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As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I have plans for growing a good amount of food in our Austin, TX backyard.  One of the things that bothers me most about new suburban neighborhoods is the general lack of mature trees and the “barren wasteland” look of the backyards.  So one of my first home improvement priorities after moving into my wife’s house was to get some plants started back there.  The builder had planted a single (somewhat gnarly-looking) live oak, but other than that, it was just a lot of boring Bermuda.

I love a nicely landscaped backyard.  I have no interest in sitting on the back patio to look out on some dead grass surrounded by a privacy fence, but an interesting arrangement of plant life can make it far more visually interesting, relaxing, and even cooler in temperature.  This isn’t as important to my wife, but one thing we both agree on is that plants that produce food are both attractive and practical, so that’s a common ground which has been my focus in planning the backyard.

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Over a year ago, while I was still a bachelor living in an apartment, I decided I wanted to have a small garden so I’d have fresh ingredients available for cooking, particularly herbs.  After considering a number of conventional ways of growing herbs in an apartment, I ended up reading about Aquaponics.  Fascinated, I built a small Aquaponics system and planted some herbs.  You can read more about that project here.

One year later, the system has been quite successful.  I’ve made some minor changes, such as adding a grow lamp and black light barriers (Gorilla tape) to prevent algae growth, but aside from that I have had to do nothing but add fish food and water.  I haven’t even had to clean out the grow bed in over a year of operation.

Here’s how it looked a month ago, after lots of harvesting over the past year:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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I’ve finally posted scenic and fireworks photos to my Smugmug account from our honeymoon in Vail.  Enjoy!

Scenic photos:
http://bfrantz.smugmug.com/Colorado/Vail

Fireworks photos:
http://bfrantz.smugmug.com/Fireworks/Avon-2011

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My week-long honeymoon in Vail ended up being a pretty good test of how much of a computer I really need to get by.  As it turns out, my year-old Toshiba T135-S1305 fits the bill admirably, and it cost me less than $500 new.

Besides my phone and Kindle, this laptop was all I brought to Vail to handle our infotainment needs, and as we ended up vegging in front of the TV a lot on this trip, we used it a lot.  I had loaded up several hours of television before we left as well as an assortment of cables to hook up to whatever TV would be in our condo, and with that minimal preparation, we ended up having all the entertainment we wanted.  This included locally-stored videos, videos we downloaded via bittorrent after we ran out of what I brought, episodes on Hulu, Netflix streams, Rhapsody music streams, and some Flash sermon video.  I also ended up blogging throughout the trip, which I hadn’t originally planned.

Although it’s got a low-power CPU (which lets it get around 8-hour battery life), it features two cores and proved capable of powering a 720p monitor just fine via its built-in HDMI port.  While streaming Sherlock in HD from Netflix it stuttered a bit at first, but eventually hit its stride and played smoothly.

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Today, our last in Vail before returning home tomorrow, was another quiet one without much planned.  In fact, we spent the whole day at the condo until the Darius Rucker concert at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater at 6.  We have watched a ridiculous amount of Masterchef Australia and are still only about halfway through the current season.  Wow.  We also watched some more Mars Hill sermons.

Teri and I aren’t very familiar with Darius Rucker or Hootie and the Blowfish (his former band), but had bought the tickets when we first got here, thinking it’d be fun.  Unfortunately, it began raining right before the concert began so we found ourselves going more out of obligation to get our money’s worth than anything.

Still, we stayed pretty dry and enjoyed the first half of the show, at which point we decided to head home rather than get any wetter.  Rucker sings well and the band was in good form, but again, as we aren’t really fans it wasn’t particularly engaging and we didn’t regret leaving when we did.

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