Monday, January 27, 2014

Marmot Super Mica jacket

Since becoming a Blackburn Ranger and a more serious "adventure rider", I discovered some holes in my gear. Some literal and some metaphorical. In the case of needing a lightweight storm shell it was both. I'd been riding around in a really nice shell jacket from Chrome Industries, I loved the thing. It wasn't super water resistant and certainly not waterproof or breathable but it was a good jacket until I got in a wreck and took it for a slide across the pavement. It never was adequate for really getting out there, more a good looking, cycling specific thing that wold get you the rest of the way to your destination if it started to rain.

I had been trying to lay hands on a bicycle specific jacket when  friend at Marmot offered help with anything I might need. Having seen the Super Mica in a couple stores but not having the budget for it I was stoked. At 9oz the jacket is as lightweight as could be hoped for in a waterproof breathable. It's also single layer so there isn't a lot of garment to fight with and while it's light, it stops wind to the degree that you often don't miss having a lined jacket. Often, being able to manage warmth with base layers instead of having a jacket that is too warm is a serious bonus. It's become my go to jacket for cycling, climbing and travel in general.

I've been wearing it quite a bit for a few months now and it's holding up well. There's a small amount of abrading at the cuff and on the hood but the reinforced areas on the shoulders are good and so far I haven't noticed any thinning or failure of the waterproof fabric itself. Seems to be holding up at least as well as my Air Force issue Gore-tex stuff at a fraction of the weight. Granted it was designed for very different environments and activities but it breathes far better than my Gore gear has. I have been asked by a couple of people who also have the Super Mica if mine was "de-lamming" and while they said they had issues with the lining separating, as noted, I have not. I am admittedly cautious with mine having experienced Gore product self destructing as well as habitually protecting my sailing gear, something equally hard to replace and miserable when it fails underway. It is rumored that Marmot is developing a new version of the Super Mica but I can't personally confirm it.

It's one of those pieces of gear that I'm thankful to have had help affording but recommend to anyone, even at full retail. It's worth the money and I'm not one to say that lightly.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Lighting for carnivorous plants

A while back I wrote a post about a project I did at putting together a carnivorous plant terrarium. It was fun, it looked great and it was a much bigger learning experience than I could have imagined. I learned about the plants, terrariums, the soil for those same plants that is certainly on the tricky side as is the water. It mostly just needs to be as "clean" as possible, meaning both chemical and nutrient free. Dissolved mineral content in soil and water will readily kill otherwise healthy carnivorous plants. This is probably why they are a seasonal or temporary curiosity for most people. A few months in and the plants mysteriously die or for other seemingly unpredictable reasons they do fine and keep on going. Even educated growers often experience difficulty rearing these finicky bug eating wonders.

Someone over at Instructables commented recently asking about lighting. I don't think I really addressed that issue in my how to or the subsequent how to on soil for carnivorous plants. Mine lived in a big jar in a sunny window where they had bright light most of the day. A lot of us don't have access to those conditions, including me now that I am no longer with Instructables.

Luckily, carnivorous plants do well with artificial lighting so even basement dwellers can put together a lovely hungry garden. There is even a fantastically detailed article on the International Carnivorous Plant Society website that explains the lumens, color temperature and hours per day the plants need. There are many commonly available lighting setups or you could just buy LEDs and build your own. With the ease of controlling LEDs with Arduinos and Raspberry Pie microcomputers you could automate the whole thing from lighting to temp and hydrometers. Though, a lot of people have great luck stuffing the plants in a jar and setting them on a handy window sill.

As always, it's hard to beat "doing" as the best way to learn.