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Door Controller … for a Chickshaw?

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BACKGROUND

In case you’re not up on the latest home-scale farming trends, the big buzz these days is a thing called a Chickshaw. Think of this as a rickshaw for chickens. The basic function of this device is that of a mobile chicken coop. The idea is you move it to a new spot every few days so the chickens always have a fresh patch of grass to play on. At night, you tuck the chickens away inside so they don’t get eaten by coyotes, racoons or owls. In the morning, you let them back out. My buddy Dan from The Grass-Fed Homestead recently acquired one of these contraptions.  And after a few weeks of closing the chickens up at night once it got dark, nearly 10:00 his time, he decided it needed an upgrade.  And at that point, the seeds for a Chickshaw door controller were sown.

 

Here’s how you make a Chickshaw

A Remote Control for my Garden Hose – How Lazy is That?

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BACKGROUND

Before you judge me for being lazy, let me give you some context. In an earlier post, I showed off the sensor I built for my chicken’s watering bucket. This visual indicator lets me see how much water they have left. And I get this information by simply looking out my back window. After I published the article, I received a very valid question. If I have a sensor that knows when the chickens need a refill, why can’t it turn on the hose already? Eureka!

 

Who would have thought these would make a useful combination?

 

Check Your Temperature and Humidity

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BACKGROUND

Sometimes you just want to keep tabs on the temperature and humidity … don’t you?  Well OK, maybe I’m a little bit weird that way.  I happen to be curious about the humidity in my basement.  That’s mostly because it floods when I get too much rain or the water heater leaks.  I also care about the temperature when I brew beer at home.  Then there’s my prized fig tree that I cover (and heat with Christmas lights) during the winter.  So you can probably see where I’m going with this.  If you want to remotely monitor temperature or humidity, I’ve got an app for that.

 

Hardware setup for temperature and humidity sensor

Setting Up a Cellular-Based Particle Electron

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SETTING UP A PARTICLE ELECTRON

I talk a lot about Particle Photons, which are great when you have a WiFi network handy.  But what if you don’t?  Well, the Photon has a cellular-enabled brother called the Electron. (Apparently, the team over at Particle is really fond of physics terms.)  If you’ve purchased one and are ready to do the setup, then this article will help you do just that.

Particle Electron – The Photon’s fraternal (and cellular-based) twin

Read This First!

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WELCOME TO THE PARTY

Interested in home/homestead automation? Then you’ve come to the right place! This site is all about finding practical applications of technology to make our lives easier. You may also pick up some valuable technical skills along the way. Oh, and if you’re not having fun

while you do it, then there’s definitely something wrong! This post will get you started on your automation journey by giving you a roadmap. I’ll start by giving you quick overview, then turn you loose on a set of follow-up posts that cover more detail.

Writing – or Copying & Pasting – Your First Particle Photon Program

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WRITING CODE – SOUND SCARY?

Once you’ve set up your Particle Photon, it’s time to start making it do your bidding.  This means you must program it.  While this may sound scary, it’s easy if you’re “borrowing” someone else’s code.  I, and many others, freely put our programs out on the Internet so you can use them as a starting point.  Personally, I recommend you begin all your early projects using something similar as a model.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign it.

-Anthony j. d’angel

STEP-BY-STEP

So enough with the pep talk, let’s get started.  What we’re going to do here is upload a very simple program to your Photon that blinks the blue LED on and off.  While this

Getting Your Particle Photon Up and Running

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YOUR BRAND NEW PHOTON

Ok, so your shiny new Particle Photon just arrived in the mail, and now you’re wondering what to do next.  Well, this article walks you through the step-by-step process of connecting it to your network.

Particle Photon – An Arduino-compatible IoT device

POWERING IT UP

Two get started, you’ll need two things.  The first is a USB cable with a micro Type-B connector on one end and full-sized Type-A connector on the other.  The other is a power supply.  This can

How to Build a Remote Water Meter and Valve Controller

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BACKGROUND

A friend of mine has a small duck farm in Texas. (He also hosts a podcast at tspc.co.) Every morning he fills up a half-dozen kiddy pools for the ducks. This involves moving the hose from pool to pool while he goes about his other daily chores. On occasion, he gets preoccupied and returns later in the day

Water flow sensor

to find things have overflowed and made a large, messy pond where one isn’t supposed to be. Being the “automation guy”, he asked me how hard it would be to connect a flow sensor to the water line and have it send him an alert in case he forgets and leaves the hose running. And oh, by the way, he wanted to be able to turn the water off even if he’d run to the store.

Turns out the solution was fairly simple.  Here’s what I came up with …

Water Level Sensor (High, Medium, Low)

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My chicken watering bucket.

BACKGROUND

Ever have the need to see how much water’s in your 5-gallon bucket without cracking open the lid?  Well I do … mostly because I’m lazy.  I have chickens and use a large bucket to provide them water.  There are little poultry “nipples” on the bottom that they peck when they’re thirsty.  My dilema is that I want to make sure they have plenty of water before I head out the door to work, but don’t always have time to walk back to my coop and open up the lid.

Building Blocks for DIY Projects

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After you’ve built a handful of automation projects, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. One that I recognized early on is that most systems tend to be made up of the same basic building blocks.  Here are ones I see most often:

  • Sensors that measure things such as temperature, water level in a container, humidity, light, etc.
  • Controllers that actually do something physical like turn on a light, activate a motor or open a valve.
  • Processors that interpret data from the sensors and make decisions on what the controllers should do: A Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or Particle Photon, for example.
  • IoT Platforms serve as a gateway between your devices and the web.  These handle things like administration, security, and allow you to connect to other services.
  • Displays / Alerts that give you the ability to see sensor values, for example an LED screen, an email, text or online dashboard.
  • Data storage tools that capture data in a spreadsheet or some form of database.
  • Connectivity allows your data to be sent over your network or the Internet.  Examples include WiFi, cellular and Bluetooth.