Flying Chickens v1.1

The major problem with the winch as it was is that the cables were about 2m long. Clearly not long enough to be mounted 4m in a tree. So I had to buy 100m worth of 3-core cable and rewire the entire winch. Since it was prohibitively expensive and difficult to buy 5 core cable I had to be a little naughty and use two pieces of 3-core cable.

My strategy was to take a bunch of pictures of how each end was wired up, take it apart and then put the new cable in. This strategy worked really well except I took the pictures, took it apart, got busy for two months and then came to put it back together. The break away from the project didn’t help…but I eventually [after several serious mistakes] managed to get the whole lot wired up again. My winch now has 11m of mains cable and 11m of control cable coming from it.

The two desks in my office were gradually overtaken with tools, photographs, bits of winch, electrical components and paper pads full of my schematics trying to work out what was going on inside the winch.

What isn’t shown in any of these pictures is that the winch controller has a MASSIVE capacitor in the handle. The intended purpose of which is unknown to me, but an auxiliary purpose seems to be to give me a right electrical belt when I accidentally touched the wrong place. Made my entire hand go numb. I think I should stick to software in the future.


Even though I’ve just accepted a Head of Android role at my love of iOS products continues unabated.

I managed to bag myself an iPhone5 on launch day and jolly happy I am with it too. Yeah the maps app is not as good as the Google maps on ios5 but I have faith that the people in Cupertino will sort that one out.

Here’s a blurry picture taken in my car just after picking the phone up:

Raspberry Pi

As alluded to in my previous post my Raspberry Pi arrived a while ago. It took me a while to get it up and running but I’ve now found that a £4 SD card from Aldi does the trick perfectly.

I solved the issue of hanging the winch level using a couple of turnbuckles. My remaining engineering job is to interface the raspberry pi to a 240v ummmm switching thingy … oh and then I have to write some code to winch it uppy and downy but that *should* be the easy bit.

Flying Chickens v1

A while ago a fox ate ten of my chickens, leaving only “Lucky” behind since she decided it was wiser to roost on top of a shed. It gave me an idea. All I needed was a winch, a raspberry pi controller and the cunning use of a few bits of rope.

Mk1 was a test to see if everything worked out. It was a success. The winch was able to lift the chicken coop into the tree but I had to defeat the safety mechanism on the winch as the coop was being lifted off-centre and was causing the winch wire to drag on the safety cut-out and activating it.

The raspberry pi controller will be used to grab the sunrise/sunset times from the internet and at sunset will activate the winch and drag the coop [ hopefully with the chickens in it ] up into the tree. Then at sunrise it will gently lower the chucks back down to the ground. An added bonus of using the raspberry pi is I can introduce a Pavlovian response into the chickens by playing a tune a few minutes before the coop goes up. This will hopefully herd them all into the safety of the coop. I realise I may be attributing too much intelligence to the chickens!

Engineering issues left to solve:
The winch has to be perfectly level or the cable all bunches up at one end and this is not groovy. So I must find a way to suspend about 300kg of weight with millimetre accuracy.

I have to interface the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi to a 240v winch. I’ve yet to take the winch controller apart and work out what voltage we have going through the controls.

Fox Food

The latest delivery of fox food arrived recently. They’ve already started laying some eggs so it’s back to fresh poached eggs for breakfast for Emma and I. I’ve also put together a rather cunning plan to save my chickens from future fox attacks….more of that later though

My latest erection

So a while ago, in a fit of mild craziness I decided it was a good idea to buy a parachute on the internet. I bought it to make shelters and just generally mess around with in the garden rather than trying to jump off the roof of the house or anything.

The first attempt at making a shelter from it was very impressive but ultimately a bit crap since it didn’t give any protection from the wind or the rain.

Fortunately Aggy was up for the weekend so between the two of us ( after much discussion, tea and pondering ) we came up with version 2

It took us a couple of hours to put it up and peg it out and a large part of that was trying to untangle the para-cord that Aggy managed to make a mess of when he threw the spindle over a branch and the end of the spindle fell off and all the para-cord spilled off into a horrendous knot.

Next time it goes up it should take about 20mins to just put up and peg out.

When it came to taking it down and storing it I decided that the plastic bag it’s been living in for the past couple of months really wasn’t too good. Fortunately it fits perfectly into my dry-bag.

Spring Forager Course in the Lake District

In occasional fits of craziness I scoot up to the Lakes and rip animals apart and eat them [ Autumn 2009 ] and the past Bank Holiday Weekend was an occasional fit of craziness. Last time I headed up there I took a pop up tent with me and I don’t think people took me seriously, so this time I took a hammock and tarp…

Breakfast on day 1 was Langoustines. Basically you whip out your bush knife and sharpen a stick at both ends. One end of the stick gets pushed through the Langoustines face and the other end gets shoved into the ground near a fire which generates the following results…

Lunchtime of Day 1 was a choice of Lobster, Crab or Plaice. The Plaice was already dead, not much fun in that, so I opted for a Lobster. Drove my knife through its brain and lobbed it on the fire. Tasted goooood.

The rest of Day 1 was just a blur of Lobster Bisque, Lobster and Crab Thermidor, Fish parcels cooked in an underground oven made by heating rocks in a fire and collapsing it into the ground. Fun fun fun….until I had to get into my freezing cold hammock again. A foolish sense of manliness prevented me from putting up my popup tent and actually being warm, and you know, comfortable.

Day 2 started with Rare Breed Bacon and a baked in the fire Bannock.

Bacon sizzling by an open fire
An excellently cooked bannock..unless you look at the bottom of it...which is ummm caramelised??

The afternoon was spent ponassing a fresh trout which basically involves taking the head, tail and spine out of the trout. Splaying it between a split stick with some other sticks holding it open and ….yeah you guessed…sticking it next to a fire to cook for a while.

One trout chopped apart really rather nicely
Ready to get cooking
Cooked and ready to eat

Of course, with all this food flying around one has to expel it somewhere. The toilet for the trip is a “tent” with a hole in the ground inside. It’s very liberating squatting over a hole in the ground to take a crap.

The tent
and the hole in the ground

Slowly falling apart

My ride on mower that we bought in the Summer that we bought the house is slowly falling apart. It’s hit trees and walls. Been ridden with 5 people clinging to it all over the place. The starter mechanism is held on with a tie-wrap, the collection tube is held on with a bungee chord and the front of the body work has fallen off. Now as you can see from above the skirt has snapped on it. It may be time for a shiny new one!


Took this picture during our relatively mild Winter. The picture was taken using the camera on the iPhone 4S.

My Ma’s first ever car

I was taking the children for a fun Saturday morning out at the car wash [ yeah I know how to show my kids a good time ] when we spotted this Hillman Imp. It was the first car my Mum ever had. Made me smile. As a child I used to sniff the exhaust pipe whilst the car was running. Ahh, the innocence of 70s children.