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Just under a week ago, the editor and I looked at each other across the divide of the kitchen bench and exchanged a meaningful glance. That glance conveyed so much information, even though words were not spoken. And the message was clear that we had been struck yet again by the pesky “Laser Printer” problem.
Eight years ago now, the editor and I constructed the house here. Construction of the house was a very complex job and we undertook most aspects of construction ourselves excluding the mains electrical and plumbing works. Mains voltage electrical and plumbing works in Australia are legally required to be performed by licensed trades people.
During those heady days the editor and I also started our own accounting/tax business. I have heard people claim that they are busy, and I have wondered what that term means to those people, but way back then, we actually were very busy!
It is no great secret that in an accounting business, most new work comes via way of referral from existing customers. The fancy name for that referral activity is: Word of mouth. The way that “word of mouth” operates is that somebody recommends to someone else that Chris and the Editor are top people and did a great job for them and they’ll look after you too. And more often than not, that “word of mouth” activity results in new client for our accounting business.
However, you never really know when this will happen. So imagine for a moment that:
· you are in the midst of constructing a house yourself and it is not yet sealed to the outside weather;
· winter is fast approaching;
· the landlord for the house that you are renting is messing you around and threatening to kick you out so that they can put that rental house on the market for sale; and
· you are suddenly faced with an influx of unexpected and brand new accounting work.
As a spoiler alert, we managed to address all of those competing matters and moved into the unfinished (and barely weather sealed) house early that Spring. However, one of the new accounting jobs required us to do a considerable amount of printing and scanning. At the time we had a dinky little colour inkjet printer and scanner, which despite being very slow, still works well after a decade of solid service. So, in order to complete the new accounting job quickly we decided to purchase a high speed laser printer and scanner.
The new laser printer and scanner allowed that new job to be completed quickly, however the simple purchase of that laser printer set off a chain of events that boggles the imagination. Without going into detail, that single new item of technology changed every aspect of the way we conducted and ordered our accounting business. Everything changed, from the layout of the office to the quality control systems and filing. It was surreal because we had to adapt ourselves and our practices to the new technology and not the other way around. I also learned that growth tends to not be a smooth trajectory, but rather a series of steps.
Working with nature reminds me of the exact same feeling of the Laser Printer problem. Nature rarely provides consistently. Instead, nature provides in great big splats and then not much. One such great big splat has been the huge load of tomatoes that we have been flooded with over the past few weeks. There sure have been a lot of tomatoes produced by the plants!
The March weather has been far hotter than the long term average and that has been awesome for beach goers and tomatoes. And the well above average heat followed on from a very damp and cool summer. The weather statistics for March taken from the Australian weatherzone website today is as follows:
|Weather statistics for March for Melbourne|
Observant readers will note that so far for this month, the maximum temperature has been +3.7’C greater than the long term average (and the minimum has been higher again). And the tomatoes are loving the heat.
Unfortunately, the damp, cloudy and warm weather meant that on most days of the past week we generated very little solar electricity. Sometimes the clouds were spectacularly thick and at a lower altitude than the farm!
|The thick clouds hung in the valley below the farm leaving us in bright sunshine|
At other times during the week the clouds descended (or is that technically ascended upon?) the farm and the air was thick with moisture:
|It has been a very foggy and damp week|
On the Wednesday the 5kW solar panels managed to generate a rather sad 2.3kWh (63Ah x 36V) for an entire day. As an interesting side story, in my wanderings on foot through the streets of Melbourne and the (trendy and affluent) inner Northern suburbs I often see placards on the front of houses proclaiming the imminent shift to renewable energy sources. The placards are very nicely printed indeed and they usually have abstract drawings of very attractive looking solar panels on free standing mounts. Those abstract drawings look uncannily like the ones that serve me so well in the paddock below the house. And at those times I consider the very uncomfortable question as to whether that particular household would be able to adapt to an energy availability of only 2.3kWh for an entire day? How long would a plasma TV run on this generation? An hour perhaps?
|Wednesdays solar energy production was very sad at only 2.3kWh (63Ah x 36V) for the whole day|
Strange renewable energy belief systems aside, the editor and I were faced with the incompatible problems of inconsistent electricity generation and truck loads of tomatoes. In such a situation, you make passata. Passata is an Italian style tomato and vegetable sauce which can be stored in glass jars and used in cooking throughout the year. And making passata uses far less electrical energy than using an electrically powered dehydrator. And this is what about half a year’s worth of stored passata looks like (ignoring the chutney on the extreme right of the photo):
|This is what half a year’s worth of passata looks like|
And that was when the recurring Laser Printer problem struck. The passata recipe uses far less electricity than dehydrating tomatoes. However, making passata takes about ten times as long to produce for a given volume of tomatoes than simply dehydrating tomatoes. Astute readers will realise that we had simply swapped our time for electrical energy. We had never produced passata in such volumes before and we were basically unprepared for the time that the whole process took. I can write this with a clear conscience because it was not I that cracked the sads in this particular instance…
Moving on … A few days later, the sun shone very strongly and strangely enough, we were just shy of breaking the record here for electricity generation in a single day. That means 20.3kWh (563Ah x 36V) on Saturday. Incidentally, for those who are numerically inclined, the record was 566Ah.
|The solar power system almost achieved a record breaking day of production on Saturday|
As I have heard said down here on occasion: “Go hard, or go home!” Usually people saying such comments are referring to drinking alcohol, but we chose instead to “go hard” and put through another six trays of tomatoes to dehydrate in the electric dehydrator.
|Another six trays of tomatoes were dehydrated in the Fowlers Vacola 4000 Ultimate Dehydrator unit this week|
My little red Honda push mower arrived back home from the local mower doctor this week and so I put it to good use and spent an entire day pushing it around the farm and covered a couple of acres. This is what the paddock looked like before mowing.
|The paddock below the house before mowing|
And this is what the paddock below the house looked like after mowing.
|The paddock below the house after mowing|
Observant readers will note in the photo above a very frisky looking Scritchy and Toothy frolicking about in the now mown herbage!
Just in case we hadn’t done enough work which may be disturbing for long term readers, we cut back all of the plant growth which had recently taken over all of the access stairs about the farm. In the photo below observant readers will note a sugar maple on the left and a tulip tree on the right. None of the six chock full wheelbarrow loads of cut plant growth goes to waste as we throw it on top of new garden beds as a form of fertiliser and simply let nature sort it all out over time.
|Plant growth which had recently taken over the access stairs about the farm was cut back|
This week I have also begun removing the steel cages from a few of the taller fruit trees. The steel cages are in place to protect the fruit trees from the unrelenting wallaby activities. The wallabies (a smaller and solitary form of forest dwelling kangaroo) are right little vandals who will happily destroy a fruit tree by pulling it over and snapping the trunk. However once fruit trees are about 5m (16 foot) tall, the trees are fairly impervious to the loving ministrations of the ever helpful and unrelenting wallabies.
|A Green Gage Prune was removed from its steel cage this week|
The warm and very humid weather has also been paradise for insects and the other evening I spotted this crawling mass of Portuguese millipedes and Slaters (wood lice). Seriously, the ground was oozing with insect activity…
|The ground oozed with activity as there was a crawling mass of Portuguese millipedes and Slaters (wood lice)|
Fortunately, the insect predators who are the good guys of any orchard were up to the task of sorting out that swarming mass of insects. Praying mantises are one of the good guys in an orchard and I spotted this one:
|A praying mantis takes a break from the task of consuming masses of insects|
Oh, I have mentioned before that I have continuing problems with the delaminating steel on the wood heater and was sort of hoping that if there were any metallurgists reading the blog (or anyone in the know about steel really) could identify why my wood heater shows signs of a white salt looking product in an amongst the rust. The deterioration of the wood heater is a sad tale and I’m hoping to learn something from that sad story so that I don’t repeat the same mistake with the next expensive replacement wood heater. Anyway, don’t be shy and please posit an opinion on the matter!
|Strange white salts are developing in the rust on the top of wood heater. If anyone has any ideas about it, please speak up!|
And as is now usual I’ll chuck in some nice flower photos to brighten up the day of anyone living in a cold northern hemisphere climate:
|The perennial rocket produces masses of flowers during late summer / early autumn which the bees adore|
|The Jerusalem artichokes have continued to flower this week and the plants are unable to out-compete the geraniums despite the artichokes ferocious reputation|
|And I believe these are some sort of African daisy which look superb|
The temperature outside now at about 9.45pm is 12’C (53’F). So far this year there has been 120.4mm (4.7 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 93.8mm (3.7 inches).