My garden has a pea!

I’ve got a garden going again this year. Last year was pretty much a total bust. I got my seeds started too late, and I started them in cardboard egg cartons. This led to two significant problems:

  1. Egg cartons don’t hold very much dirt. This means the little seedlings needed to be watered about every 12 hours to stay alive. So my seedlings went through a number of severe droughts before even being planted. This didn’t mean that the survivors were drought hardy, however!
  2. I’d thought the egg cartons would dissolve/decay/whatever away pretty quickly after I planted them, meaning I didn’t have to try to hold together a clod of roots-and-dirt when transplanting them. It turns out that after 4 months in the ground, egg cartons don’t undergo any transformation, meaning all my plants had roots confined to the size of an egg carton pod.

Since last year was my first year of gardening, I was still trying to prepare the soil. This meant removing all the well-entrenched weeds (basically, sod busting) and ripping out old, some overgrown sidewalk (yes, I mean the sidewalk itself seemed to have grown beyond it’s size, not that the sidewalk was overgrown with weeds. I think a previous owner laid a new sidewalk but left large chunks of the old one in place). I dug them out with a shovel (the sidewalk came out with the help of a sledgehammer), digging down about a foot into the soil. I turned the soil out onto tarps, somehow imagining I’d be able to drag the piles of dirt around. I discovered that dirt is very, very heavy! Piles that are 5 feet on a side don’t drag! So we spent most of the spring with one car-sized part of the driveway covered in dirt piles. I had dreams of going to the county compost center and picking up a trailer full of compost to mix in with my dirt. That never happened; instead I bought several bags of miracle gro soil to mix in.

I eventually planted my little seedlings, and a few weeks later I left town for a 2 week teacher training. It turns out that miracle gro works as well on weeds as it does on plants! I came back to waist high weeds with ankle high plants hiding among them. I spent several hours ripping out all the weeds, assuming the garden was a lost cause but determined to see if it could be salvaged. By the end of the summer I’d harvested about 4 servings of green beans (of a variety that I turned out not to like on account of their excessively woody texture) and around 10 green tomatoes that never ripened indoors. My crowning achievement was enough basil for 4 batches of pesto which we thoroughly enjoyed all winter. The peas never survived the waist high weed incident.

So, I figured this year could only be better after such a “learning intensive” experience last year! I got cute little self-watering planter gizmos (I have no idea what “eco friendly” means in this context), planted my little seeds, and commenced watching a curious white “growth” appear on the soil. I’m unclear on whether that was a fungus or a mold, but it did motivate me to want to transplant them as early as possible, since the only sun-and-plant-friendly window (one with both sun exposure and some kind of surface on which to set the plants) was the one at the dining room table. I attempted to “harden” my seedlings by putting them outside during the day, intending to bring them in at night (and repeat for a couple of days) but of course I completely forgot about them that first night, which happened to be the night of a massive rainfall. Miraculously all that rain didn’t knock the planters off the porch railing, or simply float out the plants in a flood of water. I brought them back in to hang around for a few more days until the white fuzz got to be too much, and then transplanted them.

I got busy and neglected to weed or water very much, thinking again it was a lost cause. My transplant beans all died immediately, so I planted new beans directly into the soil. The beans proved themselves to be the pick of elementary school science by sprouting in a couple of days and growing freakishly fast (ala Jack and the Beanstalk). When I finally got around to weeding last weekend I was pleased to discover things coming along better than I expected!

The whole garden

Beans and tomatoes!

I haz a pea!

Nevermind the strange orange stain on the garage. That was from the iron-rich well water we had been using to water the garden with our overly enthusiastic “soaker” hoses that shot 6 feet into the air! Stained my car too 😦

I also tried to plant some native wildflowers in another section of soil this spring. I dug out the sod/weeds/whatever there this spring, but didn’t bother digging down to add in any soil remediation. I sprinkled my wildflower seeds and sat back to watch ….. weeds grow. I couldn’t tell what was my wildflower versus what was weeds, because I didn’t have seed markers (having just sprinkled them around). So that didn’t turn out so well:

Native wildflowers?


Adobe Acrobat install “learning opportunity”

Warning: this post has a lot of technical detail, in the hopes that it can help anyone else who had this problem!

We had a huge “learning opportunity” at home this weekend. For the past month we’ve been trying to install Adobe Creative Suite onto one of our MacBook Pros. We picked up a copy of CS 5.5 right before CS6 was released, and Adobe had a deal that included a free upgrade to CS6. CS5.5 kept gakking during the installation of Acrobat Pro. The installer log file wasn’t particularly helpful:

Installer: The install failed (The Installer encountered an error that caused the installation to fail. Contact the software manufacturer for assistance.)

[       1] Sat May  5 20:34:09 2012 ERROR
DW006: Apple Package failed to install successfully.

DW050: The following payload errors were found during install:
DW050:  – Acrobat Professional: Install failed

———– Payload: {AC76BA86-1033-F400-7760-000000000005} Acrobat Professional ———–
ERROR: DW006: Apple Package failed to install successfully.

ERROR: DW050: The following payload errors were found during install:
ERROR: DW050:  – Acrobat Professional: Install failed

Web searches turned up nothing helpful. We tried uninstalling all Adobe products and deleting all traces of it using their “cleaner” program, and we tried enabling the root user (and creating a “root” account to install from). None of these worked, and we wondered if it was just a 5.5 bug so we waited for CS6 to ship. We finally got our serial number last week, but CS6 had the same installation error!!

While running yet another installation attempt yesterday, we noticed the installer had a live log file that got updated during the installation, so we had a peek in there and voila! We found the source of the problem!! The live log had dozens of sudo errors during pre-install scripts, which suggested there was some kind of permissions problem lurking.

We tried a couple of sudo commands at the terminal window and got a sudoers permission error. Google led us to this discussion forum which implicated the group permissions on the root (/), private (/private), and etc (/private/etc) directories. When we checked (use these commands)

  • cd /
  • ls -al

private and etc had the correct permissions (group could read and execute), but the root folder (the one at the top called . ) did not. A call to

chmod g+rx

failed, but then we noticed that the root folder had an @ symbol at the end of the permissions list:

drwxr–r–@   38 root   wheel      1360 Jun 18 21:35 .

I’d never heard of that, so a bit more googling turned up some invention of “extended attributes“.

ls -ale

informed us that the root folder had an extended attribute of blahblahblah safari blah blah

(this attribute is related to that OSX warning message that pops up when you click on a program you’ve downloaded from the web. It says “this program was downloaded from the internet on xxxx, are you sure you want to continue?”)

We tried to delete the attribute (they can interfere with chmod commands) using

xattr -d .

but THIS failed with

Errno 13 permissions error

At some point we had disabled the root user (reasoning that 95% of Apple users had never heard of root and never enabled it to begin with and Adobe installs fine for them). So we re-enabled root:

  • go the Finder
  • type command-shift-G
  • type in System/Library/CoreServices
  • open up directory utilities
  • Under the File menu, choose “enable root”

Then we logged into a terminal as root (open a terminal window, type login root), and re-ran the xattr command. It worked, and we re-ran the chmod command. This also worked! We tried a couple of sudo commands and they worked fine! We rebooted the sytem and tried the Adobe installer and it ran without a hitch!!!!!

I didn’t bother tracking down how that extended attribute got attached to the root folder–by now we’d sunk dozens of people-hours over the last 6 weeks into this problem, and I was just glad we’d solved it. The moral of the story: if Adobe install fails, check whether you can run commands with sudo. If not, go debug that problem!!

We were curious about why all the other Adobe CS components installed fine–it was only Acrobat that gakked. My suspicion is that Acrobat is more deeply embedded in the system and linked to other programs (because it integrates with other programs to act like a printer….well, at least it does on Windows….Mac already has print to pdf even without Acrobat).

We were also irritated (there’s an understatement) that the post-fail log file is so worthless. It’s hundreds of lines long (see it here), and yet just has those few lines about a mysterious failure without any detail that would let us solve it!