Monday, June 26, 2006

day lily buds

I knew that day lilys were edible, and I saw them cropping up all around my new house. So I broke out Steve Brill's book -- he being my favorite authority on edibles -- and he mentioned all the various ways people eat day lilys. My mind got caught on day lily bud pickles. When Steve said that the plant no longer propagates via flower, it propagates via rhizomes, I knew I'd hit the jackpot. I bottled some day lily buds in a fairly usual pickle manner last night, and today I'm trying a variation on a day lily bud recipe I found on the internet. In a few weeks I'll be able to say how they taste. But the one I bottled last night is a beautiful red color. I had brined the buds for 12-24 hours (2 batches that I collected over two days), and put a plate on top to weigh them down. Some discolored a little, and some discolored a lot. I should have put them all in the jar and poured the hot vinegar over them, but I discarded some of the most discolored ones. Turns out that everywhere they discolored turned a brilliant red color in the vinegar solution, making a very pretty display if nothing else.

However Steve Brill said that day lily pickle buds are delicious. If it ever stops raining, I'll put pictures of day lilies and their buds online for people to get a good id. There's similar, still edible species (tiger lily), but the day lily has no poisonous look-alikes. As always, pick your plants away from car-ways. You don't want auto emissions on your food.

Also, I use pasta/tomato sauce jars or pickle jars that I've cleaned for making things in vinegar. Vinegar corrodes metal -- normal Ball or canning jars use metal rings and the lids will often corrode. Tomatoes are also corrosive so they use lined jar lids for pasta sauces.

My recipe -- the first batch I used about 1/4 cup salt to 1c water for the brine. I soaked the day lily buds by submerging them in the brine at room temperature (you may try in the fridge, maybe they wont get browned around the edges...) overnight. The following morning I picked more and left the whole lot in the solution until the evening. I created the vinegar pickling mix by filling a similarly-sized jar about 4/5ths or more with 1/2 organic cider vinegar 1/2 white vinegar, about 3/4 to 1c white sugar, about 4 whole cloves, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1tsp fennel seed, 1tsp black peppercorns. Stirred it up, put it in a non-metal saucepan to heat to steaming. You can be more patient than me and boil it :) While waiting, I rinsed the buds from the brine, and lined them up in the jar. Line them up very tightly if possible -- I didn't, and they all floated to the top. I was afraid to squish them too much. When the vinegar solution was ready, I poured it SLOWLY over the top (make sure the jar is warmed so that it does not shatter!), waited for bubbles to float out, poured in more, etc. I attempted to completely cover the buds without having the vinegar touch the lid of the jar. I eventually put the lid on, and turned the whole jar over (use gloves! it's HOT) a few times, re-opened it and poured more solution in. Label the LID of the jar, and turn it over a couple times a day for the first few days, especially if there are buds that aren't quite covered on the top. I'm hoping they eventually get saturated and sink to the bottom.

Today, instead of brine, my recipe calls for boiling the buds for 20 minutes or so -- enough to eat them as a vegetable. I'm using a different pickling solution -- one much less clear, so it won't be as pretty on the shelf. The buds came out of the boiling with the water mainly black, and the buds looking like soggy stringbeans. I put them in the jar, heated the pickling solution and I'm waiting for it to cool so I can put a label on it. This time I did a part apple cider and part white vinegar solution again, but I made about 1/3 of the sugar molasses and the spices were 2 whole cinnamon, 5 whole cloves, and a pinch of allspice powder (I need to get more whole allspice!). I couldn't really pack the jar tightly, but these babies were so tired and waterlogged that they sink easily. At the same time, they have totally lost all firmness and color compared to the brined buds. We'll see how it all turns out.

[tags]day lily, pickles, canning, steve brill, recipe[/tags]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New Portfolio launched

Ok, I give. Not everyone wants to have to dig around to see the cool stuff. The Portfolio link takes you directly to a gallery, where you can page through all the artwork. But you aren't totally spared my verbosity. Each detail page may have a blurb.

In the item detail pages, there are links back to the old portfolio pages, where there are case studies for those of you who still care about my babble. So it's the best of both worlds. Everyone can pretend to be illiterate and look only at pictures (like coloring books, ya kno?) and click around playfully, etc. Those who prefer snuggling in bed with a nice book and some warm cocoa can click through to the juicy ramblings and corporate scandals. Can you beat it?

Good luck!

[tags]portfolio, new site, design[/tags]

And the green grass grew...

I love my little garden.

It's been struggling. The woodchuck LOVES the greenbean leaves and the spinach.

My first planting of greenbeans was pretty much a disaster. All but two of the plants were eaten by insects or critters. Those two are fertile, flowering, and seem to be a variety that does NOT require fencing or poles to climb on. One has a seed-pod growing already.

My mom and I planted greenbean seeds that are children of her beans from her garden last year. And we planted A LOT. Of those, about half are doing well, and half have been chomped by deer or woodchuck. Those are struggling to bring up leaves again, but I'm afraid they may not make it. I planted more of the organic freestanding beans between the climbing beans that probably won't make it. So that will be 3 crops of beans if any of the 3rd planting make it.

The basil is starting to look healthier, the parsley is growing into it's pre-adolescence. The dill looks great. But the mystery is that the oregano never grew. At all. So I used that area to plant a late batch of tomatoes.

My son's one lonely pea plant is climbing faithfully up one tomato cage and its started to flower. I hope they don't require separate plants to be fertilized.

I put two cages down around the cucumber plants to give them something to climb on, but I'm really afraid they're going to totally overwhelm the cages LOL

I have one more cage for the tomatoes unless I find the other ones that may be buried under the poison ivy.

The spinach is starting to stalk and grow vertical, but many of the baby leaves were trashed by the varmint that has been eating the greenbean leaves wholesale.

Because most of the plants have been struggling, I planted all the rest of the seeds in various places for a free-for-all. Many of the plants can be harvested before they are mature (basil, spinach, parsley, dill), so why not? Nearly all the new seeds I planted are already sprouting above the soil, and will join their more mature brethren.

I've considered fencing in the front side of the garden, but I'm not sure it will inconvenience the critters more than it inconveniences me. Next year, I have to plant the tomatoes all across the front. I only put them across half the front. Hopefully that will be enough of a "nothing interesting here -- now move along" to keep most vermin out (tomato leaves are poisonous -- tomatoes are in the nightshade family, and in the middle ages the fruit of the tomato plant was thought to be poisonous).

Any of my spare seeds I scattered in the wilds around my garden plot. If nature allows them to root and grow, the critters can chomp away. Or they can eat the beans and cut out the middleman ;)

Bees. Some of the largest bumblebees I've ever seen live in my garden. And they don't like me much. They come over and check me out here and there. One decided I was too close to their hive and stung me a little on my eyebrow. Not enough to hurt me too badly, and not enough to rip its stinger off. My eyebrow was unhappy for a couple days, but I did my first aid like a good little mommie so it didn't get too bad. Now I avoid the area where the beehive is. Unfortunately it was a place that my mom and I planned for the beans to vine into. I need alternatives now.

I have wild strawberries all over the wild parts of the yard. Tons of them. But the berries are going to be tiny, which is typical of strawberries that haven't been cultivated or which have escaped from the garden. And there are brambles. I think I have black raspberries, and I'm waiting to find out what the other varieties all around the yard are - I expect blackberries, in abundance.

That's about all the gardening news for now.
[tags]critters, strawberries, stringbeans, berries, spinach, bees, tomatoes, basil, parsley, dill, garden[/tags]

Friday, June 16, 2006

Myrna Owns Her Content

Myrna, a massage therapist of 20 years, finally has a website after years of rejecting the typical website-for-massage-therapist templates always being pushed onto her industry.

Myrna is a tough-as-nails massage therapist, very straightforward and to the point. At the same time, she is an attentive listener, and flexible in her massage style. She has 20 years of professional massage experience, specializing in therapeutic massage for a variety of health ailments, and wanted a website that was a blend of medical, sports and that touch of down-to-earth holism that she has without being at all fluffy., designed by Eclectic Tech and hosted by Archutech Consulting, is a wiki. Myrna has the password, and I bet she's not sharing! All the content on the site is by Myrna.

Case Study
[tags]new site, new client, holistic, massage[/tags]

Sunday, June 11, 2006

CMS Disappointment

I have been trying to work out the features and the back-end program to run Holistic - Hudson Valley.

As I would do for any client, I wrote up a sheet of the major features I required. I checked 3 CMS packages that are free/open source, and that I have confidence that they have a large number of add-ons and a strong community: Drupal, Joomla! and Xoops.

I've used Xoops, and I liked it A LOT.

I've used Drupal, but when looking for plug-ins that would give the package the features I was looking for it fell short.

I researched packages for Joomla, and except for true single-sign-on integration with Moodle, it came up with the most promising feature availability. I saw that a couple of the components would cost money. The amount wasn't enough to hamper me, so I dove in. I started working on it, decided to opt for my first purchase of a module, which was more than the original price I thought I would be spending on the feature ($99). I bought it. It's one of those no-money-back things. Then I saw that Joomla! did not include the fine group permissions that I had come to expect from using Xoops.

My first barricade was that the new $99 module only works with a certain release of Joomla! -- that was OK because I'd downloaded two versions of Joomla. I installed the correct one, got it working, fed it the database info, and everything was happy. Or so I thought. I could now install the somewhat expensive module (the other modules were cheaper).

Joomla! comes with a pre-created set of a few user group types. And no way to customize them, unless you want to buy someone's hack. I have a list of about 8 module features I need installed. The group modification hack gives no easy indication of which other modules it plays nice with -- you need to pour through the forums. Maybe they've created patches for it to work with the modules you want -- maybe not. No guarantees. Oh, yeah, and if you want the best version of their package, there's a subscription fee. Not a one-time license fee -- a monthly or annual subscription fee. This stopped me dead in my tracks.

I was looking for something cheap and easy. So far I'd spent about $100 and had at least another $50 USD and £22.50 (probably about $50USD) to spend ahead of me. If any more unexpected barriers came up and I had to shell out any more money for modules that did not guarantee playing nice with other modules --- this was going to end with me going postal.

I'm starting to think that Joomla! is a rip-off -- about 1/3 of the functionality I was looking for as a base to begin was going to cost me money. I think some of the people charging money for components were on the package's core development team. If the component is terribly useful, and should be ported to the main body of the program -- such as flexibility with user groups -- it would probably never happen because the guy who is making money off the module is going to scream bloody murder. That is not the type of open source generosity I'm looking for. I don't mind asking for donations, and I don't mind giving donations if I make money off my project -- AT ALL. But Joomla! doesn't say "Warning, most of what you want to extend this package with will cost you."

I should have considered my choices longer and harder, but thankfully I've only spent $99 so far. Once I spent the other $100 or so, I may have found out that something else essential was missing, and how much would that have cost me?

I'm off to do more research on the Xoops packages. Xoops has a better core philosophy as far as I can tell. The basic package is deliberately made to be extensible without having to hack the core code. Even if I do end up having to buy an add-on or two, they won't come with huge warnings that they are hacks of the core package and may not play nice with other modules. I've used Xoops and was very happy with it. If there's a module I can't find to fill a feature I need, I can try creating it myself.

Xoops had come in a close 2nd place in my assessments, but I was lured in by the promise of everything "just working" with Joomla!. Joomla! is more polished to the eye, but apparently the "just working" isn't true. I'm going to need to triple check that none of the modules I want costs money, but I'm pretty sure they don't. In any case, I have some experience in hacking Xoops modules...and I know the user groups are already fine-grained and fully customizable.

[tags]cms, drupal, xoops, joomla, open source, web applications, custom programming, modules, expenses[/tags]

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Thank You For Your Time

People probably don't get it, but I write "Thank you for your time" out by hand at the bottom of my emails, above the pre-generated sig lines.

Time is my one finite commodity.

If someone puts a project request up on a site or write to me asking for a bid, they've spent time on that, and in return they're looking forward to quality in the response. I find that many of my competition on such venues are a disaster, a blight on my industry. Their responses are form letters, no consideration is given to whether they fit the job or why, generic quotes are pasted in, if any time has been spent on the response at all. They're quite stingy with their time, and I'll bet it shows when they're on the clock.

When I write to someone, I'm hoping that they read what I have to say. From the moment they open my email, to the moment they close it, their time is being spent on me. Time they will never get back. They're moments closer to the end of life on this fair Earth. My response, even if it ends up being the bid they choose, has just sucked away some portion of their time above and beyond the responses I have no control over.

I send out my blessings for the time they are spending on me every time I write "Thank you for your time" and click send.

At the same time, I have to acknowledge that the return-on-investment of me spending my time on these people hand-writing to them probably far overshadows the quality of responses I receive, if any. I get few if any clients through such competitive venues. That's why, if I know I don't fit a job, I am not going to waste my time writing to the person, unless--

Unless somehow I'm going to serve them in a very quick and definitive fashion.

I often write to people who seem to need a little advice. I have no intention of taking their job, it probably doesn't fit me, but something they said implied a need for direction. Sometimes I'm misguided, and should keep my fingers on the mouse, move on to the next ad. Sometimes I earn a bit of respect for my wisdom.

A long time ago I decided that the chance to help people is well worth spending my time on. If I save someone a moment of time, maybe that's one more time they smile at a child, blow dandelion seeds into the wind, procrastinate one less chore. Perhaps I'm saving some people far more than just a moment. Minutes. Hours, even! Those bundles of moments we measure.

I want to take a moment, if you have read this post, to thank you for your time. I really appreciate that you've listened to my babbling on this. This is a very important and dear topic to me.

With luck, I will eventually have sufficient referrals, print ads, and repeat business to leave off reading Craigslist and other posting venues, and spend more time creating, advertising, dreaming, and contributing to the works of others. In the meantime, here's a toast to the customers I have found at such places, the associates within my field, and to all the moments where people really connect and collaborate, whether for a minute or a month, and then sit back and salute a job well done.



[tags]time, gratitude, clients[/tags]

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Advertising Excitement

I have the pleasure of being a member of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce (I really need to put a member logo up to that effect), and as part of their membership drive I get to include a letter-sized flyer in a mailing.

I opted for the July mailing, since I have a couple ads coming out in June, and I want to see what impact they have. Also, I wanted the June 15 deadline to get them the flyer. Brainstorming and printing up 3000 flyers is no joke.

I've opted for 100% post-consumer paper, and I'm on the third laser cartridge (if anyone knows of soy-ink laser cartridges, I want to know! Now!).

Why the brainstorming? Boy, I'm so glad you asked!

You see, most of the flyers that come in the mailers are typical. Boring. Dry. Unimaginative. I'm a designer, a creative spirit -- and adding to the boredom in the world is counter to my Declaration of Don't Waste My Time. Boring flyers destined for the round (or *cross-fingers* recycle) bin and tantamount to spam. To environmental waste. I've come up with a unique idea, and unlike most people I'm going to use both sides of the paper (novel, isn't it?). I'm making sure it has as low an environmental impact as I can muster on my low-budget-advertising strings. This chamber mailer is sent out monthly with other fliers anyway, via snail mail that gets delivered daily anyway. No extra envelopes needed. The recycled paper helps too, though I would prefer renewable treeless, denim, soy ink, etc. I just can't afford the printing costs, and if I print at an environmental printer's there's delivery costs, the truck to my place -- the extra pollution-per-mile of delivery.

I put a plea on the paper, right next to the recycle symbol, asking people who don't need it to pass it on to someone else. The box of 3000 pages is rather large. Did I mention 3 laser ink cartridges? I hate to think of all my effort going to the waste basket.

I also don't think any other company put as many man-hours into designing their flyers as I have. I've already put about 50+ hours into it. Creativity has a price. But now that I'm done, it is also be a viable stand-alone flyer for private mailers. It also has the potential (with a smidgeon of effort from me, I did my retouching on the greyscale images) to be printed in 4 color glossy (and look great!) eventually, but this time I think it will just be a laser print. I doubt a 4 color printer with sufficient ink for 3000 flyers is in my near future, and 4 color environmentally sound printing isn't in my near future either.

I have preview images for y'all on my inhouse portfolio page.


[tags]ads, design, print design, comic, creative, recycled paper, inhouse ads, 3D art, rendering, Chamber, portfolio[/tags]