Sunday, December 28, 2014

There and back again.

It's the 28th December and we're all well and very quiet this morning at Womerlippi Mansion. Little Roo and her mom are sleeping off a poor night's sleep. This was somewhat self-inflicted on Aimee's part. She determined that this was going to be The Night when Roo would finally sleep by herself in her bedside crib (co-sleeper being the technical term). This didn't seem like too much to ask, but resulted in an awful lot of crying.

Still, no cloud without a silver lining, and the silver lining for me is that I've been able to read the entire online Observer, catch up on all my FaceBook and email, and even peruse my blog stats. All good things will come to an end of course, and it remains to be seen which one of my girls will be in the worst mood when they finally rise, but for the moment all is quiet.

A good time to catch up on the Farm Blog.

Since I last posted we've performed our annual Visitation of the Relatives. This filial observance is quite the logistical performance, requiring a 1,300 mile road trip. Traveling with a four-month old baby proved easier than expected and indeed we drove the route in double-quick time, mostly because we skipped a lot of coffee and pee stops because stopping would wake the baby. The trusty Camry was faultless except for a wonky trunk latch, which I'll have to fix.

Grandma and grandad and great-grandma and all the aunties and uncles were very pleased to see Roo, so my mission was accomplished.

Of course, this is just the American side of Roo's family, so an even greater logistical process will one day be required to go visit the British side. That, however can all wait for the time being.

Roo of course got lots of presents from the in-laws. She was, as befits a four-month old, totally ignorant of any notion that this was Christmas and these were Christmas presents, so Aimee and I were spared having to worry about Santa. Here's one of her favorites, a jack-in-the-box that is actually a stuffed frog. It launches quite nicely. Roo liked to see the frog's eyes poking out of the box. She was more blasé about the jumping.

In other news, my Lister engine rebuild ended in partial disaster. I'd gotten the engine running well and had ordered the trailer and diesel caddy required to make a more formal portable generator set-up, and was working on the connection to the building, a standard 220-volt two-pole locking plug and cut-off switch arrangement. Following US routine electrical procedure, I wired the cut-off switch red to red, black to black, and white and copper to ground. But of course, this is only routine in the main breaker panel, not is subsidiary ppanels and certainly not to one leg of a three-leg generator stator coil. The white cable from a three-leg 220 volt generator stator is just as hot as the black and red ones. So I shorted out my genny.

This would have been fine if I hadn't actually started the motor, but I did, and let it run for a couple of minutes while I tried to figure out why it was running so rough. Of course it was the shorted leg, not the motor, that was causing the rough running, and thus I burned up my generator. Once I realized what I'd done, I ran the usual diode, continuity and "megger" checks, and traced the fault to a burned rotor coil, causing leakage to ground. (I purchased a Chinese-made knock-off of a Hitachi type grinder megger to do these checks and was actually quite pleased with the unit when it showed up.) J ust slightly unwinding the rotor coil and testing further suggested that the leakage might be limited to the transition connections between the four subsidiary coils, and thus relatively easily fixed. I might yet go down this route, or even rewind the whole coil, but for now I'm trying to sell the motor by itself, as that represents my best chance of getting some value out of my investment of time and money. Lister-Petter diesels are needed for lots of different kinds of equipment needed by Maine businesses, including some cat tractors and many brands of rock screeners, so I do expect to sell it for a good price. I'll still double my money. Here's the motor with the genny disassembled:

A more successful project was the new wind turbine for our friends Brent and Erin. The turbine head used was a new Maine-made Pika, connected as a battery-charging turbine to Brent and Erin's existing off-grid solar electrical system, where it would make up for the relatively poor sunshine Maine gets in the winter.

This was a beta test install for Pika, and we're all interested in the results. I'm particularly interested in the reliability. Pika claims up to five years without maintenance, which I think is probably an industry best for small wind turbines if it pans out.

The college donated a used six-inch, forty meter NRG Systems anemometer tower to Brent and Erin in return for the right to visit the turbine and use it in training. Brent, Erin and I trimmed it to a 100-footer, Pika sent a crew to assemble the head to our tower, then we raised it successfully in one day.

This project was being planned at the college at the end of the semester, but because of various delays (on Pika's end, not ours) slopped over into our break, meaning that SEM students were not available to participate in the work.

This doesn't bother me too much because a) we have visiting rights and b) the tower will have to be lowered for maintenance in the future and students can help with that. There are a number of local turbines where we get called in to help, and we also have our small training tower on campus, so missing the original installation of this particular turbine was not such a big deal.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

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