Archive for the ‘Church’ 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. 
 
SONY DSC
 
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.
SONY DSC
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!
SONY DSC
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.
SONY DSC
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.
SONY DSC
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.  🙂
SONY DSC
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.
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How are the Howes

March 11, 2012

Hi All

Sometimes it seems like we don’t get a lot done, and it is useful to look back over time and see that slowly slowly we are progressing to our goals. That is one reason that I quite enjoy writing these posts as it makes me look back and see what we have achieved, or what we need to learn from our mistakes.  🙂

One major event recently was that Sam went back to WA and Albany for his good mate’s wedding.  He was worried about how he would cope with his rotten health, but he managed okay and had a wonderful time catching up with his grandparents, folk at the Albany Baptist church, and many of his old school friends.

Caleb has finally finished his medical tests and the doctor has diagnosed him as having a combination of Chronic Fatigue (like his Dad) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which sadly leaves us with no prospect of a cure in sight.   Still, it is better to know so that he can focus on trying to manage his symptoms as best as he can.

Lydia continues to work towards her organic chook business.  We have now located a source of organic grains and another of organic hay and plan to shift to feeding everything organic this month.  We are making the pigs, horse and cow all organic as well.  Then we will have to find the funds to register with Tasmanian Organic Producers and have all the tests done.  In the meantime, Lydia is starting a Polytechnic (what used to be TAFE) course: Certificate 4 in Agriculture.  They are trialling a new system where she can do the study focussing on the business she wants to run.  The bookwork is done mostly by correspondence with 4 visits a year to our place by the co-ordinator.

Josiah did two weeks of swimming lessons in Deloraine during the holidays and is progressing well.  He learnt back sculling, which seems like a good thing to know for safeties sake.  This year the weather was a bit better too, and it didn’t rain every day.  🙂  We are back in the swing of homeschooling again now, which keeps us busy.

Our garden system has been invaded by possums since I last wrote.  It turns out that possums like sunflower heads to eat, two of them broke through the netting over the top of the gardens and munched up all the flowers then dug into the next door cage and went to sleep in the chooks nesting box! I was NOT impressed. However apart from that hiccup, the gardens have continued to produce well.

I love looking at all the greenery in there.

I have even managed to get some cucumbers and tomatoes to grow this year, which is never an easy feat at our place.  Tomatoes here have only just started to blush and, given that it is March already, we are expecting the season to end with a frost quite soon.

Our potatoes are still growing.  Some areas look to be growing better than others.  You can see in the photo that the closer plants are good and thick with vegetation whilst there are some more sparse plants higher up.  I’m not sure if it is the variety of spud or the preparation of the ground that is at fault.  Hopefully we will be able to tell more once we get properly into harvesting.  We have dug up a few plants already and really enjoyed the baby potatoes we have eaten so far.  There are Brownell’s, Nicola and Kennebec’s to choose from.

I have an arboreal pumpkin living life dangerously at the moment.  It started off in a raised compost bin and took off into the sapling behind.

I’m not sure how much weight the stalk will be able to hold!

There are numerous tomatoes bursting out of the same compost bin too.  It’s all a bit crazy in there.

We have been busy organising firewood as well although once again we are running behind what we wanted to have chopped up at this stage, but we do have a decent pile.  This year we hired a block splitter which was worth every penny in the labour that it saved.  We now have enough rounds cut to need to hire it again.

Our chicks have continued to grow.  We have mostly hatched Lavender Aracauna’s this year and have lots of little grey birds of varying sizes running around everywhere with their foster mums.

However just today we had another renegade hen surface with 12 little Barnevelder x chicks.  She obviously had a hidden nest somewhere, and was lucky enough to escape being attacked by a quoll or feral cat while she was sitting.  We have not done so well with the turkey poults this year and are down to 2 from the 13 that were hatched.  We also had a heap of problems with mites with the broody hens this year, I guess because it was a long mild summer.

I am also pleased to report that we finally got around to putting our two young pigs into the freezer last week.  It was a family affair.  Caleb taught us how to sharpen knives, Kim shot them, Lydia and I did the dressing and butchering work together, Josiah packed and put the meat in the freezer, and Sam did the mincing a couple of days later.  Given that there were two pigs to do at once and they were bigger than we had planned to have them, the job went quicker than expected.  Also since the pigs were 8-9 months old I was concerned that there may have been some “boar taint”, a particular flavour to the meat which some people find unpleasant, but we have now had 3 meals of pork and it has been tender and delicious.  Just as well since we  have about 60kg of lean meat to work our way through.  🙂

Kim’s big news is his purchase of a 1975 beetle at a bargain basement price.  It is in really good condition and he loves it.  He feels just so confident that he can fix anything that goes wrong with a beetle, which is all the more relevant since our little Seat seems to be having some electrical issues at the moment.  Kim is struggling with his health right now.  He seems to be catching one wog after another, all of which aggravates his Chronic Fatigue and makes him less resistant to the next bug.  He finds it very frustrating as there is so much that he wants to do!

We were blessed to have Mobile Mission Maintenance, a Christian mission organisation, come and do some maintenance on our little church building last month.  We had a bunch of caravans parked at the church for two weeks while a group of lovely people replaced various rotted boards, window surrounds and guttering and repainted the whole of the outside of the building as well as the ceiling inside.  We provided food for morning and afternoon tea and lunch, and really enjoyed getting to know the wonderful volunteers who worked so hard for us.  Their efforts meant that we could afford to get the necessary work done on the building, which would not have been possible if we had needed to pay for the labour as well as the parts.  It was a busy two weeks!

Well, that is most of our news for the last two months.  Somehow it doesn’t seem like enough!  Take care all and keep in touch.

May at Milkenunny

May 29, 2009

I just realised that I have not caught up via email yet this month.  One of the things I like to do is to look back on my blog to see what we were doing this month last year and if I don’t write an email soon then in a years time I won’t know what we’ve been doing with ourselves in May 2009.  So, what have we been up to….

 

Well to kick things off we have survived eating our ham!  After the 6 weeks we removed the blackened meat from the pickling liquid and wrapped it up to dry.

 

 HamPickled

 

Genuine Suffolk ham would be smoked for 5 days over oak wood but we don’t have any smoking facilities set up yet so that was not an option so we had to make do with just drying instead.

 

 HamDrying

 

Then the ham was boiled and ready to eat.  And are you wondering what it was like?  Well, in actuality we were not that keen on the pickle flavour and found it a bit chewy for use on sandwiches.  It was interesting though.  In the end we had it as a whole meal and it was good in that way.  It would be better to start with a larger ham than the one our little pig provided I think.  Next time we will try a dry salt cure instead, which will not need cooking, and I’d love to try smoking a ham too.

 

 HamFinished

 

On the subject of home grown produce, I tried whipping some cream the other day which we had skimmed from Isabelle’s milk.  Pretty cool hey?  I didn’t make scones to go with it, but home made apple pie is pretty good too.  🙂  Now I wish I had a butter churn.  I have done some bottling recently too, tomatoes, apples and even some carrots.

 

 Cream

 

We have had a lot of sickness since I last wrote, especially with Sam and Caleb but all of us have been affected.  Firstly we had a nasty gastro run through the family, passed on generously by some friends at church – definitely not related to our ham!  Just in case you were wondering.  🙂  No sooner was everyone recovering from that than we started to come down with a head cold.  However in between the bouts of illness we have continued to progress with projects on the block.  One of our main projects this month has been to do more fencing and we have now finished the western fence line for our paddock extension and have the posts in for the first cross fence of which there are 3 planned.

 

We have also spent quite some time on the caravan and annexe.  Firstly we bolted them together, squaring up the annexe as we did it as it had got a bit askew in it’s travels.  Then we ran flashing between the two on the roof and have sealed up around the edges .  We also redid the support blocks on the annexe, levelling it properly and putting some blocks underneath as well.  We also connected the power to both the van and the annexe.  Most recently we connected up the water, although that still needs further work as only the hot taps work at present and we are not sure why.  Today I hope to collect the carpet that goes in the larger annexe room.  That room has been dubbed “The Music Room” and we have all our instruments available to use in there.

 

 MusicRoom

 

Kim picked up a water bed at a clearing sale ages ago for $2 and as we both hate the mattress we have in the loft we decided to give that a go.  Much to our surprise it seemed to be in good condition and so we set it up for ourselves in the bedroom of the annexe last week.  Lydia has been sleeping on a bunk in the van for quite a few weeks, but Kim and myself just started sleeping there last Saturday.  The only downside is that it is a very large bed and a small room so there is not much spare space.

 

 AnnexeBedroom

 

Josiah moved to a bunk in the van as well so currently there is no-one sleeping in the main house, although we all congregate there during the day and gather around the fire on these chilly mornings – it was 1 degree at 7am this morning and is still only 1.8 outside at 9am.  The days are so short too, it is only just starting to get light at 7 and it is dark at 5:30 each day.

 

 JosiahBunks

CaravanBunks

 

We have had some more pig dramas.  We moved all our larger pigs in together, which seems to be going okay although they all give the big black pig Sweetie a wide berth.  However that meant that the middle sized pigs were running alongside the paddock of the little pigs and one morning we heard squeals and found that Mirax (the naughtiest pig) had gotten through the fence and attacked the little fellows.  We moved them to a more distant area but the little runt is now lame, although improving.

 

We are still persevering with the milking of Isabelle although she is not very happy with the whole concept and uses any excuse to kick us.  The  most we have taken from her is 850ml so far, but then she is feeding a growing calf as well.  And boy is Jack growing.  This is what he looked like at 3 weeks of age.

 

 Jack3wks&Izzy

 

And this is what he looks like now at 4 months.

 

 Jack4mths&Izzy

 

All of our hens seem to have stopped laying for winter.  It is hard to blame them when there is so little light during the day.  We have slaughtered 3 more of our turkeys and they weighed in at a more respectable 2.75kg this time.  I would like to do another 5 this coming week if I can.  I am improving my technique and think I can skin and dress a turkey in 15 minutes now.  I gave up the idea of plucking when I failed to find a water container large enough to dip them in.  Skinning works just fine anyway.  If I want to roast one I have to cook it in the microwave as my regular oven is too tiny for them to fit.  I hate killing things though, but I think that is how it should be.  Anyway I am very fond of my turkeys but they can get in the way sometimes.

 

 TurkeyTrouble

 

Our next project is to get the cooking (gas) facilities and the plumbing working properly in the caravan, including the shower.  Then Kim is going to pull apart my kitchen in the house and install a wood stove which will take over the water heating as well.  We will use the caravan to cook and wash during the process.  We also need to get some sort of heating happening in the caravan as it gets pretty nippy over there some nights.

 

We are thrilled to have another family coming along to our little church.  Josh and Jane recently moved to Mole Creek from Queensland and have 3 young children to add to the mix.  That gives us 22 regulars at church now, up from 4 when we first arrived in Mole Creek 18 months ago.  It also means we have 9 youngsters running around making lots of noise!  How cool is that.  It is wonderful to see God working, moulding our church family in stages.  Firstly we started to attend the church with our family, partly because our cars all broke down except for the rusty old ute that we didn’t want to take any further than we had to.  We decided to commit ourselves to going there and that must have caused quite a bit of adjusting for the old folks, though they didn’t seem to mind.  Over time they gradually began to let us help out with the chores, which was not easy for them as they had been doing it all themselves for many years.  Then Simon and Helen and their 5 children began to come to church as well.  Kim and I could relate to them very well as we have similar ideas about ethical Christian lifestyles and homeschooling.  Their children are just delightful, very calm and well behaved, but still children.  The youngest loves to sing to herself in church – whether anyone else is singing or not.  More adjustments needed to be made by our older folk, but it seemed to come easier this time.  And now we have a new family coming along.  They tried our church because they heard that Kim and I did not approve of women preachers!  Their background is the non denominational church of Christ, and funnily enough Simon and Helen used to go to that denomination which gives them a good basis of understanding where these guys are coming from and is helping them to adjust to our church.  We had a good time on Tuesday at our bible reading and prayer night.  Lots of questions and discussion was had afterwards as we worked out what we all believe, the differences and the similarities.  There are plenty of both but the good thing is that everyone wants to base what they believe on the scriptures which gives us a good foundation to work upon.  We should have some interesting times ahead.

 

On the subject of Christianity we listened to a great sermon last Sunday, downloaded from the internet of course.  It was by Fred from the Branch in Launceston and was on the law and we thought it was very good.  If any of you are interested in listening to sermons sometimes then I would heartily recommend it.  It is titled “Perfect Righteousness Required” and can be downloaded at http://www.thebranch.org.au/?q=sermons