Saturday, August 2, 2008
This is a good photographic record of yesterday's activities -- and difficulties.
First up, when I went out around 6am to let the dogs piddle, I noticed that my firewood pile had come crashing down in the rains last night and I had the best part of a cord to tidy up. I've been resting my duff knee for a couple days since tripping over the lawnmower deck and spraining it, so this was not a happy sight. But I put it off until the afternoon because I'd been planning a trip to Bangor to see some Listeroid diesel engines for sale at Central Maine Diesel. These amazing super-efficient low rpm utility engines, built to an ancient British design by Messrs Lister & Co, now defunct, are cloned in India, and will run on diesel, kerosene, waste veggie oil, and biodiesel or various mixtures of all of the above. They also look to me to be capable of conversion to CHP (combined heat and power) uses, since, although they come without a radiator, they are water-cooled, and so I could run the waste heat through household hot water baseboards. I want one to build a stand-by genny, and to experiment with household CHP, and I'd been looking forward to this trip for days and no woodpile was going to spoil my fun.
Next up is my biogas generator project stage one, the motor retrofit. This is a 9hp pull-start Craftsman, probably made by Tecumseh, since it looks just like the one on the rototiller, and once I even switched out the carbs while I waited for a rebuild kit to come in the mail, and the tiller worked fine. Anyway, this now has a dicky carb which probably only needs a clean-and-rebuild, but attached as it is to a rusty shredder blade (its original purpose), it's no good to man nor beast. Gotta get the durn shredder blade off.
Back in the day, when small equipment was mostly pully driven and pullys were secured with hex bolts or woodruff keys, they came off easily. But far too many entrepreneurial farmers just reused engines when equipment died, and so the companies switched to direct drive and used taper shafts and put the drive end on hot so they shrink to the shafts, and they can be murder to get off. In this case, I picked up new pully-puller in Bangor, but that didn't do the job, the soft steel blade bent easily without coming as much as a millimeter off the shaft. so I started cutting through the blade with the stick welder until I ran out of rod. I didn't want to get back in the truck, having spent all morning in it, so decided it could wait until today.
While in Bangor I also picked up the bits needed to build the biogas reactor, and some literature on tankless (on-demand) hot water heaters. I plan to run an analysis of our current propane-powered tank heater to see if it can profitably be replaced with a tankless, either propane or electric. I expect it can cost effectively be replaced with an electric system, since our propane costs have gone up from $62 every six weeks or so, to $75, while Central Maine Power is promising to keep electricity prices stable for five more years. We get 100% Maine hydropower through a green tariff system, so our electricity is squeaky-green, while propane is propane and a petroleum distillate.
And then finally, some success. I harvested about ten pounds of potatoes for dinner, dutifully recording the quantities in Aimee's little black book. My wife is a scientist through and through, and keeps a record of all data pertinent to homestead operations, especially yields and harvests. She has one book for veggies and another for animals. Somewhere hidden, she probably has one for me, for the amount of work I get done every day.
Today's would have been a small entry, since I did nothing that could be considered vaguely sueful by Aimee's standards except pick up a mess of fallen firewood and pull some spuds.