Archive for the ‘Off grid power’ Category

Projects Underway

March 13, 2018
It seems like it has been a fair while since I wrote, so I thought I should send a catch up email with the happenings at the Howe’s.  We had a lovely time in January with some friends of our boys who came to visit from Albany.  It was a blessing to spend time with them and their little ones, who were a delight, if rather exhausting.  🙂  Caleb and Sam are still struggling with health, but Sam is on some new medication and treatments that are helping with his anxiety issues, and he is working on his major aim to get his car license this year.  Lydia does not have her licence yet either, so we are still running her back and forth to her work where she is an old hand now.  Hopefully she can go for the driving test this year too.  To be fair we are mostly waiting for a couple of small things to get fixed on the automatic car before they book the test.  Now Josiah is able to get his learners license too.  Yikes!
The garden has been going well.  I have been bottling tomatoes, munching on cucumbers and cooking raspberry sauce as well as freezing and giving raspberries away too.
I weaned Smokey the calf (well, he can no longer really be considered a calf at 10 months old and as big as his mum!) which means we are generously supplied with milk at the moment too.  The milk is nice and creamy too.  We only got 8 rolls of hay this year from the friends paddocks we harvest, due to low rainfall in November.  Still, that was better than the original 3 we had back in the drought but not as good as the bumper crop of 16 last year.
We installed a nice big reverse cycle air conditioner in February.  The old small one had cracks in the plastic and leaked, so a new one was in order.  It is much more powerful than the old one and quite economic on electricity usage once it gets going.  It is a good feeling to cool the building down using the power of the hot sun outside!  We have also been clearing up around the place.  In particular we moved all the tractor implements up the back next to the wrecking yard.  The area they had been in was very overgrown with sedges and it was hard to find the things you wanted!
Implements - slasher and grader blade

Implements – slasher and grader blade

Once we had moved everything we were able to use our new (to us) slasher to clean the area up.  Kim also took the time to slash the reeds on the western lake area, the lower paddock and across the creek.  That gave him a good opportunity to get experienced at slashing!  I wish I had taken some before and after photos, because it felt a bit like land reclamation.  We also bought our most expensive tractor attachment so far – a backhoe.  I think it is Kim’s new favourite, and it has been used pretty extensively already.  Unfortunately it developed a bit of a leak in the hydraulic hoses when it was last used, so we have to fix that soon because we have even more jobs lined up for it!
We have cleared up the edge of Lydia’s arena in preparation for making a shed to cover some of the cars.  The shed will encroach on her arena about 8 metres, but we have promised to clear an equivalent amount at the other end to make up for what we are stealing.  The shed will consist of two 20’ containers with a roof between them, and also a 40’ container as a back wall and workshop.  That should give us a nice chunk of rodent proof storage space as well as a nice dry area for Kim to work on cars during winter.  In the long run we will enclose it as much as possible, cement the floor, and put windows, doors, shelves, benches, a wood heater and running water etc. into the largest container.  Kim would love a hoist for the cars sometime in the future too.  At this stage only the 40’ container has been delivered, and the 20’ ones should be coming this week to be offloaded onto the levelled blocks we have ready.  The roof pieces will be inside one of the 20’ containers and then we will have the fun of assembling and mounting it.
We have also been making progress with the micro hydro power plans.  Firstly we had to rig up a box and filter for the water intake and installed it onto the pipe.  The new backhoe came in useful in an unexpected way for that particular job.  We extended the arm down into the water so we could use it as a hand rail to stay steady while thigh deep in water on the slippery slopes of the water pickup area.  It worked a treat.
The pipe then comes out of the other side of the bank and we had to get various adaptors joined up, along with a big butterfly valve, so that it could be hooked up to the 5” irrigation pipes we have bought.  Finding the best options for the pipe adaptors was a major achievement in itself, with options and prices varying wildly.  We are pleased with the end result though.
PipeConnections copy
There are now another 52 pipes waiting for us to join up and test the seals for leaks.  I imagine it will take a while.  🙂  Then we will want to fill the trench back in to protect the pipes.  Originally we planned to ask the man with the excavator to do that, but we should be able to do it with our backhoe now.  It may come down to a choice between spending time or money.
At the far end, down near the homestead, the pipes (more adaptors required) will connect up to the turbine that Kim managed to pick up second hand.  This will turn the water coming out under pressure into electrical power.  Kim has been organising a way to mount the turbine and allow for the run off to go back into the creek.  It takes a lot of time to research various options, make decisions and finally get around to implementing them.  We were hoping that the shed and micro hydro could be mostly in place before winter.  Time will tell!  Just at the moment all of the family has been coming down with a particularly nasty cold, one after another, which will no doubt delay our progress for a while.  (As I write Kim is propped up in the lounge room, feeling miserable and having regular coughing fits, some of which leave him feeling like he can’t breathe, and he is hardly able to talk without coughing.  His chronic fatigue will no doubt kick in with a vengeance if he doesn’t improve quickly.  Sigh!)
Lydia and I have been attending some local dog shows again, which has been interesting.  We had been told that we were on a waiting list for a pembroke corgi puppy with a breeder in Hobart, but when we checked again we discovered that the breeder had forgotten to add us to her list which was now so long she didn’t want to add to it.  It was pretty disappointing, but it was hard to be annoyed with the lady who was over 80 after all!  However at the shows we made friends with another lady who bought a pup from a breeder in Queensland, and we now hope to have a pup in less than 6 months from that same breeder.  This breeder seemed somewhat more organised at least, and prioritises people who want to show the puppies.  Fingers crossed.
SheffieldShow1 (1)
Meanwhile old Lupo continues to astound us by still being with us.  She is largely blind and deaf and her back legs are quite wobbly and I really, really can’t imagine that she can last much longer!  Okami adores her and will miss her terribly once she is gone, so I rather hope that we have the new pup arrive about the same time as Lupo goes.
Lupo asleep

Lupo asleep on the ramp

Kim has not been getting much time to take photos lately, even when he has been more healthy.  He hopes to find the time to do some more once his “to do” list gets a little more under control.  Along with the projects we have undertaken, he still has to spend quite a while maintaining the vehicles.
He tries to take whatever opportunities he can to enjoy his hobby, even if it is just snapping a scene he passes while running errands,
…or the bug he sees while waiting for an appointment.  🙂
Green Bug
A rather major decision we recently made was to pull away somewhat from our local church.  We will still be attending the Sunday services at least once a month, and going to the local Bible study and I will continue to run the craft group.  However the rest of the time we will be going to the larger and more active church in Launceston that we went to when we were living over that way.  We feel the need to have some deeper teaching and wider fellowship than we are able to have closer to home.  It was a really hard decision to take, but has so far been working out well, and things have been organised so that the services at Mole Creek are still able to run without us.  Our new church is conducting a kind of survey at the moment, with people asking their friends how they would finish the comment : “Maybe I’d be a Christian, but….. “.  If you are willing, I would love to hear how you would finish that comment.  If not, that is fine too.  🙂
Kim and I have plans to make a quick trip to WA in May for my nephew Luke’s wedding.  We are looking forward to spending time with my mum and dad while we are there, but are not sure if we will be able to catch up with many other folk at that time.
Anyway, I think that is most of the news for now.  I hope you are going well.  Blessings to you all.

Conglomeration of Car Complaints

July 28, 2017

Well, July has been (and continues to be) a difficult month!  Kim’s health has been very poor and his Chronic Fatigue has been greatly exacerbated by various wogs and also kidney stones. What he needed to recover properly was rest and a lack of stress, but that has not been easy to come by.

Firstly our brand new and very expensive fridge has been playing up – it just stops cooling every now and then despite the fan going and the lights being on.  Kim thinks it is a computer fault as if you turn it off for 10 minutes and then turn it back on it starts to work again.  It has had one part replaced but the fault continues!
Then we had our steer, Stu – the big brown and white boy, butchered at home which is a full hands on event for everyone, and of course half of us were sick and miserable at the time.  We managed to get the job done though with the help of extended family and friends – who were paid for their efforts in delicious fresh beef!  It is lovely to have such a variety of cuts of meat to use again, and it tastes wonderful.

Smokey, Twindles and Straight-Line-Stu

Lydia booked her cat in for sterilising the other week, only to have her come on heat before we could take her in.  Now we have to put up with yowling and crazy cat antics for a week or so until she can get taken safely to the vets.  We are very glad that Lydia bought a huge cage for her as it means we do not have to have her loose in our sleeping quarters – instead she gets evicted into the cage on the veranda each evening.

The main issue of the month has been cars!  You would think that with 6 cars we should be able to keep on the road quite easily, but we do a huge number of kilometres each week and it has been a constant challenge to keep the cars going for the last couple of weeks.  Poor Kim has already been struggling to just get by with his shocking health, and he really isn’t helped by all this urgent mechanical work which often only he can deal with.  Firstly the two Citroens had their alternators fail within 2 days of each other.  The Xantia stopped when it’s battery went flat in the dark in the mountain range near home and Lyd had to walk up to the top of the pass to get enough phone service to call for help.  Kim took a battery out of another car which managed to give it enough power to drive it home that night.  We took the Xantia to an auto electrician a couple of days later and he fixed the alternator but reported that the cause of the problem was a leaking pump situated directly above the alternator and which had filled it with oil and gunk!  The leaking pump is still awaiting fixing as it requires various parts to come from an online order.

Kim had a spare alternator for the C5 and he managed to put new bushes into that and installed it himself.  That got the C5 going for a week or two until Muggins here (yes, me), thick headed and in recovery from 2 nights of toothache agony without sleep followed shortly after by a tooth extraction, filled the car up with unleaded instead of diesel!!  It got towed home by the RACT the night before last and is awaiting repair.  That means pumping out 60L of mixed fuel and then flushing diesel through it all and hoping no permanent damage was done to the injection pump.  At least we do have access to second hand parts if needed.

Sam’s lovely new little convertible was going well until it’s accelerator cable broke.  Kim, our hero, managed to drive it home through the mountain pass just by adjusting the idle speed.  Our mechanic advised that we should just remove a cable from one of our spare parts cars – but two cable removals later we find that they don’t fit, so now we have to order a part online and wait for delivery.  Kim attempted to get creative this morning by joining two separate cables, but the attempt failed as the join interfered with the proper working of the cable.
Our lovely old Caravelle got pressed into action, but shortly afterwards it started to fill with steam.  Looking at it this morning we discovered a coolant leak dripping onto the heater core.  It looks like we need to source a new O ring  to stop the leak – hopefully that is all!
The good old reliable Peugeot 206 GTI has been the mainstay of our fleet, however even it has not been trouble free.  One morning when Kim had taken Lydia to work the exhaust fell down.  Thankfully Kim heard it hit the ground and stopped immediately.  With the help of a friendly passer by he managed to jury rig it back up and drove straight to a workshop to get fresh mounts put on.  After that I sadly hit a wallaby one morning on the way to Lydia’s work, that broke one of the fog lights and/or its mount.  Then yesterday Kim thought the power steering was not working as well as it should and when he went to check the power steering level this morning he found that it was just fine – but the alternator belt was only half the width it should be.  We assume something got tangled in it and caused it to fray and it must have been slipping sometimes.  He is worried that if we use the car then the belt will break, so it is best if we do not use that either.  He picked up a new belt this afternoon when he collected Lydia from work.

So, to pick up Lydia from work today – out came the old VW beetle!  Even it is not without issues as it has been waiting for it’s brakes to be done up for months, Kim tells me they are worn down but still working.  Perhaps fixing it will become more of a priority now!  Of course tomorrow is forecast for pouring rain, so I don’t see us fixing anything then.  Good grief!  It has got to the point where the multiple car problems have actually started to become a cause of amusement in the family now.  🙂

The good news for the month is that we did manage to find, purchase and get delivered (just yesterday) a bunch of 9m long 5” aluminium irrigation pipe, 57 of them in fact.  $5,200 worth!  This will be the piping for the micro hydro system.  We will need to get a couple of fittings and a few replacement seals but then should be able to start running the pipe down in the pre dug ditch.  It is very exciting, but I am sure is going to take us many months to do.  🙂
At the end of June we fitted more solar panels to the roof of the caravan’s annexe.  The fork lift on the tractor was a wonderful help!

Solar Panels being lifted onto the Annexe roof by MB Trac

Cathy fitting solar panels to the annexe roof

Solar panels on annexe roof

Despite taking care to use seals etc, we found that the ceiling was leaking after rain.  It always has leaked to some extent because of the poor design of the annexe which has a flat roof and water often pools on it and finds its way inside instead of running off, but now it was even worse.  The best solutions would all take lots of time and money and were not feasible in the middle of winter with rain forecast in the near future.  However, we have temporarily solved the problem by making a sloping raincoat of greenhouse plastic.  It is great to lie in bed hearing the rain and look up at the dry ceiling.  Amazing how little things can give a lot of pleasure.  🙂
Lydia had her birthday this month.  She organised the day off and spent many hours making sausages!  She made some basic beef ones and also an adjusted recipe of kase krainer sausages which had different spices and chunks of cheese in them – she smoked those ones the following day.  We learnt a lot in the process and will probably do better next time – but it was a VERY time consuming job.
Anyway, I best move on.  I am currently suffering from a mild stomach wog, caught no doubt at the hospital where I went on the weekend in desperation for some pain relief from the toothache.  In the end I found the most effective thing to be keeping my mouth cold by constantly sipping iced water.  Didn’t get much sleep though!  I’m very glad that is over.
*****ADDENDUM Monday 31/7/17******
I am pleased to report that the rain held off the following day (Saturday) until the afternoon and Kim managed to find a new way to join the convertible’s accelerator cable, which worked, and Caleb got the 206 most of the way through changing the frayed belt.  So things were looking up.  Then on Monday Caleb finished repairing the 206 and Kim managed to flush the fuel out of the tank of the C5, started it up and it worked just fine!  Every time one of the cars has an issue now we all start to giggle – somewhat maniacally perhaps – but we find it funny none the less!

Family Visit and other updates

May 29, 2017

We just had a terrific time with my folks who came to visit for 2 weeks.  They stayed at the Mole Creek Guest House, which we thought would be rather more comfortable for them than it would have been here – with an ensuite and level floors and other such luxuries.  🙂  They had a lovely view of the creek and gardens from their rooms.

Autumn Leaves at the Mole Creek Guest House

We decided to all have some time off ourselves, to make the most of the short time we had together.  Given that the folks are not quite as spry as they used to be, we did less long days out and hiking and more short day trips, and we went to a few places that none of us had ever been to before.  To begin with we visited the Deloraine Museum.
Cathy at the Deloraine Musum
and saw the Yarns display there, which was quite fascinating and very well presented.

Deloraine Yarns Display

 We saw water birds and platypus in the wild at the Tasmanian Arboretum too, which was a more interesting place than I had expected.
Tasmanian Native Hen (Tribonyx mortierii)
One of the longer day trips was to the Wadamanna Hydro Power Museum, via the Great Lakes up on the Central Highlands.
Turbines at at Waddamanna
We had a lovely $5 fish and chips lunch at the Breona Pub on the way.
Cathy, Vern and Judy at the hotel in Mienna having lunch.
It was also interesting to visit Home Hill, the home of Tasmania’s only prime minister Joseph Lyons and his family (thanks for the idea Auntie Judy!).
Sam, Lydia, Cathy, Judy and Vern in the dining room at Home Hill
The other long trip we did was to go up the Tamar Valley where we stopped at Platypus House, Seahorse World and the old Beaconsfield Mine.  This was a rather special trip as all of the family managed to come along for once – it did make it a bit expensive though!  We managed to time it well so that we had the platypus tour to ourselves and all the critters were out and about for us to see.  They have some echidna there too.
It was nice to be able to see the platypus from under the water for once.  Kim got a lovely bit of video which I hope to put up on my blog soon.
Platypus (Ornithorhynchus Anatinus)


Then next door there were lots and lots and LOTS of seahorses!
After that we went down the road to the Beaconsfield Gold Mine museum.
There were plenty of hands-on activities at the mine, which made it fun and interesting.  We ran out of time there in the end, and would enjoy going back again one day.
Grandma at the Beaconsfield Mine Museum
Vern, Kim, Caleb, Josiah, Lydia, Sam and Judy at Beaconsfield Mine Museum
The photographer kept busy as always!
Mum and Dad were also dragged along to various church related events, of course, and did lots of talking!
Judy Pascoe
Dad’s new hearing aids get the thumbs up.  🙂
Vern Pascoe
They also got to watch us doing some odds and ends around the block – including re-running the water pipe from the new pickup area down to the house,
The 1 1/2
and hooking it all up.  The water pressure is much better, and should not slow down and need pumping anymore as it self primes with this new system.
Turning the pipe back into the pickup area was a bit of a difficult job.  The pipe didn’t want to turn, the banks were slippery and the water was freezing – so we had to come up with an innovative solution.  🙂
Sadly the time flew past, and all too soon Mum and Dad had to head back home.  I confess to getting just a little bit teary!
Judy Cathy and Vern at Launceston
Qantas did a great job of helping them on and off the planes on their trip though, Mum even got to have a wheelchair ride up the ramp.
We were very sad to see them go and our life has somewhat reluctantly returned to normal again.  Still, we are left with lots of good memories, and Skype is wonderful to catch up on.
I’m not planning on drowning my sorrows, but I did end up with 95 small bottles of apple cider on the weekend.  🙂  I hope it tastes good when it has fizzed up a bit.
In other news our fridge died recently and we had to look around for a replacement.  We decided we should take the effort to find one which suited our new off grid system and used very little power, which reduced the options a lot and pumped the price up a fair bit in exchange.  In the end we bought a fancy Fisher and Paykel and I am left with a bit less freezer space, which I miss, but a lot more fridge area, which I am enjoying.  It also gives us filtered cold water and ice cubes!  It was another big expense (sigh) and was a major job to shift it into the shack, but hopefully it will work well for many years to come.
The new fridge
Lydia and I also went down to Hobart one weekend to go to a dog show.
Lyd has a bit of a passion to breed corgis, and this seemed a good way to contact some breeders and see what the scene is like.  We saw a lot of corgis, both Cardigans and Pembrokes, and have definitely decided that we would prefer a Pembroke.  Having Okami has made us realise we enjoy having a cheerful dog, and the Pembrokes seem pretty cheerful while the Cardigans come across much more soulful (but don’t you just love that face!).
The result is that we have our name down on one breeder’s list to get a female pup, possibly in about 6 months though it may take longer.  There is a major lack of available corgi puppies in Australia at the moment.  We stayed overnight in Oatlands and watched some dog herding in the morning before heading home.  We even saw a corgi herding, but I have to say the Border Collies were better at it.  🙂
And I think that is all our news for now.  Best wishes