Ruth Stouts no work gardening method

This is our front lawn on the north side of our house.  The raccoons have been digging up grubs to eat for the past year or so.  The whole center part has had the sod pulled up in sheets.  Tanya has been turning over the lawn and puzzle-piecing it back together.

We really don’t use this beautiful part of the yard.  It is surrounded by rhododendron bushes.  But even in May when the blooms are in full swing, we walk by it and maybe take a few photos.

I know I must be a big disappointment to the previous generations whose lawns were a symbol of class and dignity, but that’s too square for me. I want to use this space to express my commitment to sustainability and my values.  So I decided to follow Ruth Stouts guide to creating an organic no work garden.

I love this crazy old hippie.  I imagine she was a square broad for much of her life, until she started gardening.

This method speaks to me because of how much sense it makes.  Any garden of mine needs to be somewhat care free.  With her method, the garden will stay moist under the mulch.  The worms will cruise around aerating the soil, making it softer.

Plus, there is no need to dig up the sod and drive it to the tip.  By leaving it in place the lawn will decompose and compost recycling the organic matter.

Preparing the lawn

To make this space into a garden I first found out where the in-ground sprinklers are.   I lost them last season.  I found the two I was concerned about under a blanket of sod.  I marked the locations with bits of leftover water pipe. 

A sprinkle of mushroom manure

I sprinkled mushroom compost on my lawn for the composting bacteria

Mushroom manure was $5 a bag at Garden Works in Nanaimo, so I sprinkled three bags in the space.   Not so much to add nutrients to the garden space.   But to introduce composting bacteria under the paper.   The idea being the lawn and grubs are going to die,  the bacteria will have a good introduction to the composting process.  I think, but it won’t hurt.

Putting it together

Mid-composing a composting garden - adding mulch

Next I took a roll of builders paper from Home Depot for $21 that covered 40M^2 and laid it out over the space, overlapping the edges.   The paper acts as a light block for the next month ot two.   Killing the lawn and grubs, and kick off the composting.   The paper will break down too, and that is where the mulch comes in.

Adding Mulch

Mulch is any organic matter that will break down easily.   This could be lawn clippings, leaves, wood chips, or bark mulch.   But you need a thick layer.   I had just enough material to cover the paper.   Chestnut leaves from the neighbors tree, Lawn clippings, and Hay.

Hay is for horses

Hay or Straw?   I used hay,  people told me that the hay is fine grasses and plants with seeds and all.  In the springtime, I should expect these to sprout and produce more weeds.   However in this video, these unwelcome grasses and weeds can be stamped out with more mulch.

A not-yet-deep mulch composting garden

Adding mulch to composting completed

So there it is. A four layer lasagna garden bed.  I expect to start planting early seeds in 4 months, early April.  

In the meantime, I will build a box, and find more mulch materials. Check out my Mastodon posts for updates. 

Day 3 assignment – Apostrophe’s

Today’s exercise is a simple text based adventure. Dr Angela Yu of the Udemy Course 100 Days of Code: The Complete Python Pro Bootcamp for 2022 provided the basic framework. I just need to copy the text, embellish it a bit, and add in the flow control to navigate through the game, resulting in a dead player, or escape the labyrinth. There are no hints on how to navigate the game to win, you need to read the code, or look at the example below.

What is the difference between ‘ and ’ one is an ascii single quote that is used by code to indicate encapsulated text is a string, and the second one is punctuation. It is common to use the single quote. The evil Dr Yu provide the ascii single quote throughout the examples provided. I fortunately have played this game of mismatched single quotes before and converted them first thing.

At this rate I might get through 100 days of code in a couple years, but I’m not in a hurry, and I like the slower pace. I’m also working on blogging. Having something to write everyday is a nice way to practice blog writing.

print("Welcome to Treasure Island.")
print("Your mission is to find the treasure.") 


#Write your code below this line 👇
user_input = ""
print('You’re at a crossroad. Where do you want to go?' )
while user_input.lower() != "left":
  user_input = input('Type "left" or "right"')
  if (user_input.lower() == "right"):
    print("You hear a painful cry like a little fluffy cute animal calling out for help, you jump into actual and run to the right, but you should look where you are going because you fell into a deep hole and died dead.")

print('You’re come to a lake. There is an island in the middle of the lake.')
while user_input.lower() != "wait":
  user_input = input('Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across.')
  if (user_input.lower() == 'swim'):
    print("You drowned, and now you're dead")

print("You arrive at the island unharmed. There is a house with 3 doors. One red, one yellow and one blue.")
while user_input.lower() != 'yellow': 
  user_input = input('Which colour do you choose?')
  if user_input.lower() == 'red':
    print("It’s a room full of fire. Game Over.")
  elif user_input.lower() == "yellow":    
    print("You found the treasure! You Win!")
  elif user_input.lower() == "blue":
    print("You get attacked by an angry trout. Game Over.")
    print("You chose a door that doesn’t exist. Game Over.")

This is a successful run through looks like:

Welcome to Treasure Island.
Your mission is to find the treasure.
You’re at a crossroad. Where do you want to go?
Type "left" or "right"left
You’re come to a lake. There is an island in the middle of the lake.
Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across.wait
You arrive at the island unharmed. There is a house with 3 doors. One red, one yellow and one blue.
Which colour do you choose?yellow
You found the treasure! You Win!

This is what happens when you enter incorrect directions:

Welcome to Treasure Island.
Your mission is to find the treasure.
You’re at a crossroad. Where do you want to go?
Type "left" or "right" tom
Type "left" or "right" ;et
Type "left" or "right" lft
Type "left" or "right" left
You’re come to a lake. There is an island in the middle of the lake.
Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across. swm
Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across. swam
Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across. sum
Type "wait" to wait for a boat. Type "swim" to swim across. swim
You drowned, and now you're dead

Python basics in 100 days of code

At work a funny thing happens. I love working with computers, I think I’m a lucky guy. At work though I have so many distractions that I can’t get work done. For every distraction it drains my attention on what I’m doing, and when it exceeds a certain level then I’m not very useful.

When I go home and rest for a while, I’m drained, I don’t want to do much, it would be so easy to turn on the TV. Sometimes I go for a walk, but I’ll drag along, it’s been a long day and I just want to rest.

The funny thing that happens, is that I go sit at the computer and do something as simple as work on some basic Python challenges and I find it rejuvenating. I find following along a good course like Dr Angela Yu’s 100 projects in Python is a perfect blend of guided meditation and problem solving that it gets me out of that slump. Weird.

Here are my notes from the day:

Day 2 – Data Types

June 22, 2022 – Coding Rooms Exercises Day 2 (Lessons 1,2,3) Day 3 (1,2)

We played around with strings. Numbers as strings. Typecasting strings to integers or floats.

To declare a variable as a data type use:

varname = int(5)
But this will be overwritten when a new assignment
varname = input("New Value:")
Will change the data type back to a string, even if a number is entered.
So I need to validate the data type after an input.
varname = int(varname)

Formatting strings

I thought I would be able to use printf style formatting, there is a Python way using the .format() method and there is a printf method. Kinda weird either way.

age = input("What is your current age?")
age = int(age)
years_till_90 = 90 - age
age_in_months = years_till_90 * 12
age_in_weeks  = years_till_90 * 52
age_in_days   = years_till_90 * 365

These next lines produce the same result. The python way and the old printf way. The Python way is a bit more friendly for type conversion.

print('You have {} days, {} weeks, and {} months left.'.format(age_in_days, age_in_weeks, age_in_months))

print('You have %d days, %d weeks, and %d months left.' % (age_in_days, age_in_weeks, age_in_months))

print(f'You have {age_in_days} days, {age_in_weeks} weeks, and {age_in_months} months left.')  
// this one is the most readable and likely the new standard.  (Note the 'f' )


The standard operators apply: + – / * == != < <= >= >
Logic operators are words: and, or


Standard operators built into python
rounding numbers round(23.2552, 2) will round two decimal places
modulo operator % 4 % 2 will result in 0. No remainder dividing 4 by 2. 5 % 2 will result 1
For more advanced commands like ceil, or floor, import the math module

Day 2 Assignment 3 – BMI Calculator 2

I struggled to pass the tests at first, due to my spelling of slightly vs slighty, and almost invisible difference in the code when you are looking for syntax differences.

Day 0 of 100 days of code

I’m looking for something to do when I’m tired after a long day of work. Usually I’m exhausted, and after making dinner for the family I struggle to do something productive. At work I need a language skill, and I really don’t want to rely on PowerShell.

When I’m looking to learn a new tech skill I like to check out courses on Udemy. Today I found 100 days of Python by Dr Angela Yu.

What I liked about this course is that I should be able to commit to 1 hour per day. The trick to developing a new habit is to make it easy on yourself. I can spend a little time while at work to look over the days material and think about how to solve the problems. After dinner I can give another 30 minutes to finish up the days work.

The first day I solved some python syntax puzzles for the print and input commands. Concatenating strings with the + operator. Type casting with int() and str() commands.

When I sat down this evening I didn’t think I could muster the energy. But listening to music and starting something new is the easy part. Doing a daily exercise is going to be tougher. To keep myself accountable, I’m posting to my WordPress blog. They recommend Twitter, but that is to much of a distraction. My sosh media game is at level zero, my blogging level is at least a 2. I will try with this course to interact with other 100 days of coders, but that is extra. First let’s get through a week of lessons.

BotsWorkshop Blog: Workshop Blues

This is a blog post from my other site which I am letting expire:

In my head I thought I could bang this out in a small amount of time. Making a post from a beach log.

After I setup the center line on the ends of the log, I forgot the important step to connect them to check for curving and a sanity check. But I went ahead and snapped the lines for the posts edges and they went wild.

When you’re working in the shop you need to keep in check of your emotions.  I wasn’t feeling well that day and so I put down the tools and walked away.   The only problem is I haven’t made it back.

WordPress Godot Web Game Plugin

Godot Game Engine is a free and open platform for making games. Some people use unity to make 3d and 2d games. Other people like me are learning Godot. Find out more at

I want to host games I create on my WordPress blog. I know I could add a static page and load the game that way, and it would be easier. I do want to eventually make an income from my games and having the game integrated into WordPress would allow for more control over who plays and how they play my games.

Why do I want control?
* to present the game with navigation buttons to browse the site
* observe who is playing the games
* receive feedback on games in the comments section
* protect my game assets
* create communication channel with players
* potentially make this plugin available to other indie game developers

I will make a demo available if/when I have one. For now this will be a space to record my progress.

Zen Huts – What happened

I was driving back from Tofino BC along the windy highway, my kids were quiet in the back of our Westfalia camperized 1986 VW Vanagon. We were well rested from a beautiful weekend retreat at a Long Beach Resort. My beautiful wife beside me as we sat listening to the drone of the engine. Across the dash, Vancouver Island rolled up before us, it was beautiful.

Something had been bothering me. What is the answer to it all. How am I supposed to raise a family, be successful at my job, keep the passion lit in my marriage, and be happy. Not only that, but the world was hurting. This was during the era of George W Bush as president, things looked bleak for world politics, and where we were going as a society.

A single word was bouncing around in my brain, and I wasn’t sure what it meant. Sustainable. At first the idea was a little cloudy, but as we rolled on, the idea got louder and louder in my head. It was as if all the VW driving hippies were all chanting a mantra, a single idea, and I was tuned in. Sustainable. Sustainable.

Then I had an epiphany… "Sustainable!" I proclaimed. My wife looked at me as if I was having a stroke. "That’s it!", I turned to my wife. "Sustainability is the answer!". Still the concerned puzzled look. I could read her eyes "what was the question?"

The key to life is sustainability. Modern society has given us all the illusion of sustainability. We get our food from the grocery store, we earn an income from our regular jobs, and we live in lovely over engineered homes. We have it all figured out.

That is until something upsets the balance. Perhaps a natural disaster, or economic meltdown, or any number of potentially mini catastrophes that could upset that balance. Then we find ourselves in trouble. The house that kept us warm is now a prison, unable to buy food, or pay for electricity, even water becomes scarce.

What will keep us alive, and even thrive in that situation? Sustainability…. and I was going to find it and grab a hold of it while life is good.

Thank you for visiting Zen Huts. This is a side project for me, Billy Baker. I live on Vancouver Island, Canada. I’m excited to share this adventure and all of it’s ups and downs. Please subscribe to get notified of my updates.

When Electricity Was Invented

B.E.E (Before electricity event)

Before there was 55 inch 4k HD OLED TVs, or before the television, before the lightbulb, or electric motors, before the battery, before wires, as far back as before there was electricity.  There was none. A candle, or oil lamp was used for light, instruments provided musical entertainment. Books, letters, and spoken word were the internet of the day, a performance or play would be the closest equivalent to youtube or twitch.

So how did this all come about?  Did electricity evolve from magnets? Like humans evolved from the neanderthals.

A man wrote a book and electricity was invented

This is a story about science, the scientific method, a story about curiosity, questions, hypothesis, tests, documentation, and more.  So what happened? Well let’s go back 418 years ago to 1600 when William Gilbert released his book on the magnet. William was a physician, curious about the properties of natural magnets called lodestone.   William had devised a number of experiments with magnets, and in his books he described these properties.

Magical Rocks

By Chris Oxford [CC BY-SA 4.0  (], from Wikimedia Commons

Like when a line of lodestone are put in a line there is a natural order, front to and back.   He described how when one rock is move or turned around, it will spin and align itself back in perfect order.   This was very curious, and he believed that there must be healing properties to these stones. His book went on to examine materials of similar properties of attraction.

For my next trick

Amber is fossilized tree sap from prehistoric ages.   At the time William wasn’t certain of the source of amber, but he did examine the properties of amber’s ability to hold a state of attraction when he rubbed it with a soft cloth.   This was well known and was a common trick of magic. When the amber is charged by rubbing the amber with a cloth, it attracts light objects like feathers, or small bits of dried plant material called chaff.

Similar to these experiments, Bill Nye demonstrates with balloons:

Elektron becomes Electrica

In his book, William Gilbert named these charges and the attraction properties of these materials as electrica.   Inspired by the latin name of amber, elektron. Years later another man, Sir Thomas Browne refined the name and electrical properties were referred to as electricities.  Not exactly the electricity as we know today, but that is the current understanding of the birth of electricity.

While his original book was released in 1600, you can read an english copy from 1893 from the archive of the internet.  In the english transposed book below, the english common terms for electricity are used fairly frequently. The Second book which starts on page 142 is interesting as he describes his findings.

So what?

So electricity is about 418 years old. Actually it has always been around, but it wasn’t until 418 years ago that we started playing seriously in the realm of this physical science.  So here we are, looking at our devices and worrying if our phone’s charge is going to last the rest of the day. How does this help us?

When approaching understanding how our electrical devices tick and work.   It’s important to understand that this is not any more magical than magnetic rocks attracting each other, or rubbing amber with a cloth.   As our understanding for electricity and other areas of science improves so does our capability to build smaller, and faster devices. As we explore the world around us our discoveries are not new, they have always been with us, we are just learning to see them.  

Electricity is fundamentally simple.  When we use electricity to create machines it is marvellous.  Learning to work with electricity is not magic, it just takes time.

Electric Art: Studying Illuminated Signs Around Town

This post was copied from my other site which I am letting expire

I’m interested in making art that has a life of its own, and I realized that we are surrounded by some very impressive pieces.  You see them everyday, illuminated signs beckoning you to come inside and do business or buy food. Recently I started exploring art and light, and how to combine light, images, and text to create cool pieces of art.   We dismiss the significance of signs because they are for commercial purposes, and we get the point rather quickly. Yet if we change our perception as to appreciate the work gone into them, then you can see another world of artisans that surround us.    Let’s take a look at some of the electric art around my town, Nanaimo, BC, Canada.

Signs, Electric Art


You can’t miss the 40 ft golden arches rising from the side of the road.   If you’re a parent with hungry kids in tow, the dread you feel as you approach slowly through traffic only to hear the pleas of hungry voices behind you.  Even at a couple of miles away, their radar can pick it up faster than you can find a detour.

The sign is not technically marvelous, unless you tried to recreate it yourself, then you might ponder where you’re going to find a 3d printer that big.  Or how do you prevent it from toppling over, year after year in the high winds. McDonalds has had a sign there for the past 36 years that I’ve been in town, an icon in a sea of other signs competing for our attention.

Around the world travel

Around the World Travel Service has the last of the revolving signs in Nanaimo, BC

This is the last of it’s kind in Nanaimo, the revolving signs.  I’m not sure if mechanically moving signs are a pain to keep up, or a bylaw was passed to prevent moving signs from being a distraction or an eye sore.   Nanaimo area has had others, but most have been torn down. The one exception is Around The World Travel, they have been in business since 1958. The signs looks to be from another generation, but I am amazed that this continues to look great and spins year after year as it did when it was new.

There are a couple of items that I want to mention.  The convex plexiglass on each side. I believe that the sign would have to be hand painted on the inside of the glass, which would be tricky enough.  I have a hard time drawing straight lines on a piece of paper, so how they managed such well formed letters on the inside of a bubble is particularly a neat trick.

Also what is the mechanism that revolves it?  If a motor drives a belt on a pulley then I would believe the belt would wear quite easily after a while and would need replacing.   A motor driving gears would allow for longevity but wouldn’t allow for slippage during high winds or other interference, causing the motor to blow out.  Either way, each would need maintenance, and this is a testament to how great the sign continues to look today.

Electric Neon Signs A GoGo

Still one of the coolest signs made today are signs made with Electric Neon Tubes.  They allow for bright vibrant colors, that stand out after dark. The tubes are simple glass tubes with a mixture of Neon Gases that when an electric charge is run through them, the gases glow brightly in different colors.   Glass tubes are heated until red hot and the glass easily bends, but it takes a dedicated artist’s hand to do it right. Thanks to Wired magazine for creating this video with an artist to demonstrate this delicate procedure.

The Avalon

The Avalon went over the top when they remodelled the theater in town.   The have blinking lights, tall towering lights, neon tubes, even the token burnt out tube around the A.   When they first put up the sign, I thought the Avalon Signage was busy and a bit hard to take, but the theatre does well to live up to the hype, and it certainly feels like a night out when you visit.

Devlin Electric Sign Co

A significant contributor to the signs on Vancouver Island.   Devlin Electric Sign Company has been in business since 1963, and have one of the best neon signs in town.   The sign has the deepest red neon that looks amazing at night. The camera had a hard time picking it up in the low light conditions.   The design and colors are very effective and I’ll be keeping an eye out for this sign as I pass by.

Castaway Motel

There is a motel close to downtown on the highway, I’ve never stayed there, and would not be in my top five options to stay in town, but I do love their sign.  The Castaway Motel sign is a neon sign portraying a character that has been castaway on an island and and enjoys the company of the twinkling lights from a treasure chest as he kicks back on a beach.  The sign is an icon in Nanaimo, and I worry that the Motel will one day close shop, or stop keeping up with the sign, but they have managed to do a decent job keeping up with the sign.

Modern Cafe

This sign is another icon in town and also uses a ribbon of flashing light bulbs to create a daylight experience.   The restaurant itself has been recycled from it’s original coffee shop to a chic modern eatery. The sign has remained unchanged, although it has been kept up.   I have seen it go through some hard times in the 90’s, but is now bright vibrant and calls you in, once the sun goes down.

Northridge Village

This strip mall uses a mixed media representation of sculpture and light to create stunning symbol in the night sky.   Unfortunately this side of the sign has a couple tubes burnt out. Which is a persistent problem with neon tubes, either the gas in the tube has escaped, or the electrode burnt out.   Either situation means the tube needs to be recreated and replaced. At 40ft in the air, that is not as simple as replacing a light bulb.

Electric Art is all around us

Why did I dip into this odd exploration of commercial signs in town.   I had fun photographing the signs and processing the images, and I learned that companies work hard to make and keep their signage looking good and working well.   I also learned the power of electric signs. They are visually stunning and draw people to their businesses.

What about you, do you have signs that give you a lift when you see them?  Or perhaps there are signs that have the opposite effect. When considering art, and presentations, some simple electronics can really amplify your message.

I will be exploring adding art, light, and motion to my work, and I hope you will come back to join me.  

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