Friday, August 8, 2008

Electronic reminders

Hmmm. Been a month since the last post. Only exciting thing around here was finding the mysterious single stalk of wheat growing amongst my potatoes! Courtesy of a "bird bomb?" Dunno.

A while back I mentioned that I was working on a small system to monitor the coop temperature. Well, I'm still working on that mainly because the solar cells I was going to use to charge the batteries aren't as good as I thought.

But now I have even more reason to get it done. Last night I was sitting here at about the same time when I looked outside wondering why I could hear dogs barking in the distance and realized "crap, I didn't put the birds to bed." Around here dogs barking at night can mean they hear coyotes so I grabbed a flashlight and went running down the hill. Luckily everyone was OK and the ducks were even in the coop (I usually have to herd them in) so all I had to do was close and latch the door. They were a bit annoyed by the light but otherwise OK.

Since the remote computer I built has inputs for reading switches, I'm going to put a "door closed" switch on the coop and have a short program running on the PC so if it's after dark and the door isn't closed, it sounds an alarm in the house. Hopefully I'll never need it, but if nothing else, it'll be a fun little project. Ah, the magic of wireless technology.


Kelly said...

Hello farmboy,

I'm leaving the city life in 7 weeks, moving from Los Angeles to Tennessee with my wife and 2 dogs. We plan to buy 10-20 acres and establish a mini-farm followed by a bed-and-bistro retreat. I'm leaving the digital life behind for the great outdoors, and I really enjoy reading about the gadgetry you employ on your farm. I have always wanted to build automated systems to improve efficiency and convenience, and now I'll have a place to do it.
I would appreciate it very much if you would steer me to any websites or books that can get me started. My house is a Mac domain, but I am prepared to deploy a PC if it makes sense for programming. I don't have any real programming skills, but I can learn whatever you recommend. Glad to see a new post, and good luck with the fowl and wheat.

farmboy said...

If you don't have programming background be prepared to either learn a huge amount or spend a lot of money :-)
The reason I emphasize a "huge amount" is that typically the lower-cost hardware interface devices like mine have much less software support than the more expensive industrial stuff, so you need to learn how to do all the bits they leave out.

That said, I don't know of any websites that will teach low-level programming and interfacing, although I'm sure they exist. I started a FAQ at my main site (, follow the Knowledge Base link but I haven't had time to keep adding material to it.
Perhaps if you try and read some of the tutorials and lurk in the AVR 8-bit forum for a while you'll pick up where people are getting information. There are a lot of first-timers there and the advice is very good.

Anonymous said...

I recommend a book called Pasture Poultry Profits - Joel Salatin. He has a comment in the book about an amish guy that used a old alarm clock and string to 'pull' the door shut when the alarm goes off. The book is not about that really, but it is a good book.

Anonymous said...

Hi, FarmBoy,
I believe that Kelly might find some of the support that he'd need for assembler here: Having started with machine code in the mid-1950's, I'd concur that neither it nor assembler prove everyone’s cup of tea.

You might enjoy this site: I communicated with John Seymour many years ago, having heard about him through a mutual friend in SA. Don't know anything about Will Sutherland, though.

John wrote a ton of books which we were, in my opinion, uniformly excellent. That said, they tended rapidly toward the repetitive. His, Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency (by his own admission, incomplete in the interests of PC) is probably the place to start. Note, I'm specifically suggesting the original version not the new CBofSS as I've not seen it.

Hmm. Patience will prove a virtue which your hens will teach you well, in time.