How to Build a Terrarium

Why!?

I’m not sure where the hell this idea came from but the seed was planted, so to speak, when I got a leaking aquarium and some goldfish from my kids for my 43rd 25th birthday recently. I tried fixing the tank but getting the old silicone off was near as hell to impossible so I quickly gave up and splashed out on a cheap new tank which was missing a filter and lighting system, things I realised painfully that you can’t be without when trying to keep pissy, smelly goldfish. So fancy tank number three is now in operation and me and the fish are happy. But what to do with the two old tanks!? I googled “uses for old fish tanks” and a pile of images of Terrariums or indoor gardens in a box came up. Terrariums it was so.

Terrarium Science

After a little research I realised that they were all built the same way pretty much, gravel or stones first in on the bottom for good drainage and root dispersal, then soil or compost for the plants to grow in, then some sand and/or gravel on top mostly for appearance sake. Finish off with some ornaments and there you have it. Simple. The only real complication I found after a little research is that Terrariums can be open (dry) or closed (wet) and the one you choose governs which types of plants you put in. I had two old tanks so why not build one of each?

Requirements

You’ll need the following. Most of it is pretty inexpensive, apart maybe from the plants themselves. Particularly the Cacti:

  • A large Glass Box or Bowl (or old fish tank or two)
  • Some way of closing or sealing the Terrarium if you’re building a wet one (I used old plywood cut to size)
  • Gravel or ornamental pebbles (old aquarium gravel maybe?)
  • Soil or Compost (get some in your garden for free)
  • Sand
  • Small Stones, Sea Shells or other Ornaments
  • Plants

How?

  1. Clean out your container first then add a layer of gravel to the bottom. Deep enough to let water gather or contain meandering roots
  2. Add a layer of soil carefully, deep enough to contain the plant roots (maintaining the visible layers rather than mixing them gives a nice visual “geological” effect at the end)
  3. Make holes deep enough to fit your plant roots after removing each from their pots and shaking off excess compost
  4. Add the plants and press down gently, covering in any gaps with surrounding soil (use a few layers of kitchen roll if handling Cacti)
  5. Add a layer of sand or decorative gravel with a spoon, placing some under plant leaves if possible to keep things tidy looking
  6. Add ornaments as required
  7. Use a soft, small paint brush to “clean up” any errant sand or gravel from plants, glass etc..

Maintenance

Open/Dry

In the case of an open, dry Terrarium, you shouldn’t need to water regularly if at all. Unless you notice extreme drying or plant decay. You water the like of Cacti the same amount you would if they weren’t in a Terrarium but it might depend on latent heat and where you place your Terrarium, ie – in the sun or shade, moist or dry environment. I have mine as a centrepiece of the sitting room coffee table.

Closed/Wet

In the case of a wet or closed Terrarium, it may actually need less maintenance than a dry, open one. The idea, if you do it right, is that you create a mini ecosystem. The plants photosynthesise in the closed, humid environment, expel oxygen etc and the whole process creates moisture that gets trapped inside the container which the plants then absorb again. However if you notice it drying out, just add very small amounts of water. Again, Terrarium positioning is important.

Photo Galleries

Open/Dry

Closed/Wet

Intermittent Fasting

Food, Intermittent Fasting and Me

Food Rocks!

We need to eat to survive of course but I also like to eat for fun. I always have. From the eating competitions I used to have with friends and on blind dates even (don’t ask) to indulging in take away regularly, I just love eating. I love the variety of food available these days. Indian, Italian and Lebanese are some of my favourite cuisines. I love the ritual of cooking (I recently took a couple of cooking courses) or going out to a nice restaurant. I adore Buffets. All my Christmases come together when I’m at a buffet and I eat until sick almost. Is that bad? Gluttony is a sin of course but I’m a militant atheist luckily. Right now you’re probably imagining me as a bed ridden slob, dangerously overweight and a ticking, heart-diseased, diabetes ridden time bomb but I’m actually only a couple of stone overweight and probably not noticeably fat. Unless you look real close. Those who’ve seen me naked know best. I have height, a good metabolism and pure luck to thank for that possibly. However..

Why Diet?

I’ve recently become middle aged and have an assortment of mild middle aged related conditions such as back pain, joint stiffness, high blood pressure, etc.. Middle age is a time when shit starts to deteriorate and go wrong so you really have to keep an eye on things to keep yourself functional. It’s a time to get more regular general medical checkups, get that free eye test and dental checkup, get active, stop smoking, drinking etc.. Lowering weight is one thing that I think I and a lot of people would benefit from. It makes sense to think that joint and back pain could be reduced if there’s less weight acting upon your frame and there’s known benefits to high blood pressure from weight loss. Thus I entered the depressing world of dieting. But..

Enjoy Food, Just Eat Less Often

I wasn’t about to give up my life long love of food. Rather, I’d continue to eat well and eat pretty much whatever I like within reason. I do try to avoid eating food with little or no value of course but the odd take away or desert is fine. Instead what I’d do was just eat less often and be patient until the next feeding time. I’d heard of “Intermittent Fasting” before but never really looked at it properly. The word “fasting” put me off. And in truth, I only got a renewed interest in it kinda by accident recently when I forced myself to not eat for a day, just to see if I could. I like to test my resolve in these ways occasionally. I tried and failed a few times first until I got angry with myself then finally carried it through properly one day. It was a long day..

My Intermittent Fasting Experience

So the first day I fasted went like this. I skipped breakfast. I’ve done that before or had very late breakfasts, so no big deal there. I don’t normally bother with lunch either (I guess I’d probably been fasting intermittently already considering my no lunch and late breakfast habits) but by lunch time I was becoming a bit twitchy. I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner time the previous day at about 6pm. By mid afternoon I was becoming ravenous and very, very nearly gave in. Then something strange happened around 4/5pm, just before normal dinner time. I can only describe it as like “hitting a wall” then finding a second wind. Hunger seemed to disappear a bit and become more manageable. I felt as if some weird internal, metabolic, survival process had kicked in. I joked that my body and stomach had started to consume itself for vital sustenance. Having researched intermittent fasting a bit since, I realise that wasn’t a million miles from the truth. The body looks within itself and processes existing stores of fat, carbohydrates etc when starved of food. For the rest of the evening and even next day I didn’t feel terribly hungry. I ended up having breakfast around 11:30am. No bigger a breakfast than usual.

The Results

I carried on my intermittent fasting for the rest of that week. Having two no food days in total and that’s what I’m trying to stick to now. I think two is plenty. Especially when you consider that by two days I mean no eating from say dinner at 6pm one day until brekkie at about 11am 2 days later. That’s a total fasting time of 41 continuous hours and do that twice a week! So what benefits did I notice and how long before these benefits showed exactly? Well I was quite surprised to find that I lost the best part of 3kg after the first fast, ie- within days. At first I thought my scales were broken. But seemingly not. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and havn’t lost anywhere near the initial amount since. I think this is normal for any kind of serious diet, you lose a lot at first then it balances out. I’m still losing weight, just a lot slower. Here’s my weight spreadsheet below. You can see the start of the fasting process and big weight drop the first week in October:

It Gets Better

Once you get past that initial hunger wall, it gets a lot easier and you get used to the regular process of fasting then. Apart from the obvious benefit of losing weight, one other thing I’ve noticed is that, when I do finally eat, I don’t over eat or seem to eat as much as I normally would. It’s as if the stomach shrinks in some way. Also, I don’t seem to be in quite as much pain as usual. This could just be in my mind though. Speaking of the mind, there’s obvious psychological benefits too. I’m happier that I’m in control of my eating habits and losing weight. My blood pressure seems to be down too. See below (last reading today on the right):

Blood Pressure Readings

If anyone is interested in trying Intermittent Fasting, I found this website useful:

Healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide

Next up…Facebook addiction!

Leon

The Self Employed Penny Drop Moment

Since I left college in 1995 I’ve worked in either full time, part time or contract work for other people or companies for a combined total period of less than 2 years. That’s about 5 or 6 different positions and companies. In the same time period I’ve been officially self employed in about 3 different positions, a Musician, a PC Technician and now a Web Designer since about 2003. Now, I’ve always seen those stats as a source of pride, I’m doing my own thing in life, figuring things out as I go, my own boss, time is my own, etc… and I would have also thought that others might be impressed by the initiative I’ve shown, the quick learning, the multidisciplinary skills one needs as a self employed web designer; design skills, people skills, project management skills, sales, etc, etc.. Aren’t the words “Good Initiative” on every damn job description there’s ever been!?

So recently I’ve considered trying to find a job, part time and remote ideally so my business isn’t affected too much and so I have a regular income for when self employment doesn’t cut it, like right now with the great weather we’re having! I’ve been sending CVs off, doing everything right (I think), customising the CV for the position, cutting out anything not relevant, adding enthusiastic cover letters, etc.. I’ve had career/CV guidance, I’ve got Degrees and other qualifications the last year or 2 and I feel my CV is fairly strong. But….nothing. I feel lucky to even get a reply.

Last night I attended #TechLifeBalance in Sligo, a kind of meet new Employer’s in the region type of event. The 4 CVs I brought were still in my back pocket when I left..

All IT companies or with IT roles on offer including: LiveTiles, Overstock, E3, SL Controls & Pramerica. A few days before the event I’d sent a CV off to LiveTiles for an IT Admin role through a  friend who recently started working for them and got a pretty quick, copy & paste no thanks. I was impressed with the speed actually! Last night a representative from the same company said something that made the penny drop for me….finally! Although, in the back of my head, I’d suspected as much for a while. She said that she’d been going through a lot of CVs lately for roles they had in their new office and the one issue she seen across a lot of them was that while they all showed great skills and qualifications, very few had the actual “industry experience” they needed. By industry experience I’m presuming she meant, considerable experience working for a large, corporate, multinational company and all that that entails. I don’t really have that with my 1.5 years work experience for other companies in the last 23 years! The night left me fairly deflated if I’m honest. The location was a trendy digital hub in Sligo, the attendees were all beautiful, young, talented people, the food was hip and free, buzz words and phrases abounded. It was all over my head a little. I think I’ve missed the boat..

So my conclusion..I guess I’ve thrown my oars out of the self employment boat. I’m in it for the long haul, so I better make it work!?

Discussion appreciated below.

Leon

10 Awesome Albums

1. “Blonde on Blonde” – Bob Dylan

Blonde on Blonde

For some reason I had this on repeat during the dark days of 2001 when I was totally lost in life. I stayed in bed for about 6 months and the only thing I really done was listen to music. Loudly and with the lights off and curtains drawn. The only way to listen to good music! Amazingly, the album didn’t depress me further but helped me out of the hole.

If I had to pick standout tracks they’d be:

2. “A Rush of Blood to the Head” – Coldplay

A Rush of Blood to the Head

This was the first album I streamed when I got my first ever PC in 2002. I also attempted to illegally download it by holding a mic up to the pc speakers! I’ve come a long way since.. I listened to it a lot just as I became a “man”.

Best tracks:

  • Politik” – (What an intro to an album!?)
  • Clocks” – (That bit at the end with just the piano…Ynom)

3. “Brothers in Arms” – Dire Straits

This is a bit of a cliche to have in your favourites list but I don’t care. It’s awesome.

Standouts:

Brothers in Arms” – (That solo!!)
The Man’s Too Strong” – (Awesome folkiness!)

4. “Talkie Walkie” – Air

Talkie Walkie

I’ve been listening to Air for at least 12 years now. It’s absolutely beautiful chill out electronica from France of all places. I want to make music like this some day.

Best tunes:

  • Biological” – (Sciency love song extrordinaire!)
  • Alone in Kyoto” – (Such a delicate, subtle but awesome track)

5. “The Soft Parade” – The Doors

The Soft Parade

The Doors have to be here somewhere and I wasn’t going to pick an obvious album. Having deconstructed and even recorded every single Doors album song in my time as well as having been in a Doors tribute band at one stage, I know these songs inside out and can appreaciate them, even the weird ones, more than most.

I feel like the Doors had fun with this one and let loose their respective influences in what on the surface sounds like a mismatch of styles but when you dig deeper or even just treat each song on it’s own merits, there’s some real gems here. Everything from Rock to Ballads, to Jazz to Country!

Favourite tracks:

6. “Definitely Maybe” – Oasis

When I first got into music seriously and was learning guitar, Oasis was fairly popular. The first band I joined in the late 90s were mad for Oasis and Britpop in general and before I turned them into a Doors tribute band (ahem!) we had good fun with some of Oasis’s songs. I remember really enjoying playing these songs on stage:

7. “The Bends” – Radiohead

Similarly re Oasis, we played a lot of Radiohead songs in the bands I was in. The Bends was out then and is still probably my favourite Radiohead album. Loved these ones:

  • Street Spirit” – (Lovely finger style riff throughout)
  • High & Dry” – (Hard to sing but nice acoustic feel)
  • Just” – (Intense!)

8. “Mellow Gold” – Beck

Mellow Gold

 

Beck has a way with words…and music! There were some great old style influences in the tunes on this album. These songs are permanently in my head:

9. “The Black Album” – Metallica

The Black Album

I learned to play lead guitar or maybe guitar in general with Metallica’s riffs. This album used to get me to sleep at night…in a good way! Standout tracks include:

10. “Pet Sounds” – The Beach Boys

Pet Sounds

Are you a Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper person!? Sgt Pepper was obviously groundbreaking but there’s a bit too much messing with electronics and recording tricks for me. Pet Sounds is just beautiful music from start to finish from the genius mind of Brian Wilson and has way more depth than Pepper. I love these most:

Musical Drives Around Ireland

Considering how deeply and how long I’ve loved music (both listening and playing) it’s a little sad how few of the very many famous and iconic Irish music locations I’ve visited. Apart from coming from the same part of Dublin 12 that gave rise to half of Thin Lizzy’s lineup, Drummer Brian Downey and lead man Phil Lynott, and visiting the latter’s grave in Sutton Cross cemetery, Dublin once upon a time, and going to the odd gig here and there, I really havn’t got about at all. Maybe a road trip is on the cards for me some day soon!?

Big Names:

Birth places, schools, recording/gig venues etc.. of some of the world largest, best known and most influential musicians can be found dotted around Ireland including names such as U2, Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy and more recently Hozier, Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan, The Script and Walking on Cars. Bono & U2 unsurprisingly top the polls as the icons who’s landmarks are the most visited. Places like Bono’s birthplace on Cedarwood Road, Dublin, his school Mount Temple, Windmill Lane studios where U2 recorded a lot of music and Bono’s current home in Killiney, Dublin.

Videos:

Apart from Irish musicians, Ireland, and particularly Dublin has also been the location for many famous music video shoots by international artists from Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” recently, through “Stop” by the Spice Girls – filmed in Carnew Street, Dublin, to “Pour some sugar on me” by Def Leppard – filmed in Mount Merrion House, Dublin and “Our Love” by Caribou – filmed in Lough Ine House, Cork. O’ Connell’s Bar in Galway, scene of Sheeran’s video tops the polls as the venue most people would like to visit!

Venues & Landmarks:

Ireland also has many famous venues including the 3 Arena – Dublin’s biggest and best known purpose built music venue, the Olympia Theatre, Whelan’s of Wexford Street (where Ed Sheeran got inspired watching Damien Rice allegedly), The Róisín Dubh in Galway and the Academy in Middle Abbey Street, Dublin. Famous Irish music related landmarks include The U2 owned Clarence Hotel on the quays in Dublin City Centre, The Irish Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum Experience in Temple Bar, Bruxelles Bar off Grafton Street, O’Donoghue’s Bar – The Dubliner’s haunt on Merrion Row, Freebird Records on Grafton Street and the famous Irish music statues of Phil Lynott off Grafton Street, Rory Gallagher on Main Street, Ballyshannon and Molly Malone on Suffolk Street, Dublin.

So why not stick on an Irish music playlist and head off on an Irish musical landmark road trip!?

This post was inspired by the Chill Insurance “Irish Drives” series.

Leon