A bad day at the office…..

28 11 2012

For some time now, I’ve had a saying……  if you have livestock, you’re going to have deadstock.  And so it was yesterday, my last remaining milking goat died.  It all happened so fast, I’m still stunned.  Two days ago, Shove refused to be milked…. and she was off her food, a very unusual thing.  Actually never happened before.

I contacted my friendly goat expert in Tassie, Katrina, and we both felt it must be a bout of mastitis, not an unusual condition in goats which apparently catch this far more often than cows.  So I started administering Olive Leaf Extract, which is supposed to clear it up in a couple of days or three.  Shove was still eating a bit and walking around the paddock, and whilst not her best, the last thing on my mind was that she would die.

Then the next morning as I stripped her of her milk, an essential procedure under these circumstances, she really put up a struggle.  Oddly, what milk I managed to catch was in no way offensive or strange looking.  I even had a sip.  It’s hard to be objective when you think you know something’s wrong.  I thought it tasted fine, even if there was a slight ‘je ne sais quoi’ that might have been different about the milk’s flavour….

I then discovered on the inet that vitamin C with dolomite also clears this up, and at lunch time I squirted what was probably a horrible tasting concoction down her throat.  Again she could stand, and I had another fight on my hands to keep her head steady enough to aim the syringe down her throat.  I’m certain it didn’t go down the wrong way, she was breathing into my face the whole time, and the only gurgling noises were those of the stuff running into her stomach.  At this stage I had to go out, never suspecting for one moment that even though she was still eating nothing she’d be dead before dark……

When I got back, it was plainly obvious she was in serious trouble, and within another twenty minutes that she was not going to make it.  We even called the vet to put her down, but in the end she was in such distress that I just could no longer put up with her suffering and did the job myself to put the poor girl out of her misery.

It’s 4:40AM, first light, and I have to go and dig a big hole before it gets hot.  It was 32 again yesterday, and the forecast is for another week of even higher temperatures, and not a drop of rain in sight…

Life in Utopia doesn’t seem so great right now.  The pull from Tasmania is rising daily.  I need to move on.  Gotta go……

More power of Energy Efficiency

21 11 2012

Just when we thought we could not lower our electricity consumption, along comes the next “bill”…..

Honestly, I was blown away……  never in a million years did I ever think we could get under 2 kWh per day, without even trying.  The only thing that occurred during this billing period is that the old upright freezer in which we kept the goat meat was converted to run as a fridge at 10°C for the cheese……  but all the same, the graph on the back of the bill shows we were going downhill for an entire year.  And there was I telling people we “only” consumed 2.4 kWh/day.  I am baffled.  Yes, the little freezer could quite conceivably use half a kWh/day running at 20 below, but this doesn’t really make sense.

The new bills are a little more sophisticated than they used to be now.  That neat little graphic that compares your consumption with that of other households “in your area” is eye opening.  Two person households “in our area” consume 1,255 kWh a quarter, while we only used 166…….  I’m justly proud of that.

What was disappointing though is that we only exported 903 kWh of excess solar generation, which over 90 days is a neat 10 kWh/day.  From 3.5 kW of PVs, that’s less than 3 hours of peak power.

This is due to my ageing SunProfi inverter putting a lot of power into the backup batteries, and the new PVs running very inefficiently when the weather’s hot, rarely producing more than 1800W from their rated 2200W…….  it’s because of a little understood phenomenon called thermal de-rating.

Panels are rated at X kW @ 25°C.  Some manufacturers must be ashamed of their Temperature Effect figures, as they don’t tell you what they are.  But they normally range from 0.2% to 0.5% per degree C above 25°C.  A panel would have to just about be in Antarctica to run at 25°C in full sun!

So if it’s 35°C outside (and it often is here), your black panels on the roof could be running as hot as 70°C, a temperature difference of 70 – 25 (degrees) = 45 degrees.  If your de-rating number is 0.5% (worst case scenario), then your panels’ power output could be de-rated by 45 x 0.5 = 22.5%.  On 185W panels like ours, that means they actually only produce 145W, so 12 of them would only produce 1740W……  which is pretty close to the truth!

I could complain, but I’m waiting for my $460 cheque…….

For advice on how we achieved this, visit this page…..

Peak Oil: The Race for What’s Left

17 11 2012

Tasmanian trip report

1 11 2012

Last week, as mentioned in my last post, I flew to Tassie for a reconnaissance sortie.  On arrival, the weather looked a bit on the dismal side, but that’s just luck of the draw I guess.  Very cloudy, a bit of drizzle, and just 15 degrees.  Two days later, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was 22 degrees….

My partner in crime and I rented a tiny Suzuki Alto, powered by a three cylinder one litre engine.  It was half full, so we filled it up.  Sixteen bucks.  That’s all the petrol it took!  When one is used to $100+ fills, that was pretty amazing.

An interesting observation is that we obviously were only able to “shop” for real estate over the internet from QLD.  The photos available on various websites conjure up many different preconceived ideas about the suitability of land, and the real eye opener here was that you just cannot trust what you see there.  Some blocks which originally showed huge promise turned into bitter disappointments, whilst some which we thought looked uninteresting turned out to be gems…..  The importance of seeing things “in the flesh” goes without saying.

We looked at six acres in Middleton which, apart from its appreciable steepness, looked like it was going to be hard to beat…….  But the next day brought us to Bruny Island where a realtor took us for a half day trip around the place, driving rather a lot faster than me.

Bruny Island is really two islands joined by this geographic freak of nature they call “the Neck”… a thin strip of sand barely wide enough for a road and more than a kilometre long.  The Tasman sea and New Zealand are to the left, mainland Tassie and the Channel to the right……

The Neck – Bruny Island

North Bruny was a real disappointment.  The one block we were keen on turned out so disappointing we barely looked at it.  Besides, there were no facilities whatsoever there, everything has to be sourced on “the mainland” via the admittedly frequent ferry services which cost “only” $15 for residents….

South Bruny by contrast was obviously wetter and lusher, and has a school, medical centre, shop, pub, and post office, though petrol has to be bought at Adventure Bay, on the wrong side of the island (for us)….. but it was there we found the perfect block…..  24 acres with 250m frontage to the d’Entrecasteaux Channel where I’m told the fishing is still pretty good.  Best of all, it faces North, isn’t too steep, the soil is a nice brown sandy loam full of worms, and within walking distance to all the above amenities.  If we miss out on it (and we could at this stage), I will be seriously pissed off…!

I already have a vision of the perfect off the grid earthship style house with PVs/wind power, swales and dams, and all the goats, pigs, ducks, and chooks we can have!

Fingers crossed.  REALLY hard!

I did the tourist thingy that day, driving to Cape Bruny where a lighthouse built in 1834 by convicts stands.  It’s a bit of a wild place, but that’s what I like about Tassie….

Cape Bruny

And the little Suzuki?  It covered 800km on $46 worth of petrol!  At $1.53/L (I was actually amazed at how consistent – and high compared to QLD –  the price of petrol was in Tassie) that’s exactly 30L, for a fuel consumption of 3.75L/100km……  I know I’m easy on the loud pedal, but that is an amazing result, 75 MPG in the old money (62 MPG for you Americans with your funny gallon who are reading this).

Watch this space, and wish us luck.