Apr 14

The Mulcher Rises from the Prunings

I remember it well, mulching away on a bright sunny day, pushing more and more branches through the mulcher, feeding more and more through it in a mulching frenzy and then…

“CRUNCH, CRACK, WHIRRRRRRRRRRRR!”

Hmmm, that didn’t sound good and why have the branches stopped in the mulcher?

All the branches were jammed in the mulcher and the adjusting screw on the side was at a funny angle and wouldn’t move! BOTHER! it’s broken! I had a quick look but couldn’t see anything obvious without pulling the covers off. The branches were well and truly jammed.

But I had some other things to do. So I put it away to look at later.

 

Just a Little Crack

Just a Little Crack

 

Quite a bit later (several weeks) I finally got around to look at it and I pulled the cover off and saw the casting had cracked.

It didn’t look too bad, maybe I could either weld or buy a right-angle bit of metal and bolt it on to hold it together.
But I had some other things to do. So I put it away to look at later.

 

Maybe the Damage is a Bit More Severe

Maybe the Damage is a Bit More Severe

 

Quite a bit later (many more weeks) I dragged out the mulcher, cleaned out the branches and took the cover off. Oh Oh! There appears to be a bit more damage than I first realised. This will be a much bigger job than I first thought.

This time I didn’t put it away but had a closer look and tried to figure out a plan to repair it if it was possible.

 

This is a Bit of a Mess

This is a Bit of a Mess

 

It was pretty clear that this casting was not repairable (just to be sure I touched it with the welder and got the non-result that I expected) and I was going to have to come up with another solution. Some sort of bracket would probably be the best bet but coming up with a workable solution was proving difficult.

 

This is the Problem

This is the Problem

 

 

I started to map out a solution requiring iron bracing inside the remaining casting with supports either side and a flate plate to replace the missing side wall and it was looking really, really complicated and time consuming. Then it dawned on me that I was over thinking this and all I really needed to do was make a frame to hold the adjusting screw and support the end plate.

 

This is the Solution

This is the Solution

 

Using some pieces of scrap 25mm RHS I welded up a frame that would fit over over the end plate and provide a mounting point for the adjustment screw. I must admit, my welding left a lot to be desired and the bracket looks pretty rough but it should do the job.

 

The Thread for the Adjustment Bolt

The Thread for the Adjustment Bolt

 

 

I was going to weld a nut onto the mount but I didn’t have one of the right size nor could I find one at the local hardware store. I was about to buy a nut and bolt combo and just use the nut when I found a joining collar with the right thread. I could cut it down to fit inside the RHS and it would be a better solution than the nut. Even better was that it was cheaper!

 

 

 

It was a simple matter to cut and weld it in place and and test it to make sure everything lined up properly.

The Thread in Place

The Thread in Place

Testing the Cutting Adjustment

Testing the Cutting Adjustment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick coat of anti-rust paint and then it was bolted to the end plate by one of the now redundant bolts ready to be bolted back onto the mulcher.

Coated with Anti-Rust Treatment

Coated with Anti-Rust Treatment

Single Bolt Holding the Plate and Bracket Together

Bolt Holding the Plate and Bracket Together

 

 

 

 

 

All Mounted Back Onto the Mulcher

All Mounted Back Onto the Mulcher

 

 

 

 

Once it was all mounted on the mulcher, I switched on the mulcher and adjusted the cutting edge. So far so good, now the real test.

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the Mulcher

Testing the Mulcher

 

SUCCESS!! Here I am, doing the first test and happily mulching away.

It took several hours to do this repair but I am very happy with the result and the mulcher seems to be as good as new.

However, I will take it a bit easier now and not try to force so much through the poor little machine!

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Apr 13

Getting Ready for Winter in the Greenhouse

I have had a rush of blood to the head recently with the onset of the cooler weather and some welcome time at home, and have been doing a bit of tidying up around the house and garden. After cleaning up some plants around the pergola and getting rid of some of the clutter, I turned my attention to the greenhouse and a job I had been putting off for some time

Our greenhouse has been in place for a couple of years now since a friend and I built it to pool our resources and use it as a shared facility (you can read about it here). It has been a real boon in extending the growing season for many plants and also for growing some plants that would be difficult otherwise. However. I have not really used it as well as I could partly because of the way it had been set up.

Originally, I had a section down the back of the greenhouse for my plants while my mate had the bulk for his Aloes. It was, and is, a good arrangement except for one thing. As the aloe plantings have expanded and grown it has been becoming more difficult to get to the back of the greenhouse on a regular basis. The area was being used less and less simply because it was hard to move things back and forth and to water etc. without getting caught on the spines or damaging some of the rare aloes. I had been thinking about re-arranging things to move my section to the front as it was the most used and now was the perfect opportunity as a few weeks ago my mate had taken a lot of aloes away to sell at a plant shows.

GreenhouseClean-01

 

There was a lot grunting and heaving and lifting and carrying and sweeping and more sweeping and yet more sweeping. I must have swept out about 10kg of dirt, sand and weeds!

 

 

 

GreenhouseClean-02GreenhouseClean-03

 

 

 

 

 

 

GreenhouseTable-01

 

I also took the opportunity to recycle the table frame I rescued from the hard rubbish collection a while ago and a section of second hand mesh fence to build a propagation/potting table for the greenhouse.

 

 

 

 

GreenhouseTable-02 GreenhouseTable-03

 

Securing the mesh to the table frame

 

 

 

GreenhouseTable-04

 

 

 

It turned out really well, and the only cost was the price of a few screws and a piece of scrap bracing strap for brackets.

 

 

 

GreenhouseTable-05

I also rebuilt my climbing frame ready for some winter tomatoes and cucumber. We’ll see how well they turn out.

Everything has been moved now and it is so much easier to access the area and materials like potting mix, and water the existing plants.

It’s just a matter now of cleaning the pots and get planting :)

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Apr 07

Music to prune by

It was a glorious day on Sunday and the afternoon was particularly delightful

Not too hot and not cold,
not too sunny and not to dull
but…Juuust right!

A great day to clean up the area around the house and remove some of the excessive growth on the vines and trees under the carport. And what better way to do it than to set it to music.

An interesting mix of music that included music from Franz Liszt and Beethoven, “The Beatles” and “System of a Down” provided the perfect backdrop.

The grape vines needed some serious work as I wanted to untangle them from the wire netting and move them all to the front so that it will give them more room and make it easier to net them to protect against the birds

grapes01grapes02

I had to cut thegrapes04m back pretty hard but I finally got them all rearranged and ready for next season. I will get a smaller crop next year as the grapes grow on new shoots from one year old wood and I removed many of the buds that would produce grapes. However, we should get it all rather the birds! and it will be a bumper season after that.

 

 

grapes05

I also cut back the bay leaf and the passionfruit very hard to make more room and provide extra light and warmth to the the house.It was a fair bit of hard work but made all the easier listening to the music in the background :)

What music do you listen to in the garden?

 

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Apr 01

FrankenCarrot

No, we’re not talking about the results of some crazy genetic experiments by multinational chemical companies. This is just one of those weird garden surprises you find sometimes.

We have a backyard of self seeded veggies including carrots. Some of the carrots are growing garden beds while others have made their home in between the beds, in the mulch, in hard clay, under trees, in amongst the grape vines and a few even tried gaps in the concrete paths. Many in crowded clumps and many others solitary and far from the crowds.

frankencarrot
With so much variation in growing conditions you will get a variety of strange shapes and sizes and carrots seem particularly prone to strange forms. This little beauty was no exception. Found in a corner of one of the veggie beds this masterpiece of strangeness provided enough carrot for two meals!

What strange shapes have you found in the garden?

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Feb 17

What Do Others Think About Climate Change

I came across an interest graphic from the CSIRO recently that gave me pause to think. The graphic was in a CSIRO publication “Second Annual Survey of Australian Attitudes to Climate Change” (you can access the PDF here)

The picture showed two graphs side by side. The first graph show a breakdown in the acceptance or belief in climate change of the population in Australia. There were no real surprises there in terms of what I already understood about attitudes to climate change.

However, the second graph caught me by surprise. This graph showed what people “thought” the rest of the population thought about climate change. On average, respondents overestimated the proportion of people denying that climate change was happening, and underestimated the proportion who thought climate change was happening due to either natural or human processes.

Climate-attitude-real-vs-estimated

This was interesting for two reasons

First, it showed that the level of concern about climate change was much higher than most people think

Second, as a subsequent graph in the report indicates (not shown here), that every group overestimated the percentage of people who denied that climate change was happening.

So maybe we’re convincing ourselves that there is a level of climate denial that is simply not there despite what some sections in the media, politics and lobby groups would have us believe. If that’s the case, then maybe we should be a bit more open about our thoughts and opinions in this matter and start to publicly turn around this perception so that people are more willing to openly express there concerns.

There is some really interesting material in the report so have a look and see what you think. Does this change the way you might approach the topic with other people?

 

 

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Feb 15

Sustainable Living Festival

slffestivallogoThis year’s Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne has been on for a week already but the main event started yesterday and continues until Sunday evening with further events continuing through the week and the following weekend. It was a load of fun catching up with friends and acquaintances. I haven’t been able to to attend for the last two years so it was great to get there on Friday. There have been a lot of changes over the last two years and there are many new groups displaying their wares and fewer Hi Tech displays like PV and Solar Hot Water as these have become more mainstream.

SLF 2012 from SLF on Vimeo.

corena-logo

 

I also caught up with Margaret from CORENA for a chat at the ATA about how we could encourage people to donate to get the Large Solar Thermal Plant proposal up and running. If you would like to know more get onto the website here and see how you can help.

 

 

I am going back to the festival over the weekend to listen to some talks and spend some more time at the various events and displays because there are so many interesting thing to see and do.

If you’re in Melbourne why not come an enjoy the atmosphere and take home some sustainable ideas.

 

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Jan 30

Mostly Homemade Cheesecake

We had a party to go to recently and we were asked to bring a dessert. At the last minute, I remembered and thought, “Oh Oh, what are we going to bring”. I stressed for a few seconds and said, “I know, I’ll try to make a no-bake home-made cheesecake or something. How hard could it be?”

As it turns, a little harder than I wanted it to be. However, a short time later, I had modified my plans and decided to just do the filling and buy a flan and some pastry cases. I had seen a few simple recipes and  to based my attempt on some of those.

I ended up making a lemon filling and an apricot filling using Ricotta cheese (from the shop) and ingredients from the garden (or made from ingredients from the garden). I was pleasantly pleased with how they turned out.

Lemon Filling in Pastry Shells

Lemon Filling in Pastry Shells

Apricot Cheesecake

Apricot Cheesecake

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how I did it. None of the measures are exact and I’m sure there are other ways to do it but this way seemed to work and it was so easy.

Lemon filling Apricot Filling
250g Ricotta cheese
Two tablespoons Honey
Two tablespoons Natural Yoghurt (optional)
Grated rind of one Lemon
Juice of one Lemon
250g Ricotta cheese
Two tablespoons Honey
Two tablespoons Natural Yoghurt (optional)
Half teaspoon Vanilla essence
100g Apricot jam with fruit pieces
Beating the Ricotta (and Yoghurt)

Beating the Ricotta (and Yoghurt)

 

The basic technique is the same for both just make sure the Ricotta is at room temperature before you start beating it to make sure it becomes smooth with no little lumps. I just used a fork to beat the mixture, it doesn’t take long. The optional Yoghurt gives it a real creamy texture.

 

 

 

Adding the Honey

Adding the Honey

Beat in the honey. We used home grown honey from our busy little bees in the backyard but commercial honey will do just fine. You can use more or less honey according to your tastes but add it one spoon at a time and taste because some honey has a very strong flavour.

If you use more honey you may need to reduce the yoghurt so the mix doesn’t get too runny.

 

 

The wonderful Smell of Lemon Rind

The wonderful Smell of Lemon Rind

Add the lemon rind and juice last because it will stiffen the mixture. The lemon also came from the garden.

With the second batch we used home made apricot jam (made with our own apricots – Oh, and some of the neighbour’s :-) ) instead of the lemon. You can also add vanilla essence but not too much. If you are using commercial jam, get one with lots of fruit and with little chunks of real fruit. Add these last as well.

 

Use the mixture to fill the flan or pastry shells. You can also cook up some crepes and roll up the mixture in those.  Put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour and they will get quite firm, unlike the gooey mess the supermarket versions become.

These should keep a week in the fridge and will continue to improve in flavour. However, It’s difficult to know for sure as ours were gone well before then. :-D

A lot of the ingredients came from the garden and it’s possible to make it even more homemade if you want to. For example you could have a go at making your own ricotta. There are a number of sites that show how to make ricotta including this one by a mate of mine http://www.littlegreencheese.com/search/label/Ricotta

But it doesn’t matter if the ingredients are home grown or shop bought, it’s such a simple and delicious recipe and only take minutes to prepare, why not give it a go.

 

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Jan 03

Gone to Seed

parsnips-gone-to-seed

Coming home after being away for several weeks I expected to find the garden a bit overgrown. But even so, I was very surprised to see how much everything had overgrown. I had also left some veggies to go to seed but I certainly didn’t expect to see this!

When I first saw them I thought, parsley? No, parsley self seeds all over the back yard as do the carrots, but it wasn’t parsley. AHA! Carrots! Giant carrots? Nope!  I had a closer look at where they were in the garden bed and then realised… PARSNIPS!   8-O

I could hardly believe it, but there they were. I’m not sure if I have ever seen parsnips go to seed before but I didn’t think they would get this big !

Hopefully those seeds produce a bumper crop YUM! :-D

 

 

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Jan 02

A simple 12V Camping Supply

We needed a quick and simple 12V supply for a camping trip, so I whipped up this basic system.

Nothing special, just a lighter socket connector with fuse connected to an existing 38Ah battery. A small 20W amorphous panel can be used short term without a regulator to top up the battery. Note, a regulator should be normally be used but the current is low enough (around 1A) for that battery not to be damaged short term.

With the addition of my little 150W inverter, together with a light and provision for some music we have  small system that’s perfect for a few days away.

The parts for the minimal 12V supply

The parts for the minimal 12V supply. A battery and box, fused lighter socket and alligator clip

The lighter socket screwed to the battery box (there is small piece of wood on the other side for bracing)

The lighter socket screwed to the battery box (with some  wood inside as bracing)

With the inverter plugged into the one socket

Showing the inverter plugged into the one socket. The other socket could be used for another device.

A closer view of the socket

A closer view of the double socket

Inside the box showing the alligator clips connecting the socket to the battery The foam packing stops the battery sliding around

Inside the box showing the alligator clips connecting the socket to the battery. Note the foam packing

The complete setup (but without the panel)

The complete setup showing the inverter and light connected to the battery (but without the panel)

We have light - and a power point for the small music system

We have light – and a power point for the small music system

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The system will supply around 15 hours of light and music before the battery needs recharging. With the addition of the 20W panel the system with provide power for the whole trip in summer.

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