Aeroponic Chili + Coffee plant

Blogged by Twan as Daily life — Twan Thu 8 May 2014 7:04 am

On the 9th of November 2013 I already wrote about switching the pumps of my Aeroponic plant (chili + coffee) setup through 433mhz.

In the mean time I bought a 433mhz usb transceiver from RfxCom which already supports a huge amount of protocols of 433mhz devices which you can buy in the store. The temperature sensors for example are supported out of the box and I also the 230 volt switches which I wanted to use to switch the pumps are compatible.

So last weekend I finally managed to spend some time on adding my pump timer to my home automation setup. It has been running on one of these mechanical timers with a round disk where you can set a little switch ( 15 minute intervals ).

I had the mechanical switch configured to run for 15 minutes ( minimum ) every hour and to be off in the evenings. The pumps, and also the bubbling water, make some noise and although this is a nice and peaceful sound, it disturbs when watching tv.

For the future, the idea is to have a web based scheduler where we can reschedule and configure for example living room temperatures that would require a smaller interval or a longer watering period.

For now, I’m sending switch messages to RabbitMQ (also running on the pi). I also have an RFXCom module that is subscribed to this queue and deals with sending the actual signal. This is still a bit of a hack as I’m posting messages directly to the queue instead of an exchange.

// Wait for connection to become established.
connection.on('ready', function () {
  //set interval to switch on to 10 minutes
  setInterval( function() {
    //send message on to the queue
    connection.publish('rfxcom-send-events', mesOn);

    //And switch off again after 30 seconds
        //send message off to the queue
        connection.publish('rfxcom-send-events', mesOff);
  }, 600000);

So instead of running 15 mins every hour, I now provide the plants with a 30 second soak every 10 minutes. Lets see if they still look happy after a week.

Photos from Cuba [more to come]

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Photo,Travel — Twan Sun 4 May 2014 1:13 pm

I’m still processing all the pictures I took in Cuba and it will probably still take a while so thought I give you already one to get into the Cuba mood.


Humidity/Temperature readings finally visualized

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Home automation — Twan Sat 29 Mar 2014 6:28 pm

Finally something nice to look at! I have been capturing sensor data from a couple of wireless temperature/humidity sensors (TFA 30.3125) and storing them in mongodb on a raspberry pi. I played around a bit with Rickshaw js to visualize this data.

Since my raspberry pi is not available for the internet ( for now ) I made a screenshot from the humidity to give you an impression

2014-03-29 19_22_37-1984.doublethink_3000_humidity

To store all the readings ( 1 temperature + 1 humidity reading per minute ) I used this article on the mongodb blog for inspiration. I have 1 document per day per sensor and the values are stored like this (temperature):

"values": [
"0": [{"0": 20200,"1": 20200,"2": 20200,...,"58": 20100,"59": 20100}],
"1": [{"0": 20100,"1": 20100,..."57": 20100,"58": 20100,"59": 20100}],

I’m storing the temperature * 1000 because I had problems with floating point numbers on my raspberry pi in mongodb.

TODO: Figure out how to deal with time zones in Rickshaw, it displays the time 1 hour off (luckily we don’t have to get up that early)

Operation chili transplantation

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Growing Chili pepper — Twan Sun 16 Feb 2014 4:52 pm

About 1.5 years ago I made an aeroponic setup for 2 7pod chili plants. I grew them from seed in this system. I wanted to find out if I could grow chilis in such an aeroponic setup and I think I can say: yes, it works! So now it’s time to improve. Version 2 is focused on the looks. Version one was just a big storage box with a lid. We tried to cover the ugliness of this box by hiding it behind a piece of fabric. Still not the typical thing you would normally want to have standing around in your living room so we did some shopping:


I first glued the hooks in but that was not such a success. They didn’t hold that good so went for a screw approach later on.

Cutting out what looks like a toilet seat, but should be a cover for the egg shaped pot.



And the pump in action. I had to cover the hole to not spill the water.



Trying to take out the plant. Roots everywhere!





And the wood chips to cover the top.

Some more roots (also from the second plant)


And final destination. Next to the little hydro/aero coffee plant.

No time to make your own bread?

Blogged by Twan as Cooking,Daily life — Twan Sun 12 Jan 2014 2:17 pm

Since 6 months I have been making my own bread. When I tell people that I don’t buy bread anymore but just make it myself I usually get reactions like, ‘wow you must have too much time on your hands’ or ‘oh I would love to do that but just don’t have enough time’. The interesting thing is, it actually doesn’t take that much time.

Fresh bread

Doesn’t that look nice? So how much time did this take?
10 minutes mixing ingredients + 5 minutes shaping the dough

Ok, ok, fair enough, you don’t have a bread in 15 minutes. After mixing the ingredients you need to let the dough rise for 1 hour. I normally use this time to: read, watch tv, play music, go for a run.. so, things that you actually should do in your free time anyway!

Then after this hour, you need to shape the dough, and put it in the oven. Then, you have another 20 + 20 minutes to do nice things! I say 20 + 20 because normally I put the bread one level lower in the oven to prevent it from becoming black. I also take this chance to spray some extra water in the oven so you get this nice crunchy crust. After 40 minutes you could eat it right away, but it’s better to let it cool down for an hour or so.

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Blogged by Twan as Growing Chili pepper,Home automation — Twan Sat 9 Nov 2013 10:26 am

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are falling. For me this means more nerd time (playing around with electronics, node.js, home automation). Last year I have been trying to make some wireless (xbee) temperature sensors and although they are still far from perfect, I want to try something else.

Controlling the pump of my aeroponic system
Last year I bought a couple of relays that are able to switch the 230v mains that we have here in Switzerland. I wanted to use them for turning the pump of my aeroponic chili system on and off. However it is not the 20 milliamps and the max 12volts that we are playing with here, this is serious stuff and I decided to not make this myself.

I actually wanted to stick to xbee/zigbee however it is quite difficult to find zigbee power switches and therefore reverted to 433mhz modules which you can find in almost all diy stores. The good thing about these switches is that there are already loads of people that figured out the signal to send to these switches so all I needed was a little 433mhz transmitter and google guided me to some scripts which with small adjustments gave me what I wanted.

I connected the transmitter to the GPIO pins from my Raspberry Pi and used the 433send script from jer00n to send the on and off signal to the switches. Works like a charm.. (almost).

After moving the switches around in the apartment I realized that the walls made the signal not reliable anymore. Sometimes the switch would respond, sometimes not. Not really an option for the watering system in an aeroponic setup. I found the solution in adding a 17cm piece of wire (antenna) to the transmitter board and now I could even operate switches in the kitchen (highest amount of obstruction between transmitter and switch in my apartment). Sweet!

So I’m now working on writing some scheduler functionality in node.js and a web interface so I can operate the different switches and adjust the schedule.

Whisky improvement update

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Whisky — Twan Tue 24 Sep 2013 6:24 am

I removed the stick after a night and waited for the evening to give it a try. I didn’t compare the original with the new one because I was not too convinced of the changes yet. So I decided to place the stick back for another night.

The other night became a night + day. I just removed the stick and tasted again. I waited for another day before making a comparison taste. A little bit of the original and a little bit of the ‘improved’ GlenGrant. I’m just going to call it the stick whisky.

The smell
First of all, it’s not a huge difference. When you smell both, you get a slightly more fruity/sweet smell on the stick whisky. It’s interesting because the original didn’t really feel sharp in the nose when I tasted it the first time but even the smell gives a bit of sharpness in the nose which is less on the stick whisky.

The taste
Again not a huge difference but both me and my girlfriend found the stick whisky smoother. Again funny because when we tried the original we both said it was a very smooth and light whisky. But now we both get a sense of sharpness which is less on the stick whisky. The stick whisky definitely is more fruity but I couldn’t really locate a particular note.

I’ll give it another try in some days.

New experiment: improving whisky?

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Whisky — Twan Sat 21 Sep 2013 8:55 am

I have been a fan of single malt whisky for about 3 years now. It all started with a bottle of Lagavulin 16yo. Later I learned that this is not the typical beginners whisky (you either don’t like it at all, or you like it and it ruins your taste) and yes, when I started trying others they all missed this ‘kick’ that I loved so much with the Laga. It took a bit of time to learn to like other whiskies, and I have to say, I still like the smoky ones best, but I love trying others.

Now, you might wonder, what’s this whisky improving experiment about?
After my holiday in Scotland (and of course a visit to the Talisker Distillery on the isle of Skye) I really wanted to make my own whisky. Easier said than done since here in Switzerland it is not allowed to distill without license. So I thought, why not try to get hold of legal (taxed) distillate (new make spirit) and mature it myself in a cask. Again easier said than done, I couldn’t really find any new make spirit. However, while searching I ran into this youtube clip from Ralfy and decided to give this a try.

Bottom line of this experiment is: Change the taste of a whisky by adding a stick of wood to it

I organized some cherry wood branches (thanks Uli!) and cut them in 15cm pieces. I cleaned them and dried them in the oven for 1 hour on 100 degrees Celsius. Then I heated up the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and left them for another hour. Ralfy wraps the stick in some tin foil and uses Madeira wine to season the wood, I ‘splish splashed’ some Lagavulin on the sticks (sizzle sizzle hmm amazing smells).

After an hour of cooling down I took a blow torch ( bought one for this experiment ) and toasted the sticks a bit. Now I’m not completely sure (Ralfy says it’s optional) what kind of influence this has on the flavor but hey, playing around with a blow torch is always fun.

Cherry wood sticks

The whisky I selected for this experiment was the cheapest single malt I could find here in the supermarket: Glen Grant Major’s reserve. There is no age statement and after doing some quick searches it seems that this whisky is a nice and smooth but not very complex tasting whisky. I never tried it before but I think with CHF20 for a 70cl bottle (including a free ID/age check by the cashier), it is a perfect candidate.

I bought a glass bottle with wider neck (so the stick doesn’t get stuck) and poured most of the Glen Grant in the new bottle. I took a taste of the original for some reference and can confirm the smooth and easy drink, no complexity. I added the stick for 1 hour and after a quick taste I decided to leave it for a night.

Glen Grant with Cherry Stick


Stay tuned for updates!

Meal worm experiment – finished?!?

Blogged by Twan as Cooking,Daily life,Meal worm farm — Twan Sun 25 Aug 2013 12:03 pm

I think my meal worm experiment has come to an end. The first batch of beetles all died (of age!) and I’m getting some new ones but I just realized that it is not so exciting anymore. Where I used to spend an hour a day looking at the beetles and worms wiggling around I now leave them in a box and have to remember to give them some fresh flour and a new carrot once in a while.

I have a couple 100 grams of frozen meal worms and ready to be used in a meal and even there I have to say. Eating them is also not so exciting anymore. I have baked some in the oven to use as a snack, and I have put them in my fried rice but I can’t say I’m excited to cook with them.

It was an interesting experiment but a replacement for some of the meat we eat, no, not at this point.

First meal worms starting to get a decent size

Blogged by Twan as Daily life,Meal worm farm — Twan Sun 9 Jun 2013 9:42 am

It all took a bit longer than expected but I’m finally starting to see some decent sized meal worms. I made the first container on the 16th of February. That was the result of about 6 beetles. I can see now that with 6 beetles you don’t get a lot of eggs/worms. But I made new containers from the bedding of the beetle box every 3 weeks. That bedding contains all the eggs and when I look at the containers 5 and 6 you see a lot of tiny worms!

I also see that although I have these ‘staged’ containers, there is quite a bit of difference in size of the meal worms. Therefore I selected the biggest ones from the first 3 containers and put them all together in the first container. The middle ones in the second container and the ones that fell through the sieve are in the 3rd.

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