Sunday, July 31, 2011

How To Water Your Garden While Cooking Dinner

Image from

How much time do you spend watering your garden?   A couple of hours per day?  Do you stand above your flower/vegetable beds, bushes and trees holding the nozzle at the end of your garden hose, watering from above?  Do you wish it were easier?  If you read what I have written below I guarantee, you will be able to water and do laundry or cook at the same time.  Who doesn't want to learn to juggle?

If you don't already know, it is best to water plants at ground level.  Watering at ground level puts the water where it is needed, at the roots.  Watering from above may cause all kinds of problems which could ultimately kill your plants.  Here are a few reasons not to water from above:
•Watering from above at the hotter times of day will leave drops of water on the leaves that could act as little magnifying lenses that will intensify the heat of the sun and damage the leaves.
•Watering from above in the evening will leave water on the leaves that could result in mildew, again damaging the leaves.  
•Watering from above wastes water because some of the water is easily changed into water vapor that evaporates into the air
•You probably don't stand in one spot long enough to get the proper amount of water to each plants

There are at least three methods to water at ground level.  The least expensive way to water at ground level is to lay a nozzleless hose on the ground at the base of a plant, bush or tree and leave the water on at a trickle for a long time.  This method limits the spread of the water to a small portion of the root system or flower/vegetable bed.  The ideal way to water at ground level is with a drip irrigation system of hoses and emitters, a filter, back flow valve, timer, moisture sensors and a fertilizer siphon.  That system will get expensive.  I have a less expensive process using a bit more labor (there are trade-offs in everything).  Here is my simple, inexpensive solution.

For this inexpensive system you only need two parts, one of which you most likely already own.  You will need your garden hose and at least a 8-10 ft section of 1/2" round soaker hose.  That is the total simple system.  Here is how it works.

The soaker hose is made of recycled automobile tires (that sounds green, give yourself a hug).  It has a female end that will screw onto your garden hose and a male end that usually comes with a cap to stop the water from just flowing through the hose and out the other end.  That is the system to water your flower and vegetable beds, bushes and trees.  Now that you have your system put together, I will describe how to expend your labor to make it work.

With your hose already attached to the spigot, attach the soaker hose to the garden hose.  Carry the soaker hose to the bed, bush or tree where you want to start your watering.  Lay down the hose around the tree, bush or snake it through the flower or vegetable bed.  Return to the faucet and turn it on to allow the water to flow.  You don't need it on full blast, use the trial and error method to figure out how much pressure to put on the soaker hose.  If you leave in the restricting washer that comes with the soaker hose, even though you turn on the spigot full blast the water will be restricted to a slow flow and low pressure on the soaker hose.  Avoid high pressure on the soaker hose as it will cause a hose wall blow out creating a hole that will defeat the purpose of the soaker hose altogether.  I turn on the spigot until I hear the water flowing then check the far end of the soaker hose to see the rate at which the water is seeping.  I don't want to see the water spraying from the hose like small fountains, just weeping like tears from a saddened child.  Now you can go back to other chores.  Note the time or set a timer for one hour.  When the timer alarm sounds or one hour has elapsed, check to see how far the water has seeped from the hose.  I like to see the ground wet at least 6" each side of the hose.  If you want, dig into the ground with your fingers, it should be wet at least 3" deep.  Now is the time to move the soaker hose to another bed, bush or tree.  Set the timer again and go back to chores, or photographing the birds in your backyard.

You could get even more sophisticated with this system. You can add multiple valves and a timer or get crazy with solenoids, moisture sensors and Arduinos but, I am trying to keep this simple and inexpensive.  I will explain a more sophisticated system in a later post.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gold Finch Images At Last

Black Thistle Filled Sock
It has been some time since I replaced the thistle sock outside my breakfast room window.  If you have been following my posts for the sock you will know that I emptied one sock, tried to stain it with tea and coffee to bring down the whiteness of it in photographs.  The drawstring on that one broke and I bought a new bag of thistle seeds.  I emptied the sock which had overwintered and was full of stale seed, refilling it with fresh seed.  Since I hung that newly filled sock, I haven't seen any gold finches feeding there.  They either don't know the location of the sock or are shy of its placement near the window.  In any case I did see a gold finch recently and it flew away as soon as I approached the window.  Several weeks have elapsed and within the last few days I have seen two and three gold finches on the sock at one time.  But, they still flew at my approach to the window.  I needed to change something.

My breakfast room window is large.  It is three single windows arranged in a bay.  Each window is 6', 1.8288m tall and together close to that wide.  Each window has wooden blinds of its own.  I lowered all of the blinds to the bottom of the window.  I rotated the left one closed, the middle and right blinds were angled down about 45º from the horizon.  Now I could see the bird bath and the thistle sock and had some cover from their sight.  At least that was what I thought.  The gold finches still flew if I approached the window quickly.

Again I needed to make a change.  This time I had my camera in hand and approached the bay from the left side, behind the completely closed blind.  Before I started towards the window on the right I checked my camera settings.  ISO-400, aperture priority exposure chosen, aperture set at f22, white balance-full sun, zoom lens fully extended and set to manual focus.  I could see the finches through the blinds of the middle window set at 45º.  I waited until the finch was behind the sock and almost out of my view.  I sneaked up to the right window closest to the sock and stood there, unmoving.  The finch looked around the sock and at me and didn't fly.  It went back to feeding.  I raised my camera and pushed the blind slats open enough to allow the barrel of the lens to be free of viewing obstructions.  Again, the finch stopped pulling seeds out of the sock and looked at me. Again it didn't fly.  I checked the camera again.   The lens on manual focus and aperture priority @ f22.  I chose this because I was using the zoom lens at its maximum length which compresses the depth of view and I wanted as much in focus as possible in case of movement of the bird towards or away from the camera.  I chose manual focus because the AF might not choose the spot I will choose manually.  At each touch of the shutter I held my breath to diminish the possibility of camera shake.  I finally captured some decent images of a gold finch feeding on the thistle sock.

If I hadn't been able to capture any images of the gold finches, my next step was to cover the right window with newspapers leaving a hole large enough for the lens only.  My wife would not allow that to stay up for long.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bird Bath and Watering the Garden

The temperatures have been hovering near 100ºF, 38ºC, for over 6 days now, 105º, 40ºC, Friday alone.  The bird bath that I rescued from an abandon urban garden is the best addition to the garden.  I positioned a dripper over the bird bath.  This dripper, which I run water through sometimes, makes noise which helps to attracts birds.  The bird bath brings more birds to my window than the feeder or flowers.  Cat birds, robins, blue jays, house sparrows, house finches, gold finches, and mourning doves are those that come to the bird bath.  They all come to drink and bathe.

I use a soaking hoses to water the garden.  That attracts birds, also.  The soil was rock hard before I watered using the soaking hoses yesterday.  Once watered the soil was wet and loose.  Worms traveled toward the surface, both to the moisture and from the water, so as not to drown.  With the worms near the surface the robins had a feast.  I recommend getting a water source for the wildlife in your backyard.  A large flat bowl will do as long as the depth is no more than 2" or 50mm with a gradual slope from the greatest depth to the rim.  You will not regret adding a bird bath.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stock Photography

For years, I have been thinking of producing stock photography.  I looked into an agency when they still took transparencies.  All of the agencies wanted at least 1,000 images.  I never thought I could get that many images together.  I never did get into stock.

I always thought I would have a photography studio with portraits, weddings(not so much), model portfolios, architectural with some travel photojournalism thrown in.  I figured I would set one day per month aside to photograph people for stock.  None of the above has come to pass.  I photographed some of all of that, but not full time professionally.

Currently, I am following a stock photographer's blog.  It has opened my eyes to the reality of stock.  Tom Grill has been teaching fellow photographers how to create marketable stock photographs.  I recommend following Tom Grill here The Daily Stock Shot Project.

You may need to add some equipment to get down to serious work but it will be educational and possibly rewarding.

Related Links

Learn Digital Photography with Tom Grill
MicroStock Infos

Monday, July 18, 2011

Woman Equality - Shirtless in Public Update

I am sorry to say the project has been put on the back burner, for now.  Personal circumstances has forced me to put it off until next year.  The good news is that with a year to plan and time to pull props together, it should result in much better images.  I will keep you updated.

Nationally there are protests this August in the US and planning for a 2,000,000 Boob March in DC in 2012.  See below.

Related Links

National Go Topless Aug 21, 2011

Venice Beach Protest Aug 21, 2011

2,000,000 Boob March in Wash., D.C. 2012

Friday, July 15, 2011

Photographic Point of View

When preparing to capture an image with a film or digital camera you should think about where you will place the camera to capture the best point of view.  Before placing the camera to your eye look at several points of view.  Stoop and look up, walk closer, walk farther away, move to the right, left and maybe even climb an object before you place the camera to your eye.  I remember visiting tourist areas in the US where there would be a placard installed by Kodak that advised you where to stand and in which direction to point your camera to get that great image, that Kodak moment.  Think of all the tourists that did just that and how many of the virtually same images there are in boxes all over the world.

I have a suggestion.  Give yourself a project to photograph one object from many points of view.  Say the tallest building in your area.  For near one hundred years, the tallest building in Philadelphia was City Hall.  It was built in the late nineteenth century and was the tallest building in the world from 1901-1908.  There was a gentleman's agreement that no building should be taller than City Hall.  In 1984 the construction of a taller building began, finishing with One Liberty Place in 1987.  The second largest building in Philadelphia was completed in 1990, Two Liberty Place.  Since, several other buildings are now taller than City Hall.  The tallest is Comcast Center58-story, 297 m (974 ft) tower is the tallest building in Philadelphia and the fifteenth tallest building in the United States.  I have often thought of photographing these tall buildings from several POVs.  I have been in New Jersey on the often commuter congested highway route 42 traveling west towards Philadelphia and wanted to stop on the roadside to photograph the tops of those buildings just as they become visible over the horizon.  The same for distant POVs on other roads from all directions.  I would also walk in the neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia with those building looming in the distance or right there full out.  These are the kinds of POVs that could be explored or you could just go into your backyard and photograph a bush.

From Port Richmond

From Northern Liberites

From Graduate Hospital Area

From Bridesburg soon after Sunrise

From Fishtown soon after sunrise

From Fishtown

Before One Liberty Place or Comcast Center early 1970s from Old City rooftop on outdoor advertising structure

From Center City West
From Penn Treaty Park at Sunrise

From University City at Sunset

And don't forget the time of day, weather and seasons, too.  Think of Claude Monet and the Rouen Cathedral

Give yourself a project.  Get out there and make some images.

Does the sun orbit Earth or does Earth orbit the Sun?
Check out this POV

Hula Hoop Point of View

All images ©Damyon T. Verbo all rights reserved

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plan a Trip with Your Child to Watch the Summer Meteor Showers

We, here in the northern hemisphere, are fast approaching several meteor showers.  There are two at the end of July, Delta Aquarids and Capricornids, and a rather big shower in August, Perseids.  Delta Aquarids, July 28-29, at peak time should have approximately 20 bright, yellow meteors per hour.  Capricornids, July 29-30, at peak time approximately 15 meteors per hour often yellow in color, are also noted for brilliant fireballs.  Perseids, August 12-13, produces 60 meteors per hour which is fairly consistant year to year, if the weather is clear.

There will be a new moon on July 30 therefore the meteor watching will be optimum for July.  There will be no moon in the sky in the early morning, which is the best circumstances to watch for meteors.  Unfortunately, a full moon will occur on August 13 which will set in the western sky approximately 06:00.  I recommend making arrangements in July to watch the showers.  Even better is if you can be in an area that has little light pollution.  An undeveloped beach on the East Coast would be a great place.  Make plans now.  This is a great way to spend time with your child.

I have vivid memories of being awakened in the dark and traveling by car, to the New Jersey shore to go deep sea fishing.  The long drive on the old state highways riding over the expansion seams, thump-thump...thump-thump, still rings in my ears.  There were the bars along the roads lit with two colors of neon outlining the roof edge, each bar having a neon encircled clock.  I remember looking into the starry sky from the rear window of our Studebaker Champion with its suicide doors.   We listened to AM radio with reception going in and out the whole trip and strong static as we passed under high tension electrical lines completely drowning out the music.  Once we arrived at the marina, the absolute best part of the trip was going to a diner for breakfast.  Sitting at the counter on a shiny chrome stool with a red seat that spun around 360º.  Getting nickels from my dad to play music on the juke box before the food arrived.  Watching my dad eat his sunnyside up eggs.  Sliding each unbroken yolk into his mouth leaving no yellow on his plate to clean with his toast.  Then there was the smell of the salt marsh and the sounds of the gulls.  These sights, sounds and smells stick with me today.

You have a bit of time to arrange a trip such as this with your child before the weekend meteor showers of  July 29-30.  Get started today for tomorrow may never come.  Don't forget to take a camera.

Black Thistle Socks

The overnight soaking of the thistle sock in tea was not successful.  The next morning I drained the tea/vinegar mixture from the bowl.  I decided to try coffee as a stain.  I keep used coffee grounds to add to the garden plants for both nitrogen and to lower the pH.  I am add them to the soil surrounding my lacecape hydrangea and a rhododendron.
Lacecap Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla normalis) before coffee grounds application
The rhododendron needs acidic soil and the flowers' color of the hydrangea can be changed to blue from pink by lowering the pH.  I took these used coffee grounds and ran hot water through them again into the stainless steel bowl and placed the sock back into the bowl.  The next day the sock was not bright white anymore.  I rinsed the sock and hung it on the clothes line to dry. Again, the reason I dyed the sock was to lower the contrast between the sock and the birds in the photograph.

A few days later, I took the stained sock from the clothes line and brought it into the house.  I purchased some thistle seeds and proceeded to fill the stained sock using a wide throated funnel.  Once the sock was full of seed I pulled the draw string tight to close the opening and began to tie an overhand knot.  I wanted the sock itself to be part of the knot.  I overfilled the sock, slightly, and I was having a difficult time rolling the knot to include the sock.  I realized I too much force when the draw string broke and withdrew from the tunnel sown into the top of the sock.  So much for staining the sock.  I emptied the newer sock, because the goldfinch had stopped eating from it, and used the funnel to fill it.  I used less power to tie the sock and hung it on the post.  I will need to fish a new drawstring into the tunnel of the stained sock and try again.  I really wanted the stained sock full but at least the goldfinch will be attracted by the full sock hanging on the post until I get the other fixed.  If I ever get the stained sock fixed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Attracting Gold Finch

I moved the white sock containing black thistle seeds to the post near the breakfast room window, atop which sits the now empty robin nest.  In order to do that I moved the hanging planter of Verbena and Petunias to where the sock hung.  I also had a sock filled with black thistle hung throughout the winter from which the finches will not eat.  I emptied the overwintered sock onto the round patio table in a mound of seed.  I am curious to see if the finches will go through these seeds now that the seeds are easily accessible.  I shook out all of the seeds and turned the sock inside out removing every last seed.  For photographs, the stark white sock is too extreme for the exposures.  I will try to dye the sock brown with tea or coffee then buy some thistle seeds and refill the dyed sock.

I boiled water, placed a tea bag into a stainless steel bowl and submerged the sock.  It doesn't seem to be taking the tea stain.  I also placed about a tablespoon of white vinegar into the bowl as a mordant as done with easter egg dyes.  I will leave the sock submerged overnight.  If the sock has not accepted the stain by then I will add my coffee grounds to the bowl.  If neither of those work, I will spray paint the sock.

I have seen gold finches on the sock but have not had the opportunity to photography any there.  I did capture house finches at the bird bath.  The house finches do not feed from the sock nor do chickadees, nut hatches or titmice.

Male and Female House Finches at bird bath

Close up of Male House Finch at bird bath

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Robin's Nest Near My Window 5 and Last

All the chicks were gone this morning,4July2011.  The parents have not visited the nest all day.  I hope the fledglings survive.

I guess I will need to focus on the goldfinches and hummingbirds, now.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Robin's Nest Near My Window 4

The Birth Head Feathers taken 1July2011

Late this evening, 3July2011, I arrived home after a day away at a family function.  I entered the front door and went directly to the breakfast room window to check up on the robins.  There was one of the chicks standing in the nest looking around.  It seems to had lost almost all of its birth feathers.  I went about the kitchen getting food out to make dinner.

After placing several pots on the stove, I returned to the window.  I had not seen either of the two parents since my arrival and neither was in sight and now two chicks were standing in the nest.  The boldest of the two seemed to be looking directly into my eyes telling me it was not afraid.  Within seconds of my arrival to the window this second time, the boldest chick turned and flew off to my left, chirping as it flew.  The actions of the boldest chick combined with its chirping stimulated the other standing chick to follow.  Neither of the chicks seemed to fly well, since it was their first try. I thought they landed some 15 feet into my yard.  The last chick, which was often hidden and still had most of those birth feather arising atop its head, stayed behind.  I think this meek chick may be a bit immature, perhaps hatching days after the others.

It was twilight before my curiosity got me out in to my yard to look for the robins that flew the coop, as it were.  The light was fast disappearing.  I walked to where I thought they would have landed and began to look around.  I didn't search amongst the plants in the garden but looked on the grass and concrete patio areas.  No sight of the chicks and they weren't making any sounds either.  My biggest fear is that they won't survive.  They didn't get any flight lessons but did they need lessons on feeding themselves?  Do the parents teach them to search out worms and insects or is that as instinctual as flying?  I will look for them again in the morning.
The Boldest Chick taken 16:50 3July2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Robin's Nest Near My Window 3

I finally started to photograph the robin nest outside my breakfast room window.  There are definitely two robins feeding the chicks.  I believe one is a male, for it has a darker hood and it allows me to get closer before flying away.  The two birds bring mostly worms and I think I saw a bee or something that resembles a medium sized insect.

The three chicks are like asparagus, growing so quickly that if I had a microphone near the nest, I swear I would be able to hear them grow.  They are large enough to fill the nest and the female is unable to sit atop them, perching beside the nest at night.

The post atop which the robins built their nest is less than two feet from the wall of the house on the WNW side of the house.  Two Clematis that climb the fencing surrounding the post give the nest cover.  I believe this is one of the reasons the location was chosen by the robins.  The leaves from the Clematis also shade the nest from later day sun, only allowing some dappled light through to the nest.  This created a situation of poor lighting for photographic exposures.  I had to get out my kitchen scissors and do some pruning.

Female robin over nest internal point of view

Male Robin with bee external point of view

Male robin with worns interior point of view

Three robin chicks internal point of view

I am still thinking of adding a reflector to the house somehow to add even more light to the inner nest area.  A remote controlled battery powered led light suspended above the nest would be even better.  That will be a chore for this winter with installation before the arrival of the robins.