Why don’t you write an amusing blog next week? Sandra remarked after editing last week’s blog. I don’t feel funny, was the reply. From hindsight, the reply sounded a bit lame. However, over the past few weeks, my brain has been busy absorbing esoteric knowledge in relation to all aspects of the off grid solar power system. The details fill my mind, and the subject just isn’t funny.
It’s been something of a strange journey. Regular readers will recall that a few weeks ago the house batteries had metal terminals which were running very hot. They’re not meant to run hot at all, occasionally warm, maybe, but burning your fingers on the things if left too long, is way too hot. And the plastic holding the metal battery terminals was showing damage due to the heat. The house was built to withstand bushfires, and there is considerable irony in the possibility that the power system could have burned the house down. Hmm.
Anyway, the problems with the batteries were fixed. The fix required implementing some hillbilly engineering solutions, not exploding the batteries (a real risk), and modifying the design to overcome the issues causing the bonkers hot battery terminals. It’s not a reasonable expectation that a person purchasing a product, such as a battery, should have to understand the entire subject from beginning to end, but that’s what it took to fix the thing. And the distributor appeared to not share my concerns.
Turns out the problem appeared to me to be related to an unusual design issue with the battery itself. A cheeky scamp might quip: “Stuffed from the factory”. It makes a person with a curious mind wonder how all these sorts of energy installations are operating when there isn’t anyone in a household or business who is concerned enough to monitor the system. Fun fact: Most people don’t even realise that certain connections might need to be re-tightened every six months or so, or else bad things can happen. That’s what using different metals with connections causes. It’s cheap, it works, but isn’t necessarily a good thing. And economics is a factor in all of this stuff.
There aren’t a lot of suppliers for this technology, and every device involves a trade off between cost and resilience. You just hope the people making these devices don’t stuff it up. My recent experience suggests that this is a possibility. There’s such a thing as too-cheap. And that caused me to begin considering the entire power system, not just the batteries. Following on from this drama, there is a real need to work out ways to make the system more resilient. We’ve taken a number of steps in that direction, all involving outflows of mad cash. But each step also involves absorbing further esoteric information, because clearly trust in suppliers can be misplaced, yet we bear the consequences – not them.
And the further this journey takes me, the further my trust is diminishing. It was something of a shock the other day to discover that a very long established supplier was selling fuses which the manufacturer only ever certified for AC electricity, not DC. That’s what device specification sheets are for: advising you not to do dumb things, or else. The fuses might work, but then again, they might not. Who knows? And when you want a fuse to blow as a safety mechanism, you’d hope it does.
A recent change we’ve implemented has been to stop dealing with these small suppliers, and instead use industrial suppliers. And they’re great to deal with, in the ‘why didn’t I think of this option before’ category. After all, the power system here is actually an item of industrial plant. It’s not for everyone, and this technology is certainly not something for the careless.
My sleep hasn’t been as sound since the spare capacity of my mind was turned over to considering the entire power system. It’s unsettling, but the modifications to the system here will soon be complete. Then it’s wait, observe, regular maintenance, and see what goes wrong next. Always an exciting prospect. Based on past experience, wrong will eventuate.
It is certainly time for an amusing blog. The dogs are always up to mischief. Strange local ladies will no doubt again be inexplicably smacking me around the back of the head for no apparent reason. The leftover froth on the glass from a pint at the local pub may reveal the future, or at least warn me to duck before being inexplicably smacked. But right now, my brain is full, and that’s where it’s at.
A few days ago, the season changed. We’re no longer in summer, but neither are we in autumn. I’ve heard it said that the local Indigenous folks reckon there are six seasons here, and that sounds right to me. Mornings have been warm and clear, but with thick fog below. The fog looks beautiful as it gathers in the valley below the mountain range.
Up until this evening, the days have been warm, but not as hot as you’d expect for this time of year. And as this blog is written, the weather has turned cold and rainy. The forecast for the next week or two looks like more of that cool and damp weather.
With the impending early change to cooler weather, we made the decision to increase the firewood stored under cover, whilst the stuff is sun dried.
We continued cleaning up the century or so of logging detritus by grinding out a few more old tree stumps. Those dudes left a lot of mess in the forest. Anyway, it’s really good to clean up that part of the property because it makes maintaining the area easier in the future. It’s an investment in the future.
Observant readers will note on the left hand side of the above photo, a sort of round shaped grey rock was removed from the paddock. Rocks are very useful items, but if left in the ground, they can easily damage steel mower blades. And steel hitting rocks with steel in dry grass can cause fires.
We’d been putting off cleaning up that area of the property for years as the activity is hard on the body. But for me, it’s easy on the brain. You can zone out whilst doing the work, and cogitate upon anything, it’s quite meditative really. Grinding a tree stump to below ground level can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to four hours. It helps to use a chainsaw to first remove as much of the tree stump as possible because that saves a lot of additional work.
The recent sort-of-warm weather has been good for the plants. The greenhouse in particular is looking very lush and full of produce.
Even the ginger tuber has finally produced a single shoot. The turmeric tuber by contrast, has begun to produce something which looks like nodules. Japanese ginger has beaten both of those plants by a country mile.
Some plants have astonished me with their growth. And the hops vines must be related to Triffids the way they grow. These vines were purchased over a year ago, kept in pots with very little care and attention, and only planted out maybe a couple of months ago. Don’t go to sleep near these vines, bad things will surely happen if you do, and the plants will be happy with the extra feed. You have been warned.
The pumpkins, squashes, melons and tomatoes are growing well. It might be a bit late in the season for the tomatoes, but the pumpkins and squashes will probably produce well. There’s already fruit on the vines with further flowers, so fingers crossed they produce a good quantity of reasonably sized fruit.
Beans are an excellent plant, and they begin producing once the peas are near to the end of their season.
One of the most reliable plants are the zucchini / courgettes. They grow really fast, and the fruit keeps for months, almost up to the following spring.
Apples and pears are the only fruit trees to grow really well in this cool and damp summer. And wow, have they grown or what! We grow a large variety of both trees. The pears are looking particularly good this week, so I thought to chuck in some photos of the different varieties. I can’t recall the exact variety due to lost tags and stuff.
Who cares what the variety actually is, they’re pears and they taste good. That’s enough for me.
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10am is 13’C (55’F). So far this year there has been 38.0mm (1.5 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 27.8mm (1.1 inches)