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478 Posts By ben

  • Ice on the outside, dew on the inside

    IMG_7804The greenhouse we installed last month is making a big difference even early in the morning. It will soon have its Raspberry Pi for monitoring. We have dreams of expanding the greenhouse into an oasis of life in the middle of Winter. Water, growing greens, bees staying warm. It could be multi-purposed in a very nice way.

  • Cool Duplo Project #39 – Chess Set

    Fine craftsmanshipIMG_0025

    Child making fart noises with glass for scaleIMG_0038

    The only rule we don’t follow is “en passant”Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 9.21.50 PM

  • One argument of many against globalization

    It occurred to me that with the basic premise of commerce being that specialization and trade yields more better products for both parties. The only reason we trade with countries like China isn’t that they make better items (like for example how Germans make better cars), it isn’t that they have access to resources we don’t have. It is, as we all know, that they make it cheaper, the single reason for which being that they are far enough away that horrible work conditions can happen without us feeling guilty about it.

    In short; trade with China is interesting only because we get to exploit their people.

    If we got to exploit people at home, we wouldn’t be trading with China. Fortunately if people in our towns worked under the same conditions, we would be up in arms about it. And if China didn’t allow exploitation of its people, we wouldn’t be trading with them.

    And so it’s interesting to ponder that the only “trade specialization” China has to offer is being far away enough geographically & culturally from the Western world that we’re cool with their being exploited. Or we can in good conscience say that we are ignorant of it because we have no visibility into the issue.

    Globalization has a tendency to create these “out of sight, out of mind” incentives which work heavily against good working conditions and the environment.

  • At the junction of I.T. & homesteading – continued


    Figuring out a good repeatable & maintainable way to deploy Pi Zeros.IMG_7684

    My favorite project screws in action.IMG_7693

    The boxes I picked a very tight and leave no room for any other hardware.IMG_7694

    I made a hole for a cable gland which is very helpful for cable strain relief, removing friction on sharp edges and making a right cable entryway.IMG_7695

    This little guy is only monitoring temperature, I’ll need a bigger box for the greenhouse device as it needs a bit more hardware.IMG_7746

  • Art at every corner

    Dynamic fractals at the window


    Glowing bark pattern in the firebox


  • So far so good

    The Bison hand pump is holding up pretty well to very cold weather and so is the underground overflow. The greenhouse definitely helps and has withstood fierce winds recently.


  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster

    I bought another chainsaw and promptly went after a big tree.


    My forearms burn as they did 5 years ago when I got the smaller saw and had no idea what I was doing. This saw is a serious upgrade and makes the job both easier and harder at the same time. It take much more strength to wield but much less work to go through the tree.

    Robin climbed on top of the tree, in pieces.


    The new saw has more metal components and is made in Germany. I’ll keep the small one for smaller jobs.


  • At the junction of I.T. & homesteading

    I started acquiring multiple Raspberry Pi Zeros for the purpose of starting to figure out a consistent deployment scheme for the various automation related projects I envision for our homestead.

    For now I’ve simply deployed 2 DS18b20 temperature sensors. One on the existing Pi in the Solar shed which serves this blog, and another on a Pi Zero in the house. Only sensing for now which complements the data I’m gathering from the solar array.

    The Pi Zero consumes between 0.1 and 0.2 AmpsIMG_7476

    Sample data being gatheredScreen Shot 2016-12-10 at 10.25.03 PM

    Here are my current install notes for the Pi Zero.

    To limit power consumption, add this to /etc/rc.local to turn off HDMI output

    /usr/bin/tvservice -o

    To be able to read from the temperature probe, add the following line to /boot/config.txt


    Get the python-w1thermsensor package

    sudo apt-get install python-w1thermsensor

    Reboot & make sure devices are listed in /sys/bus/w1/devices

    The python code necessary to read the probe is:

    from w1thermsensor import W1ThermSensor
    # assuming only 1 sensor
    sensor = W1ThermSensor.get_available_sensors( [W1ThermSensor.THERM_SENSOR_DS18B20] )[0]
    temperature = sensor.get_temperature()
    if temperature is not None:
        print '%.1f' % (temperature)
        print "failed to get reading."
  • Finally a decent buffer


    We just upgraded our batteries from 3 * 35Ah lead acid (right) to 3 * 155Ah deep cycle AGM (left). The difference is like night and day; pun very much intended. These bears weight 90 lb each. We added lights in the house and are able to make it through several overcast days without loosing power. I still need to wire in another charge controller and clean up the mess of wires in the solar shed. The old system will get re-purposed for raspberry pi instrumentation around the homestead.

  • Interesting Nature Finds

    The “toupet” tree


    Ice growing out of the groundIMG_7390

    The tree that decided to fruit out of nowhere


    The wtf tree limb