Ladybugs!

Yesterday my order of ladybugs arrived on the doorstep!  My husband called to ask what to do with the bag of bugs, at which point I panicked.  I hadn’t really given it any more thought than any other online one-click impulse purchase.

As it turns out they’re supposed to be released at dusk, and gradually over a few days.  The garden should be watered first so they can drink… I suppose being shipped in a cardboard box could make anyone thirsty? And you can keep them in the fridge for one to two weeks, because insect hibernation is basically magic.

I ended up asking my husband to just release all of them.  Mondays I have my regular 9-5 office job followed by a 6pm to 10pm summer job, and I was pretty sure that if I asked him to leave any ladybugs  in the fridge “until I get home”, I would forget about them until October.

When I did get home I bolted for the backyard, and managed to spot a few even in the dark. This morning I went out and they were everywhere!  I felt like a little kid that just woke up to a bunch of new toys.  The dogs, on the other hand, couldn’t understand what was so exciting about the plants if they STILL weren’t allowed to eat them.

I misted everything with the hose, including my phone for the second time this spring.  I really can’t function before my first cup of coffee… you’d think setting the phone down next to the potted plants then pointing a hose at them two minutes later is something an adult should manage to avoid, but somehow it’s still beyond my pre-caffeine cognitive capacity.  Luckily my phone is waterproof, in that way of saying “luckily” when what you actually mean is “thanks to forethought and deliberate planning because I totally knew this would happen”.

After a token effort at drying off the phone, I decided to try moving some of the ladybugs from the backyard to the front steps, where my two money-trees are sitting covered in aphids.  It actually went pretty well, as the ladybugs didn’t seem to mind hanging out on a paper towel while I ferried them to the front of the house.  And they did not disappoint!

Putting a bunch of those little guys on the greener shoots and watching them snatch up the aphids made my morning.  They just walked right up to the aphids and latched onto them to munch!  I had to run into the house to get ready for work, but on my way out I stopped to snap a photo.  By that time I guess they’d all had their breakfast since I couldn’t find any still eating, but I did get a pretty clear shot of a ladybug ignoring a snack right behind him… Hopefully it’ll be lunch, and I’ll never go back to using pesticide sprays again.

All in all, my phone still works (Galaxy S6 Active with a case… mostly waterproof AND takes great pics!), the ladybugs are happily doing their job by eating my garden pests for breakfast, and my day is off to a good start.  I hope everyone else likes the photo and has a wonderful Tuesday!

Luca

We’ve upgraded our hosting!

Our website’s move to a new server was completed on Tuesday morning!

I haven’t written about it sooner because the technicalities were an absolute nightmare and I needed a bit of time to recover before I could think about it again without foaming at the mouth.

The good news is that our website is now quite a bit snappier.  That’s awesome because nobody wants to wait ten second for a webpage to load.  Also, because of all the technical difficulties involved in the transfer, our hosting company agreed to give us the year for free!

For anyone actually interested in the nitty gritty, here’s a recap:

Our shared hosting was working okay, but pages were taking around 7 seconds to load.  Caching obviously helped, but the server response time was a dismal 2 seconds.  Some minor tweaking to the code to reduce database calls helped a bit too, but I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted.  So I opted to switch over from DreamHost’s regular VPS to their dedicated DreamPress hosting package.

I checked with their tech support, and they said there shouldn’t be any issues with the move, so I “flipped the switch” Sunday night.  The move quickly went… nowhere.  By Monday morning I got in touch with their tech support because the switch was still “pending”.  Something had hung up their process and there was nothing they could do about it until someone else got into the office.  Okay.

I finally got a call around 5pm telling me the hang-up had been fixed, and did I want to make the move now?  I asked them to wait until nighttime, so their employee very kindly agreed to do it at midnight.  Yay!

So come Tuesday morning, I woke up to an e-mail from them saying there had been some issue with the username being hard coded in the database, but they’d fixed it and everything was fine now.  Their definition of “fine” turned out to be a little off the mark.

For background, we use a security plugin which did indeed put a hard coded reference to the server path into a file.  I’m not sure if that reference also ended up anywhere in the database, but I really don’t think it did.  It was, however, the same as the domain name.  So their tech guy saw “nycplantswap” as part of the old server path hard coded in a file, and did a find and replace to insert the new server path name.  Not just on that file, but ON THE ENTIRE DATABASE. Lo and behold, every reference to our domain was now broken.  And then, in a final twist, he apparently went back and undid the change in the hard coded file.

So what I woke up to was a dependency error and a broken website.  Okay, no big deal… I was optimistic about my coping skills.  Connecting via FTP and fixing that file then allowed the site to start “working”… Only to immediately redirect to a non-existing domain (my new username).  Going into the database and fixing all the references didn’t completely fix it, because everything was being cached on their side.

I got hold of their chat support, who cheerfully flushed the cache for me (since I had no browser interface to work with).  Nothing changed.  Cheery chat support technician and I both scratched our heads.  She was sure she’d flushed it.  I was pretty sure it hadn’t worked.

Another cup of coffee later, I finally figured out how to SSH connect to the server and found directions for flushing their cache.  So I did, and the website worked!  Almost.  I also had to reset the permalinks.  But then it was finally fixed!  And faster.  And that was the whole point.

To be perfectly honest, I was feeling pretty smug and self-satisfied having figured all this out. It wasn’t exactly out of my league, but pretty close… AND I had done it all after waking up at 5:30, AND I was out the door on time to get to my actual job by 10AM. There were, of course, delays on the subway so I was late after all.  But it wasn’t my fault, so I kept feeling pretty super-woman-ish for most of the day 😀

 

Why You Should Donate Plants

We all know the routine: you find the perfect apartment, move in, and spend the weekend at a furniture store.  You’re almost at the checkout line with your latest coffee table when the maze opens up into a beautiful lush jungle of foliage.  Inspiration strikes, and you snatch up some greenery to complement your new decor.  After all, you can’t go wrong with something that reminds your guests of open spaces AND purifies your air!

Time passes, and maybe you end up with a few more plants.  Then, an exorbitantly priced lease renewal or two later, you’re inevitably packing again.  You box up all you can, but fifty pounds of dirt in various containers probably doesn’t make the cut.

Maybe you toss them down the garbage chute.  Maybe you dump them on the curb and hope someone else picks them up before the trash truck.  But we recycle everything else… so why not plants?

Those plants required resources.  They needed space, water, energy, fertilizers, and pest control at the plant nursery they came from.  Their containers may not be recyclable.  They used up fuel to be transported to the store you bought them from.

After all that, why should they end up taking up space in a landfill before their usefulness is over?  They shouldn’t!  That’s where NYC Plant Swap comes in.

Use our website to find some new-to-you plants, or re-home the ones that no longer have a space in your life.  You will be helping us make NYC a greener place – figuratively AND literally!

Check out the recent listings on our homepage or place your own available plant.

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New Layout

We have a brand new look!  We had originally been using an out-of-the-box solution with an unmodified WordPress theme.  After seeing the wonderful response from the community, we decided to invest the time in upgrading the design to something more suited to our intended function.  The new layout better showcases our plant listings – which is what we’re all about!

As with everything else about our site, the layout is a work in progress… But it IS making progress, so we’re happy!  The design and capabilities will continue to grow.  There are a ton of other minor tweaks on our to-do list, and we’re getting to everything as fast as we can.  We will post our goals and to-do list over the weekend, so everyone can have some idea of what improvements are in the pipeline.

For right now, please be aware that the forums are no longer showing up in the sidebar of every page, but can be accessed through the menu bar at the top.  As always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out via the contact form on our Contact Us page.

We’d also like to thank one of our members, Fahad, for contributing some great layout ideas!

Thank you again to everyone who has joined over this past week.  Your support and enthusiasm is totally awesome!

~NYCPS

Website Launch – Updated

The site has only been up for a few hours and we already have over 40 registered users and quite a few posts up.  I can’t begin to explain how excited I am!  It’s doing great for such a niche  project and  I am SO grateful to everyone that has shown any interest!

I truly hope it continues to grow and proves to be a useful resource to the community.  Please feel free to use the contact form to let me know if you have any suggestions or if you encounter any problems.

And please help us keep the ball rolling!  You can do the community a huge favor by participating in the forums, sharing your plants, or even just telling your friends about our website.

Thank you so much, and I hope everyone has a happy spring!

~Luca

Spring 16 Is Here!

I’ve FINALLY been able to start a garden.  After decades of apartments and one-year house leases, I finally have a place with some dirt that I can call my own!  I’m thrilled to be getting my hands dirty in my own yard.

How it all started

One time while walking through downtown Manhattan I saw a potted plant poking out of a pile of discarded office furniture.  It had big, healthy looking leaves and I couldn’t help thinking how nice it would look in my bare apartment.  Just as I was convincing myself someone else would take it,  contractors showed up carrying more furniture.  Instead of watching the plant crunch under more broken cabinetry, I asked if I could have it.

That day was a bit weird…  But I took the plant home and carried it up the stairs to my apartment.  (So many stairs!)  Two years later it’s still shiny and thriving, and looks great in our new house, and I love it.

I don’t expect everyone out there to be a crazy person who carries a large plant up eight flights of stairs instead of letting it get trashed. But I do hope that if it’s easy enough, people will choose to give their plants away rather than throw them in the trash.  And if you’re looking for a new plant,  please consider taking in what your neighbors can’t keep, instead of buying something new.

Reusing and recycling plants doesn’t have to happen only after they’ve been turned into paper! 🙂