22 February 2016

In The Cab

Maybe we should just start this one out with the video. Again probably easier to watch here. When I say that Lance is the go to guy I mean that quite literally. My husband has spent more time talking to him lately than he has to me and when he talks to other, far off, experts about this stuff they always say that he ought to talk to Lance.


So we have the base (NTRIP server) that receives the satellite signal and sends it to the server (NTRIP caster) that the tractor (NTRIP client) connects to in order to send the data it collects and receive direction. And by direction I mean that some of that stuff in the cab actually steers the tractor.

Speaking of steering the tractor. The factory steering wheel comes off and the EZ Pilot attaches toย  the steering column with it’s own special steering wheel. It’s connected to the rest of the stuff that gives it direction. There is a receiver on the roof that gets the satellite signal and probably an external antenna to improve the cell signal. A computer screen to display the pertinent information with a blue tooth receiver to connect to a cell phone, or possibly a Raspberry Pi.

I keep talking about Raspberry Pi and forget that they aren’t a household name. A Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer, about the size of two decks of cards on top of each other, that runs about forty dollars, last I knew. They can be programmed to do countless really cool things. Looking at their site I see them used as a baby monitor, a book scanner and for games. Open source all the way! ( As I type on my Mac ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  Some day I’ll be cool enough to use Linux) We use one to watch TV, movies and stuff off of our FreeNAS, the last really cool computer project my brilliant husband took on, and one to catch podcasts. That’s all for now but only for lack of time not a lack of ideas and uses. Raspberry pi are what schools would be using if they really wanted to teach students how to use computers, that’s what they are designed for, instead of teaching them to use face book and twitter and, horror of horrors, use windows (I refuse to capitalize that). But then they would have to have teachers who knew how to use a computer. (Speaking as a person who can barely work a computer and fully knowing we would not be able to watch TV past the next update if something were to happen to my husband. And, yes dear, that is why we would miss you ;P) That was kind of fun, but I digress.

While I tried to figure out the cab portion of this and was busy with life, the parts came! And he began the install on the tractor.

19 February 2016

By The Grace of God

I need to take a break from the intricacies of modern farming techniquesย  to remember what is really important.

This morning with, as usual, a small child at my feet I stretched up to reach one of the high cabinets in the kitchen. As on tip toes I reached over my head to the handle and pulled the door open something crashed down on to me. It bounced off my elbow and landed with a gentle poof in the nearly full trash can.

It took me a moment to realize what had happened. My elbow hurt. But there on top of the garbage was a large heavy glass pitcher. I vaguely remember shoving it up into the cabinet to get it off the counter. I should have been more careful in my placement. The door must have been all that was holding it up and when I opened it it crashed down.

Only it didn’t. Instead of shattering on the hard floor and our bare feet or on a small fragile head it bounced off my elbow, which hurt I will admit but did no damage, and into the perfectly filled trash can, not to full so it would fall out but down just enough that there was an edge to catch it and still provide lots of cushion. An incredibly small target and the only place it could have landed without hurting someone. It may seem like such a small insignificant thing, a miracle involving a garbage can, but the possibility of severe damage was so great.

God is good.

I’ve been so caught up in this farming stuff, it came at a perfect time to remind me to take time out of what ever we are doing that we think is so important to remember what really matters

18 February 2016

The Base Station

Why does anyone write anything when it’s already all been written and is so readily available on the internet? It provides me with no incentive to write something original when it has already been said so much better than I ever could. But I learn best by writing and that is my goal so I guess I will try.

To not quite quote an article I was reading, a base station is a receiver, placed at a fixed location, that monitors the GPS satellites . The base station corrects errors in the system and relays them to the tractor (rover receiver) through a radio link, the internet connected to a cell phone, then to the tractor through blue tooth.

But back to the base station. It is an antenna connected to a computer, or Raspberry Pi, that collects the satellite data. It provides a fixed location to correct the lack of uniformity in the satellite signal that the tractor receives, due to atmospheric conditions. Without it you get the low accuracy of four inches or greater. I know, I’m repeating myself.ย  The base is an NTRIP server. NTRIP means network transport of RTCM data over IP, what that means I don’t know. But the NTRIP server sends its info back to the NTRIP caster. Which is actually a server.

Confused yet?

A server, when not involved in all this stuff is a computer that hosts things like blogs and web pages and probably a lot of other things I am not looking that up too. But for this purpose the base is called the server and it sends its info back to a real server which for this job is called an NTRIP castor. Because it casts the info out to the tractor. Or not, but still called a caster.

One caster can have many different base stations hooked up to it. Each base station can cover approximately twenty miles, one millimeter per kilometer from the base, whatever the equivalent of that would be in miles.

So the base station (NTRIP server) connects to the server (NTRIP caster) which connects to the phone in the tractor (NTRIP client) to tell it how to steer the tractor.ย  Easy cheesy!

Until next time another great video by lance!


17 February 2016

Trying to get my Head Wrapped Around This

As I mentioned before, on his birthday I believe, my ever brilliant husbands latest interest is farming with GPS. Or more accurately figuring out how to provide the GPS to farm with (or precision farming or site specific management or whatever). He is well down the path to getting it figured out and I am trying to follow him. So let me get it on paper, as such, so I can see how it works more easily.

It is kind of a chicken or the egg thing as to which comes first, the tractor or the base station, so I will start with the GPS satellites. They are in space streaming data down to tell us how to get places or tell us where we are. They talk to us. We don’t talk to them. That is important.

In order to use GPS for farming we need to know exactly where the tractor is. Down to the inch. So we have a base station, not in the tractor, and an antenna in the tractor. The position of the tractor is found by both tractor and base station receiving signals from the satellites. There are lots of satellites. American and Russian. They don’t rotate at the same speed as the earth so at times throughout the day many of them wont be visible which is why it is necessary to use the Russian satellites too.

The base uses the measurement of the distance, time, between it and the satellites and the tractor and the satellites to tell the location of the tractor. This is RTK, real time kinematic. (I feel kind of cool for knowing what that stands for like how I’m a real horse person because I know that a Coggins test is not for some disease called coggin but for Equine Infectious Anemia)

But we don’t talk to the satellites so how does the base station know where the tractor is to tell it where to go?

That’s where it gets complicated, cause it hasn’t been so far, so I’ll keep trying to figure it out. Until then here is a video that talks about it better than I can by the go to guy for this stuff.


Might be easier to watch here.

13 February 2016


We spend lots of time shopping there, not because we want to necessarily, but they are almost the only store in town and fairly cheap. Certainly not because we like them. Although people watching can be “interesting” there to say the least. But I don’t usually have a problem with them other than the typical driving out small local business complaint.

I received a text from my mother the other day that changed that.

Picture0212161536_1It’s pretty blurry, I didn’t see what it was about at first. But then she pointed it out, there on the second shelf down on the left in green. It is The Bible under romance and fiction. This isn’t at our local store, around here, I think, people would still have a fit at such a thing. I realize it isn’t a company run by anyone with any particular religious affiliations. Although old Sam Walton was active in the Bentonville Church of Christ it seems he was nudged to any charitable or religious action by his wife, and that they only gave a very small amount to charities when he was around.

But they do sell a good number of faith based books. Enough to compete with christian book stores. And here they are with the Bible filed as fiction. The romance part I don’t have a problem with, it is the greatest love story ever told. While there is plenty of good biblical fiction available that is a completely different matter.

What would the reaction be if any other religion was treated like this? Can you imagine the uproar and cries of discrimination? While I really don’t expect any better of Walmart I do hope this was of a single employee thinking they were making a grand statement, not company policy. I think we will try to keep even more of our business at our little local store.

12 February 2016

Oh My, Aren’t You Getting Old!

From all of us!
From all of us!

It amazes me that at forty one you have children turning four and one. Wow deep.

I am thoroughly enjoying watching you follow your latest interest, watching the twists and turns your brilliant mind makes as you figure out a complex subject. Hope you enjoy it and go on to supply the area with GPS for their tractors. Hopefully you have bought yourself a little (big) birthday present by now?

You are a great father and, rather than be jealous, I am thrilled when the children run to you wanting their Lala. I love the way they take after you, 8 in his fascination for tractors and four wheelers and almost anything with moving parts and The Goblin Child in her skill with her computer and desire to watch you and emulate all that you do.

Spring is nearly here, soon, as soon as you can find time, you, with lots of “help” I’m sure, will be starting the seeds for your garden. More cold will come but for now we have warm weather and before too long the calves will be gone! Life is good, and we are lucky to share it with you.

Love you and Happy Birthday!

And maybe, we should get a couple of pictures of us once in a while?

9 February 2016

Visiting the Ponies

We went for a walk today to jump in the muddy puddles and because it was too nice for children not to be outdoors. We stopped to see tho ponies while we were out. And crawled into the bale feeder, because what else would we do?

I loved the way the horses paired off with their respective people for the most part. The Goblin Child with Princess Onna and 8 with Coyote. Yes I am well aware that Coyote is mine, I love the rotten old man dearly and hope he lives to forty. But I am also thinking that maybe, if things go according to plan, which they never do, that he can be 8’s pony. Yes he’s hot, head strong, and on and on but he’s also trust worthy and dependable and the best pony in the world. Who says kids horses have to be quiet?

And did I pair off with Rusty? I don’t know. I like the little guy. Enough to keep? I still haven’t decided.

4 February 2016

A Walk in the Snowy Woods

We had a few moments today with the sun shining brightly on the snow. We wondered through the yard and out into the tree row. The snow was deep and hiding under it were great treasures to be found. Then back through the corrals where I got to be a cow hearded into the chute. Finally to the yard for snow angels and swinging. It was a very busy morning and ever so much fun.

30 January 2016

And Then He Walked

He’s been walking holding into our fingers for months now. We could send him back and forth between us but he would never go on his own. Then he started walking by himself last night. Just like that and he’s running laps around the house.