Monday, February 7, 2011

More Messing with the Spy Camera

We've been playing with those cheap video cameras again.

Several of the cameras died... water overdose. So, we removed parts from one and brought the other back from the dead... and it works.

While we were building this Franken-cam, we also added wires to control our creation before turning it loose on humanity.

Yes, we've learned lessons from history. And lessons from fiction!

Here is Franken-cam with his skin on. The top blue-wire is the picture/video button. The top red wires are for turning the camera on/off.

The bottom blue is ground, and the bottom red is power.

Now, we can power a small ucontroller (a PIC12F683) off the camera's battery, and have it turn on the camera, take a photo, take a few minutes of video, and then everything goes back to sleep.

But wait - there's more! The PIC is quite powerful and there is alot of room for more code... so we have the PIC control 2 servo motors (very small ones, too).

Now, when the camera is woken up and after a picture or two, it takes video, and the PIC runs the servo motors to pan and tilt the camera - offering complete access to the entire Pacific NW around it.

The metal brackets on the servos are bent spring steel. Light and strong.

Here is the working camera and its PIC controller. The LED used to tell us it is alive takes more power than the PIC itself.

Now... we have to provide a stronger power supply to run it all - for the servos and so the camera will last for hours.

We have a PIR detector from an old alarm, and soon will have remote animal detection and video (with pan and tilt) at 1-mega pixel for about $20 in parts.

The kids just like to see the thing move with blinky lights. Email us for PIC code or details.

Enough With the Work and Projects - Time to Try Fishing Again

We've been cooped up too long. A friend got a "hot tip" that the fishing is "red hot" up the Columbia Gorge... and we had to go try it!

We drove forever! Finally, we spotted a boat launch at Mayer State Park (almost to Idaho!) and hit the water. The river looked great!

Only a few other boats out, too, so we had the launch to ourselves.

The water at the launch was shallow, though, so be careful!

We quickly got into fish! A few good shakers had us hopeful for the day.

The sunshine was also a welcome ray - even despite the cold wind.

Having a windshield on the boat is a big plus when the wind is running.

Having hot cocoa is even bigger - cocoa makes any day "the best day ever!"

The water was a cold 40.3*F, and so it seems the fish weren't moving around much. We moved the boat several times and would catch shakers, but after a while the fishing died off.

So... we pulled up and launched in Cascade Locks. It was a nice launch, but a little tight for the long truck-n-boat. A very nice place, though, and it was fun running the swift current in the old locks channel.

Alot of boats above Thunder Island in hog lines. We found our spot, and did everything right... except catch fish.

It seems that what few fish were caught were all keepers, so we were hopeful.

Finally, we moved, and lightning struck - we got a nice keeper in the boat.

Only one keeper, and alot of miles on the truck, but when the weather is so nice, the scenery beautiful, and the cocoa warm... what else could beat this?

This time of year we are always a "sucker" for a long road trip... any excuse to get out. Not alot to show for it, but it was a great time.

Easy Sealing for Mylar Bags

Years ago, we got a box of mylar bags very cheap. A friend at church has an old sealer, and the bags have worked well for rice when we've bought the big bags at Costco.

On Youtube, there are alot of videos showing how to seal the bags using a clothes iron, so we thought we'd give it a shot.

Pretty simple using a long metal clamp on the countertop.

With the iron at the highest NON-Steam setting, we simply ran a seal along the edge of the bag. We tested it with Mom's towel inside to see if it would be air-tight.
Even with a sloppy first seal, the bag seemed to hold air...

So... we dunked it in the trough.

No bubbles, that is good!
Brrr... cold water - that is bad!

We've got some bags of White Wheat that we'll soon seal up in the smaller mylar bags for longer storage.
Mylar bags are still cheap, as are the oxygen packets that keep the air out.

Now hopefully we'll have a rainy day soon to keep the kids indoors to help with the wheat...

More Fun In Tillamook

Family got together in Tillamook for a weekend, and it was a great weekend!

We stopped with the crew at the footbridge above the Wilson River. Alot of folks fishing the river, and the water looked great.

Didn't see alot of catching, though.

The waterfall across the highway was also worth the short hike.

Stops like this on a long drive are always fun, and break up the trip. There are always great stops to see along any trip here in the Pacific NW.

Most of our time with family was wandering the woods above Netarts bay. The weather was gray, but it was warm and dry.

We found ALOT of salamanders. They were very friendly, and liked being handled with all the warm hands.

In fact, they got rather clingy, and wanted to sneak home with us.

We found some huge old-growth stumps still in the woods. These dudes were big!

Many of them still sport the old spring-board notches, too.

It is fun to find them, but adds a bit of sadness in their reminder of what this country used to be.

We took the new guns, and they were another big hit.

The kids are getting pretty quick with setup and servicing the weapons, too. The best part is their safe behavior.

It is nice to put a couple teenagers in charge and have everything and everyone safe.

We recovered a couple of the old rounds. Digging bullets is as fun for a 12 year old as shooting can be.

Some of the salamanders were very small!

Small animals, big stumps.

And big egos?

On leaving the woods, we spotted a number of clammers out in the low tide.

With new fishing licenses in our pockets, we thought we'd check it out. Everyone was digging Cockles. A few tips and pointers from the friendly folks, and we soon were digging our own, too.

Cockles are definitely the easiest clams we've dug - they aren't deep at all.

Some of them were sitting on top of the sand, too.

We boiled them, cleaned out the sand, and quickly ate them. They were very good - not as good as the razors, but they were eaten in no time.

And the little girls pointed out they have nicer shells to keep forever.

Another great trip. Not bad for January!

The Kids Can Shoot

We got a couple of new guns, and wanted to get out to try them out. The kids were excited to shoot, and we took along some friends that hadn't ever shot before.

We got a new .22 rifle - a Henry "US Survival" .22 that disassembles and stores in the plastic stock. It is waterproof and even floats!

A very cool rifle, and it shoots well - it was a big hit!

Everyone did well shooting the .22 pistols, too.

Lots of big smiles.

The boy's smiles got even bigger when we pulled out the new 9mm carbine. Cabela's had this on sale last month for only $200, and we couldn't resist.

This is a shooter! The weapon handles really easy - its heavy, but with little kick, it is just like shooting an Airsoft BB gun. The peep sites work well, and everyone was effective at hitting the target out to about 80 yds. The best part is that 9mm ammo is pretty cheap.

It made even the newest shooter feel like Rambo - like they could hit anything and were invincible!

One of the most important points in teaching kids gun safety is to help them be comfortable and in control of the weapon. The other part is to teach them respect for them. Watching targets fly and water bottles burst helps them "get it".

Lots of good, safe places to shoot in the mountains, too.

Alot of Everything - Lets Get Outside!

So many little adventures around the place these dark days. Even in the rain and dreary cloudcover, there is much to do and enjoy in the Pacific NorthWest.

Our neighbor took the plunge, and bought some geese! They are very friendly - too friendly in fact for our 3-year old...

The geese seem to prefer our home to that of the neighbors, but at least they go home easily. fun!

The latest science project with the kids is figuring out how to create a remote-control for fireworks. That way we can launch them from the WA side of the river, where they allow fireworks, and where they are much better.

Here is the latest favorite option - a low-value resistor wrapped to a matchhead. Pass 12V and about 100W and the resistor heats, then lights, the matchhead. Too much current and the resistor breaks before it lights.

This week we caught our first squirrel in the live-trap by the chicken coop.

This time of year there is a big-momma squirrel that hangs out on our back porch, sneaking food. Now, she has at least 2 younger ones that haven't learned the proper places for handouts.

This one was pretty agitated. He never looked back when we openned up the trap... at least until he was back at the top of the tree - then he chewed us out!

The hens have been laying really well lately (thanks to the light on in the hen house 24/7) and it was time for an update to the straw.
The goat was sold a few weeks ago, so we didn't need the hay to feed it, and the chickens got it.
The goat? She is off at a friends house until the spring - we ran out of blackberries to keep her fed.

At the first break in the rain of Feb is when we start pruning the fruit trees. The grapes are already done... and we lit into the apple tree.
Having a tall ladder makes it much easier. Having a tall teenager is even better!

We also put up the old windmill frame at the far edge of the garden. This summer, we'll run electrical power to it, with lights and speakers so the kids can enjoy weeding the garden with music!
They don't seem to appreciate it yet, but they will...

It is great to get out of the house, and start gearing up for spring.

Food Storage Update - A Visit to the Cannery

We've been really busy the last few weeks, though the blog hasn't been reflecting that. Lots of fun, thought we'd share the latest.

With threats of inflation, we decided it was time to stock up again on food. Most communities have a cannery available to the public that is owned and operated (by volunteers) by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is a great facility with good deals on quality food.

We had alot of help from the volunteers already there, and were done packing our food and orders of others in less than an hour.

The #10 cans seem to work the best -better than the mylar bags for storage long-term (30+ years!).

Here are some of the beans...

Alot of food and materials on-hand in the cannery.

The volunteers there commmented on how prices have gone up 3 times since the beginning of the year. They are expecting more increase again soon. Cocoa was up 30% in the last 6 weeks! Ouch!

It was a great day, and we got home just before the freezing rain hit for 3 days.

It is always a good feeling when bad weather hits, knowing we have something on-hand for all those hungry mouths.

Lets break out the cocoa!