Friday, August 18, 2017

Partaking in Projects

We've got a list of little things that we'd like to get done while stationary.  

Darlene wanted to learn how to make bread. 

She's been "taking care of the mama", "feeding the baby", "pouring off" and "stirring in the hooch."  She's done the slap and fold and the no-knead, proofed, punched, stretched and rolled. 

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We've had a lot of delicious bread.  One day we decided to finish up on of the standard store bought loaves we had in the fridge. 

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After being spoiled, neither of us could even finish one slice.  Ah... the good life.

Other things we've been working on include a way to transport our bikes. 

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We bought a cargo tray, hitch extender and some bicycle carrying attachments.

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         We're pretty excited about this new addition to our traveling arsenal.

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The hitch stabilizers arrived the other day as did the second locking hitch pin (not pictured).

A few more ideas to workout with regard to tie downs and such and we'll have suitable bike transport.

Having bikes now means one more thing to maintain.

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So, Nicole got to work creating a lightweight yet sturdy support that lets us get the rear wheel in the air.

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            The key is that it breaks down and packs away when not in use.

A few months back we had a tomato that had sat on the counter too long. 

When we cut it open it was obvious it had 'gone to seed'. 

So, Nicole stuck 'em in a pot. 

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A few months later and they are growing like weeds.

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Three of the stragglers in their own private pot.

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The only basil that we have managed to grow from seed.
It sounds mean but it seems to have survived because we don't pay it much mind.

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          Somewhere in the mix we managed to finish our third puzzle.

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When you buy a puzzle for a dollar at the thrift store you expect pieces to be missing. 
What you don't expect is to have an extra piece that doesn't belong.


Next on the list... our Land Yacht gets a port hole and her windows get some new runs and scrapers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Volunteering for Seagrass Restoration

Working part-time can sure put a damper on a girls' volunteering time.  The stars aligned today though and Nicole was able to get over to the Oceanographic Center to contribute to the FOSTER (Florida Oceanographic Seagrass Training Education and Restoration) Program.

Today's task was Seagrass Matting. 

From the Oceanographic Website...  "F.O.S.T.E.R.’s goal is to restore seagrass populations into our estuary impacted by fresh-water discharges and algal blooms. Seagrasses are vital to the health of Florida’s waterways as it provides habitat, nurseries, and food for a variety of estuarine species. In Florida, we have the highest seagrass biodiversity of the continental USA with seven species!

The F.O.S.T.E.R. program relies on community-based restoration efforts to restore seagrass habitat. With a growing volunteer base, F.O.S.T.E.R. restores seagrass by collecting and growing seagrass fragments in nurseries, constructing seagrass planting units, and transplanting living seagrass into the estuary."

The photos on this sign show you just how much the seagrass in the lagoon have been affected over the years.

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a close up....

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Matting - or constructing a seagrass planting unit involved two different substrates today. 

The one they typically use is burlap.

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            The circles are where we would attach about 20 segments of grass.

The burlap is reported to deteriorate in approximately four months time.

The second substrate that we used today is called BESE-elements (Biodegradeable EcoSystem Engineering Elements).

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BESE-elements look and feel like plastic however they are non-toxic and made of starch from potato waste.

Florida is the first state in the U.S. to test BESE-elements in estuary restoration efforts.  They are used for oyster reefs and our purposes today were to help a Doctoral student with his PhD project using this material.

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Grasses were counted and for the purposes of the research and restoration efforts limited to a certain number per circle.

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The grass out of the water only briefly for a visual demonstration of how to apply them to the burlap.  We worked with our arms underwater the whole time to prevent the grasses from drying out at all.

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The blue tubs in the background of our work space are farms of various grasses and snails that are used to keep algae at bay.

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A section of seagrass laying in the pool shows the leafs (dark sections on top), the shoots (vertical sections just below the leaves), the rhizomes (horizonal section) and a very faint view of the roots.  The rhizomes are the portions that we attached to the substrate using thin flower wire.

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                 A section of matting completed and ready for transplanting.

Nicole started out working with the BESE-elements and completed two circles before her arm couldn't take anymore scratching from the hard plastic-like material.

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            She then moved on to the burlap section for a little forearm relief.

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After our matting was completed we got a tour of a section of the centers saltwater lagoon where volunteers had planted a twelve by twelve section with random strands of grass 2.5 years ago.

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Rays, nurse sharks and others swam by as we talked about the rapid expansion of the planted grasses.

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Clouds reflected in the clear waters of the lagoon in this shot of the seagrass that has grown so well.

Although she was excited about volunteering to help the seagrass restoration efforts, her love of critters and crawlies meant that

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         Nicole was even more excited to get her first sighting of a Bristle Worm.

Bristle worms are Polychaetes and with at least 10,000 species they rule the sea.  They are extremely diverse and have adapted to every type of marine habitat.  These "abrasive" creatures have evolved over 500 million years and survived FIVE mass extinctions (one of which killed off 96% of all marine species). 

Even if you never see a Bristle Worm you can often witness evidence of them by simply picking up a seashell. 

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Grooved marks on shells are made by the Bristle Worms excreting acid and rasping with its bristles. 

The coolest pattern we've ever found was this....

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                                                     Until next time...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Project #1

Project #1 is actually project #2 if we are being honest.  But in the midst of #1 we engaged in #2 and just so happened to finish #2 first.  Thus, by default, and for the purpose of sequential blog writings, #2 became #1.  Then again, if we were being truly truthful, #1 is actually #2 and #2 is actually #3 because the real #1 is on hold until some parts that are on backorder come in. 

Either way, if you haven't figured it out by now, we finished a project!  Considering the multi-page list we've got going for things that need to be done and things that we want to get done, getting one done is pretty darn exciting.

So, what did we get done?  Got the passenger window working again!  It's only been about a year. 

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First up... remove the door panel and regulator assembly.

Why so long before fixing the window? 

Well, we didn't really need it.  We have AC for when it is really hot and have these amazing little triangle windows that are famous in old vans and which provide so much more air than rolling down the big one that we typically just use those anyway. 

Why now? 

Extended time in FLA has brought about some new ideas for cooling down the interior of the van and we have finally decided to tint the windows.  To do that we've got to have a functioning window and will finally need to replace the window scrapers and run channels (project # - undetermined but the parts are on the way) which had dried up and cracked up long ago.

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                                                          Fix me, please!

So, what was wrong with the window? 

In the type of set up that we have there are three plugs around the plastic gear.  They will break up and disintegrate over time which leaves the motor turning but the gear unable to crank the window.

How did we know what was wrong?

When we bought Annie the passenger window was not working.  We talked the guy down $100 thinking that we had to replace the whole assembly.  In the end, after some research, we came out $95 ahead.  A little research revealed that if the motor was still turning when you triggered the switch (which you can tell by putting your hand on it or just listening) but the window was not moving that it was most likely the plugs (which seven years ago cost $5). 

So, we've done this before which put us ahead in terms of knowledge.  One of the things were were very knowledgeable of was this...

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                                       The infamous finger snapping spring!

Although we did not remember the whole procedure from seven years ago, the one thing we both remembered was this spring and its ability to take or severely damage your digits.

You can just see the regulator to the right of the spring.  Once you release the motor from its secured location that spring kicks into high gear and the arm will go flying and take whatever is in its path with it.

Last time we directly attacked the spring and removed it, etc. etc. which meant that then we had to try to wind it back up and put it back on.  This time, we decided to control it instead.

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                                                       Meet... the enforcer!

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The vice grips are a bit of overkill but when it comes to keeping your fingers overkill is not overrated.


We had seen a video online where a guy used only vice grips and it worked for him.  Our vice gripping strength is not as superior as his and we did not trust it to do the job alone.

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    Next up, remove the three bolts that hold the motor / regulator in place.

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But first, mark locations with a sharpie just in case your contraption doesn't hold and things move.

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Try out your best Albert Einstein hairdo, hold your breath and control your nerves as you begin removing the motor / regulator.  Be ever ready for spontaneous spring salvation.

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                             Celebrate, motor is free and all digits intact!

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Remove the one small screw that holds the back plate on to reveal the internal mess.

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You cannot say we didn't grease it well the last time we worked on it.  Unfortunately, all of that grease is loaded with bits and pieces of the disintegrated plugs so it all has to go.

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  The larger of the pieces.  There should only be three plugs, not all of these pieces.

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                    Darlene got creative with her part of the cleaning process.

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                                                 A properly bent toothpick

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    does the trick for getting under and behind that gear where little pieces hide.

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                                       After the picking comes the flossing.

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                                     Cleaned up and ready for re-assembly.

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                      This is what the three plugs are supposed to look like.

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And here they are held into place with a little grease on the bottom of each which makes for the easiest application since you have to flip this gear over to insert it back into the motor.

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                                                         Grease the wheels!

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                                                       Set it into place...

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                                             and press for the final securing.

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                                                      Grease the main gear.

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                                               Reinstall motor / regulator...

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            Hold your breath one more time as you release unit from the enforcer.

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   Revel in your handy work and take it out to the van to test it before the final re-install.

If it works, reverse prior steps to put it back into the door and appreciate the success.

There you have it!  Our $8 (current going rate for the plugs) fix of a non-functioning window motor / regulator.