Saturday, 23 November 2013

Pan fried et al...

We've been watching Masterchef for the last few weeks, and unfortunately it's scheduled to go on for quite a while longer, probably right up to Christmas.  

But, to be fair, the wife loves it and it's something on UK TV which she can fully understand, because her English isn't quite up to the level of being able to appreciate University Challenge or even the latest dramas.

However, what a pretentious bunch of tossers there are in the Masterchef programmes, in the presenters, 'expert chefs', critics and even the contestants themselves.

My own 'favourite' restaurant epithet is 'pan-fried', among a dozen or so others in a similar vein.  FFS, have you ever tried to fry food in anything but some kind of pan - how about holding boiling oil between your fingers for ten minutes ?

Like I said, pretentious tossers, the lot of them..

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How places can define people....

I hadn't previously realised how much the place in which you live can so significantly alter your habits and redefine your lifestyle.

Perhaps the stronger connection with our home is partly due to the time we spent gutting and refurbishing it before we moved in, and also the recent major project to develop the extended gardens, and so we feel that we know the building and gardens intimately....

And although I've always had an interest in making, mending, recycling and growing etc, it wasn't until we moved to our current home that such opportunities actually became possible on a scale which can impact on our way of life.  I use the word 'recycling' here in a broader engineering sense, i.e. the re-use of old materials and items that are unwanted or are no longer serviceable for their original function, but which can be modified to serve a different requirement.

As I've said before, we now live in a semi-rural location on the edge of farmland, with only a few near neighbours.  It's generally remote and quiet, and we can basically do whatever we want without fear of disturbing anyone else, hence the experiments with wind turbines, solar panels and perhaps a future combined heat & power (CHP) plant.  And now we have our additional garden land, we've extra space to indulge further such fancies.

Demand for the paid consultancy services I provide has been slightly reduced over the last couple of years due to severely depressed conditions in one particular industry sector in which I have expertise - this had provided a good proportion of my income for the last ten years or so.  It might take quite some time for this sector to recover, and for major spending to resume on capital investment projects, and so now seems an ideal time to get into the workshop and gardens. 

At our previous house within a typical residential street in a mid-sized market town, I would have been itching to find 40-odd hours or so of paid work each week to keep me occupied, otherwise it would have seemed that time was simply wasting away.

However, here in our current place, I could almost find enough things to do around the house and gardens to keep me busy full-time, and so an average of 20 hours of paid consultancy work per week was the reduced target for this year.  

This is an average figure though, and I always take on any work opportunities that are on offer - for the last couple of months, I've actually been working well over sixty hours per week, but at this time of year I don't mind at all, especially when these particular current projects are so interesting and intellectually challenging.

For the rest of the time when things are slack on the work front, there are things in the house and garden to build, repair, prepare, plant and tend etc, and even when it's too cold, wet or dark outside then there's many of my projects that can be continued within the comfort of the house or workshop.   Not only some of the physical construction activities, but also doing the initial basic designs, drawings and calculations can leave you wondering where the time has gone....

I'm also trying to set aside the last Wednesday or Thursday of each month for a regular and more detailed review of our pension and ISA investments, and for research into future opportunities....

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Paper logs & briquettes - Part 2

We finally bit the bullet and ordered one of those cross-handled briquette machines from the internet.  Despite my whinge last year about the upfront cost and relatively poor returns compared to coal (see my previous post) it seemed a much quicker and simpler way of making free paper bricks than the rather tiresome process of using our home-made versions.

Incidentally, this year we paid £6.30 for each 25 kg bag of run-of-the mill house coal, 50p (and 8%) more expensive than last year...

We actually bought a top-of-the-range briquetting press, for £20 delivered, although there were lighter-duty versions available on eBay for around a tenner.  This one seems to be of more robust construction and even has round plastic handles - I wouldn't want to be putting my full body weight on the thin steel sections of the cheaper versions, at least without very thick gloves to protect my hands..

After a full day-long shredding and tearing campaign, we let the mash soak for around three days in a big plastic container.  A whole year's worth of eBay invoices and other old bills, plus a couple of months of free newspapers.  There were even a few thick glossy catalogues in the mix, from Tesco and Argos et al, around half-an-hour each to tear them up by hand into usable paper strips.

the briquette press and the container with the mash....

Monday, 4 November 2013

Removal of the Wind Turbine....

A couple of months ago, I noticed the wind turbine had stopped producing electrical energy and so I took it down and had a good look at it.

It turned out to be a relatively simple fix, just to replace a drive key that had sheared on the gearing, but in the end I decided not to repair and re-erect it. 

So now it's languishing in pieces in the shed and workshop, the reason being it's simply not cost-effective for it to continue to operate - see my previous post.

I haven't totally given up on domestic wind energy though - I'd still like to design and construct another and larger experimental version of perhaps a combined Savonius / Darius vertical axis machine.

Watch this space for future developments....

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Who let the slugs out....

Usually, at this time of year, we'd be wading ankle-deep through slugs in our garden.  It's damp yet still relatively warm, conditions in which they have thrived in previous years.

However, this year there are hardly any slugs or snails to be seen at all.

I know almost nothing about the procreation of slugs, but I can only assume that they made their babies in March in the expectation that warmer weather was on the way, but the very cold April killed them all off.

Not that I'm complaining.  We may have lost some of our vegetable crops to many other factors this year, but none of them were attacked by slugs, usually one of the most serious pests in our garden.  

Roll on another cool April next year...