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ManyTracks Homesteading 
with Steve & Sue

 

tools-bench-Steve


Miscellaneous Projects


Arduino

MiniBench

PanelCam

Trailer Mover
 



 

 

How-to  ~  Ideas  ~  Inspiration
 From more than thirty years having a good time living a sustainable life
in the northwoods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Our entire lives, and the homestead life for sure, is made up of projects. Planning, dreaming, imagining, designing, building, re-building, repairing, enjoying the doing and the results. Here you'll find odds and ends of projects and blog posts that don't seem to fit anywhere else. May they inspire you to a creation of your own.

Post by Steve Things that work #1 - Trailer Mover - 11/30/2017

This is the first of what I hope will become a series of projects that produced a tool or process that has worked for us. For some time I had wanted an easier way to move our two trailers around without endangering my back or having to hook them up to one vehicle or another.

I had seen a couple of possibilities on the Internet and got some ideas then headed out to the shop. Using an old, 1-7/8” hitch ball, some scrap steel (a piece of an old, large saw blade and a short piece of ” ID steel tube), our 40-year old hand truck and here’s what I came up with.

Trailer mover 1 Trailer mover 2 Trailer mover 3

The whole rig is based upon using that old hand truck without making any alterations to it. The unit’s backing plate (the saw blade part) slides down over the bottom of the hand truck’s base plate with the tube running on the top side. There is a large fender washer on a ” bolt that secures the bottom of the tube with a wing nut.

Building sequence:
  1) I brazed the shaft of the ball into the end of the steel tube.
  2) The backing plate was brazed onto the bottom flange of the ball, spaced out a bit more than the thickness of the hand trucks base plate.
  3) Two triangular gussets were brazed between the ball flange and backing plate to strengthen the unit.
  4) I drilled a ” hole through the lower end of the tube, just below the lower edge of the hand truck’s base plate.
  5) The fender washer was bent and shaped to fit the side of the tube.

Here is a drawing of the unit. Hopefully it will make some sense of the above.
     Trailer mover drawing

In use I slip the ball under and into the trailer coupler and lowering the handle of the hand truck to raise the tongue. I can then wheel the trailer around easily, parking it in a back corner of the garage or whatever. I have not tried to move any really heavy loads but this unit easily handles our 150 lb. boat on its trailer. This tool is especially handy when parking the trailers inside for the winter, stuffing one in a corner of the storage building and kind of nesting the other tightly beside it.



Post by Steve  Homestead Electronics -- PanelCam: Installment #1 -- 12/27/2016

One of the realities of powering our homestead in the north-woods with power from the sun is that in the winter there will be times when the solar array is covered with snow. Even a light dusting can make a significant reduction in power production. An inch of snow will effectively shut the panels off. The obvious solution is to hike on out to where you can see the panels – they are about 400 feet from the house – and if they are snow-covered gently scrape them clear with our handy-dandy long handled, foam-edged panel scraper. Often, however, we get out where we can see the face of the array only to find that they are clear. Not a big thing, really, just a brief snowshoe hike for the exercise. This is all setting the scene for my current project: a Wi-Fi camera mounted out in the garden area, facing the array.

  Array-cam sky view

The camera will, upon request, fire up and transmit a nice clear image of the panels back to any device hooked up to our home network. Bill of materials (Specifications): - Outdoor Wi-Fi Video Camera - (9 – 12 Volts DC powered, removable antenna) - Wi-Fi Range Extender - (DC powered, removable antenna) - “Cantenna” Wi-Fi Directional Antenna – (Homemade, increases signal ~12 dB (~400%)) - DC to DC Power supplies for both camera and extender - Small Lead-Acid Battery to run the camera - Two Arduinos with Wi-Fi units configured to turn camera on/off to save battery power - Low-loss antenna cable & misc. wiring for powering all units Are we done yet? Actually, all these items are readily available on-line and not terribly expensive. The Cantenna’s main component is a tin can about 3-1/2” in diameter and 6” tall (empty). The parts are ordered, except for the ‘can’, and the fun will begin soon. To be continued!

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Post by Steve  Homestead Electronics -- PanelCam: Installment #2 -- 2/7/2017

Well, the 'Array-Cam' is finally up and running. Click a switch, push a button and check the snow conditions out on the solar array on a computer or tablet "...in the comfort of your own home". Of course, many days we get to hike out and clear the snow off the panels but mostly is just fun to see what's happening out there. The photos below are: Antennas mounted on the house roof, Camera box and its solar panel, Front and back of the camera switch circuit board and finally, the view from the camera.

   Antennas on house   Camera box & solar panel   Array-Cam Remote Circuit   Sue cleaning the panels

(February 19, 2017 Update) I have including details of this project including a few more photos and Arduino microcontroller code on a new web page. Click for the complete 'PanelCam' article.



Post by Steve Homestead Electronics – Arduino -  12-5-2016
And you thought that I hibernated all winter! I have been amusing myself this fall/winter by designing and building small electronic gizmos based upon Arduino microcontrollers. This all started, as many homestead projects do, with being frustrated by the fact that neither our solar charge controller nor inverter can handle diversion loads.

There are many times, in all seasons, when the sun is out bright and the batteries are fully charged. Sometime this happens early in the day and the potential energy from the solar panels for the rest of the day is just wasted. The charge controller sees that the batteries are full and says, "I'll do my job of protecting the batteries from overcharge by reducing the power I'm sending to them".

If we are around and notice that the controller has been in float mode a while, we can manually turn on a one or two circuits that power electric heating panels. This has the potential to reduce the amount of firewood we burn - a good thing.

So, back to the electronic things. I am designing a pair of circuits that sense battery voltage and charge current and some software that runs on an Arduino that will turn on/off relays that control those two heating panel circuits. I think I forgot to mention that I have not always had a lot of luck with electronic stuff. I have smoked many a home-made device. I figured that with that background I’d start with something a little simpler; an Arduino-operated greenhouse fan controller. This sort of thing is commonly known as a ‘thermostat’. Wheel reinvented!

Here’s what the fan controller looks like inside…

Greenhouse fan controller
All kinds of fun components and wires seemingly running everywhere! By the way, it works just fine. The display shows the current temperature as well as upper and lower set-points, which are adjustable. The unit has been working well for a few weeks now. No smoke at all!

More on the main project as it evolves… Steve.



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Copyright by Susan Robishaw and Stephen Schmeck
 



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Have you read  "Frost Dancing - Tips from a Northern Gardener"? A fun short read.

or "Homesteading Adventures"    Creating our backwoods homestead--the first 20 years.

and "Growing Berries for Food and Fun"   A journey you can use in your own garden.
 

updated 10/06/2019

 

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