The 2008 Australian film "Kenny" was about Kenny the plumber who had possibly one of the most thankless and off-putting occupations imaginable: He specialised in delivering and maintaining portable toilets to well-populated events. The film title was also called Kenny, and you wouldn’t think that a film about a plumber would be funny, but it was highly amusing. Anyway, at one point in the film one of the characters delivers true words of wisdom: "You always burn your first batch of scones". And you know what? Every time I have to repair something or fix up something here at the farm, those words keep coming back to haunt me time and time again.
The weather has turned cooler and more autumn like this week, and this morning I spotted the first of what will be many frosts in the valley below. The farm is high up on the side of a mountain so it is generally frost free. The reason for this is because cold air is heavy and falls downhill overnight and collects in valleys. There can be quite a few degrees difference between the farm and the cooler valley below. This is an advantage as I can grow all sorts of unusual sub-tropical plants like avocadoes and citrus which grow quite well as long as they can withstand the occasional light frost. Anyway, the frost way down below is beautiful because it washes out all of the colours and the view has a sepia tone:
|Frost in the valley below this morning|
With the weather turning cooler, my thoughts have been drifting towards firewood and the wood heater. I’m not sure whether I’ve previously mentioned it, but the wood heater is the only source of heat in the house during the winter. It is an excellent unit as it has an oven for baking bread and other edible goodies, a stove top for cooking and a wet back for heating the hot water. It is a good unit and is a crucial bit of infrastructure here. However, after only four years of use, the wood heater is starting to break down and that is a real disappointment. The damage to the wood heater is like making your first batch of scones – they’re completely burnt and inedible! Check out the damage to the unit in the photos below:
|Broken glass and seals in the wood heater viewing window|
|Damage to the inside of the combustion chamber|
So I began the very thankless job of repairing that wood heater. To replace the wood heater with a brand new unit would have consumed my income from a couple of months of work so I took a gamble and have tried to repair the existing unit. The photo below shows me pretending to be happy whilst repairing the seals and glass in the door of the wood heater:
|Repairing the glass and seals in the door to the wood heater|
It is worth mentioning that the glass used in wood heaters costs around $1,000 per square metre (1.2 square yards) Down Under. You can tell if the glazier has sold you the real deal because if you look into the depths of the glass it has a pink hue. Normal glass has a green hue.
Today, I cut some of the leftover 5mm (0.2 inch) plate steel from the stair project and lined the sides of the combustion chamber inside the wood heater. Some of the fire bricks had fallen apart so they also had to be replaced. The bit of steel which holds the fire bricks in place was also replaced. Finally some cement which is rated to withstand temperatures of up to 1,400 degrees Celsius (2,000’F) was added which glues the whole lot together.
|The guts of the wood heater now look almost as good as new|
Hopefully my next batch of scones (i.e. the metaphorical wood heater itself) don’t get burnt! In dismantling the unit, I’ve learned quite a bit about how the thing works and I can now see from hindsight that it was perhaps unwise to allow the height of the combustion to ever go above that of height of the fire bricks. The combustion chamber can hold far more timber than it actually should and henceforth I will be more careful with how much timber I stack into the wood heater.
Speaking of all things wood heater related, the excavations for the new wood shed have also continued this week and I’m now probably only a couple of weeks away from commencing actual construction on the shed itself. In order to save some time, only the actual site for the wood shed is being excavated. The wood shed will then be constructed and after that has been completed, the landscaping, rock walls and garden beds will be finalised.
|Excavations for the new wood shed have continued this week|
|Poopy the Pomeranian looks on with approval at the new autumn flowering plants|
|Jerusalem artichokes have only this week begun to produce flowers|
How did the house get here?
I mentioned in the previous blog that the summer of January 2010 was the wettest summer that I can remember. One evening that month whilst in the house that I rented in a nearby housing estate, I received a surprise to find out that the developers had actually built the estate on top of an old creek bed:
|People on the street find out to their surprise that the housing estate was built on an old creek bed|
|A wallaby is found hiding from the incessant rain of that year|
|The floor boards arrived on site|
|The timber roof beams were delivered|
|The first of the roof timbers were installed|
|The manufacturer proceeds to demolish the damaged water tank|
The temperature outside here at about 9.00pm is 16.4 degrees Celsius (61.5’F). So far this year there has been 138.4mm (5.4 inches) of rainfall which is up from last week's total of 135.8mm (5.3 inches).