Life at the end of the road

November 14, 2008

Lister’s back!

Filed under: daily doings, hydro, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:20 pm

It must be the full moon that’s putting everything pear shaped, yesterday was just one of those days when I’d have been better off staying in bed as everything I touched turned to cr4p! It wasn’t a bad day and my first task was to service the oil stove in the kitchen.

Oil fired squirrel

Oil fired squirrel

Now converting a perfectly good wood burning stove to oil in the present economic climate may seem pretty bonkers but when I did this 12 years ago oil was cheap and I was living on my own. Wood is fantastic and I’m surrounded by it but at the time I was fishing long hours 6 days a week and did not have enough time to cut wood for two squirrels, coal was OK but messy and hard work so I converted this to run off diesel initially as I could get it when I filled up my fishing boat. It was cheap easy and clean, when I sold my boat I converted it to run off kerrosene which was even cleaner and hotter tough that was when it was about 20p a liter. Now at treble that with a wife at home most days and only working 23 weeks a year large wood burner with solar panels is high on the to do list. Quite apart from the cost, taking this apart every 6 months, cleaning the burner pot and removing the carbon is not my favourite of tasks and on this day I managed to get even blacker and lose more skin off my knuckles than usual. With that done, the fire re lit and the fresh coffee back on top I set about wiring up an ammeter into my Navitron 200w hydro turbine, this little turbine is performing very well just now so I thought I’d add an LCD meter to monitor it’s performance. I’ve already fitted an AC volt meter, DC volt meter, and frequency meter to it which is no mean feat considering how I’m electrically challenged but I felt a nice matching ammeter would complement them nicely, after 2 hours of making up a panel routing the wires etc I managed to connect it up wrong and blow the meter! not content with that I connected it again and blew the DC volt meter. After that I fed the pigs and went down to see Louis on the ‘Blind Dog’ ( formally Golden Emblem ) who’d been having a similar kind of day with generator, turbine and water pump problems, on my way down the altenator regulator failed on my Land Rover and I’d to switch everything on to avoid cooking my batteries!. We were planning on pulling her down the beach a little but she was nowhere near floating so I had a couple of diet cokes with him and went home with a boot full of crap from China, the other alternative being some red wine and a sore head!

'Blind Dog'

Despite arriving home sober and before 9:00pm I just couldn’t get it together to post anything and went to my bed early thinking I’d do something at 5:30 in the morning which is when I usually arise. However I slept right through until 7:00 and after checking UKWind decided to go to Portree for pig feed. The plan had been to go in the afternoon but the forecast was looking iffy. So iffy in fact that the poor secondary school pupils that travel daily to Portree had been told to stay at home ( I bet they were gutted! ). It was a proper sh1t of a morning the kind of morning you can only get on the west coast of Scotland in November, mild like you wouldn’t believe but horizontal rain that finds its way through the best of waterproofs, so sh1tty in fact that I was not greeted by the usual squeeling of hungry pigs as most of them were still in their beds. That is apart from the 9 Tamworths on the hill that were AWOL again. Time, tide and the Raasay ferry wait for no one so we headed off and thought they’d be waiting for us when we got back. The trip to Portree went like clockwork and the weather was bad enough for no one to think I was bonkers for driving around with all my lights and electrics switched on, we loaded up 3/4 ton of sow rolls plus sheep hen and bird feed and still managed to catch the 10:30 ferry back! arriving back at Arnish for 11:30 and still no sign of the Tamworths.

Tangled lamb

Tangled lamb

We did however find one of our neighbours lambs that had got itself well and truly wound around a bramble bush and judging by the knots and tracks it had been going around in circles for a couple of days. This happens quite often during the winter, I suppose they see a bit of greenery around the brambles and their fleece gets caught in the barbs, then they just walk around in circles making it worse. Sheep aren’t the brightest of creatures and whilst I’ve rescued a few I’ve also found the odd dead one. Figuring that 9 missing pigs is OK and I’d only have been worried if one or two were missing, when the Tamworths weren’t waiting to be fed I got on with unloading the Land Rover then checking my battery banks.

Storing the power

We generate all our own power here at ‘The end of the road’ with a combination of wind, hydro, diesel and solar in that order. It’s stored in two large battery banks, one of 48v 1000ah that runs all the mains voltage stuff through an inverter and one at 12v 1000ah that does the low voltage lighting. The 48v bank is charged mainly by the 2.5kw Proven wind turbine with a little help from a Navitron 200w hydro turbine and a 12kw HR2 Lister as back up. The 12v system is charged by a Rutland 910FM wind turbine, 50w BP Solar panel and the 200w Navitron hydro turbine. These systems are only as good as the battery bank that stores the power so I take good care of mine, never discharging them more than about 20% and allways checking the electrolyte level and S.G. (specific gravity) regularly.

Main battery bank

Main battery bank

The cells are all numbered 1 to 24 so I can record the readings, I wear a face shield and have eye wash at hand and today I added around  a gallon of distilled water which is quite normal for a months usage with a bank of this size.

The wanderers return

It says something for the happiness of our pigs that they did not turn up for their 8:00am feed until 3:00pm!

Wanderer's return

Wanderer's return

Lister’s back

The other reason that I’ve been a bit tardy in posting is the return of ‘Lister’ my ‘Fujitsu Siemens Amilo 3438g’  piece of cr4p laptop. Lister who’s two and a half years old became seriously ill around 6 weeks ago when his hard drive failed, he’d been sick for a year or so with a dodgy screen and noisy DVD drive but I’d reframed from sending him away cos his screen’s so large that that the three rainbow coloured vertial tramlines could be avoided and I rarely used the DVD drive anyway. However when one morning I was confronted by a blue screen and loads of gibberish it was time to send him away before his three year warranty ran out. I had to laugh when the nice man said “package it up, UPS will pick it up the day after tomorrow and you’ll have it back from Germany in 3 to 5 working days” !!!!!!!! Germany? are you telling me that no one in Scotland or even Britain can fix it? Anyway it took 3 weeks to pick it upm and 2 weeks to repair and return it, of course it came back devoid of everything and I’ve been tearing my hair out trying to install all the stuff I need just to get on the internet here.

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