|A light dusting of snow washes out the colour on this musk daisy bush|
Snow is such a novelty here that it is a real pleasure to see. However, it was a day for both the sheepskin jacket and the sheepskin lined ugg boots because the outside temperature started at just above freezing (0.2’C or 32.4’F) this morning and didn’t rise much past that figure for the rest of the day. Brrr!
|The outside temperature this morning was just above freezing|
The inside temperature of 14.9’C (58.8’F) this morning was quite reasonable given that the wood heater had been filled with firewood before bedtime and had just slowly burned itself out over the night. I guess that in some northern climates, that temperature would be shorts and t-shirt weather!
Over the past few days I commenced landscaping the area behind the new firewood shed. It is an interesting project because new opportunities have presented themselves. For example over the next few months a dedicated strawberry and tomato area will be established in the very sunny area just up above the machinery and firewood sheds. Sometimes here a project commences and it just takes on a life of its own and new possibilities emerge from that blank canvas.
So, despite the rain and snow, I managed to construct two new concrete steps which will eventually form a staircase leading up to that area above the sheds which will provide new opportunities for new multiple dedicated food gardens.
|Two new concrete steps were constructed this week|
However, before I could commence construction of the new concrete staircase, I had to run a power cable to the new firewood shed. The 12V power cable is intended to take power to a water pump and lights for the inside of the shed. All of the power cables (and even the water pipes) are buried in deep trenches so that they are not at risk of being accidentally damaged. Flexible plastic conduit also helps reduce damage to the electrical cables and it is worth noting that I haven’t had any failures with that arrangement. Observant readers will note that where the cable goes behind the rock wall, the cable and plastic conduit is further covered by a plastic plumbing pipe to prevent any possible damage from the rock wall.
|A 12V electrical cable was connected to the new firewood shed this week|
The funny thing about infrastructure is that once it is in place, new possibilities open up. And that was the case this week as now that there was electricity in the new firewood shed, a wholly new idea popped into my head. Aesthetics are integrated into the functional infrastructure here, but sometimes I just do things because I believe that they’ll look good and they may serve no other purpose than that. My idea this week was to install a couple of LED spotlights on the new firewood shed which up-light the very large tree close by. The LED lights are set to switch on between 6.30pm and 8.00pm and I reckon it looks pretty cool at night. Certainly, the new ghost tree will freak out the neighbours!
|The large tree nearby the new firewood shed is now up-lit by two LED spotlights|
Towards the end of the week, the dogs started complaining about the home made dog biscuits, version one. 'We don’t like them because there is too much pumpkin in them, they’re not crunchy enough and the old dog biscuits were just better', so they complained.
We listened to the customer’s complaints and decided that they were fair enough and decided to act. Thus, dog biscuits version two were created today. Rigorous product testing was conducted, focus groups were examined and now after exhaustive research and development, we present dog biscuits, version two:
|Dog biscuits version two (along with the newly developed dog breakfast mix waiting to be baked in the wood oven|
With the cool damp weather here, the resident birds have been busily bouncing through the garden filling themselves up on all sorts of insects that are silly enough to come to the soil surface for a bit of fresh air. I captured the below photo of a lady blue fairy wren who was scratching around for worms and other insects in amongst the dahlia’s and perennial herbs:
|A lady blue fairy wren is scratching for worms and other insects in amongst the dahlia shrubs|
|A kookaburra uses a free standing solar panel to hunt for worms and insects (and often as a toilet)|
The winter solstice for this year is on Monday the 22nd June which is in exactly three weeks today. Most people at this time of year worry about the cold weather. I however, worry about how low the sun is in the sky for the next six weeks. The reason for that worry is because the house is not connected to the electrical grid and is powered solely by solar photovoltaic panels which perform the very nifty trick of converting sunlight into electricity. If the sun is low in the sky though, those 4.2kW of solar panels receive far less sunlight than they would at other more sunnier times of the year. Add in some heavy winter cloud, reliable winter rainfall and solar electricity starts looking like a very unattractive option for heavy users of electricity. Add in a bit of bird manure on the panels and it can be a very nerve wracking few weeks.
Anyway, a problem shared is a problem halved, so over the next six weeks I’ll provide the statistics for the off grid solar power system which should make for some interesting reading. If anyone has any questions about the system, please feel free to ask. Here goes:
Battery % full at the start of the day - Amount generated by the 4.2kW of PV panels during that day
Tuesday 26th May – 75% full – 3.8kWh
Wednesday 27th May – 70% full – 5.85kWh
Thursday 28th May – 90% full – 5.42kWh
Friday 29th May – 95% full – 3.25kWh
Saturday 30th May – 97% full – 4.9kWh
Sunday 31st May – 95% full – 3.19kWh
Monday 1st June – 85% full – 4.81kWh
How did the house get here?
In the lead up to the summer of 2010, the manufacturer installed the stainless steel shutters which can cover all of the toughened and double glazed windows in the event of either a fire or a big storm. I have a love-hate relationship with those window shutters because they are really functional but it took me a long while to get used to the appearance of them, but they just work so well.
|The stainless steel window shutters were installed protecting the windows from either severe storms or bushfire|
The previous boss dog at that time was getting on in years and could no longer manage a staircase, so I built her a temporary ramp for her to walk up and onto the veranda.
|A ramp was built for the use of the very old boss dog (note: no kennel had been built yet)|
The ceiling plastering continued and two of the corners were an absolute nightmare to construct. Fortunately the editor came to the rescue and assisted with both the carpentry and plastering of two very unusual angles.
|It doesn’t look very complicated, but the carpentry and plastering were a nightmare for this particular corner|
Additional ceiling insulation batts were possibly a bit of overkill, but I chose to install an additional layer of insulation batts directly on top of all of the ceiling plaster and it was worth every cent!
|Insulation batts were installed just above the plaster|
And then one awesome day during November after a few months of living with no lights, the ceiling plaster was fully installed and the electrician connected up all of the lights! The editor chose this beautiful light fitting above the bath – it looks like a ceiling of stars when it is switched on at night:
|Let there be light: Lights were finally installed|
That year of construction was historically the wettest in recorded history. Every time the skies opened, the surrounds of the house turned to mud. Needless to say, I got sick of that problem pretty quickly and started laying down composted woody mulch over all of the exposed clay so that the soil held together better.
|Composted woody mulch is laid down over the exposed clay|
And then one day the old boss dog had a seizure and died. It was a sad day as she was an exceptionally talented and gifted boss dog. Scritchy, the current boss dog answered the situation vacant advertisement and slid on in.
|Scritchy enjoys the perquisites that come with being the boss dog here|
The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 2.7 degrees Celsius (36.9’F). So far this year there has been 331.4mm (13.0 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 310.6mm (12.2 inches).