Friday, November 12, 2021

Circle of Life Mousetrap Pit

I've been trying to invent a better mousetrap for a long time and I think that I've come up with a few that are possibly patentable.

For me, the ultimate mousetrap will have these features:

  • Terminate the rodent.
  • Eject the dead rodent from the trap into an area where a natural predator will take it away.
  • Reset itself.
  • Work for months at a time without human intervention.
  • Be effective.
With that in mind I've come up with this (invented?) as one of my designs.

I live in Arizona in the desert southwest of north America. The predators listed in this article of those commonly found in this part of the world. Where you live some of them will be different.

The trap is a pit that's a half drum about 3 to 6 feet wide and around 3 feet deep. Simply put, when a rodent falls into this drum it is unable to climb out because it has smooth walls. From a practical perspective I would imagine that a modified plastic water collection tank might be used as a starting point to create this. The color of the pit should be light.

The pit would be installed outside. Either completely above ground or semi-submerged or submerged into the ground. Because it's outside then drainage from the pit needs to be considered and installed. This could be as simple as tiny drainage holes poked into the bottom of the pit and would prevent the pit from flooding when it rains.

Around the edge of the pit you place walk-the-plank style mousetraps. These are mousetraps that entice the rodent forward and uses their weight to trigger a pivot mechanism to drop them into the pit. If the rim of the pit is above the ground you will need a ramp to facilitate the rodent reaching this point.

Rodents that fall into the pit will be alive and running around in there but unable to get out. The walk-the-plank style traps are usually self-resetting so several rodents can be dropped into the pit at the same time.

If the tank is light in color then there will be a distinct contrast making the rodents highly visible.

Predators are now able to remove the rodents from the pit. This would have happened in nature anyway except it wouldn't have been as easy for the predators to find their prey.

Birds of Prey

Eagles, hawks and owls would be the primary birds-of-prey that would be interested in this. It would be pretty easy for them to pick the rodents out of this pit.

Canines and Felines

Domesticated dogs and cats (including feral cats) as well as bobcats, mountain lion and coyotes are all potential rodent removers. Easy for them to get in and out of the pit.


Snakes are the only reptiles that I would imagine that you'd see in this pit. I'm guessing that Gila Monsters are potential predators but these are pretty rare. If the external ingress to the pit has a high wall then this may eliminate reptiles.

Snakes may get stuck in the pit and not able to get out. There are a couple of thoughts about this. The snake spends a good portion of its life in the pit because it has a constant supply of food entering the pit. A human (using a long snake pole) lifts the snake out of the pit and releases it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tuscan Cantaloupe Experiment

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Date: 8/22/2015

Yesterday evening I had a delicious Tuscan Cantaloupe. I saved around 50 seeds from it and dried them overnight.

Today I pulled back the mulch in the orchard and laid a 7 foot 1/4 inch soaker tube attached to the orchard irrigation. It will get about 20 minutes of water each morning. I scattered the seeds evenly along the length of soaker hose.

The seeds have a few inches of mulch on top of them. I also gave the mulch a good initial soak with the garden hose after I put it back.

Date: 8/26/2015

It's been 4 days since I put the seeds down. Today I noticed the first signs that they germinated. I'm guessing that the stem must be a few inches long because they were buried under a few inches of mulch. I counted 21 in total.

Date: 8/27/2015

Five days after planting the germination count is 53.

Date: 8/28/2015

Six days after planting the germination count is 94. I guess that my estimate of 50 seeds wasn't very accurate.

Date 8/28/2015

Eight days after planting. Germination count is 124. That doesn't include 5 to 10 that appears to have collapsed from heat exhaustion. I've thrown a shade cloth over the plants to protect them at this stage. We're still experiencing 110F days and they are tiny and not able to handle this heat.

Date 9/14/15

They've done really well over the last couple of weeks under the shade cloth which I've just removed. The leaves are large and the plants are growing quickly. Will allow them full sun now.

Date 9/19/15

Noticed first flowers. About 20% of the leaves have been eaten by the desert cottontails. I'm hoping that as the leaves become more mature and prickly that they'll be less palatable to the rabbits and will be left alone. Theory is that the young succulent leaves are what they wanted.

HVAC Condenser Irrigation Experiment

Date: 7/25/2015

Week 0: I'm trying this experiment: I've just put some squash, gem and pumpkin seeds under a few inches of mulch and resting on the soil. I've taken a pool backwash hose (because I had some) and am redirecting the a/c condensation run-off to that patch.

Date: 8/2/2015

Week 1: Came back from vacation yesterday and noticed that 6 of the 10 seeds have germinated and pushed through the inches of mulch and are looking healthy. The trick (IMO) is to immediately go on a 1 week vacation after planting. The experiment is to keep the plants permanently wet/damp from the A/C drip pipe.
Some other notes about this: My wife planted the same seeds in a nearby vegetable patch 3 weeks ago and they are around the same size as mine are after a week. The key differences:
Hers: High quality soil, watered once a day for 10 minutes at 6am using city water, no mulch.
Mine: Placed on top of regular dirt (i.e. not "planted"), a few inches of mulch on top of it, permanently wet/damp with distilled water from a/c external drip pipe.

Date: 8/8/2015

Week 2: It's been 2 weeks since I "planted" the 10 seeds and here is the latest update.

Week 0: Planted

Week 1: 6 germinated, inches high.
Week 2: 7 germinated: 3/3 squash, 2/3 white pumpkin, 2/4 gem squash. At least doubled if not tripled in size since Week #1 update.

Other notes. On the other side of the house I have another a/c drip line. The water in that one I'm catching in a bucket. This means that I can measure the amount of water being produced by the a/c units and can assume that this one varies at the same rate. The amount of water coming out the unit on the other side is around 3 gallons a day right now but earlier in the week it was probably half of that. As you would expect the amount of water produced is directly related to the humidity and with this extra humidity over the last couple of days we have extra water. This is the inverse of what I think we need. i.e. when the air is dryer I'm guessing the plants will transpire more and need more water which is when the a/c run-off will produce less. Just thinking out aloud here...

 Date: 8/15/2015

Week 3: Looking healthy. Not showing any signs of over-watering yet that I can see.


 Date: 8/22/15

Week 4: Heat has been brutal over the last couple of weeks with highs of 115F and no rain for 2 weeks. Because the leaves are now so big the plants wither and droop during the afternoon. In the early morning they look the healthiest as in this photo.

They are now standing 12 inches from the soil. Because they're tangled together in a growing mass I haven't been able to work out if there are still 7 plants growing here.

Date 8/29/15 8am

Week 5: I now have a plastic garden chair that I keep to the south-west of these plants. This provides some shade during the afternoons. Because of the size of the leaves there is severe wilting in the afternoon. In the evenings and mornings the leaves have fully recovered. The afternoon wilting is not because of a lack of water but rather the ability for the plants to pull the water up through their stems during the hot periods of extreme transpiration.

Today I measured the plants. I should have started doing this earlier in the experiment to measure growth rate. Height (off mulch) is 12 inches and average diameter is 20 inches. I also added the time of day to the sub-heading. Because of the wilting it's important to take the measurements at around the same time of day and preferably in the morning.

Date 8/29/15 2:30pm

Here's another photo of the plants taken 6.5 hours after the one above. The temperature has risen from around 85F (29C) at 8am in the morning to 110F (43C) at 2:30pm. Those wilted leaves will recover this evening.

Date 9/14/15

Week 7. Not looking that healthy right now. I've been away for the last week so not sure if it's the sun or over-watering. It rained overnight. Plants have started to crawl horizontally now.

Date 9/19/15

Week 8. Very little progress. Still looking heat-stressed. The extreme heats have started to abate. Highs are now under 100F. In theory they should be getting less water as the A/C units should be running less with the drop in temperatures.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pineapple Mango

Date: 8/14/2015

What: Pineapple Mango
Acquired: 8/13/2015
Planted: 8/14/2015
Orientation: 9 feet from east side of house.
Tree height: 3 feet.
Trunk diameter: 0.5 inches above and below graft.
Location: North East corner of 101, Scottsdale, AZ (Hayden/Thunderbird)
Water: Drip irrigation around 8am daily during summer months.
Soil: Native soil, no amendments. Original soil around root ball kept intact when planted.
Mulch: Thin layer of wood chips around base of tree with a deeper cone of chips surrounding that.
Measure stick: The measure stick shown in the photo is 8 feet long with 2 foot striped markers.

Date 8/17/2015

Added 60% shade cloth to provide some protection against the sun and heat we're currently experiencing.

Date 8/21/2015

Swapped out the regular water emitter for a 1/4" soaker ring around the base of the tree. Diameter of the soaker ring is fairly small (around 10") and only a few inches wider than the original root ball. The soaker ring lies on top of the ground and is then covered with around a foot of mulch. In doing so I saw that the mulch around the base of the trees was already starting to turn a healthy black.

Date 8/23/2015

Looks like there's new growth at the top of the mango. Grabbing this image to see how it changes over time.

Date 8/28/2015

  • 3 New shoots can now be seen on the mango. Two at the top as per the previous logs photo and a new one lower down.
  • Sprinkled 4 handfuls of used (Starbucks) coffee grounds around the based of the tree.

Date 9/3/2015

Switched out the flimsy/flexible plastic/rebar poles for 8' wood stakes and extended the shade cloth another foot south.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

How hard is your water?

I've been trying to work out why there's so much calcium build up in the drain in my shower. I posted a question to Stack Exchange: How can I remove calcium from a drain? and that lead to the suggestion that I get a water softener which I already have so I questioned if it was working: How do I measure how hard my water is?

I found this YouTube video which seems to have a simple test of adding Castile soap to water samples:

It turned out that my industrious wife also had a sample of Castile soap - which I'd never heard of before.

 Using 3 sources for the water:
  • Kirkland (Costco) purified water
  • GE SmartWater filter
  • Tap water

The GE SmartWater filter and the tap water both go through our water softener.

The results:

Now according to the test in the YouTube video I would have expected the Kirkland purified drinking water to have the least concentration of minerals. However it turns out that it has the highest.

It looks like the water from the faucet isn't as soft as it should be so I now question if the water softener is working.

I've always been skeptical about how well these in-house water filters work and am pleasantly surprised that according to this test it's working extremely well.

Update #1: Just noticed that the Kirkland botteled water has "with minerals added for taste" on the label so I guess that it's intentionally not soft. When I initially read "purified drinking water" I missed that.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Five Star Passenger

Uber have come up with a fantastic system to proactively use the star ratings we give to our service provider. If an Uber driver doesn’t maintain an average 4.6 star rating then they will be deactivated. As a passenger this means that you have a powerful responsibility to provide accurate feedback for your driver if you’re not going to give them 5 stars as their livelihood depends on your rating. To date I’ve given all my drivers 5 stars except for one who I gave 4 stars because he couldn’t find me or direct me to him and it took 15 minutes for us to connect.

Today I learned that customers also have a star rating and the driver assigns stars to how you were as a passenger. I have no idea what they base this on. Your conversation? There’s not that much to go on… My driver told me that when the ride popped up on his screen it showed him that I am a 5 star customer at Uber. I have arrived!

On an Alaska Airlines flight from Phoenix to Seattle today I sat between two delightful people. One is a Flight EMT for the DoD and the other is a mother of four. It occurred to me that after a flight the airline should send you the same request that Uber does which is to rate your fellow passengers on a scale of 1 to 5.

Using that information the airlines could seat all the 1 star problem passengers next to each other so that they can be miserable and unpleasant to each other together. The 5 star passengers (yes of course I’d be one of them) would then also be seated together to have polite, reserved conversation about the weather at your destination.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Arctic Star White Nectarine

This Arctic Star White Nectarine (height 67") went into the orchard on 7/Dec/2014. From the marketing blurb:

Harvest Dates: June 8 to June 25 (approximate for Hickman, CA)
Developed by Zaiger Genetics. U.S. Plant Patent No. 9332.

Earliest to ripen of the low acid, super-sweet white nectarines. Rave reviews in trial tastings. Beautiful dark red skin, snow white semi-freestone flesh.