Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finny Farm Garden Videos - and Kudos to Wingscapes!

Soooo...  A couple of Christmases ago, Beloved Hubs bought me a Plant-Cam.

And I used and "reviewed" it, last year, in this post.

And honestly, last year's video wasn't *too* terribly awful.  At least I'd rigged the thing up in a relatively good location so you could actually SEE the growth of the plants.  Although the "stringing-together" of the images, using the on-board software, was pretty labor-intensive...

This year, I decided to capture The Finny Farm in all her glory!  Unfortunately, the Finny Farm was tucked away in a corner that didn't lend itself well to time-lapse-video-capture.  I bolted the camera (using the included bracket) to the fence that covers the pool equipment.  But it was in a bad spot (narrow pathway between the plum-tree and pool equip't fence).  And I did a lousy job of "aiming" the camera.  I started-out being SUPER optimistic about how tall the Finny Farm 'Maters were gonna grow and I aimed the camera a little too high.

And then there was the whole "narrow walkway" thing to deal with - which resulted in the camera getting "bumped" several times thru the season. Ooooops!  And then there's the whole "angle of the sun" thing to consider (which didn't play well with the camera-to-garden-aimedness!)...  The Finny Farm just wasn't in a good location for filming. "Oh well, waddaya gonna do, right?!"

I did retain ONE valuable lesson from last year's experience:  I set the camera for an 8:00am-8:00pm schedule (rather than "on" when it detects light - since we've got a motion-sensor light out there, and about a bazillion neighborhood cats that frequent the side-yard at night!).

I also decided to forego the onboard "string-the-jpgs-together" program for video creation - not entirely by choice, mind you (more on that, later).  No, this year I downloaded a freebie video program called Windows Movie-Maker.  It's actually really cool because A) You're not limited to 360 jpgs per video and B) You can actually preview the pictures and C) *Easily* dump the ones you don't want included in your "movie."  D) It also has features for adding captions and narration (or music), but I wasn't feeling THAT inspired!

Okay, now that you've read all the "disclaimers" here are the Videos that I took of the Finny Farm! (Grab a cocktail, this might take awhile...  Or you can skip 'em, based on my commentary!)

Finny Farm I:  This was early in the season, May-June.  I was entirely too optimistic and aimed the camera too high to capture anything (other than the "Volunteer" Peach-Tree which ended up with inedible peaches anyway!)

Finny Farm II:  I'm not even sure why I'm posting this video!  This was after Hubs "bumped" the camera and re-aimed it more toward the greenhouse.  You can pretty-much just watch the neighbor's Passiflora Vine take over the roof of my greenhouse in this video!

Finny Farm III:  Camera got bumped again.  But at least you can see Brandy, the Yellow Brandywine kind-of outgrowing her cage on the left side of the video.  Again, this ain't gonna win any awards!

Finny Farm IV:  The shortest video.  Camera got bumped back to the inedible peach tree!

Finny Farm V: You can actually see tomatoes starting to ripen on the plant to the left (at around 0:30).  That was supposed to be Yellow Brandywine, but the 'maters got Blossom-End-Rot and they really don't look like Yellow Brandywines at all.  :::sigh:::

Anyhoooooo...  Even though the Finny Farm ended up being "A Flop" this year, the camera *did* perform admirably (under adverse conditions!).  

And I should note: I do not consider the "Floppyness" of the Finny Farm to be a shortcoming on Finny's part (not at all!).  Truth be told: I kinda fubar'd on the Bed-Setup this year.  See, I had actually REMOVED this bed entirely (this is where last year's Straw-Bale-FAIL-Bed experiment resided).  This year, we built a new raised-bed and I decided to fill-in the base of the new bed with partially-rotted straw, then top-it-off with bagged El Cheapo Home-Depot Soil.  

Even though I Tested and Amended (per the Finnyknits Method), I think what ended up happening was: between the crappy soil, and still-rotting straw, the beds were robbed of nutrients thru the growing season.  So I am taking full responsibility for the suckiness of this particular bed.  Had I broken-down and driven up to get a full truck-bed-full of Yummy Lyngso Soil, I suspect I would have harvested a heckuva lot more (the other two beds - which were filled with aforementioned Lyngso Soil - performed admirably this year.  Although it really wasn't a Banner Year for 'maters, in general...)

Okay, ANYWAAAAYYYY..  Back to the Plant-Cam - and my Kudos to Wingscapes, k??
So at the end of the growing season, right-around the time that I ripped out the Finny Farm, I took down the Plant-Cam.  I was pleased to see that it took over 1100 photos thru the growing season and was (honestly dreading the idea of) stringing the jpgs together into several 360-jpg time-lapse videos.  I managed to create one video when I got the "Low Battery" Warning.
Okay.  Shut down and install new batteries, right?

Welllll...  The camera died after that.  Booooo!!!  I kept pressing the Power button and - Nada!

No worries.  Everything's on an SD Card.  I'll just offload it onto my PC.  And, while I'm at it, I'll d/l the Owner's Manual and figure out how to fix it, right?

Well, long story short, I "got" from the Owner's Manual, that the third-party software (Windows Movie Maker) would be the best approach for stringing-together the jpgs and making a movie.  But - as far as "Troubleshooting" goes, the manual was not forthcoming with useful information.

Sooooo...  I went to their website www.wingscapes.com, and I snooped thru their "Support" pages and ultimately ended up with "Contact Us"/Customer Service.  I sent 'em a note explaining that I had gotten my Plant-Cam as a gift, a couple of Christmases ago "and I LOVE it!" blah-blah, but now it seems to have inexplicably died.  "I hit the Power Button but the LCD screen doesn't come on.  Don't know if it's the power-button or if the LCD screen is dead...  Can it be repaired?"

Well, lo and behold!  They responded within a day (or two - might've been the weekend).  They told me that my model of Plant-Cam had been discontinued, but that they would send me a NEW, UPGRADED model -  along with a pre-paid Shipping Label so that I can return my "dead" PlantCam - Free of Charge!

Now I have NO CLUE what the "warranty" is on these gizmos (couldn't find it on their webpage, nor in the manual).  I naturally assumed that - with my unit being a couple of years old - it MUST be out of warranty and I was fully prepared to pay *something* to have it repaired (not sure what my "pain threshold" was - but I was certainly willing to investigate it, right?!).  Anyway - the fact that they STAND BEHIND their product - and are willing to replace it so quickly, easily, and PAINLESSLY speaks WORLDS for their company, I think!

So a BIG HUGE THUMB'S-UP to Wingscapes and the Plant-Cam for having AMAZING Customer Service!!!

I received my new TimeLapse Cam 8.0 earlier this week.  I did a quick side-by-side comparison of Old vs -New.  The OLD camera had limited "focus ranges" (11"-17", 17"-3', and 3' to Infinity).  The NEW camera lets you dial-it-in more accurately (8", 9", 10", 11", 12", 14", 16", 18", 2', 2.5', 3', 4' and 8' to Infinity).  The OLD camera did have a "Laser Aim" feature - but it was only useful at dusk (or nighttime).  The NEW model doesn't have the Laser Aim, but it does offer High-Def and will accommodate a much larger SD card (16 Gig).

I think the rest of the camera (including the low-tech LCD "limited menu" GUI) remains the same.  But I am anxious to set-it-up for my soon-to-be-planted Fall Garden (I'll try a better location this time around) and give you a FULL review!

Anywaaaaayyyyy...  I just wanted to give a HUGE Thumb's-Up to Wingscapes for their AWESOME (and highly-unusual, these days!) Customer Service!

Yes, they sent me a free, upgraded Time-Lapse Cam - but I still consider this to be an "Unsolicited" Testimonial - given that we PAID for the first camera, k?  And they certainly weren't looking for a "testimonial" - they were merely exhibiting excellent customer service by standing behind their product!

More to come, I'm sure..............


FinnyKnits said...

Not gonna lie, I still want one of these cameras. Though I'd have to find a way to rig it close to the test garden. Does it need an internet connection or just an outlet?

So...for those beds...you're cover cropping over the winter, riiiiiiiiiiiight? That's what I'm going to harp on next. Just so you're prepared ;)

IMQTPI said...

Ooh! Eggzellent questions! I think I shall bang-out a follow-up post!

As for cover-cropping... I'll probably cover-crop the two good beds with some kinda legume (Mmmm, peas?!)

I think the Finny Farm needs a Lyngso-Soil make-over and I'll prob'ly stick some cool-season veggies in there - just to see what happens!


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