Category Archives: Technology

Parrot Pot – A Connected Plant Care Device (Product Review)

I was very excited when I received an email about the new Parrot Pot – a plant pot with an inbuilt self-watering and regulating system that you connect to through a mobile app. I love new technology and seeing how the internet can help with everyday functions.

I was kindly sent one to review, here’s how I got on…

Just planted, but I’d forgotten to add the base!

It arrived nicely packaged but was quite a bit bigger than I’d been expected – the pot itself is about 32cm high when stood in its base but I suppose it needs to be that tall to house its 2.2-litre water reservoir.

The instructions were all pretty simple to follow and I soon had my plant potted and downloaded the app. Again, it was all nice and simple – I was guided through the set-up, I actually didn’t know the type of plant so I wasn’t able to make use of the installed directory – I believe that if matched with one of those it provides plant-specific care based on the data it has. The pot connected to the app without any issues.

After the first few days of set-up, it was great to see how the plant was being watered regularly and how the soil moisture was changing – the plant I’d used was quite a bushy headed one which meant it was difficult to water from above – part of the reason I’d chosen it for the pot, I’d clearly been under-watering it as it quite quickly used up the first 2 litres from the reservoir.

Plant is noticeably thriving

I’ve had it set up about a week now and I have to say that my plant is looking better than ever, it’s started spreading and growing down over the sides of the pot – it’s clearly very happy. It’s been super interesting monitoring progress through the app. There are graphs of watering, sunshine and temperature if you really want to geek out. I’ve had a couple of instances when the app has told me system maintenance was required and the app simply tests the water jets and then asked me to tamp down the soil and then it was all back to normal, not sure if this is because the plant is overhanging and partially covering the sensor. This morning I noticed some leakage on the window sill – the base which catches run-off from watering was full, not sure if this is a design flaw or because the plant has been over-watered, maybe because we don’t know what type of plant it is so that it can adjust to the plant’s specific requirements.

Getting geeky with graphs

So what do I think? I like it, I really love the technology and can see this having a place in the modern home. My only concern would be the price – it’s retailing at £129.99, although it’s currently on offer at £79.99. I have a LOT of plants indoors and most of them weren’t expensive purchases, just a few ££ each, so to pay that kind of money for enough pots to look after my plants would be seriously prohibitive. I’m sure because this is new technology, like all things, ways will be found to bring down the manufacture costs and once that’s been achieved (it’d need to be by quite some amount for me to purchase one, unfortunately), then I can see it as a much more viable product for the home. I guess if you had really rare or exotic plants then this could be a good investment. The pots have been built to be used indoors or outdoors so it could be worthwhile for more expensive outdoor plants that might benefit from regular watering and monitoring.

PS if anyone knows what type of plant this is please do let me know and I can update the app!

I’m really excited to see how this kind of technology develops.

You can find out more about Parrot Pot here on their website.

 

Winter Returns But The Girls Are Out!

Just as we were starting to get excited about the brief whiff of Spring we had, the snow returned – whilst it looks beautiful here when the white stuff comes down, it does rather dampen the enthusiasm a little.

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Nine Mile Burn

Our new heated propagator has arrived – after much deliberation, I finally decided on one with six smaller trays as it seemed the best value for the most space (it was £40 from Thompson & Morgan), along with a load of seeds that I’ve optimistically ordered – our season is so short here that growing from seed is a risky business so hopefully the propagator should help things along.

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I’m especially excited about some of the tomato seeds we’ve got – Indigo Cherry Drops, a dark purply colour that will go nicely with a mixture of other yellows and reds in a variety of sizes. We also bought some companion plants to help control pests – marigolds, calendula and cosmos – time will tell if this works but at east things will look pretty as well. It’s all about biodiversity this year…

Betty getting her first taste of freedom in 3 months
Betty getting her first taste of freedom in 3 months

The Avian Flu restrictions that were in place have now been lifted in Scotland, a low-risk zone, meaning that as long as extra biosecurity measures have been taken (removing bird feeders etc) that our birds are allowed back outside. I was very excited although with fresh snow on the ground they had to be coaxed with mealworms initially. Now we just need them to start laying again – another effect of them being cooped up for 3 months.

Nine Mile Burn
Nine Mile Burn

The Third Plate – an inspirational food-growing read

This book was so inspirational that I had to share. It’s a really easy read and anyone with an interest in cooking, eating or growing food will find it a delight.

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The author, Dan Barber, is a well known American chef with a restaurant on his farm and education centre in the hills outside New York. His thoughts on food and agriculture are widely shared and respected and he was been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.

He’s also an incredibly engaging speaker and writer – I’d seen and thoroughly enjoyed a couple of his TED talks – How I fell in love with a fish and A surprising parable of foie gras – both stories are more fully explored in the book but they’re well worth a watch to give you a flavour.

In The Third Plate the author explores his vision for a new food system, one that is sustainable and an integration of vegetables, cereal and livestock management that produces truly delicious food. He challenges everything we think we know about food through his eloquent and entertaining tales of meeting people around the world who are working in harmony with the soil, land and sea.

It’s further inspired me to get more livestock and grow lots more food – I have an especial hankering to try some landrace wheat and make my own flour – the fact we don’t have the land, a mill or any knowledge for any of this is by-the-by 🙂

Not convinced – perhaps some of these reviews might tempt you…

‘Dan Barber’s tales are engaging, funny and delicious…I would call this The Omnivore’s Dilemma 2.0…a brilliant culinary manifesto with a message as obvious as it is overlooked. Promote, grow and eat a diet that’s in harmony with the earth and the earth will reward you for it’ Chicago Tribune

‘Compelling…The Third Plate is fun to read, a lively mix of food history, environmental philosophy and restaurant lore…an important and exciting addition to the sustainability discussion’ Wall Street Journal

‘In this compelling read Dan Barber asks questions that nobody else has raised about what it means to be a chef, the nature of taste. and what “sustainable” really means. He challenges everything you think you know about food; it will change the way you eat. If I could give every cook just one book, this would be the one’ Ruth Reichl (author of another favourite book of mine Garlic and Saphires)

 

 

GTech Cordless Strimmer – Product Review

The lovely people at Gtech recently sent us a cordless strimmer to review, and typically, it’s rained ever since. Thankfully we had a break this past weekend so finally got to road-test it, let’s just say it had it’s work cut out – here’s how S got on with it.

Assembling the strimmer out of the box was very easy – there were only a couple of pieces which clicked together easily, and which didn’t even require instructions.  My first impression was how light it was.  The battery had been charging before this point and even after pushing that into place at the head of the handle it made no difference to the weight and feel of it.  The cutting blades were also amazingly easy to fit – no cartridges needing plastic wire threaded through here – instead, just a small plastic blade which you pop into the head.

 

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Yes, that’s really how bad it got!

 

So, with that, I was very keen to try it out.  I was wanting to level out a small patch of lawn, which had got very long and thick (20+ centimetres in bits).  Starting it up was easy, with the safety switches not requiring you to change your grip on the handle at all.  It performed very well, there was plenty of power and, because it is so light, was very easy to precisely cut through to the right length.

 

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S in full strimming action

 

While using it the blade pinged off a couple of times (and had to search for it in the long grass), but that was due to getting too close to a rock on the border.  However, there is no worry at all about the blade getting broken and jammed in the rotating head – it just can’t happen.  I got through a couple of blades, although did not do too much experimenting with how much life you can get from one use.  The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

The plastic did not have a particular cutting edge as such – and could be inserted either side up – but did get a little rough and flattened round the edges, possibly from hitting the stones and rocks. But, again, it was easy to pop another one in and so much better than some which use plastic wire.

 

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That looks better!!!!

 

I used it for about 45 minutes in total until the battery was used up, but that was plenty of time to do several passes over the surface, cutting down to the right level, and through some pretty thick and long grass.  I didn’t try out the option to rotate the head for edging.  That wasn’t quite so straightforward to push the sides in to allow the rotation.

In conclusion, I’ll be using this each time, since it is so light, easy to use and handle and makes doing the chore much more appealing!

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 To find out more about GTech’s range of cordless garden equipment you can check out their website here

GardenTags – a great Gardening App (review)

I have a few gardening apps that I use intermittently, mainly to identify plants but I’ve now found one that is becoming quite addictive – GardenTags

It’s the first one I’ve come across that is really useful, multi-purpose and community-based – I’ve met some super-friendly and helpful people within just 24 hours of joining.

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Key Features:

  • Keep a photographic record of your plant collection and garden in one place
  • Tag your plants and take care of them using the community generated plant encyclopedia and plant care task list
  • Get planting inspiration and advice from fellow gardeners & let them help you identify unknown plants in your garden

Continue reading GardenTags – a great Gardening App (review)

Honey on-tap straight from the hive – this is amazing!

A friend recently sent me a link to an article about the Flow Hive and all I can say is ‘WOW’ and when can I get my hands on one?!

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I would love to keep bees however am a little wary, not least due to the fact I ended up in hospital after having a reaction to a wasp sting, albeit a good few years ago now.

This no-fuss hive pretty much looks after itself and to harvest the honey you literally do just turn on the tap.

Continue reading Honey on-tap straight from the hive – this is amazing!