Monday, 3 April 2017

Jesus Toast

This blog is now available as an mp3 podcast through the link: www.ferngladefarm.com.au 

The gentle winds here are now blowing cold air up from the Southern Ocean. The warm days of summer are rapidly becoming a memory. The past week of weather has been decidedly brisk, and the wood heater has been in use. And this week we have discovered to our utter horror that the wood heater no longer adequately functions.

The fancy and technical word to describe the state of the wood heater here is: “burnt out” (i.e. Stuffed!) Nobody wants a burnt out wood heater as this is not a good thing. Long cold winters are a known feature of this little mountainous and forested corner of south eastern Australia. So, heating is an important component for a households domestic happiness. The wood heater is our only source of heat during those long cold winters too. The fortunate thing for us is that in the short term, the wood heater still works, sort of. However the wood heater isn't working very well, and is using an enormous quantity of firewood. The editor and I have a finite quantity of stored firewood, but the current usage rates are unsustainable. Something has to be done to correct this matter, and soon.

Long time readers will recall that two years ago I performed repairs to this wood heater, but alas, the damage to the structure of the wood heater is now beyond my skills to repair. Faced with such a dire situation, the editor and I had a brainstorming session and chucked some ideas around. It is important to remember that when a crisis like this strikes, it is a good opportunity to make changes to your systems using the experience that you have gained over many years.

In order to gain further information about wood heaters we headed out on Saturday to visit several wood heater suppliers in the surrounding area and asked them stupid questions about wood heaters. And I was truly amazed at just how much we learned about wood heaters that day. And this was despite having used one for seven years. I particularly enjoy asking stupid questions as it builds rapport with salespeople before I then proceed to go in for the kill with the much harder and more searching questions. It works every time! We received some rather candid opinions provided such as: people were no longer using wood heaters with longevity in mind; and, that wood heaters from, say, even thirty years ago where able to be dampened down so that the combustion process could run over a much longer period of time (eg: overnight) however this is no longer the case due to design changes over emissions. The experience was very interesting and has guided our thoughts in new directions.

Fear not as the editor and I were able to console ourselves by stopping during our travels that day to avail ourselves of some quality gourmet pies at the Toboorac pie shop. Oh yeah, those gourmet pies are the biz! And they can take anyone's mind off future potentially large expenditures (for a few moments at least).

Our current wood heater provides for: heating; hot water; and an oven to cook in. We are now considering using the energy in our firewood for only two of those three purposes: heating; and hot water. It appears to us that compromises that arise from centralising three separate functions into a single unit is that the wood heater does none of those separate functions particularly well. Further to this understanding our attempts over the years to use all of the separate functions in the wood heater has meant that the heater has been used way too hard and is now at the end of its very short life. For an expensive and complex wood heater to last only seven years from installation makes no economic sense whatsoever and we are not keen to repeat this expensive mistake.

Fortunately, when defeat is in the air, and the cards are stacked against you, there is always the local pub! On Thursday night the weather was filthy. The winds blew cold and the rain was torrential. The chickens are oblivious to such weather conditions, but there was no way that I was going to stand around in that rain in the orchard whilst the chickens merrily cavorted about! What else can one do on such a cold and wet night, but to cheer oneself with a nice meal and a pint of the finest local ale at, the now warmer than this house, the local pub.

Personally, I blame the pint of local pale ale, but when I had consumed about a third of the pint, I looked down at the glass and exclaimed to the editor: “<non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> me! There’s a <non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> froth dog on the glass. It’s like a <non family friendly expletive now fortunately deleted> Jesus toast.” Nuff said really, check out the photo below and note the uncanny similarity to Poopy the Pomeranian (who all righteous people know is actually a Swedish Lapphund).
The image of a froth dog can be seen on the side of this pint of ale just like a Jesus toast
The heavy rains which fell a few months ago caused a lot of damage to an access driveway. Long term readers may recall the infamous landslide incident which occurred at the same time? This week we began repairing the driveway to its former glory. Repairing that driveway meant bringing onto the farm a few trailer loads of the local crushed rock and lime from a nearby quarry. The crushed rock and lime was then spread over the surface and hopefully it will harden with a combination of sun, rain and time. Over a couple of days we repaired about 60m (198 feet) of driveway to its former glory.
One part of a lower access driveway was repaired this week
There is still a bit of repair work to that driveway to go. And looking at the area yet to be repaired makes for an interesting comparison to the nice and neat repaired photo above. The heavy rain that day cut several deep channels into the driveway:
A section of the driveway has yet to be repaired and it makes a good comparison to the previous photo above
That heavy rain earlier this year not only damaged the driveway, but it also caused a minor landslide. The area that was subject to the landslide was quickly repaired and replanted and I can report that it is now looking pretty good:
The area subject to landslide from the heavy rains earlier this year is starting to look pretty good again
We decided to bring up some rocks from the paddock which is below the house. The weather is rapidly turning cooler and wetter and soon it will be impossible to bring back rocks (or pretty much anything) back up the hill – even using the little white Suzuki in four wheel drive and low range.
The little white Suzuki and bright yellow trailer was used to bring rocks back up the hill from the paddock well below the house
Toothy the long haired dachshund has earned his dinner for the next few weeks! Earlier this week Toothy pointed out to me that the very sneaky field mice had managed to burrow under a foot thick concrete slab so as to gain access into the – previously impenetrable to rodents – chicken enclosure.
Toothy discovers that field mice had penetrated the outer defences of the chicken enclosure. The breach is indicated by an orange circle
I am a little bit in awe of the rodent population here! It took me a while to discover the corresponding hole inside the chicken enclosure where the field mice had broken in. Sure enough, those sneaky rodents had managed to tunnel 2m under a very thick concrete slab so as to gain access to the chickens feed. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered the hole!
I soon found the other side of the hole where the sneaky field mice had managed to get into the chicken enclosure. The breach is indicated by an orange circle
The local rodent population are clearly not to be trifled with! In order to block up the hole that the field mice had created inside the chicken enclosure, I dumped a huge quantity of cement over that entire area. However, the weather here has been quite cold and the cement was poured very late in the day and the cement had clearly not set by the time the field mice dug another hole through that huge quantity of cement.
The field mice are not to be trifled with as they dug a brand new slightly bigger hole (Hole Mk II) through cement that had not yet completely set due to the cold weather
The following morning, I discovered the sheer audacity of the rodents actions and decided to immediately pour more cement into both the hole that the field mice had made, and over the entire area near the hole. And because I poured the cement in the morning, by the evening the cement was feeling very solid indeed. Clearly this war will be long and fought using dirty techniques! Take that you dirty rat!

I removed a few more tall fruit trees from their steel cages. The steel cages protect the fruit trees from the damage that your average wallaby can inflict. Incidentally, for new readers a wallaby is a local marsupial which is like a slightly smaller kangaroo. They are extremely cute but extremely dangerous to fruit trees. They also taste OK with a fruity sauce (ironically).
A European pear tree was removed from its steel cage this week
Even without the cage, the fruit tree still has to be protected from the wallabies. I usually achieve that trick by ensuring that the wallaby cannot pull the fruit tree over and break it by using a flexible cloth tie and a steel rod called a star picket.
Once a fruit tree has been removed from its steel cage, it has to be protected from being pulled over by using a flexible cloth tie and a steel rod called a star picket
Not all of the marsupial animals which roam through the orchard at night perform such outrageous acts of vandalism. Some of the marsupial animals are still very grumpy, but they cause far less outrages. And one of my favourites are the local wombats who can be seen roaming around chomping down on choice bits of plants. I spotted this wombat the other night on the side of the road:
I spotted this wombat the other night on the side of the road
Like the marsupials, the tomatoes are going feral! This week we processed another load of tomatoes in the electric dehydrator as well as producing another batch of passata. The plants are still going strong too:
The tomatoes are still going strong despite the cooler weather
The plants have been incredibly productive this year. And the next two photos shows what some of the vines look like after the many weeks of harvesting…
The cherry red tomatoes look and taste great
The best tasting tomatoes this year are the smaller yellow tomatoes
It is not all about the tomatoes though. In the same enclosure (which we have decided to extend before next spring) there are many other plants growing:
I can’t wait to taste the black capsicums (peppers) as I have never grown these before
The green capsicums (peppers) are also starting to grow in size
The purple eggplants look sort of purple. I hope they taste nice
The cantaloupe look to me like they are starting to slowly ripen
This afternoon, I spotted this awesome looking caterpillar on one of the lemon trees and it was so attractive I just left it in peace to eat a few leaves.
I spotted this very attractive caterpillar this afternoon on one of the lemon trees
And I also spotted a couple of older red rosella birds training a juvenile green rosella bird to consume the dog manure which the dogs conveniently leave in a particular spot for them every day.
I spotted a couple of older red rosella birds training a juvenile green rosella bird to consume the dog manure about the farm
And as winter approaches the farm there are less flowers about the place. However the citrus are the only trees that produce fruit in the depths of winter and over the past few weeks they have begun flowering:
The citrus trees have begun producing flowers in anticipation of fruit later in the year
The cooler weather has also caused many of the geranium cuttings to produce new growth and flowers. The geranium cuttings usually take about a year to become fully established, but they are very hardy and reliable flowering plants and the bees adore the flowers. And the wallabies really hate the smell of some of the geraniums so they make a great protective hedge for other plants.
Many geranium cuttings are beginning to produce flowers
The temperature outside now at about 7.00pm is 12’C (53’F). So far this year there has been 130.2mm (5.1 inches) which is more than last week’s total of 120.4mm (4.7 inches).

86 comments:

Damo said...

@Steve/Yahoo2

Thank you for the wood heater explanations. I had no idea, but of course it makes perfect sense there will be compromises based on where and how you choose to extract the heat energy.

Do you have any comments on Rocket Stoves? In particular I mean the larger ones that some people are installing inside homes. A passing fad? Useful, but no silver bullet? Inquiring minds would like to know :-)

There are three mulberry trees in our yard and they are producing a lot of fruit. So, on the weekend I went to a small pot-luck event with some Lao and falung staff I work with. Everyone needed to prepare one dish in front of everyone else so we could learn. There was fresh spring rolls, Pad Lao (not to be confused with Pad Thai :-) and pork laap. For my contribution I made mini-quiches and a mulberry pie using home-made shortcrust pastry. I am happy to report the mulberry pie was a huge hit, especially when served with a dollop of plain yoghurt!

Even better, the host let us pick as many tomatoes as we want, they are moving out soon and there is not enough time to eat them all. Most tomatoes in Laos are from China and look as bad as your typical supermarket job - so it was a real treat to get the home grown stuff. I now have 2 litres of passata :-)

Cheers,
Damo

PS @Marg - I made a comment on your password problem on the previous post

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Well I do have to confess to owning a bottle of Asian style fish sauce, which incidentally sounds an awful lot like the Garum. As a little bit of a background to this confession, I have travelled widely through the back blocks and less travelled parts of Asia and the editor and I just have developed a taste for fish sauce. A place in Melbourne that specialises in Vietnamese street food makes a superb poached chicken coleslaw, which as you'd imagine tastes nothing like western coleslaw, and fish sauce features heavily in the concoction as well as sesame seed oil and we rather sneakily re-engineered the flavours and produce a very exact version of the coleslaw minus the chicken - which of course is impossible to taste anyway due to the heavy dressings. As you may expect, it is an acquired taste, but so many Asian vegetables grow in the climate here, especially during the hot summers that we had to modify our diets to match what could be grown. One of my absolute favourite plants is Vietnamese mint and I have a thick patch of the mint and it grows a massive quantity of sun hardy greens reliably every single year.

One day when I pull the photos out of the off site storage facility (a necessary precaution due to the serious summer bushfire risk) I'll do a post on culture shock. The reason behind that thought is that when I travelled in India, I became used to the sheer afrontery of the cultural differences and after I while I even became accustomed to the huge crowds and Hindi music blaring out everywhere. When I came home from those travels, the house that I lived in and the world around me felt very bland and quiet. It was a real shock to the senses and would be interesting to talk about in a bit more detail. Dunno.

Well, there are some advantages to living on the side of a volcano. ;-)! Great mobile phone reception is one of those, of course all things are subject to change and the volcano could potentially erupt one day blowing up everything in sight. I wouldn't have to worry about the heating problems then would I? :-)! The downside is that the steep incline provides additional energy to bushfires, but the minerals in the ground... It is all such a compromise...

Yes, well the mostly federal government owned telco here has been enjoying some extra funds from the government to put more towers in rural areas and I have to admit that I am rather benefiting from the apparent pork barelling. Sorry to hear about the revolt in your area and yup that is a risk for sure. Most infrastructure is on a last in first out basis - the technical name for that is LIFO. And well, I've got some bad news for rural areas. And supplying your own infrastructure is hideously expensive as I'm discovering.

Incidentally, I wanted to thank you for your considerate thoughts and efforts in breaking the curse of the nervous nineties! One does not want to be caught at the slips (an obscure cricket reference whilst on 99 runs). ;-)! It happens more often than you'd be aware.

Yeah, I've never hooked into anyone else's wi-fi but the risk in that is inherent in the activity itself. The whole internet was set up with little in the way of security so it feels to me like the effort of trying to store electricity in that it is akin to keeping water in a leaky bucket.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

Out of sheer curiosity, I'm wondering if Beau has ever caught a gopher? You may notice the similarities I'm having with the field mice here. On a more positive note, at least the gophers are turning the soil and getting air into the soil depths and that increases the fertility, plus they may have to leave manure in their tunnels somewhere. The grey misty weather is a bit of a drag on the senses really, but all things change and sooner or later the sun pokes its head out from behind the thick clouds. Incidentally, you may be picking blackberries in a few months. I noticed the council here was spraying them recently. The guy was in a full environmental suit and perhaps it was too bad for the luckless travellers who had to go past the spraying...

Stop it! Hehe! I have not worked out how to provide adequate care for the animals here and the systems in the house are subject to damage by careless acts so I have not yet discovered how to get away from the place for more than two days. You can see the problems I'm having with the heater... But that XPT overnight train to Sydney is calling...

The damage to the wood heater is really totally 100% our fault. I have learned so much about heating with wood over the past few weeks, but to repair the damage will set me back a pretty penny. I got onto the plumber this morning and he made some very astute recommendations. We spent about half an hour tonight talking about the wood heater and it is seriously no joke. Of course, laughing about a situation helps with the pain of rectifying the situation. :-)!

You go Octavia! Well done her. I know of a lady who was married off by her family and they are making a go of it, but that response is not for everyone. I would hate to think who my mum would have married me off to. A horrendous thought and the editor would not have rated a mention.

The unfortunate problem with mentioning toga's is that - and it may be because I have never been invited to one - my mind always returns to the infamous toga party in National Lampoons film Animal House. Toga, toga, toga!!! Were your toga parties anything like that one? Perhaps not given the puritanical views of the day. It is unfortunate that we send our young out into the world of drugs without any assistance. And alcohol is actually a drug in the commonly understood meaning of that word.

It is curious that the development of paper was able to traverse such incredible distances and over such amazing periods of time.

Yeah, well, that was what I was wondering too. How did a recipe survive from that disaster. Business and lawyers correspondence would make for very dull reading, but I do wonder if the lost paperwork in question would have made much impact on the lives of the slaves and whether those slaves would have taken the option of running away from the hills from Pompeii. I mean the locals would have known of the risk, don't you believe? Or do you believe, they downplayed that risk? I've always wondered about that.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

You know, I reckon that is a fair and reasonable solution when someone is faced with the realities of highly reactive clay. I imagine your husband constructed the timber house itself to move with the swelling and contraction of the clay? I do a similar thing here, except that the designers forced me to commit to very deep holes in the clay which eventually ate about 15 cubic metres of cement. I moved all of that cement with a wheelbarrow and that was one of the longest work days that I've experienced... Exactly too, the house settles so what may be a problem at one point of the year becomes settled at another point of the year. The fancy term for that is: dynamic! ;-)! People feel that construction is an end point in itself when it is merely a beginning.

Your son is exactly correct and during bushfires down here, I have heard of concrete tanks exploding as the water boils in those cracks and forces extreme pressure on the structure. Plastic tanks melt to the water line. And steel tanks can be quite good, but those lined with plastic linings can be a bit dicey depending on where the water level is and the fuel around the water tank.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thanks for doing that. It is much more accurate and cheaper than a laser level over a long distance with objects in between. Water always finds its level.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

It is an absolute shocker isn't it? And the floodwaters are expected to peak in Rockhampton on Wednesday, so up north they are not out of the water yet.

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

What is the point of being a falung if you are not tricked by the locals every now and then? :-)! Hehe! I don't mind fish sauce, but I can see how it might be offensive to the western palate. I get that. Mind you, there is a restaurant in Melbourne that specialises in Vietnamese street food and it is very good and I recommend it highly. I like vegemite too, but foreigners seem to view it with a dubious expression. Mind you, many Asians consider that cheese is off milk!

The funny thing about that place is that it is only north of here and on the side of a river. I was wondering that too. My gut feeling is that they have flogged (or compacted) the land for everything that it is worth and the land could use a bit of organic matter. The lands around it look quite fertile to my eyes. Dunno.

I'll bet Dorrigo got more than its fair share this year! Some parts of Victoria get that much rain too, like down in the Otway forest. I almost bought land there instead of here for that reason, but being too wet can be more of problem than being too dry.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Yes, the devastation was horrible to see and I cannot even begin to imagine what the residents will have to cope with over the next few weeks of clean up. Too much water can be as big a problem as too little water if not bigger. At least if it is dry and you have access to water then your plants growth rates are huge.

What an excellent question. Firstly, I'm planning to run the replacement wood heater with cleaner exhaust gases. Yahoo2 / Steve gave an excellent description of the nature of the problem. You probably have not seen the problems we're having here because you are running your wood heater well. Because the original wood heater had an oven which we used a lot, we dampened the combustion chamber too much and the wet back which kept the water toasty hot also took too much energy from the combustion chamber. We killed the fire box, but we expected too much from the wood heater itself and failed to take into account the significant compromises involved in the design of the machine. Yup, I thought that too, but nowadays, I'm not so sure. Over the past week, I have learned more about wood heaters than I previously knew, and hindsight is a wonderful thing. They are a very complex machine indeed despite appearing to be deceptively simple.

Sorry to hear about the loss of the two chickens to the coyote. I reckon you are onto something by breaking the patterns of the coyotes as they may soon get hungry and go looking for easier prey, elsewhere. You may laugh at this weeks blog with the extraordinary efforts of the rodents! I'm in awe of them, so can't recommend anything more highly than concrete and steel. Those rodents are way smarter than I am, it is like they're trying to break into Alcatraz, so I hear you about the unrelenting efforts of the coyotes, skunks and opossums...

So true about the animals. I don't mind so much as I have nowhere where I'm much hankering to go. What did they say about no place like home? Of course mileage varies greatly on that front and there is no judgement from me on that. It is hard for people to accept that and I often wonder how much of the so called "drudgery" of the pre-Industrial era was just people whining about how tied they were to the land. Dunno.

Good for you getting the rain at such a crucial time of year for the plants. I wish you a most productive growing season!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis and Steve,

Many thanks for the lovely and thoughtful comments. However, I have completely run out of time to reply this evening (the editor and I were having deep discussions about all things wood heater like) and promise to reply to you tomorrow.

Regards

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello Chris

I have only lived in one home that had a wood stove and I am struggling to understand why there are problems. This wood stove was stunning. It was cast iron and did not have a glass door. It was kept going night and day all through the winter. I would put a flat, round piece of oak in when I went to bed and it would still be alight next morning. It heated the water and radiators to heat the other rooms. I reckon that this was about 6 radiators but there might have been more, I don't remember. I can only assume that they are poorly made these days as is so much.

Inge

Yahoo2 said...

Hi Damo,
I am a big fan of the rocket mass heater design however they are designed as a batch burning machine, crank it up for an hour and light it again the next day sorta thing. Some houses dont suit this approach the mass can be warm but there can be other cold surfaces causing drafts and sucking our skin temps down and making it uncomfortable. Proper lightweight high temp kiln firebrick needs to be used in the heat riser cos they burn so hot anything else will just melt.
There is another masonry design I have seen that is suitable for a stove and that has a riserless core its not as hardcore efficient as a rocket design but it can do continuous low burns. I have seen some videos of building one recently and I was very impressed, I will have a dig in my browser history and see if I can find a link.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, when it's all over, you'll be the go-to guy for all things wood stove. Hard won wisdom. But, as with the limitations of solar, you'll probably have a hard time getting people to LISTEN. So, it's a bit of asking to many functions of the wood stove and a bit of a case of "they don't make them like they used to." (ie" the crapification of everything.) My experiences with wood stoves ... there were a lot of little quirks. Such as, if you're firing up a wood stove in a cold house, you should shove a bit of flaming newspaper in the back of the firebox ... right into the hole where the stove pipe comes in so that you heat up the stove pipe to get a good draw and not fill the house with smoke. Simple ... when you know about it. Setting dampers to get a good draw took a bit of experimentation ... and a deft hand.

Are you sure that bit of beer foam isn't a dancing goat? Or, a foal? Maybe a calf? I bet your fun and entertaining, laying on your back and considering cloud formations :-).

Mice are willey (sp?) creatures. Best get on them. Once they're made their tunnel, can rats be far behind? Snakes? I just went out to check the mail and Nell has left me a nice plump shrew on the porch carpet. Beau's not much of a digging dog, so, no, as far as I know, no gophers. Now possums ... more on that, later.

Ah... your telco is government owned. Sigh. Along with medicine, we'd all be better off if such was the case, here. Oh, agreed. I forget who said it (Either Kunstler or Greer) that rural infrastructure is like, will be like, a film running backward. Already is in some places. The way our county is running through it's "prudent reserve", it won't be long before obvious cuts have to be made, somewhere. They dipped into about a third of the reserve, to meet the budget, this year.

What's better than "Animal House?" The sheer nihilism of the thing. Our toga party was quit sedate, as I recall. Different times when teachers still had some control over the students. Societal expectations were different. One must also consider the makeup of students who would take Latin. What is today known as geeks and nerds :-). Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Wizard job repairing the driveway and slide. Water can be just so destructive. And, it's gets everywhere. And the clean up! Not trying to do you one better, but here's some pictures of our flood in 2007. Change that "7" to a "9" and you get pictures of the repeat, two years later. We didn't have to deal with wind, on top of the water. Just to orientate you a bit, any pictures with the Walmart store at the bottom, are looking east, toward the Chehalis central business district. Which didn't flood as it was high on the slope. In between the Walmart and the CBD is Interstate 5, the main route between Portland and Seattle. The main north/south rail line is also under those waters.

https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0SO8odoluJYa8IAAkhXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0aTQ3bTJoBGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjM2MjJfMQRzZWMDcGl2cw--?p=chehalis+wa+flood+2007&fr2=piv-web&fr=aaplw

I've often wondered about slaves and Pompeii. Say your a slave and you manage to survive and are suddenly stricken by the thought that everyone who knows your a slave is dead. Did heirs to vast fortunes turn up months later? Were they really the heirs, or impostors? There hadn't been an eruption in living memory. There had been a very bad earthquake in 62AD. Repairs were still ongoing in 79. After that, some people did sell their property and move away. There is evidence that speculators picked up some for a song, subdivided and made fortunes.

Spent a good amount of time hacking away at the blackberries, yesterday. Also trimmed up a climbing rose which took it into it's mind to climb in some "wrong" directions. Trimmed back some frost damage. There are tulips, here and there, beginning to bloom. Back to Beau, I discovered two possum corpses under the deck. Long past shovel disposal stage. First order of business, today, is to throw some dirt on them. Luckily, they're close to the edge of the deck and I won't have to crawl under. Also lucky, where I was working, the wind was blowing away from the possums. But every once in awhile, it would shift and I'd get a whiff. Oh, argh. Became dizzy, a couple of times. Took a break and threw more carbs and cals on top of an already hearty breakfast, and that seemed to do the trick. Lew

TalkingTrees said...

Hello Chris

Wood heaters can be tricky to deal with given the changes to their engineering and construction. Friends of ours have tried to get a trades person to modify a chimney in an 1850's house in town since January but they have temporarily given up. How hard can it be? The problems are many. Old mortar, back to back fire places but two chimneys, a very tall roof and the size of the fire place (quite small). Nothing they've tried works and salespeople have led them up the garden path about what they need, instead telling them what they want to sell.

I would dearly love to have a slow combustion cooking stove but the cost is prohibitive and we don't need it for warmth in the winter as our existing wood heater is efficient enough to heat our modern, well insulated and oriented home. It will be interesting to follow your story and see your choices.

Your drive looks splendid! Even the washed out section looks better than some sections of our internal dam road. I have road envy. Or perhaps I have energy envy because the thought of unloading so many loads of gravel leaves me undone.

We have been scrambling to organise being away for a week.. Our daughter unfortunately shattered her wrist and needs surgery and a plate to reconstruct it so we're travelling South today to help.

Warm Regards, Helen

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Yup, we sure did break that magic 100 mark last week... Is this a good thing? I'm not aiming for the Mr Congeniality Award! :-)! Oh well.

Thanks for the link to the state of play in the US coal industry and I'll check it out hopefully tonight. Things are never what they seem, don't you reckon?

Was this the link to the National Archives clip: The American Scene: Number Two—The Cowboy

David is an authority! I've met of those in my time... I hope not to meet too many of them... Yeah, Hollywood perhaps overstated the case a bit! Hehe!

Thanks for the link. Good luck with the blackberries and don't take any nonsense from them.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the excellent information and explanation about the workings of wood heaters. Yes, I absolutely agree with your explanation as it makes perfect sense. Wood heaters are a lot like a chainsaw in that at face value it appears to be a rather simple and basic machine, but to get the best out of that machine you have to know pretty much everything about it and how to maintain and operate it. Otherwise, you are going to damage the machine or attempt to use the machine in a manner that is not consistent with what it can actually deliver. A little mini-boss chainsaw can be effective tool if it is properly maintained - although it would struggle with the timbers here due to the sheer size and hardness of the timber.

Yes, the glass and the dampening effect on the combustion from the use of the oven as well as the wet back have all conspired with our poor usage of the machine to bring it to a sad and early end. With the next firebox (which I ordered today - a Nectre Mega) I will ensure that it burns as cleanly as possible and I have removed the ability from our systems to use wood heat as an oven by choosing that unit.

And yes, we now understand how the mismatch in energy usage is a real problem between the wet back and the combustion and will endeavour to ensure that we match the outputs correctly. If only we had known this information way back in the day, I never would have purchased the now dead wood heater. It was basically under specified for the role that it was placed in and we in turn flogged the poor machine to death. It is not a pretty story, but lessons have been learned.

Yes, modifying the unit is not a bad idea, but I'm considering 10mm high temperature steel plates to replace the 6mm sacrificial plates that come with the machine. One benefit of living near Melbourne is that there are specialist steel suppliers on the other side of town to here.

Your firebrick idea is a good one and we considered that one too, but I'm told that you can't take them too high in the combustion chamber, as it will reduce the energy that is radiated from the steel itself (the fire bricks are an insulator as well as a form of thermal mass which you clearly mentioned). Everything is a compromise with this energy source.

Thanks for the excellent description about how the fireboxes worked back in the day. Of course, those units were never intended to heat an entire house (just a room) - which is a mismatch on today's expectations and which it could be fair to say that the expectations are a bit beyond what the available technology is capable of delivering in the long term.

I had not heard of the Blaze unit. Ah! Interesting, I believe Pecan Engineering maybe owned by the Nectre mob: Nectre. It looks like a good unit.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Well done with the mulberries and tomato / passata win! Nice work.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Steve / Yahoo2 summed the problems up with the current wood heaters very nicely. But the basic problem was that - and we were totally responsible for the early demise - is that as Steve pointed out the energy required to run the oven was basically one tenth of what the combustion was supplying. In order not to burn everything that was cooked in the oven, the combustion was throttled a lot. This throttling produced noxious gases which corroded the steel in the machine. Then because we were trying to utilise the hot water produced by the machine, that hot water was taking further energy from the combustion and causing the fire to burn less cleanly and so that too produced noxious gases and corroded the steel in the machine.

Basically to sum it up, we were attempting to pursue contradictory outcomes and the machine was just not up for those expectations. If I knew way back then, what I know now, I would treat the machine with kid gloves, but alas for my bank account those days are now in the past, and the machine is beyond economic repair. It is a sad tale.

Those older machines survived well because they did not set out in the first place to be everything to everyone and thus they were more resilient. However, having said that if someone was to treat one of those older units in the wrong manner (i.e. trying to extract too much energy from the combustion) then they would also not last long at all. Interestingly enough, I'm coming around to the conclusion that we as a society may have lost the knowledge to operate these machines with longevity in mind.

It is sort of like: I've learned how to manage that machine well, by being a bad manager. Still it is better to get there eventually than not at all!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Oh yeah. As I noted in the comment to Inge above: I've learned how to manage that machine well, by being a bad manager. Still it is better to get there eventually than not at all! So many things are like that unfortunately. Oh well. It gives me further ammunition to laugh at the silly beliefs of the preppers. They mean well, but basically they won't make it. I said to the Green Wizards group (who are far from preppers! They're really nice people, preppers are a bit obsessive) that it is an amazing time live in that we are able to test out all of this technology and learn how to use it and pick and choose what you want to surround yourself with. Wood energy is a very sustainable form of energy - not much else comes close to it, other than perhaps solar hot water (which is awesome). I'm not sure they believed me, but oh well, the idea is out there for them to mull over.

Exactly, the machines are full of little quirks and the way you adapt to all of those quirks determines the longevity of the machine, and unless you get to suffer the full consequences of that problem, you may not take the matter seriously enough. The wood heater is a lot like the chainsaw in that it takes a lot of experience to get the best out of those machines as they are so complex, but at the same time they both appear to be simple. They're a bit like wolves in sheep's clothing. And yeah, nobody listens about that sort of thing as it offends their sense of expectations - and I don't reckon that is a small matter at all.

I would have listened, I just didn't know to ask! But I ask questions now about them for sure. This is one expensive mess to fix up and the flue has to be moved next week so as to ensure that the new heater has correct clearances. What a nightmare. Oh well. I chose a new heater that is simpler in design and operation than the previous one and apparently it is manufactured in Adelaide (South Australia), so fingers crossed. They received the most recommendations from people I asked, so that maybe a good sign (and one of those people installs them for people around these parts, so that carries weight).

Too true about the froth dog! And dancing goat was certainly a solid choice! Don't forget Bambi too, although hopefully Bambi isn't in the orchard, otherwise we may get the scene: When Bambi met Poopy! :-)! Hehe! Sometimes I amuse myself with such things, and once I spotted a cloud that looked like a girl riding a dragon which was really cool but hard to photograph, and then I'd have to weather the: No, I wasn't drinking at the time - which may sound worse? What do you reckon about that?

Yup, indeed, mice, rats, then snakes. The guy doing the snake show at the Agricultural show I went to a few weeks back was stressing the importance of not getting a good population of rats and mice if you don't want snakes in your area. Good common sense really. Well done Nell, although I believe a shrew is a mouse sort of creature, but have never seen one. Some dogs dig and some don't. Dogs that dig can be a bit of a nuisance. Scritchy will dig down into a rats nest, but she requires Poopy to do the final act. They work in concert those two.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

The government has sold off 49% of the telco, and I reckon they'd like to sell more for the cash, but there may be a revolt. The telco is good at providing services to rural areas that are perhaps a little on the un-economic side of the equation. I've noticed a trend in people demanding that government services generate a profit, but the whole point of the government providing the service in the first place is that it doesn't make a profit but is nice to have for the population, so the cost is spread through the population. I dunno, of course postage can't make a profit, that is the whole point of it. I like that film running backward analogy. One coal fired generator was shut down recently and it provides 25% of the states supply. I keep thinking to myself: what could possibly go wrong?

cont...

Damo said...

@Chris

You are not wrong about the fish sauce, it goes well when combined with some soy and garlic. But the fish sauce here is on another level - think fermented, rotting fish heads floating in a pot, which becomes a soup. Not for the faint hearted! But quite useful in the tropics as an alternative to salting or drying I guess.

I have a 50% hit rate with the vegemite, it seems some quite like the bitterness which is a popular flavour in this part of the world. Mrs Damo told me once that people in SE Asia have a genetic difference which effects how they perceive bitterness, or something like that anyway :-)

Any idea on what that windmill property might sell for? I think trying to restore the windmill to functionality would be a great project, but no doubt horribly expensive if the stonework and mortar is no good. If the creek flows year round then it should be possible to get some good life back into the soil if your expectations are kept low.

I noticed today that some of the villages have started clearing silt from their streams and waterways (with excavators!) in preparation for the wet season. I wonder if the Chinese dams are keeping on top of the silt problem?

Cheers,
Damo

margfh said...

@Damo

Thank you for your offer of help with cracking my password. I will email you for instructions. Now they may be over my head but I have a brother-in-law and daughter's boyfriend who are knowledgeable about such matters that I can recruit for assistance. Funny thing is I asked both of them before and neither seemed to have an answer.

Margaret

margfh said...

Hi Chris,

Sounds like you're getting quite an education about wood stoves. A couple of years ago we used to burn wood much slower (cooler?). There is a window on the wood burner and it would need to be cleaned almost weekly. There is a door on top where we can feed the wood and on occasion there would be a burp (don't know how else to describe it) and the top would pop up a bit and release some smoke which was disconcerting to me anyway. However we could fill it up and it would burn slowly all night. I'm wondering if we had continued to use it that way would we have run into some of your issues.

It's always disturbing to lose chickens to predators but like I said I've chosen to let them free range a fair amount so it's to be expected. Good luck with the mice. Our cats seem to keep them down to a minimum and of course Salve works at it too. We rarely see rats fortunately.

I'm pretty content to stay home and we've pretty much said this trip to Alaska will be our last big trip - not that there's been many big trips. Interesting when someone retires one of the first questions people ask is "Are you planning to travel?" When my in-laws retired they took their modest RV and one summer traveled to the west coast and the next to the east coast making many stops along the way to visit friends and just see the sights. Gas wasn't too expensive then and they didn't have the cost of hotels or meals as they just prepared them in the RV. They only had a dog and were able to take her along.

Margaret

Cherokee Organics said...

Lewis, cont...

Nihilism is a great description of the Animal House story. That film made quite the impression on my rather young and impressionable mind. Of course serious students of Latin would never have deigned to have a toga party such as the Animal House toga party (an epic party by the way). Geeks and nerds of the world, go wild! That's what I reckon...

Yeah, the damage was pretty severe and the lime takes so long to set and needs the exact right conditions. Oh well, next year, I'll maintain the main culvert drain and that will help the situation a lot. In the one in a hundred year rainfall (which seems to happen every three or so years), organic matter blocked up the main culvert and the water from the main road all (1300 feet) of collection space channelled down the driveway.

Oh my! That was one huge flood. Thanks for the images, that looked exactly like up north. Why do people want to drive into floodwaters? I stood in a small flood once and the force of the water was an antidote to over confidence in such matters. The photos of the mudslides were sobering too.

Hey, everything old is new again... The speculators turn up trying to buy land on the cheap after natural disasters too down here. Yes, it is an ugly business.

What a naughty rose to grow in the wrong direction! A bit of pruning here and there can make all the difference in a garden. Look out for yourself. I'm a bit nuked tonight as I both worked and sorted out the new wood heater today... Would you believe the flue is in the wrong spot by 80mm (3.1 inch) and has to be moved. Nothing is simple.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Helen,

Oh yeah, heating with wood is a real skill. That is certainly an old chimney, but on the other hand it is still there and so you'd have to suggest that the mortar is still holding. Mortar in between bricks in a chimney is subject to shrinking... Maybe the best solution is to put a decrotive timber mantle and cast iron insert over the old 1850'd chimney and then put a newer wood heater in elsewhere with a stainless steel flue that goes through a different part of the roof? I've used open fireplaces before and an awful lot of heat goes up the chimney (where hopefully it warms the bricks, which then radiate that heat for hours after the fire has gone out - that's the theory anyway). Way back in those days houses were reasonably cold. Newer houses still are cold today, they're just constructed to be mechanically heated and cooled, which is frankly not a sustainable situation.

I'll be interested to see how this story progresses too. In all honesty, the new fireplace is akin to the solar power system. They both will cease functioning at some point in the future, you just try and manage the systems so that that day is as far into the future as possible. I'm told by reliable sources that wood heaters are expected to last between 10 and 15 years (with 15 years being the exception). I will try to get more life out of it than that though.

Thanks! It is a beautiful drive isn't it? And it is nice to have a source of local lime as the soils are usually very acidic around these parts. Interestingly too, the quarry and area has been mined for tens of thousands of years. It used to be a major source of flint which was traded widely across the land.

I'm so sorry to hear about your daughters accident and I hope that the recovery is not too traumatic. That is a very serious break.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Yeah, next time you are in Melbourne, I can provide directions for you and Mrs Damo so that you can consume some authentic Vietnamese street food. It's good, and of course fish sauce gets a look in. Your description of the production of fish sauce looks much less appealing than purchasing the stuff in bottles... A lot of things are like that, aren't they?

I didn't know that about the different perception of bitterness in SE Asia. A lot of people in Europe use bitter flavours as a starter before meals. Some alcoholic drinks are deliberately bitter. I reckon wormwood tastes quite bitter to me.

No. I have absolutely no idea how much that property would go for. Yes, restoring the windmill would be a fascinating project and I believe the advertisement mentioned that the Egyptian grinding stones were in place. I'm not sure that part of the area is all that windy though, but I may be wrong. It is on the northern side of the mountain range just out of the town of Kyneton.

I don't actually know what is the go with the soil there, but it was noticeable wasn't it? Perhaps compaction has been a problem on that site? Dunno. The windmill sits on the side of a river, but to be honest the river does flow better in winter and the river is dammed up at various points along the way. There are other bluestone three story mills dotted about the landscape on the sides of that river too, so this must have been an important grain area way back in the day - or it was along the Melbourne to Bendigo main road and train line and the drays moved the grain down here? you'd think that they'd lose a lot of grain along the way wouldn't you?

Silting in dams is one of those unspoken problems - don't ever mention it to true believers in hydro power... Far out... ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Hi, Chris!

You have had such a terrible time with your stove! Good for you, doing all of that real world research before you invest in the next one. I am afraid that you might have been cracking the sads lately?

The froth dog does look like Poopy, in his summer haircut. Since all of the external interior walls (that sounds like an oxymoron - I may not have that right) of our house are log walls, I spend much pleasant time looking for "pictures" that naturally occur in the wood grain, especially when in the bathroom. Like living art work.

The repaired part of the driveway looks lovely. And I can't even tell that there was a landslide on that slope.

Ha! While you were bring rocks up the hill in your little yellow trailer, we were bringing logs up the hill, through the woods, in our old pick up.

Toothy, Mouse Detective! You may remember our past mouse troubles (RIP - probably - Little Mad Dog). I still occasionally find an old stash of cheese, nuts, and candy (they ate well, those mice) or a chewed dress or book in the back of a closet. If you have happened to have trapped any mice inside the chicken palace - look out mice. If a chicken can catch one, I'll bet it will.

Hmmm. Roast wallaby with fruity sauce, with a side order of poached mice and a fermented spider sauce . . .

Were you happy with the way that you supported the tomatoes this last season? Were they easy to care for and to harvest? Any disease problems?

The black capsicum looks like our Purple Beauty bell peppers - a very nice sweet pepper. The cantaloupes look perfect so far. Are they growing with the tomatoes?

The rosellas are interesting. I don't believe I have seen any of our birds eat dog poop, though when in town yesterday I watched a male cardinal fighting his image in several side view mirrors on cars. Apparently he decided that all car mirrors are full of competitors. Those cardinals are nuts.

That kind of grey, misty weather makes me feel that I am an uncharged battery.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Helen:

All the best to your daughter in her recovery and a safe journey to you and your husband.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

Woocestersheershire ( thank you, Abbott and Costello) Sauce - I had forgotten that it is made with fish.

Thanks for the flaming newspaper tip for starting a wood stove. The only problem that I have with our wonderful little cast iron wood stove in the basement is that it can be hard to get it going on really cold mornings. It has to draw three stories up through the chimney, too.

I took Latin in high school; one of my favorite classes. We had a very modest banquet, and no togas.

What a mystery you have conjured: what would become of a slave, with suddenly no master, in a time of chaos and disaster?

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Yup. That's one of the films. They were dubbed into other languages and shown all over the world. Ah, gee. Cut David some slack. He's just a little kid :-). Inge may correct me, but people with means sometimes evacuated their kids to Canada and America. There was talk about sending Elizabeth and Margaret to Canada, but the royal family decided to stick it and stay in place. I don't know the background of the kid who was David, but that must have been quit an adventure, for him.

Your stove choice sounds like a winner. The flue problem ... it figures. When an electric wall heater dies, just try and find a replacement that fits the hole ...

Well, the electric company could have told the people. "Yeah, we're closing the coal plant. You're going to have to reduce your use by 25%." Bet that would have gone over, well :-). The postal department, here, used to just about break even, or show a small profit for a prudent reserve. Still does except ... someone in congress had the bright idea to demand that the post office has to have a reserve to cover .. 85 years of retirement benefits. Which is probably a ploy to privatize the whole thing. Bit's and pieces have already been privatized. All the online postal stuff looks like it's a government site, but actually it's private. Wonder whose pocket that money is going into? And, how they, or their friends and relatives, are connected to the government? Used to be that if you needed a change of address, you just filled out a little card and dropped it off at the post office. Now, you have to do it online, and it costs a dollar. Wonder where that money goes? Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. All that shopping area around the Walmart used to be wetland. That soaked up a lot of flood water. Now it's acres of parking with instant run off. But, business must be served!

The landslide was also a sore point. The slope was logged off, damed the river, temporarily, and then let loose. Hence the piles of dead cows. The water came up very fast. But you can't say too much about the logging, or the wetlands around here. People will think your one of those commie / socialist greenies :-).

Off to the dump, this morning, with a load of blackberry vines. Yeah, I know I should compost them. But the problem with that is, given our weather and ground conditions, you pile cut blackberries, anywhere, and they sprout and root. Burning is the only option ... or poison spray (no thanks). I do burn a bit, and will burn some of it, but the blackberries are coming on so fast that the occasional load to the dump just keeps me ahead of them ... slightly. At $5 a load, it's money well spent. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

I recall you saying that towards the end of the Roman Empire, the powers that be got into some funny money arrangements. I'll bet they never came up with a scheme this epic: 'Pretty close to extortion': Mars, Kellogg's and Fonterra pushing loans on small business. I rarely feel like commenting on current events, but the practice as described in the article appears to be so grandly predatory to me. Mr Greer once mentioned that communication is only possible between equals. Do you reckon those small businesses are communicating with the large multi-nationals, or rather do you think they are being spoken at? Or maybe there is another explanation? The cycle of debt that they are setting those businesses on is just a very sad tale of woe. The sole purpose of the arrangement appears to me to be converting assets into flows for the banks (the banks are hungry for flows as far as I can understand the situation). The banks appear to me to be a cancer eating away at the heart of the country, consuming all within their reach. Inevitably they will become a victim of their own success, but until then there will be a lot of pain for people being consumed...

Cheers

Chris

Unknown said...

Chris,

There is an Anabaptist community down here in Tasmania that are building a wood heater for sale that sounds like it might suit your needs.

her is their website:
http://ecoflamestoves.com.au/

Lovely people to deal with, and a brilliant design built with longevity and future repair in mind.

Cheers

eagle eye

Damo said...

That small-business financing scheme is pretty sickening isn't it? And then the companies have the gall to comment that they are "aware of the issue" and furthermore, "in many cases, our arrangements are beneficial to our valued supplier".

Damo

Steve Carrow said...

I may have missed it in the comments, but what will you do now for water heating and cooking?

Yahoo2 said...

Hi, it is funny how our perspective changes, I would be willing to bet If you were in the city and doing all your heating and cooking with electricity and rather conventional whitegoods AND earning a wage to pay for all that, your total cost in labour would be higher than it is now. Compared to conventional you might be breakeven or slightly in front with your old heater. The problem is comparing it to the top 10% and feeling like a failure when we dont make the grade. The old "I only got silver at the olympics" syndrome.
Your new heater will be different. I slip some extra brick in my big heater and burn chunkier timber when I want a smaller cooler fire. There are times you wont need all that heat. That is the reason I am installing a new one, mine gets too hot, its inbuilt so no stovetop and the fan has to run, that sucks bigtime! I reckon my oldy has burned for 50,000 hours over 34 years and there is barely a mark on it, that's about 10 years use in your area. Luckily I have a spot prebuilt for a second heater.

I have been thinking about what you can do to streamline woodcutting. Have you considered cutting a few fallen branches? The issue that slows this down is pinching the guide bar cutting on the ground, however I did spot a thing called a smart logholder a few years ago, I see that logosol and stihl sell them now. I might check it out it could be good for handling smaller stuff. They are easier to be cut as soon as they hit the ground, the moisture stops the chain from overheating.

For bigger timber, around 180-250mm diameter I store short logs and borrow a firewood swing saw, they are Chinese made and not that expensive to buy but half a day is about all I need one for. The quickest for me is mallee stumps and an axe but they are getting a little scarce these days.

orchidwallis said...

@ Lew
Quite correct. Many of the well heeled did evacuate their children across the Atlantic.

@ Helen
My best wishes for your daughter's recovery.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam, Lewis, Eagle Eye, Damo, Steve, and Steve,

Thanks for the lovely comments and I am unable to reply this evening and will reply tomorrow.

Regards

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Pam - Yeah, a flaming twist of newspaper really does the trick. Given you have three floors, you might have to do it twice ... or three times? Another old trick I discovered (you may want to look into it ... maybe the salt damages the stove?) is to throw a small handful of rock salt on a good hot fire. Why? Well, the first year I had my stove, I cleaned out the chimney with all the usual mess and bother. Then I read about the old timers throwing in a bit of rock salt. Like salt glazed pottery in a kiln, it vaporizes and glazes the inside of the chimney. The next year when I went to clean, No build up! And, the inside had a nice shiny black glaze that nothing stuck to. Might be worth looking into. Lew

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - The business loans sound pretty dodgy. I forget the details but years ago, there was a push to get small businesses to take out loans for expansion and improvement ... at variable rates of interest. Balloon payments, etc. I remember reading articles where many small businesses bit the dust when the payments became astronomical. Businesses that had been in families for three generations, or more.

I started reading "Cheese and Culture; A History of Cheese and It's Place in Western Civilization" (Kindstedt, 2012). Really an interesting book. Found another source of plant rennet. Besides thistle. A small amount of fig sap. And, if you really want to give it a kick, cut it with a little vinegar. This goes back to the Greeks, and later Romans. What hadn't occurred to me is that most cheese and butter were made from sheep and goats. Dairy products from cows really didn't take off until the Middle Ages.

Exciting times in the archaeological world. The Vindolanda excavations kicked off on Monday, up on Hadrian's Wall. After decades of nothing much going on, they're going to do some more excavating at Masada. And, they'e going to start looking for Caligula's third barge at Lake Nemi. Lake Nemi is a lake about 20 miles outside of Rome. Back in the day, the shore was crowded with luxury villas and temples. The mad emperor Caligula had three pleasure barges built. Floating palaces and temples. Before WWII, Mussolini had part of the lake drained and there were two of the barges. Built a museum for them. During WWII, there was a lot of fighting in the area between the Allies and the Axis. The barges were bombed, burned and destroyed. Nothing left but some very fancy brass fittings. I didn't know there was a third barge, but there was. And, they're looking for it, this summer.

My hummingbird had disappeared. Haven't seen him in a couple of days. Hope he's ok. With everything that's beginning to bloom, maybe he's finding better tucker, elsewhere?

Off to the Little Smoke. Lew

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the continuing lovely comments. However, April is a very short working month due to all of the many public holidays (Easter and Anzac day) and I'm having to burn the Midnight Oil just to keep up with the flow of work. This does mean that I am unfortunately having no fun at all and am working too hard. And no fun means that I am unable to respond to all of your lovely comments.

However, keep the comments coming as I promise to reply tomorrow night.

Until then, I'm in the land of no fun. It is not a nice place to be... What's the emoticon for an unhappy face?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Oh incidentally, I'm really hanging to get the new wood heater in... Brrr!

It's going to snow in Australia this weekend

Brrr!

Chris

Yahoo2 said...

Hi Damo,
A few links
Peter Van Den Berg's Batch rocket site

rocket stove experimenters forum

Walker riser-less cooker

firespeaking cabin stove

margfh said...

@Chris
Sorry about all the work :(

@Helen

You probably are on your way but best wishes to your daughter.

Margaret

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

Brrr! My goodness, what a time to not have the wood stove going. No wonder you are in the land of no fun. Good luck to you!

I asked my husband if he had ever heard in his industry of the loans made to small businesses to cover their possible monetary struggles while waiting to be paid by a large corporation that owes them money, especially on a 120-day payment terms. He says that he did used to hear of it, though not lately. His business is related to the petroleum industry in that he is a middleman for sales of minerals and other products needed for drilling, also the logistics of the aforementioned. He used to do mostly exporting, now very little of that exists and it is almost all importing. I wonder if this scurvy lending practice originated in the States? He also posed that some of these corporations have their own finance companies, or are closely tied to major banks, thus benefiting from the lending practice itself.

Pam

Pam in Virginia said...

@ Lew:

Thanks for more wood stove suggestions. The rock salt idea sounds quite plausible to me. I will pass it on to the Wood Stove Maintenance Engineers that live here.

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Emoticon for unhappy? :-( . :-) .

Here, April is very busy for accountants as Federal yearly taxes are due April 15th. I think quarterly taxes, also. Well, at least Anzac Day calls for Anzac biscuits ... in copious amounts.

The weather here is rubbish for as far as the forecast goes. Rain, rain and more rain with a dash of high winds.

Yesterday, Cliff Mass the weather guy was all in a tizzy as two lows were making landfall on the west coast, simultaneously. Something he said he's never seen in 25 years of watching the weather. Today he's talking about a large windstorm that is tracking north along the coast. How bad it will be will be determined by how close it gets to land. He didn't mention it coming ashore, but that could be pretty rough.

On reflection ... Sightings of foam dogs have been known to lead to outbreaks of potty mouth. In severe cases, victims have been known to roll on the floor and froth at the mouth. :-).

The little hummingbird made one appearance at the feeder, yesterday. I really think the feeder is rather uninteresting, compared to all the other flowers blooming, right now. All the fruit trees are beginning to bloom. Piles of white, here and there, as far as the eye can see. Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

My condolences to you on your need to overwork this month. May you find time to relax with a beer at the local pub or a glass of country wine at home on occasion!

Your story about the wood heater is fascinating. Many commendations for the effort you and the editor put in to learning what the problem was and how to avoid it in the future! Our cast iron wood stove (stove is the US term) does just one thing, heat. I have a book on burning wood that goes into some detail on how to obtain clean combustion, and it amounts to burning hot enough to get clean combustion but not too hot, so the wood lasts for a reasonable time. That sounds like what you were told by the folks who know what they are talking about. We ran our stove some this year and I still have to make rough calculations on how much wood we'd need for an average winter. This winter was much warmer than average. I'm not sure what is average anymore.

I'm back at home now. My mom is better, though not as good as I would like for her to be. At her age (83) she may not come up to the same level at which she was six months ago, a hard reality that the whole family faces. Now that I'm home I have to figure out what amount of vegetable garden it makes sense for me to plant this year. I'll have to buy seedlings of lettuce and other cool-weather greens if I put them in at all. I can plant potatoes - the seed potatoes have arrived - but I think it best to let the peas go, in favor of concentrating on summer and fall crops. While I'll need to buy seedlings of tomatoes and peppers, I do still have a month before planting time. And I can plant seeds of squash, cucumbers, beans, and corn since those don't get planted until May. Right now I am trying to finish the front yard clean-up so that the code cops don't bother me.

@ Lew - a belated happy birthday to you! Glad you enjoyed it!

@ Margaret - I am glad you found a good place for Michael. My siblings and I are hoping that my mother gets into a life care facility, so that she can stay in Florida where her friends are but have fewer responsibilities and extra care on-site when she needs it. She put a deposit down on an apartment in one of the local facilities while I was there, but we are waiting to see if she passes the physical exam that is required for it. It's made me think a lot about what will happen when my husband or I need extra care.

Claire

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

I forgot to say how impressed both Son and I were with the photo of the yellow tomatoes. He doesn't read blogs but I showed him this photo as I knew that he would be as amazed as I was.

We are having glorious sunny days at present, long may it last. It won't of course. Very cold at night though.

Inge

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Well, to be honest, both the editor and I were major contributors in the sad demise of the wood heater. Yup, guilty as charged. Oh well, like everything, we learn hard lessons, repair and then correct the underlying problems and move on. However, it may not surprise you in the least to know that we have discovered the awful truth: There are always new and interesting problems! Anyway, the blog would be rather boring if I wrote week after week about how easy it all was, don't you reckon? Anyway, it has not been so much a case of cracking the sads, but more of sheer disbelief that something that appears to be very heavy duty, in fact turns out to be something that requires handling with care. Hopefully, the entire problem will be resolved by next week. And then: RTFM (which roughly translates to: Read The Manual). Who would have thought it? I'm not sure what the perplexed emoticon would look like?

Yes, Poopy loves his summer haircut. When he arrives home from the lovely lady who has done his grooming for many long years (and who he unfortunately bit due to very exceptional circumstances which everyone now agrees was not his fault) he prances around in front of the other members of the fluffy collective and says: You may admire me NOW.

You're in good company with your log walls as I once worked in a business that had the most amazing man made stone terrazzo toilet walls and I used to imagine all sorts of strange creatures peering out from the more or less random cut and polished stone configurations.

Thank you and the repairs on both have confirmed my opinions of the benefits of repairable and flexible infrastructure.

Have you ever wondered why firewood and logs have to be brought up hill? I keep the easy to reach firewood and logs just in case there is a disaster or I get injured. The bright yellow trailer has been undergoing some serious surgery today...

RIP Little Mad Dog, alas he would have enjoyed the company of the fluffy collective... Yes, my money would be on the chickens too as they have destroyed any rats that the fluffies killed but refused to eat (they're of noble breeding and so refuse such base feed - unless they became too hungry!)

Marsupial is always best lightly cooked (as it is low in fat) with a fruit sauce.

What a great question. Lessons were learned and we discovered that the paths were too narrow and the steel was very good, but on occasion was a bit scratchy. Next season we have decided to replace the steel with UV rated plastic and make the paths a little wider. No diseases have been evident and I have grown tomatoes in the same location for a few years. Of course the soil is added too every year.

Yes, the cantaloupes are growing with the tomatoes. Thanks for identifying the capsicum! I don't recall purchasing that seed, but who knows?

Cardinals sound a lot like the magpies which preen themselves in front of the car mirrors, or when they are young they fight the image in the mirror. I'm cool with that except for the excrement on the door of the cars... The magpies are quite nice really and they work hard for me.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Fair enough, David was a little kid and probably was sent over to shelter from the V2 bombardment (or flying gas pipes due to the dodgy propaganda at the time). David would have enjoyed quite the adventure. And to be honest it would have been an unpleasant look and serious morale killer to evacuate the royal family during WWII. I mean what would that have said about the probabilities?

Whilst I was out with the chickens tonight, a couple of stags were bellowing somewhere not too far away. And I reckon they may have been having a face off? It sounded serious and the calls were blood curdling. Most of the animals in the forest here have quite scary calls, but this bellowing tonight was something else altogether...

I started repairing the rusted components of the bright yellow trailer this afternoon only to discover that most of the sections of the trailer were constructed of very thin folded sheet metal. Fortunately, I began constructing some new sections and hopefully if the weather holds tomorrow, I'll be able to weld the new sections on and get some bright yellow paint on the thing. The weather here on Sunday looks like it is going to be completely feral.

Thanks for understanding too, as April is often a short month for me due to the large number of public holidays and there is a lot of work to do. Fortunately, unlike the US which finishes in April, we run July to June, so early June is the cut-off, which we should make easily. Not all accounting businesses are in that position though... And the powers that be introduced some key performance indicators in the past year or two which mean that failure to meet expectations can lead to consequences. There are a number of logical fallacies in that program, but that is the world I live in.

Yup, mate I hear you! Most of the wood heater designs use a standard 6 inch (150mm) triple flue which is cool, but the manufacturers locate the flue at different points on the heater - thus they ensure that like must be replaced with like, unless you are like myself and decide that that is not an acceptable outcome. But then there are hassles about moving the flue 3 inches further into the room. Fortunately, I have been speaking with the plumber about this matter and everyone is prepared for the outcome.

It would have been nice if anybody had considered that aspect of the closure of the coal fired power plant. Unfortunately, very few, if any people have considered that aspect of the situation and so this state will be faced with the sort of problems faced by Tasmania and South Australia in the past two years. I would like to believe that it would be otherwise, but the facts on the ground are the facts on the ground. Of course to admit that supply may possibly become a problem might be considered to be an admission that we are slowly becoming a third world nation. The first time that I became aware of "brown outs" of the electricity supply was in Nepal about twenty years ago and they were scheduled. It was a real wake up call to me seeing that process in action.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

It is funny that you mention the postal service, but back in the day they used to deliver ever day to my local post office, now I'm not so sure. Mind you the boss seemed to be enjoying a $5.6m salary which is quite gobsmacking. $100k per week is a phenomenal amount of cash and I have never personally met anybody who is worth that sort of money, even if they considered that they were.

Ha! No... The whole building on wetlands thing is a bit Monty Python don't you think? People said I was mad building a castle here. The first castle sank. Then I built a second castle. That sank too. But the foundations for the third castle were strong. I have noticed that building has been allowed in what I consider a ground water recharging location. They installed massive concrete pipes... I have seen that area under water in a very wet year. I hope they know what they're doing?

Yah, people don't learn about logging and reclaiming wetlands. You can do a little bit of that, but not too much, and don't expect it to look like you think it will look like. Yes, I don't mention that sort of thing around these parts either. Some people will discuss the adaption to the fire hazards, but very few want to do anything about it. I have sometimes wondered whether they are banking on insurance payouts... If they are I have some bad news for them because replacement houses to meet the new regulations are very expensive and the houses are very small.

$5 for a load of cuttings at the tip is remarkably cheap. With the blackberries I sort of chop and drop the canes, but that requires me to cut the canes up very finely, otherwise they are like what you say: They take root...

I keep talking to people about avoiding debt as it sets them on a cycle, which is really hard to break out of. Unfortunately, few if any people, actually listen to my ramblings. However, when they do act, they notice immediately that a weight has been lifted from their shoulders and they become zealous and systematic in their response. They are in the minority though, but I very much appreciate them.

The whole agri-business consulting thing has been pushing the: get big or get out narrative for years, and I see that narrative being told all over the place. People fail to understand that such stories are told in order to take advantage of them. It is a bit sad really, and I have no idea how to counter it for some people. Even when the facts on the ground and experience proves otherwise, they cling like death to that narrative.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

You mentioned fig sap before in relation to rennet. I have filed that chunk of information away. Unfortunately for some strange reason figs grow really slowly here. A couple of days ago whilst wandering around the inner city I saw a huge fig tree in a house that was slated for development... I didn't know that about dairy from cows being a middle ages matter, but it does make sense. I wonder why they switched from sheep and goats to cows? It may have been an volume / output matter? Cows do produce a lot of milk... I was amazed at how much milking cows produced when I saw it in action at my mates place a few months back. His chickens and pigs were very happy with the arrangement, but seriously how much milk can you use?

Hmmm, you know I do recall my mum watching some film about the crazy emperor Caligula and it seemed about as naughty as you described. Of course pleasure barges are only possible when there is a serious sloshing around of surplus wealth, otherwise the general population rises up in anger at the exorbitant taxes levied against them so as to fund such ostentatious displays of wealth.

Thanks for the emoticon. I'll have to remember that one. What would happiness be without the occasional sads crack? One must find balance between the two, don't you reckon? I'll bet papers have been written on such things and careers made?

I'll bet your rain isn't as bad as this: New Zealand's North Island pounded by tail end of ex-Cyclone Debbie, thousands evacuated. And it was only a tropical low by the time it hit New Zealand. Those tropical lows are things that bring huge dumps of rainfall down here during the summer...

OK. Yup, Cliff Mass is on the money. That one is big. The air pressure falls would send me into total panic stations and lock down here... Stay safe and keep us updated. Wow! Ouch.

Ha! Glad you enjoyed the froth dog. It was very good, although to be honest it could just have well have been a froth goat. But froth goat doesn't sound as good does it?

Thanks for the lovely verbal picture of your area. Nice!

Hey, you know, I haven't mentioned it before but I do have one regret in life and you as a well connected and well read book worm may be able to assist me? Maybe? Anyway, I found out about the (Jack) Vance Integral Edition about a year after the publication of the compendium was finished. They even published a compact version of the compendium. And for the life of me, I have not been able to discover an affordable copy of this behemoth of text. Have you got any suggestions or may be able to assist in tracking one down?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi eagle eye,

Many thanks for the link. I can't believe that there is a smart phone option... Fortunately I do not have a smart phone. It looks like a good unit, but the Nectre has a claimed 35kW output of which 15kW - 20kW may be directed into the boiler and the 10 year warranty. I can't really argue with such over specifications of my actual needs. Most of the systems that I use here that rely on less conventional resources are set up that way: water, electricity; insulation; food. In fact all of them operate on that basis and it seems to work, although what that says about me may not be so flattering...

What do you reckon about having an oversupply to ensure that supply is adequate at all times? It is an interesting question don't you reckon? And one which is rarely considered.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

In the far past I have witnessed large businesses selling off their assets to the banks in exchange for up front cash and mate, I can not tell you how uncomfortable I was with that action. From reading about the banks over time, I have more or less discerned that what they want most is regular flows of funds. You may be curious to read about the current spate of interest only loans to home owners. The funny thing about interest only loans is that they turn a property into a: rental with debt. It is like a ticking time bomb as there are never guarantees that the loan will be extended upon maturation. One to watch and yes, be alarmed.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Steve Carrow,

Mate awesome question and it earns you tonight's: Elephant Stamp!

If you read through the other Steve's (Yahoo 2) comments, he gave an excellent explanation of the problems I faced with the original wood heater. Engineers have a saying: Good, fast, cheap, pick any two. The wood heater was a lot like that. It was attempting to be everything to everyone, and so the way we operated it meant that it did nothing well. The old timer wood heaters that performed these functions well never heated an entire house (only a single room), nor did they produce the volumes of hot water that I have become accustomed to! It is too much to ask for from a wood heater. And I have no wish to have several wood heaters as it would use too much wood which is uneconomical.

So, I picked the two most important features of those three and chose accordingly with the new unit. A large heat capacity 35kW and an accordingly large hot water boiler 15kW - 20kW (peak). The cooking will have to make do with the electric (solar powered) and the LPG oven. The energy for the hot water comes off the total energy output from the heater, so the heat is around 15kW to 20kW, depending on the temperature of the hot water. It is a complex system.

And I am adding another solar photo-voltaic panel to the system (not that it will make much difference during the depths of winter, but you never know).

Life is full of compromise and this is one such. A great question!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Steve (Yahoo2),

Mate, you are spot on with the Olympics and silver analogy. Just for your interest the monetary value of the seasoned and dried firewood that we put away this year is I reckon worth about $3,000 being about 10 metric tonnes of firewood. However, I must say that I don't see any commercial suppliers storing their firewood out of the rain, and I am rather dubious about just how seasoned that the stuff being supplied is nowadays. Plus I have heard that there are apparently shortages of quality red gum from up along the Murray River where most of it is sourced. The local timber is - like yours (unless you are on the West Coast of Tasmania and burning Blackwood!) - only slightly less dense than red gum, but still very good.

Yeah, the inbuilt heaters warm the thermal mass surrounding the inbuilt wood heater - or so goes the theory, and then the thermal mass radiates heat long after the fire is out. Free standing units operate differently, but because steel is such a good conductor of heat, they cool down very quickly. Everything is a compromise. 34 years is an awesome lifespan for a wood heater and I will be curious to read about your opinions of the new wood heater. The editor and I are planning to read up on the operation of this new one so as to extract the longest lifespan. The solar power system is no different, and two different people can have very different outcomes of the exact same system in terms of lifespan.

Of course, wood cutting is not that much of an issue and I appreciate your comments. The logs processed this year were very large logs and were part of the excavations for the house site. The excavator driver, who is a great bloke, placed the logs in a remote spot on the property and made a cryptic comment about future firewood. We had to learn how to process such difficult firewood this year and have more or less succeeded. Hope that makes sense. It should not be this difficult in a couple of years, but I have no desire to waste that timber.

The trees grow very fast here due to a combination of mineral rich volcanic soils, warm summers and regular rainfall, so I have to deal with some logs that are up to 1,000mm across... Fortunately there are very few of those on the ground. I rely heavily on my wedges, but don't write about the process much because people have such strange beliefs about firewood... Does that happen in your corner of the country?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Margaret,

Thanks for the well wishes, and yes, too much work makes for a very dull and boring Chris! Hehe! Hope everything is going well with you and that you are enjoying some nice warmer spring weather? Today was almost a perfect day here weather-wise, unfortunately, all things are subject to change at short notice and without warning which looks to be the case tomorrow afternoon... Thanks for the emoticon too! ;-)!

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Ooops! The system collapsed and I missed your second comment...

Brr indeed! Sunday (it is Friday night as I type this) should be very cold here. The amount of firewood that the faulty unit is chewing up is staggering...

Ouch, the article indicated that the predatory lending practices appear to have originated and so far been confined to the large multi-national corporations and the US was mentioned. From my perspective, the practice is a race to the bottom and it more or less tends to put a squash on local manufacturing as the costs of doing business escalate. I guess the implied but unstated threat is that local manufacturing can be replaced with imports and that is the leverage used to beat the local people over the head with. I am uncomfortable with that practice and reading about it upset me quite a bit more than I cared to acknowledge at the time.

There is a push to go to a cashless economy, but I suspect that not many people realise that such a move would mean that the banks would skim 1.5% off every single transaction in the economy. I heard once long ago, and I can't recall where, it may have been a Mr Greer podcast interview, but someone mentioned reading a bumper sticker which more or less said: If you've had enough, how would you know?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thanks for the kind thoughts and Easter and Anzac day have meant that I have to do the same amount of work but over less business days this month. Anyway, you may be happy to know that I enjoyed a rather pleasant glass of Ginger wine as I began the replies tonight. I hope I made sense? This is not always guaranteed! ;-)!

Yes, it has been a steep learning curve using wood for fuel. The interesting thing about the journey is that I reckon a person has to understand every step along the way. It is really hard to outsource responsibility for that fuel source and the consequences of doing so can stack up quite quickly. I applaud your learning efforts too and was wondering if you would recommend that book that you mentioned? The wood heaters here are made from steel plate which is a different beast from cast iron. I have seen quite a few with stainless steel inside the combustion chamber and those have been of interest to me. And I am unsure what is average either. I honestly have no idea and so try to set up systems so that there is a greater capacity than I experience - that goal has been one that has been applied to most of the systems here - think water, electricity, food production etc. It concerns me greatly that we as a society have moved away from such an understanding of so called "renewable" systems.

Glad to read that you are back at home now and that your mum is feeling better. It was a lovely thing that you did for her. Good luck with avoiding the worst of the attention of the code cops - surely you jest? Maybe? Although I once received a letter from a landlord ordering me to cut the grass. I rented that house whilst I built here. The funny thing about that situation was that the prior to me moving in the previous tennants parked their car on the grass and so many toxic chemicals fell onto the soil off the car that the front yard was a dead zone. So, me being me, I restored the soil using chop and drop and collected organic matter and the grass grew back. And then they complained about the rate of growth of the grass. I knew we as species were done for at that point! Hehe! Oh well...

I look forward to reading about garden endeavours and produce this summer - when the cold winds will be blowing here and the frosts wipe out all of the colours here.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Thank you. You know, I almost wasn't going to plant out the yellow tomatoes again this year. Seriously! However, the yellow tomatoes are very early season, and they are without doubt the tastiest early tomato here. The black russian tomatoes are the next to ripen and then the mid sized red tomatoes. I'm finding that having a few varieties means that there is a reasonably long harvest where not everything ripens at once. Out of curiosity, where you both impressed with the quantity, the colour, or some other reason with those yellow tomatoes? Most tomato vines grow that heavily here. The thing is though, the soil needs feeding with a 50/50 mixture of carbon (i.e. woody mulch) and manures (i.e. more nitrogen heavy soil feed). The reason for that is that tomatoes are originally forest edge plants - or that is what I deduce from those soil requirements.

It is lovely to read of your glorious sunny days and I hope that both your forest and gardens are also appreciating the warm and sunny weather. Have any pheasants been lurking about your glass house of late?

Cheers

Chris

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

"If you've had enough, how would you know?"

Depends on how observant you are?

Pam

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - The wind is really ripping, here. The local weather station reports that the wind went from "calm" (before the storm?) to gust of 43 mph in less than an hour. We're supposed to have another 10 hours of this. I bet the coast is really getting slammed. I don't think I've ever seen the barometer plunge so low. Wonder if I'll loose the power?

When I first moved here, I used to hear the elk "bugling." Not in a couple of years. Nor have I seen the herds that I used to see. There are still elk about, according to my neighbor. Might be a bit of over hunting. They'll bounce back.

At different times in my life I've carried a bit of debt. I must say that my current debt free state feels quit freeing and I intend to maintain it.

Hmm. Sheep to goats to cows. Well, it's complicated :-). Back in the middle ages, cows only produced about a gallon of milk, a day. Then people began to selectively breed for milk production. There was also disease that, at one point, wiped out quit a few of the sheep. More land was opened up that cows could graze on. Making butter and cheese from cows milk is easier than making butter and cheese from sheep or goat milk. Not as many steps. Not as much time involved.

Oh, I remember that movie. Can't remember if I saw the REALLY naughty version, or the slightly cleaned up version. The bad and mad Roman emperors had interesting ways of raising quick cash. You could "suggest" that someone rich write a will, naming the emperor as heir, and then "suggest" the will writer off himself. In cases of treason, all property belong to the traitor reverted to the emperor. Of course, those kinds of shenanigans were rather unpopular. Sooner or later ... I think Caligula only lasted 4 years before he was done in. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Caligula had a distant cousin killed (grandson of Cleopatra ... the family trees are mad ...) because he had a flashier cloak than Caligula. Of course, it seemed like the first run of emperors all did a bit of family tree trimming. Nero was the last blood relative of Augustus. After that, emperor selection got crazy.

Hmmm. Where to find cheap books. Amazon, EBay, Abebooks, Alibris. Depending on how you feel about condition ... well, read the condition disclaimers, carefully. Even though they are cheap, I steer clear of the "no fault" disclaimers. Sometimes, I want a book and just can't find a less expensive copy, anywhere. I stopped into a flea market, the other day, and got lucky. Three cookbooks I'd been looking for ... 2 for $1 and one that was a pricier $10. But that one I hadn't found for less than $35, anywhere on the net. Oh, there's also Hamiltonbooks.com . I doubt you'd find the Vance, there, but you may find other things you've been searching for.

The interest only home loans were a major cause of the run up to the real estate collapse of 2008. Yes, from what I've been reading, the real estate bubble is inflating, again. And, there's huge amounts of bundled securities of dodgy loans and credit in used cars, student loans, the real estate and fracking. I think we're in for another big bump, and I don't think it will be too long coming. Lew

SLClaire said...

Hi Chris,

The book I have on burning wood (and yes, I recommend it to anyone who wants to burn wood for heat) is The Woodburner's Companion: Practical Ways of Heating with Wood, by Dirk Thomas. The edition I have is copyright 2004 but I think there is a newer edition now.

I wish I were jesting about the code cops, but no, I am not. I had a run-in with them in 2009, when I had more shrubs and trees in the front yard than I do now and they had just grown to a size where they blocked off the view of the house from a police car passing by on the street. The cops want to be able to see the front of the house if they should have to sneak up on someone. Other reasons for code violations are not mowing the lawn or not picking up fallen branches or limbs. This has more to do with perceived "quality" of the neighborhood, meaning not dragging down the sales price of other houses on the street. Some of my neighbors get in trouble under this aspect, as does the owner of the vacant house next door. Every so often the code cops drive down the street to check for code violations. They will also come out if a neighbor complains to them. This is one of the reasons we work on being friendly with our neighbors.

The past two days have been pleasant for yard work, and tomorrow is supposed to be as well. We've had enough rain, the grass is green, the apple and pear trees are blooming, violet flowers are everywhere, and it won't be long before the trees leaf out. I love spring!

Claire

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

Ah yes of course, there is always that isn't there? Speaking of observant, you will surely notice that I have changed the little photo in the corner. A big thunderstorm just passed overhead and I took the camera outside and it sat on the table and recorded the storm. I ripped three frames from the video showing the lightning and I reckon I'll chuck them on next weeks blog. That photo in the corner is number two of the three frames. I love a good thunderstorm, unfortunately Scritchy, storm detective extraordinaire, feels somewhat differently about that matter. Believe it or not but the sun is now shining in the sky, although it looks quite wet outside.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Did you end up losing the power? That was quite the storm. Cliff Mass wrote: "Several hundred thousand people lost power, particularly over Oregon and SW Washington. An unusual late season event, which will be followed by improving weather over the weekend." . The storm appears to have lost energy as it made landfall, but still he was reporting 100mph (that's 160km/h in metric). Ouch, that's windy! Any damage from the winds in the area? Yeah, your barometer was pushing into the 970's which would be a total disaster zone here. 990 would be a massive storm here.

A dark but brief thunderstorm rolled overhead about an hour ago here. I love a good thunderstorm and the temperature dropped from 78'F to 55'F in only a few minutes. I knew the storm would hit today (and tomorrow will be much wetter again). Of course, the bright yellow trailer has been at the trailer doctors today and yesterday and well, today it received a nice coat of bright yellow metal paint which wasn't quite dry by the time the storm hit. We'll have to see how that goes, but metal paint is strange stuff so you never know. I pushed the trailer under cover, but still there was a lot of rain flying all around the place in the storm. Hey, did you notice that the little photo in the corner has now been changed? I took the camera out into the storm to see whether I could capture some photos of the lightning. The thunder really let rip, but it is very hard to record the audio for such things.

Elk are huge! And from what I read they have established themselves in New Zealand where they were introduced. Of course they prefer to range the forests and forest edge, so no doubt the recent forest activities up your way may have disturbed the local populations? Maybe? Also I read that there are concerns about the Elk spreading infectious diseases to cattle, so that is probably a factor too. You could say the same thing about the wild bird population here too with the chickens... Such is life. I hope they bounce back in your part of the world too. Incidentally I faintly heard my neighbour shooing the stags away from his property the other night (or at least I believe I may have heard that happening).

Definitely maintain that status as it is a rare thing and provides you with a degree of freedom that you may otherwise not have. The "short" folks from the US have apparently arrived on our shores recently. I must say that I enjoyed the rather disingenuous explanation from them that they were doing the good people of down under a solid service by correcting the over heated share market. Well done them! The great thing about such claims is that at their core, there is a kernel of truth.

cont...

Cherokee Organics said...

OK that makes sense, although I was previously unaware of the effects of the breeding efforts in cows. Your mention of disease in sheep started me thinking about foot and mouth disease and that was a giant rabbit hole. Taiwan copped it pretty bad in 1997. Ouch. A lot of the times these problems come down to over stocking and poor conditions and feed for the animals. A fruit tree in an orchard is no less subject to disease stresses when faced with those sorts of problems, as well as pretty every single other form of life on the planet.

I was too young to have been allowed to watch that naughty Caligula film, but it was hard for me to avoid the psychic aura that was left behind after the film was shown in the household - back in the very early days of VHS video tapes. I rarely recall my mum heading out and so the old video tape was a relief for them. Of course nothing is as it seems and I note that: "Caligula's actions as emperor were described as being especially harsh to the senate, to the nobility and to the equestrian order" so he amassed many more socially well connected enemies than friends and from some accounts I note that he did much to improve the lot of the masses. Isn't it funny how everything old is new again? I guess nobody will ever know the truth of the matter. Whatever else may be the case, Caligula as an emperor was faced with 99 problems. I can almost feel from reading in between the lines that the Roman Senate was uncomfortable with an Emperor who acted like an Emperor. It didn't work out so well for any of them, did it?

Out of curiosity did the Roman empire walk away from any of their infrastructure just because they lacked the will or the finances to maintain it?

I guess your answer to the book question was to head out into the world and seek ye an opportunity? Always is it thus. I spotted a copy but the person in question wanted US$5k for the lot which is extreme in anybodies language.

My gut feeling tells me a similar story in that we won't have too long to wait. As far as I can see the problem, it becomes a game of diminishing returns: Wages grow by 1.9% in a year, and yet house prices rise by 20% in a year. Thus we are all poorer by that amount, even if we fail to acknowledge the fact. I can't seem to be able to explain this to most people as it seriously differs from their preferred narrative. I'm mean what do you do?

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Claire,

Thanks for the book reference and a copy is now working its way to me here from the far distant UK. No local copies were available!

Really? That is not good. Thanks for explaining the situation to me. Ouch. I had no idea at all and that is a degree of regulation that I would personally feel is stifling. Your approach of maintaining cordial relations with the neighbours is a wise approach for that particular problem. I would bristle and rant and then move on, sorry to say. I keep good relations with the neighbours as sooner or later we will need assistance from each other, although some people live down here as if they were a principality of their own. I come at this problem from the point of view that land is there to save you money, it never makes you money, and until such time as people are faced with that dilemma, they can pretend otherwise. As far as I can understand the situation, we live but in the blink of an eye.

And it is a beautiful and amazing time to be alive isn't it? Spring is a beautiful time of the year and I envy you your forthcoming growing season. Best wishes for that. Have you been continuing your soil analysis? I always learned so much from reading those comparisons that you wrote about. Have you been continuing the soil additions?

Cheers

Chris

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Oh it was the quantity of the yellow tomatoes; I had never seen anything like it before.

The pheasants are around but the greenhouses are only open when I am near. Back to being seriously startled when a hen pheasant flies just before I tread on her. I wish that they wouldn't wait till the very last minute. It doesn't make one jump just from the sudden movement, it is very noisy as well.

Fog this morning but it is starting to clear for another sunny day. We are getting 61F in the day but 2F at night, quite a contrast!

Inge

Damo said...

@Chris

RE: Vance Integral Edition

It would be so nice wouldn't it? No doubt you have tracked down these options, but what I found was:

EBay
$5700 AUD

JackVance.com
$3800 AUD includes shipping - they only have 3 left.

Signature Series
Or, as a 'cheap' option ($18 each/$1100 for all 62 editions + postage), they are re-releasing the VIE in paperback form, called the 'Signature Series' - many are already released. Some of the cover art looks pretty spiffy, but I really want the original hardback editions. Yet, nearly $4000 AUD.... a big indulgence!

Cheers,
Damo

Damo said...

@Yahoo2
Thank you for the rocket stove links!

@Chris/Lewis
The other important thing with cows is not just the breeding but feed quality. 20 litres of milk a day is 'easy' to reach with a good Jersey cow (not a particularly high volume breed) but if they don't get vast quantities of high quality feed every day, and comfortable weather, then it won't happen. We mention this occasionally to the Buffalo Dairy people here when they get excited about possibly starting a breeding program soon. Yes, the local buffalo only produce 2-3 litres of milk at the moment, but their feed regime is very poor. Get that up to scratch, then worry about Buffalo strains from India and Italy etc.

RE: Infinite Jest
I am weak and feeble minded. I think I am 20-25% through and it is a drama to make myself pick it up. The writing is very good, I enjoy his insights into the human condition, there is humour and the world building is fantastic. But where is the plot I ask? It is not even clear who the protagonist is, let alone their motivation (win a tennis game I presume?). I have not written it off altogether (what could be shown on that tape that makes people become almost comatose?), but for now it is sent to the archives :-(

Cheers,
Damo

Pam in Virginia said...

Chris:

I am sorry to say that I zoomed right past your little upper right-hand photo. It is breathtaking.

"As far as I can understand the situation, we live but in the blink of an eye."

We do, indeed.

Pam

orchidwallis said...

Hello again

Mea culpa! I switched from Fahrenheit to centigrade. Of course that was 2C.

Inge

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Well, the storm continued all day until about 8PM. Our local weather station recorded the highest gust at 46mph. Up here on the ridge, it was probably a bit higher. Around the county, several roads were closed due to downed trees. Power was lost, here and there. But mine stayed on. A few houses were smashed by falling trees. No loss of life or injury. Everything seems as it should, around here. I have discovered no damage. I thought I'd loose a lot of the blossoms off the fruit trees, but most of them hung on. The little hummingbird made an appearance, this morning, so he must have found a place to hunker down and ride out the storm. It's supposed to be fairly nice tomorrow. I'll mow, and maybe the bees will have a day out.

That IS a nice picture. Another one for the Fern Glade Farm Calendar :-). Looking forward to seeing the other pictures, this week.

The Elk are also being effected by some kind of hoof rot. But I think their decreasing numbers have to do more with the number of bulls that were brought down, in this area, a couple of hunting seasons, ago. One big bull was hit by a car, about the same time. Totally destroyed the car. A county sheriff was killed, year before last, when a big bull lumbered out of a ditch and into the path of his car.

Besides the claim in business to be "doing you a service" the other red flag I notice is "We're giving the customer more choices." Of course, the choices are all bad ... I fully expect to wake up some morning, check the headlines, and discover the whole economy has unraveled. I think my response will be, "Well here it is." Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Did the Roman's abandon infrastructure. At different times and in different places, yes. Rutilius Claudius Namantianus wrote "Voyage to Gaul" about 416AD and it has pretty good descriptions of infrastructure running down. Loeb Classics have a very good translation. It's available online, I think. There was a fort in Scotland that was deactivated and 10 tons of iron nails and other bits and pieces of iron were hidden, as they could not be moved. Hidden so the iron couldn't be used by the local tribes. That was in the early 100s AD. Of course, when the Roman army left Britain in 410AD, a lot of infrastructure went to ruin. Coin stopped coming in to pay the troops, the economy crashed and there was no money to keep things up. Or, a lot of man power, either. In the book on cheese, it mentioned something I didn't know. Besides all the other things legionnaires did to occupy their time when not actually at war, farming was also a job. Brick making, black smithing and farming. Interesting.

Caligula was "done" because he brassed off some of the Pretorian Guard. But there were always attempts to "bring back the Republic". Seems like that was mostly the reason given for plots against the Emperor. Probably the last time The Roman Senate had a shot at it was when Caligula was killed. While the Senate dithered, the Pretorians rounded up Claudius and declared him Emperor. Prof. Mary Beard is always pointing out that we need to take some of these histories with a pound (not a grain) of salt. Many of them were written a hundred years, or so, after the fact. Some of the stuff was probably written just to titillate and probably some was politically motivated. "See, our Emperor isn't so bad. At least he isn't Caligula. Or, Nero." :-)

Books on the secondary market are so ... unpredictable. Seems like there's always things I want and I think, "Well, maybe when the used copies start to circulate, the price will go down." There was book about an artist I wanted and I could have got it for $35 when it came out. The prices just kept climbing and climbing and the best I could finally do was $130. :-(.

The two books I found for $1 were Anthony Bourdain's "Medium Raw." Kind of a follow up to "Kitchen Confidential." I think it isn't too pricy on the second hand market, but I've gotten pretty disillusioned with the quality of the books if you "go cheap" on Amazon. And, there's always the shipping costs (at least $4). What I was really happy with was "America Eats! On the Road with the WPA" (Willard, 2008). WPA (Works Progress Administration) was several government programs, during the Depression. They sent writers (some of them pretty well known) all over the United States in look into regional cooking, which was on the decline. The whole effort was almost published ... but then WWII came along and the programs ended. The raw material languished in our Library of Congress. Not so much recipes, as narration of what was going on with food, in America, in the late 1930s. I had wanted this book but thought it rather pricey online. It was on my list of "to buy" ... maybe. So, finding a copy for $1 at a flea market felt like a real score. Lew

Angus Wallace said...

Hi Chris,

Bummer about the stove. I did quite a bit of reading on this about a year ago. Running a stove is an optimisation problem with no ideal solution. If you want a fire that burns well and doesn't smoke or damage your stove/flue then you will burn a lot of wood. If you want to preserve wood by throttling oxygen supply, the fire will burn cool, smoke, damage the stove and deposit creosote in the chimney (which can lead to a chimney fire)

The Rocket Mass Heater (RMH) option is excellent, but it's a big project to build one and the finished stove weights hundreds of kilograms. Also, there is no standard way to build one -- lots of thought is required in their design. The benefit, is that the mass of the stove smooths the temperature variations allowing you to fire up the stove, stoke it high, burns clean, then let it go out. For a well-insulated house and a good RMH, this only needs to be done once a day. It sounds like people reduce their firewood consumption by 75% using these. It's also possible to incorporate ovens into them.

Lots of caveats though. Chris, as you've said, fires are suprisingly complex!

These guys have done lots of experimentation, and have written an ebook that is definitely worth a look: http://www.ernieanderica.info/rocketstoves

If I was going to live off-grid and rely on firewood, I would seriously consider a RMH.

Good luck! I'll be interested to see where you go with this.

It's been a warm autumn here. We went to the beach last weekend, and the pool this week. Maxima often up around 30. Our tomatoes are finished, and have pulled out all of the curcuibits. Getting heaps of eggplant now, though we're losing a bit of produce to mice/rats.

We're going to do a reno in a few months (God help us!) -- I should write a post about what we're going to do and the thinking behind it...

Cheers, Angus

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Inge,

Of course, they grow that prolifically every single year. An incredibly reliable producer that plant. What sort of tomatoes do you normally grow? I find the larger varieties are better for bottling, but the smaller varieties have all the taste.

It does make you wonder what sort of evolutionary advantage the laying in wait until the last second has? The wombats do the same trick and it can be quite startling late at night to be surprised by a lurking mass of marsupial.

Thanks for the correction. I thought that sounded incredibly cold. My head gets mixed up between the imperial measurements (which I don't use) and the metric equivalents.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Damo,

Thanks for investigating this important matter and returning your findings. Clearly you have also been pondering the wisdom of forking out hard earned cash on such gems. It is tough, but we all must stay strong. Mate, I just can't justify those prices for the hardback copies. Indulgence is the correct word to use. That incidentally would cost more than the new wood heater! Far out!

I didn't know about the signature series and may consider that option. Like you, the hardback versions would be preferable, but... Incidentally I did notice that the cover art had been updated for many of these books when I looked for copies of the VIE on eBay. Interesting. So are you going to purchase copies of these paperbacks?

Don't feel bad about ditching Infinite Jest. I'm with you in this regard. The challenge in that book appears to be making it through to the end and I reckon it was lauded because it was so complex that nobody wanted to admit that they struggled with it. The urban dictionary would describe that tactic as a "neg". It certainly worked but the author had many personal demons riding him hard.

Thanks for the info on the Jersey cows too and that makes sense. The greater the output, the higher the quality of the feed needs to be. Of course, I had not considered that in relation to cows, but fruit and vegetables are no different. People tend to forget that food nowadays aint what it used to be...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Pam,

It is a ripper of a photo isn't it? I'll include the before and after frames too and you can almost get the feel of what is was like. The sound of the thunder was enough to wake me up early this morning and caused poor Scritchy to dive under the bed.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a bit more time? Oh well.

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Lewis,

Those are some serious wind gusts all that way inland. Do you reckon being on a slightly more exposed site to wind that the trees that were likely to fall, have already fallen? Dunno, I do wonder about that matter from time to time as I can never pick where trees are going to fall during big wind storms - and sometimes here it can be the days afterwards. I have noticed a slightly higher tendency for trees to fall over in flatter well watered ground as I reckon the trees don't put down as big a root systems as elsewhere where the tree roots have to scavenge further for a drink during the summer.

Did the weather clear and the bees make a special guest appearance? Are you allergic to bee stings? I swell up locally around the sting, but nothing more serious than that. It is not pleasant though and takes many days to reduce the inflammation. I won't mention that mead assists with reducing the inflammation (I'm not joking either). Honey would perhaps have the same effect?

Yeah, the photo is a ripper and I'll put up the before and after frames which show the lightning moving across the sky and hitting the ground. There was even a little red flash where the lightning struck the ground. Not sure that would feel nice? I once saw from up here the train signal box blow up when it was hit by lightning. Ouch. I lost a modem once to induction from a nearby lightning strike.

Unless hunters now the country and seasons well, it is really hard for them to know just how many of any species can be bagged. Unfortunately we tend to swing between one extreme and the other extreme in that particular debate.

Yeah, they make those claims down here too. It is all very unnecessary, unless of course you are the sort of person that believes it is necessary. There is a story in there somewhere.

Of course, the Voyage to Gaul would have been a perfect example. Did the author ever make the claim in between the descriptions of chaos, that this was only a temporary set back and sooner or later a new Emperor will sit on the throne and set things to rights again?

10 tons of iron nails would not have been an easy decision to walk away from. Were the nails ever discovered by the tribes? Or was it much later archaeologists?

Yeah, I was sort of wondering about the change in political direction of Caligula. I do realise that a lot of that change was blamed upon recovering from an illness, but still it seemed to me to read like a rather abrupt turn of face? And there is perhaps more value in saying that a "mad" Emperor was disposed of rather than disposing of an Emperor who was making valuable changes which may have benefited many and caused pain to some? Ah, from reading I can see that the Praetorian Guard may have had too many areas under their control to be without problems. I'm not sure I would have organised things that way. Hmm, Nero copped a bad rap too.

Ouch, Damo mentioned the more affordable Signature edition, but does one spend $1,100 to obtain a more organised and de-edited version of what that person already has? It is a conundrum and other matters call upon my resources...

Have you read: Anthony Bourdain's "Medium Raw" book yet? Was it as enjoyable as Kitchen Confidential? My impression of commercial kitchens is that they are rough as bags and not for the faint of heart! :-)! That Works Progress Administration book sounds fascinating. Have you had a chance to read it yet?

The rain is bucketing down here today, so I'm going to write the blog this afternoon. Not much point being outside. Even Poopy didn't have any tolerance for the outside weather...

Cheers

Chris

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Angus,

Many thanks for the explanation and that is my understanding too. I'm planning to watch and observe this new fire box closely as I really don't want to repeat this expensive error. Hopefully the new firebox gets installed before Easter as it is very cold here today and the rain is bucketing down.

I hear you about the Rocket Mass Heaters and they are a good idea. I'd probably build a brick fireplace / scotch oven if I was going to go down that particular path. The editor is reluctant to try that, but I've constructed several brick walls in my time so it is just a different configuration really. It would be the longest term option - and probably longer term than a Rocket Mass Heater given the materials that are usually used in those constructions.

Yup, these things are massively complex. All renewable energy systems are like that really in that at face value they appear simple, but when you have to rely on them... Far out, that is a whole different story and simple appearances can be very deceptive.

For your info, I'm supporting manufacturing in Adelaide by purchasing a Nectre Mega wood heater with boiler. I hope it's as good as people reckon! ;-)!

Oh yeah March was crazy warm down here too. I believe the month ended up being on average 3.5'C greater than the long term average. That's hot, so I can see how you'd end up at the beach. Tomatoes are still going strong here as are cucumbers and zucchini. Not sure why there would be that much of a difference. Watch out for the rats and mice... Grr!

Absolutely, I'd be fascinated to see what you come up with for your reno and seeing what you are implementing from what you've learned over the past few years.

Cheers

Chris

Steve Carrow said...

I am honored and humbled by the elephant stamp award. Funny how a little nosiness can pay off.

I think I've mentioned that our home has a Russian furnace, which is essentially similar to a masonry stove, in that it uses a large mass to radiate heat for very long periods, and theoretically grabs more of the heat from the fire before it exits the chimney than other methods.

It serves us well, but it does not provide cooking or hot water, so your multipurpose unit is a winner in that regard. If I had built this home from scratch like you did, I would have changed a few things, but overall we are happy with it. We plan to retrofit a solar thermal system for water heating next year, but replacing the function of our electric cook stove will be trickier.

While we are on grid right now, we are leaning toward disconnecting, so these are steps that move us toward that option.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi everyone,

Far out! The weather turned absolutely feral here. Right now just outside the window it looks both, foggy, windy and rainy. Overall, an unpleasant day to be outside...

Melbourne weather: BOM warning remains as Victoria hit by high wind, heavy rain. 100mm of rain is about 4 inches... Although to be honest, we didn't get anywhere near that much rain as we're a bit inland from the coast and weather moderates once you move away from large bodies of water. But all the same it is feral outside right now...

Cheers

Chris

LewisLucanBooks said...

Yo, Chris - Just about impossible to predict which trees will come down, and which won't. Sometimes, rot is hidden. But, I agree trees that have to scramble for water put down deeper roots. With our wet winter and spring, it was predicted that some trees might come down. Balanced with they haven't leafed out yet, to catch the wind. I noticed that most of the trees that came down were the evergreens.

I don't think the bees made it out, today. It turned out a lot nastier than forecast. Pretty breezy and cold. I haven't been stung by anything since I was 5 or so. I didn't have a severe reaction then, so, I guess I'm not allergic. After what you've said about bee stings, if it happens, I fully intend to ingest a good dollop of honey and slop a little on the wound.

Judging the background of the fellow who wrote "Voyage to Gaul", I'd say he was a pretty nimble fellow, politically. Take a look at his origin and career, here. A couple of short paragraphs. He seems to have been an unrepentant pagan :-). But didn't attack Christianity, directly. He seemed to think that the best way to restore Empire was to bring back "That Old Time Religion(s)." :-). That last is an obscure reference to an old time gospel tune. Today's ear worm for those that are familiar with it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutilius_Claudius_Namatianus

The nail hoard was found by archaeologists. Somewhere I read that the odd nail can be found on EBay and as curiosities in little private collections and in pubs. Cont.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Cont. Hmmm. We're almost communicating in real time. You're weather post just popped up. But as to nails ... :-)

Well, this is mad. Five of the nails were donated to the Australian National University Classics Museum and someone even wrote a paper about it. Lots of photos and study of the nails in excruciating detail :-).

http://www.academia.edu/2637467/Five_iron_nails_from_the_Roman_hoard_at_Inchtuthil

The "Medium Raw" and WPA food book are going on the "to read" pile. I've got a bit of a log jam of books from the library that I at least need to skim, before their due dates.

The winds died down, a bit, so I just checked the fruit trees that are in blossom. There are a few bees, about. I'd never noticed before but the trees that are in bloom are mostly the volunteers. The domesticated fruit trees (like the 5 different apple trees in my front yard) are in bud, but haven't burst yet. Probably bred for a more "safe" blossom date? Lew