Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Art à la cart

I promise that this is the last post about my cart/trailer. An avid reader ticked me off not long ago for leaving the saga of the cart development unfinshed. So here is the end point of the story, the final cart, the pinnacle of cart refurbishment.

Please note: Silvery steel reinforcement where the handle joins the body, to strengthen it where it broke last time, firmly attached by screws.

And note also the fine extra cross-member in pine, cunningly placed to stop the full water containers sliding to the back of the cart and overloading it (which also contributed to its breaking last time)

And the shorter stiffer handle, so less likely to snap. All in all, the perfect embodiment of cart art.

I am now offering consultancy on garden cart design and construction. Excellent value, good rates, results guranteed. Yes, you will be guaranteed to get a result. The kind of result is open to discussion.

I was going to write a poem extolling the virtues of the finished product, but it has been done before, in a different context, by an genuine expert. Enjoy.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Business models

I have noted before, that in Summer at least, a lot of sunny energy lands on the grange roof and gets turned into heat, and that it would be nice to turn this energy into electricity instead of wasting it.

EDF have a serious problem with their electricity distribution network in France: it is operating at near-capacity, demand is growing, and upgrading it will cost them a fortune. There are therefore various government subsidies and buy-back incentives for electricity that you might generate with solar panels, to encourage you to fit them.

But at the end of the day, when I looked at the numbers, it would cost upwards of 110,000 euro to cover the roof with solar panels, and the pay-back period would be longer than ten years. I'm sure I could find better things to do with the money, and anyway, it's EDF has the problem, not me. Why should I tie up a load of money, and give myself the headache of managing and maintaining a solar installation, just to help out EDF?

If on the other hand EDF came to me and asked to lease my roof so they could install solar panels, and pay me a bit of cash to do so, I would be interested. They can take the business risk, and I get a bit of money plus some smugness at being eco-friendly. So I was intrigued by these guys who are basically offering to do just that for customers in the UK. Maybe someone will take up this idea for France. And I wonder how long it will take for the likes of EDF to wake up and cut out the middle man?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Little water works

I have mentioned before the fact that there is a well in the garden. I have decided to exploit it so that I can water the garden in Summer without feeling too guilty about using tap water of drinking quality. The well doesn't always have water in it, so I need to be able to store the water if I want it continuously available. My recent weeks have been spent in setting up a couple of storage tanks.

The project was simply to build a small hard standing, and put some water tanks on it. First I had to clear the undergrowth from the area where the tanks will go. Then build a little frame to hold the concrete, with some rocks at the bottom and some steel reinforcement on top of them so hopefully it won't crack.

Then pour the concrete. I borrowed a mixer from a friend down the road (thanks, Brian), which made the whole thing easier, but there were still 34-and-a-half 35Kg bags of premixed dry concrete to put into it. It took about four hours in all to mix and lay the concrete. For the water tanks, I had to buy them one at a time and transport them in the trailer because I couldn't quite get one in the Espace.

Once the concrete had dried, I put the tanks on top; this all seems to work well. I chained them to the concrete in case of light-fingered natives. So now, if they forget to bring their battery-powered angle-grinder (15 seconds to cut the chain) and instead only bring their lump hammer and cold chisel, it will take them 10 minutes to free the chain from the concrete. That'll be safe then.

The tanks aren't all connected up to the well yet, and the pump in the well is not permanently connected to the electricity (I have to plug it in) but at least I can now fill the tanks and have proper well water on tap.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Bogeyman the fungus

Various varieties of mushrooms were presenting themselves during today's little walk by the river. I have never seen the first one before: little spikes of white-tipped black poking out of the ground, about an inch and a half high. When you tap them, they give off a fine white powder that floats away.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Home again

No matter how well-known the track, how many times I have walked on it, I find there is always something new to remark upon. This time, two coppers: A tree in copper Autumn colours, and a number of small copper butterflies, (thanks for the ID Mark), one of which stayed still enough to be captured by the camera.

I threaded my way through the undergrowth to see if I could find any seeds of the tree that was brightening my view, but there were none that I could see. I shall just have to enjoy it as it is and where it is. Perhaps that's not a bad thing.
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