I only began to worry when the guy in the van that I was instructed to follow flagged me down and asked me to pull over and park. The story he told me was that he’d forgotten to bring the keys for the companies second factory and so he had to return to the original factory. I was instructed to patiently wait in my car on the side of a very busy road until he returned. It was at that point that the realisation kicked in that he had all of my paperwork and I’d already paid him in full. I simply had to wait patiently whilst pondering the potential error of my trusting ways.
Regular readers will recall that the kitchen has been expanded recently because we’d completely run out of space to store preserves and the food preparation space was becoming increasingly limited. The situation had become feral! Food was being stored all over the house, but for some strange reason the office where I work – and the editor swears this was not intentional – had far more than its fair share of preserved food in various states of storage. As an interesting side note, those new kitchen cupboards are now completely full of: ginger wine; bottled apricots; jams; potatoes; onions; olives; chutneys; and passata (tomato purée).
Unfortunately, it had been many years since I had constructed a kitchen and the artificial stone benchtops which I had previously used had become very expensive during that intervening time. Also most of the companies supplying those artificial stone benchtops also wanted to conduct two site visits at my expense. Firstly to perform the measurements and finally to provide delivery and installation services . I didn’t really want to pay for those additional services because I can competently use a tape measure, and for delivery nothing beats the trusty bright yellow trailer, which also happens to be the cheapest option!
Financial tightness is celebrated here! Whilst waiting to source a cheap benchtop for the new cupboards, I simply placed two scrap bits of plywood, which were otherwise lying around outside in the rain, on top of the cupboards. I don’t actually recommend using scrap plywood as a working surface in a kitchen because it is almost impossible to keep clean.
After a few enquiries, I finally tracked down a company who was happy to sell me an artificial stone benchtop cut to size which I could pick up directly from their factory. The editor and I took a trip into the big smoke of Melbourne and checked out the business, met the owners, agreed on a price, paid for the benchtop in full, and then simply waited a week for them cut the stone to our specified size.
On Friday, I received a phone call from the bench dude letting me know that the stone benchtop had been cut to order and was now ready to pick up. Unfortunately, at that time, the bright yellow trailer was full of manure for the garden. Maybe it is just me, but I'm guessing that manure and a clean artificial stone benchtop is a bad mix.
|The cubic metre (1.3 cubic yards) load of manure had to be rapidly placed in the garden|
The manure was rapidly moved out of the bright yellow trailer and placed in a new raised garden bed. Observant readers will be able to see in the excavated area, a thin black line which is the layer of top soil (no more than an inch / 25mm) which has naturally formed over the past decade.
Now that the bright yellow trailer had been cleared of manure, I recalled that the bench dude had issued firm instructions for us to transport the benchtop in an almost vertical position (glass is also transported in this manner so as to avoid breakage). The editor and I had decided to construct a timber frame which would be used to transport the artificial stone benchtop. Unfortunately, we didn’t have nearly enough scrap timber on hand to build the timber frame.
So, off to the local tip shop we went! We had to hurry because the day was wearing on and the tip shop closes at 3pm sharp.
|The local tip shop in all its glory. Good stuff!|
The local tip shop is full of building materials and other interesting stuff. I took down an old table saw which was in working order, but which I had not used for many years and would be happy if someone else could make better use of it. In turn I found an old bed base which had more than enough timber for the timber frame. A reasonable price was agreed upon, there were smiles all around, and we were on our way home again.
|The pine recovered from the recycled bed base was brought back to the farm from the tip shop so as to be converted into a timber frame for transporting the benchtop|
After another hour or so of construction, the timber frame had been completed and was tied onto the bright yellow trailer.
|The timber frame used for transporting the benchtop was completed and tied onto the bright yellow trailer|
The next day I met up with the bench dude at the factory as agreed. The benchtop was located in another factory where the cutting took place. And this is where todays story began.
Fortunately, the guy soon returned as he really had forgotten to bring the keys for access to the second factory! The entire episode smelled of a scam to me, but no, it was a genuine mistake. This was a relief for me, because not only would I have had to pay another person for yet another benchtop, but extracting retribution for falling for the scam by throwing a brick through their plate glass window late one night would be counter to my ethos. I like to do projects as cheaply as possible, and bricks are expensive you know!
Once the benchtop was loaded into the bright yellow trailer, then began the unpleasant return journey. That day was very windy and the benchtop, which was placed in a near vertical position, was like a giant sail. Eventually, I arrived back home safely with the benchtop. As an interesting side note, when a person buys a stone benchtop cut to a specific size, the original item is much longer and you pay for the full length regardless. In my case the original length was 3,200mm (just under 10ft) long, but my benchtop was cut to 1,850mm (72.8 inches). This also provided me with a second smaller benchtop of 1,350mm (53 inches) which will be used in a future project. Canny readers may quickly realise that there are a lot of smaller stone benchtop off cuts being sold (or disposed of) about the place for not much money at all!
|Poopy and Sir Scruffy admire the panache with which the benchtops were brought back to the farm – on the cheap!|
That benchtop was heavy. It weighed in excess of 100kg (220 pounds) and it was a credit to the editor and I that we carried the benchtop up the stairs and through the house. I have to “fess up” because I almost dropped it once when the weight shifted unexpectedly as I was walking backwards up the stairs! Anyway, the benchtop was soon fixed into place and the kitchen upgrade was complete. The editor was happy that the new bench and cupboards matched the original finishes, although I have to admit to being rather fond of the plywood benchtop look, despite its many practical downsides! And best of all we completed that project at a relatively low cost.
With the kitchen upgrade now complete, we continued
preserving foodstuffs for use later in the year. This week the olives were
pitted using a very old stainless steel hand operated olive pitter / garlic
press. This older unit is far stronger and more effective than a recently obtained olive pitter
which may be recycled.
|The completed kitchen island bench which is now full of preserved goodies|
|The author using an old olive pitter / garlic press to remove the stones from the olives|
We preserve olives by keeping them in fresh water for four days (completely replacing the water every day). At the end of that period, the olives are then placed in salt water for four weeks (completely replacing the salt water once every week). You can tell if not enough salt has been added to the salt water because some of the olives will float. You can also tell if too much salt has been added because the olives will eventually taste very salty. I use a plate in a bucket to weigh the olives down so that they do not come into contact with the air – which may cause the olives to mould. Observant readers will also note in the photo below that this variety of olive changes colour during the preserving process from bright green to a drab olive green and you can see that happening with these olives.
|The olives are being processed in a bucket so as to remove the very bitter taste|
Over the next few weeks, depending on the weather which can be challenging for outside work at this time of year, I will hopefully install a few extra solar photovoltaic panels.
However, before I could even consider adding a few extra solar panels to the power system, I had to replace most of the circuit breakers in the battery room. A circuit breaker is a device that automatically cuts the power if something goes wrong. As the system had expanded over the years, the original circuit breakers had less margin for error. Because of the real risk of fire if a problem develops in an off grid solar photovoltaic power system, I decided to err on the side of caution and replace all of the circuit breakers.
Whilst I was replacing all of the circuit breakers, I also decided to completely rewire all of the major components in the battery room so as to neaten up all of the wiring. The solar power system had been developed over a number of years and so a complete rewire of the battery room for neatness was probably due. I did underestimate the amount of time that it would take to complete that project which ended up being about ten hours over two late nights. With these sorts of occasional projects, it can be very hard to know how long it will take to complete. The results look good, although they may be incomprehensible to most people!
|The battery room was rewired this week|
For the past two days it has rained. I’m very happy to see that wet stuff falling from the sky. So much rain has fallen, that the very large and empty 33,500 litre (8,850 gallons) water tank has even begun the long process of refilling.
|The rain has fallen heavily over the past few days and the water tanks are filling rapidly|
The swale which collects any and all water runoff has filled this week. A swale is the fancy name for a ditch which collects water and allows that water to infiltrate into the soil. The two willow trees in the swale were very happy to receive a good drink.
|The swale even began to fill this week with water running off hard surfaces|
In preparation for the new solar panels I also cemented the steel post into the ground and unfortunately, it rained before I could complete painting the dark grey top coat.
|A steel post to the left of the existing solar panels was cemented into the ground over the past few days|
I thought that it may be useful for readers to see how I can quickly tell whether any post is exactly vertical. For about two decades now, I have used a yellow plastic post and pipe level. It is a very handy tool as it has two spirit levels both of which indicate whether the post is exactly vertical.
|A post and pipe level with two plastic spirit levels is used to ensure that any post is installed in a vertical position|
With the heavy rain, the concrete pipe / culvert which directs water onto the newly planted fern gully flowed today!
|The concrete pipe / culvert which directs water onto the newly planted fern gully flowed today|
And that flowing water travelled exactly along the line of the recently planted ferns.
|The flowing water travelled exactly along the line of the recently planted ferns|
The temperature outside now at about 5.30pm is 11.5’C (52.7’F). So far this year there has been 210.0mm (8.3 inches) which is up from last week’s total of 190.2mm (7.5 inches).