Charlie Kate flash back


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March 19 was Graydon Claire day

Graydon turned 8 this March!  Her birthday party request was a Cupcake Wars themed party.  This version had two teams of 3 girls each, with two technical advisors, one Charlie Kate-sized special assistant, and a 3 judge panel.

The contestants were assembled, issued their special aprons and split into two teams: the Yummy Cups and the Tasty Cakes.  The teams immediately dove in and started strategizing on their cupcake creations with their technical advisors.

{click on images for full size versions}

cupcake strategy session

cupcake strategy session

The spread of cupcake ingredients was particularly impressive to this particular judge.  The lovely wife made all the cupcakes from scratch.  Fortunately, our chickens have really started to hit their egg laying stride- Jennifer made 90 cupcakes in multiple flavors, along with frosting, lemon creme, etc., etc., etc.  Here’s one of the technical advisors and the special assistant to the cupcakers surveying the supplies:

This Cupcake War had 3 rounds, with a limited amount of time for each round.  The girls kept busy, shooting for cupcake perfection:

After each round, the teams had to present their creations to the judge’s panel.  Here is Team Tastycakes describing their entry:

Team Yummy Cups:

Judges were pleased:

There was some judge/advisor consultation, but no votes were swayed:

Cupcakes were amazing.  Seriously- look at these:

Great job cupcakers!


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Coop update

The coop has been in place for a few weeks now.  It is still not complete, but it stays dry inside.  When I first brought it over to Leviathan Hall, I had a lot of cardboard covering various un-done portions.  The ridge, the nesting boxes, the front and back doors all had cardboard stapled over.  I’m down to only having cardboard over the windows now…

coop #2

The dangling weight in the picture is the counter weight to the coop door.  The coop door started out as an old Square D electrical panel cover.  I cut the height down a bit to allow the pulleys enough room to operate.  I put together some side rails to keep the door on track and to provide a positive stop in case the door gets pushed in.

coop #2

The weight and the pulleys worked out really well with the weight of the door.  The pull action on the counter weight is very smooth.  The door stays put in the location determined by raising or lowering the counterweight.

coop #2

This coop doesn’t have an attached run like my previous version.  I put together a scrap wood covered area for them to hang out.  There is shelter under the coop itself, but this gives them a little more room:

coop 2 annx

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Coop #2 preview #2



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Coop #2 preview

The new coop is smaller and lighter.  Construction has been simplified and lightened up.

I have a bad habit of building something and then wanting to immediately tear it down and rebuild it better.  I haven’t cured myself of that habit, but I have found that doing teardown/rebuild cycles in Sketchups makes things go a lot faster.  Sketchup screenshot of Coop #2:


I don’t think I’m doing Sketchup 100% correctly, but I’m stumbling along well enough to get a feel for what I’m building.  The mocking up is really helpful- building my rafters in the computer first gave me a good feel of how the finished product (should, hopefully) turn out.  Also, cutting rafters can be a pain in the neck when one falls out of practice, so it was a good exercise.

Here is the current state of the build:




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Amazon Dash button as a Chicken Door reminder

So, I built this chicken coop:


While this coop is pretty deluxe, it has no automation at all.  I was going to add an automatic roost door, but we are departing Rocky Valley Estates to Leviathan Hall soon.  Coop #2 will have to be the one that gets the fancy equipment.

What I needed was a monitor to remind me to close the roost door.  I didn’t want a reminder every single day ala a calendar event.  I just wanted a reminder if it was getting dark and the coop door had not been closed.

There are fancy Arduino/Raspberry Pi solutions, but I wasn’t up to the complexity.  I opted for an Amazon Dash button after seeing Ted Benson’s Amazon Button Hack.

My solution is to use a Python program to monitor for the Amazon Dash button push.  Once a day, my program starts up, looks up the time for sunset and dusk for that day (thanks, Astral).   It then starts monitoring for the button push.

The Dash button is hanging by the roost door.  When I close the door, I push the button.  Assuming I beat the dusk deadline, the program records my button push and shuts down for the day.  If dusk passes and the button is not pushed, the programs send a text to my phone via my Gmail account.

I’m using Github for the code- version control and code hosting: ChickenDash


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Scrap wood box

I like building boxes out of scrap- (floor nailer, cordless grinder, game boxclassroom).  Here’s another one, this one to store a tall Christmas angel.  All scrap wood.  The box has a retainer bar in the middle to keep the figure from bouncing around in the box.  The liner on the arc is a scrap of self-adhesive felt.

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Another year with the Unknown Dog

Not many posts, but there still has been a lot going on.  I haven’t gone anywhere else, dear regular readers.  2015 wasn’t a year of posting.  7 posts the entire year.

I do still get regular very light traffic, thanks to some posts that keep coming up.   Here’s my top 5.

  1. Ford Flex factory hitch project
  2. Ford Flex seat swap project complete
  3. Nerd alert: Finding non-printing characters in varchar2 fields in Oracle
  4. Dining room project
  5. Inserting newlines with AIX sed

Interesting stuff coming up in 2016.  Rocky Valley farewell, Coops and Dash Buttons, Leviathan Hall, BNR4.  Stay tuned.  Considering previous publishing schedules, the edge of your seats will be overkill.


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Halloween for 2015

Last year was [Alice in Wonderland].  This year:

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Sunday was Charlie Kate Anderson day

Birthday #4:

FullSizeRenderCK is modeling the full Elsa from Frozen ensemble.

IMG_2902Left to right, Cousin Rosemary, Graydon, Charlie, and Gabe.

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