Gardening Pictures

Here are some more photos for the week of April 26th.

Here are the peppers and tomatoes coming along under the lights.  There are a few cauliflower and broccoli mixed in that I seeded as backups in case one of the others don't make it.



The Granny Smith apple tree is also putting on flowers.  Maybe we will get some apples this year!  I bought this last year from Willis Orchards online – and they called it "fruiting size" so I hoped we would get some apples this year or next.

Granny Smith Apple Tree

The tri-star strawberries are coming along well!  I had to replace one because some stray cats dug one up.  Luckily I received about 50 strawberries with my order to RainTree Nursery and I have four extras that wouldn't fit in the two pyramid boxes – so I just transplanted one to replace it.  The strawberries are also getting flowers on them, but they will need to be plucked off until mid-June.


The peas and onions are coming along very well.  I hope that I do not need to move the fencing up a little bit, because the fencing is about two inches behind the peas.

Peas & Onions

I have two potato plants coming up out of the five that were planted in the 2 x 3 potato bin.


The carrots sprouted over the past weekend.  I counted today and there are 313 carrots that have come up thus far.  That isn't too bad considering I planted around 400 or so.


The lettuce has really taken off as well!  This time last week they were still very small, now they are starting to take over the space.


Lastly, the cauliflower and broccoli have taken off as well.  Pretty amazing what a week does.

Broccoli & Cauliflower

The wife and I also planted 252 Sugar Dots corn today.  Over the weekend we visited her parents.  I worked most of the day tilling a 6 x 40 area and got the Yukon Gold and Kennebec potatoes planted.  I was wore out after all the work and quite the sunburn.  I also wanted to get the area for the corn tilled up, but it just didn't happen.

Garden Progress

Just a quick update on the progres of the garden so far.  I planted two more broccoli and two more cauliflower today – to make a total of eight for each of them.  I will be planting the green beans next week and the peppers in a few weeks.  I still have yet to figure out where to put the cucumbers.  I used all the space for the peas and forgot about the cucumbers!  I might just have to seed the cucumbers in with the peas since the peas will be done in mid-June.

Here is the front garden as of today with the broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce.

Front Garden

The Granny Smith apple tree also has started to grow a few leaves here and there this week.

Granny Smith

… And the strawberries are growing very well too!


The peas against the back of the garage finally started to make progress starting this past weekend.  Apprxomiately 58 of the 64 peas have sprouted thus far.

Peas against the garage

And lastly, 100% of the peas against the house sprouted several weeks back now (all of them sprouted before one pea sprouted behind the garage!).  You can also see the two rows of onions doing very well; those were planted two weekends ago.

Peas & Onions

HOWTO: Setup MythTV, Myth Plugins, SPDIF Audio, Xabre 330 on Ubuntu 32-Bit Linux 8.10 Intrepid

I realize that the release of 9.04 is just right around the corner for Ubuntu, but I have been working on a project to convert the home theater PC from Windows to Linux for the past few weeks.  Over the course of this time, I have researched on many different blogs and help forums to piece all of this together.  This is specifically for the 32-bit installation as there are many applications that have trouble with the 64-bit installation (like the Sun Java and Adobe Flash plugins).

Please note that this setup is composed of several different parts and pieces – so if you are having various problems with audio, ac3 pass-through or dts pass-through in Ubuntu amongst other things, this might help a bit.

Let’s first start off with getting SPDIF output on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid working.

Search Tags:
SPDIF not working in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid
Firefox has no sound in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid
Coax output doesn’t work in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid
Sound doesn’t work in Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid

OK, those above are mostly to help people find this page to maybe alleviate some of their issues.  I had trouble getting SPDIF output working on Linux.  This is because Ubuntu now uses the PulseAudio server to play music through the main system and PulseAudio only is setup to detect the primary card, but not the IEC958 / SPDIF output.  So for this, we have to change a few settings.  Many other people try to completely remove PulseAudio or have very long instructions for  a work-around, but this is a bit quicker.

Edit the /etc/pulse/ file and add this line close to the other lines (around line 32):

load-module module-alsa-sink device=hw:0,2

At this point, go ahead and reboot your PC so that PulseAudio is updated with the new module.

The next step is to install the Pulse Audio Device Chooser.  Go to Applications – Add/Remove.  In the drop-down list that appears, choose “All Available Applications” and then search for “pulse”.  Put a checkmark next to the Pulse Audio Device Chooser and hit Apply Changes.

Now, open the program by going to Applications – Sound/Video and then click Pulse Audio Device Chooser.  It will open a new icon up by your network or sound on the top bar.  Left-click on it once and choose Preferences.  In there, put a checkmark next to “Start applet on session login” and hit Close.

Lastly, left-click on it again and choose Default Sink and select Other.  In the box that pops up, type in the following:


Now, open up Firefox or something else that will play some kind of sound.  You should now have sound through your SPDIF!  If not, there are a few other things to check.

Go to System – Preferences – Sound.  In there, make sure you choose your IEC958 device for each of the items (except sound capture).  Mine shows up as “NVidia CK8S with ALC655 NVidia CK8S – IEC958 (ALSA)”.  For the Default Mixer Tracks, change the drop-down box to your Alsa-mixer (mine shows as “NVidia CK8S (Alsa MIxer)”)  In the list of items, ensure “Master” is selected and close the window.

Next, right-click your Volume control on the top bar and choose Open Volume Control.  In there, ensure your Alsa Mixer is selected again (mine shows as “NVidia CK8S (Alsa mixer)”).  Click the “Preferences” button and put a check mark next to the IEC958 with Playback and Switches on the right-hand column and hit Close. Back in the mixer, scroll over to the right (if needed) and ensure that the IEC958 is not muted.  The volume can be all the way down, that doesn’t matter.  Now click the “Switches” tab and ensure to put a check mark next to IEC958.  Now try to play something on your computer.

Setup SiS Xabre 330 Video Card for Dual-Head Mode in Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

I have a SiS Xabre 330 video card.  This card has both a VGA connector and a TV-Out connector.  In Windows, I could have both a monitor and a TV going with different pictures at the same time – which is called dual-head mode.  For Linux, I opted to have the same display on both – just because the only thing we use the TV for is watching movies and the like.  Therefore, I “cloned” the desktop (as you will notice below).  I highly recommend performing a backup of your /etc/X11/xorg.conf file before making changes to it.  I noticed that with the default Ubuntu install, when I would play live TV or movies, the TV shows a blue screen while the monitor would have the movie playing.  This configuration corrects that.

Section “Device”
     Identifier “Card0”
     Driver “sis”
     VendorName “Silicon Integrated Systems [SiS]”
     BoardName “330 [Xabre] PCI/AGP VGA Display Adapter”
     BusID “PCI:1:0:0”
     Screen 0
     Option “ForceCRT1VGAAspect” “normal”
     Option “ForceCRT1Type” “VGA”
     Option “ForceCRT2Type” “COMPOSITE”
     Option “UseSSE” “on”
     Option “TVStandard” “NTSC”
     Option “MergedFB” “on”
     Option “CRT2Position” “Clone”
     Option “MetaModes” “1024×768”
     Option “CRT2HSync” “30.0 – 50.0”
     Option “CRT2VRefresh” “59.9 – 59.9”
     Option “XvOnCRT2” “yes”

Section “Monitor”
     Identifier “Monitor0”
     HorizSync 30 – 95
     VertRefresh 75

Section “Screen”
     Identifier “Primary Screen”
     Monitor “Monitor0”
     Device “Card0”
     DefaultDepth 24
     SubSection “Display”
          Depth 24
          Virtual 1024 768

Section “ServerLayout”
     Screen 0 “Primary Screen”

One thing to note above is the Option “XvOnCRT2” “yes” line.  This line tells the video card to put all video overlay for live TV, movies, or any other motion pictures on the TV-Out port instead of on the VGA port.  This means that the blue screen that was on the TV-Out will now be on the monitor when you playback.

Setup MythTV, MythVideo, MythStream, and other applications on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid with a Hauppauge PVR-150 Tuner Card

This next section, again, is setup specifically for my needs.  But these will also work for you as well.  Included is Adobe Flash and Java for Firefox – since Ubuntu does not come bundled with them installed. Let’s get right to it.

At a terminal window, type:

sudo apt-get install mythtv mythvideo mythstream mc flashplugin-nonfree sun-java6-plugin audacious mplayer lirc ncurses-dev gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mpegdemux

Let’s go over what each of these are.

  • mythtv – The program for making your PC into a Home Theater PC.  MythTV provides the applications for playing and recording Live TV, playing DVDs, playing video/music streams, and allowing you to play your other videos.  MythTV has plugins (I use two of them listed below) for providing the functionality.  MythTV is kind of like a digital cable box and DVR rolled into one – plus extras.  It will also allow you to get Program Guide information (like TV Guide).
  • mythvideo – MythVideo is the plugin that will allow you to play videos you have on your computer.  In addition, MythVideo also comes with some scripts that will query the IMDB site and download movie posters and other metadata for videos
  • mythstream – MythStream is another plugin for MythTV that will play back streaming content from the Internet.  You can use it to view movie clips and such from YouTube or DailyVideo.  Apparently the developers are trying to get it to work with Hulu, but I haven’t seen this working yet.  MythStream also allows you to stream online radio stations from ShoutCast – which is my primary purpose for this plugin.
  • mc – This is “Midnight Commander” which is a file editing/manipulation GUI that runs in a terminal window.  I use it for editing all the files I need instead of using gEdit or others (quicker at the command line)
  • flashplugin-nonfree – This is the Adobe Flash Plugin.
  • sun-java6-plugin – This is the Java plugin for Firefox.  It will take care of downloading all the other needed Java packages with just this one package.
  • adacious – A media player that looks similar to Winamp
  • mplayer – A Movie Player that is used by the MythVideo plugin in MythTV to play the movies
  • lirc – an Infrared Controller for Linux.  If you received a remote with your TV tuner card (as I did with the Hauppauge PVR-150 card), this package will allow you to use your remote to control MythTV and MPlayer (amongst others).
  • ncurses-dev – Development package for the LIRC package that is needed
  • gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg – This is a package of “codecs” needed to decode videos and other streams.  My videos are in XviD format.  This package will allow for those to play in addition to AC3 or DTS encoded files
  • gstreamer0.10-fluendo-mpegdemux – This package allows you to play back MPEG-2 files in other media players, like Totem.

During the install process, it wll prompt you to enter a MySQL root password – it did twice during my install.  Do not enter a password and just hit OK  – otherwise the MythTV instalation won’t go as smoothly.

Also – when LIRC is installed, it will prompt you for the remote you are using.  In my case, I selected “Hauppauage TV Card”

After it is done installing, it is now time to setup MythTV.  Point to System – Administration – and then MythTV Backend Setup.  You can change these settings as you wish, but here is what I have.


  • Time Zone – Auto
  • Channel Frequency – us-cable
  • Start auto-commercial flagging jobs – Yes

Capture Cards

  • Change the drop-down box from V4L to PVR-x50
  • Video device at /dev/video0
  • Audio device at /dev/vbi0

Video Sources

  • There is a blank source – hit Enter to open this one and rename it to Default
  • Choose No Grabber
  • Frequency is us-cable

Input Connections

  • Under Tuner 1 – use the Default video source
  • DO NOT Scan for Channels (covered later as the Program Guide setup will allow you to choose which channels you want to include and will not duplicate.  If you scan for channels and use my instructions for the program guide, you will have duplicate channels)


  • Put in your location where you want the LiveTV and TV Recordings saved to.  Ensure that the mythtv user has access to write to this folder otherwise when you click “Watch TV” in MythTV, it will flash the screen black and then go back to the main menu.

That is all!  Now, open the MythTV Frontend which is under Applications – Sound/Video.  Then go into the Utilities/Setup menu.


  • Enable AC3 to SPDIF (allows for pass-through of the better quality sound without changing it to PCM)
  • Enable DTS to SPDIF (reason is same as above)
  • Passhtrough Output Device – IEC958 (set this if you are using SPDIF for output)
  • Audio Output Device – ALSA:SPDIF (set this if you are using SPDIF for output)
  • Uncheck the Confirm exit (so MythTV closes instead of asking if you are sure about that)
  • Uncheck the auto run Mythfilldatabase (explained later as well with the Program Guide setup)

Appearance (all of these are solely up to you)

  • UI Theme – Blootube
  • Font Size – Small
  • Unhide mouse cursor

TV Settings


  • Uncheck Auto Expire Default
  • Uncheck Strict commercial detection
  • Uncheck Run Transcoder (I don’t use transcoders to turn the video format of recorded TV into another since my PVR-150 card automatically encodes in MPEG-2 format)
  • Make the Default Transcoder “Autodetect”
  • Record past end of show – 0 Minutes

Program Guide

  • Guide Starts at Channel 2 (You probably can’t set this until you get the channels setup.  I will create the channels with the instructions on the Program Guide below)
  • Check Use Select to change channels
  • Check Allow channel jump


  • Uncheck extra audio buffering
  • Check enable picture controls (allows you to set Brightness, Contrast, Hue during TV or playback)
  • Default group filter to apply – “All Programs” (I use this so I can see the LiveTV recordings that haven’t auto-deleted and I can delete them if I wish)
  • Automatically Skip Commercials – Automatically Skip

Playback OSD

  • OSD Theme – Blootube

Recording Profiles

  • Ensure the Sampling Rate on all of the MPEG-2 encoders are 48,000
  • Change the Bitrate/Maximum Bitrate on all the MPEG-2 encoders (Default, High Quality, Low Quality) to 1900 bits (this will use about 1 GB per hour of recording)
  • Change Bitrate for MP3 to 224

Video Settings (only shows up if you installed MythVideo)


  • Put in the directory location where all of your videos are/will be stored
  • Directory to hold the movie posters (directory needs to be created!) – /home/<user>/.mythtv/MythVideo (replace <user> with your username that you will use to run MythTV)
  • Default View – Gallery (nice if you have the movie covers, otherwise I would use List)
  • Video Gallery – Columns – 3 (a bit scrunched with 4)

Player Settings

If you want to ensure that Mplayer passes through AC3 and also ensure that MPlayer plays through SPDIF, you need to make changes to your /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf file

Search for “ao” in the file and change the line to show as:


Search for “ac” in the file and change the line to show as:


Ensure you put the comma after the 3 above so that MPlayer will use other default codecs if the sound is not AC3.

If you have an IR Remote and will be using it – and want to ensure that MPlayer will respond to the commands, you need to add the following entry to the end of the “Default Video Player” and “VCD Player” commands:

-lircconf /path/to/lircrc/file

There you go!  That is all the settings (that I use, at least) for MythTV.  Now, lets setup MythTV to get Program Guide information.

How To Get Program Guide Information Into MythTV on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

First of all, go to this website and download the mc2xml file.  I would recommend placing it in your home folder and then make a new folder called “mc2xml” and place this file in there (and, if you choose, your channel file as well).

mc2xml Download

Now that you have this, you can either decide to import all channels that mc2xml finds for your area, or you can be picky and choose.  I choose to be picky because I don’t want all those shopping channels showing up – or channels we never watch.  To do this, create a file named mc2xml.chl in the SAME folder as the mc2xml file you just downloaded.  On each line put the channel that you want to have.

Now, run the following command in a terminal:

/path/to/mc2xml -c us -g <ZIPCODE>

Ensure you change <ZIPCODE> with your zipcode (do not enclose in those brackets though.  The mc2xml program does its thing and will then prompt you to select what TV lineup you want.  Select that and it will start downloading the program listings.

Now, you need to fill your database with the new listings.  This will also fill it with the channels for MythTV.  Issue this command:

mythfilldatabase –refresh-all –file 1 ./xmltv.xml

NOTE:  You need to ensure you are in the same directory as the xmltv.xml file, so make sure that you do an “ls” at the terminal to ensure it shows up there.  The process of filling the database may take a little bit of time.

Now, the question comes up – How can I have this run and automatically update the program guide before the program guide runs out (usually around 14 days)?  Good question!  Below is a script that will do just that – save it, again, in the mc2xml folder in your home directory:

cd ~/mc2xml
if ~/mc2xml/mc2xml ; then
     mythfilldatabase –refresh-all –file 1 ./xmltv.xml

 Save the file as whatever you would like, but I saved mine as “”

Now, you need to create a cron job to run.  Mine is set to run at midnight every night (it is a bit overkill, but if there are any changes in the schedule it will update them daily).  Navigate to the /etc/cron.d folder and create a new file called “mythtv-schedule” and enter this:

0 * * * * user ~/mc2xml/

Ensure you change “user” to your username that you use on your PC.

There you have it!  Now you will have your program guide automatically populated with data in MythTV so you can schedule recordings and use the OSD while watching TV to browse the channels and see what is showing – just like a digital cable box!

Setup the Hauppauge Infrared Remote with MPlayer and MythTV on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

This is specifically for the Gray Hauppauge remote I received with the PVR-150.  It is the same remote as the WinTV-Go-Plus cards as well (that was the first card I bought).

Ensure that you installed lirc and libcurses-dev.  If not, run this at a terminal:

sudo apt-get install lirc ncurses-dev

When it prompts you for your remote, choose Hauppauage TV Card.

After this, you need to ensure the LIRC program will start up, so type this in a terminal:

echo “lirc_i2c” | sudo tee –a /etc/modules

Now open the /etc/modprobe.d/aliases file and scroll down to the proper area and add the following line and save:

alias char-major-61 lirc_i2c

Now, you need to have a file that tells MythTV and other programs what each button the remote does.  You can download the file I use (works well but takes getting used to) HERE.

You need to copy this file to /home/<user>/.mythtv/lircrc where you substitue <user> with your username.  It must be placed here in order for MythTV to find the file to use.

Additionally, if you use MythVideo, you need to ensure that MPlayer (the player used for videos) can find the file.

  1. Open MythTV Frontend
  2. Go to Utilities/Setup
  3. Go to Media Settings
  4. Go to Video Settings
  5. Go to Player Settings
  6. In the commands for VCD and Video, add on to the very end (if you didn’t do it in the above steps for general MythTV setup):
-lircconf /home/<user>/.mythtv/lircrc

Again, substitue your userid with <user>

Your remote should now be complete!

If you want to set your remote to open MythTV if it is not currently open with your remote, follow these few small steps.

Create a file called .lircrc in your home folder:

touch ~/.lircrc

In that file, copy/paste the following.  This will make it so that when you hit the Power button, it will open MythTV:

# power button
prog = irexec
button = POWER
#repeat = 4
config = mythfrontend –service

 Now, ensure that the irexec program automatically starts upon booting Ubuntu.  To do this, go to Menu – System- Preferences – Startup Applications.

In here, click Add.  For a name, just put in irexec and put in irexec for the command as well.

In addition, if you wish to use other buttons on the remote to launch other applications while MythTV is not open, just add those extra items to the ~/.lircrc file as well.

Setup MythTV with MythStream with the ShoutCast Parser in Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

Like I previously indicated, I use MythStream solely for the ShoutCast recordings.  Ensure you have MythStream installed:

sudo apt-get install mythstream

 Now you need to go to the creator’s website and download the Shoutcast parser.  Untar the files to /home/<user>/.mythtv/mythstream/parsers

Open up MythTV, go to Media Library – Play Online Streams and you will have a “Browse Shoutcast genres” available.  All of the radio stations are available right there!

NOTE:  If you cannot hear any of the playback through SPDIF, it is because you need to update your /etc/mplayer/mplayer.conf file. 

Search for “ao” in the file and change the line to show as:


How To allow for DVD Playback in MythTV on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

For the DVD playback to work, you need to download some CSS stuff.  I tried to play a DVD without this package, and the drive just flashed for over ten minutes and did nothing.

At a terminal, type:

sudo wget –output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2

How To Bulk import IMDB Data for Videos for MythStream in Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

 If you have a lot of videos and do not want to manually go through the list and pull IMDB data for each, here is how you can do it all at once!

Download these two files and untar them to a temp directory on your desktop (or whever):


Now, after untarring the files, open up the file.  Most of these settings should already be fine, but you will need to put in your MythTV database password (this can be found in /etc/mythtv/mysql.txt) and the location to where your videos and posters are located.  I would recommend creating the posters folder at /home/<user>/.mythtv/mythvideo/posters and replace <user> with your userid.

Now, to update ALL IMDB information for the videos you have, enter this in a terminal (need to be in the same directory as the imdb-bulk-update script):

./ -A -Host localhost -User mythtv -Password <PASSWORD_HERE> -Fileup -Folder <PATH_TO_MOVIES>

Ensure you update <PASSWORD_HERE> with your mythtv database password (again, found in /etc/mythtv/mysql.txt), and update the <PATH_TO_MOVIES> with the location where your movies are stored so the script can find all of them.

During the process, if there are a few results for a movie returned, you will be asked to select which movie on which year.

How To Start MythTV upon login on Ubuntu Linux 8.10 Intrepid

Since I didn’t install Mythbuntu, I wanted to find a way to get MythTV to run when the user logged in (I have the user set to auto-login as well – so I turned the PC on, wait for it to boot, and then MythTV comes up with no interaction – that way I can just sit on the couch and use the remote from the start).

  • Go to System – Preferences – Session
  • Click Add
  • Name:  mythfrontend (can be whatever you wish actually)
  • Command:
mythfrontend –service

 Hit OK and MythTV will now launch when you boot up!

How to share MythVideo movies on the backend server with other MythTV Clients

For simplicity sake, go to the Mediashares site and read instructions how to setup NFS so your MythVideo movies can be shared amongst other frontend MythTV computers.

How to setup Boxee integration and remote control access with MythTV

Recently I installed Boxee and I like the way it integrates several online webcasting and webvideo functions.  This is a perfect solution for allowing quick and easy access to a plethora of videos online that are available – with the ease of use of integration into MythTV with remote control access.

First of all, you will need to install Boxee.  To do this, you need to go to your Software Sources, click the Third Party tab, and enter a new line:

deb jaunty main

Then, reload your sources and install Boxee:

sudo apt-get install boxee

After Boxee is installed, you will need to add a line entry to your MythTV Menu.  I put mine under the Recordings menu.  Open up the /usr/share/mythtv/library.xml file and add this to it.  Where you put it depends on where you want it since the order they appear in this XML file will be how they appear on the menu in MythTV:

     <text>Launch Boxee</text>
     <action>EXEC /opt/boxee/run-boxee-desktop</action>

Now save and close the file.  You have just integrated Boxee into MythTV.

 Next is setting up the remote.  In this case, it is very important that you setup your remote correctly.

First of all, it is best if you run irw to find what the remote name is.  Simply issue:


at a command prompt and press a few keys on your remote.  You should see some garbage information, the button that was pressed (like Power, VolUp, Left, Right, etc), and then the remote name.  In my case, it says “Hauppauge_350”.  This information must be EXACT in the two files you create for the Boxee remote control.  You can then hit Ctrl+C to get out of the irw prompt.

This is the code I have for my remote.  This file needs to be saved in two places.  If you only save it in your home directory, it still won’t work (at least it didn’t for me).  Save this file as lircmap.xml:

        <remote device=”Hauppauge_350″>


Note above the device=”Hauppauge_350″ line.  You need to change what is in quotes to what you saw when you used the irw command for your device name.

The file needs saved in these two locations:


Carrots/Potatoes Planted, Peas Sprouting, Front Garden

Got back from a weekend away visiting family in Chicago.

Before going, I planted the onions outside in the same area where the peas are – since there is still plenty of room to use there.  I planted approximately 30 – 40 each of the yellow onion and white onion sets.  I placed them about six inches apart because I'm not looking for too many of the green onions, but the full bulbs that we can use in cooking.  The green onions are not used very much in our cooking.

In addition, I put some deer "fencing" (more like a plastic mesh) over the front garden to keep the deer out.  I didn't want to return after a weekend away to see all the lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower were all eaten!

Front Garden

In addition, it has been quite windy lately and also has still been getting down into the middle 30's at night.  Some of the cauliflower may not like it – I need to look up to see what causes the leaves to curl in like they are here:

Curled Leaves

When we returned from the weekend trip, I looked at the peas.. wow!  All except one of the peas has now sprouted in the area just next to the house.  But, for some reason, not ONE has sprouted against the back of the garage.  Maybe the house is keeping the ground warmer next to the house.

Peas Sprouted

Yesterday, since the weather man said it was to be in the 70's at the end of the week, I also got the potatoes and carrots planted in the box on the back driveway.  I opened the Kennebec potato bag and there were already large sprouts everywhere!  I have had them stored for over a month now – I just hope that they still sprout and will live.  I put four of them in a 2 x 3 foot area in the box where the potato box was built, and then about 400 carrots in the 13 x 2 foot area.  I still will maintain the clear plastic over the carrot area until they begin to sprout, this way it will help hold the moisture in until then.

Columnar Apple Trees, Strawberries, and Peas!

At last, the two columnar apple trees and 50 tri-star strawberries arrived on Wednesday from Rain Tree Nursery!

Columnar apple trees?  What are those??

I did some digging on how I could potentially put more fruit in the front yard.  I started to come across these things called 'columnar apple trees' on Google.  There are a few varieties of these type of trees.  Basically, the columnar apple trees grow vertically up – and put off really short branches that may be 1 – 2 feet long.  If kept properly pruned, then it could look like a giant shrub in a way.  Columnar apple trees have been noted to grow in pots, but the yield of apples will be less in this manner.

The varieties I ordered were the Golden Sentinal columnar apple tree and the North Pole columnar apple tree.  I chose these two varieties because they will pollinate each other mid-season.  In addition, the North Pole columnar apple tree will ripen its fruit in mid-to-late September and the Golden Sentinel columnar apple tree is early October.

Columnar Apple Trees

With these trees, you can really see where the graft was established.  On the Granny Smith tree I bought earlier, there was no graft line that I could see although it was put on a semi-drawf rootstock.  The two columnar apple trees have an M7 rootstock.

Here is the full setup of the fruit area in the front yard now.  The two columnar apple trees were put in front of the layout.  It looks as though the apple trees were placed pretty far apart, but they were actually placed directly in a line with the posts of the arbor – so they are about six feet apart.

Full Fruit Layout

In addition, I planted all of the tri-star strawberries in the strawberry pyramids just behind the arbor.  I was able to fit 24 strawberries in each although I think it is a bit too many.  The bottom of the pyramids are four feet wide, and at one foot apart per plant, a total of 12 should fit at the bottom.  The middle is 3 feet wide and should accomodate 8, and the top holds 1.  So that is only 21 strawberry plants.  But, I put three additional plants at the bottom of the pyramids so there are 15 in the bottom.

Apparently the nursery also sent me an extra strawberry for each pack of 25 as well.  I had four left after planting the 24, so I just put those in the back garden area for the time being – in case one up front doesn't make it then I can change it out.

Strawberry Pyramid

They aren't too much to look at now, but I hope they bust with growth!  I chose the tri-star strawberries because the U of I extension site recommends them and they are also a 'day neutral' strawberry.  The day neutral strawberries do not produce as many runners as the other varieties of strawberry, which was a good thing for me.  In the small area for the strawberries, I didn't want little strawberry plants popping up everywhere.  Although having a few runners each year will provide me some additional strawberry plants each year.  The plants are only good for three to four years before they need replaced because they slow production.  On the other side of that, newly planted strawberries need to get a good root system going before you should allow them to produce.  For day neutral, they will produce two harvests of strawberry (another plus).  So since I just planted them, it is recommended that they not produce for the first harvest, but we can let them produce for the second harvest.

Quick Facts about Tri-Star strawberries:

  • Day-neutral strawberry that will produce a spring harvest and a summer/fall harvest
  • Resistance to red steele and verticilium wilt
  • Produces fewer runners than june-bearing varieties
  • Allowed to produce a summer/fall harvest in the same year they are planted (unlike june-bearing that only produce one harvest and should not be allowed the first year)

In addition to receiving the apple trees and strawberries, I took a gander at the back garden area and noticed I saw some green beginning to appear.  It is very odd, but there are three peas that I saw just peaking out of the ground!  Seems they started about four – five days early compared to what I was expecting.  In addition, these three peas that sprouted were the three peas that I planted first as well!  I planted all of them within an hour period of each other (100+ of them), but the very first three that I sowed are the ones that have peaked up so far.

Sprouted Peas

It is a bit hard to see, but you can see three little green colors in the above picture.

Inside the house where the seedlings are growing, I am fully out of space for putting anything else under the fluorescent lights.  For that reason, the three original lettuce, three broccoli, and three cauliflower were all planted outside yesterday as well.  I took the plastic cover off of the front garden bed and was not too happy to see – what appeared to be – thousands of weeds!  On the forums at GardenWeb, I was told that the horse manure mix from the compost facility would most likely have quite a few weed seeds in the material since horse digestive systems don't break down weed seeds.  Well, I was outside picking the weeds for at least an hour, and I probably have about half of them picked.  I can tell that I will be busy all summer pulling these weeds out which I am not looking forward to.

So overall, a pretty busy day out in the garden yesterday.  Apple trees planted, strawberries planted, a few peas sprouted, and transplanting of broccoli/cauliflower/lettuce into the front garden after picking a lot of weeds!

Snow In April

Well it is a good thing I haven't put out some of the other seedlings in the gardens yet!

I planned on direct-sowing the carrot and onion seeds into the raised beds this weekend, but I checked the weather and we were to get snow!  I was also debating about putting the broccoli out in the garden as well since they are frost-hardy and from what I've read in the "Square Foot Gardening" book, they should be planted about 4 weeks prior to the last frost date.

It got pretty cold last night, and will be down to a low of 29 degrees tonight.  But, the temperature is supposed to go back up into the high 50's with lows in the high 30's starting Wednesday.  I think I will still hold off until next week before planting items.

There haven't been any peas that have sprouted yet -and it has now been a week.  I expect to start seeing some next Monday or so.

Anyways, here are some pictures of the dusting of snow we received.  We also had some sleet on and off throughout the day that looked like small hail.  I would have liked to get a picture of the road by our house.  On the way to work, it was quite pretty to see the small green leaves beginning to come in – with a covering of white snow on them and the tree bark.

Arbor in the Front Yard with Snow

Front Raised Bed in the Snow

Back Raised Beds in the Snow

Seedlings Getting Bigger!

The seedlings have been really growing over the past few weeks!  Here is an update on how they are doing.  I carried them all outside today in order to get some direct sunlight (and to save some power from the four 40-watt bulbs that are on 16 hours a day).

Broccoli & Cauliflower

A tray of the broccoli and cauliflower planted throughout the past five weeks

Broccoli & Cauliflower

A close-up of a few of the broccoli/cauliflower plants that were first grown four weeks ago.

Lettuce & Peppers

Lettuce and peppers.  The original first three peppers and three lettuce are on the left side that were planted four weeks ago.  Newer lettuce less than two weeks old on the right.

Lettuce & Peppers

Close up of the three original peppers and three original lettuce seeded four weeks ago.


Tomatoes planted two weeks ago.  All five of the "Best Boy" tomatoes have sprouted and only two of the five "Red Cherry" tomatoes have sprouted.  None of the Roma sprouted within the first week, so I used the same containers and put another seed of each in the five.  I hope to get at least two Roma tomato plants.  I have the two "Red Cherry" tomatoes that I wanted, but have about three extra "Best Boy" tomato plants I will probably give to either my parents or in-laws.

Bash Scripting for Web Hosting Setups

This week I worked on creating a script that will be of great use for me.

When I have to setup a new customer or delete an old customer, there were many steps, and one of which I might forget or even setup wrong in the first place.  When a new customer signs up, the following things have to take place:

  • Setup the domain in my mail server to allow the servers to accept relaying for the new domain
  • Setup a web directory
  • Setup an e-mail account
  • Setup a mailbox directory 
  • If the user needs a database for their website, this needs to be created
  • If the user needs a database for their website, a SQL user needs to be created with privileges to their database
  • A primary zone needs to be added to the DNS servers for their domain
  • Configuration on both servers for a new VirtualHost

Much of the information that is needed is redundant as well – such as the domain name in question.  So, I finally finished up a 641-line bash shell script that will do all of these things!

While it would be nice to post the code here, I cannot do so because I have some proprietary code in it for my specific setup – such as the IP addresses for the servers.

Originally the goal was to use it as just a new user setup, but after tinking with the scripting a bit more, I was able to figure out how to find a specific line in a file using grep and cut, and then finding an ending line in a file using grep and cut as well, then using sed to delete between the two lines.

After this, I was thinking, "boy it would be nice if I could also use the same script to update both servers simultaneously".  Well sure enough, more research led me to how to send commands through an ssh tunnel to the other server!  So, this one script will do everything needed now in a matter of minutes.  It would take quite a while to set everything up for a new user, or to delete an old user.

I never was much of a person to get into programming – just because there wasn't too much I could think of to program.  Well after this, I now have thought of trying to make a PHP page that will allow customers to recover their e-mail password, or even a page that will allow them to create more e-mail accounts for their domain.  I allow up to five free e-mail addresses per domain, then there is an additional $1 fee for any additional.