New outdoor WiFi access point

Looks like I was a little optimistic about the WiFi in the house reaching the greenhouse! Although my iPhone was showing 1 bar on the house WiFi, the Ubibot sensor could only hold onto the signal for about an hour or so. Clearly, the WiFi from the house was at it’s limit. Time to invest in an outdoor WiFi access point!

I updated our internal WiFi access points (we have 3) in the house last year to TP-Link EAP225. There are three of them in different parts of the house. These were installed about a year ago and we have been pleased with the performance. See here. However, they do need to be rebooted every 2-3 months. After this period, they don’t appear to be able to hold a connection for any significant period of time. I have the latest firmware installed on them, but this hasn’t fixed the problem. Rebooting them does the trick! Maybe a future update will fix this issue.

I decided to use the outdoor version of the new WiFi access points that we are using inside the house. The first unit arrived quickly from Amazon. Unfortunately, it was DOA and had to be returned – the green light on the POE injector went out every time that the EAP was plugged in. Not good. I tried different cables. I even tried different POE injectors. Same result. Like a flat tyre that I put on three different wheels. It was still flat!

The replacement unit arrived next day.

I think longer term the right place to install this unit is actually in the greenhouse itself. This will keep it out of the worst of the weather and I have a conduit installed to the greenhouse. It should be straightforward to run an Ethernet cable out to the unit and power it using POE. But for now, I am just going to install it temporarily to see how well it performs.

New Greenhouse

We installed a new Robinson’s greenhouse a few weeks ago. It is a 14ft x 8ft Robinson Rushmoor greenhouse. This one is aluminimum and powder coated to a pastel green (I think they call it “sage”!). It matches the window frames on the house. It was ordered last November and it arrived at the end of February.

Working out where to site the greenhouse was reasonably straightforward since we didn’t have many options. And none of them were particularly flat. We had to take down an old dry stone wall (to the right in the picture below) and the new greenhouse will now form part of the field boundary. To get things relatively level, we dug some foundations and then brought up some blockwork on the one sided (to the left in the picture below). Then the small dwarf wall was built on top of the blockwork.

The dwarf wall could have been single or double skin (i.e. one or two rows of bricks). We opted for a double width wall. Having seen the price of bricks, I wish we had opted for the single skinned version! All the groundwork took is 3 weeks to complete. Just in time for the fitter to work his magic on the greenhouse. It took a professional fitter 2.5 full days to install this greenhouse – I hate to think how long it would have taken me to do it!

The end result looks fab!!

Digging the foundations for the greenhouse. The soil from the trenches is piled up in the middle as much as possible.
Concrete laid. All three tonnes of it! We have used blocks to create “steps” in the concrete
Once the blockwork is up, we can sort out the soil in the inside. The dwarf wall is going to sit on top of the blockwork and the blockwork is going to be covered with “feather boarding”.
Outside skin of bricks in place and the returns for the doorway done!
Dwarf wall now complete. Two rows of bricks with a set of “soldiers” on top. These are engineering bricks with no holes or frog is this will allow the greenhouse to be fixed directly to the bricks. 4 tonnes of soil put inside the greenhouse to bring the floor level up to the bottom of the dwarf wall internally.
Frame installed, no glass.
Glass and fancy finials added!

The polytunnel has gone!

I installed the polytunnel in April/May 2013. It was definitely starting to show signs of it’s age. To be fair, the plastic covering is designed to be replaced every 5 years, so we have done well that I lasted 8 years. The raised beds had also started to rot away. These were the original ones that had come from Tommy Topsoil.

Recently we had been using the polytunnel to house the chickens. They had to be kept indoors due to the outbreak of bird flu in the UK.

The space left by the polytunnel is now being used as a vegetable patch!

No more polytunnel, just a new vegetable patch!
No more polytunnel, but a new vegetable patch! It is already planted with two types of potatoes!

Greenhouse temperature

Having just installed a new greenhouse, we thought it might be a good idea to monitor the temperature in greenhouse. You would think that there are lots of solutions out there. Nothing complicated. Just a display in the house showing the current temperature in the greenhouse, plus maximum and minimum. Maybe a graph. And connected wireless somehow.

There must be loads around. Let’s look on Google! MMMmm. I must be searching on the wrong terms. Where are they?

The closest I could find is a solution from a company called Ubibot. You will find them here: Ubibot.com. They produce a variety of WiFi environmental sensors for industrial and commercial use. I bought one of their cheaper sensors (WS1) for £78 on Amazon just to see if I can get it to work. Ubibot have a store page on Amazon. You will find it here. The WS1 sensor measures temperature, humidity and light levels. More than a enough for a greenhouse!

Image of the Ubibot WS1 sensor.

According to the blurb that comes with the device, 2xAA batteries will power the device for 4-6 months based on readings that are taken every 15 mins. The device connects to the internet via WiFi and the data is stored in Ubibot’s cloud based platform. There is no subscription fee and it is free to use within certain usage limits. It is clearly designed for much larger scale use and I doubt that one sensor in a greenhouse is ever going to reach the limits of the free account.

The Challenge

The main challenge with this device is setting it up. Obviously with a device at this price point, it has a pretty limited user interface and this can be a challenge when setting it up. Combine this with some fairly scant instructions and if it doesn’t all go to plan first time, then you can be in trouble. This happened to me as something went wrong when I was trying to connect it to me home WiFi. I was trying to do this using my iPhone and connecting to the devices on WiFi network. Somehow, it all went wrong. Even though I had followed the instructions. I reverted to the PC based pages. That didn’t help either.

I finally cracked it by using Ubibot’s PC offline tools. You can download them from here. There was the briefest of mentions of it in some of the Ubibot support pages. It allows you to connect to the device using the micro USB port and set it up without connecting to it via WiFi. You have to download some software from the Ubibot site (the install was a little quirky!), but it was a cinch to set up via this route. I wish I had tried this in the first place as it would have saved so much time! It was much easier than trying to connect to it via WiFi.

Once set up, it connected to my home WiFi network and started posting measurements every 15 minutes! The device (and it’s measurements) appear on the Ubibot data warehousing pages. The main screen shows the latest readings and clicking on the device opens up a set of historical graphs. Wow!

The good stuff

  • Even though my iPhone was showing only one bar on my WiFi, the WS1 has connected to our WiFi in the house. I am guessing that it is 20m to the greenhouse through a number of thick masonry walls. The WS1 only supports 2.4G WiFi and not 5G WiFi so it is more susceptible to physical obstructions between the access point and the sensor.
  • Now the data from the WS1 is on the Ubibot platform, I can set up a number of alerts (e.g. sending an email) if some of the data readings reach particular limits. There are some really cool options here. Most of them totally OTT for a greenhouse!
  • Now the data is on the internet, it is possible to view it from anywhere or even share the data with others. Just on the off-chance that someone wants to know the temperature in your greenhouse!
  • It integrates with Alexa too! You need to add Ubibot as a skill to Alexa. Just follow the instructions here then you can say “Alexa, what is the temperature of the Greenhouse?” It took me a couple of minutes to set this up. I wasn’t sure how useful this feature might be – either way, it makes a cool demo!
Summary table from the Ubibot site displaying the WS1 sensor that has just been installed.
Here’s the view from the data warehouse table view.
Detailed information page for this sensor from the Ubibot site.
Here’s the detailed sensor view. There’s not much data here yet as I only got it working this morning!

And we are back!!

WordPress.org logo - Manually updating WordPress

I have had a bit of a nightmare with WordPress for the last few weeks. It seems that an automatic update at the end of last year didn’t work as it should have and a number of the core WordPress files were missed out during the update. The result was the blog went offline and should did the admin dashboard! I had no way of getting into it to fix it!

Here’s the error message I was getting: “PHP Fatal error: Cannot redeclare _wp_register_meta_args_whitelist() (previously declared in /home/j6yrsllk82zz/public_html/blog/wp-includes/meta.php:1394) in /home/j6yrsllk82zz/public_html/blog/wp-includes/deprecated.php on line 4060”.

So today was spent getting things back up and running. Fortunately, it seems to be back working

The fix entailed:

  • Background reading on what to do and how. Unfortunately, I am not a WordPress expert;
  • Backing up all of the content and the database for my blog (I didn’t want to lose any content);
  • Installing a new clean set of WordPress files and overwriting any old ones that might have got corrupted previously;

Now we are back up and running. We are on the latest version of WordPress (5.7) and I everything looks like it is working as it should. I haven’t had chance to check all the pages, but it looks like there isn’t anything missing. And the good news is that the content is backed up too! All 2.3Gb of it!

There is a good article here on what to do if you need to manually install WordPress: https://wordpress.org/support/article/updating-wordpress. I also found this video helpful too: https://youtu.be/5UH7F_tGyRs

Blinds for the lounge

We decided that we needed to put some blinds up in the lounge – partly to keep the sun out on really warm days and partly to keep a bit of privacy when it is dark outside and the lights are on inside the house.

We decided to go for vertical blinds – the sort that you regularly see in offices (which was one of our slight reservations).  They were relatively inexpensive (£90 for a very large window) and when open there is no material to get in the way and trip over (unlike curtains).  We also went for a very light colour to avoid any problems with the material fading – this is a real problem in the lounge.  We worked on the basis that if they were a total disaster, it was only £90 at stake!

The blinds are made to order and were ready in less than a week.  They were really easy to install and look great once in place. We have been really impressed with these blinds and I don’t think you can really argue about the price either.  It makes a huge difference to the room – during the day, it softens bright sunlight and during the evening, it makes it feel an awful lot cosier.  Although the photos of the blinds were taken in the last couple of days, they were in fact put up last September.  So you can tell that they are wearing well.

We bought the blinds from here – http://www.vertical-blinds-direct.co.uk/ – another local Yorkshire business!

Blinds in the lounge SAM_1662

Wall in the bottom field

It needs some coping stones, but the wall in the bottom field is done. We have been working on it for the past couple of weeks.  We have been using the opportunity to use up some of the stone left over from the renovation and although we have used 4-5 dumpers worth of stone, there still seems to be a lot of stone still left.

We aren’t sure what we are going to with this area, but now that it has been tidied up, it is a lot more accessible. The loose stones need sorting out, but we can’t make up our minds about whether we should do this by hand or hire a machine.  The ground is still too wet to get a machine in here.

You can see where we have used new stone from our pile, but give it 12-18 months and it will looks as if this wall will have been here for years.  We are constantly amazed as we look back at other bits of wall that we have repaired about how quickly they seem to age (just like me).

Just needs a bit of clearing up and the ground needs a bit of levelling, but when we first bought the property this was completely overgrown.

Just needs a bit of clearing up and the ground needs a bit of levelling, but when we first bought the property this was completely overgrown.

Well, almost done.  Just needed some coping stones along the top.

Well, almost done. Just needed some coping stones along the top.

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

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

Some of the bigger pieces here are going to require a machine to lift them.

Some of the bigger pieces here are going to require a machine to lift them.

Re-organising the polytunnel

We put up an 8ft x 20ft polytunnel in May 2013.  We put two 8ft x 4ft raised beds down one side and then racking on the other side – it was only 8ft wide so we couldn’t put raised beds on both sides.  While it worked, it was the most efficient use of space and the raised beds were a little too wide to reach the back (while not standing in the raised bed itself).

We decided to make the existing raised beds slightly narrower (by cutting down the existing raised beds) and to put them on both sides of the polytunnel.  While this gives us slightly less growing area, it is a better use of the overall space and it is much easier to reach the back of the beds (particularly if you have short arms!).

We (actually I mean Jo!) also seem to be a bit more organised this year in terms of sorting out what we want to grow and when it needs to be planted.  Rather than deciding on what we want to grow about 2 months after it should have been sown.

This is the original layout for the polytunnel.  Unfortunately, two raised beds side by side wouldn't have left enough space for a walkway.

This is the original layout for the polytunnel. Unfortunately, two raised beds side by side wouldn’t have left enough space for a walkway.

Rather than 4 wide beds, there are now 5 narrower beds.  This leaves room in the middle for a path and means that you can reach the back of the beds without having to stand on them.  The workbench now runs across the polytunnel rather than down all of one side.

And here’s the new layout. Rather than 4 wide beds, there are now 5 narrower beds. This leaves room in the middle for a path and means that you can reach the back of the beds without having to stand on them. The workbench now runs across the polytunnel rather than down all of one side.

It’s been a while….

Well, it has been a while since we have posted on the blog.  It doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy, in fact, quite the opposite.  I’ll try and post some more updates this week.

The rain has eased up for the past week or so and the fields have started to dry out a bit.  This has meant that we have been able to restart working in the bottom field repairing the last of the dry stone walls.  We had to clear a reasonable amount of undergrowth before we could get to this area.  When we first bought the property, you couldn’t get in here at all.

We had to take a 3-4 medium sized trees to get access to this area, but it looks a lot better now that the area has been cleared.  It is amazing how many logs that we seem to get from so few trees.  They’ll need to dry out over the summer before we will be able to use them on the log stoves.  The main issue now is where to store them.

We believe that this is the boundary wall between the old quarry that was in the bottom field and Hagg Wood.  According to the old maps, this quarry was no longer used from about 1899.  Most of the stone for the wall was under the piles of leafs.

We believe that this is the boundary wall between the old quarry that was in the bottom field and Hagg Wood. According to the old maps, this quarry was no longer used from about 1899. Most of the stone for the wall was under the piles of leafs.

The area to the left of the wall was a small quarry in the mid 1800's.  I suspect that much of the stone that was used to build the house came from here.  A number of the guys in the local pub remember playing in the quarry as kids.  I believe that it was filled in during the 1960's when a modern property was built next door and the quarry was used for landfill.

The area to the left of the wall was a small quarry in the mid 1800’s. I suspect that much of the stone that was used to build the house came from here. A number of the guys in the local pub remember playing in the quarry as kids. I believe that it was filled in during the 1960’s when a modern property was built next door and the quarry was used for landfill.

 

Rather than starting the wall from scratch we have taken it back down to where we could find the foundation stones.  It makes repairing the wall a lot quicker!

Rather than starting the wall from scratch we have taken it back down to where we could find the foundation stones. It makes repairing the wall a lot quicker!

The dumper holds about 3/4 ton and this was just about on it's limit (considering that the brakes aren't all that good!).  There is probably amount the same amount again to be collected.  It'll take about a year before these are dry enough to burn, but they should be ready for next Winter.

The dumper holds about 3/4 ton and this was just about on it’s limit (considering that the brakes aren’t all that good!). There is probably amount the same amount again to be collected. It’ll take about a year before these are dry enough to burn, but they should be ready for next Winter.