Friday, 22 May 2009

Change In The Weather?

Normal for out here is clouds flowing in from the west, and occasionally dropping a bit of rain on us. Infrequently we might get clouds from the north to east quadrant of the sky that would occasionally drop a bit of rain. I remember sitting at a barbeque with friends across the road a couple of years ago and everyone commenting on the clouds from the north that were dropping a light sprinkle on us, saying how unusual it was.

In the last couple of months we've seen clouds come in from the east to north-east more frequently. At least two or three times this year already, and it always seems to co-incide with the big storms off the coast up in Queensland/Northern New South Wales. I'm not sure whether they will bring us any rain yet, the ones flowing in today don't seem to be putting a lot of effort in, but it's still early yet. They might put in some effort around 3pm. My fingers are firmly crossed as we haven't had any since the camping trip.

A more traditional westerly storm back in March

We didn't end up making good on the plans to go out camping again, ill kids don't mix well with the cold autumn nights that go along with camping out here. Maybe if we'd gone then we would have had more rain ;-)

I also held off on tree planting, I'd like to wait until the fruit plants are dormant, and I'm going to get another load of sheep manure from a local farm so that the other trees can get a good start in life. To be honest I'm also a bit reluctant to stick them in. I want them in the right spots, so I don't have to adapt plans around them later, and it's rather difficult to anticipate every possibility. I did nip out there last weekend and do a bit of measuring and planning. The time between now and planting can be spent designing the best plan of where the various things should go. I've only drawn up a hundred or so variations to date, there can't be many more possibilities!

I also managed to get out into the berry patch here and give it a good weeding and clean-up. Just got to try and keep it that way! Our new chooks have final reached laying age, we got our first egg yesterday, and another this morning, so we're off to a good start. I also had a chance to fire up the forge and hammer some hot metal, very satisfying after all those months. I made a rough imitation of a hand-held weeding hoe, though it didn't turn out much like I'd hoped. I'm going to try making a trowel and a replacement handle for our frying pan as my next projects, hopefully this weekend if time permits.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Kitchens & Furnaces

Yet again the universe has conspired to assist us in it's own peculiar fashion. We received news last week that someone working in at the Totally Local store in Orange had acquired a complete kitchen from a fire damaged home. The kitchen itself was unharmed but for some soot & smoke. Knowing that opportunity might knock a couple of times, but that it was always best to secure a bird in the hand rather than watch any number flutter away into the bushes, we reassigned some priorities, reconsidered finances, and purchased it.

New Kitchen

It's a lovely piece of work under the grime. Looks to be Tasmanian Oak, and modern stuff, well, more modern than our old kitchen, which is the slat fronted doors that were popular some time in the 70's, if then. I carted it home late last Friday, and we set about cleaning it up and deciding where it would all fit in. I should say, the DW set about cleaning it, I set about building the bits that went toward installation, and undertaking said installation. Not that I don't like cleaning... well, maybe I don't :-)

Old Style Kitchen Cupboards

So far we've installed a big pantry unit and a trio of overhead cupboards, one of which contains a rangehood unit. Beautiful stuff! The previous kitchen was sadly lacking in storage space, all of it below-bench and poorly organised. The pantry unit alone has allowed us to move all of the foodstuffs from the other cupboards into it, with room to spare. There is one corner unit we can install, then the rest requires the services of a plumber to set up the tap. That will allow us to remove the last of the old stuff.

We had been contemplating getting new benchtops made up for the old kitchen, they were, to say the least, tacky, having been cobbled together from various pieces as we changed the layout over the years. With a new kitchen, it will be worth the expense of getting benchtops to suit, so that's one of the upcoming projects once we have it all installed.

Due to the way it needs to be laid out we'll be left with an odd corner where we currently have a cupboard and the drawers. As we want to completely exorcise the old kitchen I'm thinking it might be a good spot for a built in shelf unit.

Having a decent kitchen will improve the saleability of the place greatly. The previous kitchen was tres tack to say the least, even dodgoir. The new one might not be tres chic, but it will be a vast improvement.

On the farm front, no news yet on the status of the DA amendment. If the weather is nice this weekend (predicted not, which is understandable given it will be a full moon) we will get out for some more camping and a big tree planting day. Hopefully even if we don't camp there will still be time for a bit of planting.

Getting stuff in the ground and growing out there is very important in the grand scheme of things. We can survive in a tent, but cannot survive without food. Whilst I hope that society will run along smoothly enough that we can complete all our plans, a realist would know that such a dream might be a bit of a stretch. A relatively abundant and safe food supply out there will increase our options and level of security. We could of course live off rabbit and hare, but DW does like her greens!

The big post-peak oil preparation project for this winter was going to be a charcoal making system, to complement the blacksmithing. In my wandering about the place and researches, I've come to the conclusion that this would be better as a combined charcoal-wood oil system. There's no point wasting the byproducts of charcoal making, indeed many of them would be very useful in other areas of the household system. Tar for preserving wood and methanol for making biodiesel for instance.

In thinking about a design for such a system, I thought to myself, why bother creating a furnace just for charcoal making? What else can we use a furnace for? In the past I've thought of metal casting, glass blowing and pottery firing, all of which go toward making a comfortable life. A single well designed furnace unit should be able to accommodate all of these activities. So I've come up with a preliminary design for a multi-purpose furnace. A grating will support either a charcoal/wood oil drum, a crucible for smelting metal, the same for melting glass, or a series of racks to allow pottery to be fired. One piece of infrastructure to suit many tasks!

The main modification I've thought of since doing this model is the inclusion of an extra door above the grating. When working with glass you need access to the crucible to draw out material, whilst leaving the rest nice and warm. Depending on how tall it ends up being it might be possible to do this from the top, but then the glass worker would get rather warm...

I'm also thinking a big lid with a chimney wouldn't go astray. A bit of work should allow the furnace fire byproducts to be harvested for further use as well. It's obviously not the kind of system that will be running all the time, so the outputs cannot be relied upon for critical purposes, but surely the heat or the kinetic energy from the flue gases can be put to some use? Turning a turbine for a bit of extra electricity? Pumping water? Direct heat for a glasshouse? I'm sure something will come up!