Monthly Archives: November 2013


An update on the progress in the La Darnoire household…

The reedbed is finally complete; we fetched three trailer loads of fine gravel (totalling over 1500kg) to spread on top of the coarser gravel. In total we’ve moved some 12 tonnes of gravel.
By hand.
With a shovel.

We looked at the prices of reeds (Phragmites australis) from garden centres and online, but at a price of €4 per plant (minimum) we opted for plan B. LSS collected some reeds instead, carefully digging them up from some roadside ditches on her way to various locations to give English lessons. These have now been planted in the gravel, and the greywater piping has finally been connected up. No more emptying buckets from the kitchen sink!
The reed planting is a bit of an experiment because we’re heading into winter. I have some other reeds installed in plant-pots in the pond, ready for installation in the reedbed in spring. If the current reeds in the reedbed don’t survive the winter, we’ll just replace them. It’s difficult to identify the type of reed at this stage; I doubt they’re Phragmites – in fact some may be Typha – but I don’t think it should matter too much. After all, the purpose of the plant is to take oxygen down to the roots where it can be made available to the bacteria which do the actual cleaning of the water. We’ll see how they do. It’s only grey water that they have to clean, so there is no concern about pathogens. In fact we’re also using ecological dishwasher detergent. No chlorine bleach allowed!

LSS came into the house the other day to inform me that we had a new hen, and to bring the camera. Puzzled, I followed her to the chicken coop. Unfortunately because I’d brought the camera, the subject of the intended photograph had moved. (Which is usually the case).
The new hen in question had been curled up comfortably in one of the nests, and had been studiously ignored by the other hens. As we entered the chicken coop, the hen stretched, yawned, and jumped down to come and greet us, purring.
Yes, it was our cat Pixie. She wasn’t interested in the hens, so we can only assume she’s done this before. She had probably asked herself the usual question: “Ooh, it moves. Can I eat it?” followed by second thoughts: “Hmm, no… it’s too big. And there are four of them. Right, I’ll ignore them instead.”

The lounge painting is progressing nicely – we’ve opted for a sandy-textured paint to cover the many imperfections in the original plaster-of-paris wall surfaces. It’s a bright orange colour and certainly warms up the room, looking especially attractive when the boiler stove fire is going.

Because of this year’s shortage of apples on the property, we had resigned ourselves to not having any cider this year. However, our neighbours T&M informed us that T’s grandmother had an apple orchard which still had quite a lot of fruit, so after an apple-picking session we had about 50kg of apples!
The scratter did its job, although with a few hiccups (this winter during the long dark evenings I’ll put up a web page about all of this!) and the new cider press also had a design flaw.
However, T has a friend who is a whizz with engineering, so we ended up with a modified press using an article of modified scrap metal which one is absolutely not allowed to modify. I can’t divulge too many details in order to protect innocent parties (viz. me); but suffice it to say the article in question was originally cylindrical and capable of holding contents at high pressure. We now have just over 20 litres of apple juice quietly fermenting away in a corner of the kitchen. Neighbour T became fascinated with the whole home-brewing concept and purchased a tin of malt extract, borrowing one of my fermentation bins in order to make his first batch of beer. I think the home-brewing community has another convert!

I’ve installed a new central heating radiator in the bedroom; I still need to connect up the piping to the thermal store and construct a control panel which will house the timer, thermostat and temperature gauges (all of which run on 12 volts DC – planning ahead for when we install a solar electric panel.) The central heating system will contain a simple electrical logic circuit which I’ve designed so that if the temperature in the thermal store goes over 70° C, the 12V pump will switch on, thus using the bedroom radiator as a heat dump. The pump will also switch on between certain times of day. More on the construction of this later.

I’ve also made a start on the upgrading of the electric circuit in the bedroom. I’ve removed all the old wiring, and at the moment we are running a temporary extension lead from the lounge!

The computers have finally been unpacked from their cardboard boxes in the barn and installed in the lounge. However, this was not a simple process. A year and a half of storage in what was, let’s face it, less than ideal conditions, had the expected consequences. I connected up LSS’s computer and switched on, to discover that the power supply had died. As I used to build computers, I have a small stock of spare parts, so installed another power supply. I then discovered the motherboard had died.
So, I ordered a new power supply.
And motherboard.
And because technology has moved on, this meant a new processor as well.
And new memory modules.
When all the bits had arrived (it’s now a 2.6GHz dual-core processor, 4Gb RAM) I reinstalled the operating system.
Then the hard disk died.

Fortunately I had a couple of spare hard disks too, but this meant I had to reinstall everything again. (Yes, I do keep disk images on backup, but as the operating system was also being upgraded these were of no use. Rest assured once everything was installed, I did do another disk image – if LSS’s hard disk fails again it will be a 15-minute job to change the disk and re-image it.)

Once LSS’s computer was up and running, I turned my attention to my own pc. Yes, you’ve guessed it. My power supply had died too. And the motherboard. So I’ve ordered a new power supply, motherboard, processor and RAM (the same types as LSS’s computer in order to simplify driver installation). I’m sure once they arrive I’ll discover that my hard disk has died too. But this should not be such an issue – as I’m not upgrading my own operating system I’ll be able to use my backup disk image.

And I now have unrestricted access to the laptop! But I can’t promise that the frequency of blog posts will increase…