoid this.
  2. I get water in my mouth as I try to start the syphon with the hose. This only happened once today because I’m getting better at it. It is rain water so I’m not terribly concerned about its purity, but I rinse my mouth out with Listerine just in case. I could use a pump of some sort but this is “greener.”

Next year I plan to keep the boat indoors somewhere, somehow.

New vegetable garden

I’ve decided that I will not be keeping the garden in the same place this year after two rather frustrating summer growing seasons.  I’ve either got a tomato blight or the black walnut roots extend farther than I thought, but in any case I’m giving up on that location.

My plan is to put the new garden several hundred feet farther back in the middle of what is now an open area of lawn. That should keep it away from the walnuts and give it a lot more sun. It will involve tilling the grassy area just as soon as I possibly can so I can repeat several times before the end of May, as well as constructing a new fence.

This is a vegetable garden, so I can’t use pressure treated wood for the fence, but I have a few ideas. More on that when I break ground.

Gardening 2011: First seed purchases

It’s February 3, six to eight inches of snow cover the ground here in northwest New York, climate zone 5b, and it is 10 degrees F. Just to tempt me, our local Wegmans supermarket is now selling gardening seeds at 25% off.

Even though I can’t get the plants in the ground until the end of May and therefore will be starting seeds at the beginning of April, I gave in.

This year I’ve decided to go only with strictly organic seeds. This is what I picked up this morning:

High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog coverI’ll probably purchase my remaining seeds online either from Seeds of Change or High Mowing Organic Seeds. I had good luck with the latter last summer, wild foraging animals notwithstanding.

Last year I started my seeds in the basement on April 2 and while I had enough light, the seeds just weren’t warm enough to germinate quickly. This year I ordered two warming mats to go under the flats. Once the seeds are uncovered I’ll use a small fan to improve air circulation around the seedlings.

But all that is two months away. For now I’ll just collect seeds and get ready for spring.

The Gardening 2011 series

Daily links for 01/06/2011

  • “NOFA-NY members are a living tribute to the importance of diversity; from gardeners to farmers, from cut flowers to grass-raised beef, our membership includes commercial producers, homesteaders, backyard gardeners, food justice activists, eaters, and countless others. It’s as important in our movement as it is in our fields, which is why we’ve chosen Diggin’ Diversity as the theme for our 2011 Conference.”

    tags: organic farming gardenng ny

  • “It seems that Amazon will employ a mechanism similar to that used to set book prices, where sellers set an initial list price which later fluctuates over time, discounts are offered to attract buyers, all in an attempt to maximize profits. For developers, Amazon’s most attractive selling point, beside reaching tens of millions of customers, is its methods for tracking what customers are interested in, offering them products that are likely to be bought.”

    tags: amazon android appstore

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review of the blog for 2010 – April through June

I’m continuing my survey of what I blogged about in the fourth through sixth months of the year, or 2Q10 for you business people out there.

Last time: “Review of the blog for 2010 – January through March”

starting seedsIn April it was time to stop thinking about gardening as a way of getting through the winter and begin prepping by starting seeds. Although I ultimately got quite a few seedlings, the basement was too cold for them to get a fast start. This year I’ll have to add some heating in addition to the lights I rigged last year.

By mid-April the Apple iPad had been announced though I did not have one yet. I began thinking about how mathematical software should be designed for tablets with multitouch interfaces. The user interfaces will eventually be quite sophisticated though I worry that the amount of memory in the devices won’t be enough, especially in the iPad, for a generation or two.

I continued writing about Linux with a piece about why so many people choose that open source operating system for appliances, essentially turn-key software and (often) hardware devices that are configured for particular applications.

At the end of April I got my iPad with 3G and after spending the weekend fiddling with it, wrote a blog entry about using the device as an ebook reader. Eight months later, that philosophy still guides me as decide which books to buy in paper versus digital.

In May I joined thousands of other travelers by having my plans disrupted because of ash from the Icelandic volcano. All in all, it didn’t turn out to be a terrible experience, but I didn’t know that would be the case as the drama unfolded. By the way, I was stuck in Frankfurt on my way home from Munich. I did a photo blog entry with images from my last evening in that city.

A recurring series in the blog is “Life with Linux.” In May I installed the Ubuntu 10.4 LTS (long term support) release, several weeks after it became available. The process wasn’t glitch-free, but I was pleased with the results. The installation of the October release would not end up going so easily.

In June I expanded some of my “hard questions about open source” topics into full blown blog entries:

I love May because it is really spring by then and flowers are blooming all around the property. I had also had my iPad for a month and wrote a short retrospective about what it had been like having the device. It was a good decision to get 3G as it has made Internet access nearly universal when I travel. So far I’ve only lost the iPad once when I left at the barber shop on Main Street.

mapThe month and quarter ended with my recounting a family trip in “Driving a UHaul from upstate NY to Chicago.” It was an adventure and except for massive power outages in the city and parts of Indiana, went without incident.

Next up: more fun with Linux, the iPad, and gardening; IBM adopts Firefox; and Bob buys a sailboat.

Review of the blog for 2010 – January through March

With a little more than a week left in 2010, I thought I would go back and review some of the themes and entries from this blog since January. In many ways it was a strange year and my writing cadence was much more irregular than the last few years. I’m definitely feeling the effect of Twitter, as it is so much easier to throw out the germ of an idea as a tweet rather than let it sit and develop into something longer and more thought out.

January started out with a lot of new technology under the covers as I had decided to archive the old blog I had been running since 2004 and start again with the latest version of WordPress. I also began using a new blog theme, Atahualpa, that had hundreds of options, a feature I came to really dislike as the year went on.

Gardening was on my mind, or at least buying seeds, as was my first trip to Lotusphere in Orlando. In 2010 I started putting a lot more photos in the blog, which reminds me that I haven’t done that in a while.

The blog entries that attracted the most attention had to do with Linux as a gaming platform, and they continue to get a lot of hits:

February was a mixed bag of topics, as are most months. I write according to my interests at the time. Most of my ideas for entries come to me when I am doing some else, like painting a wall or driving in the car.

The Open Document Format, ODF, has a recurring part here and I’ve been writing about it for at least 4 years. In the piece called “What would ODF support for WordPress look like?” I wondered what it would be like if my favorite blogging platform added support for import and export of the only true office productivity open format standard that’s out there.

I was still tinkering with virtual worlds in February, with entries about Twinity, opensim, and SecondLife. I’ve now ceased almost all personal activity in that space outside of World of Warcraft. The requirements for success I outlined in 2007 have still not been implemented, though technologies like Kinect may improve the situation. The most successful entry on this theme during the month was “Virtual Life with Linux: Standalone OpenSim on Ubuntu 9.10″. That’s technology worth checking in on from time to time to see how much progress has been made.

There is still no word “heighth.”

Though I did not blog about it, my son and I went to Florida in February to escape winter in upstate New York. It must have been the coldest February of the decade in Florida. Next time, farther south.

Many of the blog entries I write originate in misunderstandings or misstatements I hear in my travels. So it was with “Thinking about open source: There are three types of software …”.

Though spring officially begins in March in the northern hemisphere, it can take longer to get here in upstate New York. The availability of bunnies and chicks at the local farm supply store helped me feel that winter was coming to an end, though a walk on the Erie Canal reminded me that it was not over yet.

I spoke at OSBC in San Francisco during March and discussed “the hard questions about open source software,” a topic I was to return to over and over (and over and over) during the remainder of the year. It was a great source for many discussion ideas and I’m toying with the idea of doing a much bigger work on the theme.

Finally, to end the first quarter of 2010 I bemoaned the still oddly primitive state of affairs for presentations and the software that creates them:

Next up: spring arrives, and I have the photos to prove it, and I get an iPad and start wondering about how to properly do math software on tablets.

My changing supply chain for getting information

It’s important to stay flexible and experiment as new technologies come along that can get you the information you need and want in a timely manner.

When the web was new in the 1990s, I had many browser bookmarks and I could cover most of the important websites. This quickly got out of hand as the number of sites increased exponentially, and so I reduced my bookmarks to a couple dozen important ones and depended on search to find what I wanted.

Alta Vista was my favorite for some time, but it eventually got replaced by Google. I dabbled with a few others and will still sometimes look at the secondary search engines to see what they list and in what priority. Using Google, I could pull the information I wanted down to me if I knew the right keywords. For what it’s worth as a confession, I hardly ever look at the ads and in fact I use AdBlocker Plus in Firefox to skip most of them.

When feeds, via RSS and then later Atom, became available, I started using feedreaders. I wasn’t interested in ones that were desktop applications because I used many different machines. Thus I gravitated toward web-based readers and, in particular, used Bloglines. I could subscribe to many sites and Bloglines would aggregate the feeds for me, saving me the trouble of bouncing from site to site.

I read this morning that Bloglines in shutting down on October 1. This doesn’t affect me because I switched to Google Reader long ago. I still use Google Reader but the problem is that with 50+ feed sources, the number of entries to read can easily exceed 1000 if I let it go a few days. Indeed, I probably only glance at Google Reader once a week and I’m actively thinking that I am dedicating time to the task while I am doing. That is, using Google Reader is well defined task that consumes my personal intellectual resources in block of time.

Another issue is that I tend to read the news from sites that come earlier alphabetically. So ars technica gets read in Google Reader often, ZDNet not so much. Still, I keep Google Reader alive and reasonably up-to-date subscription-wise. However, if it went away, I would not be bereft.

Most of my knowledge about what gets published on the web now gets pushed to me. I have half a dozen or so Google Alerts that I get daily and I can scan the results in a few seconds. If I find I’m ignoring an alert, I refine or delete it. No mercy!

Other key sources are Twitter and Facebook. I think of Twitter as something that sits in my peripheral vision, almost like a stock ticker. I might miss some information when it first appears, but if it is important it will be retweeted and I have a greater chance of seeing it later. Thus I follow not just the primary web and news sites but also people who are likely to retweet information that I care about. Thus I don’t think of the people I follow as a list but more of a structured graph related to things I care to know about.

Facebook is similar but the news if usually much more at a personal level. Indeed, I would prefer not to see Facebook entries that are fed from Twitter as I consider it redundant. When I first started using Twitter and Facebook, there was an impedance mismatch since the volume of my tweets was much higher than what should appear in Facebook.

My wife got annoyed and some of her friends remarked at the large number of Facebook updates from me, most of which were also on Twitter. I broke that connection and now actively think about what I want to say on Twitter and what I want to say on Facebook. Sometimes I put the same information in both, but that’s rare.

I use reddit from time to time to see interesting content, but I usually look at areas by category such as “sailing” and “gardening.” It is currently one of the best sources for driving readers to my blog.

By the way, I learned about the shutdown of Bloglines on Twitter and I followed a link to a blog entry. I probably have that blog entry somewhere in Google Reader, but I’ll probably do a mass “mark as read” to clear the queue before I ever see it there.

Weekend images, before the work

Before my son and I started working in the backyard on Saturday I took a few photos related to the work to be done. One of my first errands in the morning was to go to the farm market and get a few additional vegetable plants for the garden. Half a flat quickly turned into two flats as I walked up and down the aisles.

Earlier in the week I had three yards of screened topsoil delivered so that William and I could grade the lawn falling off the west side of the driveway. To give you an idea of how much this is, each cubic yard is 27 cubic feet, so with this much dirt you could spread soil 6 inches deep over an area of 2 x 3 x 27 = 162 square feet.

The backyard The backyard

I’ve already tilled the vegetable garden twice this Spring and it will get one more deep tilling before the seeds and plants go in. One of the neighbor deer is impatient for me to put up her evening buffet of vegetables.

The backyard The backyard

Life in the garden, end of May

There are two days left to May, but it feels like Summer here in northwest New York State. I will be planting the vegetable garden tomorrow, but there are plenty of plants in bloom or making good showings before Spring says goodbye for 2010. Here’s a visual update, one month after I last showed the flora in the backyard.

Flowers at the end of May, 2010 Flowers at the end of May, 2010 Flowers at the end of May, 2010 Flowers at the end of May, 2010 Flowers at the end of May, 2010 Flowers at the end of May, 2010

Next: “Almost summer in the garden”


Two weeks ago tomorrow I planted some seeds for this summer’s vegetable garden and put them under grow lights in the basement. (“Starting the seeds for the Summer vegetable garden”) Dissatisfied after 10 days with having no growth evident, I moved the whole operation upstairs to the ping pong table in a sunny room.

Two days ago I say the first evidence of growth and yesterday, when this photo was taken, things were well underway.

Seeds sprouting

These are baby tomato plants and some of the basil has started to sprout. I’m still waiting for the peppers to make an appearance. Once I get solid growth in the majority of the cells, I’ll move the operation back to the basement.

Spring 2010 is well underway

Every week or so I’ve been documenting the flowers and flowering shrubs that have been making progress over our long winter here in northwestern New York (climate zone 5b). This last week has shown the great activity so far because it made it into the 80s F last weekend and, though it’s cooled off, we’ve had plenty of sunshine and some rain as well.

Here’s where we stand today.

Spring flowers Spring flowers Spring flowers Spring flowers Spring flowers Spring flowers

Still no sign of sprouting in the vegetable seeds I planted 9 days ago.

Next: “End of April flower status”

Daily links for 04/04/2010

  • “I would love those of you out there reading this who have never tasted veg grown in your own soil, to taste the sweetness of a crop which results from your own sweat and clay coated fingers. So that’s my plan, starting now and continuing at opportune points throughout the year, I will lead you through the creation, sowing and harvesting of your own home grown veg. There is no time like the present, come on, lets get a jump on the growing season by looking at a location for your productive garden.”

    tags: vegetable, garden

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Starting the seeds for the Summer vegetable garden

I had targeted April 1 to start the seeds indoors for my vegetable garden for this Summer, and I only missed by one day. Last year I bought plants and started seeds in the ground, but did not begin any in early Spring. Usually you begin them inside 6 to 8 weeks before they should be transplanted outdoors, allowing for one week hardening outside before they go in the ground. I live in the northwest corner of New York State, in climate zone 5b.

I decided to use the Burpee “Ultimate Growing System.” This provides 72 cells and makes it much easier to keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate and get underway. You can put together your own system, but since it’s been several years since I started seeds I decided to keep it simple. I may need to transplant the seedlings to Jiffy pots if they get quite large, but that’s a decision for down the line.

Today I only planted seeds for tomatoes, peppers and basil. The majority of the seeds will be planted in the garden directly in mid-May, but I may start a few more seeds this weekend for flowers like Zinnias.

I ended up planting seeds for 6 varieties of tomatoes, hoping to get 3 plants of each; 4 varieties of peppers, hoping to get 4 plants of each; and 2 varieties of basil. Almost all the tomato and pepper cells were single seed plantings while the basil had 4 or 5 in each. Basil seeds are very small and it will be fine if I get more than one plant per cell. Cherry tomato seeds are also quite small, so those were double planted.

Each row of seeds was labeled with permanent ink on a plastic label, and the codes are reflected in the table below. I’ll augment the table to include other data as the process continues.

Seed starting

Label Type Variety Seeds Per Cell Days to Germination Germination Rate
T1 Tomato High Mowing Seeds Rose de Berne 1 - -
T2 Tomato High Mowing Seeds Sunkist F1 Hybrid 1 - -
T3 Tomato Burpee Big Boy Hybrid 1 - -
T4 Tomato Burpee Supersteak Hybrid 1 - -
T5 Tomato Burpee Super Sweet 100 Cherry Hybrid 2 - -
T6 Tomato Ferry-Morse Red Cherry 2 - -
B1 Basil Ferry-Morse Sweet 4-5 - -
B2 Basil Ferry-Morse Genovese 4-5 - -
P1 Pepper Burpee Crispy Hybrid 1 - -
P2 Pepper Burpee California Wonder 1 - -
P3 Pepper Ferry-Morse Anaheim 1 - -
P4 Pepper High Mowing Seeds Ring-O-Fire 1 - -

Once everything was planted, I put the whole contraption under grow lights in the basement. The lights are on a timer to be on between 7 AM and 7 PM.

Seed starting

Next: “Sprouts!”

Daily links for 04/01/2010

Red Hat logo

  • Red Hat, Inc. (RHT 29.27, +0.34, +1.18%) , the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced the availability of the fifth update to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 platform, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5. Adding features designed to operate across physical, virtual and cloud deployments, the update offers enhanced virtualization and interoperability capabilities combined with support for important new hardware platforms. As with all Red Hat updates, application compatibility and certification with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 platform is fully maintained, meaning the broad portfolio of certified applications for Red Hat Enterprise Linux applies to the new update. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5 is available to subscribing customers via Red Hat Network today.”

    tags: red-hat, linux

  • “The Python programming language has gained popularity as one of the components of the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and Python/Perl/PHP) stack. Python has seen a resurgence in programmer interest, and dynamic languages such as Ruby and Python have emerged as alternatives to languages like Java and C#.”

    tags: python, cloud, eweek

  • “Unseasonable temperatures forecast to hit 70 degrees greeted anglers today for the opening of trout season on New York’s inland waters.”

    tags: trout

  • Apple iPad

    “The first Apple iPad reviews are in and not-too-surprisingly they are all bullish on the device. Unfortunately, you’re not going to learn much about the iPad from the reviews until you take one for a spin and ponder your own personal use case scenarios.”

    tags: ipad, Apple

  • “OUR horseradish roots looked so innocent when they arrived in the mail last spring. Just little brown sticks, about eight inches long and as narrow as pencils.

    But last weekend, when we harvested the year-old roots of one plant, they were on the atomic side of hot.”

    tags: horseradish, gardening

  • “As unlikely as it sounds, some people are willingly, even enthusiastically, spending upward of $1,000 on shredders heavy duty enough to reduce personal documents and other items to the consistency of confetti — particularly during tax season, or high shredding season, when shredder sales peak every year.”

    tags: shredders, nytimes

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Daily links for 02/28/2010 – Gardening Edition

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Post mortem on the 2009 vegetable garden

vegetable garden in snow

Last year I blogged about the vegetable garden I put in and my trials and tribulations in protecting it from critters. Today my garden looks like what’s shown in the photo on the right. I live and garden in the northwest corner of New York State in the United States.

Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to review what I did right and wrong last year as I start to think about my 2010 vegetable garden.

Last year was the first year in about eight that I decided to put in a vegetable garden. In the past I have gardened quite a bit, but I had not made the time to continue it from year to year. Also, we have a particularly obnoxious bush-like weed that spreads via thick, deep underground roots, so it’s a battle all season long to help the vegetables win. I was pretty successful in this this last year, but it was a lot of work.


As I just mentioned, that weed is very hardy and persistent. If I keep the garden where it is now, I may rent a small backhoe to dig down and pull up all the roots. One key reason to move the garden is to get it away from the black walnut trees that ring the property and are near the driveway. The part of the garden that is toward the front of the photo is just over the drip line for a black walnut and so only certain plants will grow there.

If I move the garden, it will be a lot further back in the property and centered in a grassy area. However, it will be very difficult to water and I’ll need to rely on rainfall for the most part.

That brings me to …

The Fence

The fence I installed did a good job keeping out the deer, especially once I extended it by a couple of feet around the corn. The deer just nibbled on the corn over the top of the fence until I added two more feet of fence.

The right side of the garden was entirely in sunflowers and corn:

Lemon Queen Sunflower Sundance Sweet Corn Sugar Dots Sweet Corn Peaches and Cream Sweet Corn Garden Cross Bantam Sweet Corn Velvet Queen Sunflower

From left to right, the corn moved from earlier to later varieties for harvesting. Probably 40% of the entire garden was planted in corn. It looked pretty promising.

We didn’t get one ear of it. The raccoons ate it all, though they didn’t bother anything else.

This next year I’m not going to bother with corn at all. To keep out the raccoons I would either have to install an electric fence or completely enclose (encage?) the garden, sides and top. I’m not going to do that. So next year I’ll have more room for vegetable and maybe try something new, like pumpkins.

Peppers, Tomatoes, and Basil

The peppers I planted in the ground were fantastic, though those I put in a container did not do well. This year I’ll be expanding the group to more varieties and only put them in the ground.

While we did get some tomatoes, it’s clear they were affected by the blight. I needed to get a replacement tomato plant and I picked up one from a home center on a whim, and I think that infected the rest of the crop.

The basil crop was strong, though late in arriving. This year I plan to start many of my plants directly from seed. They’ll need to get going around April 1, so I’ll have more on that as I get closer. I’ve ordered several packets from some catalog sources, and I’ll go through how I’ll make my final choices.

Squash and Cucumbers

The Garden Spineless F1 Hybrid Zucchini Squash grew well (too well), and produced a large crop. I need to stagger the planting of the seeds this year to not get inundated with zucchini. This is an old joke, but we were indeed told when we moved to this village that people locked their cars in summer so that others would not put zucchini in them.

The Summer Pac F1 Hybrid Calabaza Yellow Squash was a disappointment because it was more of a gourd than a yellow zucchini. I blame myself and will need to do more research this year.

The Marketmore Cucumbers produced a good crop and didn’t overwhelm us with volume. I grew many of them up the trellis I used earlier in the season for the snow peas, and that sort of worked. This next year I may build a wood ladder for them.

Beans and Peas

Both the Tender Green Improved Bush Beans and the Yellow Kinghorn Wax Bush Beans did very well, however they were too crowded. I fell victim to the urge to over plant too many vegetables in too small a space. This year I’ll either have more room because I’m not doing corn, or I’ll be in a larger space in a different location.

For peas I went with the sugar snap variety. We got a few, but I put them in too late. I should have started them around May 1, or even late April, but it was closer to the end of May by the time the garden was in shape. My mother always told me to get them in on St. Patrick’s Day, but around here the ground is still frozen and we’re likely to get more snow, so that’s not going to work.

Lettuce and Carrots

I got a lot of lettuce but should have staggered the crop. The carrots grew very slowly and we didn’t get to harvest very many. Next year I need to explicitly amend the soil where I plant the carrots with a lot of sand.


The major lessons in my return to vegetable gardening were:

  • If the deer don’t get you, the raccoons will. Watch about for ground hogs as well.
  • Your fence can never be too tall.
  • Plant half the vegetables you want to plant in the space you have available.

Sources and Books

In a previous blog entry I gave some good sources for vegetable seeds. If you want to go organic, pay very close attention to the seed descriptions or else go with an all-organic provider like High Mowing Organic Seeds. Rob Weir also posted a good blog entry with ten seed providers for New England gardeners.

There are hundreds of books about vegetable gardening, some of which are specialized to specific parts of the US or the world. Here are some that I’ve found to be quite good:

Almost Spring, in my dreams

Late yesterday afternoon I trudged from the car through the snow to a Home Depot to pick up a few things for a home project. After getting inside and shaking off the snow, I was met with a wonderful display of seeds for the garden.

Display of seeds

Around here, we can’t plant anything outside until May, and it’s usually late May at that. However, after the problems last year with the tomato blight, I decided to start my own seeds for some vegetables for this year’s garden. Therefore at some point I was planning on getting those seeds.

It’s certainly economical to do so: a pack of tomato seeds yielding one to two dozen plants is less than $2. To jump to the punchline, I did buy some seeds. I got 2 varieties of hot peppers, two of sweet peppers, two of basil, and four of tomatoes.

I’m not going to put plants from all the seeds into the garden, but since I’m not planting corn this year (the raccoons got all of it), I have a lot of extra room. So I might do half a dozen of each of the tomato and pepper varieties and then a lot of basil, most of it to be used for pesto. I’ll also plant other vegetables like lettuce, peas, and beans, but I’ll run through there when I publish the post mortem on last year’s garden.

Note that while I bought these seeds on impulse, my final selection of plants to start will be developed over the next couple of months. In particular, I’ll be looking at some organic seed providers such as High Mowing Seeds, based in Hardwick, VT. This company was featured in a one hour Emeril Green special in early January, 2010.

I’ll need to start the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before they must go outside, so that puts the date around April 1. I have some work to do before then on this project, primarily figuring out where I’ll put the seeds and how to set up a grow light. It’s all fun, and all helps the winter go by faster.

Also see: “Getting ready for Spring gardening in upstate NY” for suppliers of gardening supplies, plants, and seeds.

Getting ready for Spring gardening in upstate NY

Ok, it’s after New Year’s so I can officially start thinking about gardening again in about three months. I live in the northwest corner of New York State in the USA, so that very much affects what plants I can and can’t use. I’m in gardening zone 5B, which means that the lowest temperatures we can usually expect during winter are from -15 F to -10 F, or -26.1 C to -23.4 C.

Here are some gardening resources that I’ll be looking at in planning what I’ll be planting this year:

  • High Mowing Organic Seeds is an independently-owned, farm-based seed company dedicated to supporting sustainable agriculture and providing farmers and gardeners with the highest quality certified organic seed.” High Mowing is based in Hardwick, VT, and was featured in a one hour Emeril Green special.
  • logoBurpee’s Seeds: More seeds than you can imagine, but may not be local to your area. Where I live, these are often available at a great discount toward the end of winter at Wegmans supermarkets.
  • White Flower Farms: Great selection of plants, especially perennials and bulbs. I’ve bought their naturalizing collection of narcissus several times through the years.
  • logoPark Seed Co.: Another company with a huge selection of both seeds and seed starting apparatus. Same caveat as above about seeds perhaps not being local to your area.
  • Musser Forests: Great source of seedling and transplants for trees and shrubs. Located in Pennsylvania. I’m thinking of using them to start a small stand of future Christmas trees for our family.
  • Garden’s Alive!: As they say, “Environmentally Responsible Gardening Products that Work”. Good for supplies for organic gardening.
  • logoMiller Nurseries: A big selection of fruit trees, as well as raspberries and asparagus plants.

If you have favorite sources of plants and gardening supplies, please append a comment with the details.