A post In Memory of Grandma

Grandma on my mom’s side of my family passed away around 1:30 pm.  She has had a hard couple of years between being in and out of the hospital and nursing homes.

She was due to move back home – tomorrow – but she went to the hospital on Friday with breathing problems.  They were assisting her breathing by the use of a CPAP machine that started on Tuesday – and it was set at 40%.  By last night, they had moved it from 55% during the day – to 80%.  She was non-responsive all day yesterday when we went to visit her because of the high levels of carbon dioxide in her blood.  Her lungs simply were not expelling the carbon dioxide correctly.  Today, Thursday, the decision was made in the morning to remove the CPAP machine.  About three hours later, she passed away.

The temperature has dramatically changed in Central Illinois.  It had been very nice for a fully week with temperatures in the high 60’s to mid-70’s.  Last night, heavy winds came through the area and brought with it much lower temperatures.  It got below 32 degrees last night for the first time in over a week.  When we arrived back home last night, all of the onions and celery in the front garden were uncovered because of the winds – so that had to be fixed.

The celery is doing very well – but unfortunately several stalks have broken off because of the floating row cover.  The onions are also doing well – both in the front and in the cinder blocks in the back garden – and none have been lost thus far.

Front Garden

A closer look at Ventura Celery.  This celery is now four months old (was inside for all but the past two weeks):

Ventura Celery

And one of the Copra onions that has also been living for four months.  This was also set outside two weeks ago.  This one is doing better than all of the others at this point:

Copra Onion

Back inside, I am beginning to skip a week when it comes to planting lettuce.  I’ve planted five varieties of lettuce the past three weeks – so I have 15 total seedlings:

Lettuce Seedlings

The top left is Parris Island followed by New Red Fire.  On the bottom left is Simpson Elite followed by Buttercrunch and Red Salad Bowl.  They were all thinned to one per cell today (only the first two weeks – the last week’s are still very small).

Here is the row with both Premium Crop/Green Goliath broccoli and Snow Crown cauliflower.  They are doing quite well and most are about three weeks old now.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Seedlings

And a closer look of one of them:

Snow Crown Cauliflower Seedling

I’m excited to report that one of the Anaheim Hot Pepper and one of the California Wonder peppers sprouted this week!  It took three weeks to sprout – only one of them.  I re-seeded four additional Anaheim Hot Peppers and 16 California Wonder seeds over the weekend.  Now that I’ve left the heating mat on 24 x 7, the temperature has – in some cases – got up to 102 degrees.  Most of the time it hovers near 90 degrees.

Anaheim Hot Pepper Seedling

The tomatoes are also doing very well.  A variety of Best Boy, Red Cherry, and Roma Tomato were planted.

Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedling

That takes care of all the pictures from the garden – and mostly takes care of this garden update.

The only other update was on the Cascadia Snap Peas.  Absolutely none of them have sprouted outside yet – and it has been over a week now.  I was expecting the peas to start sprouting because of the very good weather we were having.  Hopefully the peas will start coming up in the next few days.

How to Change Your Joomla Administrator Folder

EDIT:  This page was updated on 8/29/2013 per some forums posts indicating I missed a <?php in a command below.

One thing that is a bit of an issue for Joomla pages is the fact that your administrator folder is not easily changed.  Well, it certainly would be nice if there was a feature in the Global Configuration that allowed to easily change your Joomla administrator URL, but it isn’t available.

There is a way that it can be done so it doesn’t upset your other 3rd-party components and plugins.

Previously I went into the includes/define.php and administrator/includes/define.php files and changed the administrator folder there – then renamed the folder to something else.  But after doing so, I saw this error on a page:

The configuration file for VirtueMart is missing!

It should be here: /administrator/components/com_virtuemart/virtuemart.cfg.php

So, I had to revert everything back to how it was.  Then I stumbled upon another way to rename the Joomla administrator folder – and it works well.

However, this method requires you to rename your htaccess.txt file to .htaccess.  Basically what this does – is it sets up a cookie and then it lets you access the administrator folder.  Without the cookie, you’ll get a 404 error if you attempt to access the Joomla administrator folder.

So first – make a new directory in the root of your Joomla installation (where your administrator, includes, components, modules, and other folders are).  Name it to the folder that you want to use to access your admin site.  So if you wanted to access your Joomla administrator directory using “joomla_admin”, then you would make a new folder called “joomla_admin”.

Now, go into the folder and create an “index.php” file and copy this contents into it:

header(“Location: /administrator/index.php”);

Now save that file.

The next step is to add some rewrite rules to your .htaccess file.  Copy this code and add it somewhere in the .htaccess file in your main Joomla install directory; it can be placed right at the bottom if you desire:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/administrator
RewriteCond %{HTTP_COOKIE} !JoomlaAdminSession=192837465
RewriteRule .* – [L,F]

Note the numbers in the bold text.  You can change this to another number if you’d like – but you MUST ensure that the number is the same in both files.

Now – try to go to your site’s administrator page.  You’ll get a 404 error.  But, if you then type in the new folder path (such as “joomla_admin” as specified above), you will then be redirected to the administrator page – and this time it works!

A Whole Lot of Planting Going On

Earlier at the beginning of this week, some onions and celery were planted outside.

This week has seen a nice increase in temperature.  The nights barely dipped below freezing – but the past couple of days, it only went down to around 45 degrees.  During the day on Wednesday, it was about 63 degrees and fully sunny.  Thursday was even warmer – about 73 degrees.

Therefore, I took advantage of the temperatures.  On Tuesday, I got the rebar driven into the ground and put the chicken wire fencing up that will allow the peas to grow on them.  I had some two-foot high fencing that I used a few years back – and that is when I discovered that two feet certainly wasn’t enough.  So I re-used that at the bottom by the soil – then stacked another three-foot high fencing on top of it.  So the peas will have five feet of fencing to grow up now.  That should take care of that problem.

Last year, I stacked two sections of the two-foot fencing on one another next to the house – then used some green snow fencing behind the garage.  The snow fencing simply didn’t work; the webbing of the plastic was too thick for the peas to grasp.  That is why I’ve now setup all chicken-wire fencing – because it is just perfect.

On Wednesday, I planted all of the Cascadia peas that were needed.  There were approximately 200 planted behind the garage and 134 planted next to the house.  Because the soil I use is 100% compost, it was very simple to use a garden rake to make a shallow trench next to the chicken wire fencing.  Then I just walked down the row and dropped in the seed!  According to many online sites, you should plant pea seed two inches apart.  I’m sure I planted much closer than this – but this will allow me to thin if required.

Sowing Cascadia Peas

After they were dropped in, I then covered them back up with the soil.  According to my 2011 garden plans, I was to plant out 298 peas.  Wow!  I planted out only a few more than anticipated (112 beside the house – so an extra 24 were planted there – and 168 behind the house – so an extra 32 there).

Because I put the peas in, I also wanted to close off the area around the back garden to prevent deer and other animals from getting in.  So I put up the fencing around the perimeter as seen here.

Back Garden Fencing

On Thursday – a lot of other stuff was done as well.  I was outside for a good three or more hours – up until sundown.

I started by transplanting another ten Ventura Celery from my germination station downstairs out into the front garden.  So, I originally alloted for 18 celery – but ended up putting in 22.  That is because I forgot that I was going to grow a row of green beans on either side!  Oh well – there will be plenty of time and space for green beans.  Even then, I still don’t know what we’ll do with 22 celery plants!  So in case something happens, I still have about 11 plants under the lights downstairs.  Certainly hope nothing happens with the temperatures – nothing that the floating row cover can’t handle anyways!

After that, I brought out the Copra onions and transplanted them as well.  When I started the onions, I seeded them directly into a tray instead of putting them in cells (like I did last year).  This was a fiasco.  The roots were everywhere and because the entire tray had 130+ onions planted so close, it was very difficult to pull the onions out without breaking the roots.  So note to self for next year – plant one or two onions into individual cells so they are easily pulled out.

In my garden plans, I estimated that I should be able to put four rows of 20 onions – or a total of 80 onions in the front.  Previously, I planted 14 onions – and then Thursday – it was fully filled in with another 62 onions.  So – I didn’t do as well as expected with only putting 76 onions in – but heck – only one row shy isn’t too terrible!

Front Garden

Then because the onions are so tiny, I know that the floating row cover would have been too heavy.  I ran three sections of PVC pipe along the garden area to provide support – and put the cover over everything.

Floating Row Cover

After doing that, I then took the onions and went to the back garden and placed on onion each in the cinder blocks.  If I remember right, I put another 53 onions in the blocks.  I certainly hope that they make it – because some of these were very small – and were not ready for transplant.  But, they were being overly crowded in the tray they were being grown in – and I was completely out of room in the germination station.

Copra Onion Transplants

Well, that takes care of the gardening duties for a while.

Down in the seed-starting area, I planted another four seeds each of Red Salad Bowl, Buttercrunch, Simpson Elite, Parris Island Cos Romaine, and New Red Fire Leaf lettuce.  It seems that these are averaging between four and five days for germination.  This makes the third consecutive week of planting lettuce.  From now on, I’ll be planting them every two weeks so we’ll have a good supply during the season – and to keep everything from producing at once.

It is two weeks later – and not ONE of the Anaheim Hot Pepper or California Wonder peppers have sprouted.  Part of the reason – I believe – is because the heated greenhouse area was barely getting to 80 degrees before being shut off for the night.  So, I put the heating mat on 24/7 and I’m hoping that this will get the soil temperature of the peppers where it needs to be.  Back in December, I checked the seed germination on the California Wonder pepper – and about 75% – 80% sprouted.  So I know the seed is good.  With plant 16 California Wonder seeds and four Anaheim Hot Pepper, there has to be one come up!  But, if nothing sprouts by this next Thursday, I’m going to do damage control and plant a lot more.

Transplants In The Garden/Floating Row Cover/Compost Tea System

Wow – there certainly was a lot going on these past two days.

For starters – I took out all of the plants yesterday to get put in the sun.  It wasn’t very windy and it was about 50 degrees outside.  Perfect for getting the fluorescent lights turned off and to allow the plants to get some real sunlight for a change.

I only took out the onions, celery, and lettuce.  The broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes are still way too small to put outside.  Unfortunately, I also found out it was too soon to put the lettuce outside as well because they got a bit of “wind burn” as they call it.

Hardening Off Transplants

Closer view of the onions:

Copra Onions

This batch of onions were started back in December.  They are still growing strong!  And.. I actually planted these out to the front garden today (Saturday).  More on that in a bit.

Copra Onions

And a closer view of the Ventura celery that was started back in December.  They are doing very well – and these were also transplanted to the front garden today (more on that later as well).

Ventura Celery

And lastly – the little lettuce getting some sun.

Lettuce Seedlings

This year I am trying two new varieties of lettuce.  They are on the left side of the picture.  The lettuce in the first cell (three of them) is Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce.  The next cell is New Red Fire Leaf Lettuce.  The next cell was left blank (since I only have five varieties, not six).  Next to that, there is one tiny Simpson Elite lettuce.  This seed is now in it’s third year and still sprouting – although only one of four came up.  Next to that is Buttercrunch and lastly on the very right is Red Salad Bowl.

Amazingly enough, all four Buttercrunch came up (year-old seed).  Three Parris Island, three New Red Fire Leaf Lettuce, one Simpson Elite, and two Red Salad Bowl.

Alright – moving on to Saturday’s activities.

I called all over our town to the gardening centers.  I needed a floating row cover!  None of the big-box shops had it, some of the garden centers haven’t opened for the season, and alas – one place had some!  Maske’s Organic Gardening – just a jog up the road from us – had some!  I went over there and picked up a 25-foot by 5-foot floating row cover for only $10.  I gave him $11 after tax and had him keep the change.  Amazing – only one place in this city had these in stock.

Floating Row Cover

Why did I need this?  Well, I certainly have enough clear plastic that I could have used – but the problem with clear plastic is (1) it will not allow moisture through and (2) it will heat up the covered area exceptionally fast.  That is where a floating row cover comes into play.  This is a very thin, lightly-spun fabric that you place over your plants.  It is so light that you don’t even need to provide support for it; the plants will hold it up just fine.  Floating row covers will let moisture in (but also help to keep it in as well) and allows for about 90% sunlight penetration while protecting plants from freezing temperatures.  According to the information on the back of the front cover, it said that the cover should be removed it temperatures above 85 degrees occur.  Well, certainly by that point, I won’t need to have the cover!

The instructions also said that one layer of this floating row cover would protect plants down to about 28 degrees – so about four degrees colder than freezing.  It indicated that if you layer it twice, it would then protect to about 24 degrees.  Amazing how it can do that!  But, the idea behind it is to trap the soil temperature into the area.

So, after picking this up, I went out and planted the Ventura celery into the front garden.  They are planted ten inches apart with 12 inches between the rows.  These plants were already root-bound in their 16-ounce cups – but they have been growing for just under three months!

Ventura Celery

Later on in the day, I then decided to plant the Copra onions that were started back in December as well.  Out of the 18 that came up and grew, 14 of them survived and were therefore planted in the garden.  They were all spaced six inches apart with six inches between the rows.  I didn’t take a picture of this unfortunately.

But, at night – I then went out and put the floating row cover over the plants.  For the onions – I didn’t trust that they could hold up the cover – so I sunk some PVC pipe into the soil to help provide support.  I then made a double-layer over the area (supposed to only get to 29 degrees tonight, but I don’t trust the weathermen).

I used some rocks around the perimeter to hold it in place – and done!  By doing so, I basically have just extended my growing season by a good month – if not more!  Now, just as long as the temperatures don’t fall below 24 degrees for the year.

Floating Row Cover

Now – let’s talk about the next project – the compost tea project.

I’ve already been brewing compost tea and started last season.  I have a large 55-gallon drum (the white one in the picture below) that is filled with food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves.  I then put water into this barrel.  At the bottom, there is a spigot.  Last year, I had to sit there for a very long time to get enough compost tea out for my needs (since all the dead plant material makes it trickle very slowly).

The end of last year – I got an even better idea.  So, I went to get another two 55-gallon drums.  These are “reserve” tanks.  So I got some treated 2×4’s today and got those put in place – then put the three barrels on top of them – then ran some PVC pipe between all of them.

The idea is this – when all 12 of the rain barrels fill up, I have a large 2″ ball valve that separates nine barrels from three – just above the compost tea stuff.  I’ll close the valve – then open a smaller 1/2-inch ball valve that will then trickle water from those three barrels – into the white 55 gallon barrel just below.

Compost Tea System

You can see the large read ball valve just above the white barrel.  That is the 2-inch valve Then between the white barrel and blue, you see a vertical PVC pipe – which has the 1/2-inch ball valve.  Once it is turned, the water goes into the white barrel just below.

Follow me so far?  Hopefully so!  As the water from the three rain barrels above trickle the water into the white barrel, the spigot on the white barrel (at the bottom) is open.  As the water makes it through all the plant material, it will go through the spigot – and begin filling the two blue barrels on either side.  You’ll notice on the very right-hand side there is some PVC pipe sticking out near the bottom of the picture.  This will connect to another trash can that I used last year (currently in the house as I’m using it for my seedlings).  It will also be attached to the compost tea system.  That way when the three rain barrels above are fully empty, there is more than enough capacity between the three barrels below – and the trash container that will be hooked up.

Now – I have a 1/5-horsepower pump that I’ll place in the trash container.  I’ll then pump all of the tea out of the barrels and back up into the three rain barrels just above (of course – the 1/2-inch ball valve will be closed first).  What is the point of this?  Well, by doing this, I’ll automatically have a 1-part compost tea to 3-parts water in the rain barrel system!  Since it is hooked to my PVC irrigation system that goes out to the garden, it will be instant fertilizer that is built into the system.

Alright – I know I’ve typed everyone’s eyes off here – but I’m quite excited about this project.  Finally I will not have to sit and wait to fill up a watering jug to manually provide compost tea to plants.  I just turn on the irrigation system – and it is all done automatically!

OK – done with those projects.  Back inside, I took a few pictures of the cauliflower and tomatoes growing under the lights.  Because the cauliflower and broccoli look exactly the same at this stage, there isn’t any point in showing pictures of both.

Snow Crown Cauliflower (or Green Goliath / Premium Crop Broccoli – they look the same at this stage):

Snow Crown Cauliflower Seedlings

Tomatoes (again, they all look the same as well – but those that want to know – Red Cherry Tomatoes are in the first two containers in the front followed by two Roma Tomatoes and in the very back – a Best Boy tomato)

Tomato Seedlings

Unfortunately, I planted five Best Boy tomatoes and two have come up within eight days.  Not what I expected.  Certainly hope that I don’t need to plant more – because I allotted room in the garden for three Best Boy Tomatoes.

Same goes with the peppers as well – absolutely none of the four Anaheim Hot Peppers have sprouted – and none of the 16 California Wonder Peppers have sprouted.  They are sitting in the heated green house and I would have expected them to germinate by now.  I just tested the California Wonder seed in December and about 80% germinated.

A Lot of Planting Going On & I’m Out of Room!

March 3rd marks the potentially 8 weeks from the last frost date in Central Illinois.  This is according to the U of I website that lists the “average last frost date”.  Yes, I know I shouldn’t go based on the average last frost date and should go more towards the very last frost date – which pushes into mid-May – but that is almost a whole month away from the average last frost date for Central Illinois!

I bumped up the 8-week date a week early.  Last year it would have been next Thursday instead of March 3rd.  But, some things that I begin seeding on this date are frost hardy – such as cauliflower and broccoli.

Alright – enough talk.  First, let’s show some pictures of what I was doing on Monday.

Backyard Deer

We had some visitors in the back yard – as we always do at night it seems.  We had some old field corn in a box that a neighbor brought over to us – so I put it down by the end of the driveway to give these skinny little fellas some food.  Amazing what the winter does to the deer.  They were plump and fat before the winter hit – now they are very thin.

660 Gallon Rain Barrel System

I got the rain barrels all hooked up – actually on Sunday.  We had a bit of rain from Sunday into Monday morning – and something is not right.  The weather people said we got about 1.12 inches of rain – and I only got a measly 60 – 75 gallons of water from that!  My rain barrel collection system will hold somewhere between 660 and 700 gallons.  I’m not fully sure exactly how much – because the 2″ PVC pipe that runs under the entire structure that ties all of them in can also hold some water as well.  In addition, those 55 gallon drums seem to hold more than 55 gallons of water I think – especially when completely filled.

So I got all the rain barrels hooked up on Sunday and changed the downspout to divert the water to the first rain barrel (the white one on the left).  From there, the 2″ PVC pipe that connects all of them underneath will gradually fill all of the barrels.

It is definitely a mess behind the garage.  I have all of those leaves piled up next to the garage and all of the PVC pipe that I use for irrigating the garden is stored back there.  I’m going to have to move some things around because I have two barrels that I have to put on the ground which will hold my compost tea.  I’ll have more about this “project” later on – and I may make a YouTube video about it as well.

OK – now let’s see how the current plants are doing!

Ventura Celery Plants

Wow – I’m astounded at how fast the celery is growing!  It didn’t grow this fast when it was in the garden last year!  These are the plants that I transplanted into the 16-ounce cups a couple of weeks back.  The plants are now about 10 weeks old.  I have a bad feeling I’m going to lose these because they are just growing too quickly.  Maybe I’ll really have to dig deep and learn about floating row covers and making a temporary greenhouse in the garden to protect them from frost – and get them set out early.

Ventura Celery Plants

Another view of the Ventura Celery plants.  You can see on the right side of the picture – there are some small celery plants.  Those were the last batch of celery that I planted just in case I lost some plants.  Believe it or not, I haven’t lost one Ventura celery plant this year!  Watering plants from the bottom of a container and allow the water to seep into the soil is by far a better way than watering from the top.

Growing Vegetables Under Lights

A view of all of the celery and the original Copra onion plants that were started 10 weeks ago.  Good thing I started the rest of the onions earlier this year!  Last year I planted them approximately 12 weeks before the last frost and they were not large enough for transplanting (at least I didn’t think so).  This shows the onions that are 10 weeks old – and they are not large enough for transplanting yet.

Then of course – there is the mix of varying aged Ventura celery.

Plants Under Fluorescent Lights

A closer view of the difference in the celery plants.  Unfortunately the celery to the left – the small ones – are reaching for the light.  I’m going to have to figure out something else to do here because the size of the plants next to them are what is causing the bulbs to be much higher than they should be.

Copra Onion Seedlings

Above are the Copra onions that were planted on January 20th.  So these plants are about 6 weeks old.  Of course, it took up to two weeks for them to germinate – so they are really only a month old.  They were planted 14 weeks from our average last frost date – so I planted them two weeks earlier than I did last year.

Now, for the part that took me almost all night to do – planting the next round!

16-Ounce Cups

I purchased 40 16-ounce cups a few weeks ago because I knew I’d need them.  It took me a LONG time to go through and punch five holes in each of the 40 cups.  Basically I made stacks of 5 cups and ran the drill through them to make it go quicker – but it still took a while.  The holes are needed so water can escape – and water can absorb up into the soil – since I bottom-feed everything now.

Starting Seeds Indoors

So here is a bit of the seeds I’ve started indoors.  In the back on the left-hand side are two orange containers.  I seeded three seeds of Roma Tomato in each of those.  I only need one plant – but I’m hoping I get two so I can pick the best one to keep.

Next to those are two black plastic 3-pack containers.  In here, I planted four seeds into each cell of the following lettuce:

  • Red Salad Bowl (if it doesn’t work out this year, it is a goner)
  • Simpson Elite (always been my best performer)
  • Buttercrunch (variety did alright last year – but wasn’t great because of the hot season)
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine (new this year – going to try a romaine variety of lettuce and this was recommended by the U of I for our area)
  • New Red Fire Lettuce

I am going to plant four of each variety every two weeks so I hope this will provide enough lettuce for us.  I’ve got space in the garden for about 50 plants – which means it will take me a total of 20 weeks to fully fill the garden with the lettuce.  Hmm – now that I think about it, I wonder if I need to be starting lettuce every week since there are only 8 weeks left.  That would give me 40 plants by the last average frost date.

Moving on – next to those black plastic 3-packs are two larger green square containers.  I planted a new variety of pepper this year – Anaheim Hot Pepper.  Two seeds were placed in each.

Lastly, there are two black plastic 4-packs to the very right.  I planted those with the good standby – California Wonder Pepper.  I planted seed that is two years old now (purchased from the store) in each of the cells – and also seeded seed that I saved from a pepper two years ago.  Going to see how the germination plays out on those.

Now for the front tray.  On the left-hand side, the first two orange containers are Red Cherry Tomatoes.  Three seeds each were planted in the orange containers.  Then the other five orange containers are Best Boy tomatoes.  Because I have very few seeds of this variety, I only plant one seed in each container.  I need at least three to germinate – so I am hoping for at least 60% germination and that none perish!

The trays are completely filled with compost tea and will be left overnight to soak in from the bottom.  Once they are good and saturated with the compost tea mixture, the peppers and tomatoes will be put over the heating mat to help germination come along quicker.

Compost Tea

Yuck!  What is that??  Oh, it is the liquid nutrient that have really propelled my seedlings!  Good ole compost tea!  With the rain that we had Sunday night into Monday, I filled my compost tea brewing container (it is the 55-gallon drum in the picture above that is sitting on the ground; it is filled with leaves and other dead plant materials).  In my rain barrel system, I made a cut into the 2″ PVC pipe and placed a ball valve on it.  So it is easy to fill the compost tea brewer – just open the ball valve and the water comes out right into the brewer!

Anyways, I didn’t want the water to go to waste – and I’ve already used a lot of gallons of compost tea that was saved from last year on my seedlings.  So I worked at refilling the container in the house with the supply outside.  Now I should have more than enough (I hope) to make it through the rest of the growing cycle.

The picture above is an old cooler that I was using to bring in the tea from outside.  Once I was done with that, it was time to do the rest of the planting.

I didn’t get pictures of this – but I’ve also started the broccoli and cauliflower.  I planted a new variety of cauliflower this year – called Snow Crown.  I used Snowball X cauliflower a few years back with bad results; only received one curd off of eight plants.  GardenWeb members swear by Snow Crown – so I purchased this and planted ten seeds (one seed each) in ten 16-ounce cups.  The cups were then placed in this cooler to absorb the compost tea and saturate the soil mixture.

The same thing was done with the two varieties of broccoli.  The good-ole standby that has performed very well for me – Green Goliath – and a new variety this year – Premium Crop Broccoli.  I planted ten of each variety into their own 16-ounce cups as well and put them in the cooler to saturate the soil.

Based on my previous plans for my garden, I had figured growing 12 cauliflower and 24 broccoli.  As I expected, my mind has changed.  What the heck will two people do with 24 heads of broccoli?  Heck, we only had seven heads last year and we just finished it up a few weeks ago!  So, I reduced the number of broccoli from 24 to 12 – still five more than last year (really only four – because one plant died last year and didn’t produce).

Same goes for the cauliflower.  The first year eight were planted, only one produced a good-sized curd.  Originally I was going to plant 12 cauliflower this year – but that has been reduced to only six.

Basically the 12 broccoli and 6 cauliflower all fit in one row.  The other row that was going to have them will now be planted with potatoes instead.  That will give us another 27 potato plants.  We use potatoes – and they don’t have to be started indoors – such a much better solution!  So the potato count is now up to about 170 – more than double what we planted last year.

OK – last thing.  Speaking of potatoes, our local farm store – Rural King – got their seed potatoes in this past weekend.  While we were visiting family, we made a stop in at the main store that started it all in Mattoon, IL where they have a huge warehouse on the store.  But, they had Red, White, and Gold potatoes (Red Pontiac, Kennebec, and Yukon Gold).  We purchased about 10 pounds of Kennebec (that is all we planted last year), and about 6 pounds of Yukon Gold.  Yukon Gold is ready to harvest before Kennebec – and therefore doesn’t store as long – but I’d like to see how they taste compare to Kennebec.  How much did they cost?  28 cents a pound.  Thats right – amazing that places charge $7 for a bag of five pounds of seed potatoes.  So, we got 16 pounds of potatoes less than $5.

How to Force Windows Wallpapers to Change

There are a few configuration changes that I make on computers that need to be set in the Windows registry.

With having over 600 computers that I oversee, making sure certain settings are configured are needed.  Our System Admins do a good job at configuring most things – but there are other changes that I like to take on myself.

One of the things that is unique to us is the fact that we change our desktop wallpaper across all computers as needed.  Unfortunately, there have been many cases where users change their own wallpaper to something else they’ve downloaded from Internet Explorer.  Once the users change this to something else, we were unable to force the windows wallpapers to change on the computers.

Not until I did a bit more digging and research.  Now, whenever we have a new wallpaper that needs to go out, we force it to do so based upon a login script.

First of all, this procedure is a bit more complex than my previous posts.  In essence, a batch file was created that automatically runs when a user signs into the computer.  So, that means that the person can change their wallpaper after logging in and the wallpaper is forced to be what we want, but once they log off and back onto the computer, it reverts back to our company’s wallpaper.

The login script does three things – (1) it copies the wallpaper from a share on the server so we just update this one file and it is automatically deployed to all computers when they log on, (2) it updates the user’s registry settings that revert back to the required wallpaper location, and (3) immediately forces the update of the wallpaper.

Here is our login script:

copy /Y \\<SERVER>\<FOLDER>\wallpaper.bmp C:\Windows\wallpaper.bmp
regedit /s C:\<FOLDER>\UpdateWallpaper.reg
RUNDLL32.EXE USER32.DLL,UpdatePerUserSystemParameters, 1, True

So just as previously described, the wallpaper bitmap file is copied from a server share to the local computer, the registry command is run to automatically import a registry file (showing that next), and then RUNDLL32.EXE is started which will force the changes to be updated immediately.

Alright – and now for the registry file.  It took many tweaks to get this right – but it finally is working.  The below registry file is imported every time someone logs into the PC – which then forces the Windows wallpaper to go back to what we want.  As in the login script above, this file is named “UpdateWallpaper.reg” and can be placed on the local computers – or even on the same server share.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]
“ConvertedWallpaper Last WriteTime”=hex:00,d8,8a,68,59,f2,c8,01


And that is all!  Just ensure you set that login script somewhere (maybe on the same server share) and set the computers so that the script is run upon user login.  This will then force all computers to have a standardized background wallpaper in Windows.

How To Disable Taskbar Grouping in Windows

There are a few configuration changes that I make on computers that need to be set in the Windows registry.

With having over 600 computers that I oversee, making sure certain settings are configured are needed.  Our System Admins do a good job at configuring most things – but there are other changes that I like to take on myself.

So – you don’t like the taskbar grouping of similar programs eh?  Well, let’s get rid of that!

This setting will be effective for all NEW users that login to the PC after this setting is made.  That means any user profiles that are already on the computer will not be affected – unless you delete them.  This process will disable the grouping of similar programs on the taskbar in the registry.

First, let’s open your favorite Registry editing program (regedit.exe).

Now, click the HKEY_USERS key and go up to File and choose “Load Hive”.  In there, you need to open the Default User profile’s registry file.  Type this in the box:

C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\NTUser.DAT

After you click Open, the Registry editor will ask you to give it a name.  Simply type in “ntuser” and hit OK.

Now, you have the Default User registry file opened for editing.  Now, it is time to disable the automatic grouping of programs on the taskbar.

Go to this location in the registry (assuming you named the file above ‘ntuser’ as indicated):


You now need to create a new REG_DWORD key.  Right-click on the right frame and choose New – then DWORD Value.

Name:  TaskbarGlomming
Value:  0

Yes, definitely an odd value name to disable the grouping of similar items via the registry, but it works!  If you want to enable it, change the value to 1.

That is all!  Now any new users that login to the computer will have the grouping of programs in the taskbar disabled.

How to Disable Microsoft Office Communicator From Loading At Logon

There are a few configuration changes that I make on computers that need to be set in the Windows registry.

With having over 600 computers that I oversee, making sure certain settings are configured are needed.  Our System Admins do a good job at configuring most things – but there are other changes that I like to take on myself.

One of those configuration items that I change in the registry is to disable the automatic loading of Microsoft Office Communicator when new users login.  In many circumstances, the program is not used – and should not be used – by the majority of  our staff.  So when a new user logs into a computer, we do not want Microsoft Office Communicator automatically starting.

To remove the automatic loading of Office Communicator when new users sign into a Windows computer, you’ll need to make a change in the registry.  This setting is stored in the ntuser.dat file in the C:\Documents and Settings\Default User folder.

So to disable Microsoft Office Communicator from loading in the registry, open up the Registry program (regedit.exe).  Click the HKEY_USERS key and then to up to File and choose “Load Hive”.

You will then browse to the C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\NTUser.DAT file.  Open this file and it will ask you to name it.  Simply enter ‘ntuser’.

Now, you have loaded the default user registry hive so you can make the change needed.  Go here in the registry:


Now you need to create a new folder here – so right-click in Microsoft, choose New and then Key.  You will name this key “Communicator”.

After the folder has been made, ensure you have the Communicator folder selected.  Now, you need to create a new REG_DWORD entry.

Right-click in the white pane on the right-side and click New – DWORD Value.  The name of the key needs to be “AutoRunWhenLogonToWindows”.

Now, give this key a value of “0” to disable Microsoft Office Communicator from automatically starting up upon login.  If you want it enabled, set the setting to “1”.

Change Internet Explorer Cache Size In The Registry

There are a few configuration changes that I make on computers that need to be set in the Windows registry.

With having over 600 computers that I oversee, making sure certain settings are configured are needed.  Our System Admins do a good job at configuring most things – but there are other changes that I like to take on myself.

One of those changes is to set the maximum cache size in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8 via the registry.  Setting the Internet Explorer cache size in the registry is simple to do – and here is how you do it.

If you just need to set it for only the currently logged-in user account, it is much simpler to just open Internet Exploer, go to Tools – Internet Options, and click Seettings on the browser cache.

However, if you want to set the Internet Explorer cache size in the registry for all users, you need to open the ntuser.dat file in the C:\Documents and Settings\Default User directory.  Note that any users that have already logged into the computer, this technique will not work – it will only take affect for those users that will login to that computer for the first time after you update the ntuser.dat.

Open your Regsitry Editor (regedit.exe).  Click the “HKEY_USERS” key and then go to File – Load Hive.  In the box to open, you’ll open the C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\ntuser.dat file.  It will then ask for a name – so just enter ‘ntuser’.

After that is loaded, you will now need to navigate to this location:

HKEY_USERS\ntuser\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\5.0\Cache\Content

In this area, there already should be a “CacheLimit” REG_DWORD entry in there.  Now – the number you enter in this area needs to be a hex number.  So, here is what you do to get the hex.

Open your calculator on the computer and ensure it is in Scientific Mode (View – Scientific).  Now, type in the number you want the Internet Explorer maximum cache size set to.  For example, if you want 128 megabytes, you will enter 128 * 1024 (you multiply by 1024 because this is kilobytes).  This yields 131072 KB.  Now, click the Hex option.  This will yield “20000”.  This is the number you would then enter in the “CacheLimit” registry setting to set the maximum cache size for Internet Explorer in the registry.

All done!  The Internet Explorer cache size for all new users that login to the computer should be set at 128 MB.