Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

Spring brings new life

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

We are now the proud parents of so many seedlings I honestly cannot even begin to count how many we have in the seedling trays at the moment. I’ve uploaded some pics of the little blighters to the flickr account and they are under the “Spring 09″ set. We had been experimenting with the best was to get the most seedlings germinate from the same amount of seed, and it appears one method stands way out in front when we look at the trays now.

When we were looking for advice on how to start the seedlings, I can tell you everyone had a different way and suggestions of doing things. Here are some of the failures we experienced:
Planting into a tray prepared with half sand half potting mix – FAIL
Covering seed with a very fine layer of sand after sprinkling onto surface – FAIL
Planting individual seed into punnets – FAIL
Planting into straight native potting mix – FAIL

Other than the seed per punnet method, all of the failures were all planted at the same time from the same batch of seed using the same seed application method. We still had some seed shoot from all of these, however on the basis of results for cost and time involved they were miserable failures. A dozen seedlings in a tray is no comparison to 200-300 using what I will now call our best practise method.

The best practise method tray was planted by using an old spice mix jar with a shaker lid (like the McCormicks pre mixed spice rub jars). After filling the tray with pure propagating sand and wetting it to saturation, we mixed a quarter teaspoon of seeds with a half full jar of dried, sieved sand rolling it around rather than shaking it to evenly disperse the seed. By upending the jar and quickly moving it across the surface of the tray we got a fairly even dispersal of seeds, lightly covering them as well as spreading them evenly.

The tray was then watered using a spray pack until we were once again satisfied it was saturated, before moving it to the seedling greenhouses we have built. Daily watering to maintain that saturated state saw seed sprouting in under a week. Once it was clear which method was working best, we replicated this into another 20 trays. Most interesting is these trays had all sprouted before one of the FAIL methods even had a shoot showing.

Some of the new toys have arrived

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

The generator made it overnight from Melbourne which I found quite remarkable considering some of the other purchases that weigh far less and were bought days earlier are still not here despite the freight being 2-3 times that of the generator. My panel lift also made it here, just after the generator.

The 4.2Kva “Silent Inverter Generator”
We bought the generator from this Ebay seller and would recommend anyone looking for similar to keep an eye on the auctions this seller has. His items do sell for a little more than through other Ebay stores, but his freight is so cheap I recommend you weigh up the freight from each seller before you settle on your bid.

First impressions on the generator are excellent. Solid packaging and the quality of the unit far surpasses my expectations. Nicely finished, details paid attention to and a manual with a better grasp of English than most, like, you know, teenagers. Filled the sump as instructed and exact volume stated was required, 1.1L of oil.

Connected battery as instructed, splashed some fuel and used the remote starter to fire it up. This is one nifty feature and the manual states up to 50 metres effective range and I got about 20 through solid brick wall so I was happy with that. It’s not “silent” but you could happily hold a conversation without having to yell over the top of the noise.

Being new I didn’t want to stress it too much but it did fire up the Makita circular saw (1800W) without any real increase in revs. With voltage control regulators, it should be able to power any of the tools I have now without raising a sweat and without using a hell of a lot of fuel.

The “I-force Panel Lifter”
Purchased this item new from this Ebay seller.

Again, I was very surprised at the quality of the item fearing it may have been a cheaper version than those available in the store despite being very much an identical product. It folds down to something you could store under a bed, not that you would, but now you know how little space it needs.

This item also has a well written manual with useful instructions and I had it out of the box and together in under 5 minutes. Just as important, I had it disassembled and back in the box in the same time frame.

Flickr and photostreams

Friday, August 14th, 2009

For easy uploads when we’re marooned in the middle of nowhere with inverter powered electronics I’ve opened a Flickr account to store the photos to.

Click here for our Flickr photostream. If you sort the photos by sets I’m trying my best to keep each new happening as its’ own set of photos.

Crossroads?

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Well it is and it isn’t. Right now there is lots of mental gymnastics a goin’ on as we grapple with just how we are going to stage our build.

With the block 50 kilometers and a good hours’ drive through windy hills roads with one of our 4WDs (being diesel we refer to them as old and new truck) and trailers loaded with tools and materials, what we don’t want to be doing is coming back and forth any more often than is absolutely necessary. This means that everything is needing to be staged so that maximum work is done for minimum travel time.

One of our neighbours has been exceptionally generous and given us use of a large unused (and lockable) shed on their property so each trip we take now has something of low value but great importance in the back of the old truck or trailer. This also means that each trip back to town will only need tools packed into a trailer and the trailer backed into the shed and locked away before heading back to town.

We’re also running through the budget, inking in costs where once was pencil as things become clearer, confirmed or quoted.  It’s scary to see just how many invoices will need to be paid and how quickly quickly money needs to flow from us to others. I guess this side of the journey isn’t seen when you pay a builder $X dollars for your look alike project house in the ‘burbs.

I had a very large piece of MDF in front of me the other day with a flow chart on it representing each little thing that needs to happen before the next. It is becoming very apparent that the smallest hiccup in timing from an external source is going to create a hell of a disruption to the build schedule.

Still, it’s not all about the destination, the journey is almost as important to us.

Contour survey completed

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Had the chaps from Weber Frankiw and Associates do the contour survey of the house site and up to the access road and proposed driveway this morning. The job was quoted as “$800 tops”. Not sure on the exact cost as yet and I’ll certainly post it once I have the account to pay. 

For those thinking this is rather expensive for a survey, they covered an area of 300 metres across the road frontage and then a pocket of around 80 by 80 metres around the house site and over the proposed driveway and septic tanks sites.

Designs ready for feedback

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Darren from Wise Drafting Pty Ltd has emailed over the first draft of the plans based on our sketches of what it is we want. He has adapted all the dimensions to suit the poured earth blocks we’ll be using and balanced the window and door positioning to give a visually appealing symmetry to the “front” of the house – because of the view and predominant weather patterns, the front of our house is facing East so as you approach from the road you see the “back” of the house.

There is a nifty variation on the 3 way bathroom he has come up with that we think flows well, and with a minor variation to the ensuite we think he’s nailed that as well. It’s nice to see a sketch become a plan that will later become the actual house.

This week I need to organise the contour survey from the road down past the building envelope to assist the council in deciding if we can build in the spot we want and indeed use a septic as we wish.

We’re also looking at a better water storage solution. Pioneer Tanks and Heritage Tanks both provide the style of tank we are looking at. Since these tanks can be made onsite, there is no access issues that the poly tanks are going to cause. Also, with a 20 year warranty there is some peace of mind that they will last a lot longer than the 10 years warranty on the polytanks implies. Price wise they are competitive, with a 30 000 gallon (120 000 litres) proving cheaper than the equivalent in poly tanks for the same storage.

These tanks also have the capability of being able to capture water from their own roof, vital in our instance since we are relying soley on rain water for our household and garden needs.

A big thankyou

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

A very big thank you to Colin and Sarah for inviting us to see their formblock poured earth build over the weekend. It was great to actually touch and feel and get some “face” time with the finished product. They had chosen to go with a rough finish, giving their building some great character.

They were also full of advice on some of the pitfalls they had come across during their build. Things like knowing what mixes they had used. Being able to see the results of their blocks cast with both white and portland cement. Seeing the blocks they had experimented with finish and pour method and some of their other experimental blocks and the results of aggregate and so on was very interesting and informative.

Even though we were planning to start with the garage first, this advice and insight will cut down our own trial and error time – hopefully getting us to the result we want within the first couple of pours.

You can see some of their progress in the blog they have at Building Our Home.

Regenerating the cement mixer

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Well, since this is going to be such a huge part of whatever construction we end up going with I thought it needed a wee makeover. Originally electric with a belt driven pulley between the electric motor and the gear driven bowl spinning mechanism, I have fitted it with a 6.5 HP elcheapo Honda inspired Chinese knock-off 4 stroke engine with a 2:1 reducing gearbox with centrifugal clutch. Picked that up from Paramount Browns at Cavan.

I very carefully worked out the pulley sizes so the mixer maintains its 12 RPM bowl speed while the engine is able to rev at around 2500 RPM which is where it delivers maximum torque.

This mixer is old, made by Grosvener/Carpenter in Adelaide. It’s been in our family for 25 years after Dad picked it up for a sweet $20 way back in the 80’s. I spent the weekend with a hardened steel stake and a sledgehammer smashing out the years of build up in it and knocked out 3/4 of a builders barrow of old conrete, render, lime mortar and who knows what else this machine has mixed over the years.

Packed full with slurry it will now more than fill the Kelso builders barrow with each load, which makes a mockery of the calculations I did below for the poured earth walls. I took Dad’s word for it on the bowl size and have to admit I only ever measured the output with all the crap still caked to the bowl.

Having knocked out all the concrete I am now able to attack all the rusty holes with the arc welder and patch them up. I’ve made a dolly for it to sit on when in use, which lifts it about 30cm off the ground giving the bowl more angle to make it easier to empty. A fresh wire brush and a coat of rust killer and a nice top coat of coloured paint and this puppy should still be around when my boy gets to building his own stuff.