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Posts tagged ‘solar power’

All part of the Adventure

Well, what a few weeks we have had here in Tipperary. We take time on Saturday evening to reflect on the past days over a special meal and this week realised every week has been busy, ever since we arrived. It is a year round now since we first began the move into our house – well, one day short. It was a lovely house then, if in need of some TLC and making it ours has been part of the adventure. We’ve done our best to make it even lovelier and certainly more comfortable. Sometimes this works splendidly, like the gas heating. Sometimes it’s a bit more difficult.

Last week we had Des, our gardener and friend, working in the wood for 3 days. We decided to focus on the trees and see what could be saved. And how to help the healthy trees flourish. This meant a great cutting of ivy, brambles and dead bindweed that was choking many of them. Des had to take this slowly as the ivy offers excellent accommodation for birds and we won’t disturb the nests. The back of the wood is more open now letting in light and with fewer dangerous overhangs – cause for optimism despite the continuing and necessary loss of some trees.

One thing we wanted to change was the power supply to the water pump. We spent months trying to arrange site visits, then had the ground prepared and finally the system was installed. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. We wondered if this was due to lack of light or sun on the panels. After the redoubtable Eddy did a few checks we found it was partly due to the pump itself. Most water pumps pull up to 1.2 kw when they start up and then just tick over. Ours pulls 4.5 kw and keeps going full blast. No wonder it is so expensive to run!

Now we have an interesting series of steps to sequence – not my great strength. We have the “pump man” coming next week as it will need replacing. Then he will hopefully move the pressure tank and reset the pipes. Eddy will need to be on hand to do the wiring and he’s going to replace the solar system to suit the task. This will be a mixed set-up that switches between panels, mains and batteries. In the winter this will ensure a constant water supply.

In the summer excess power will be fed into the house to save on the electricity bill. If we had known how it all worked we’d have asked for this first but we are learning new stuff the whole time so – no harm done. And we will finally be able to get rid of the butt-ugly shed! I’m looking forward to that part of the adventure.

The same day Eddy called we also had John the drain man. How he stays so upbeat considering his job I don’t know but he was great. He hosed the main drain – some remaining fatberg but the blockages were mainly years of lime scale. He checked the tank, gave the system a clean bill of health and recommended we have the last lot of guttering diverted into a soak-away. A huge relief as we were contemplating new drains and all the disruption and cost that entails. All we have to do is keep an eye on the grease trap (yuck) and arrange for yet another workman – Paddy – to do the gutters.

So many jobs have different specialists here. We now have two Johns, three Dereks, an Aidan, one each of Davey, Dom, Fergus and Eddy, – and Des of course. They are soon to be joined by Tom and Paddy. My phone is full of workmen’s contact details.

1000 pieces and it feels like more
Oh how I wish I could fix this!

I’m heading to the local hospital on Monday for my first physio session and none too soon My right shoulder – used to be my “good” shoulder – was the problem. Although I’m still resting it and doing a new jigsaw I’ve popped my left shoulder too. So contrary to what many of my students would say I’m now totally ‘armless.

I was putting some strain on it reaching up a little to the keyboard and mouse with the new desk and I cannot get my chair to rise at all. I did one broadcast for Southside with only the top of my head visible. So I’ve tried different cushions and now perch on a piece of redundant sofa foam. It’s 12 cm high and looks ridiculous but does the job. Oh the world isn’t made for a short-arse like me. I hope to find someone to fix the chair as it’s normally very comfortable but I’m not holding my breath. In a different country and post-Covid world everything is much slower and harder to find.

Maybe that’s also part of the adventure. Despite temporary setbacks and some health problems moving was still one of the best decisions we ever made and we are, generally, ridiculously happy.

This week, a very rubbish post

I think it is obvious that life here in Ireland is very different from life in the UK. Whilst some things stay the same – lots of (almost) familiar forms, daylight saving time, TV licences – the basic structure is very different. For the first time we are personally responsible for most of our services. There is no Council Tax, just a much smaller Land Tax paid each year – 12% of the UK tax on our old house. But – there’s always a “but” – no lighting, no council rubbish collection, no mains drainage or water, no gas network. This is the case in many urban as well as rural areas.

Finding out how to obtain and manage all of this really focuses the mind. I have become far more aware of what I use and what I throw away. Especially what I throw away. Yes, the rubbish bins farce rumbles on and we are having to find new ways to handle it ourselves. When I filled a bag with mixed rubbish and remembered there was no handy bin I had to stop and consider what the hell I was going to do. Try it for yourselves – peer into your kitchen bin and think “What am I going to do with all this?”

Ratproof and capacious

We already recycle a lot but that collection ended too so now we are finding new solutions for our reusables. A new coal bunker in the wood is for grass cuttings and compostible food waste. We chose a coal bunker as it is rat-proof. Almost all plastic bags are compostable now so we can just chuck the whole lot in. Glass and tins go to the banks outside shops. There’s a lot of cardboard but we have a lot of land. It is going outside to deter weeds, encourage earthworms and hopefully rot down. The big problem is plastic. We can burn small amounts but would prefer not to have to. Then Jacqui remembered the big counter in Tesco.

“Recycle all your hard and soft plastics here “ it says. So we are going to remove all the plastic bags at source and put veggies and fruit into nylon bags. Empty bottles and cleaned food trays will be returned and slipped in each week. I don’t know if that’s allowed. I’m sure someone will tell us in the next few weeks. That leaves polystyrene packing from large items, bubble wrap and larger plastic sheets. Still musing on that. Dealing with each item makes you very aware of just how much waste there is despite all our efforts to cut it down.

The solar panels should be installed at last next week and we will see a big drop in the electricity bills. Currently almost 45% of the power goes to the pump, mainly to supply the farm. When we have flow meters installed I will be able to calculate exactly how much. Oh I’m going to have fun with my little calculator! And we can finally dispense with the butt-ugly pump house and its dangerously frail electricity supply.

The butt-ugly pump house

There have been some misgivings over putting our water supply in the hands of a solar system. Ireland is always cited as a dark, cold and wet place after all. Well, there are storage batteries built into the system for stormy days and the panels don’t need sun, just light. It is certainly wet here in the winter though not continuously. Many days there are fierce little squalls that rush down the road. I can hear them coming and reckon I have about 30 seconds to get inside. That is hard-earned knowledge from last year, believe me.

After they pass however there may be a longer patch of sunlight complete with rainbows before the next hits. Of course there are what the Irish call “dirty days”. The Italians have a lovely description for this type of rain. They call it “bagnata gli contadini” which means “soaking the peasants”. On such days this peasant lights the fire and hunkers down in the snug relying on the batteries to run the pump.

So, a post mainly about rubbish. Even if we do manage to persuade our providers to resume service I think we will be far more efficient in our consumption. This has been a hard but good lesson in how to do our own small bit towards preserving the planet and so, in a strange way, I’m almost grateful.
Almost – I still have all that bloody bubble wrap in my room and no idea what to do with it.