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Hedgehog nighttime still

Milesight: Going the ‘whole hog’ for garden wildlife viewing!

After a successful and satisfying conclusion to a ‘Smart 2nd Home’ implementation in a small coastal town on the west coast of France, we were flattered to receive a referral, from a friend of the owner.

The Smart Home business involves some highly technical solutions, and as such, it’s of crucial importance to possess expert understanding of equipment, their specifications, capabilities and performance characteristics.

But this is not enough to guarantee success at the end of the project. ACC HAUS, there exists an overriding golden rule:

REMEMBER that an end solution can NEVER be considered fit for purpose, no matter how brilliant it is…..if it is not ‘compatible’ with the personality of the buyer!

And so we embarked on this project, with our golden rule very much front of mind! Not exactly your typical Smart Home job – this was a customer that had a specific & somewhat prickly area of interest and needed our help. Hedgehogs.

The customer had already tried one of those wildlife cameras you see on nature programs. They are quite clever little devices, with motion sensing, night vision and being battery operated, you can stick them pretty much anywhere. Technically the solution was good on paper, but it failed our ‘golden rule test’, and so did not fit the brief.

The customer it transpired, was after a more ‘interactive’ experience – so rather than having to set a camera trap in the evening and then spend the next morning (when she’s got other things to do), fiddling around with memory sticks, and then having to sift through grainy and partially obscured ‘hog-shots’ that contain glimpses of the odd snout and prickly bottom. Yes, our client wanted to assume the role of ‘wildlife camerawoman’, live, in the evening, and all from the comfort of her bed too!

From our enjoyable solution interview, we constructed the brief for what became known internally as ‘Project Hog-watch’

Hog-watch: the brief

This customer required a solution that would…..

  • Allow a non-technical person to view and record and share nightly Hedgehog antics
  • Remotely move / zoom the camera with phone / tablet – again, easily
  • Camera must possess excellent night vision characteristics
  • Have a high level optical zoom
  • Come with a small, easy to use DVR, which must not be noisy
  • The DVR must connect to bedroom TV via HDMI, but simultaneously controllable with tablet / phone
  • Must be of good quality, be robust, all weather, and affordable.
  • Finally, all of this must be simple enough for a completely not technical person to operate!

And our recommended solution was…..




The C5361-EPB is a quality item, and it really fits the brief perfectly. The images the device produces are pin sharp HD, it has an 360 degree rotation, 75 degree tilt, a 12 x optical zoom and possesses excellent night vision ability (0.002Lux). I admit the first time I saw the images this camera recorded in full zoom, I experienced a ‘mouth open’ moment. Truly jaw dropping.


Zoom in

(above) the C5361-EPB zoomed in….


(Above) …and zoomed out. The position of the zoomed in bird feeders is circled in red

You can program in multiple positional / zoom pre-sets too – so pre-set 1: zoom in on the water bowl. Pre-set 2 zoom out by the log store. The pre-set feature is perfect for quickly getting good shots of the right areas at the right zoom, useful when your subject is fast moving and little on the shy side. Without pre-sets, on manual operation by the time you have fiddled with the camera positioning / zoom your subject might just have scuttled off someplace.

Milesight made this camera easy to mount and install, with a ‘junction box’ which is mounted first (without camera attached) so once that is done, the camera can easily be dropped into place. A single PoE cable is all that is required to connect the camera to Milesight DVR which supplies the required 20W max of PoE power (with IR on).


(Above: The junction box is fitted to the wall, then the camera to the junction box)




The MS-N1009-UPT/1TB again perfectly met the brief in being impressively small at just (115mm (w) by 115mm (D) by 180mm(H) ) and quiet. The customer only had to connect the PoE from the camera, HDMI to her bedroom TV and then a network cable from her home router. After we followed a very straight forward setup routine, she was all set. It was certainly a smart move to go for a camera / DVR solution from the same vendor as this eliminated the possibilities of compatibility / performance issues. The system worked like a charm from the minute it was switched on.

(above: demonstrating how the owner can control the solution with a touchscreen tablet, and then see the results on a far more impressive HD display)

The unit can supply a max of 40W of PoE power, so enough for another MS-C5361-EPB if needed. In total the DVR has 4 interfaces for direct connection and can record from 9 channels at 5MP simultaneously. Additional power can always be injected if needed.

Going the ‘whole hog’ for this customer was not just about finding the best technology, but the best technology, that was right for her

(above: the author of this blog, with MILESIGHT MS-C5361-EPB behind; keeping a close eye on him!)

On completion of the job, it gives me much satisfaction to occasionally receive images and videos from my most definitely non-technically minded customer & wildlife enthusiast!

(above: impressive video footage shot by the customer, in middle of the night / pitch black of her Hedgehog goings on!)

The Ultimate Pizza Oven: More Uses, More Usage: Morsø Forno!

Few things are as predictable in life than:

  1. On the first remotely sunny & warm day of the year here in the UK, the media bombards us with ads for barbecues & pizza ovens.
  2. You have a great idea to write a blog item about your own pizza oven ‘journey’, but before you can even finish it, the heavens opens and we are back to ‘normal’ British weather again!

So as we look back with fond memories of what could be this year’s entire summer (June  2018!) here’s my own pizza oven story. Who knows it might help you decide what to buy in time for next year’s British and brief sunny interlude!?

Those reading this entry who know me, must be thinking that I have now completely lost the plot:

Why did Jeff buy a Pizza oven? Surely when considering a means to cook a pizza outside, ‘fire’ would be his least preferred heat source option?

Why did he not create something similar to Scaramangas giant solar beam from ‘The Man With The Golden Gun?’

Though I am guilty as charged for going slightly over the top tech-wise on some of my own house, when it comes to outdoor living, I find there is nothing more immensely pleasurable than reacquainting one’s self with one’s primeval instincts to stoke a raging fire and savour the unforgettable aroma of singed sideburns.

Plus, if the world does self-implode (as predicted when the UK leaves the EU next March), right after the power grid conks out, I will smugly see out my final hours devouring a large Italian style pizza in one last, tasty arrivederci! to our European friends.

I’m not ashamed to admit it, but my first attempt to find a pizza oven turned out to be a complete disaster. If it were ever to find its way into a contemporary art gallery, you would certainly find it on a plinth in the human emotion section entitled ‘dissatisfaction in re-factored concrete’.

I do not wish to relive the entire traumatic affair on here but let’s just say that I found myself :

  • Perpetually living in fear of finding new sinister looking cracks grinning at me from the ovens interior
  • Literally having to ‘eat dirt’ as my pizza creations became increasingly garnished with ‘concrete croutons’ emanating from the ovens increasingly heat pitted, non-replaceable base.

These are not cheap items to purchase, so my first bit of advice to anyone thinking about purchasing a pizza oven: buyer beware.

Luckily for me I was able to get a full refund after the replacement oven, a second 90Kg dollop of disappointment was no better than the first. With my cash back, I suddenly realised I had been looking for completely the wrong type of oven all along.

Sooty & Geek

Now I absolutely love pizza, but there are only so many pizzas a geek can eat in a week, before he or she starts getting bored of tomato covered bread. Pizza oven vendors have cunningly recognised this barrier to purchase and love to post up all sort of elaborate recipes as to make a claim for their products versatility. One even likes to advertise that you can cook a full Sunday roast in theirs.

Let me tell you, unless you’re OK with performing the cooking equivalent of keyhole surgery at 350C, try as you might, your arms and hands will turn soot black, as, most likely, will your food, once you finally managed to harpoon dinner from the fiery depths of your chicken crematorium.

There is a reason why the traditional the pizza oven is designed in the shape it is, and why you need to use something that looks like a snow shovel to use it. News flash: It’s not roast chicken.

Morsø Forno: More than just Pizza!

So it turns out that the ideal pizza oven, isn’t actually a pizza oven after all, or at least it doesn’t look like one. I had actually stumbled upon the Morsø Forno on my first pass of searching for something that looked like a ‘proper’ oven, and decided it could not possibly even accommodate a mini pitta bread let alone pizza. Little did I know I would end up eating both my words, and my pizza from it too.

The more research and video watching of how Danish Chef Gorm Wiswehcook was using his (one of which I include at the bottom of this blog), the more I realised the Morsø Forno was the outside oven for me. This Danish company has been making stoves and ovens since 1853 I thought, they must know a thing or two about them.

The Forno weighs in at 96Kg, yes that does sound a little hefty, but on arrival, the great thing about this oven is that it comes in multiple parts which are simply put together.

Probably not recommended but my handyman shifted the main parts all on his own, carrying one part at a time, and carefully placed one part on the other. A sturdy table with a granite top was all that was needed, so no building project required. But it’s possible to put together, and even more importantly, un-put together, and therefore move, to anywhere you like.

Perfect Forno and Function

Unlike its concrete predecessor, the Forno is hewn from iron and it looks and feels absolutely stunning. It’s not an oven, more a work of art and if ever there was an object that was the epitome of both form and function, this has got to be a serious contender.

It’s built to last, there is nothing to easily break, chip or crack. Even the fire bricks that make up the central oval cooking area are segmented and completely, easily removable and therefore replaceable.

Yes, I admit the Forno was not cheap, but actually, the previous oven was even more expensive, so I was able to splash out on a load of quality accessories and still have a little cash left over.

Classy leather oven gloves, all weather cover (essential to prevent rusting) , cast iron casserole dishes, cast iron hot plate, cast iron grill, fire tongs, and a ‘fire trumpet’ as I call it. The fire trumpet is a device not to dissimilar to a croupiers rake, which has an ingenious double use. Move your wood around, then doing your best Dizzy Gillespie impression, blow down the ‘trumpet’ mouth piece at one end to literally breathe new life back into fading embers. Maybe drilling some holes in it I could actually play a tune – ‘Come On Baby Light My Fire’ by the Doors maybe?!

360 degree cooking with the Theta S 😉 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

(Above: Why not take a 360 view inside a Morsø Forno!? Admire my ‘fire trumpet’ playing also!)

HyperConvergence Of Pizza Oven, BBQ And Smoker in one!

But the problem is, the real genius of the Morsø does not become blazingly obvious until you have already suffered the misfortune of buying a ‘normal’ pizza oven, by which point it’s probably too late. Your money is spent and your goose is well and truly cooked (more likely, completely carbonised). Because only once you have cooked with both will you discover how the Forno delivers such a superior cooking experience.

Gone is the long soot lined tunnel, replaced instead with a gaping, inviting aperture, which, when situated in pride of place in your garden, is literally screaming ‘cook in me’ at you. The openness of the oven not only transforms cooking, but also simplifies the tasks of cleaning, stacking kindling and lighting it too.

The wide opening and cavernous interior also means that with the appropriate Morsø accessories, you can cook a whole lot more in your oven than just pizza, the cast iron grill stand being a personal favourite. Quite simply the best flame grilled Stilton topped burgers I have ever tasted.

If you like smoked fish, once the fire has died down a bit, if you stick a wet flannel over the chimney, chuck some smoking wood dust in the oven, and stick the front door on, you can make the most delicious home-made smoked salmon from it too.


Morso Forno for grilling

(above: I using the grill accessory to make the best burgers I have ever tasted. They looked so good cooked I couldn’t be bothered to show you the finished result – sorry!)

And finally….

If all the above isn’t enough to convince, to appreciate this oven, you don’t even need to cook in it at all. It’s just as good as an outdoor fireplace, light it up on a cold autumn evening and it will heat everything around it – the thing absolutely chucks heat out. Pizza ovens are heat selfish, they are designed to keep heat in. The Forno gets just as hot (and can still an OK job of retaining thanks to the heat retention properties of iron) but it’s also extremely sociable at ‘sharing’ its heat too. Just don’t sit too close!

Morsø designed cooking success right into this product when they created it. I’m no professional cook, but it’s a simple fact that, because you are so much closer to the food, you are so much better able to manage it, see it, smell it and taste it.

So if cooking is all about the senses, common sense should therefore dictate that your next Pizza oven should be a Morsø Forno!


Above: Gorm makes smoked salmon in a Morso Forno…