500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Almost Miraculous Vegetarian Goat Milk


When we bought our Merino lambs, they came with a free goat.  The three amigos were penned together in a barn and were the orphans which were being bottle-fed.  We were visiting the farm in North Moravia to check out conditions to see if we would be able to responsibly purchase a couple of sheep from them in the future, but the farmer said we might as well take the orphans as they were motherless anyway… and we could take the kid and put it on the barbecue when it was big enough to be worth eating. Even if that wasn’t going to be the case, I couldn’t very well leave the kid alone.  Animals do not cope well with abandonment.  You’ll even struggle to rear a chicken without brethren, or without becoming that brethren.

So, long ago we’d accepted Dijon goat would simply be our naughtiest surrogate child. She was the one most likely to break the tiles on the barn, encourage the sheep into places that sheep are not designed to go – like the barn roof, break into the garden and eat our sapling fruit trees, lead escapades onto the road outside the house,  decimate our living willow fences, and on and on. The ringleader, the brains behind the operation. Because the sheep are nothing if not easily lead.  She even figured out the use of rudimentary tools. As it was hard enough to live alongside one goat, we decided that we were not going to breed her – that would inevitably lead to two goats. Double the fun. And games. And eaten Chestnut tree saplings.

Goats take a long time to mature – a full three years to reach their adult height and a further two before they are considered all grown up.  Dijon Goat was born in 2011, and was our dear pet until 2014 when I hit upon the idea of trying to milk her. I’d noticed that her udders seem to sometimes change a bit, and at the end of 2013 she started regularly coming into heat, and thus “escaping” because of her sudden fascination with our neighbour’s ram.  Escaping – a loose term seeing as she is perfectly capable of climbing out of her enclosure any time she should so wish.  Her presence here is a matter of personal choice.  Anyway – should a goat and a sheep liaise, progeny is an unlikely result – so unlikely that it makes the news – one in Ireland a couple of years ago, the previous one in Kenya some years before.  Whether or not she was actually pregnant at any point, but the spring she clearly wasn’t, but the next time her udders changed, I tried to milk  her.

Milking was a mysterious process, and a learning curve for us both, and all we had to go on were some videos on youtube.  The first time I tried, there was no more that a teaspoon of milk, but we persisted and within weeks she was producing a pint of milk morning and evening (a British pint is 568ml, whereas a US pint is only 473ml btw). The slow increase in production was important.  It felt as weird as if our dog, Bunbury, had started to lactate and we’d decided to start consuming that. We were reluctant goat milk drinkers… however, hiding it in our morning coffee was the first step, and as production slowly increased over the course of the month, so did our taste for goat milk.

There is no getting around the fact that cow and goat milk are different.  And different again from the processed milk you get in plastic containers at the supermarket.  We were used to fresh milk from a nearby farm… which we would fetch on a weekly basis then pasteurise ourselves, freeze or make into yoghurt.  Soon, cow milk started to taste kind-of cowy, in the same way that UHT milk tastes … not normal … we had acclimatised to goat milk.

The first year, all the milk was kept in the fridge, in labelled jars (the honey jars being exactly the rights size for one milking). This year, however, I don’t keep milk more than a day old. This goes into the freezer and as soon as I have a large enough batch, we can make a foray into the world of goat cheese.  Some favourite recipes have been cheese stuffed vine leaves with dried cranberries and walnut, New York baked cheesecake and a bruschetta with cheese, beetroot and red onion.  My next most-important product will be halloumi – as this is a type of cheese I really love and one of the things we still have to ask our British visitors to bring over for us.

As well as various cheeses, we’ve found that the whey – which makes up 90% of the volume of the milk – is the best product for making bread.  If you use whey instead of water in bread, it will be soft and fluffy. It’s almost worth making cheese for this reason alone.

While the house is full with volunteers and visitors during the warmer months, there is rarely a large amount of milk left over from one Ambien CR day to the next.  Dijon goat is playing her part in a productive little homestead, not only contributing to our food production, but also to the overall experience of visitors.  We take in city dwellers and turn out competent milkers.  Last year, towards the end of autumn Dijon’s milk production waned, and by December we had finished altogether, meaning that we all got a break over the colder winter months.  Goat milk was much missed.

This year we will fare even worse over the winter months as the local cow herd has now been sold – this herd was a rarity in South Bohemia as the animals were allowed outside when the weather was warm enough. I am tempted to turn to vegan alternatives rather than use milk produced by cows which are kept all year inside barns – as is the way here – unchanged since the darkest days of the USSR style collective farms.  Let alone the fact that in order to produce the milk, the cows have calves, which are in the main used for meat – an uncomfortable fact for most vegetarians.  The milk we have from Dijon goat is entirely vegetarian. We are very lucky indeed.


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Using the outside of a lined chimney as an air heat exchange system


After a drawn out autumn, which in fact lasted till the day after Christmas, winter has come. I sit in my kitchen watching the snow drift past the window. It is mounting outside, the sky is white, the trees are white. All of a sudden, it was minus fifteen when we woke up in the morning, burning much of what was left in the garden, then the snow came and buried the rest. I have teepees constructed with apple tree cuttings and plastic – just two sided, but enough so that I could harvest quite a lot before the serious snow.

Our heating this year is via a boiler in the cellar which we feed wood pellets. On every radiator around the house is a digital valve which controls the temperature specifically for the function of the room. The office isn’t heated at the weekend, the bedrooms aren’t heated during the day. We have wood-burning stoves in the kitchen and guest bedroom which we can light if we want things to be a bit warmer. If you have a fire, it needs to draw air from the room in order to burn. Where is this air coming from?  Every time the doors are opened cold air will rush in. It’ll seep in through any gaps around windows or under doors.

One idea I had was to put pipes underground to pre-warm air before it reaches the house. It would have been easy to put an extra pipe in the trench between the house and the well, for example, if I’d thought of it before we filled in the trench, that is, however, the metal-lined chimney gives me a much better opportunity.

When the boiler system was installed we had the chimney lined with a very expensive metal tube which was drilled into place.  As a round peg in a square hole, there is still quite a lot of volume in the old chimney which is outside of the lining. Our thermal flashlight had indicated xanax bars here that the chimney was warm through the house above the heating system and the metal pipe was hot to the touch even in the attic (where there is an inspection hatch). I now have an extractor fan between the chimney and the laundry room with a thermostatic plug (BY-LOX_15A) which will switch on when the sensor detects temperatures above 18 degrees c.  The extractor fan draws warm air from beside the metal chimney into the laundry room when the chimney is warmer than the laundry room. Eventually this air will be pulled into our unheated hallways  – currently hovering around 10 degrees c.  So – we’ll experiment and measure results.

One concern could be contamination of the air supply with carbon monoxide from fumes leaving the chimney. We have a carbon monoxide detector to test for that – experiment and measure…


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Give Halloween Lanterns a happy ending: Spiced Pumpkin Preserve


This recipe is inspired by the Ukranian method of making preserves where fruit is pretty much candied. The pumpkin in this preserve will retain a firm texture and beautiful colour.  It takes patience, but the results are well worth waiting for.


1.5k 3.3lb pumpkin

1.5k 3.3lb sugar

2tsp ground cinnamon

2tsp ground nutmeg

2tsp ground cloves

2tsp ground ginger

2tsp ground allspice

Zest of three lemons finely grated.


Take your Halloween lantern off the porch before it begins to decay. It’s quite cold here, and ours sat outside for a whole week with no problems.

This recipe calls for 1.5k or 3.3 lb of pumpkin flesh. I suggest you use the rest of the pumpkin in a delicous Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew).

Cut the cleaned and peeled pumpkin into cubes as small as you can bear to cut. The smaller the pieces the easier it will be to spread the preserve on toast.

In a large bowl, mix the cubed pumkin with the sugar, spices and lemon rind. After about an hour the sugar will turn to liquid as moisture is drawn out of the pumpkin flesh.  Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it be until the next day.

The next day, transfer the mixture to a large pan, bring this to a boil, then take it off the heat. Once it has cooled, cover again with a clean cloth http://prescriptionpharmacy.net/ and leave till the following day.  You will repeat this process on subsequent days until the fruit is translucent – usually three days.

On the last day, boil the preserve for twenty minutes, before pouring into sterilised jars. These are usually stacked upside-down and wrapped in a woollen blanket for the day.  The preserve will last well in a cool, dark spot.


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The very best Courgette Zuccini glut recipe


Pickled courgette is absolutely the best way to deal with an overlooked courgette plant in the corner of your garden.  Sharp, sweet and juicy, it’s a welcome side dish to all sorts of meals. My other half hates courgette so it’s a pleasure to be able to add them to my own food as I wish. The mixture is quite acidic, and the oil provides a floating barrier between the pickles and the air. Though traditionally in Ukraine you keep your pickles in a cool, dark place and they last for years,  standard advice is these days to keep them in the fridge and consume within three months.

This method of pickling was shown to be by my freind from Odessa. She used it to pickle sweet peppers and a little cauliflower at the end of the summer when these veggies were in season. It’s a delicious treat – you can put the peppers into sandwiches, but I found that I simply ate mine out of the jar, they were so good.

 (metric left) Ingredients (US right)

3kg Courgette – 6.6lbs

1.5 l boiling water – 6 cups

200g vinegar – 1 cup

200g Vegetable Oil – 1 cup

200g Honey – 1 cup

20 black pepper corns

10 bay leaves

10 allspice berries

1 heaped tablespoon of salt

Clean your veggies and cut into julienne strips. If you have a wire egg cutter you can slice your courgette into finger length pieces and then push the egg cutter down over it. You should end up with pieces that are about the size of McDonalds French Fries. As there is a lot of water in courgette they will shrink somewhat as you boil them, so you’ll probably be able to fit twice as much in each jar as their fresh volume.

Combine the other ingredients in a large pan – it’s easiest the pan has twice the volume of your ingredients so there’s no danger of it boiling over. Use a high heat, but keep an eye on it as you sterilise your jars.

I usually steam sterilise jars in the microwave by washing each jar then putting it upside down on a clean tea towel in the microwave for thirty seconds. As the lids are metal, I sterilise these in boiling water.

Once you have all your ducks lined up, then the trick is to make sure the veggies are heated enough so that they are sterilised, without destroying their delicous crunchiness. You will need to time them for exactly two minutes from the time they reach a rolling boil, and then swiftly fish them out and pack them into the sterilised jar. I cook just one jar’s worth of veggies at a time to ensure texture. Once the jar is packed full to about 1 cm / 1/2 inch from the top,  fill up the rest of the jar with the boiling liquid phentermine 37.5 – so essentially no head space at all if you can manage it. This will mean that in a short time the oil will form a seal on the top of your preserved courgette. You will then swiftly screw on the lid and invert the jar to make sure that the lid is completely sterilised.  Once you have dried the jar you need to wrap it in a a wollen blanket. I have some old woolly jumpers which I put in an old insulated aluminium milk container for this job. They will stay warm for quite some time.

I number each jar as I make them, and then use them in reverse order because the courgettes will lose a significant volume of liquid which will dilute your pickling solution each time. Even though some of the water will evaporate as you boil, I feel that it’s safest to eat first the jars you made last.

My next recipe will be to use the Ukranian  method to pickle together all of the veggies my other half doesn’t like – Aubergine (eggplant), Courgette (zuccini), Olives and Capers. As he loves to cook, we eat really well, however I really miss these four essentials to a mediterrainian tomato sauce.

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What our mornings look like at the end of August.

  1. Let Bunbury outside to pee.
  2. Release the mother hen with her chicks.
  3. Change the water by the taps in the large tray.
  4. Release the teenager chickens from the ark.
  5. Make sure their food is at least half full (1 cup of meal & 2 cups of grain mixed with a little water. The door should be left open just enough so the growing birds can get in and eat the food.
  6. Open the hen house and let the ducks out of their cage.
  7. Duck food – 1 cup of grain under 10cm of water by the taps.
  8. Put a cup of oats from the green barrel into the yellow hanging feeder for the adult chickens.
  9. Milk Dijon goat
  10. Feed Bunbury one cup of dry food.
  11. Feed the cats a couple of spoons of canned food.
  12. Bunbury needs to go for a walk at some point during the day – mid afternoon is good.
  13. In the evening, just after the sun goes behind the trees, or if it is stormy anytime after 5pm – lock up the adult chickens in the hen house – currently 6 chickens sleep in there. After the chickens are roosting, the goose can go in, and finally you can go pick up the 2 ducks in the garden and put them in their cage for the night.
  14. The 5 teenager chickens should be herded into the ark quite easily if their food has run out during the day – just refill the food (as before 2 cups of grain, 1 cup of meal and a little water).
  15. Refill the grain feeder for the mother hen and 4 chicks and put them back into their hutch on the back porch.
  16. Dijon goat  – evening milking.
  17. Feed Bunbury and the cats as before. Let the dog out to pee before you go to bed.


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Fifteen things to eat in the Czech Republic


Last year I went on an exchange trip between my local village, Cernovice,  and their twin, Biglen, in Switzerland.  The pretty Emmental countryside was full of grass meadows and happy cows, and not a single fat northern bloke in a vest. Our town mayor had held a meeting where we discussed what presents we could take to give our Swiss friends a flavour of Bohemia. The decision was cheese and chocolate, and explaining the idiom “taking coals to Newcastle” was unfortunately beyond the grasp of my Czech conversation abilities. However, it did get me thinking about what foods are really unique to Bohemia.

  1. Local bread – light, fluffy Housky and Rohlik rolls as well as the more substantial rye bread loaf. You need to buy rolls  in the morning from the bakery as they become rock-hard in a matter of hours. To be properly Czech you must fight the urge to cut open the rolls and make sandwiches – instead butter and cheese must be applied to the outside of the crust, making eating them a fine balancing act.
  2. Bohemian Sekt – we cannot, of course, for legal reasons call this pink champagne.  There is also an alcohol free version of this drink, which is very nice of you’re not on the booze and want something a little more grown-up than Kofola.
  3. Kofola – a kind of cross between cola and root beer. This is available on tap in most establishments serving beer, and is the drink to turn to if you want to pass as a local or reminisce on your communist childhood.
  4. Blueberry yoghurt – In the Czech Republic, blueberry is your go-to fruit flavour. In the same way that the strawberry is ubiquitous where I come from, you will find blueberry everything  – including syrup for diluting into drinks (or squash as we call in the UK). In July, the extensive forests of Bohemia are full of bilberries – the small, wild blueberries – and you can also find cranberries, raspberries and tiny, flavoursome strawberries.
  5. Elderflower cordial. As common as orange squash in these parts. In the supermarket, look for Jupi with a picture of elderflowers.
  6. Bohemia Chips – once I left the Czech Republic to live in the UK, these crisps are what I would beg from anyone who was planning to visit. Now I live just five miles from the factory where they are made. Coincidence?  Current flavours of interest are mushroom or rosemary. The old-favourite is paprika.
  7. Dried apple. In a country where cider is a foreign drink, they turned their apples into spirits or dried them into circles “Krouzky”, which could then be snacked on through the winter or made into natural apple tea. The locally produced apple juice is also excellent, inexpensive and commonly available.
  8. Lime flower tea- the Linden Lime tree is a national symbol. The flowers are gathered and dried in early summer. In shops, look for tea with the word “Lipa”. I find it highly reminiscent of the scent of washing powder. You may not.
  9. Local cheeses are a blue cheese called Niva and a mini Camembert called Hermalin.  I’d say they’re nothing to write home about, however, you might as well try them while you’re here. Farming methods were standardized across the soviet union, leading to wierdnesses such as pigs and cows being kept inside barns all summer as well as winter in massive factory farms, and all local variation in food production being suppressed. It is taking some time for the idea of local to catch on here, as you’ll see if you visit Farmer’s markets outside of Prague.  Things are changing, but let’s just say people here eat a lot of Edam.
  10. Nealko beer. The Czechs have a proud heritage of beer production, and zero tolerance in law to drink driving. As keen beer consumers, the natural result of this equation is that their alcohol free beers are really pretty good. One local company which you’re unlikely to see anywhere outside of the Czech Republic and produces an excellent range of alcoholic and alcohol free beers is Bernard (produced Bear Nard with two rolled r’s). Czech beer bottles are robust because they are reused via a deposit system, so don’t throw them away!
  11. Tartar sauce – this is the local condiment of choice. You’ll find it a necessary accompaniment to the popular and common “American” potatoes, breaded pork & fried cheese, which would be hard to eat without it.
  12. Locally produced chocolate. Full disclosure: the Bon Bon company you’ll see all over the Czech Republic hales from my local village, where they have an excellent cafe with every form of chocolate available. As a gift to take home, their range of chocolate confectionery is hard to beat, if you can resist eating it all yourself.

Finally, if you are staying somewhere with access to a kitchen I recommend:

  1. Waldorf salad made with locally grown apple, walnuts and a little ground elder (the wild cousin of celery).
  2. Sekanice – a cut stuffing loaf. There are both veggie and pork versions of this recipe, but the main constituent ingredient is nettle. As in stinging nettle. After a long, hard winter under feet of snow, the hardy perennial nettle is the first edible green which pops up in Bohemia, and was traditionally an important source of nutrition. Nettles can also be used as a substitute ingredient for Kale Chips & once they are baked in salt and oil are surprisingly moreish.
  3. Wild mushroom pate – as mushroom collecting is part of the national psyche. Porchini and Chanterelle should be sampled and a pate made with equal parts butter, cream cheese and lightly cooked mushroom is the best way to experience their flavour. Please don’t pick the mushrooms yourself. Urban legend has it that ten people a year die of mushroom poisoning in the Czech Republic, and it’s not a pretty way to go.


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Where we’re at in July – animal care.


This is what we need to do on a daily basis at Novy Mlyn at present (End of July 2014) however these things evolve on a weekly basis as the needs of the animals change.

  1. First, let Bunbury outside to pee. We then keep her inside for the next hour or she will eat the chicken’s food. She got quite fat recently before we realised what she was eating.
  2. Open the hutch on the back porch where the black & white hen lives with her babies – 2 yellow and 3 black. Make sure their food dispenser is full, then clean out their water dispenser. The babies will get ill if the water dispenser becomes slimy from not being washed properly.
  3. In the larger black container mix together one cup of grain with one cup of milled food, add enough water that it is lumpy, not powdery or liquid (about half a cup).
  4. Once the babies have finished eating and run off into the garden with their mother, put their food dispenser back in their hutch and close it. The water can be left on the step for them to drink during the day.
  5. Put the rest of the mixed food into two bowls at least two metres apart – so both the goose and teenagers can eat. Each bowl needs to have water beside it as the goose cannot eat the food safely without water. Open the ark to let out the goose and the five teenage chickens (2 white and 3 black).
  6. Ducks – clean water & fill food. They have a bathing bowl and a glass of water. The water is important as they need to clear their mouths with water when the eat the dry food, and they love to paddle in the bowl. We keep the door of the dog cage closed at night so that they are safe from foxes. During the day they are in the wider enclosure – to keep the dog & cats out. George is an avid hunter of wild ducklings and so will lurk around them looking for his chance for a tasty breakfast.
  7. Fill the goose bath with clean water.
  8. Milk the goat wherever is convenient. She will jump up onto the trailer in the barn, or the picnic table in the garden (you can take her there on the dog lead). For milking, I give her a large cup of grain as well as a handfull of fallen apples as a treat. The milk must be filtered and immediately put in the fridge in a glass jar with the date & am/pm. Wash all the milking pans etc. in cold water first as hot water makes it more difficult to clean. Once dried, the silver pan, jug and filter live on top of the cupboard by the back door. Dijon goat will be quite vocal when she decides it’s milking (apple eating) time. She usually goes and stands on top of the wall of the ruins (goats really love to climb!) and bellows at you till you milk her.
  9. After the teenager chickens have had a chance to eat, put their food and water in the Ark and prop the door open about 10cm so that they can get in and eat this later, but the adult chickens (who eat cheaper grain & find their own food) can’t just eat it all up.
  10. Open the hen house and scatter some oat grain for the adult chickens.
  11. Make coffee for all takers – the milk must be pasteurised before use by boiling it.
  12. Empty the dish washer.
  13. Feed Bunbury and the cats
  14. Breakfast for humans
  15. Tidy & clean kitchen – please make sure that the table, work surfaces and cooking hob are all wiped clean, and all dishes either in the dishwasher or in cupboards. In general I can cope with any number of visitors and chaos in the rest of the house as long as the kitchen is clean and tidy. If you make sure that there is never any washing up left on the island, or dishes left out to dry, then we will get on very well.
  16. Check all plants to see if they need watering – you will need to feel the soil to see if it is dry. During the day – especially if the weather is hot, they will need to be watered again. I have to keep the inside windows on the south side of the kitchen open as if the sun shines all the the plants will dry out and die quickly. After checking and watering every plant in the morning, I do a visual check a couple more times during the day and water again if necessary. There is a large yellow watering can outside for the plants on the external windowsills and front porch. I use the spray bottle for seedlings in the cans in the corner and any jug or bottle to water the plants inside the windows.
  17. Water the sprouting beans – I usually have two or three things growing for us to eat as sprouts – the beansprouts for stir fry as well as lentils for breakfast (wheat in bread makes my stomach bad so I usually will eat very lightly cooked sprouted lentils with garden greens instead of toast in the morning). Also I’ll have chick peas soaking if we’re going to make hummus or curry.
  18. I usually do the rounds after breakfast, break time and before lunch to do a head count of all the animals – and make sure nobody is in the wrong place.
  19. Animal bedtime. We recently lost half our adult chickens to a fox. Foxes hunt at dawn and dusk, when the levels of light are low. On this occasion there was a very big thunder storm and it attacked at about 5pm – three hours before dusk. So – animal bedtime is weather dependent. Unfortunately, if a big storm rolls in, we have to go outside and corral the adult chickens into their house so they don’t get eaten by a fox. The younger ones in the garden are less likely to be caught because they are in sight of the house. If the weather is sunny, I will sit outside in the garden in the early evening until the adult chickens are all standing around outside the hen house as the sun sets behind the trees. If it’s a cloudy day, they will be ready a little earlier than usual. So – first the adults are locked away in the hen house, then the teenagers and goose are herded into the ark with the help of the food left in there, then finally the mother hen and babies go into the hutch on the back porch. Please put clean water in their dispenser and put this in the hutch as well as a little food. The mother hen may be sitting with the babies under her by the composting toilet on the back porch. You will need to be careful moving her as she is very, very protective of her babies and will peck you hard enough to draw blood if you try to pick up the babies in front of her. She will be more likely to cooperate if you show her the bowl of food and lead her using that, in which case she’ll call the babies over to share the food and you can put it down in the hutch.
  20. Things to watch out for: If you hear a wild bird making a sound like a car alarm, go outside and walk around. Go into the back paddock and round by the lake, then back around the front. This bird has warned us before when there have been foxes in the area. Also, if the chickens or goose start making a noisy racket, it’s worth having a look to check there are no predators.
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Winter’s End


Today, at the beginning of March, there are just a few patches of snow left in the valley. The land is khaki brown, devoid of fresh colours for the time being. Each tree is completely bare. The ground has thawed and mud now oozes out plentifully, but there is still snow in the air. We are living in the bated breath of spring.

I’ll be turning forty in a few days. My husband pointed out this means that I’ve spent a quarter of my life with him.

I have spent the winter productively and now have eighty thousand words which form a mildly amusing account of our adventures in the Czech Republic. I wanted to write something for us, before we forget, and also for my grandmother – now ninety three, her health issues now prevent her from coming here to visit.

I really enjoyed the process of writing, especially when the plot unexpectedly thickened into a narrative. Now I am leaving the first draft to settle – three months is necessary, though this will bring us to mid-summer – a time for scything at dawn rather than sitting in front of a computer. Currently, I keep thinking of things that I have left out of the first draft, but I’m resisting the temptation of running back to it.

It’s now time for active life again – to plant seeds in pots, repaint and repair the winter damage. The snow was the greatest excuse. It did not so much cause as disguise the disorder, and some part of me wishes it back.

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What’s watts with winter solar


Over the previous month I have been spending my afternoons soldering on. We have a kilowatt of individual solar cells to stick together to build our own photo voltaic system.
As ever, it has been a learning curve. First, watch a lot of youtube videos. Second, figure out which of the youtube videos are made by people who have natural self confidence rather than knowledge or ability. There is a neophyte tendency with some to share their experiences, without then following up to admit when things go terribly wrong.
I am glad that our experiments have not, so far, been caught on camera. The first thing we learned was that the solar cells are extremely fragile. They have a similar consistency to eggshell, and must be handled delicately. Our second discovery was that only four fifths of them worked. Those that don’t tend to come in batches, so if you don’t test them first, you end up with whole strings which will decrease the efficacy of your system.
The cells themselves are fragile and also need to be protected from the elements – so that they don’t rust or become interesting places for various insects to set up home. For this you can use a type of silicone which will not discolour in the sun, or EVA plastic sheeting. We will try both, though the silicone is suspiciously expensive in small quantities.
Currently we have strings of twelve cells placed around the windows of the house in the twenty centimetre gap between the two layers of glass. We are getting a good number of volts, but the ampage is not high, meaning the overall power produced could be better. It’s also important to remember that at present the ground outside is completely snow-covered, meaning that there is a lot of reflected light. During the rest of the year, with no snow and the sun higher in the sky, we might actually get less light in those positions.
We have the inverter and charge controller necessary to build a system which will power the house from batteries when possible, and switch back to mains power when this runs out. We would need to have permissions and different equipment for a grid-tie system.
It takes about an hour to solder one string of twelve cells, so at least I can be doing this while we are learning about the other aspects of the system. I think that methods of encapsulation (and the pungent chemicals required) should wait until later in the year so that we can work outside in the fresh air or with lots of windows open – not possible right now when it’s quite so cold.

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Mid Winter Break


Our five hundred metre millrace joins a stream to our lake, providing fresh water for fish and, I suspect, the surrounding houses. The neighbour hires out the valley upstream to a horse farm. Our land is not fenced off, and at the end of the autumn there was quite a lot of rain. The horses then stood under the trees on the edge of the millrace and trampled down the edges of the bank until it was destroyed and the water poured out into the valley. We discovered this when the ground was already frozen hard, so there was nothing to do but be sad about the wet valley.
Luckily, there has been a period of warm weather between Christmas and New Year, so we have been able to spend a pleasant couple of days repairing the millrace by putting the bank back together with spades. Hard work, but after the excesses of a typical Christmas, it’s been a pleasure to be out working in the fresh air.
The horse farm put their electric fence, to contain the horses, on the far side of the millrace, meaning it isn’t protected. I hope that they will play nicely and not allow their horses to cause such damage to our land in future.

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