Archive for September, 2010

Wild Weather

September 18, 2010

Phew.  We had a rather wild wind storm over here on Thursday, especially during the night.  The power went out about 5:30pm and, while cooking tea on my wonderful wood stove that needs no electricity, we watched the first tree fall down in the front yard.  Kim plugged us into the batteries for our new solar system to give us some lights which was lovely.   After tea we heard from our neighbour that a tree had fallen down on our road and was hanging onto the power lines, so there was no going anywhere and the wind just kept on rising.  We took numerous walks around battling through the wind while checking the stock, and refastening tarps onto chook domes etc.

At around 10pm a tree fell onto the back of our house with a bang.  We were most impressed at the strength of the building as it stopped the tree at the roof line, rather than collapsing under it, so we felt very blessed.  Especially since Kim was sitting directly under where it hit.  The first two trees were Silver Wattles which are known for falling as they age, but the tree that really unnerved me was the 30 year old gum about 4 metres from the house that uprooted itself and collapsed with a quiet thud around 10:30pm.  It was probably quite a loud thud really, but it couldn’t compete with the sound of the wind howling through the trees around about.  The gum took out one of our plastic carports and blocked our driveway rather completely.

I’m not feeling so fond of trees right now, as it was a rather scary night.  I had to keep reminding myself that all things are in God’s hands, and if he wanted us to have a tree fall on our heads, well then so be it.  He would help us to cope with whatever circumstances we have to go through. The security he gives us is spiritual more than physical after all.  It did make me appreciate more the suffering of people who are experiencing natural disasters right now, we are so powerlessness against the forces God unleashes in the world.  We certainly weren’t alone in being nervous.  I spoke to a few folk in town who also suffered damage over night, and who had a nerve racking evening.  Everyone says they’ve never seen anything like the wind that night. One family apparently lost their whole roof, and even the church hall has lost some of it’s cladding.  The farmer down the end of our road thinks he has at least 200 trees down, and he has BIG trees.

Another neighbour had an exciting night too.  The tree across the road initially stopped him from returning home that night.  Then when he tried to return to the town he passed a police officer and SES worker removing a tree from the main road so he stopped to talk to them about it.  When they were finished they came with him to look at the tree on our road.  There was so much wind and things flying around that they all agreed it was too dangerous to deal with and our neighbour went into town.  He stayed drinking at the pub until midnight when the publican sent him on his way.  His original plan had been to find somewhere away from trees and sleep the night in his car.  But after his session in the pub he was full of dutch courage and angry as hell that he couldn’t get home.  So instead he came back and parked near the tree hanging on the power lines.  Then he walked home, collected his chainsaw, walked back and cut the darn tree off the lines in the dark and in the wind.  He then drove home triumphantly and got to bed around 5am.

On inspecting the damage Friday morning we felt very grateful to God that we were all well and unharmed, and our stock were all fine too.  We were also very thankful that the wind had stopped!  The only thing is our rabbit escaped when his hutch was blown over.  The power lines to a neighbours place had been pulled down by a falling tree and it looks like we will not have any power until his wires are repaired as our power comes off the same pole which has been switched off for the time being.  We have some of our off grid system we can use, although no solar panels yet so no real way to recharge the batteries at a decent rate, but we can still use them a bit.

We went to work on the fallen gum tree yesterday morning and managed to clear a pathway though it so that we can get cars through.  We were then busy cutting the tree down from the roof and getting a tarp attached to cover the resultant holes with for the time being.  That also entailed fixing up the overflow pipe for the hot water system.  We also had to do running repairs on the pig shelters and chicken domes.  My poor greenhouse needed the roof plastic refastening and the back wall had to be recovered as the plastic was shredded.

Finally with a big sigh of relief we sat down to tea and enjoyed the power of the generator that Kim stripped down and rebuilt in the afternoon. He had quite a bit of motivation for that job and lots of encouragement and moral support from the rest of us.  We felt rather exhausted by the end of the day, but were pleased that we got the main things that needed doing finished.  Here’s hoping (and praying) for a quieter time for a while.

But wait, there’s more

September 9, 2010

Look, look, we have our combustion stove working now.  Admittedly there are still a few problems to iron out – the hot water runs rather slow, the oven door prefers to stay open rather than closed and smoke leaks from under the hob when the fire is first lit – but on the whole it is working a treat.  Since we started the first tentative fire in it last Friday I have cooked numerous batches of Minestrone soup, lots of bacon, eggs and beans for breakfast or lunch, toasted sandwiches in the frypan, made chicken casserole, chicken chasseur, sausages, meatballs, quiche, self saucing pudding, chocolate cakes both gluten free and normal and just generally had a ball trying it out.  It works very nicely and I just can’t seem to resist using the stove when it is hot to make something useful on it.  I can see us all getting very fat if I am not careful!  As a bonus the oven works a treat for drying firewood.  🙂

Also we can report that we have installed some LED lights in the Manor as our first trial.  We have to put them in in batches of 4, so we mounted 2 LEDs in each of the smallish rooms up there.  The boys seem quite happy with them and they are working well so far which is most promising, lighting the two rooms for a total of 10 watts of electricity. They should last about 20 years before they need replacing too.

Finally I wanted to share a photo of the horse and cow.  We recently moved them higher up on the block as their paddock has flooded as expected.  They are currently restrained by the thin yellow rope you can see in the picture below.  They think it is an electric fence wire, and that it will zap them if they touch it so they are very careful to stay within it’s boundaries.  However it is actually just the cheapest rope I could buy, has absolutely no power in it, and the barrier between them and the rest of the world is purely psychological!  The area they are in is directly under the power lines running to our neighbour and Kim was concerned that it would not be safe to run electric fencing there, so we opted for this alternative instead.  I have to say that this does not work with pigs, they will always test the fence, but the horse and cow seem much more compliant, and we are very grateful for that! Here’s hoping that it lasts!

Going Solar Phase 2

September 2, 2010

I thought I would show you our new LEDs which arrived last week.  Kim has been testing them and, as he hoped, if we run 4 of them in series then we do not need any control circuits, but can run them straight off the batteries.  In fact he has worked it out so that the wire that connects them will act to reduce the voltage if the batterie’s voltage should get higher than what the LEDs can handle.  However if the battery voltage stays around 12.5V then there is little resistance, so it should all work well and be very power efficient.

We are hoping that 4 LEDs will be sufficient to light most rooms in the main building, so we will do some experimenting soon to see how best we can arrange them.  They can give off 493 lumens each, and to give you some idea, a 60W light globe gives off 700 lumens.  They are SO tiny, but very bright.  They give off their light in a 120 degree radius which is more focussed than a normal light globe so we will have to see what the effect is when we get them in place.  We hope that having 4 in the lounge room and kitchen will spread the light adequately.  Next job is to mount them and run the wires, switches etc.  The first place we are going to do is the “Manor” since that runs off 12V already.  There are just two small rooms in the Manor, so we are going to try two LEDs in each room and see how it looks.

Kim has also been plugging away at getting our new combustion stove plumbed in with it’s hot water system.  He has been soldering copper fittings together, drilling holes in the walls to connect everything up, welding up tears in the cold water tank, making a platform and all sorts.

The hot water tank is situated down the end of the new decking out the front, and will ultimately be boxed in and surrounded with insulation.  The associated cold water tank will be mounted above it on the roof.  It is all very exciting to see the stove and associated HWS coming together.  We hope to be able to test it by the end of this week.  This decking out the front of the kitchen is also where our big batteries are going to live.  In between the HW tank and the batteries I should still be able to fit a couple of chairs so I can sit there in the sunshine and watch the birds.