Where to Find What?

I have confessed on this blog that I have Mr. Monk DVDs for a reason. We like to categorize, tag, painstakingly re-organize, and re-use. This is reflected in our Innovations in Agriculture …

The Seedbank: Left-over squared timber met the chopsaw.

The Nursery: Rebirth of copper tubes and newspapers.

… as well as in my periodical Raking The Virtual Zen Garden: Updating collections of web resources, especially those related to the heat pump system.

Here is a list of lists, sorted by increasing order of compactification:

But thanks to algorithms, we get helpful advice on presentation from social media platforms: Facebook, for example, encouraged me to tag products in the following photo, so here we go:

“Hand-crafted, artisanal, mobile nursery from recycled metal and wood, for holding biodegradable nursery pots.” Produced without crowd-funding and not submitted to contests concerned with The Intersection of Science, Art, and Innovation.

Self-Sufficiency Poetry

Our self-sufficiency quota for electrical energy is 30%, but what about the garden?

Since I haven’t smart metered every edible wildflower consumed, I resort to Search Term Poetry and random images. This is a summer blog post, lacking the usual number crunching and investigative tech journalism.

(Search terms are from WordPress statistics and Google Tools)

Direct self-consumption quota was nearly 100% last year (no preservation), and self-sufficiency was very low, with one exception: Yarrow tea.

This year we will reach 100% herbal tea self-sufficiency:

Yarrow TeamThe solar/air collector is boosting yarrow harvest – and we have yet to include its cosmic quantum free energy focusing effect in the marketing brochure.

fringe science theories
can efficiency be greater than 1

Collector, yarrow, poppy

But it also boosts vitality of other life forms:

alien energy

Slimey Aliens near collector

I cannot prove that these particular slimy aliens – edible and a protected species in Austria – are harmful as I never caught them red-handed. You just need to be careful when collecting vegetables to avoid the slimy parts.

We are self-sufficient re green ‘salad’ and ‘fake spinach’ for about half a year. Our top edible wild flowers in terms of yield are Dandelion, Fireweed, Meadow Goat’s Beard …

why does the grim reaper have a scythe

Meadow Goat's Beard

… and White Stonecrop: both tasty …

jurassic park jelly

White Stonecrop and snail

… and ornamental:

zeitgeisty

White Stonecrop, Sedum Album

With standard vegetables (accepted as edible by the majority) we did crop rotation – and the tomatoes look happiest as solitary plants in new places …

analyzing spatial models of choice and judgment

Tomatoe Plant

The Surprise Vegetable Award goes to an old heirloom variety, called Gartenmelde in German:

slinkyloop antenna
physics metaphors

Gartenmelde

Last year exactly one seedling showed up, and we left it untouched. This year the garden was flooded with purple plants in spring:

virtual zen garden

Gartenmelde in spring

There are two main categories of edible plants – and two different branches of the food chain: Things we mainly eat, like tomatoes, herbs, onion, and garlic …

old-fashioned

Garlic, tomatoes, herbs

… and the ones dedicated to alien species. Top example: The plants that should provide for our self-sufficiency in carbohydrates:

simple experiment

Potatoes

In the background of this image you see the helpful aliens in our garden, the ones that try to make themselves useful in this biosphere:

force on garden hose
so called art

Helpful Alien

But looking closer, there is another army of slimy life-forms, well organized and possibly controlled by a superior civilization in another dimension:

the matrix intro
protocol negotiation failed please try again

Slimey aliens and potatoes

microwaving live animals

This garden is fertilizer- and pest-control-free, so we can only try to complement the food chain with proper – and more likeable – creatures:

solutions to problems

Hedgehog, Potatoes

Yes, I have been told already it might not eat this particular variety of aliens as their slime is too bitter. I hope for some mutation!

But we are optimistic: We managed to tune in other life-forms to our philosophy as well and made them care about our energy technology:

so you want to be an engineer

Blackbird and air pump

This is a young blackbird. Grown up, it will skillfully de-slime and kill aliens, Men-in-Black-style.

Life-forms too quick or too small for our random snapshot photography deserve an honorable mention: Welcome, little snake (again an alien-killer) and thanks mason bees for clogging every hole or tube in the shed!

It is a pity I wasted the jurassic park search term on the snail already as of course we have pet dinosaurs:

Pet Dinosaur

So in summary, this biotope really has a gigantic bug, as we nerds say.

sniff all internet access

Bug or Feature

Update on Edible ‘Weed’

After two physics articles with too much links I owe you an image-only link-free post. This is an update to my catalogue of edible wildflowers in our lawn meadow.

I amended the original list with one amazing wild vegetable: Meadow Goatsbeard. In past years I tried to eradicate it, now I don’t scythe certain patches but carefully use grass shears, avoiding to cut its signature yellow bloom:

meadow-goatsbeard

It can be used as fake spinach and for salad – I vouch for both! Insiders say the roots are the real delicacy (tasting like salsifies), but this year I will not yet dig out the roots but rather let them flower and disperse their seeds. The most amazing feature is that it grows and grows new leaves, despite it had not rained in the past week and maximum temperatures were up to 30°C.

Here is the result of a single ‘harvesting session’ (left):

meadow-goatsbead-yarrow

… side-by-side with a Yarrow leaves (right). We are self-sufficient on tea since April. thanks yarrow and Lemon Balm.

In the background of the first image: the tomato plants attached to the solar collector. So far they look good this year, blooming nicely:

tomatoes-collector-june-2015

We weren’t able to discard ‘spare’ tomato seedlings – so they grow near the compost pile. Clients visiting us to see the heat pump system may think we are in the tomato business (one strawberry plant in the middle):

even-more-tomatoesFinally my secret favorite has started growing – Portulaca / Purslane. Yes, I think it tastes like pepper!

The wild, creeping variety (… and even more ‘spare’ tomatoes in the background):

wild-portulaca

The more erect variety, from purchased seeds (the larger ones).

portulaca-erect

The plants in the background is for decoration and suppression of other weed, such as grass 🙂 Some variety of Sedum Reflexum (yellowish), and Phlox.

Speaking about Sedum: White Stonecrop was a main ingredient in the typical spring salad, together with Dandelions, and the absolutely amazingly tasty Fireweed.

Now White Stonecrop is nearly blooming (in the image below: in front of seed pods of Pasque Flowers / Prairie Crocus[*] Afterwards it will wither – then harvesting season is over.

[*] I am sure I picked the most uncommon common name often in this post, actually I am not even sure about German ones.

white-stonecrop

Fireweed – despite the temptation I keep a few for seeds:

fireweedAs for Dandelions, it seems I was unable to take a photo of the plants. Now I know how to feel sorry for having not enough weed anymore. The buds are even more delicious than the young leaves.

dandelions

The photo of fireweed als shows one of my new favorite decorative weeds in the background, but the Poppy season is nearly over now.

poppy-june-2015

Poppy’s seed capsules have some aesthetic value, but they cannot beat Nigella Sativa. Here is spice in the making – alien space probes inspecting the garden.

nigella-seed-capsules

Those plants we finally picked for cultivating – weed or not – are also the ones that turned out maintenance-free, drought-resistant, and capable of taking care of themselves – suppressing other unwanted plants. The remaining ‘work’ – if you want to call it like that – is truly enjoyable and like the proverbial raking the Zen garden.

We have never used weed killers nor fertilizer except the soil from compost. We only water tomato plants and mediterranean herbs a bit, so scything is due only once every two or three weeks. I don’t care if the meadow is burnt down to straw in summer.

These are my favorite drought-tolerant alien periscopes –  Hen and Chicks, used as a medicinal herb, otherwise too bitter even for me.

alien-hen-and-chicks

We don’t fight pests, and I live in fear what will happen to eggplants’ fruits. I have learned that those are (in our climate) slugs’ favorite diet in summer. In this case the, last resort is my office gardening experiments. To  my surprise, this spare plant has some flower buds already.

eggplant-office-june-2015

… maybe due to the wooden ‘table’: original Art from the Scrapyard – from the remainders of our two large spruces – by the Carpenter-Artist-Engineer-Physicist working in that office with me.

If Only It Would Be Edible …

So I once said when I laid down the scythe, looking at the heap of green. Then I realized that most of the plants in the garden are edible! Most are bitter and intense, very much to my liking! In preparation for this hunter-gatherer’s season I am going to create this cheat sheet – not to pick anything toxic Field Fennel Flower. One of my former decoration-only plants. The seeds of the cultivated variety are used to spice pita bread – but these wild seeds should be used sparingly because they contain a toxic alkaloid.

Nigella arvensis sl12

Nigella arvensis, Field Fennel Flower, once a decorative plant in Victorian gardens. Image by Stefan.lefnaer, Wikimedia.

The seed capsules look like alien space probes:

Nigella arvensis fruit,. Image by Luis Fernández, Wikimedia.

Daisy Fleabane – my favorite daisies on sticks, to be used for tea and salad. It had been imported to Europe from America in the 17th century as an ornamental plant.

20120626Berufkraut Hockenheim

Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane. The German name translates to Magic Spell Herb. Image by AnRo0002, Wikimedia.

Normal (short) Daisies: the 2nd most common plant in the ‘lawn’ after yarrow. I find they taste similar to spinach.

Daisies in our garden

Bellis Perennis, Daisies. Historical view of our garden without the solar collector, but with tall trees. Daisies liked the forest-like climate even better.

Daisies, solar collector

Or maybe I am romanticizing the past – still lots of daisies today.

As a child I ate loads of green woodsorrel despite the oxalic acid. Our peskiest bravest weed belongs to the same family: Creeping Woodsorrel, beautiful but capable of slowly destroying any structure of stone with its innocuous pink roots:

Oxalis corniculata, Creeping Woodsorrel. One German name translates to Red Jumping Clover – referring to its catapulted seeds. Image by TeunSpaans on Wikimedia.

Dandelions – I usually uprooted them. The leaves taste like rocket salad with a touch of nuts, and the buds can be used like capers. After World War II people had used the roasted roots as a replacement for coffee.

Dandelions at Home

Taraxacum, Dandelion. The German name means Lion’s Tooth – just as the English one, as I learned from Pairodox’ post. (Image stumbled upon when browsing our our photo folders).

I uprooted this one, too: Chickweed, showing up in early spring. It tastes a bit like fresh corn kernels.

Stellaria media 04

Stellaria media, Chickweed. One German common name translates to Chicken’s Colon. Not sure if this is related to chickens’ craze for it or to the white rubber-like, elastic strand inside the stem. Image by Sanja565658, Wikimedia.

Purslane. Another Plant I had promoted it from weed to decoration. It should taste like pepper, and can be eaten fresh or cooked. Its Wikipedia page features the nutritional merits extensively. In contrast to pepper it survives in our colonies of slugs. Generally, wild edible plants go well with our No Pest Killers / No Fertilizer policy.

Portulaca oleracea stems

Portulaca oleracea, Purslane. The wild variety is creeping as this image shows. We will also try to grow another kind that grows upright.

White Stonecrop. Also resembling green pepper, but more sourly.

sedum album

Sedum Album, White Stonecrop with reddish leaves, growing near the supporting construction of our solar collector. (The smaller, greener one is toxic Sedum Acre – Yellow Stonecrop).

White Yarrow – the perfectly scythe-able, drought-resistant replacement for grass. Great for tea, and perhaps salad in small quantities.

20120922Roter Bruch Walldorf12

Achillea millefolium, Yarrow. It grows (even) more extensively after the trees had been removed. Image by AnRo0002, Wikimedia.

Fireweed – the plant flooding our office with cotton-like fluffs every year as I let a few of them grow, for their ornamental merits. Dave from Pairodox Farm had once published a stunning image of similar seeds of Milkweed. You could use leaves and stems and the young sprouts are said to taste like asparagus. My expectations are high!

Epilobium angustifolium 6224

Epilobium / Chamerion Angustifolium, Fireweed. This image showcases its resilience. Image by Walter Siegmund, Wikimedia.

Violets. Young leaves are edible and the fragrant sweet blooms seem to be somewhat famous. I think I will not eat them though!

Violets, Daisies, Stonecrop, Yarrow

Viola, Violets – in our ‘lawn’ of yarrow, daisies and yellow stonecrop.

I add two classical plants in the herb garden because I had just found them as alleged wild flowers in our garden: Oregano. I recognized it as an edible herb when spotting a blooms on a salad served in a restaurant. Until writing this post and comparing close-ups of blooms I was sure it was marjoram.

Origanum vulgare Prague 2011 1

Oregano, Origanum vulgare. Surviving in our winter and in summer without extra watering. Image by  Karelj, Wikimedia.

Lemon Balm. Great for tea, but I like the green leaves especially as a replacement of jam in pancakes Austrian style. I don’t like sweet taste too much – perhaps that’s why I enjoy all these bitter herbs!.

Melissa officinalis2

Melissa officinalis, Lemon Balm – hard to get rid of it if you don’t want it. Image by KENPEI, Wikimedia.

The first harvest:

Edible wild flowers, first test in spring 2015

Dandelion, daisies, white stonecrop, and chickweed.

Edit on May 25, 2015: More than a month after starting extensive and regular harvesting, I notice I missed an extraordinary plant:

Meadow Goat’s Beard. The leaves can be used like spinache – cooked with olive oil and garlic, very tasty – but German articles suggest the roots are the real delicacy, similar to Black Salsify.

meadow-goats-beard

Tragopogon pratensis, Meadow Goat’s Beard. Blossoms and also leaves are somewhat similar to dandelions, but leaves are thicker, and they come in different textures and colors – a bit ‘hairy’ versus smooth.

Grim Reaper Does a Back-of-the-Envelope Calculation

I have a secondary super-villain identity. People on Google+ called me:
Elke the Ripper or Master of the Scythe.

elkement-reaper[FAQ] No, I don’t lost a bet. We don’t have a lawn-mower by choice. Yes, we tried the alternatives including a reel lawn-mower. Yes, I really enjoy doing this.

It is utterly exhausting – there is no other outdoor activity in summer that leaves me with the feeling of really having achieved something!

So I was curious if Grim Reaper the Physicist can express this level of exhaustion in numbers.

Just holding a scythe with arms stretched out would not count as ‘work’. Yet I believe that in this case it is the acceleration required to bring the scythe to proper speed that matters; so I will focus on work in terms of physics.

In order to keep this simple, I assume that the weight of the scythe is a few kilos (say: 5kg) concentrated at the end of a weightless pole of 1,5m length. All the kinetic energy is concentrated in this ‘point mass’.

But how fast does a blade need to move in order to cut grass? Or from experience: How fast do I move the scythe?

One sweep with the scythe takes a fraction of second – probably 0,5s. The blade traverses an arc of about 2m.

Thus the average speed is: 2m / 0,5s = 4m/s

However, using this speed in further calculations does not make much sense: The scythe has two handles that allow for exerting a torque – the energy goes into acceleration of the scythe.

If an object with mass m is accelerated from a velocity of zero to a peak velocity vmax the kinetic energy acquired is calculated from the maximum velocity: m vmax2 / 2. How exactly the velocity has changed with time does not matter – this is just conservation of energy.

But what is the peak velocity?

For comparison: How fast do lawn-mower blades spin?

This page says: at 3600 revolutions per minute when not under load, dropping to about 3000 when under load. How fast would I have to move the scythe to achieve the same?

Velocity of a rotating body is angular velocity times radius. Angular velocity is 2Pi – a full circle – times the frequency, that is revolutions per time. The radius is the length of the pole that I use as a simplified model.

So the scythe on par with a lawn-mower would need to move at:
2Pi * (3000 rev./minute) / (60 seconds/minute) * 1,5m = 471m/s

This would result in the following energy per arc swept. I use only SI units, so the resulting energy is in Joule:

Energy needed to accelerate to 314m/s: 5kg * (471m/s)2 / 2 = 555.000J = 555kJ

I am assuming that this energy is just consumed (dissipated) to cut the grass; the grass brings the scythe to halt, and it is decelerated to 0m/s again.

Using your typIcal food-related units:
1 kilocalorie is 4,18kJ, so this amounts to about 133kcal (!!)

That sounds way too much already: Googling typical energy consumptions for various activities I learn that easy work in the garden needs about 100-150kcal kilocalories per half an hour!

If scything were that ‘efficient’ I would put into practice what we always joke about: Offer outdoor management trainings to stressed out IT managers who want to connect with their true selves again through hard work and/or work-out most efficiently. So they would pay us for the option to scythe our grass.

But before I crank down the hypothetical velocity again, I calculate the energy demand per half an hour:

I feel exhausted after half an hour of scything. I pause a few seconds before the next – say 10s – on average. In reality it is probably more like:

scythe…1s…scythe…1s…scythe…1s….scythe…1s….scythe…longer break, gasping for air, sharpen the scythe.

I assume a break of 9,5s on average to make the calculation simpler. So this is 1 arc swept per 10 seconds, 6 arcs per minute, and 180 per half an hour. After half on hour I need to take longer break.

So using that lawn-mower-style speed this would result in:

Energy per half an hour if I were a lawn-mower: 133kJcal * 180 = 23.940kcal

… about five times the daily energy demands of a human being!

Velocity enters the equation quadratically. Assuming now that my peak scything speed is really only a tenth of the speed of a lawn-mower, 47m/2, which is still about 10 times my average speed calculated the beginning, this would result in one hundredth the energy.

A bit more realistic energy per half an hour of scything is then: 239kcal

Just for comparison – to get a feeling for those numbers: Average acceleration is maximum velocity over time. Thus 47m/s would result in:

Average acceleration: (47m/s) / (0,5s)  =  94m/s2

A fast car accelerates to 100km/h within 3 seconds, at (100/3,6)m/s / 3s = 9m/s2

So my assumed scythe’s acceleration is about 10 times a Ferrari’s!

Now I would need a high-speed camera, determine speed exactly and find a way to calculate actual energy needed for cutting.

Is there some conclusion?

This was just playful guesswork but the general line of reasoning and cross-checking orders of magnitude outlined here is not much different from when I try to get my simulations of our heat pump system right – based on unknown parameters, such as the effect of radiation, the heat conduction of ground, and the impact of convection in the water tank. The art is not so much in gettting numbers exactly right but in determining which parameters matter at all and how sensitive the solution is to a variation of those. In this case it would be crucial to determine peak speed more exactly.

In physics you can say the same thing in different ways – choosing one way over the other can make the problem less complex. As in this case, using total energy is often easier than trying to figure out the evolution of forces or torques with time.

results-achieved-by-scythe-masterThe two images above were taken in early spring – when the ‘lawn’ / meadow was actually still growing significantly. Since we do not water it relentless Pannonian sun already started to turn it into a mixture of green and brown patches.

This is how the lawn looks now, one week after latest scything. This is not intended to be beautiful – I wanted to add a realistic picture as I had been asked about the ‘quality’ compared to a lawn-mower. Result: Good enough for me!

Scything: One week after

 

Welcome to the Real World!

Warning: This is a disturbing post – despite the allusion to The Matrix in the title it is – really – about the real world only.

Hardly any geekiness included.

In order to compensate for that I will craft a short search term poem – this time exclusively from yesterday’s search terms:

the universe is antifragile

gut tube formation
alien themed control panels

heat pumps with elements

The last line has already anticipated what I am going to reveal in this post: It is about an element of a heat pump system – and its added benefit in agriculture.

Other readers of my blog have discovered my German blog – so I have to come out as a tomato addict.

Solar collector and tomatoes

Our solar collector used as an espalier for tomato plants

The solar collector featured in this post is very versatile: In winter energy for heating is harvested from the ambient air via convection but radiation is not that important. Im summer time you need to heat hot water only and there is too much energy available anyway. Thus it isn’t an issue to cover the collector with leaves and tomatoes – and it can be used as an espalier  [marketing pitch] combining the beauty of nature with the sleek appeal of sophisticated technology [/marketing].

I have been asked if this is useful for greenhouse operators: The answer is unfortunately No as even in summer it extracts heat from the air (and the tomatoes).

There is only one special mode of operation that would ‘heat’ the plants (a bit – I haven’t done simulations on this): The energy harvested by the collector is deposited to a water tank – the heat source of the heat pump. This tank is used for passive cooling in summer: Floor heating becomes floor cooling. Heating of hot water is beneficial as heat is extracted from the tank.

If there is an intermittent ‘cold’ period in summer the cooling capacity can be increased by actually cooling the tank through the collector – you would run the collector pump e.g. in the night. Thus if the air is much cooler than the tank than the collector would cool the tank and ‘heat’ the tomatoes.

But this is a rare condition and most likely not accountable for the incredible ‘output’ in terms of tomatoes. These are 13 plants – 13 different varieties with funny names as Green Zebra and Black Plum. The most prolific one is Gelbe Dattelwein (Translates to Yellow Date Wine, most of the other names are English ones anyway).

According to superficial googling ‘health’ and ‘tomatoes’ eating about 1 kg tomatoes a day does not have negative side effects.

We bought the plants from Arche Noah (Noah’s Ark), a society whose vision it is to work on bringing traditional and rare varieties into gardens and on the market again.