Monday, November 19, 2012

Our New Multi-Function Battery Room

Earlier in the year we wrote about the big solar shift when we moved our batteries and inverter from under the solar panels outside, to inside the house at the back of our workshop. As the workshop gets quite dusty from time to time when we are sanding or sawing wood etc., we thought it would be wise to build a dividing wall to separate the battery room from the workshop area.

Battery room shelves under construction
Fortunately, we were able to make use of quite a bit of recycled material, most of which was completely free. The whole project of creating our new battery room cost less than $200 made up of:-
  • Door –purchased second hand
  • Box for the battery set – second hand and left over timber from other jobs
  • Pine studs for the wall frame- gleaned from a skip behind a shop where they were remodelling. We asked first!
  • Timber for the shelving. The uprights came from another shop makeover and the wood for the shelves from various free sources
  • Grain bench.  A cupboard no longer wanted by a family member
  • Wall paint was half price because another customer was unhappy with the tint
The shelves are filling up with produce
We built a wall of shelves in the room, which now serves multiple functions including:-
  • Storage for all our bottling and jam making equipment and supplies
  • Storage our ginger beer making gear as well as the bottles of ginger beer
  • Storage area for some long lasting crops including pumpkins (about 60 this year), potatoes, garlic and other produce
The power management system and battery box

Other uses of the room include
  • Storage for our battery bank (in a vented cupboard)
  • Shelving for our inverter, regulator and associated equipment
  • Space for our grain processing bench with oat roller and grain grinder attached (storage underneath)
  • Provides a mouse proof storage area for bulk grains (oats and wheat)
The thermal mass in the slab and mudbrick walls ensures temperatures in the battery room do not vary greatly. Our new verandah helps in this regard, by keeping the sun off the external walls. This makes it an ideal space for storing vegetables, grain and produce.

The dividing wall with one side to be finished
The dividing wall that separates the battery room from the workshop has one other benefit. We intend finishing off the project by building shelves on the workshop side of it, so all our tools, workshop equipment and materials can be housed together in an orderly fashion.  This extra storage area will massively improve the way the workshop functions as well. However,  we know from past experience that any spare shelves will mysteriously fill up with objects we need to store, as well as objects that we keep because we are sure they will come in handy one day!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Karen & Alex

Mastering the wood splitter
Our latest helpers (via Helpx) were Alex and Karen who came from Hong Kong on a working holiday in Australia. They are in their early 20’s, were keen to learn about Australia and were very enthusiastic in giving us a hand with various tasks. Although they only stayed with us for eleven days they helped get much work done.

Some of the jobs they helped with, included clearing an area for a new orange tree (to be known as the Karelex orange - a blend of their names ), weeded many areas of the garden, shifted bricks and a pile of building timber, helped with our market stall, washed windows, cut back bushes that were blocking paths, mowed the grass in the orchard, shifted, split and stacked a large amount of firewood, helped out with most of the daily chores and more. Phew!!!
Weeding the asparagus with Ruby on guard!
Karen especially enjoyed collecting eggs (although she was not quite brave enough to collect them from under a sitting hen. She also made us a delicious meal of sushi, that was so tasty and beautifully presented that we ate it before we remembered to take a photo – so you will have to take our word for it.
Alex washing dishes
Of course they were very keen to meet the local native animals, and for once the animals cooperated. Whilst here, they had regular sightings of a pair of swamp wallabies (who are normally very secretive and shy) and also saw mobs of kangaroos, echidnas, a wombat, a goanna and many of our colourful parrots and other birds.

Helping with our market stall

The stay was not all work of course. We enjoyed each other’s company and spent much time laughing together. Ruby the dog thought they were wonderful because they took her for walks around our tracks each day. We also spent some time exploring a bit of the Yarra Valley including Maroondah Dam and Mt Dandenong. Once again we have enjoyed the company of some wonderful helpers and we hope both Karen and Alex enjoy the rest of their stay in Australia

On our way to the wall of Maroondah Dam

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Bump in the Road

It has been quite a while since we did a post on the blog.  Every now and again events conspire to distract us from our path, and then out of the blue things are suddenly different to what they were yesterday. This is probably not a bad thing, because it gives us a chance to catch our breath, slow down and enjoy our piece of “paradise” and reassess where we are going. It also gives us a chance to recharge our batteries.

About two months ago I pulled some muscles in my hip, which ended up giving me a constant low grade pain. We have a friend who did some damage to his shoulder and (as many people do) he couldn’t resist the temptation to keep working on tasks that needed doing. The result was more damage on top of the existing muscle tears. We didn’t want to take the risk of something similar happening. As my pain didn’t go away, even after a couple of weeks of rest, we basically put most of our gardening and building activities on hold.

At first I found this enforced rest, very hard to adapt to. And as much of the everyday workload had to be taken up by Heather she found it hard as well. The frustration of it all started to get us down, until Heather had a brainwave. She suggested we do something we hadn’t done in a long time - visit our local library and check out the fiction shelves. (Most of our reading over the past 10 years has been all about practical things like growing food or building things.) The visit to the library saved our sanity as we rediscovered the joys of reading novels. In fact we were going through several great stories each week- totally absorbed in the lives of the characters we were reading about. Whilst all this was going on, I went for a few tests to make sure my aches were nothing more than just strained muscles. The results all came back ok and this also helped take any pressure off our minds- it just became a waiting game.

One of the consequences of feeling a bit low and wanting to be distracted by other things is that we steered clear of our blog. It was too much of a reminder of the work that we had planned to do. We needed to have a break for a while and feel good about it.

Just over a week ago our next lot of Helpers from arrived;  just as the pain in my side was finally beginning to reduce.  They not only helped with many tasks – especially more heavy duty ones, but they also inspired us to put our “toe back in the water” and start getting back into action. We will write more about Karen and Alex in our next post.

Right now we are happy to report that things are getting back on track. We have started planting our summer garden, are getting stuck into some fire prevention work, are about to commence work on the remodelling of our barn ( and are feeling better about blogging again.  However this whole episode has left one legacy – we have now rediscovered the habit of getting absorbed in a good work of fiction. Each night (and even during the daytime sometimes if it is a particularly riveting story) we settle down to read before bed. In fact we’ll finish this post right here, because that is exactly what we are going to do right now!
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