Monday, December 29, 2014

Reflective coating for the vertical farm bottles

29.12.14: I had a discussion with someone who said that my vertical farm bottles should be opaque and not of translucent material. The roots do not like light, and will not grow correctly out to the edges. Also in hot conditions the bottles could dry out too quickly with solar gain. So, one by one, I am covering them with reflective aluminium tape.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Latest addition: a front porch

16.12.14: I have added a frameless polycarbonate front porch to my house. This is recycling some 6mm polycarbonate from an unfinished solar panel building project. Because it is curved in a vault shape, it can be completely frameless and will withstand gravity force and upward wind loads.

Subsequently, after a few gales,  it became obvious that some bracings were required, and some metal bracings have been added, but the appearance of the porch remains extremely lightweight. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ground temperatures in December

5 Dec 2014: We are in the usual downward curve of the ground temperature, but due to the mild autumn, and me needing less heating load, the curve is rounder than usual, retaining a useful temperature underground for longer than usual. This curve goes up to 1st December.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Vertical Revolving Barrel Farm

1st December 2014: These photos show the process of building the vertical revolving barrel farm. 
See some comments by John Macdonald about my vertical revolving barrel farm project.
The design of this is based on the Garden Tower project from Michigan, but their product is not sold outside the US and Canada. I would willingly pay the full price to buy their product if they would make it available in the UK. I have based the construction on their design idea which is to have a strawberry planter style outside surface with 30 pockets, then the centre filled with soil, and the centre line with a 150mm flue filled with kitchen waste and worms. At the base there is a collecting chamber for crumbly compost and a another collecting chamber for liquid produced by the worms. The construction starts with a B and Q 210 L water butt.
Here is the new water butt sitting on its base ready for action.First action is to join together the base and to add a turntable. This is the base which comes in three parts which must be riveted together.
I have made a turntable from eight castor wheels and a piece of plywood and a top level of polycarbonate, surfaced with some wetsuit rubber.Here I am cutting out one of two polycarbonate discs which will form the levels at the lower part of the butt.
I am using polycarbonate because it is extremely strong, I already have some from previous unfinished solar projects, and it is easily drilled and does not break when drilled.I have £35 worth of barrel and Oh dear!, now I am cutting it into two pieces with a handsaw.
Oh dear, it has now been cut in half, now there is a lot of work to be done.
The first and second disks are in place and the vertical flue is built from flexible rubber sheet, riveted into a vertical cone,which will carry the kitchen waste for composting.
Now the two polycarbonate disks need to be strongly bracketed into the base with aluminium brackets. The lower disc is drilled with fine holes to let liquid through and the upper disc is drilled with large holes to allow compost particles to crumble and fall through.
The upper disc has the larger holes, but I shall probably drill a lot more than this.
The lower base has doors which can be opened and closed, and there is a yellow filing tray which will catch the crumbling compost. The aluminium bars are necessary because of the 200 kg of soil which will live above this disk. The tray can be slid out to retrieve compost and then to return to the bottom of the barrel . There is also a sliding panel to allow the central compost flu to be dumped into the filing tray. 
Now I begin the tough and tedious process of cutting 30 holes into the side of the upper barrel. These are spaced at 36° intervals around the circuit.
The first few take the longest, and I start off using a jigsaw cutter.I am making progress and I use a large drillbit to get the jigsaw cutting started.
I tried cutting out a few with heavy duty metal scissors, but this took too long. The quickest method by far was using an angle grinder with a diamond cutting blade. The first cuts are treated as straight cuts, and then I can use metal cutting scissors to modify them or form them into a curve. With the diamond blade angle grinder it is quick but is incredibly dangerous, the slightest misjudgements and you can cut through and ruin the barrel. The blade is designed to cut through concrete paving stones and bricks, so thin plastic is instantly cut.
Now, using rigid but flexible rubber sheeting I am able to cut these out using a template and rivet them to the holes. All riveting throughout is 4.8 mm, and where the rivet is at risk of pulling out, I have used stainless steel washers.
It takes about 15 minutes per hole to cut out the rubber and to rivet and there is still more work to be done to fit a rear rubber on the inside of the barrel. As the work progresses, I work out a way to do the rear rubber and the front rubber with the same set of rivets, which is more economical with time and with fastenings.
 The top edge of each hole is formed into a much more pronounced parabolic curve.
Now, the upper part of the barrel is complete and it needs to be connected to the lower part. For some reason, I did not record any photos of the process of joining the other barrel to the lower barrel but this was done with surplus green barrel wall material and finished off with grey mastic. 
There is no significant downward load on the walls of the barrel, because the weight of the soil is entirely carried by the polycarbonate disk inside. This weight is transferred to the aluminium brackets which are then finally transferred to the barrel wall.

Setting it up in the garden
In this photo, the barrel has been filled to the top with a mixture of Perlite, horse manure, and potting compost in one third equal proportions. They are mixed in a barrow, formed into a slurry with water, and poured into the barrel. Then each pocket has individually been topped up to its surface and has been planted with seedlings.

Building one of these in December is not likely to produce massively good results until next spring. However, I have tried planting it with some Pak Choy, Kale, and Rocket, all of which are capable of growing in the cold weather. The idea of the revolving system is to allow the plants to get a fair share of sunlight, and to allow me to stand on the concrete doing maintenance instead of walking round the barrel on the grass.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another project coming on, the vertical revolving farm

12.11.14: oh dear, I feel the urge to make things! This time I have bought a 210 Litre barrel from B&Q and will make a vertical revolving farm out of it.

It sits here in the kitchen, waiting for the cutting to begin ha ha
This is where the idea comes from, the Garden Tower Project. But.... they don't sell outside the US and Canada.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

More on Watering of Vertical farm

5 November 2014: The vertical watering system is complete and working well. So much rain falls in the winter that the valve needs to be closed most of the time, and when I detect that there is some need to water, I can open the yellow valves briefly. The water trickles down through the bottles.

As I accumulate more bottles, the farm is growing. The ideal mix is onethird Perlite, onethird Horse manuee and onethird potting compost.

There needs to be differential control of left and right, so the red and blue valves allow this.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vertical farm watering

30.10.14: I have been constructing a vertical farm on my garage wall, facing south. As the wall is under the shelter of the eaves, it is necessary to fit a watering system, to trickle rainwater through the farm. In the summer this is a specially necessary, but in the winter it is necessary to close the valve when weather is too rainy, to avoid over watering. 

It is too high to reach to water the upper bottles with a watering can. The hoods above the bottles are designed to reduce the amount of watering can water going on the wall instead of into the bottles.

I am recycling 4 pint milk bottles (2.227 litres), which seem to offer an idea height to width ratio for water and nutrient retention. After a while, I will have to water them with liquid plant feed, perhaps. 

Here is the start of laying in 22mm copper pipes for the watering system, using the garage gutter as a storage vessel.

I am expecting that over time, the pipes will get silt in them from the rainwater gutter, so they can all be easily rodded through. The bottles have holes in them and the water does seem to successfully trickle through from one level to the next, and at the lowest level they will trickle into the sorrel bed or the tomato bed.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cavity wall installation

31– 8–14: neighbours having that cavity wall installation done. A good thing to do during the summer. Grants are still available if your house has not been done yet

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Porch over the back door

31.7.14: these bits of polycarbonate in the foreground will form me a crystalline shaped porch over the back door

Sunday, July 6, 2014

More work on the pond

7 July 2014: The work proceeds on the pond, with a pond liner delivered, and the turf lifted. Earth and hardcore have been lifted and I have reached the hard base clay layer, and worry about the work of getting that lifted. I might have to hire a skip and a mini-excavator to get that up!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Greening the front of the house

I have been wanting a 'column of Green' at the front of the house for a long time, but the clematis I planted a long time ago has taken until this year to look really healthy. It has grown to 2 m high. I cannot get the kind of trellis I fixed up three years ago, so I have had to get some rather more expensive framed trellis and fix that up. It is difficult to get something that large and heavy up to that height when you have no one to help, but I made some nifty little aluminium slot-in brackets which held it in place while I was able to drill the final fixing holes.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Starting on a garden pond

30.6.14: My summer vacation project will be a pond in the garden. After much consideration about flexible pond liners I decided to use a rigid pond liner for long-term trouble-free installation. Although it looks a bit black and plasticky, the edges will be fully planted with wetland plants and the edge will become green. 

The point of this is to become a supporter of wildlife, and a pond will support frogs and birds mostly. Don't mention the mosquitoes!

The outline of the pond has been defined with sticks so that we can adapt our thoughts about it. It's important to get some sunlight on the pond so it cannot just be pushed up against the concrete wall at the south end because it would be shaded too long. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 2014 Reports

15 June 2014: It has been a dry June so far with negligible rain. I'm glad to have 300litres of water storage for the garden.
  • House annual 4,819, biennial 5,120 kWh. Stabilised....
  • GSHP annual 2,770 biennial 3,098 kWh, triennial 3,056 kWh. Steady
  • PV annual 3,136, biennial 3,111 kWh, triennial 3,127 kWh. (Higher than GSHP)
  • Sunbox annual 4,329, biennial 3,499 kWh. Rising, when will it level off?!
  • Ground Temperature 13.6C - levelled off, but I hope it exceeds that sometime this year.
Worldwise, it is the World Cup in Brazil and Spain is out after losing twice, England has one more chance to stay in. Islamic Sunni extremists called ISIS, originating from the anti-Assad rebels in Syria, have taken over Northern Iraq and are trying to make a unified Caliphate of Syria and Iraq - and they are executing Shias. US and Iran are now looking for ways to cooperate against them. The only effective retaliation against ISIS has come from the Kurds. Britain declares ISIS to be a huge threat because of the potential for jihadism spreading in the UK, but forget that the official Foreign Office position on Syria is to support ISIS in Syria (and nearly instigated military action during 2013 against Assad). Spain's King has abdicated and Felipe becomes king on the same day that Spain are out of the world cup. Comedian Rik Mayall and US writer Maya Angelou died. It was the 70th anniversary of D-day and the last verterans likely to make the celebrations went over to Normandy to see the memorial ceremonies. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 2014 Reports

27 May 2014: Wet weather returned for the first two weeks, but it has been hot or sunny with showers ever since. Sorry that it's been a month since last posting metering reports.
  • House annual 4,783, biennial 5,129 kWh. Reducing. 
  • GSHP annual 2,747, biennial 3,104 kWh, triennial 3,052 kWh. Steady
  • PV annual 3,168, biennial 3,098 kWh, triennial 3,154 kWh. (Higher than GSHP)
  • Sunbox annual 4,087, biennial 3,415 kWh. Rising, topped the 4k mark!
  • Ground Temperature 12.9ºC - rising more steadily than last spring.

At Peveril, there is an influence which is almost self cancelling, energy wise. My wife had some weeks in hospital again for her condition, and during that time, the energy consumption falls (less heating, less cooking, baking, ironing). Now that she is back, she is suffering from low temperature, so the house must be warmer than usual, so we have the heating on in the end of May.
    World wide, the bigger stories are the British yacht that was lost with a crew of four in the Atlantic, the advance of UKIP in the British elections (and similar advances in other European countries), the continuing story of the Nigerian children abducted by Boko Haram, and more bomb outrages by BH..... a military coup in Thailand, and a right-wing Modi government winning Indian elections. The famous Mackintosh School of Art in Glasgow had a disastrous fire, starting from an electrical device in the basement. Ukraine simmers on, and excitement builds up for the World Cup and the tennis grand slams (some chaos in Brazil as they struggle to complete the stadia). In Formula1, Hamilton and Rosberg are having a 1-2 2-1 rivalry, where their team wins all races but the drivers keep swapping roles for winner and runner up. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Technology open day 11 May'14

11 May 2014: As part of Open week for Ecohomes in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, our house was open on Sunday 11th. 
We have had open days every year since 2010 and many people have been in previous years. So, we got three visitors only. One of them is a Postgrad student at Loughborough University and doing a study of Thermal Mass. I hope we will keep in touch for longer in the future, as this is a related topic. 
  The feedback sheets indicated that our visitors enjoyed the visit. It was rainy, so we did not take the usual walk on the hill, but I had plenty of pictures on the iPad to show them. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Solar security light installed

29 April 2014: Some months ago I was sent an EYE solar security light as a donation from Solar Centre, but I have only just got round to fixing it up. Read about it at:
I feel slightly worried about going up high ladders at my age, especially when my wife is away much of the time, and there is nobody to call if I fall off!
Anyway, I decided to get on with it, and put it up. As I have had a whole winter of dark evenings with no light in the garden (due to previous light failing), it was needed. In this picture, the new solar PV panel has been fitted to the aluminium bracket that gives a better southward view. The fixing bracket is secure (the previous unit's PV panel had a broken bracket). There is also a foam pad touching the Soil pipe to avoid vibration in windy conditions.This security light is donated by SOLAR CENTRE who had been noticing my blog and were interested in my solar endeavours and wanted me to evaluate this new design. I found some difficulty getting the previous one off, as the old unit included screws which had rusted solid - it seems odd for an external fitting to skimp on such a simple detail. 
My ladder has a good safety triangular frame at the top which makes for safer working, and enables one to fix a secure rope and bungee cord. In this picture, the lower shape is the two way heat reclaim ventilator, the middle light is a failed 240V security light, and the top one is the new Solar Centre light fitting. This is the finished installation. The design has the sensor-controller as a separate unit, which is a good idea - it can point in one direction while the light can be able to point in another, e.g. over the back garden. (The plant pot that lives below the light is now back on its hook).
I also noticed that the Solar Centre fitting uses stainless screws externally, and has good watertight push fit connectors on the cables. I am not sure if the Battery is NiCad or Lithium, but never mind. The solar panel is slightly larger than the one on the previous light, and has a stouter bracket. The sensor-controller has digitally settable options for daylight level and time delay. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 2014 Reports

27 April 2014: It has been a dry sunny month with cold evenings.
  • House annual 4,748, biennial 5,168 kWh. Reducing. 
  • GSHP annual 2,712, biennial 3,139 kWh, triennial 3,040 kWh. Steady
  • PV annual 3,149, biennial 3,073 kWh, triennial 3,165 kWh. 
  • Sunbox annual 3,802, biennial 3,284 kWh. Steady
  • Ground Temperature 12.8ºC - rising... 
World wide, the bigger stories are the Korean Ferry that capsized, seemingly due to crew error or misbehaviour - many children from the same school all drowned, tragically. also, Gabria Garcia Marquez (Columbian novelist) died. (No further findings of the Malaysian airliner). Peaches Geldof died at the age of 25, no known cause. The Irish president state-visited England, the first time ever.

13 April 2014: Mid-April, here are the Peveril Solar figures. Weather has been good for along time, no rain for about a month, cool air temps, but frequent sunny days.
  • House annual 4,738, biennial 5,220 kWh. Reducing. 
  • GSHP annual 2,702, biennial 3,198 kWh, triennial 3,039 kWh. Reducing.
  • PV annual 3,164, biennial 3,073 kWh, triennial 3,179 kWh.
    (lost a day or two of sun due to circuit breaker popping)
  • Sunbox annual 3,802, biennial 3,198 kWh. Good, still rising. ETFE has been good!
  • Ground Temperature 12.5ºC - rising... 
IPCC report April 2014
News wise, the same stories rattle on, Pistorius still pleading innocence but revealing more and more cracks in his story, searching for MH370 plane with the search zone narrowing down to a few hundreds square kilometres (audible pings were picked up). Nottingham Forest still haven't won a game for weeks. The IPCC (for Climate change) published a report on the total urgency of moving energy systems to renewable sources because none of the efforts of governments so far are making a dent in rising carbon emissions. See Guardian report, and IPCC website. Sue Townsend (famous for the Diary of Adrian Mole died at 68). India and Afghanistan are having elections.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 2014 Reports

30 March 2014: Rounding off the month, here are the Peveril Solar figures at the end of March:
  • House annual 4,828, biennial 5,276 kWh. Reducing. Warm March and Mrs N-C in hospital.
  • GSHP annual 2,823, biennial 3,266 kWh, triennial 3,051 kWh. 
  • PV annual 3,205, biennial 3,075 kWh, triennial 3,196 kWh. Steady....
  • Sunbox annual 3,816, biennial 3,141 kWh. Good, still rising.
  • Ground Temperature 12.1ºC - rising... a full degree higher than two weeks earlier
News wise, the same stories rattle on, Pistorius, searching for MH370 plane. Nottingham Forest still haven't won a game for weeks and sacked manager Billy Davies.

23 March 2014: Normally, I only publish figures fortnightly, but on this occasion, it's worth printing a weekly one because we have gone below the 5k/3k threshold in annual consumption. This March has been so warm and sunny so far that the heating has been off, whereas the average temperatures of March 2013 were the coldest for many years. We've had three weeks with almost no rain, and many mornings of sunshine. So the annual figures have dropped sharply.
  • House annual 4,895 - well down...
  • GSHP annual 2,885 - well down...
  • PV annual 3,214 - going up
  • Sunbox annual 3,791 - still rising.
  • Ground Temperature 11.6ºC 
Worldwide, the main news seems to be the same, a continuing search for the Malaysian airplane (some debris has been seen). The image on the right is a pavement art by students, but the news source (Huff Post) doesn't say where it was painted. The Pistorius trial (too many inconsistencies in OP's account), the Crimea (and western efforts to find a way to punish Putin). The government's Budget seemed design to bribe the grey vote with a freeing up of Pension funds, although this will probably cause another rise in house prices. Arsene Wenger's 1000th game with Arsenal ended with a 6-0 beating by Chelsea, and Nottingham Forest got drubbed 5-0 by Derby. Oh, and the odious Fred Phelps of Westboro' Baptist Church died, that's some good news.

17 March 2014: The warm weather has continued, and my wife is back in hospital, so it's warm enough for a normal fit person to turn the heating off. The house metering figures look good, getting closer to the 5000-3000 threshold.
  • House annual 5,020, biennial 5,298 kWh. Reducing. This March is a polar opposite to 2013.
  • GSHP annual 3,002, biennial 3,280 kWh, triennial 3,061 kWh. 
  • PV annual 3,178, biennial 3,085 kWh, triennial 3,204 kWh. Steady....
  • Sunbox annual 3,734, biennial 3,107 kWh. Good, still rising.
  • Ground Temperature 11.8ºC - rising... a full degree higher than two weeks earlier
Worldwide, some of the same stories continue. The Malaysian jet is still missing although it is clear that it was deliberate human damage by the crew, as the communication systems were turned off, but the plane continued to fly for 5 hours.... but the satellites don't know where it was flying. The Pistorius trial continue, and with several lies or untruths from him, it is breaking the "trust me, I'm Oscar" nature of his defence. A man had a 3D reconstruction of his face made, using 3D printing. Tony Benn, one of the longest serving MPs died during the week at 88 (pictured), and suddenly all his enemies are singing his praises. 
Crimea had a referendum and opted to join the Russian Federation by a huge majority. The Winter Paralympics ended with a splending ceremony. NASA published a future-thinking report, that says basically, we are all doomed because of human greed. The rich countries and people go on consuming resources more quickly than the earth can provide. Although we think we are smart, the industrial and electronic culture in which we live is easily damaged.

10 March 2014: Well it was my birthday yesterday.. but enough of World News. I'm only printing annual figures fortnightly, but it's clear that so far March 2014 is being very warm, and March 2013 was the coldest on record (we had good snow in last week of Mar'13). There's a chance that the annual figures will reduce before the end of the month.
  Of the real World news, we've had Putin's occupation of Crimea, the Winter Paralympics starting, and the Malaysian Boeing 777 lost at sea with 239 on board. The Oscar Pistorius trial re-started... so much speculation, but sorry Oscar, I believe the witnesses who heard the shouting and screaming and shots. Bob Crow, the union leader for the transport workers died at the young age of 52.
Ground Temperatures from August 2009 to early March 2014
Never gone below 10ºC since the Sunbox installed
2 March 2014: Spring has begun (according to the calendar), and according to the climate that also seems to be the case - snowdrops and daffodils are visible, and for the first time in a very long while there has not been a trace of snow during Dec, Jan and Feb over a winter. It would be great if we have a mild March and the House might dip to just under 5,000 and the GSHP to just under 3,000. As of 2 Mar 2014:
  • House annual 5,110, biennial 5,311 kWh. Reducing. It's been a mild winter.
  • GSHP annual 3,072, biennial 3,284 kWh, triennial 3,068 kWh. 
  • PV annual 3,153, biennial 3,075 kWh, triennial 3,200 kWh. Steady....
  • Sunbox annual 3,598, biennial 3,050 kWh. Good, still higher than last year.
  • Ground Temperature 10.8ºC - rising at last.
World wide, it was the Oscars in Hollywood (wins for '12 Years a Slave' and 'Gravity'). The biggest story of all is the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine. As this is a mostly ethnic russian island-peninsula, it would seem a war-avoiding idea for Ukraine to cede this peninsula, and so far the bulletless war indicates that this is becoming the de- facto result. Embarrassing for the organisers of the Winter Paralympics due to start on Friday of this week. Embarrassing for western politicians who do not know how to deal with it (and forgetting that only a short time ago, they were threatening both Syria and Iran with bombing or military attack, taking sides with the rebels of Libya and Syria and fostering the breakaways of Kosovo and Montenegro.

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