Performing African Violet Surgery

African violet

One of my seemingly millions of interests is the growing of African violets.  I am definitely still in the beginner category here, but I’ve played at keeping these little guys alive for a few years now.  In May 2014 there was an influx of purchased violets, which really solidified this interest.

Originally purchased to look nice on my desk at work, I quickly learned that the flowers fall off and don’t come back again easily on their own.  And also that these plants need a fair amount of sunlight and warmth.  (Up until very recently, neither of these came in ready quantities at work.)  So, the plants would look pretty for a few weeks and then end up coming home with me to care for them there.

Well, something exciting is happening.  The plant featured at the top of this post is (… get this …) actually getting ready to flower!  And in a big way!  You see, I keep them alive pretty well.  They stay nice and green.  But after some time passes, it’s tricky to remember which ones were which colours.  When you look at the photo, you can see some of the several buds getting ready to flower and can tell this particular plant had pink flowers!  Wuhhoo!

But today was no ordinary day for the violets.  I had two, long overdue missions – both involving surgery.  As in olden times, the kitchen table became the operating theatre and, there, I set to work.

Patient #1

The first mission was taking another one of the plants purchased last spring (maybe the burgundy one?) and separating it.  This guy had multiple crowns — which basically means leaves grew every which way because multiple plants began growing in the same space.

The surprising thing (at least to a novice plant surgeon) was there were a few other little guys in there beyond the two main plants. And so a secondary goal became giving the little guys a new place to make it on their own.  (More on that in a moment.)

Patients #1a and #1b

Pictured here we have our separated patients.  They should adapt and became quite happy on their own in a few days, I think.

The other little guys got mixed in with some new friends, which I will get to in a moment.





IMG_20150125_161707Mission number two was dealing with the plants I was propagating intentionally.  Back in the spring or early summer I tried my hand at a few different techniques of propagating new plants from cuttings.  The method that was the hands down winner was sticking cut leaves directly into the soil and waiting until little guys start to sprout.  And sprout they did.

In a single pot I placed three leaves and all three of them did their thing.  My goal today was to separate the little guys and get them into their own space.








Again, in my inexperience, I was thinking each leaf had started one new plant.  But that’s not the way it goes necessarily.  So, as with the first operation, there were multiple candidates for transplanting.

In the photo showing the candidates, you can see the three large leaves.  They were still in great shape, with some roots of their own, so I thought I’d try an experiment and pot them together again and see what happens this time.


IMG_20150125_173337These are all the transplant candidates.  Some are reeeeeally tiny.  Others will probably do just fine in a few days.  Once they’re happy, I’ll probably try keeping a few at the office and see how that goes in the new space — which has both heat and good sun exposure in the window.











IMG_20150125_173350In this photo you can see three pots of cuttings to begin some new plants.  The one at the bottom left is the retry experiment with the original three leaves.  The other two (bottom right) are new leaves cut from the plant I separated out.  Then other two on the right are the newly separated plant.

The larger plants on the left are just concerned family members who didn’t undergo surgery themselves today.

Well, that’s about it… hopefully in a few days there will be an exciting post about the flowering of the pink violet plant. :)

The Case of the Disconnecting Drives has been Solved

server After an extremely frustrating moment where my randomly disconnecting drives escalated to become corrupted drives, I decided the pursue the matter further.

So yes, this is another techy, geeky post.  But maybe it will help somebody… Or even remind me later how I solved this when I come across the problem again.

What seemed to be happening was after a certain amount of inactivity, when left on this new hard drive enclosure (presumably) does something that makes the OS say ‘hey, you’re inactive… I will put your drives to sleep’ and then proceeds to disconnect everything very abruptly.

When I dug a little deeper I learned that there is an Energy Saver setting in OS X that controls whether the hard drives sleep or not.  It seems (at least for right now) I need them to not sleep.  (I imagine this includes external and the internal drive… So I might want to research this a bit more with respect to the internal drive.)

All I needed to do (it seems) is uncheck the “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” option, as seen in the screenshot.

Screenshot - OS X Energy SaverSo, there you have it. I made this change late last night, left the external drive on overnight and all through the day and everything stayed connect and uncorrupted. This is good news.

Another thing I learned about while prepping for this post was some nifty features about the “Preview” app in OS X. I’ll have to save those for a future post. But in the meantime, you Mac users, you really should check out the hidden power of Preview!

A Geeky Mac Discovery: How to Remount External Drives

Wchiparning, this is a geeky post.

I recently decided to change my file backup strategy for my Mac.  As part of this, I’m dealing with multiple external drives.  Today I started having problems with the drives disconnecting and I quickly grew frustrated when I had to shut down and restart the drives to make them visible again.

Enter the simple solution I’ve been dreaming of but didn’t realize.  In the “Disk Utility” app there is a “Mount” option for each drive.  How I’ve missed this for all these years, I’m not sure.  But it’s awesome news for a geek like me.

Thanks to the guy who wrote a helpful post which taught me this.  Visit his site/post here:

Why it’s randomly disconnecting?  Well, that’s a Google search for another day.

That time I met Woody Woodpecker

Not all those who wander are lost.

– J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


As I was wandering on Sunday afternoon at the Guelph Arboretum, I met a bird…


But not just any bird. I named this little guy is named Woody, the Pileated Woodpecker. He was being noisy enough that I had to stop and take notice.  I’m glad I did.  Read more about Woody and his kind here: Pursuit of pileated: Search for shy woodpecker ends in Lower Meadow – Discover Mill Creek

I have to say that one of the coolest things about my wander around was enjoying that sense of true wonder that comes with exploring something for the very first time and having *no* clue what is coming next.  Even though the trails are all tucked in closely between some major roads and near one of Canada’s finest universities, I often forgot completely where I was.


I also turned this wander into a winter photo walk.  Not only am I trying to learn this manual mode thing on my Nikon D90, I find I also have sooo much to learn about winter photography.  My time began with sunlight but it became overcast before too long.  So, there was a lot of grey and white all around.  And I don’t have oodles knowledge to draw from yet.  Hopefully, a year from now the story (and results) will be different.


This last one is my favourite, despite my novice abilities.  Right at the end of my outing, there were these crazy bushes with red flowers of some sort all around the parking lot.  No idea what this is, other than colourful and a semi-decent shot.


The Case of the Overambitious Cook

Sunday evening rolls around and I decide I should cook something for tonight and tomorrow.  After some surfing around, and considering what (I thought) was in the house, I decided on a dangerously multi-stepped plan:

– cornbread
– black bean and ham mixture, to be combined with…
– brown basmati rice

Seems simple, right?  Heh.

Even knowing how tragic my skills are when it comes to cooking brown basmati rice, I bravely forged ahead with yet another technique to attempt.  Let’s just say that, although the methods change, the outcome is horribly consistent.  Maybe I need to try white rice and build my confidence?  I don’t know.  Nonetheless, I’m getting better at recovering from these rice disasters.  One day, I’ll figure this out…

The cornbread was a fun one.  I used a gluten-free recipe concocted by a talented friend of mine, on which I’ve sat on for far too long.  Even though I nearly scorched the whole thing at the end (while I was fighting with my gloppy rice, of course) I’d say this turned out fairly well.  I even successfully “made” my very own buttermilk by adding apple cider vinegar to regular milk.  (1 Tbsp. vinegar per cup of milk – let stand for at least 5 minutes.)

And the plan for the black bean and ham mix up (where I was going to use the rice…), this was the inspiration:

Cuban Ham, Rice and Black Bean Casserole

I had planned to follow it a bit more closely than I ended up doing.  But since there was an unprecedented onion shortage in the house I tweaked.  A lot.  I used what little onion we had, chopped up some celery, carrot, and red pepper to go with it, then used some leftover bacon instead of ham.  I drained an entire can of black beans to add in, and all of this looked and tasted good.  But when the dreaded rice needed help, I tried adding some of it directly to the fried up mix.  Of course _after_ doing so, I found a recommendation to rinse and drain the unfortunate rice to help recover, so I’m hopeful that will help what sits leftover in the fridge now.

Anyway, after the ups and downs and trying to build up this underdeveloped skill set, I had something that was relatively enjoyable and leftovers that will see me into another day with more lessons learned.

But, wow, I gotta get past this rice thing… I love rice too much to be inept at preparing it myself!

The quest for a quick curry

My personal pantry has been expanding for several months now, although I’m not taking advantage of it often enough! But on Sunday night I felt like a curry, and we all needed a meal. And the leftovers would help me with a lunch or two as well.xpanding

After Googling around, based on what I felt like and knew I had on hand, I finally found something to work with:
RECIPE: Easy Coconut Curry

Making a few minor alterations (rice instead of quinoa, and no sweet potato) and with help from Mom we gave it a go. Mom is an excellent sous-chef. She handled the rice cooking — a phobia I absolutely must get over — and chopped vegetables up while I was tending to the sauce. However I don’t think I took the “simmering” instruction to heart and may have missed out on a smoother tasting curry because of it. So there’s something I need to understand better for the next time I’m told to simmer down, literally.

We also had almonds on hand and I found these were an amazing addition. Another time I would be curious to try with the sweet potato (Dad isn’t a fan, so I left it out) and with the quinoa. But it was a simple, fuss-free recipe (especially with Mom’s assistance!) and it met the night’s need.

As for the leftovers, they were also a success.  Especially in this bone chillingly cold weather!  It was yummy comfort food combined with the convenience of not needing to go outside.  A perfect fit.