Movie myth busted!

We headed out yesterday, after lunch, to pop in and see a few friends. The first couple are building a ‘tiny’ straw bale house. Taking advantage of a Polish law that allows you to build something\anything as long as it’s footprint is no more than 35m2 (380ft2). No planning permission required.

It is the forth such building that we know of in our area and it is always interesting to see how people deal with the restricted space available to them. Personally having lived in digs, bedsits and small flats for most of my adult life I’m happy with the space we now have, but I can see the attraction and freedom that is this type of building provides. I may try my hand one day, once everything else is finished!

From there we went to new friends, Jesus and Marta, to exchange some oats for wheat, we had some spare after planting and plenty set aside for our own goats. They needed feed for there newly acquired goats and had some wheat spare from there tortilla making enterprise. It turned out to be quite an eye opener as we realised the scale of the business, big industrial machines; grinders, mills, ovens, and most of it shipped from Mexico where Jesus is originally from. They are the only manufacturer of traditional corn tortillas in Poland and they supply direct to restaurants all over Poland.

We were treated to some traditional Mexican food, Malina was kept entertained by their three boys and it was almost 8pm before we headed off home with close to a two hour journey ahead of us.

Pottering along at around 50mph, the road twists and turns through the countryside, up hills with duel carriageways to let the faster traffic pass and then down the other side.

Now I don’t drive too fast, I don’t see the point, but you always pick up a bit of speed on the decent, dabbing the brakes to keep control, so imagine my surprise when the brake pedal gave under my foot and hit the floor! Immediately struck with the thought of all the movies I have seen when the brakes fail in speeding cars and my assertion that you should simply use your gears and handbrake to slow down and stop, that’s exactly what I did. From fifth to third, then second and first gears whilst applying the hand brake on and off and we came to a stop a couple of hundred meters down the road.

So that’s the movie myth busted, my work is done, although I’m not sure what happens if you are driving an automatic? 🙂

 

Off with the Tilly on with the woolly

I received an email last week congratulating me on my anniversary, I immediately went into a panic thinking that I had missed our wedding anniversary as I knows it’s around this time of year, but further reading revealed that it is in fact four years since I started this blog! Continue reading “Off with the Tilly on with the woolly”

A very passive April

It’s a bit overdue and only a short post, well at least that’s what I think as I start to type it, but I promised Pat over at Solarbeez a run down of our solar water heating system. It seemed relevant now as we are starting to feel the benefits, in fact we felt the benefits in April with a whopping eighteen days heating free.

Ok, that’s not entirely down to the solar system, or entirely true, in that the house captures quite a bit of heat as the sun shines in the morning and evening and then retains it pretty well. The midday sun stopped heating the house in early April as the height of its arc moved beyond the terrace roof, I had worried that this was a little too early and that we would benefit from a slightly higher roof, but as it happens, with the warm weather, the timing is about right. The little white lie I slipped in is that I did fire up the boiler on occasion to get the water up to a minimum 50c but not for more than an hour or so on the days when the sun just wasn’t strong enough for long enough. Incidentally I read that most domestic systems heat the water to a minimum of 60c to prevent the very small possibility of the bacteria that causes legionnaires disease forming.  It is an extremely small risk and so we save our wood and 50c is more than hot enough for a decent shower.

Ok, here’s the technical bit, except it’s not that technical as I didn’t get that involved other than to specify that we wanted evacuated tubes. So we ended up with 30 one meter evacuated tubes fitted at a 40 something degree angle on our south facing roof. These are feeding a 300 litre multi element tank via a 14 watt pump which circulates the fluid as it heats and transfers that to the water. My observations so far show that as long as we have a clear day with the sun shining the outside air temperature has to be about 15c to provide us with a full tank of 50c+. Conversely a 25c day might only heat the water to 40c if it’s cloudy; it’s all about the sunshine!

Our boiler is a big old wood burner with coal auto-feed attached just in case we need to run the heating for prolonged periods in really cold weather although it was relatively mild this last year so we stuck to the wood (except for a few lazy days)

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If we ever finish the house then the boiler will heat 12 radiators and the kitchen and bathroom under floor heating. It’s main job at the moment is topping up the hot water on cloudy days, like today, and an arm full of old chopped up pallet board took the water form 35 to 55c in about half an hour. More than enough for our ablutions, the washing up and indeed most of tomorrow, by which time the sun will have done it’s job.

All in all I would recommend a solar water system if you live it the appropriate climate, despite the rather long return on investment for us as we are only saving the burning of wood which is free (other than my time and the chainsaw) If you are lucky enough to live in a country offering rebates or other incentives then I’d say go for it if you have the money to invest, if only Poland was a as forward thinking and as green as some of it’s European counterparts.

Mind you, now that we have pigs (more in my next post) maybe we can start to generate electricity from the methane The Good Life way!