Lentil Surprise

Tonight’s dinner was an unqualified success and an unexpected one at that!

We were working on our house project during the day and I had been planning what to cook as I worked – I was thinking lentil burgers, because I knew we had a few eggs and some cheese, accompanied by a Mexican style rice.

When we came in for our coffee break and I put the espresso pot on the gas cooker I realised that we were running out of gas and wouldn’t have enough for cooking dinner.

Luckily we had a good bright day and received a good deal of electrical energy from the sun today – yahoo for photovoltaics!

As we were now going to use the new induction hot plate I decided to do couscous instead of rice and shorten the cooking time.

I put puy lentils on the hotplate to cook with a small handful of porridge oats and some tumeric for flavour. When this was cooked I mixed in a couple of eggs, some pine nuts, grated cheese and a few spoons of gram flour.

We were making this up as we went along! We just added enough gram flour until it looked nice and gloopy, we then decided against burgers and thought about cooking flatbread style.

Enter our old reliable cast iron pan and our new fangled induction hotplate.

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What a wonderful combination of old and new. Induction cookers work on magnetism, you have to use a cooking pan which is magnetically active so old fashioned cast iron pots are just the job.

When you lift the pot the cooker stops working, the hot plate only heats the metal that is in touch with it so a small pot only activates a small part of the hotplate – wasting no excess energy.

I love the idea of cooking with magnetism because we use magnets to make the alternator in our wind turbine.

I always loved playing with magnets as a child and I love that I still play them!

The lentil dinner was real tasty too!

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Rain drops…

As I write I can hear rain drops pitter patter-ing on the roof light, it’s a lovely sound at night when you are warm and cozy and do not need to go outside.

We did get some really nice weather week before last and made good use of it too!

A couple of friends from different parts of the country had asked if they could come visit and was there any work that needed doing around the place?

What a silly question! There is always work to be done around our place – everyone is welcome – bring your workclothes and boots, a good attitude and a smile and your dinner will be on the table!

We got lots of work done and even managed to have lots of fun whilst doing it! Double whammy!

We cleared the yard of accumulated “this will come in usefull” stuff and neatly piled it in a better part of the yard. We organised a fox-proof container for keeping the rubbish (trash) bags in ’til it is time to go put them at the crossroads for collection.

We moved around a few old vehicles that actually do have a use – you just couldn’t guess it to look at them! One truck has a very reliable engine that will become our key-start back-up genny for when we have a few of those dark, non-windy days that sometimes happen in the winter, leaving us a little short of electrical power. We moved the truck nearer to where we keep our electrical control equipment and will incorporate it into a lean-to on the side of our workshop.

We shovelled a couple of years worth of couch-grass off the gravel on the yard – hard work! Anyone who thinks that the Earth is in jeopardy has never lived with couch grass! Seriously, the couch grass will inherit the Earth long after we are gone! It’s our own happy, healthy existence that’s in jeopardy.

The foundations to the house got some work done on them too! Now that’s what I call exciting! With a bit more ground-work by the two of us and another visit from some helpful friends and the foundations will soon be finished – yahoo!

Imagine, with all that work in just a few days we still had time to go for wee strolls, laugh at the lambs and their mums who pop in to visit, conveniently keeping our grass down and we even managed to have some really good chats with each other.

So now it’s raining and we are back to a more solitary existence and enjoying those moments too!

Back Again

Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve posted!  What have you all been up to?

I have been helping out at an amazing week long workshop where eighteen guys were learning to build a wind turbine – how cool is that?  The workshop was organised by a locally based couple, the Leitrim Renewable Energy people Eirbyte.  They invited Hugh Piggot to come and teach people how to build one of the wonderful domestic wind turbines that he designs.

It was a really great week. I have rarely seen 18 people who never met each other before get along so well together.  These were people who probably would have never chosen to spend any significant time together, never mind a week, for any other reason than to build a wind turbine and yet the crack was mighty, I haven’t heard that much laughter in ages.

Although ages ranged from early twenties to late sixties (at a guess) and a wide range of backgrounds and work experiences everyone worked so well together in small groups, in pairs and at times singly but always with humour and a great sharing of skills and knowledge.

Many different sets of skills were used, I saw people learn to carve wood with hand tools to create blades (propellers), some who hadn’t tried it before had a go at welding under the watchful eye of a great welding teacher, everyone had a go at winding coils of copper wire to make the alternator, there was grinding of metal and the setting of things in resin – so much activity over the week and it all culminated in the creation of a wonderful wind turbine at the end of the week.

Hugh was always available to answer questions and give advice, aided and assisted by Jimmy and Miriam, Sean and Niall who all mucked in to make the week what it was.

After all the technical stuff everyone ate together and shared their stories and on some evenings there was great music and storytelling and the telling of jokes and the singing of songs. Some of the food was cooked on an open fire in the garden and no-one went hungry or had to wait for their dinner – not bad when you consider that nearly thirty people with big appetites were being catered for every day.

Best of all the turbine was successfully built and ceremoniously raised on the saturday afternoon and the rain stopped! It is always so exciting to see a new turbine go up into the air and everyone waits for the first breath of wind to spin the blades and excitedly watches the metres to see what energy is being generated.

The energy generated by this turbine will run the lights in the house on the site where the workshop took place, it may also run the lights in the guest cabin. The new owners will learn to observe the weather differently now and be more aware of the wind. They will know where the wind is coming from and how hard it is blowing, they will begin to notice how often the wind does not blow and they will learn what they can expect to power from the turbine and how to look after their battery bank.

At least three new turbines are currently being built now by guys who were on the course and we are also building a new one for ourselves.  We spend quite a bit of time on Sunday deciding where to site the new mast for the new turbine. We have a few new neighbours here recently and so we are moving the mast from where it was because we want to put up a slighlty higher mast, still within the planning permission exempt height but it would place the turbine in the direct path of our new neighbours, who probably bought their holiday houses here based on the view. So we thought it would be a good start to a neighbourly relationship to move the mast to a site where it will still get good wind and not cause any turbulence to the good energy we wish to have with our neighbours as well as the good energy being generated by the turbine.

So at the moment I am enjoying carving the wooden blades for our new turbine and if the weather holds we will get started with the mast installation and dig the new anchor holes for the guys which hold up the mast. Life is good.

How are things with you?

MISSING THE SUN

As I mentioned in one of my earlier entries we are living off the grid here in Leitrim, supplying all of our own electricity. We had a very basic system to start with, which we did by ourselves and now we have a more sophisticated system with help from some local people.

We used to have a wind turbine but we took it down late last year to make a larger one so we are relying on our solar pv system for power.

The PV system has brought us though the winter with flying colours, it was installed by a local Leitrim company Eirbyte who do systems design and installation. We were really happy with their work and they are nice people too who also live off-grid.

We do have a back-up diesel generator as do most off-grid people and luckily we have not have to use it often. The pv panels are on a tracker so they get the most out of the sun available on any given day.