Archive for the ‘Cars’ Category

Getting a Few Things Done

January 14, 2017

We have had a few things happening since I wrote last September that I thought I would share.  The most important has been the fact that we finally became fully off grid last Spring.  We had a couple of weeks of ‘heads up’ before the power pole was disconnected and cut down and we were on our own!  We scrambled to mount and wire up more solar panels on the roof ready to be connected.  Our little roof is now crammed with solar panels!  There are 3kW of solar panels at the house and 1kW at the caravan with another 1kW awaiting connection there.

House with 3KW Solar Panels and 24V Batteries
 
We struck a problem when the new deep cycle batteries we had ordered did not arrive as promised, so we had to rely pretty heavily on the generator for a couple of weeks.  Finally, after being messed around way way too much, we cancelled our battery order and bought a second hand, but very good, 36V forklift battery pack.  We pulled all the individual batteries out and set up a 24 volt set at the main building and joined the remaining 12 volts with our old 12 volt set to create another 24 volt system over at the caravan.  These batteries have actually worked out better for us than the ones we had been going to use as we got more storage capacity. The batteries are very heavy, so we moved the old ones using the tractor. 
 
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We were able to change from our original 12V plans to two 24V system because we managed to pick up a brilliantly priced secondhand 24V 3000W Latronics inverter for the house and a 1800W one for the caravan.  A bunch of GSL MPPT controllers manage the solar panels.  Both Latronics and GSL are Australian brands and seem very good.  It is all working well so far, though Winter will definitely challenge us, but we do have the generator for just such moments.  Kim has plans to buy a Victron 24V 100A charger which we can use to charge the batteries from the generator, which should help too.  It is all a bit of a learning curve having to be careful with the use of the power at times, but Kim bought some Victron battery monitors that are a real help for monitoring how the systems are going.  It is rather nice having the two separate systems as we can draw power from either or both of them, which gives us the option of resting one if it’s battery power is getting low.  There is still more work to do before Kim will be happy with it all, but the house system is almost done and the caravan system is working, though Kim wants to move and modify the inside wiring somewhat.
We want to put in a micro hydro system as well and now have plans for the water pickup spot for that, and even a man with machinery lined up to do the work, but that is still a job that must wait for the future.  Meanwhile it is nice it think we will never have another bill from Aurora Energy!
You may have heard that my lovely Mum gave us all a fright last year when she became very unwell.  We thought she might have had a stroke as she had developed neurological symptoms, but it turned out to be caused by high calcium levels in the blood.  After a few weeks in hospital she returned home much improved, though still weak.  My sister from America, Linda, was able to travel over and stay with Dad and Mum for a few weeks and help them out during this period, which was a real blessing.  The folks are back on their own again now and are managing fine, though my other sister, Alison, is keeping a close eye on them.  
 
I managed to get a picture of Kim with our current fleet of cars.  We have gone very French with one peugeot, two citroens and the VW caravelle van.  We still have the VW beetle too but it does not get used very much.  Kim does all the maintenance and repairs which consumes a fair bit of his time.  In the last few months he has had to deal with a broken windscreen, a chipped windscreen, re-gassing an air conditioner, fitting an air flow meter, replacing an alternator, replacing a starter motor and replacing a fan control circuit as well as oil, filter and tyre changes.  With all the travelling for Lydia’s work and other things we do an awful lot of kilometres!
carfleet
Lydia recently had local man do some clearing so she could have a nice level area to ride her pony on.  Rod spent two days in his little excavator pushing down trees, cutting off the tops and roots and putting them onto a burning pile.  He also dug out some large stumps and buried them, then roughly levelled the whole area.  He did a great job and having all the branches, roots and scrub burnt at the same time was a bonus I was not expecting.
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We dragged all the logs away and lined them up to make it easy to cut them into rounds and split the rounds into firewood.  Another bonus of the job.  Sadly the tractor blew a tyre in the process, rather terminally – another repair job for Kim to add to his list!
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The area cleared is about  25m wide and 42m long.  Lyd finds it good to ride on with plenty of room for circles and jumps etc.  There are a few small roots and things sticking up but they don’t seem to bother the pony at all.
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We have set up a small soccer goal at one end for the boys to use (if they ever get a few minutes when they feel up to it!), so they can enjoy it too.
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Immediately after the new year we had my sister Linda and most of her family come to visit after spending Christmas in Perth with our folks.  They did a bunch of touring around and we tagged along as best we could.  In this photo we were doing the Dove Lake circuit at Cradle Mountain. It was really lovely to spend some time with them all and the time passed all too soon.
dovelake
In order to accomodate an extra 5 people I had decided we needed to get busy working on the old bus, so we towed it up close to the house with the tractor, which was fun in a hair raising kind of way.  It was actually quite uneventful to get it roughly to the spot we had planned, but trying to get it sitting exactly where I wanted was rather a challenge with no brakes to speak of in a 6 tonne bus.  There was only so much control that the tractor had with just a bar between them and when the bus started to roll down the slope past the tractor I confess I was a bit concerned, and Sam and Josiah, who had been watching from the trampoline in front of us, sensibly took off.  It might have been my shriek that made them do that!  LOL.  The bus did stop okay though and we managed to back it up again and decided that it really didn’t have to be exactly where I had planned – close enough was good enough after all.  🙂
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Then we did some scrubbing and re-flooring and general prettying up.  We did not have the time or funds to line the walls properly but managed to pick up some wallpaper at a charity and temporarily covered up the walls with that and made some curtains to keep out the 5am morning light.  Then we jury rigged some fly screens to the large gaping side and front windows and made some drop down blinds from greenhouse plastic.
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
Finally we moved some beds into the main room, made a custom fitted narrow bed for the back room (the old smoking compartment), ran a power cable across and it was ready.  The reports were that it worked well, and since the visitors left our family have been using it quite a bit just to hang out in.  The large open windows make it quite airy and pleasant in the late afternoon/evening of a warm day.  It still does leak in a heavy rain though, so we need to do more riveting on one of the sides.  Ultimately we hope to install proper windows on the side and front and some floor coverings would be nice too.  One day…..
Inside the Bus - ready for visitors
We have also just had some hay baled.  We do not have enough grass to do it on our own property, but a friend of a friend has some pasture land with no animals to feed on it.  He had been just slashing it down but last year he offered it to us to make hay, since hay was so very scarce, and we were keen to have it.  We only got 3 rolls of hay last year with the bad conditions after the drought so we had no idea what to expect this year.  It was a pleasant surprise to get 16 rolls.
hay-by-jill
Then we had the challenge of getting them all home.  Last year we used a hand winch to pull a bale up some car ramps and onto our small trailer. Then we tied the bale down and drove it home.  That was okay for just a few bales, but 16 was going to be an awful drain on our time and the hand winch is not easy to use.  A more polished plan was needed.  In the end we borrowed a friend’s large trailer which has high sides and proper loading ramps and we set up an electric winch on it which could be run from a spare battery in the back of the van.  We can now winch the bales in with a minimum of effort, and it was great to find that the trailer fitted 2 rolls per trip.  It is much easier to find time to do 8 trips rather than 16, especially since we still have all the running back and forth to Lydia’s work to fit in.  So far we have moved half of the rolls home before being interrupted by 23mm of rain.  Now we are waiting for the paddocks to dry a bit before getting the rest as the caravelle’s traction on hills of wet grass would be a bit challenged, especially towing such a heavy load!
hayloading
Meanwhile I have tomatoes, cucumber and corn coming up well in this year’s vegetable cages, and more corn planted at Paul’s place.
tomatoes
We may have mentioned before that we need cages to protect the plants from cute fiends like this possum!
Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus Vulpecula)
Pademelons are happy to eat their share too of course.
Bennett's Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus)
The cold frame worked well for raising my tomato, cucumber and corn seeds to a good size in time for planting.  Hopefully the warm weather will last long enough this year to get plenty of produce ripened – but over here you just never know.
cold-frame
Kim has done some wheeling and dealing on the second hand market to upgrade his camera again.  He now has to learn how to to get the best out of his new camera.  Also the programme that he uses to store and edit his photos is no longer supported and he has had to change to a different one, which is being even more of a steep learning curve to learn how to use.  However he still manages to get some great shots in my opinion.  Just the other day the insects were busy at Nawawntapu National Park near Lydia’s work and he got some lovely shots of a butterfly
Yellow Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa itea) on white flowers feeding
 and dragonfly.
Dragonfly
This coming week the pastor’s wife and I are organising a Kids Craft Day at the church.  The main crafts will be jewellery making for various ages, cactus planting in cups and an adaption of marshmallow shooters that I am calling Sheep Shooters, as well as general paper craft and play doh.  It is the first time we have done anything like this and we have no idea at all how many children will turn up.  It will be interesting to see.  🙂
Well, I think that is most of our news for now.  Best wishes to you.

Summary of Summer

March 15, 2014

Hello again.

Summer is over now and we are keenly waiting for some rain to moisten the ground and let the grass grow a bit before winter arrives.  It has been a dry summer for Tasmania, though nothing compared to WA, but still not what is normal for us.  So, what have we been up to this Summer?  Well, mostly we have been working on getting lots of firewood split and drying for winter.  We never have as much as we would like but we are doing better this year than any previous year.  This plastic carport is almost full and we plan on getting more into another carport before the end of autumn.

Firewood2014

Our good neighbour gave us a frame full of his honey.  We had given him all our honey working equipment a few years back and his bees are producing well enough this year that he was able to share the harvest.

Honey

We have purchased a 7 seater 1986 VW Caravelle GL to replace our old rusty kombi – and we LOVE it.

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It feels like a luxury vehicle to us and there is just so much space to spread out but it can still be used for farm work such as collecting grain and hay, so it is very useful as well as being comfortable.  The boys like to sit in it just to get out of the house.  🙂

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Our new fleet is a bit more modern than before – but not too much.  We are currently looking to sell the old orange VW Wagon, so that Kim does not have too many cars to look after, but the Beetle stays!!!

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We got another 3 solar panels to add to our system but before we could mount them on the roof we first we had to fix up our poor wobbly carport.  Can you see the slope on the roof at the end?

CarportBefore

Also we had the 3 large white gums on the right of the above picture brought down too.  So that gave us even more trees to cut up for firewood – it never ends!

MoreTrees

We also decided to clear up the area between the shack and the caravan which meant there was plenty of room to bring down a multi branched wattle that was leaning over the greenhouse.  It became a point of pride that none of it should fall on either the greenhouse to one side or the little nectarine on the other.

Branches

There was a lot of mess for a while before we managed to work our way through it all.  Thank goodness for chainsaws and block splitters!

SpaceAgain

Using our post hole digger on the tractor and a new (actually second hand of course) Paslode impulse nail gun that Kim is pretty chuffed with we installed two nice new posts on the carport so that the roof was strong and straight and we could mount the next 3 solar panels.  Kim is now working on running the wires through to the house and connecting it all up via circuit breakers etc.

CarportDone

Josiah helped put all the palings on the carport wall.  I think he is learning to appreciate power tools.

PalingCarport

We took our new van to Launceston one weekend recently and went to some garage sales where we bought a nice big mincer very cheaply, which will be a great boon when we do our next pig.  I had been hoping to get a big mincer, although this was a bit bigger than I had been thinking of, but the price was just too attractive to pass up and it seems to work very well.  We also have a large slicer which is good for when we do our own hams.  It certainly makes the work easier when you have the right tools for the job.

MincerEtc

Lydia’s pademelon joey is weaned and now wanders freely around the block.  For a couple of weeks he was coming back each day for a drink of milk, but now he doesn’t bother.  We see him sometimes and he seems to be doing just fine.

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I’m sorry to say that we lost 9 chooks and a turkey hen to a spotted tail quoll again recently.  The wretched thing got through the electric fence as well as a mesh fence to get to the poor poultry.  We were most upset because one of the hens was “Platinum” our lovely Silver laced Wyandotte.  We believe that we have sorted the problem out now though, and hopefully they will be safe again.  It’s the first time we’ve had a quoll get through the fence when it was working properly so we hope they don’t make a habit of it.

Our poor potato crop has been ravaged by wallabies this year.  I think it is because it has been so dry that the wallabies have made the effort to bust through the electric fence to get at the spuds just because they were green.  I have managed to salvage some by running the electric mesh fence around them, but it is disappointing to have all the work we did planting spuds just go to feeding the wildlife. Personally I think they should be able to make do with what is outside the fence!

We were blessed to have Kim and Paul’s auntie and uncle come to visit this week.  It was wonderful to see them again and to catch up on some family news.  They were also kind enough to bring me the milk separator that they used on their farm 30 years ago.  SO generous!  The separator is in wonderful condition and I can’t wait to try it out – however Twinkles is “dried up” at the moment in preparation for her second calf that is expected at the end of April.  Still, that should give me enough time to work out where to mount and keep it so that it is convenient to use. I think it should build up our arm muscles – winding it at the right speed to make it work correctly.  Sounds like a job for Josiah.

CreamSeparator

I was relieved when Aurora finally came and installed another power pole to raise up the high voltage power lines alongside our driveway.  It took me chasing them up a couple more times but eventually they got the job done.  I think it was when I said that if someone stood under the lowest point and put their arms up in the air they would die, that made them finally take it seriously.  The men who came (the very next day) to install the pole said that they had never seen high voltage lines so low, and they put it through as an emergency job.  It makes me feel good every day when I walk down the driveway and see the lines way up in the air.

Kim couldn’t resist taking some photos of some yellow tailed black cockatoos today when they were hanging around the shack.  They are such beautiful big birds, and we are hopeful that they really are flying before the rain like my Mum used to say they did.

YellowTailedCocky

I think that is all our news for now.  I hope you don’t mind all the photos – I get a bit carried away sometimes.

Cold, chooks, cobwebs, cataloging and cars

May 12, 2012

Hi there!  I hope this post finds you warm and well.  It is a balmy 7 degrees in Mole Creek today, I think we reached a maximum of 7.5.  I wanted to get out and dig some spuds today but somehow the idea just didn’t seem very enticing, especially with all the rain that was coming down too.  There was a lovely view of snow on the mountains when I got up, but mostly there were so many rain clouds around that you couldn’t see the mountains at all.  So instead I’ve been cleaning the house and making steamed pork buns on my lovely combustion stove, and I thought that writing an email was a good idea too.  Any excuse to stay inside.  🙂

We have moved our Bush Ranger chooks up to the back of the block now.  They are close to the creek where our water pickup is.  It’s nice to feel like we are making a little more use of the bushy back portion of our property now.  The big tent is what the chooks sleep and shelter in and the little tent is our storage tent which holds extra hay, sawdust and feed.

They look a bit lost amongst the trees.

There are a mixture of Araucanas, Leghorns and cross breeds up there at the moment.  Sadly we are having a second wave of the viral liver cancer disease, Lymphoid Leukosis, going through the chooks closer to home.  It is not unexpected as the disease seems to take quite a while before any symptoms show, and since the only solution is to see which birds are resistant and breed from them so we will just have to be patient.  We are not breeding Barnevelders anymore as they seem to be very susceptible to this disease and Lydia is hoping that her French Marans will be resistant and a good dark egg laying alternative.

Speaking of Lydia, she now has a tack shed down the front of the block next to the horse paddock.  It was given to us by a friend and Lyd and I spent a few days laying a foundation and putting together the little shed.  Lyd likes to ride up the back to feed the chooks each afternoon and the tack shed makes the whole process much easier.

Lyd applied for a part time horse exercising job the other day and went in for an interview this morning.  The interview included riding a “challenging Eventer”.  She had a ball, really enjoyed riding the mare and managed to get her to behave herself in the end.  So it seems that she has passed the first phase of the testing, and when they have worked through some more of the applicants they will be getting the hopeful ones back to try an even more challenging horse!  They told her she should expect another call.  I’m not sure whether to be pleased or not!

During my early morning hikes up the back of the block to feed the chooks I have been admiring the cobwebs that look so lovely, especially on the misty mornings.

There are plenty to see.  🙂

Lydia and I have also been attempting to identify many of the plants that we have growing up the back.  Lyd would like to plant more natives into the mix, especially some that grow edible berries or leaves for the chooks to eat.  We picked up a few plants at Agfest which we have planted out.  (Agfest is a huge annual Agricultural show here in Tassie which doesn’t have the sideshows and non-agricultural stuff that you get at normal shows, and when I say huge the fact that it took us almost an hour to get out of the parking lot might give you a bit of an idea of the size.)  After buying a plant called a Mountain Blue Berry we found one climbing up a gum tree up the back.  I was excited to try and eat it and it tasted like, well, it didn’t really have any taste at all but it had the texture of foam.  The normal blueberries are in no danger of losing their place on the supermarket shelves from this plant I can assure you!

Last week we had a timing belt break on my little Seat car.  It was rather frustrating as Kim had been going to book it in to have the belt changed the following week but we were too late.  It damaged the valves but the pistons survived so I guess the bill could have been worse, but it was an expense we would rather have done without.  Still thankfully we had the funds to cover it, it will just delay the going organic process a little, and we were thinking of waiting until Spring to apply anyway.

Well, I think I better get off the computer and let someone else have a go now.  Take care.