Browsing Posts tagged fun

Early this morning, there was some consternation down by the Plots as one of the beech trees across the road blew over, completely blocking the road to everything but foot traffic.  I’ll bet the bus drivers loved the little diversion through the housing estates.  Or maybe they didn’t.

Still, it meant that for once, it was quiet down the Plots without the constant roar of traffic, and Carol managed to persuade the tree surgeons to drop us off all the wood chippings they’d made in clearing up the mess.  A bit of a shame we couldn’t have some of the wood, but it did look rather big, exceedingly heavy, and apparently, all the wood went to another contractor.

Still, no worries.  We’ll now have plenty of wood chip for the area by the top wooden shed when we put the gazebos up when (if!), it gets warm in a few weeks time.

So for me today, it was all about our bees.

Our head beekeeper, Charles, arrived pretty early and we got suited up ready for action.

Today, we moved one colony from its ‘nuc’ into a full hive.

This was the swarm that Diane so skillfully caught last summer in the cardboard box, and though the colony was not as large as Charles would have liked, it was still large enough to spare two frames for the new arrivals as we moved it into its own brood box.

The centre hive, however, had fared much better over the long winter, so we ‘borrowed’ two frames of larvae and capped brood from this.

This left us with four frames of good, strong bees.

Charles had brought two new nuc boxes with him, and two new queens he’s received in the post the other day.  Surprisingly (…well, to me anyway…), yes, you are allowed to post queens with a few attendant workers, as long as they obviously can’t get out!

These two queens were housed in clear, smallish containers with vents on their sides, and the idea is that you should introduce them gradually to their new workers.

To do this, Charles put two of the full frames plus two ‘blank’ frames into each nuc, then sealed them up so the bees can get a chance to learn their way around their new home.

Oh, and when I say ‘sealed’, I mean he only sealed up the front entry holes. There is plenty of breathing space up through the bottom, so they won’t suffocate!

Then, Jon very carefully placed a queen in each of the new nucs, still her ‘royal box’, suspended right above where the capped brood was, hanging by a matchstick through the top of her box.

By doing this, her pheromones will hopefully mingle with those of the rest of the hive, so when Jon and I come to release the pair of them, probably Monday, there’ll be much less of a chance of the workers rejecting their new queens.

We’ll probably open the front doors at the same time to allow the foragers out to collect pollen and nectar.

So, hopefully by this time in a couple of weeks, we’ll be able to go in the new nucs again, and check that everything is well and that both queens are laying as they should.

We finally finished, and when I checked the time, I was astonished that over an hour had completely flown by.

Anyway, I’m going to have to leave it here for now.  It’s well past my bedtime, and I promise I’ll process the photos in time for Saturday’s entry.

Then again, if I finish off what I have to do early tomorrow, I may well spend an hour going through all the shots that PXI Nick took with my camera today.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave it there, if I may.

Pillow & Duvet calling a very tired Nick!

Thankfully quiet! 17/04/13

But the few of us who turned up certainly got stuck in, and we’ve got loads out of the way so that when the ‘part-timers’ come on Saturday afternoon, they can plant away to their hearts’ content.  Of course, what they never see is all the back-breaking work that goes in beforehand, but who am I to complain?  I can still remember when I first came down to LEAF, and for months, I did none of this hard work.  Payback time, methinks.Nearly done!

Today, Gary and Shaun carried on filling our two new raised beds with soil.  The bottom of these beds has got a load of pretty awful stuff in that certainly isn’t good enough to grow vegetables in, and as you get higher, the soil gets progressively better.

We think that you should feed the soil, rather than just feed the plants.  Okay, if you’re only using, say, a grow bag for a summer to grow tomatoes in, then yes, you should feed the tomatoes as much as you can, but when you’re consciously trying to improve the soil year-on-year, then you feed the soil, and that in turn takes care of the plants in it.

I made a brief survey of the plots after Matt noticed that some git has stolen a load of polycarbonate sheeting we had propped up quite close by the beehives.  Further inspection revealed that we’d also lost a couple of rhubarb crowns too from the entrance.

Well, all we can say is that we hope you treat them well, and that you remember that you stole them from LEAF.  The silly thing is that if someone had actually asked us, we probably would have said ‘Yes!’, anyway.

On my travels, I couldn’t help but notice that all the daffodils on the banking have suddenly decided to come into bloom.Daffodils!  This is pretty amazing, because last Saturday, these were all only budding.  I’d thought they were at least a week away from flowering.

Elsewhere on our Plots, there were signs of Pam and Jon’s handiwork of a few weeks ago when they went mad planting bulbs.

To the right here are some of the crocii that Pam planted after Jon had gone.

These little beauties are at the ends of the beds running down the left of that last photo -near the bushy chives.

A quick close up reveals just how tender and fragile these things really are, and on a less windy day, our bees will love them.Newly-planted crocii

Our friend from further down the site, Gerry, called by today, and on hearing of our losses to thieves, he said he’d keep a watchful eye out for ‘unknowns’ on the site.

Matt also came down briefly before a trip to the doctor’s, but before he left, he was advising Gary and Shaun on all manner of things we should do with the end of the bed that Gary and others ‘unearthed’ a couple of weeks ago.  It all sounds exciting stuff, and I’m sure Gary will surpass himself!

Meanwhile, I was busy finishing off the bed I’d been working at on Saturday.  Yes, I’d ‘roughly’ dug it all over, but it needed neatening up.

And even more dock plants taking out.  I swear they weren’t in the bed when I’d left it on Saturday, but today, here they were.

It’s funny, but I always imagine dock plants to have an Austrian accent, if they could speak.

“There you go, you little swine!” you exclaim as you pull it out, triumphantly.

“I’ll be back!” comes the reply.Cleared bed

And so, here is that bed to the left here.  Almost good enough to sleep on.  Okay, not as finely raked as Diane would have done it, but when you consider it was me that did this, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Lets hope Carol is when she comes on Saturday to plant in it!

Matt and Sara made afternoon tea, so we all briefly adjourned to the shed to discuss the day, but on my way back, I couldn’t help but notice a bed very close to the one I’d just finished.  This had been half-completed by someone a couple of weeks ago, and as I had all the tools down there, I thought I’d give it a quick going over on my return.Lamb's Lettuce.

As you can probably see, it was covered in low-lying weed -this time ‘lamb’s lettuce’.  Apparently, you can eat this stuff, but like the chard (shudder), I really don’t fancy trying it.

So, fortified with the tea, I went back with a kneeler and hand-fork, and went over it to get every last trace of this stuff out.

Yes, it might be edible, and yes, the little blue flowers it grows are quite beautiful, but unless you get it before the flowers start to wilt and the tiny seeds start to blow around, you can guarantee that the following year, you’re going to have lamb’s lettuce everywhere!

A bed of onions up towards the path up to the gate has got this stuff in, and because the onions were planted while this stuff was dormant, no-one knew it was there.  Guess who’ll be on his hands and knees again, ‘micro-weeding’ this stuff out from between young onions?Lamb's lettuce OUT!

Here you can see the bed as I left it tonight.  No lamb’s lettuce, and certainly no dock plants!

This bed, like the others already done, can be planted up very soon.

All too soon it was gone five o’clock, and time for us to pack up and go, but not before we’d had a last look round for left-out tools and other detritus.

On Saturday, I’ll remember to charge the camera and get some shots of Gary and Shaun’s superb work up on the top Plot in the long bed that used to be full of strawberries.  In a few weeks, this will be full to bursting with Gary’s beans, and we really can’t wait for that!

Hopefully more tales from The Plots tomorrow evening!

Adding memory? I forgot. 16/04/13

You’d have thought that with all this learning and fun stuff happening here at Wardian Towers, that as I get further and further into this electronic ‘lark’, first with PIC’s, then I2C, then real time clock counters, then I2C input/output devices, then into iButtons and all the wonders they produce; you’d have thought that it would get easier as time went on.

Scientists do say that the brain is in fact like a giant muscle, and that the more you use it, the easier it gets as it becomes more familiar with cramming it with yet more and more knowledge.

Well, I can report that from this end, it most certainly doesn’t seem to.Before...

But then again, I guess I’m not as young as I used to be, and maybe doing this kind of stuff is really for the twenty-somethings.

But then again, if I was twenty-something again, I’d be either playing on my X-Box, or drooling over a new Porsche, or Armani suit.  BUT, I’ve been there.  Got the T-shirt; read the book.  Boring.  Shallow.

Whatever.

To the right here is the board before I fitted the new memory chip.  The chip itself is a Microchip device called a ’24FC512′.  This denotes it’s from the ’24’ series of serial EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory) chips, and it will store up to 512 K bits of information.  Note the ‘bits’ bit.  In more user-friendly language, it will store up to 64 K Bytes of 8-bit words. (As we all know, there are 8 bits to a byte.)

The datasheet tells me that I can have up to four of these little guys sat on the same I2C lines, each individually addressable, so I could have up to 256K bytes of information storage on just four chips.

Frightening.

Hooking the thing up was ridiculously easy, and took a matter of minutes -I just had to remember to wire the SDA (data) and SCL (clock) lines properly.  Mix them up and all kinds of exciting and unexpected stuff would happen....After

There’s also a pin which you can either wire up, or even have sat on another output pin from the PIC.  This pin is the ‘Write Protect’ pin.  With it sat at 5-volts, you can read the contents of the chip, but it won’t let you write, while tying the pin to ground gives you unfettered access to everything.  This is a pretty useful feature, and I may well use it if I get the opportunity.

And here is the chip in circuit.  As I said, ridiculously easy to wire up, and you can barely notice any other new components.  They’re there, though.

And so to programming it.

And this is where all the ‘fun‘ started.

I set up an entirely new project in the X-IDE program I use from Microchip so as not to contaminate the other stuff I’ve written.  Okay, doing it this way may take longer, but it gives you a ‘fresh canvas’ to work on, and it prevents great lumps of code being sat in the program for other functions that you will never use in this.  It also focuses the mind on just what you really need in there to get the program running.

For this program, I needed the new RS232 program I’d written the other day so I could actually see in a box on the screen what the processor was putting into the RAM and also what was coming off the RAM.  Yes, I could have done it with simple LED’s already sat on the board, but that would have been pratty.

After several hours, many cups of tea, and of course, ‘consultation chats’ with young Alfie (…He’s a bit ropy on I2C, but learning fast…), I finally nailed it when I realised that you never use the ‘Acknowledge’ pulse when you’re writing to the device, but when you read from it, you must acknowledge every byte apart from the last one where you send a ‘NotAcknowledge’ pulse.

Oh, and to be on the safe side, you need plenty of ‘IdleI2C()’s thrown around, just for good measure.

Again, last night was another late one, but I can report total success.

I can now write data to this chip, switch the whole thing off, have a cup of tea, switch it all back on, and the data is still exactly as I wrote it.

Today, I have other, much less fun stuff to do, and of course Wednesday and Thursday are ‘Plotting’ days.

But I shall return soon to this project -hopefully before I forget everything I’ve done.

Unlike the RAM I’ve just fitted and programmed, unfortunately, I do forget stuff when switched ‘off’.

 

The lightest of touches 15/04/13

When I wrote that last piece about the iButtons, yes, I’d got the iButton to display its unique serial number on the PC screen. I did this using an RS232 link to my PC using a free program called PuTTY which emulates the old ‘Hyperterminal’, not found on Windows 7.  This was no mean feat -I’d never programmed a PIC for RS232, so it was new territory all round.

Yes, the PC would display the list of numbers, but the problem was, it would only do it occasionally!Before...

By its very nature, 1-wire communications with the iButton is shaky, even at the best of times, so getting the thing to display the proper numbers consistently was something of a challenge.

In the end, I had to read seemingly thousands of pages of dry-as-a-bone documentation, both from Microchip (the makers of the PIC processor) and from Dallas Semiconductors (the makers of the iButton).

A very long and very boring story later, and very late last night, I finally cracked it.

Initially, the PC would read the correct number maybe only once in thirty button touches.  Now, it’ll do it between eight and nine times out of ten.  Okay, still not ‘production’ quality, and I’m sure I can improve it further, but you’ll agree, it’s a Big Lot better.

Up to the right here is my board.  You’ll remember the ‘flying board’ of the I2C real time clock sat there on its piece of card, attached with gaffer tape. The iButton is the red thing at the side, while the iButton reader is to the left of that, joined by its two wires....and after.

To the left here is the same board, but this is after I’d gently touched the iButton to the reader, and you can see the white LED towards the back of the board, lit to show that the button has been recognised.

I’ve also programmed it such that different iButtons will light different LED’s, while tapping an ‘unknown’ iButton illicts no response whatsoever.

So, we can safely say that this is now a ‘Job Done’.  iButtons are now recognised, and more importantly, different iButtons produce different responses, while ‘new’ iButtons, until programmed in, aren’t recognised at all.The result!

To the right here is a pretty poor picture of what the screen says when a valid iButton is touched to the reader.  Pretty neat, eh?  And yes, the black ear behind the box on the screen is that of my cat, Alfie.

And the next job, Wardo?

Aaaaah…

That’ll be the I2C non-volatile RAM I mentioned seemingly weeks ago.

With this in circuit, I’ll be able to record, using the RTCC clock for reference, just when an iButton was touched to the system, and it won’t ‘forget’ once the power is turned off.

And after that?

Ah, Dear Reader, therein lies the ‘challenge’.  After that, I plan to design and build a monitoring circuit that will measure -and record- battery usage as the unit is working.  This board will be a ‘hybrid’ board, combining both digital circuits with an analogue ‘front-end’ that will monitor the currents going both into and out of the battery, but it will also ‘time-slice’ this data into usable ‘chunks’ with an integrator.  It is this integrator that has proved most troublesome, but thanks to the excellent ‘Khan Academy‘, a free Internet maths revision site, I think I’ve got it cracked.

Tie this to iButton usage, and I’ll have a permanent record of just who was using the bike, when they were on it, and most importantly, how much juice they put into the battery.

This data could then be used as the basis for the strict rationing of the ever-popular LEAF chocolate biscuits!

No, seriously, this could have a profound effect on how we might approach possible funders, and on what basis we apply for the ever-shrinking pot of public monies.

But to be honest, I’m not thinking quite that far ahead just yet.

One problem at a time, and the current problem is the non-volatile (NV) RAM.

Then I’ll look at the challenge of power monitoring.

All clean, healthy fun.

Phew! 13/04/13

That’s about the only thing I can say about today.

Loads of volunteers -even given the lousy weather, loads of visitors, and surprisingly, given all the visitors, loads was achieved!

I arrived well before ten to get stuff ready, but mainly to get the first pot of tea on.  I’d run out of tea bags at home, so unsurprisingly, I was pretty desperate!

I’d just got our friend Kelly the Kettle merrily brewing, when we had our first couple of visitors -Julie and her brother, Mick.  We stood chatting up by the top gate until Jon arrived and could let them in -my gate key doesn’t work!

Of course, our Honorary Vice ChairCat, Mitzi was soon on hand to welcome the pair of them, and luckily, they both love cats, so little Mitzi was in her element, bless.

New volunteer, Shaun, arrived pretty soon afterwards, and he quickly changed into his boots and sawed up the masses of holly Ian (no relation) and I had feverishly cut down last Sunday.  The larger branches are now just the right size to feed into the pizza oven, while all the smaller stuff has been safely carted down the the fire pit on the Children’s Plot.  We’ll burn this as soon as we can.  Yes, holly looks great, but that’s at Christmas, and those sharp prickles play havoc with wheelbarrow tires!

Julie and Mick stayed for nearly an hour, as more and more volunteers arrived and got on with their tasks for the day, and were pretty impressed as I showed them around.  They’d been past many times in cars or on buses, but never actually seen The Plots ‘up close’, and were particularly impressed with our bees.  This was just as well, because the weather this morning was pretty warm, so there were loads of them out, bringing in nectar and pollen.

As they were leaving, Jon said that he was leaving early this afternoon, and did we want to inspect the hives and possibly feed them?  Obviously, that was a ‘Yes!’

Our two remaining hives looked in pretty good shape.  The centre one had taken all its feed, and on inspecting the small ‘nuc’, we decided to feed that some syrup as well, as per Charles’ instructions.  Charles will be making a couple of visits this week, hopefully with a couple of new queens, and I’ll remember to charge the camera so I can take plenty of shots.  (Like a chimp, I’d forgotten it today.  Sorry!)

Pretty soon, Sara arrived, then it was time for lunch.  I’d been up to the local supermarket on my way over, and had loads of bread and cheese for everyone to share, of course over a couple of cups of tea, and we were discussing what needed planting in the greenhouse. Sara very kindly volunteered for this job, and we now have an entire packet of broccoli, and entire packet of white cabbage, and four trays of Savoy cabbage, all happily planted and watered in.

In a few weeks, if the weather continues to improve, we should have literally hundreds of seedlings in there, so we’ll have to have the beds ready for them all to go in!

Meanwhile, Gary and new volunteer, Shaun, were busy with the long bed by the metal shed I mentioned a few posts ago.  This is very slow work due to all the bindweed and other perennial weed in there, but they made steady progress.

I tackled a bed on the Children’s Plot, as Carol is thinking we should get some of the many pot-bound herbs in there.  We’ll see, but either way, it certainly needed weeding, and I have the nettle stings to prove it.  I also had to fight a load of dock plants with their massive tap roots, but since working on Area 34 last year, this was familiar work to me.

I was only a few minutes into my weeding when our favourite welder, who lives nearby, came down.  He brought his sister and brother-in-law, so I had to show them round, and as his sister and her husband are keen bee-keepers, they were very interested in our bees and the trauma we had a few days ago losing that hive.  They themselves have thirteen hives, but have lost seven of them over winter, so as I previously said, we’ve been pretty lucky this year only losing the one!

Matt popped in today, but he had stuff to do on his own plot, so didn’t spend much time with us.  Gerry, likewise had stuff to do -he didn’t even stop for a cup of tea!

All too soon, it was gone five o’clock, but luckily I’d finished the bed on the Children’s Plot, so we wearily packed up and made for home.  Not before I’d finished the last of the washing up and tidied up the top shed, though.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may just pop over to see how things are, but officially, I’m now ‘off-duty’ while next Wednesday.

Well, I say ‘officially’, but in actual fact, I’ll hopefully be seeing Diane on Monday, and any spare time in between, I’ll be working on iButtons and electric bikes.

So, Dear Reader, I’ll leave you for now, tired, but happy!

(P.S.  The other day I was browsing eBay (as you do), and came across ‘Hive Tools’.  A hive tool is a strip of stainless steel you use to crack open a beehive when you need to inspect.  Hives tend to get clogged with propolis, which is tremendously sticky.  Of course, I ordered one -I still can’t find the ‘official’ LEAF hive tool, so I intend to get mine stamped with at least my initials in it -just so we know whose is whose.  Of course, after getting a hive tool, I’ll need a bee-keeper’s smock.  Then a smoker.  Then a ‘nuc’.  Then my own bees.  It’s only a matter of time…)

iButton madness

For those of you not in the know, an iButton, funnily enough, is not from those wonderful boys and girls who make the phones, computers, and seemingly everything else ‘i…’.

The iButton is actually made by Dallas Semiconductors.  If you’ve ever been in a bar, then odds-on, the barperson would have had one of these little things that they simply touch to the till to identify them as your server.  Yeah?

Right.

Well, Dear Reader, I’ve known about iButtons for years -we used them in the electronics department at Sheffield University for access control into areas that undergraduates are normally not allowed.

They’re dead cute, and can fit on any keyring.

But, the best thing about them is that each one is unique.  They have a laser-imprinted 64-bit serial number that is impossible to fake or hack (…they’ve tried, believe me…), so when you touch your iButton onto the piece of gear, it checks from a list of known users, and as nightclub bouncers are so fond of saying- ‘If your name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in!’

Same kind of thing, but without the badly-fitting suits or tattoos.

Well, to be honest, like the dreaded (no longer!) I2C that I mentioned previously, iButtons were things that I’d kind of been putting off for years.  In reality, they’re pretty difficult to program for, because everything is so dependent on timings and all other kinds of fun stuff.

The thing is, for the electric bikes to move forward, I needed a simple system -like an iButton- that regular riders could simply tap onto the top of the box, and it would instantly know who they were.  iButtons seemed ideal, but as I said, they’re a real drag to get right.

Well no longer!

Just a few minutes ago, with the help of my trusty feline (?!?), I finally cracked it.

As young Alfie so kindly reminded me from his position on my knee, the reason it wasn’t reading was that I hadn’t unset the bloody analogue inputs from PORTA, so it wasn’t reading it properly.

Well, now it is!

Now, the long-suffering Mr Ward Senior will not be around for our regular Sunday brunch tomorrow morning, so I’ve got all day to get the program working as I want.  Little things like the unit sensing when an iButton has been touched, interrupting what it’s doing, then reading the number from it.

Then I can program in the list of my six iButtons, so it will know exactly which one has been touched, and give an appropriate message.

All tremendously good fun, and it keeps me off the streets.

Oh, and there’ll be a ‘regular’ LEAF blog entry up first thing in the morning after I’ve processed all the photos and thought of just what to write.

From flashing LED’s…

No photos tonight, I’m afraid.  The camera battery is flat, and anyway, in this light, they probably wouldn’t have come out.

So you’re going to have to take my word for this…

After long, long hours of head scratching, and moments of seeming madness, I’ve finally cracked this i2c lark.

Saturday’s missive was all about how I’d managed to write data down the i2c bus.

As it turns out, this was the easy part.  Apparently, even my cat could have done it, if he’d been bothered.

Getting i2c to receive coherently and on time is apparently quite a big beef amongst the electronics fraternity, and Microchip -the makers of the PIC’s I’m using, haven’t done themselves many favours. Briefly, the way they’ve implemented it is, well, decidedly pratty.

A very long and boring story shorter, but just suffice to say I’ve now got the little board you saw on Saturday not only flashing the LED’s if I want to, but I’ve whacked on an RTCC (Real Time Clock Counter) onto the i2c bus too.

The input/output chip and the clock are quite happily sat on the same two lines (SCL and SDA if you’re that bothered), because they have different i2c addresses.  Before you talk to a chip, you have to give it the right address, which kind of makes sense.

SO, I’ve now got that same board, and you’ll remember it has those four displays left over on it.  Well, these are now coded up so the display simply reads minutes and seconds from the RTCC.  I haven’t set the clock properly, so the numbers are pretty meaningless, but the fact is that even if I completely unplug the board to switch it off, this little clock keeps on ticking -in much the same way as your PC clocks does when you power it down at night.

So, when I come to switch it on again, not only has the clock advanced, but it’s advanced properly to show the correct minutes and seconds that it was when it was on previously.

I guess I’m not explaining this very well, I guess I’m a little tired, but I’ll get some proper photos tomorrow to explain.

Hells, I may even set the clock properly so it shows the correct time!

The next job will be to work with that little input/output chip to get it to input, rather than simply lighting LED’s.

This shouldn’t be quite as difficult as today’s marathon effort, but I have the added ‘fun factor’ of having to set it up so that a button press will interrupt the processor.  This will then send out a command to find out just which button was pressed.

Why?

Well, this vastly saves on processor time.  Rather than the processor having to ‘poll’ the inputs every few milliseconds, and all the bother that entails, this way, it’ll only do something when it’s interrupted.

There’s even a possibility of being able to ‘wake’ the processor from ‘sleep mode’ with a button press.  This then does away with a whopping great on/off switch -it’ll just be a button press to turn on.  …Maybe, we’ll see…

I guess it all sounds dead simple, but take it from me -it’s not!

This is One Tired Wardo, signing off!

Ladies and Gentlemen…

…And cats.

At about midday today, there was great jubilation here at Wardian Towers.

Yup, you guessed it.  I got a couple of LED’s to light.Two LED's.

‘No Big Deal,’ you may think.  ‘Surely, a switch and a battery would achieve the same thing?’

And you’d be dead right.  ‘Why use microprocessors and the ‘C’ programming language, when all you need is a switch?’

Ah, but there lies the rub.

Those two humble (…but very, very bright…) LED’s are being controlled by the black chip just down and to the right of them.  For the more technically minded, it’s a Microchip MCP23008e i2c input/output chip.

However, the key bit of that information is ‘i2c’.

After what seems like years of half-heartedly trying to ‘get into’ i2c, then giving up, I’ve now finally achieved i2c communication across two chips in the programming language ‘C’.

Even though I’d studied it extensively with Bang & Olufsen many years ago, I’d never built and programmed an i2c system from scratch until this lunchtime.And the other two lit!

The proof here is to the left.  I changed one byte of information sent to the MCP23008, and the other two LED’s are now lit.

Okay, not earth-shattering in itself, but you may remember my excitement all those years ago when I got my first ever LED to light when programmed from a PIC?

The same feeling, but better.

These four little LED’s now pave the way for the really fun stuff as I whack the RTCC (Real Time Clock Counter) into it. This will then tell the PIC the exact time and date whenever it switches on.  This paves the way for ‘workouts’ on the bike to be correctly time and date stamped, so I’ll know just how much was put in, or taken out, of the battery over a given period.

Then, I’ve got the excitement of adding the cute little LCD display panel that also runs from i2c.  Different chip, but same protocol.

So, you can see, Dear Reader, things at Wardian Towers are moving forward.

…Even if the weather isn’t!

Excuse the awful pun, but I just had to get it out of the way.

Jon has been mentioning our geodome over the last few days/weeks and how it looked saggy, and frankly, unloved.

Someone had been swinging on it -despite being expressly forbidden, and it had broken in the centre in the middle.

It needed TLC, and putting back together,  …and properly this time.

I say ‘properly’ because when we’d first built it last year, we’d kind of ‘bodged’ it together, and hadn’t put the correct pins in the ends for a lot of the poles.The pins in correctly.

To the right here is how we should have done it the first time.  Notice how each pole actually has two pins; one for outside the yellow ring, with the other being inside.  This is to correctly ‘tension’ the dome so it forms its own shape; and holds it.

When we’d originally thrown it together, we hadn’t done this properly, and if I’m honest, this is probably why it collapsed on a Plot Kid a few weeks ago.

Well no more!

Today, Gerry, Jon, Matt, Gary, and I worked together as a team, and smartened it up properly.

And the result?

Done!     <—-  See for yourself!

We all agreed that this was a tremendous ‘team effort’, and it certainly took all of us swinging on various lengths of pole to hold it in position while someone else hammered in the split pins.

Notice how the top of the dome now has a ‘peak’.  This is how it should be, and it certainly didn’t have one before.

And what do we do with it now it’s done?  We plant beans and sweat peas up it in a couple of months time!

Oh, and before all this fun, while I was making tea, Jon planted five rows of parsnips in the bed he started a couple of weeks ago, then finished off last Saturday.

If I remember, I’ll get shots of this, plus Jon’s other fine examples of fruit bush planting, as well as Gary’s awesome work on the bed by the kitchen area.

So, a brief entry tonight, but if the weather is any better tomorrow (…which is looking pretty unlikely…), there’ll be a longer one then.

 

 

Splash it on all over. 02/03/13

Maybe not quite Henry Cooper in the ‘Brut 33′ advert, but you get the idea.Beforehand

(…And that’s me really showing my age!..)

While Gary cleared the long bed below the new ones, I made a good start on painting both of the new beds.  As I said a couple of posts ago, even though this stuff is meant to be ‘One Coat’, quite frankly: It’s not.

With the glorious sunshine all day, I soon got my coat off, and got stuck in.

As I’ve said before, painting with this stuff really is great fun.  Whopping great brushes, and no worries about spills or drips; you just whack it on.

An hour or so later, and most of a tin of paint, they both looked like this:-Nearly done!

Okay, I need to paint and plant a number of stobs on the outside of these beds to make them robust, but as you can see, they’re certainly getting there.

Not many volunteers showed up today, but given the weather, we weren’t all that surprised.  After all, most people have their own gardens, and they were no doubt tending to these.

Or….  They could have spent the day traipsing around town, ‘shopping’.

Given the choice Dear Reader, between ‘retail therapy’ and root canal dentistry without anaesthetic, I’d have to sit down and have a little think.

This morning, Jon planted up the long bed above these new ones with Logan berries and Worcester berries, and a fine, neat job he made of it.  Next time I’m down, I’ll get some photos to show.

Matt made another compost bin using old pallets for our growing piles of compost, and Pam re-planted some raspberries that had been sat in the middle of the main thoroughfare for about four years.

She also took two wheelbarrow wheels home for her husband to repair their punctures, and I told her that I’d order some more wheels for these barrows that are actually solid, therefore won’t puncture, yet feel like pneumatic ones with the correct ‘bounce’.

So, a fairly quiet day, but we were pretty grateful for that as it meant we weren’t getting interrupted all the time, and it allowed us to get on and do the work.

More on Wednesday!


SEO Powered By SEOPressor