Archive for the ‘Homestead projects’ Category

WS-1080 Sensors

WS-1080 as packaged

The Ambient Weather WS-1080 weather station has been operational and gathering data for several days now. So far I’ve been very pleased with the unit.

Living several miles north of Fort Wayne, we often have slightly different temperatures and weather conditions than those reported by the television stations and weather websites like weather.com or wunderground.com.

It’s nice to monitor the live telemetry and review the 24-hour highs/lows and graphs right from my Lazyboy.

Based on my limited use thus far, I’ve already taken a preference to viewing the data on the computer rather than navigating through the receiver’s touch screen display.

The software package that came with the unit is EasyWeather 6.1. This software does a nice job for basic monitoring.

In doing my product pre-purchase research I learned about Sandaysoft’s Cumulus, which has become my primary montoring application.

Cumulus is a free (donationware) application that enables computer based telemetry monitoring of a full range of data (click on the image for a larger view of the dashboard). It also provides a nice assortment of graphs including wind speed, outside temp, inside temp, pressure, rainfall rate (in/hr), wind direction, temp min-max-avg, humidity, rain today, and daily rain totals.

Cumulus Screenshot

Cumulus also provides an option to update a website with realtime data (via FTP). It even includes a template for the site, so you can get it up quickly.

Now that I’ve got the unit up and running it’s time to get it mounted in it’s permanant location- on the old Dish Network bracket mounted on the roof.


Amazon has a newer version, the Ambient Weather WS1090 Weather Station which as an atomic clock and data logging- It’s a great unit for the price!  Check it out HERE…
Sandaysoft- Cumulus Software (good stuff!)


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End Result- Rubber Paver Floor

After a long, cold. snowy winter, the indoor-outdoor carpet on the screen porch was looking pretty bad.

We’ve discussed replacing this carpet several times throughout the last year.  From the looks of it this spring we knew we wanted to do it before summer. 

We considered ceramic and porcelain tile options but had concerns about the tiles cracking in the winter, being slippery when wet, getting scratched by the feet on the patio furniture, having to deal with the maintenance of the grout, hard on the knees, and the tiles being too cold to the touch when the weather gets cool outside.

After a thorough research period, we agreed on the Flexible Rubber Pavers, from Gen-Rubber of Galion, Ohio.

The pavers look somewhat like cast-concrete bricks but are made from 100% recycled tire rubber.  They measure 16″x16″x3/8″ and come in several colors like brown, red and grey.  We opted for the Brown Brick color.

Lacie supervising

These pavers met our criteria of low maintenance, cost-effective, easy to install (or replace), soft on the knees, very durable, and most importantly, they look good!  An extra bonus, the tiles are Made in the USA!!

I purchased a few to test.  I wanted to see if they would off-gas, get really warm in the sun, or lose their finish after being exposed to the elements.  I places four pavers in the porch to see if they ‘smelled’ (which they didn’t) then I placed them under the  hose spigots outside.  After several weeks in the elements and being walked on they still look as good as the day I placed them in service.

We purchased another eighty for the porch from Menards.  On sale, they cost $4.99 each.  It took us 74 pavers to complete the whole screen porch, with a half-dozen extras for use around the landscape or in the garage, the whole project cost less than $400 to complete (before tax).

We really like these pavers for this application.  After removing the carpet, I swept the floor and placed the pavers.  I cut the edge pavers to size (with a sharp utility knife), no special tools needed.  No glue, no levelling, no special floor prep, nothing fancy.  Place them end-to-end and trim the edge tiles to fit.  The whole project (not including pulling up the old crappy indoor-outdoor carpet) took less than two hours to complete.

I wish every project was this easy to complete!

Old crappy carpet

I have no relation to either Gen-Rubber or Menards, besides being a cash paying customer of both.

Related links

Gen-Rubber, LLC

Menards (one of my favorite stores- someday I’ll write a post about Menards and why I like them so much)

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This past week has been full of minor garden related activities and some lessons learned.

First, all of the berries have been planted  into their containers.  We currently have three different blueberry varieties, two raspberries, and one strawberry container.

Blueberries- For nearly all blueberries, it is critical to have multiple varieties for efficient pollination.  I thought I had this addressed last year when I planted my first two blueberries.  With the rabbit damage inflicted to last year’s growth, I am hopeful that I will get some flowering this year.  This will be critical for all.  If it doesn’t look good, I’ll probably add a fourth variety.

The three blueberry varieties we are growing are Blue Ray, Chippewa and Jersey (I think- I can’t find the tag). The Blue Ray and Jersey were purchased last summer as two year-old container starts.  The Chippewa was purchased this spring. 

Raspberries- Last year’s rescued start was overwintered in the kitchen window.  It looks like it made it!  This past week I transplanted it into a larger container with some good quality container mix.  With a few days outdoors it’s already added a couple of new leaves.   I don’t recall the type, but I suspect it’s Burgess’ Latham variety.  The new addition this year is the Rubus ‘Everbearing’.  This was already fully leafed out when I purchased it. 

Strawberries- The planter full of Quinalt strawberries is doing great!  The existing starter leaves are now healthy looking with strong stems.  Several of the bulbs have started sending out new leaves.  The survival rate was 8/10.

I bring all of these containers inside every night just to be safe.

Seed starter trays- update and lessons learned-  last weekend I put the tray of tomatos and peppers out to get some sun.  It was a nice sunny day, in the low 60’s F, but the wind chill must have been a bit cool for some of the tomatoes.  Within a couple of days, some of the Roma tomatoes started wilting.  I figure I shocked them by placing them outside too early.  Fortunately only one variety that had the issue.

I’ll be adding a temorary plastic greenhouse  to help transition the starts.

Old fridge germinator update-  Since the last update I’ve experienced a little milder and mushroom growth on some of the TP starters.  I’ve remedied this situation by leaving the door open a few inches, to allow some air circulation, and monitoring the moisture level (and watering accordingly).  This resolved the issues very quickly.

Compost bin- The compost bin is working, but is not rising in temperature yet.  I’ve been adding coffee grounds and veggie scraps almost daily.  I looked under it again and it has a ton of worms working away- climbing up through the large drain holes in the bottom.  I made the mistake of over-watering it one evening, resulting in a very bad odor.  To quickly remedy this I added some shredded newspaper and mixed the bin.  By morning the odor was gone.

So far, so good…   Lots to learn (and remember for next year).

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The compost bin is finally up and running!

I’ve had the addition of a compost bin on my list for some time, but I hadn’t decided where to place it and what to make it from.  I wanted to have a compost bin that was self-contained, wouldn’t dry out to quickly or stay too wet during rainy periods, easy to turn, easy to move (if so desired), relatively inconspicuous, and somewhat attractive (i.e.- not incredibly unattractive to the neighbors), and inexpensive to make. 

I considered the pre-made molded plastic bins, but couldn’t see spending the money.  I opted to use a spare Rubbermaid tote we had lying around.  To make the compost bin, I simply drilled 7/8 inch  holes in the bottom and all four sides, and filled it up.

a look inside...To get it going I added a weeks worth of veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds and filters, the remnants of my first round of spring cleanup debris, some soil from the best perennial bed we have, some old dried out potting mix (from some old containers), and a little potting mix, and watered well.

I located it in an old neglected bed that was little more than sun-baked clay with a little bit of  hardwood mulch.

After three short days, I was very happy to see that old bed coming back to life.  I moved the bin and discovered a handful of baby worms enjoying themselves in the moist, nutrient rich soil.  To give the bin a quicker start I added my little worm friends to it, with the addition of today’s coffee grounds and veggie scraps.

I have contemplated adding some worm towers to the main beds around the landscape.  After seeing the immediate success under the compost bin I think that decision just got a lot easier.

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Good use for a spare fridgeIt’s been close to a week since I planted the container garden starter pots.  So far, I’ve relied on the windowsill and clam-shell greenhouses to support germination.  As of this morning, the only things that have sprouted was one tomato, two of the herb planters, and some of the lettuce mix.

To help kick-start the seedlings, I placed the mini-greenhouses on a heating pad in front of a larger South-East windows.  Within two hours three more tomato seeds sprouted.

Happy with this success, I’ve since moved the heating pad setup into a spare (unused) refridgerator we keep in the garage.  This unused fridge will provide an environment where it will be easy to regulate and maintain temperature, light and humidity.

I used a couple of old flurescent lite fixtures to provide the light.  They aren’t grow lights, but they put out a lot of light.  These simply rest on the adjustable metal shelf.  I placed the heating pad, wrapped in a towel, on the bottom.

The digital thermometer I keep in the garage was reading 48degrees F.  I put this in the fridge and will monitor the temp throughout the day.

This setup looks like it is going to work great!

Update:20100301- The heating pad did not generate enough heat to raise the temp in the fridge.  I have since added a hanging shoplight (with a 100w light bulb) inside the fridge.  This provides more light and generates the required heat.  The temp is now nearing 60 degrees F and rising.

Since last night, a second variety of tomato has sprouted.

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Looking forward to summer…

Having spent a lot of time in the great out-of doors, I was aware of the synergy that the web of life provides, but I never gave much thought about the inter-relations within the home landscape.  Jack Spirko, and his TSP podcast, helped enlighten me to principles of Permaculture.

I’ve been hooked on Permaculture research ever since.  From watching videos on YouTube, reading books and web forums, listening to Podcasts, and most recently watching distance learning college classes on iTunes U, I can’t learn enough quick enough.

This has totally up-ended my plans to expand our landscape.  I had some loose plans I wanted to accomplished this summer, but they are all on hold until I have a better understanding of what we already have.  There’s a lot of established landscaping here at the new homestead, but a lot is in semi-neglected or stressed state.

To help educate myself, I’m reading the following books-

Gaia’s Garden- A Guild to Home Scale Permaculture” by Toby Hemenway (a great book- I’m planning on posting a review when I’ve finished)


Permaculture- A Designer’s Manual” by Bill Mollison (I’m still paging through this monstrous hard bound book)

I purchased both of these books via Abebooks.com, for less than $100 delivered!  That might sound like a lot, but I’ve seen new copies of the Principles online for nearly $200.

I like Abebooks because you are often purchasing from smaller, independant bookshops.

Another great Permaculture resource is the iTunes U class “HS432- Introduction to Permaculture” from North Carolina State University.  This is the distance learning course taught by Will Hooker.  There are 36, one-hour long, videos in the series.  They are very informative and inspirational.  Will has really opened my mind to how complex, or simple, Permaculture can be.

This class isn’t the easiest to find.  You can find it is through the iTunes store- search for HS432.  It’s a free video series.  Google searches don’t seem to find it.

So much to learn, but it’s so much fun….

Do you have any suggestions for other Permaculture resources, etc?  Please post a comment letting me know.

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I’ve got the first round of seeds started for the 2010 container garden.

The first set of seed starts includes several variety of tomatos, sweet and hot peppers, salad green blends, green beans, and zucchini. 

I’ll be planting some ever-bearing strawberries in hanging strawberry planters very soon.

I made the starter pots out of toilet paper rolls.  To make the pots I flattened the rolls, cut them in half, then slit the bottom into quarters.  This allows the pots to be assembled like little open ended boxes.  They are a perfect size for starters.

These little pots are free, easy to store, fun to make, and biodegradable.  When they get wet, they wick up water like a sponge.  Plus, you can write on them with a permanent marker to make them easy to identify.

I like to start them in old clamshell containers from the grocery store.  These little greenhouses make it easy to care for, transport, and water.

When the time comes to transplant, I’ll tear the flaps off the bottom of the pots and plant them in their new home or containers just as they are.

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