Automatic for the Chickens

Yesterday was quite the Home Automation day. We've been dithering on the subject of replacing the water tank pump for the irrigation system for, oh, months. Instead I was dragging the hose from the sump around the garden, which is about as ridiculous as it sounds.

So yesterday Noel got some hardware and attached the new pump, which works like a charm (a somewhat leaky charm, unfortunately, but liberal applications of teflon tape seems to have stopped that). I need to build it a little pump house and then do the permanent plumbing into the tank.

New pump hooked up

One of the major benefits of this pump is that it has a pressure tank, so it maintains a consistent water pressure. It's also self-priming, and can be at any elevation relative to the water tank, so I can abandon the stupid hole in the ground we were using.

With the pump hooked up and the hose back in the water tank, I need to go around and make repairs on the sprinklers. I'm replacing a lot of sprinklers with drippers this year, because plants have gotten large enough that they don't need support water any more. I hope this helps with my weed issues in the roses, but we will see.

For those who don't have the back story, we have sand here, and for sand you're supposed to use sprinklers rather than drippers in order to get even water distribution across a larger area; you can also use more drippers but our sand drains so fast that that was actually impractical. Solutions to this include amending the soil with organic matter (which I've been doing). As plants get larger and have more established root systems, you can stop adding so much water.

Anyway, with the pump installed at least temporarily, Noel moved on to his unending chicken door project. He's been up in the office working on this for weeks, and finally he got to the point where he was ready to test it out in real life.

Installing the door lifter

There were some snags, though. Some having to do with the speed at which he was running the motor, and some having to do with the odd angle the string ended up at.

Attaching the counterweight

There was a lot of modifying the controller board to change the speed, and messing with the spool that wound the door up. In order to keep the chickens out of Noel's way during all of this, I forked off the top of a compost pile so they had something interesting to dig in.

Controller board

So the door opener still doesn't work, but we're closer. And when it does work, we will no longer realize, as we sit down to watch a movie after dinner, that somebody has to go out and shut the chickens in for the night. And we can sleep in guilt-free on weekends! No more pulling on rubber boots and tromping out to the chicken yard to let the little buggers out! I'm looking forward to it.

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posted by ayse on 04/27/09