Science and Technology: So you want to automate some stuff…

Automation systems are all the rage in certain tech circles these days, and rightly so. Being able to save money by adjusting your thermostat from work via your smartphone or being able to shut off a light you forgot about from the cafe are great ideas.

The problem is that most of the mass market stuff out there assumes a whole lot about what and how someone wants to automate things.

I live in a 150ish year old farm house built on solid limestone. A room in our basement was built to store food once upon a time, but now it gets very damp in the summer and not always cold enough in the winter. What I need is a system that monitors temperature and humidity and operates fans and vents to keep the place dry and at specific temperatures based on the time of year. I’d like to be able to monitor that setup from my PC or smart-device via a web interface, but I’m not necessarily interested in broadcasting that data to the cloud.

There are a few devices that do some of what I want, but they all tend to fall short. What I’ve discovered is that if I want to do this kind of stuff, I’m going to have to build it myself.

Such is the life of a maker.

The projects I’m considering to date are:

  • A system to manage the temperature and humidity of the food storage room in the basement.
  • A system to monitor the temperatures of the various fridges and freezers we have (you might be surprised how many a farm like ours ends up with).
  • A system to monitor for fire and carbon monoxide emissions from a couple of alternative heating systems we have.
  • A system to monitor for fire in most of our buildings.
  • A camera system for the farm main.
  • Others as time permits and necessity demands.

Time to get to work…

DLH

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Five years on: Disasters, reevaluations, and the straight and narrow

There are few things like a disaster of one’s own making to cause one to reevaluate.

We’ve had more than a few disasters, big and small, since we came back to Innisfree on the Stillwater. They kind of come with the territory of taking over this kind of an enterprise and learning on the fly.

While disasters can sometimes be setbacks and can also be demoralizing, we also use them as a chance to evaluate what we are doing and come up with ways to do them better, not just to correct a specific mistake but also to ensure that our approach is the best one to use.

The result is a cycle of disaster, reevaluation, and recommitment. It would be easy to give up when things go wrong, but nobody ever said what we are doing was going to be easy. Instead, we figure out how to do what we are doing better and move on.

In the end, that’s the only way to succeed at farming.

DLH

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9-11

Thirteen years on, it’s hard not to be negative on a day like today. The memories are still fresh, though perhaps finally tinged with that halo that begins to surround an intensely lived day, fresh enough that I see our nation making the same mistakes it once did, believing that somehow it can get away with this time things no nation ever has.

None of this should really be a surprise for anyone who has paid attention to history. It is almost if history curses great nations to make such mistakes. It is almost if history demands people ignore what they once knew with such intensity.

Yet, I have not forgotten, nor will I. I remember the nearly 3,000 people who died because a cancerous ideology declared death to America. I have not forgotten that the war America’s enemies–the world’s enemies–declared is one they have been fighting for a very long time and will fight for a very long time more. I have not forgotten that my nation needs me, once as a soldier and now as a citizen.

I have not forgotten. Look around you. Have you?

Dennis L Hitzeman

11 September 2014

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: There are days…

People sometimes ask me why I tell people when I fail. Frankly, it would be easy not to tell anyone when things to wrong. It would be easy to lull people into a false impression that the life I live is somehow, distant, idyllic, and trouble-free.

It would also be a lie.

In fact, that lie is at the core of a lot of things I see wrong with how we moderns live. Governments, corporations, and our own fancies have convinced us that we live in a world that should be sterile and secure from risk, want, or danger when reality could not be further from that conviction.

So, I choose to speak to reality. Like today, when a series of miscues resulted in the two bulls I was taking to the butcher escaping and vanishing. Yes, I said vanishing. No one can find them. I spent all day trying to track them down with no success. We just had $4400 worth of animals escape and disappear into thin air.

And that fact does not deter me. Yes, it is a setback. Yes, I am going to have to figure out how to replace that income. Yes, those two loose bulls still represent a liability until they are caught or killed. But none of that means I am a failure.

I believe the best measure of a person is how that person responds to adversity. Decades ago, I chose perseverance because, from my view, what is the point of life otherwise?. And that’s why I choose to share my failures, so that other people can see that it’s okay to fail and that life goes on.

Now, to find me a couple of missing by cows…

DLH

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Five years on: First, a request

As part of our effort to advance our cause at Innisfree, we have started a GoFundMe Campaign to support our coppicing effort. If you are interested, go check out the GoFundMe page to find out more.

DLH

Read more at my Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater weblog...

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