Many of you often comment on how much you enjoy seeing photos of my Bedford, New York farm - I know you'll love these beautiful aerial views.
Recently, a wonderful team from DJI, a market leader in easy-to-fly drones and aerial photography systems, came to the farm with a new model drone called the Mavic Pro. I have flown several different drones over the years, but none as cutting-edge as this one. During the visit, I learned how to take off, navigate, record video, shoot photos and land the device. It was so much fun to fly and so easy to control despite the day's windy winter weather. I can't wait to take it out again and fly it with my grandchildren.
Here are some of the photos I took with the Mavic Pro, and a glimpse at another fun DJI instrument - the Osmo Mobile, which enables you to take still images and motion timelapse videos using a simple hand-held recording stick. For more information, go to DJI's web site by clicking on this highlighted link, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
Here I am with senior DJI pilot, Edward Kostakis. He came to the farm to give me a brief training session on the Osmo Mobile and on the Mavic Pro drone. This is the Osmo – DJI’s camcorder. We went over the basics in my blog studio before venturing outside. http://www.dji.com
The Osmo Mobile uses a smartphone camera to view its footage. The camera provides steady, clear pictures.
A 3-axis stabilization system completely integrated with the camera cancels out movements in three directions, so it stays still even if the operator’s hands shake or wobble.
And the Automatic Panorama mode allows for 360-degree views. The easy to use controls rotate the camera to capture images as it goes. All of DJI’s Smart Shooting modes can be controlled and triggered by remote control from
within the DJI GO app on a smartphone.
The Osmo Mobile is designed to
ergonomically fit the palm of the hand. And, its conveniently placed buttons and controls keep important functions within reach.
Here’s my new drone – the DJI Mavic Pro. It’s all ready for its very first flight! I’ve flown many different model drones, but none as advanced as this one.
The Mavic Pro supports 4K video at 30fps.The 3-axis gimbal can stabilize the camera even during high-speed motion for smooth video and sharp photos.
It’s also very compact. Edward showed me how to fold the unit, so it is easy to transport.
The remote control that comes with it is also a nice size.
It comes equipped with a 12-megapixel camera for crystal clear photos and video no matter how rough the flight.
Here’s the handy remote control that accommodates a smartphone.
The Mavic Pro has quick-release folding propellers that just snap into place.
The lightweight design makes this drone just over 7.7-inches long and three-inches wide. The entire unit weighs a little more than 1.5 pounds.
I decided to do the training session at the foot of my Pin Oak Allee, in front of the flower cutting garden and near my Equipment Barn. I love that I can control the camera right from my iPhone, so I can see everything live as I fly! This photo was taken by the Osmo Mobile.
The Mavic uses Flight Autonomy technology to sense obstacles up to 49-feet away. Here it is, ascending very smoothly.
The controls are very easy to use. Satellite positioning helps a drone hover in an unobstructed outdoor area free of interference, but we could see exactly where it was by looking at the phone’s screen.
I was excited to use it – here is my stable – a very beautiful structure that includes the main stable house where my Friesians, donkeys and Fell pony live, the carriage house on the left, and the farm offices on the right.
This is an overhead shot of my chicken coops and vegetable gardens covered with snow.
Here is a different view of the chicken coops and the gardens. The greenish rectangle on the right is the boxwood “nursery”.
And here’s another shot of the chicken coops. If you look closely, you can see the pigeon coops in the upper left corner. My 20-pigeons are doing very well in their new enclosure.
The drone was flown over the paddocks where it captured this nice image of the Stable Barn in the distance. The chicken coops are on the right.
Here is a closer shot of the Stable Barn and the Tropical Hoop House, where I store most of my rare and exotic warm weather plants during winter.
The drone is now directly above the Stable Barn and Tropical Hoop House. It is so amazing to see such clear images – drones have come a long way.
Here is the Stable Barn from a lower vantage point.
I love this sweeping view of the north and south horse paddocks. The straight lines bordered by the antique fencing look so pretty.
Edward showed me some of the take-off and landing techniques with the Mavic Pro’s advanced system. It is recommended that flights do not go higher than 400-feet up.
Here is another stunning view of my farm. This view looks toward my house in the distance.
Next, I directed the drone’s camera toward the tennis court.
This is the Maple Avenue House, another dwelling at my farm. Just next to it is a long lilac allee that I also lined with beautiful roses transplanted from my home in East Hampton, New York.
On the other side of the Maple Avenue House is the Laura Plimpton Maple Woodland, where I have planted hundreds of gorgeous red Japanese maples.
This beautiful aerial shot shows my long carport, which also includes my blog studio and my flower room. Directly behind it is my home, which I call the Winter House, and the Summer House in the back. On the right are the south paddocks.
This is an image of my gym building in the foreground and my main Greenhouse behind it. To the left is my flower cutting garden hidden by the trees.
Here is a closer look at the Equipment Barn, dry hoop house, vegetable greenhouse and hay barn. I am almost directly below the drone.
This is the southeast paddock – the site of a new project at my farm.
The drone then turned towards the Equipment Barn, to show this side of the main Greenhouse and the snow covered paddocks beyond.
If for any reason contact with the drone is lost, the built-in GPS tracker automatically guides the drone to the location from which it took off!
There is also a special “home” button on the device that, when pressed, tells the drone to return.
It’s important to be mindful of trees and any structures. Fortunately, with this model drone, it can sense when objects are in front of it, and will automatically fly around them – it is an excellent feature.
Edward and I posed for a quick photo before going inside where it was warm.
It was fun to see all the wonderful images we took. What a great device. I can’t wait to take it out for another flight – thanks, DJI.
As many of you know, I've grown quite fond of peafowl. I have two adult peacocks, three adult peahens, and their offspring - several fast growing peachicks. Last weekend, I added another bird to my group - a two-year old Bronze male - I shared a glimpse of him in a blog earlier this week. This new peacock came from Pedda Reddy, a very knowledgeable and passionate peafowl breeder and raiser. Pedda is also where I got my other beautiful male peacocks - a Black Shoulder Pied and a Black Shoulder Silver Pied.
This new young bird won’t be fully mature until three years of age, when he grows his first train of upper tail covert feathers. But for now, he is happy, healthy and seems to be enjoying his first week here at Cantitoe Corners. Enjoy these photos.
The weather warmed to a delightful 64-degrees this week, so the new peacock ventured out of the coop. He is a Bronze male. The bold coloring on males works in their favor as they seek out mates.
This male is considered an adolescent bird. He will be fully mature at the age of three when he will be old enough to breed.
I love his striking dark colors and expressive eyes.
He has only been at the farm for a couple of days, but already he is exploring his new surroundings and spending time with new friends.
He is also very alert and curious.
Here, he turned his head after hearing a plane fly overhead.
Peafowl are very adaptable creatures, and can easily transition from one environment to another.
These are two of the three peachicks that share his pen – they will turn one this summer. Yearling peafowl act much like teenagers – they play, pester each other and love to explore if allowed.
Full grown, peafowl weigh nine to 13-pounds. This bird hatched in an incubator on my kitchen counter last year – it makes me so happy to see how well they are developing.
The new peacock is very friendly. Peafowl will look at you in the eye; however, if you stare at them or seem aggressive in your body movements, these birds will feel threatened. If you are near peafowl, talk softly and keep your eyes averted – this tells them you are not a predator.
In the wild, these birds select homes in varied, deciduous forests, and cultivated lands near villages. To hide from predators, they often roost high up in trees. My peafowl are not shy at all. Because they have grown up here at the farm, they are all very accustomed to the crew and to all the noises.
As peachicks get to be yearlings, their individual personalities become more evident. Some will be more tame and more friendly than others.
Both male and female peafowl will have the fancy crest atop their heads. In the wild, peafowl forage for worms and insects, but they will also eat other small rodents and reptiles. Kept peafowl are fed protein meals made especially for them.
The new peacock did not open his tail during this visit, but I am sure he will in no time – he grows more and more comfortable every day.
Peacocks typically live in groups, and the male will often have a harem of several females at any given time. Peacocks are happiest where there are at least two and no more than four females in the group.
After the breeding season, the males shed all 150 tail feathers, and then start regrowing them immediately. By Christmas, this peacock’s tail should be about three feet long.
Remember, only males are called peacocks – these females are growing peahens. A family of peafowl is called a bevy, and an ostentation or a muster is the term used to describe a group of peafowl.
There is no way to predict what a wild peafowl will do if free. Many of them tend to stay close to their coops, where they are familiar and can access food and water. Right now, I keep them enclosed because they are still young – about eight-months, and I want to protect them from predators.
As beautiful as peafowl are, they don’t make very melodious sounds. Peafowl have 11 different calls. And, with their sharp eyesight, peafowl are quick to see predators and call out alarms.
Notice the covert feathers on the new peacock – because he is only two years old, this is all the train he has been able to grow. A peacock doesn’t grow its first train until three. And even then, it won’t be full grown or have showy ocelli. The train gets longer and more elaborate every year until five or six years old when it reaches maximum splendor.
Peafowl are also very hardy, and although they are native to warm climates, such as the sub-tropics of India and southeast Asia, they can withstand cold and are able to survive brutal winters. It is important, however, to give them shelter from the elements.
I think the new peacock will get along quite nicely with the others, don’t you?
Right outside the young peafowl enclosure, the Black Shoulder Silver Pied adult male opened his train. The Silver Pied is a white bird with about 10 to 20-percent color on it, including the bright iridescent blue. I love the white-eyed feathers.
My new peacock is doing very well. I am looking forward to seeing his first spectacular tail come Christmas.
See you soon, my dear peacock, and welcome to Cantitoe Corners. For the largest source of peafowl information, go to http://www.unitedpeafowlassociation.org
We’re getting a head start on spring cleaning around the farm.
One of the responsibilities of being a homeowner is to make sure all the major appliances are always in good, working order. Keeping household equipment clean and well-functioning not only extends their lives, but can actually help reduce the risk of fire.
Recently, we called in a team from The Butlers & Air Quality to service all the ductwork. According to The National Air Duct Cleaners Association, it is a good idea to have air ducts professionally examined and cleaned every three to five years - vents, and the air ducts behind them, attract dust, pet dander and a host of other particles that can affect the air quality in the home. This process can take several hours depending on the size of the structure, but it's a very important and necessary task. Here are some photos.
Our friends at The Butlers & Air Quality in Yorktown Heights, New York, came out to the farm to service all the ducts and vents. This company is a family-owned and operated business that has been covering the area since 1982. http://www.thebutlersairquality.com
This is a portable diesel fuel air compressor, which provides high pressure clean air to help push the airflow toward the vacuum device.
The vacuum collection device is used to gain airflow control in the ducts and then suction all the debris into its big tank.
This is the top of the collection filter, where any dust and debris from the ducts is collected.
The first stop was the upstairs area of the Tenant House, where my daughter and grandchildren stay when they visit.
The setup involves connecting a large suction hose from the air handler in the attic to the collection tank. A standard household vacuum isn’t powerful enough to clean deep into the crevices of the ducts, so it is always helpful to call in professional teams to do the job.
These hoses run through the house from the outdoor air compressor.
The Butlers & Air Quality team is very neat and tidy – towels are wrapped around the hoses at various points, so as not to mar any of the walls or floors.
Meanwhile, all the air vent covers are carefully removed.
Once removed, they are inspected and cleaned, so any visible debris is directed toward the main duct area.
Using a rag, Ruben wipes down the inside walls of the vent area and checks for any unusual buildup.
And the covers are temporarily replaced with pieces of cardboard to allow for stronger suction power.
This team brings their own supply of usable cardboard scraps.
One by one, Hermes goes to each of the vent openings to snake the hose through and direct all the debris, so it can get picked up by the vacuum, while Ruben holds the lever controlling the airflow pressure.
Up in the attic, Hermes checks that the air handler is working properly and then cleans all the unit’s coils and the blower wheel.
This is an atomization machine filled with antimichrobial that is sprayed into the ductwork to kill any potential, bacteria, mold, or mildew.
The vacuum is then moved down to the basement, where it can be used to clean the vents and ducts in the downstairs zone of this house.
Hermes, who has been with the company for many years, opens the air handler.
Hermes makes an access hole in this unit, so the vacuum’s hose can be connected and airflow can be properly controlled.
The vacuum hose is connected to the supply plenum, an air-distribution box attached directly to the handler and all the equipment that heats or cools the house – it is the heart of the duct system.
And the other end is connected directly into the vacuum collection device.
The vacuum is turned on for at least two to three hours – the duration depends on the size of the home and the amount of ductwork that needs cleaning.
Hermes continues to walk around the home snaking the hoses through the crevices of all the ducts, so everything is directed towards the powerful vacuum.
Cardboard covers all the necessary vent openings.
Here are the particles collected from the Tenant House.
Once everything is cleaned, all the vent covers are carefully returned.
And any dust or debris that fell is vacuumed up.
One house down and a couple more to go – onto the Winter House. Thank you, Butlers & Air Quality!