Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Day Full of Possibilities

Yesterday afternoon, I spent over two hours on the phone catching up with a friend I haven't seen since Halloween. I may have implied that I was possibly considering maybe starting the renovation of my dining room this morning. It's still an option, but I'm thinking that won't happen today. I still have a lot of little projects that I started between cleaning the basement and reorganizing the kitchen that ought to be wrapped up first. Let's not even mention the bathroom molding and two pieces of tile that I still haven't gotten around to, four full weeks after the room was "finished".

Another night of NyQuil and I slept like a log. I woke up this morning feeling like myself again. There's a little crud in the chest, but the cold appears to be last week's news.

Speaking of little projects, I decided to move my propagation rack in the basement. It's a simple metal shelf that holds my chambers and my new aero chamber. I've also got a holding area for plants that have been taken out of the chambers but need some rest before heading out to the hoophouse. In the new location, I was able to add another light hanging from the floor joists above for the top shelf. I'll use this as my seed starting shelf in a couple months to get a jump on spring planting.

Seed starting, for many flowers and some veggies, requires heat. My basement is usually between 60 and 70 degrees depending on how often I reload the wood heater. I haven't been downstairs this morning so the temperature is probably on the lower end of the scale. I needed a way to keep my seeds warm and give them the proper temperature to ensure germination. Based on a technique I found online, I used some items I already had here at the cottage to create some cheap, yet effective, bottom heat.

First, I found a large enough container to hold 3 nursery flats and several smaller pots.


I cleaned it out and filled it with a layer of sand from my parent's yard. It's free sand and was cleaned by pouring boiling water over it. I let it sit until it was cool enough to work with. It didn't take long on the cold concrete floor. Then I arranged an 18' section of OUTDOOR GRADE rope lighting across the soil trying to keep the spacing even.


Since the rope lighting is flexible and tends to move around, I used aluminum wire to tie it together in a few places.


I added the rest of the sand to cover the rope lighting. About 2" above and below the coil should protect it from any possible damage. I used the trowel I had bought for the bathroom grout to smooth the sand into a uniform layer that's about 4" thick.


With my moment of zen completed, I moved the container to my propagation rack and plugged it in. Well, now I have to dig into the sand to make sure my rope lighting is actually working since this stuff is fragile and the wiring inside can break if it's bent in too tight a curve. I should have done this before I smoothed my sand, but I was too focused on all those little grooves the trowel was leaving.


I smoothed everything out again. Plugged in, it should take a day or so to reach optimum temperature.


If it's not warm enough, I can always cover it with a second container of the same size and add a set of 50 Christmas lights I used on my tree this year. The color won't matter since the heat is the purpose of the lights. Hopefully, I'll only need the rope lighting so there's more room for containers. I'll have to monitor the temperature through the use of an oven thermometer. You can usually pick one up at a dollar store for cheap. If it rusts, don't worry. You're not using it to cook.

The possibilities for this container are endless. I can use it now to continue my hardwood cuttings. I put them in a separate smaller container using a larger grade sand. I've already started mock orange, saucer magnolia, lavender crepe myrtle, flowering quince, and a few random cuttings from other plants in the yard.

Now, what to do today?

It's 39 degrees, overcast, foggy, and not a good day for me to be outside. I do need to sneak out to collect some more firewood at some point. Maybe I'll clean off my desk. I'm going to start by washing dishes. But first, I need to finish my coffee.

1:46pm: 50 degrees, sunny, the basement has been reorganized, again, but still isn't finished. What's for lunch?

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