Results of my NCAAF Picks

USC beat on Notre Dame pretty good, winning 38-0 and covering the spread, so I managed to pick up a point in the Commissioner’s game.  This would end up being my only point for the weekend.

LOSE – Oklahoma only won 17-7, so 10 points didn’t cover the spread.

LOSE – Texas won 31 – 10, so 21 points didn’t cover the spread either.

LOSE – South Carolina outright lost to Vanderbilt, 6 – 17

WIN – But at least Oregon beat Washington 55-34, covering the 13 point spread.

So this week, I’m 1-4, earning 0 points for the parlay picks.

My NCAA Football Picks for the Weekend

Every year my family has a “college football pick ‘em”.  Every year, I do horribly.  So, I thought I’d share my lousy picks with everyone…  including my rationale as to why I chose the various teams.  Maybe someone out there can help me with a few pointers.

First up, The Commisioner’s game – the commisioner (aka my cousin) picks one game, each member of the family picks the team that they think will cover the spread.  Whoever get’s this game right gets one point.

USC – that’s an easy pick… despite the bumpy ride getting to ND

And then we do a parlay pick, the more teams you pick, the higher the points you’ll recieve, but all of your picks must win in order to recieve any points.  Pick 3, get 3 – win a point.  Pick 4, get 4 – win 3 points.  Pick 5, get 5 – win 5 points
At the end of the season.  Family member with the most points has bragging rights for the year.

for the parlay points, I went with 4 teams, so hopefully I’ll pick up an additional 3 points on top of the one I win if USC covers the spread in the comissioner’s game

  1. Oklahoma (-28.5) – even though the coach says bowl rankings don’t mean anything right now, he’s going to run up the score pretty good
  2. Texas (-24.5)– I think the stunt last year when the QB did the whole “horns down” thing is going to leave them itching for payback, so Baylor is also going to have the score run up on them…again
  3. South Carolina (-13.5) – Well, ok, they’re also called USC and one of their QB’s is named Smelley.  Just as good a reason as any other.  Besides, I’ll root for them just like I’m rooting for my chickens in the back yard to survive, so if nothing else, I can say it’s for the namesake (yes, I really am raising chickens)
  4. Oregon Ducks (-13) – since I have a father-in-law who is a big fan…they’re going to cover, Dixon has something to prove after last year’s run fell apart.

Star Wars – The TV Series

Lucas Talks Star Wars TV SeriesWell, for those of us out there that have grown up on a steady diet of Star Wars to feed the inner Geek, Hollywood Insider is reporting that George Lucas is in town meeting with writers to talk about a live-action Star Wars series.

According to one agent familiar with the project, Lucas’ plan is to recruit several freelancers – aka “writers of real significance” – to spend a week at the Skywalker Ranch in November to come up with story ideas for the series. The agent also said that Lucas has indicated a desire to hire writers from other countries. The scribes would then disperse and write the 13 episodes that would be produced and financed by Lucas.

When Lucas first began recruiting Hollywood writers for the project as early as February 2006, according to the agent, his original intent was to produce 26 episodes before he went on the lookout for a network partner. The news put fans in the frenzy as speculation swirled that the live-action series would take place between Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars IV: A New Hope, though the agent believes those rumors are unfounded. Plot points for the series, as a result, remain sketchy.

I just hope they don’t try to put it on opposite Heroes, Stargate Atlantis, Dr. Who, or Flash Gordon.

Giant Organic Pumpkins from Compost

Every year around this time, the great pumpkins come out. I’m not talking about THE Great Pumpkin from the Charlie Brown Halloween Specials, but instead the gargantuan pumpkins that people grow in various vegetable growing competitions.

Pumpkin Contest

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HowToCompost.org has a contest every year for the largest pumpkin grown worldwide without the use of chemical fertilizers. Now my little pumpkin won’t win anything this year (especially as I didn’t actually enter the contest and it probably tops out at 20 pounds), but I think I’ll have to see if I have what it takes for 2008. The rules for growing the pumpkin are pretty simple.

  1. Use only compost to prepare your soil (no chemical fertilizers/supplements allowed).
  2. No force feeding of nutrients through the vines.
  3. The pumpkin must be grown outdoors. (Seeds can be germinated inside and transplanted outside in the early spring.

Composting

Composting is an important way to recycle and can be done at home. It is an easy way to reduce the amount of household garbage by about one third. As well, it produces a valuable soil amendment for use in gardening and landscaping.

Mantis ComposT-Twin

We have been using a Mantis twin barrel composter for about 2 years. It was a gift from both sets of parents for Christmas (it’s fairly expensive for what it is, but convenient and it actually looks good in the side yard). I absolutely love the idea of having our own compost right there and of the reduced footprint we have on our landfills. Until we got the barrel composter we were using the used tire method of composting. This was a good method, but was fairly labor intensive and we piled everything on from the top, so we had some problems with aeration.

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Remember that compost is not just decayed organic matter. Composting is applied microbiology. Literally thousands upon thousands of different species of microorganisms (2 million individuals per gram) in a highly complex ecosystem.

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I think one way of maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is that it must be as easy or easier than the more conventional approach. When collecting our kitchen scraps for compost, we keep a bucket under our sink next to the cutting board. Instead of taking scraps to the regular trash, they go there, when it’s full we take it out to the composter. This is just as easy as if we were tossing it into the trash can for pick-up. Yard scraps work just as well since we pile everything in and if it’s full we put the waste under the barrel and in a couple of days the compost has “cooked” down to where we can stuff more in. It is an easy way to reduce the amount of household garbage by about one third.

Now the website says that you should turn the composter every day – in reality we only turn it when we are dumping in our scraps and that works just as well. And of course the advantage of the twin barrel is that we can just keep filling and filling one chamber while the compost spends several weeks cooking in the other.

Producing quality compost is the most important job on the organic farm. A lot of the problems I see on farms I visit could be solved by making better compost.

— Elliott Coleman, The New Organic Grower

How to Compost

Here’s some great tips for what to compost and how to compost in your back yard. You don’t need to go out and buy a big barrel composter like we’ve got, but you should definitely try it out and see if it’s something you enjoy!

What to Include

  • From the Garden
    • Leaves (chopped – to speed their breakdown)
    • Grass (not wet)
    • Plants & Weeds (without ripe seeds)
    • Old potting soil
    • Soft plant stems
  • From the Kitchen
    • Fruit scraps
    • Vegetable trimmings
    • Egg shells (crushed)
    • Tea bags
    • Coffee grounds with filters
    • Shredded paper

DO NOT include…

    • Meat, fish and bones
    • Plastics
    • Metals
    • Fats and oils
    • Dairy products
    • Pet waste
    • Cheese, meat or other sauces

Clues on Composting

  • The composting process works best when the organic pieces are small. Weeds and trimmings should be shredded.
  • Don’t add thick layers of any one kind of waste. Grass should not be more than 6 cm deep, leaves up to 15 cm deep (cut or chop or dry and crumble them). If you can, let grass dry first or mix it with dry, coarse material such as leaves to prevent compacting.
  • The composter contents should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If the contents are too dry, it will take overly long to compost; and if too wet, the contents may begin to smell.
  • Turn or mix the compost every couple of weeks or each time you add new material. This keeps the compost well aerated.
  • Composting can be done in the winter. You can add materials to your composter all winter long. The breakdown process slows down or stops when the pile is frozen, but it will start up again in the spring. Thorough turning in the spring will reactivate the pile. Empty the composter in the fall to make plenty of room.

Troubleshooting

Composting is not difficult but sometimes the process requires a little extra attention. Here are some easy solutions to correct certain situations which might occur.

  • If the pile does not decrease in size or generate heat, composting may need a boost. If the pile is dry, add water – mixing thoroughly. If the pile is wet and muddy, spread it in the sun and add dry material. Remember to save “old” compost to mix with incoming material.
  • If the center of the pile is damp and warm, but the rest is cold, the pile may be too small. Try to keep your composter as full as possible. Mix new with old, dry with wet, breaking up mats and clumps.
  • If the pile is damp and sweet smelling but not heating, it may need nitrogen. Add grass clippings, table scraps or a sprinkling of organic fertilizer from the garden centre.
  • If the compost pile develops a foul odour, it may not be getting enough air. Loosen up the pile, break up clumps, unblock vents and perhaps add some wood chips to help the pile “breathe”. Turning the pile always helps aeration.
  • Compost in a container with a cover to prevent animals from getting into the composting materials. A wire mesh around the base can help to prevent pests from digging under the pile. Dig in or cover food waste immediately.

Is It Finished Yet?

The composting process can take from 2 months to 2 years, depending on the materials used and the effort involved. To accelerate the process, the pile must be a balance between wet and dry material, turn it frequently and make sure the waste is shredded or in small pieces.
Compost is ready to be used when it is dark in color, crumbly and has an “earthy” smell.

Put Compost to Good Use

Composting can benefit your soil and plants in many ways. It increases the soil’s organic matter content and its moisture-holding capacity. Compost improves soil porosity and helps to control soil erosion. It also enhances plant and flower growth and helps plants develop a sound root structure.
Use it on your lawn, in your garden, around trees or combine it with potting soil for your plants.

Gnomes back in the Garden Thanks to J-B Weld

For some time, I’ve always loved gnomes. Growing up I had a book that described gnomes in detail. It wasn’t really a children’s book per say, but I enjoyed it none the less.

Gnomes 30th Anniversary Edition
by Wil HuygenRead more about this title…

I thought this was one of the greatest books ever, and so naturally, when I started my own garden, I wanted gnomes as well.

The word gnome is derived from the New Latin gnomus. It is often claimed to descend from the Greek gnosis, “knowledge”, but more likely comes from genomos “earth-dweller”.

In the Harry Potter series, gnomes are considered garden pests and appear to be more akin to animals than intelligent beings, and there is a scene in the movies where they are busy “de-gnoming” the garden.

So, knowing my love of gnomes, and in an effort to head off the invasion of plastic pink flamingo lawn ornaments, my lovely wife bought me some gnomes a while ago. The first one I received was of a gnome sleeping, with his but sticking up in the air.

[Insert picture here]

This particular gnome was named “Lucky Butt” and has wandered throughout my backyard, from the back slope, to my daughter’s Barbie play house (bought used off of eBay), and finally to the garden just below the kitchen window.

Earlier this year for father’s day, he got a friend and some more landscape in the form of a couple of mushroom statues.

Sean Conway‘ Mushroom Statue - MediumSean Conway‘ Mushroom Statue - LargeSean Conway‘ Mushroom Statue - Medium

All was well with this happy little band until tragedy struck last month. A roof tile fell from about 20 feet, right on top of my happy gnome. Splitting the cast iron gnome from head to toe (and shattering the roof tile of course).

I’m happy to say that last night I was finally able to get out the JB Weld and put my little guy back together and he’ll be installed in his place of honor again tonight.

For those of you not familiar with JB WeldPicture of J-B Weld product, let’s just say that it is almost as useful as duct tape. The stuff is described on their site as:

Our flagship product, J-B WELD is the world’s finest cold-weld compound. It’s a remarkably easy, convenient, and inexpensive alternative to welding, soldering, and brazing. J-B WELD is the smart way to repair something … and for literally pennies per use. When welding or soldering is out of the question due to cost, down time for repairs, or technical/environmental considerations, J-B WELD is the answer.

Like metal, J-B WELD can be formed, drilled, ground, tapped, machined, filled, sanded, and painted. It stays pliable for about 30 minutes after mixing, sets in 4-6 hours, and cures fully in 15-24 hours. It’s water-proof; petroleum-, chemical-, and acid-resistant; resists shock, vibration, and extreme temperature fluctuations, and withstands temperatures up to 500° F. J-B WELD is super strong, non-toxic, and safe to use. Before it sets, you can clean up with soap and water.

And I have yet to disagree with this statement. I would heartily recommend the use of this product above and beyond any other bonding agent out there.

Lucky Butt is happy to have our newly repaired gnome back in the garden tonight and maybe in the future he’ll have a few more friends as well…

Garden gnomes - commonwealth park canberra.jpg