Thursday 30 January 2014

Family farm growing

We spend a lot of time singing songs with our little girl these days, and we love this series of animated songs from Barefoot Books.

Watching this one I was struck by how far we've come from the old practical days when our families also had farms and lived nearby and could bring a sheep or a duck or a horse to help get us going. I know this is a hopelessly romantic notion, but that's one of the lovely things about spending time playing with a toddler - magical creatures appear at will, tea comes out of thin air and always tastes delicious, and we can dream that all the songs we hear can come true...

Thursday 23 January 2014

Water supply

This is the state of the current water supply (we have made a cover since this photo). It does work, but it's a bit sandy, it's a long way down (maybe 12-15m), and it's about 20m from the house.

Did I mention before that we dropped a pump down it and pumped a lot of water out - and it didn't take long for the water level to be refreshed and for the output to seem pretty clear and fresh (I didn't taste it).

The basic things we need to do are:

  1. Repair the well top. Patch the hole in the side and make a cover so things can't fall in (I'm thinking particularly frogs, mice, insects, leaves).
  2. Local consensus is that we should dig out the sand at the bottom of the well and make sure it's a good 15m deep. This will also help ensure it's clean and fresh.
  3. We can use a bucket for a while, but we need to get a pump in there, or a pipe attached to an above-ground pump. The system I've seen is a pump in the cellar of the house, but since our house is a building site we may have to look at alternatives in the shorter term.
  4. For a permanent or semi-permanent setup we need to bury any pipes 1.8m deep in the earth to avoid winter frost damage.
We're wondering about:
  • Maybe we should collect rainwater from our roofs and use that instead of the well supply. That involves more capital expenditure on water tanks.
  • Could we build a simple wind pump to extract water from the well? This would also require a large storage tank.
  • What about the need for filtering the water? We filter our water now, but mainly to remove chemicals from the mains supply. We'd be filtering the well water for different reasons - removing small particles and micro-organisms. 
  • Should we dig another well, and where should it be? Kasia's family have two wells, quite close together - one for the house and one in the animal yard. They do run low in the summer and the family is quite careful about their water use. I'd want to do some dowsing and see where the underground water is, aiming to get a back-up supply that was hopefully independent of the first well's groundwater supply. I'd also be thinking of using the second well (maybe with a water pump) to supply a pond system.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Piec deconstruction

Back in July/August 2012 I was doing this, partly with help from my friend Andrew (although he was mainly lime plastering the goat shed). I've been meaning to document it since.

The traditional cooking appliance in this area, and across a wide area of northern and eastern Europe I think, is known in Poland as a piec. It's a wood-burning stove that channels the heat from the fire under cooking pots and through a snaking ceramic tile-clad and clay-lined chimney, storing and using as much heat as possible before the smoke goes up the chimney.

In our house there is an extension of the piec that stands between the bedrooms and acts as an extra fireplace/heater. You can see it as it was in the photo on the right. I decided to de-construct it to learn how it was put together (and because it all needs to come out anyway).

I've put a full series of 16 photos and diagrams on my Google+ page for people to look at in more detail if they want.

I've saved the pieces for reconstruction, although I'd want to do a better job than the original. I do need to do more thinking about the similarities and differences between this and the rocket mass heaters. My first thought is that the fuel simply isn't burned as hot in this piec so the soot build up becomes a problem...

I'll be doing more reflecting on this in the future as I come closer to building my own heating/cooking stoves.

14 months away from the blog, but we're still on track

Wow, I didn't realise it had been so long. Obviously all sorts of things have been happening, mainly trying to scrape together pennies wherever possible and spend as few as possible. Last year one of the money saving things we did was to not go to Poland at all - except a short weekend in December when Kasia went alone to the dentist :(

The good news is the saving has been working a bit (although it's been stressful), and we are planning to move later on this year...

We've been trying to work out how we're going to move all our stuff, and thinking about other practical issues such as house plans, plumbing systems, water collection and heating, etc.

I'll try to put more updates on here over the coming months.