Electronic Wizardry at The Oak Tree

The observant CSA member may have notied Joanne’s other half, Richard, more busy than usual with all kinds of boxes of electronic gadgetry at the farm: a box of strange looking control panels has appeared in the main shed and wires are dangled about in the polytunnels…

Mysterious goings on in the polytunnel

Mysterious goings on in the polytunnel

What on earth is going on? Is he communicating with aliens? Well, as it turns out, no he isn’t. Not yet, anyway…

He is doing something far more important. He is tracking various temperature at the farm and sending them via a radio network at the farm then via mobile phone messages back to Mudhar Towers for real time updating on the web. If you understand that sort of thing, you can take a look at the details of it here.

Unless you’ve laid in bed at night worrying about plants freezing  (I certainly have, many times!) then it is perhaps hard to explain quite how exciting this it. But let me tell you: this really is exciting, and it will have a real impact on our crops this year. To germinate plants need a certain minimum temperature: about 5 deg C for the hardiest, so knowing what the temperature is will help us to decide whether to sow directly in the soil, or to sow in heated seed trays here at Mudhar Towers – seedlings that would then need to be (laboriously!) pricked out at a later date. Sowing when it is too cold either results in erratic gemination, or none at all, and if the temperatures start to drop at night, tender plans can be killed, and short of getting a delivery of replacement plants, we have to kiss good bye to that crop. If we notice the temperature dropping in time, we can do something about it!

Then there are chicks at the farm: when our little chicks first go up to the farm we’ll be able to keep an eye on the temperature in their house at a distance. For “remote” smallholders, this really is extraordinarily useful! And no doubt there will be other applications in future – there has been talk of being able to take pictures remotely. There are of course remote cameras that take remote pictures, but they are often a) very expensive and b) triggered by movement, which isn’t very useful on a site where pretty much everything moves all the time.

So here it is: a link to the first remote temperature graphs of The Oak Tree Farm, updating every half hour or so.

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