Chickens coming home to roost!

The new chicken coup in the orchard (the chickens are in there, honest!)
See! I told you there were in there!

Well, there isn’t much good news around at the moment, so it is important to make the best of things while you can! Jo has always wanted chickens, but being away 3 days a week in London has caused logistical problems in keeping chickens. Who is going to feed them? Who is going to let them out and then put them away at night?

Now that it looks as if we are going to be be working from home for the next 10-12 weeks, it seemed like a good idea to get some chickens! Why not?? We can sort the logistics out later!

The chicken coup arrived yesterday – I rather smart unit from Omlet. It is incredibly well thought through. It looks and feels fairly bomb-proof and as long as we remember to put them away at night, the foxes (and badgers) shouldn’t get to them. This coup can take up to 4 chickens, but we have only three.

The chickens arrived shortly afterwards. From a local supplier – Hinchcliffes. Two White stars and a black Nero.

No eggs yet. Plenty of poop!

TV distribution amplifier

LDU608G

I guess that it isn’t surprising after living in the house for five years that some pieces of kit need to be replaced.

This week I have had to replace one of the TV distribution amplifiers. Not surprising, but not the first one that I have had to replace since we have been here. The TV signal started to get a “bit blocky” on some of the HD channels. Eventually, I tracked it down to one of the amplifiers – there are two in the property (I wish I had labelled some of the cables better!). I suspect a recent thunder storm might have been the culprit.

Anyway, I have taken the opportunity to replace it with a slightly better unit. This Labgear amp looks and feels particularly well made. They aren’t expensive either – about £50 from Amazon.

Update on the Belzona 5122

We applied Belzona 5122 to a couple of areas on the property that were particularly susceptible to wet weather.  We have only ever applied it once (in February 2014) and it seems to have done the trick – no more water ingress problems.

So the question is: Six years later, is it still working?

Well, we have had some really wet weather recently and I took the opportunity to rephotograph the areas where we had applied the Belzona.  You can’t see it dry days, so you have to wait until it is wet before trying to photograph it.  For reference, I have also included a photograph from October 2014 (six months after it was first applied) so that you can see the difference.  If you search on Belzona on this blog, you will find the original posts.

So six years on and it is still doing it’s job!  In fact, the photographs seem to show that there really hasn’t been that much of a degradation of it’s effect.  And there has been no water ingress! The good news is that you can still get it (try www.belzona.co.uk) – you will often see it referred to as “Clear Cadding”.  It seemed expensive at the time, but it has more than done it’s job.  All in all, pretty impressive!

February 2020 and 5 years later the Belzona 5122 is clearly still doing it’s job!

February 2020 and a close up view of the masonry after it has rained. The Belzona5122 was originally applied in February 2014!

October 2014! Here you can see the impact that the Belzona has had on the way the stonework is absorbing the rain water. I hadn’t really noticed this before as there is no impact on the colour of the stonework when it is dry.

New weather station

I have eventually managed to get our new weather station online this weekend.

To be fair, installing the new weather station was a breeze!  It is a set up in terms of quality from the previous weather stations that we have had.  Unfortunately, it was a step up in price too!  It was made even more expensive since I bought two consoles – one for connection to the computer that uploads the data and one for general use inside the house.

The weather station is a Davis Vantage Vue and is aimed at the semi-professional and educational markets.  It is installed in the top field with the outdoor sensors being attached to a newly acquired TV aerial mast and standoff bracket from Screwfix.  I have attached the mast to one of the large stone gate posts using some threaded bar sunk and glued into a set of holes.  This means that the mast can be unbolted and relocated if necessary.  At the moment, we are using just one section of pole even though it came with two sections in the pack.

This is positioned about 75m from the house and works perfectly.  The fact that all the sensors are in one unit makes it look a lot neater than some of the other products.

This is positioned about 75m from the house and works perfectly. The fact that all the sensors are in one unit makes it look a lot neater than some of the other products.

I drilled some over-sized holes into this stone gate post.  I then used anchor set to fix some threaded bar into the holes (actually, these were bolts with the heads cut off).  I then used some nuts and washers to adjust the pole so that it was fixed in the upright position. Shame the camera wasn't level!

I drilled some over-sized holes into this stone gate post. I then used anchor set to fix some threaded bar into the holes (actually, these were bolts with the heads cut off). I then used some nuts and washers to adjust the pole so that it was fixed in the upright position. Shame the camera wasn’t level!

New weather station in position.  It is probably about 6ft high as we are only using one section of the TV mast.  The pole is raised off the ground so that we can strim underneath it.

New weather station in position. It is probably about 6ft high as we are only using one section of the TV mast. The pole is raised off the ground so that we can strim underneath it.

The main issue has been how to get the weather station to upload data to the Internet.  The supplier that I used suggested that I needed to use the Davis Weatherlink software for this, but we are currently using the Cumulus software that can be freely downloaded from the Internet.  It provides all the features that we need, plus it supports a wide variety of weather stations including our new one.  What could have been simpler!

Well, the Cumulus software wants to communicate with the Davis weather station via a serial port and the data logger dongle on the weather station is USB.  So there are two tricks to get this to work…..

Firstly, you need to map a serial port on your computer to map onto the USB port.  You are going to need some software to enable this, but the good news is that you can download this for free.  I used the UART bridge software from Silicon Labs.  You will find it here.  Download the correct version for your Operating System and then plug in the weather station via a USB port to activate the software (the COM port will not show up in Device Manager unless there is an active device connected to the COM port).

Secondly, you need to configure the correct port on Cumulus.  This is relatively straightforward, but confused me for a while.  Once you have the software installed above, plug in your weather station and go to device manager on your computer. If you look at the ports in the list, it will show which port number is being used for the USB.  It is probably either port 3 or 4.  Now go to the configuration page in the Cumulus software and enter the port number in the appropriate field.  You will need to save the configuration and then restart the software.  Bingo!  It should now work.

With the software installed and the weather station attached, device manager is showing that one COM port is active. In this case, it is COM3.

With the software installed and the weather station attached, device manager is showing that one COM port is active. In this case, it is COM3.

 

You need to select Serial in the Davis Type and then select the COM port number (in this case 4). If you don't, you will get an error -32701 from Cumulus when it tries to initialize the weather station.

You need to select Serial in the Davis Type and then select the COM port number (in this case 4). If you don’t, you will get an error -32701 from Cumulus when it tries to initialize the weather station.

No more mountain of stone

We have just about finished the dry stone walls we started earlier in the summer.  Just as well since we seemed to have used up all of the stone that we had left over.  It is difficult to believe that the huge mountain of stone that was left over from the old barn and outbuildings has now been moved and forms the new dry stone walls.  We moved all of the stone by hand with the aid of an old dumper.  We just kept chipping away at it and eventually it was all gone.

We are now left with a new sheep pen (for housing the dumper and other stuff for now) and a new dry stone wall along the top field.  Give it a year and it will have all blended in.

This used to be a mountain of stone, but now we just have the few odd shaped stones on the left. Goodness knows what we will do with them, but we have used an angle grinder to cut some of them into more usable pieces. Difficult to believe that this mountain of stone was all moved by hand and transported in an old dumper!

This used to be a mountain of stone, but now we just have the few odd shaped stones on the left. Goodness knows what we will do with them, but we have used an angle grinder to cut some of them into more usable pieces. Difficult to believe that this mountain of stone was all moved by hand and transported in an old dumper!

We are still "raiding" this pile of stone left over from the renovation to rebuild and repair different bits of our dry stone walls.

Here’s the pile of stone before we started building the last of the dry stone walls.

Well, we didn't quite move ALL the stones by hand.  Some of them were just too big to lift by hand!

Well, we didn’t quite move ALL the stones by hand. Some of them were just too big to lift by hand!

Badger dragging a ???????

We caught this footage recently of a badger apparently dragging what looks like another animal.  I am not quite sure what it is.  Is it a cat? a rabbit? or a baby badger?

We looked in this location the following day for any signs of something being left behind (e.g. fur, a dead body), but there was nothing.  A quick Internet search reveals that badgers are known to take domestic pets (including cats), but it is considered rare.  In the entire time that we have owned the property, we have never seen any rabbits here – either dead or alive (maybe the badgers have eaten them all!).

It is a shame that it is difficult to tell from the night time footage exactly what it was.  I guess we will never know.

Weather station has died (again!)

Our second weather station has stopped working.  It was installed in November 2014 and had worked reasonably well, but has now ceased working.  Our first weather station (which was installed in January 2013) lasted a similar amount of time. I have put new batteries and cleaned all the contacts, but the base station only seems to connect to the display unit for a few hours at a time.  I am getting fed up with rebooting it and a weather station is of limited use if it only works for a few hours at a time.  I think it is the weather (and the spiders) that get to the outdoor instruments.  Also the plastic has started to suffer with the affects of excessive UV (yes, even up here in Yorkshire).

Given that this was the second one of these that we have had, I think it is about time that we either give up with the weather station or trade up to a more professional unit.  This looks like it is more up to the job, but it does come at a price (particularly when you consider that a USB connector is extra).

Having done a little bit of research, this seems to be the next logical step up in weather station. It comes with a 2 year warranty and given that our existing weather stations only seem to last about 12-18 months, this might be a really benefit. But it does come at a cost.

Having done a little bit of research, this seems to be the next logical step up in weather station. It comes with a 2 year warranty and given that our existing weather stations only seem to last about 12-18 months, this might be a really benefit. But it does come at a cost.

Wall in the top field

Well, we are almost there.  Just as well since our mountain of stone has almost all gone.  Amazing to think that all of this stone has been moved by hand with just the aid of our old dumper.  It has been a little slow on occasion, but we got there in the end.

A little while ago we were wondering what we were going to do with the pile of stone from the old barn.  Now, it has almost all gone.

A little while ago we were wondering what we were going to do with the pile of stone from the old barn. Now, it has almost all gone.

There was a fair mixture of stone in this pile.  To be fair, most of it was pretty good walling stone so it didn't take long to build some new stone walls in the top field.

There was a fair mixture of stone in this pile. To be fair, most of it was pretty good walling stone so it didn’t take long to build some new stone walls in the top field.

We started building a sheep pen around the pile of stones - partly to hide it and partly to use up the stone.  It soon became obvious that we had to think of something else to do with the stone.

We started building a sheep pen around the pile of stones – partly to hide it and partly to use up the stone. It soon became obvious that we had to think of something else to do with the stone.

Over the last few weeks we have made good progress on the remaining dry stone walls.  We haven't got much to do now.  Which is just as well, since there isn't much of our mountain of stone left!

Over the last few weeks we have made good progress on the remaining dry stone walls. We haven’t got much to do now. Which is just as well, since there isn’t much of our mountain of stone left!

Once we turn the corner, this wall in the top field will join up with the old wall in the bottom field.  Then all of our stone will have been used up.  Well, at least that is the plan!

Once we turn the corner, this wall in the top field will join up with the old wall in the bottom field. Then all of our stone will have been used up. Well, at least that is the plan!

TIWDD2: Think about a letterbox

Yes, second in the series of Things I Would Do Differently (TWIDD) and this is all about the letterbox.

Every house that I have owned has always had a letterbox.  Except this one.

It wasn’t that we thought we didn’t need one.  It was simply something that we did not think about when designing the building.  As a result, we have ended up with a stainless steel post box next to the front door [As an aside, finding a decent modern looking post box is not easy].  Ok, it works, but there could have been a better solution.  To check the post, we have to open the front door and look in the box. If you want to get stuff out, you need to go and get the keys. Not exactly a nightmare, but it is a bit annoying in the winter.

A better solution we have been to have had a slot in the outside wall in the porch with some sort of post box on the inside. However, thinking about it, even this has drawbacks.

Like everyone else, we purchase quite a bit of stuff online, so having a safe place for deliveries can be really useful.  I have seen purpose built parcel “dropboxes” that have a combination code to open them, but they are hideously expensive (they seem a bit over engineered for our purposes).  We have resorted to a waterproof plastic box with instructions on our post box about where to leave parcels. [We used to have them left in the polytunnel, but the automatic watering system soon put an end to that!].

Not entirely sure what the answer is, but it needs to be thought about.

I don't really like this postbox. It was the best choice from a very poor selection. Looking at this picture now, I like it even less.  The whole "postbox" thing was a bit of an afterthought.  Even the placement of this postbox on the wall under the porch looks like an afterthought!

I don’t really like this postbox. It was the best choice from a very poor selection. Looking at this picture now, I like it even less. The whole “postbox” thing was a bit of an afterthought. Even the placement of this postbox on the wall under the porch looks like an afterthought! It isn’t lined up with the stonework or the light above or the door bell.  It is stuck in the middle of the wall, rather like pinning a tail on the donkey!