Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Plans For Drums And Other Melodies

Back to the mundane world of pseudo-farm life for a post.

I've got a couple of plans fermenting at the moment, thanks to the gift of an apple bin full of 20 litre drums. Nothing like a source of raw materials to inspire all sorts of ideas. Hopefully not a case of having a hammer and everything looking like a nail...

Project number 1 is a charcoal and ash separation plant. I've been separating the charcoal and ash from the house fireplace so that I can make use of the charcoal in the forge. It's a messy job using a scrap of mesh over a bucket, so this little bit of work should make it a whole lot more efficient. The picture below shows the main cradle, there will be another similar one beneath it without the mesh windows. This will catch the ash and channel it into one drum, the charcoal will go out the end into a second one.

I'm still toying with the idea of grading the charcoal into two lots, those pieces of a size to be useful in the forge and other smaller bits that can be used in the garden as biochar. That will involve a very fine mesh in the upper window and a larger one in the lower window and some modifications to the catching cradle beneath to allow a second drum.

All that needs to be done now is find a use for the ash. At the moment this is being stored in a feed bag in the shed. With the exception of turning it into lye and hoping I can get hold of enough fat for soap I'm currently at a loss for ideas...

The second project will be a roller that I can drag behind the ute to compact road base. We've got quite a bit of road building to do out at Lyndhurst, and I'd like to do the early stages of it using hard work and the ute if possible. The plan is that we'll get truck loads of local road base dropped in the rough area, grade it out fairly level (now there's a project, building something to allow this task to be done with the ute!) and then roll it firm with the roller.

I've previously built a person powered roller by punching a hole in the bottom of a drum, fixing a bit of gal pipe centred through the drum, liberally greased, and then filling it with concrete and basalt rocks. A series of these that can be slid onto a longer pole and then hooked into a harness to be towed behind the ute should work well enough. I've also considered using two 44 gallon drums to do it, which would produce a better end result, but such a contraption would need to be made on-site as transporting the finished product out there would be tricky, to say the least.

In other news, and other plans, we've finally settled on a basic plan for moving forward overall. It was stressful for a time there trying to figure out the best way to juggle all of the competing demands to try and get ourselves out onto the new block. We've given up thinking about a full blown shed at this point, our outgoings so closely match incomings that having the resources to do that isn't going to happen for some time.

Instead we're going to get a shipping container moved out there, which is an economical means of securely storing the majority of the “junk” (resources!) currently in the shed. We will also be moving the site office out there and working on rigging it up as my office. This should involve a phone line and enough power for a single light and a laptop (assuming I can fit my current systems onto a laptop and run them with sufficient speed and reliability) The laptop should last for three or four hours on a charge from home each day, then continue with a top-up from whatever alternative power system we can implement for the remaining hours of the working day. We'll probably need a bit of power for the actual phone and answering machine, I don't really fancy going back to the old tin can catch me if you can style of communication.

Once we know I can work out there we can move into rental mode. We've minimized the stuff we need to cart around, and removed the inconvenience of re-establishing a home office every time we need to shift to a new rental. Rental mode means selling mode. We can stick this place on the market and get into the rest of the project. The added bonus will be that if I'm working out there daily it will be easy to water a few trees in the morning or evening, so we can start to get some real plantings going on out there.

Once we've sold this place we'll be in a position (as long as the economic sphere keeps it's spokes in place for a while yet) to build and kit out a shed for temporary accommodation. Then it's on to building the house itself. For the shed we are thinking a rammed earth construction. We were going to go with a skillion roof for ease of sticking it together, but sizing the timbers on that for a decent span leads me to believe it would be cheaper to go with a gable type roof. I've acquired some curved I-beam that would make a nice roof shape, just have to find some way of calculating spans and designing webbing to suit. Should be fun :-P

It's a grand plan, ambitious and all that, but I figure if I can build the charcoal and ash separation gizmo then anything is possible!!

1 comment:

green with a gun said...

"All that needs to be done now is find a use for the ash."

Wood ash contains phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium and sulphur. That's all good stuff for your fruit trees and vegie garden. I've found that about one heaped shovelful on each square metre annually is about right.