Just when I thought all was screwed…

… with our car’s water leak, a solution.

I had a look at Hyundai’s ‘hmaservice.com’ website which contains the workshop manuals for all Hyundai vehicles and came across a section on “Body (Interior)” – had a look at noted that the padding for the front pillar – is actually just clipped in, so pulling at it will cause it to come out.

And it did, this then gave us the ability to trace back where our long term water leak has been coming through, it has been a bad leak for a while, if it rains, we end up with a lake in the passenger foot well.

I was peaking at the firewall again today to see if there was rust that was doing it – Nope, there are more rust holes, and the bonnet looks like shyte, but it’s not the cause of the water leak.

I previously attempted to stop the leak by overdoing it with more sealant on the outside, but still with no success.

After pulling out the glove box yet again (I was checking the ECU connectors to see how easy they would be to open and solder some additional cables to), I saw where the water was coming through, which was ‘somewhere behind and above that pillar cushion thing.

Removing that cushion, and spraying some more water showed the water was coming through the black sealant that is placed down with the windscreen, some of it must have moved or cracked or something. Our windscreen is only 3 years old, so I would think this is unusual – but oh well.

I got some more black crap from Bunnings and stuck some of that in from the inside as high as I could get to, all around the passenger side of the windscreen. I think this will help remove some of the flooding that our car boat gets.

Next issue to attack is Rust. With another rust hole in the firewall, and some rust hiding under the windscreen, behind the bonnet hinge, we are likely to fail rego without an adequate fix in place.

I’ll check it again after the sealant dries to make sure the flooding has stopped – then we can look at the interior – it is soaked, and stinks from the water sitting there for so long. The ECU has rust lines around it from the leak too – I don’t think it’s a candidate for Rust Converter though.

I’m not sure on my abilities to fill in rust, the fibreglass job we had a friend take care of didn’t seem to be adequate – Rust Converter wasn’t applied and I can see behind the fibreglass is rusting again.

The other way to fix this is to rip off the bonnet, take out the firewall, transfer over the VIN and compliance plates, and weld the new one on, but I don’t have a welder and can’t be sure I’d get it right (sounds like more hassle then the car itself is worth!).

Then I still want to fix the bonnet – sand it back, rust converter to clear up the rust, and then paint it, put on some clear coat – and apply lots and lots of wax.

There is the idea of a 4G63 Go-Kart, for the kids of course.

Update: It definitely seems fixed – after leak testing it today, there was no water leaking through.

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The Garden in Autumn

We got a reasonable result from the back garden in Autumn. We had some losses on getting the seeds in a growing state though – we lost a heap to what might have been excess water.

Then the first set in Autumn never really came through due to the soil mixture used.

After putting Coir and Potting Mix together, we had better results, not great, but better.

From that mix, we put out Beans, Corn, Peas, Cherry Tomatoes.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The Pea plants try to work, but the bottom of them fast degrades and the plant shows no sign of succeeding. This was the case across around 10 or so of the plants attempted.

The Bean plant were successful, we had heaps of them, I couldn’t put a kg figure on it, as an estimate I’d say about 5kG of them.

The Corn plants tried to go, but the season ended before they finished growing. They just stopped growing (surviving, but not growing).

The Cherry Tomato plants were interesting, there were two lots planted, one at the front, and a heap on the back. The plants at the front grew huge – the trellis I put together for them was pulled back into the ground – the plant is massive. I again can not tell how many we pulled off, it was a heap. Which is what I desired, as the kids like them.

Since the last lot, we’ve been trying to perfect seedlings, and we worked it into a styrofoam box, there was much better success because it kept the temperature regulated.

The Bean plants are not actually in Season now, yet they are very huge. Peas had a 100% strike rate on seeding, we’ll have to figure out where they’ll be transplanted.

We also have some Cabbage plants out and they seem to be alive, it’s hard to really gauge any sort of success though, we can see snails have been at them, but the rain has been significant.

The strawberry patch we have is providing the odd strawberry here and there – it’s nothing significant.

The Citrus trees have been idle for a while now, but we do have a large and small Jonathan apple, and a small Granny Smith apple that has a scab or other issue with it.
The Passionfruit are quiet as well. Not a lot happening with the fruit.

A sunny weekend continues tomorrow and into next week. The Winter crops could be our best so far, and that should make our Spring and Summer even better – hopefully at the desired goal of 100% of vegetables to be grown without chemicals.

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It’s as easy as..

.. watching what you use.

I’ve heard it many times recently, and was discussing with someone today, in the context of solar power, that there is no point adding any sort of solar power system if you don’t take the much easier, first step of watching what you are using.

And this is true. It became true recently, when our resident in the flat was sucking down all the hot water.

I’m still waiting on some 2.4Ghz wireless TTL chips from Hong Kong (yep, aussie retail isn’t as good as Hong Kong, with shipping, ask Gerry Harvey), to put together our Hot Water monitoring setup, so the best we could gather was an estimate by sound of pipes. The hot water was running for around 20 minutes or so, obviously a shower.

And then they’d wonder why the water wasn’t ‘heating up’. It didn’t really occur to them, that the solar system on the roof, doesn’t get hot with rain bucketing down for days in a row. It’s a 315L system too, designed for 5 – 6 people.

How long did it really need to take to wash yourself – even go so far as shave in the shower?

After they got the usual “reduce your consumption or we’ll remove it” warning, the hot water has been doing well.

And so that’s the point – watching what is used – being mindful of the bigger picture (that just turning a tap != getting hot water).

A shower timer is useless when common sense is lacking – else why wouldn’t they just set it again?

A micro controller listening on the pipe for more than 5 minutes of running, and a little DC motor rigged up to the tap, to turn the output off for 30 minutes would be somewhat entertaining, but not as effective as for them to simply be mindful that hot water is at a premium in winter.

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It’s far too easy.

A simple and short – I’m gone in 2 weeks is easily done.

I was reading through a new employment offer just now, and it’s amazing how ‘less concerned’ I could be of the minor details. I was actually writing these in here, and then I saw the Confidentiality terms.

And I then see the confidentiality terms and it’s amazing that the agreement itself is also confidential. So I can’t say anything more – got a job offer, for an unknown company.

What I can do is say I’ll be taking a pay cut, no longer working at home, but hopefully less boredom, and some more options for career advancement.

I’ve realised something I should have done when I was younger was form a career plan. It would have helped me see where I was going and even take different paths. I would not necessarily rule out something outside of the IT sector altogether for example.

I’m sort of annoyed at where I am at the moment, the advertisement for the position noted ‘advancement opportunities’ and that is just not going to eventuate with the company I am with at the moment. They seem to think having a person doing ‘nearly nothing’ for a large portion of a day, every day is ideal (no kidding, suggested two different options, even giving up work at home for a good portion of it, and the answer of ‘No’ just makes you wonder what it is they expect of a person each day).

Time to move on, in the hope of more options for advancement (or at the least, staying within the IT scope I’ve tried to position into – what I do at the moment has very little relevance).
It’s time to move on, because I couldn’t think any less of my current tasks and some of the people involved. It’s not good for them – they are throwing away money or me – wasting time with a company that has no real future for me.

The suggested future was a sales related role, I replaced “Stick it up your arse” with something a lot nicely worded.

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Loading Custom Characters into HD44780 LCD display

I have been toying with a “TI Launchpad” recently, something I’ve been trying is to get it to work with the popular HD44780 LCD.

The LCD supports loading of custom characters in addition to the standard character set – with Arduino this seems very easily done.

However the Launchpad, based on the msp430 chip from TI is still relatively new – so not a lot exists at the moment for setting up with Launchpad and getting custom characters loaded.

Thankfully there is already a large example out that has the basics of the LCD done. What was wrong from that basic setup was the ability to work with the newer msp430-gcc (uniarch) compiler – from here. I moved to this some time ago to use the full benefits of the msp430g2553 chip – it is the more beefier chip that is a drop in replacement for the included chip (also features onboard UART, great for serial comms).

The basics needed changing, “Wiring.h” had to be edited to be compatible with the new compiler, the pin out was different (the schematic at the URL above was missing contrast).

The changes made to Wiring.h are:
//#pragma vector = TIMERA0_VECTOR       
interrupt(TIMER0_A0_VECTOR)  TA0_ISR (void)        {       
//      __low_power_mode_off_on_exit(); // Restore Active Mode on return       

The low power mode is commented out – I won’t need to use it for the chip is low power to begin with and will be connected to mains via USB – but it’s very easy to modify the SR register to take out sleep mode.

#include <stdbool.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <msp430.h>
#include <legacymsp430.h>
#include <stdint.h>
#include <msp430g2553.h>// Headers for specific device#
include "HD44780LIB.h"

To design a character, there’s a handy webpage here that explains the bits that need to be written to the display (8 possible custom characters). I wanted numbers and after having the MPGuino code handy from my ongoing project for the car – I simply converted those bits to hex and used them:
unsigned char chars[] = { 0x1F,0x1F,0x0,0x0,0x0,0x0,0x0,0x0,
0x1C,0x1E,0x1F,0x1F,0x1F,0x1F,0x1F,0x1F };

The characters are rounded characters, they look good on the display. To load the characters, use the command and write functions as below:

HD44780_init(&theHD44780,4,3,0,5,2,1);        //this is different, I copied the Wiring functions to use P2 (Port 2).
HD44780_begin(&theHD44780,16, 2);       
HD44780_print_string(&theHD44780, "Hello");       
HD44780_command(&theHD44780, 0x48); 
for (i = 0; i<64; i++) {
HD44780_command(&theHD44780, 0x01);       
HD44780_command(&theHD44780, 0x80);       
HD44780_gotoXY(&theHD44780, 0, 0);

The init line differs because I changed the pin outs so I could use the UART on the chip (P1.1 and P1.2). I also had issues with the display not loading properly so I moved all to Port 2 and all seems well now. In the above, I also used 0x48 as the CGRAM command – it’s noted in the original as being 0x40, the 0x48 request worked – I sticked with what worked.

The gotoXY function I added t HD44780LIB.h, it is below, but is sourced from MPGuino – it’s a simple function:

void HD44780_gotoXY(HD44780 *me, unsigned int x, unsigned int y) {
                unsigned int dr=x+0x80;
                if (y==1) dr += 0x40;
                if (y==2) dr += 0x14;
                if (y==3) dr += 0x54;
                HD44780_command(me, dr);       

Accessing the characters is easy enough – HD44780_print_byte(&theHD44780, 2) would display character 2 from the CGRAM (which, if we start from 0 is the third character in CGRAM).

The end result being targetted is adding this LCD to the system I have in the lounge room, it has a backlight, so I’ll display the clock and a few other things that aren’t easily seen with just the TV on. I’ll cut an opening for it in a cover in the 5.25″ bay, and glue some stand off screws to hold the display upright and bury the MCU down the bottom, and tap USB from the Motherboard directly.

I’ll be adding some other functions to it as well – Now Playing comes to mind for streaming music.

There is already an LCD project that exists for Linux completely negating the need for the MCU in the middle – it’s here – but I already had the LCD rigged up to the Launchpad when I decided to start it – so I’ll stick with it.

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Looking at Career Options

.. doesn’t make me think correctly.

I’m thinking of what’s ‘next’ now I see my current duties being made much lighter through the progression of those located in a different time zone taking on more of the duties I am doing.

I went through TAFE to get to my Diploma in IT, and aimed to get more external qualifications in networking or systems administration / development, in the hope that I would make a career out of that.

The ‘natural career progression’ that was ‘expected’ as advertised in the job description when I originally applied for my current role, just doesn’t seem to be there, so if I am to reach what I was aiming for as a longer term career – I am left with little choice but to change employer.

There’s a downside as well, if I want to catch another job, then I’ll likely have to either have experience (yep, get experience somehow, without being given the option to demonstrate that), or, get external certification now, that shows I am capable of said skills.

Direction, this is important when paying for qualifications from those companies that issue them. I like networking, it’s fun. But then I also like putting scripts, programs together. And then I also do like building and administrating internet systems (DNS, Web, Mail).

To get experience in that, a Systems Administrator role, or, a Development Role, or a Network Engineering role – would be what would give that experience on the resume.

So, let’s assume that I manage to both find the qualifications and funding to get a qualification in one specific field (noting that there are three at least that are of interest to me and I would enjoy), ignore the experience aspect (hey, I’m qualified right..) – the next issue is also of significance – Positions being available.

If there’s no demand for any of those 3 roles locally (I refuse to travel the Sydney run, I consider the travel time too significant), then I will have qualifications that are useless until something does become available (aging away, expiring).

I can stick out with what I have available at the moment, and carefully find something else locally eventually, but it’s the hassle of job interviews, convincing a possible employer that I am worth hanging on to, getting acquainted with a new bunch of people to work with.
But if it’s in the name of a longer term career, where I have something I enjoy to do – then perhaps it’s worth it.

I’ll have to try and tidy up my resume and see if I can’t find some evil, creative marketing tactics to deploy – and then see what comes up. The upside is now I know where I stand – I can either waste away doing pointless crap, or not.

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Car For Sale Ad

If I was to sell my car right now, it would have to have an ad that goes something like this:

For Sale, Rattles. A 1997 Hyundai Sonata Sedan. Features: Immobiliser with Anti Hijack feature, Timing Belt and Engine Mounts replaced with new. New Shocks, spark plugs, starter motor and tyres. Serviced Regularly. Flaws: Rattle sound, contains an oil leak with bonus water leak on passenger side, bonus lake of water in passenger foot well when rains. Rust holes in firewall and on bonnet. Dent on drivers side, scratches on passenger side. Front bumper marked all over. Paint issues with spoiler. Drivers side headlight faded, needs replacing.

It is one of those moments where if I knew the car was going to be this bad not too long after buying new shocks and replacing the timing belt, I’d probably have not done it at at all and just let it fail itself, saving that for a car (it’s just like not having comprehensive insurance, you bet that the car will last long enough to not require replacing thus save the money on insurance for what the payout from insurance would have been anyway).

So now I have some more things to ‘patch’. The leak that I thought was the windscreen now turns out to be from the door seal on the passenger sides (both front and rear). The front passenger foot well is litterally a lake, the water drips down past the ECU (yay!), past the relay and central locking, and into a pool on the floor which will probably rust in the near future.

The benefit from that could be seen as a ‘Flintstone’ feature – where I could ask my partner to give the car a rolling start. Fuel Economy win.

The fix will likely be some silicone to stop the water getting under and around the door seal and thus keeping the water out.

Then we pray that the ECU survives the water that has been dripping past it (it might).

The rust in the firewall is probably a more significant issue, not because rust is bad, no, it’s because the damn RTA rego inspection will fail each time the car has rust that will cause a hole when tapped (and I tapped it, yep, there’s a hole in the firewall).

The downside to it is as above, I have put a fair amount into the car to fix it up, and it’s the body that is it’s significant failure (ignore the oil leak and belt squeal, it’s aestethic). But if I ignore the cash we dumped into the shocks and timing belt, the more significant issue – the bigger issue is finding funds for a replacement (I was thinking Mitsubishi Lancer, 2000+ model). Considering we have to try and save enough to make sure the side fence can be done.

I also have a smaller issue of the time poured into trying to get the interface to the ECU going, a lot of time has been put into that – it’s nearly in a complete state.

Then you have to figure what to do with the current car, can trade it in? They’ll probably give us $50 for it. I could sell it privately, to someone so desperate that they couldn’t find a worthwhile VN. Repair the body work – this is something I’ve been contemplating – the rust being the bigger issue though, cutting it out, patching it up, and making it look neat is a difficult job for me. And professionals charge significantly for that neat finish.

It’s something we’ll have to consider eventually I guess – the extension to the house being delayed even more if we do change cars first.

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Planned Gross FIT reduction

The NSW Government is proposing to legislate a reduction to the feed in tariff from 60c per kWH to 40c per kWH. It’s reduction of one third of the rate that was legislated at the time we bought.

But what good is legislation if all it takes is a change in government and a submission to change it again?

Legislation doesn’t seem to be worth all the taxpayer dollars that goes into producing it when it’s so easily changed to the detriment of those who made investment decisions relying upon it.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell introduced legislation that would prevent parliament from being shut down prior to January 26 (as part of NSW Labor’s shut down during the power sell off). What good is that legislation if it can merely be changed retrospectively?

Our governments aren’t very honest, yet we are all forced to obey and live within the confines of their legislation, or be penalised severely for it. I just don’t see it as being very democratic, it’s far more like a dictatorship – and the party in control dictates how you will live your life.

We can’t place any trust in any of the current enacted legislation, it could all be changed retrospectively. We can’t change our votes retrospectively. We can’t opt to not have a government either (I’d like this option at the moment, the whole lot are useless).

It’s bad enough that the rate was slashed to 20c for newer participants last year – it still represented an option for investment in solar, but to stab those who invested with one third slashed from the expected return on investment, why would anyone ever trust anything this government legislates?

Barry O’Farrell’s election propaganda actually included the words “Our Contract with NSW” – and the minister for energy actually stated that there would be no changes to the current users – only new users.

Well, not only have they broken their contract with NSW, they’ve also broken their promise that they would not change the rate retrospectively.

There are people out there who have invested heavily under the legislated guarantee of 60c per kWH, invested with significant amounts of money, and those will never be paid off under the scheme.

Fair enough, they probably shouldn’t have tried to use it as a cash machine, but they did operate within the confines of the scheme as legislated. It is not their fault that the previous government could not put figures into a forward perspective.

The rates of electricity to buy are likely to raise 17%, the current peak time of use rate is actually 40c, it’ll be around 48c after July, meaning the power generated is actually sold at a lower value than that of what we can buy it for.

I’m not making changes to our setup yet – it still will pay itself off, just in a longer time frame with less of a return on the investment put into it. I will look forward to see what the Stage 2 of the Summit reveals in the way of future plans for the solar industry (no one would buy a solar system in their right minds at the moment – 6c per kWH would take far too long to generate a return, if it even did).

I have two ideas in mind though (aside from leaving it as is as long as the feed in tariff covers costs):

– Off Grid – this would save us significant amounts and at the same time have the negative result that we would need to cut back our consumption during winter significantly.

– Net Feed in – Depends on the rate paid, but if it’s higher than gross, then it makes sense to simply go over to a Net Feed and use the power in the house before sending it to the grid. One would assume the Net Feed In would allow us to also make changes to the system too (the current scheme disallows any changes to the system, including selling the house – you would then lose the solar rebate, another retrospective change!).

Even with the possibilities above, it’s still a very dishonest act by this government.

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Eggs. Home Made Foods.

Eggs are finally arriving, we’ve had 6 of them from one chook, the other chickens seem to be slow or younger.

We planned to have extra chickens join the current ones over the weekend, since they aren’t laying, that’s not going to happen. We’ll have to wait a couple more days / weeks and see.

Temperatures have really chilled down here too – and it’s more than just noticeable. We had a large patch of rain move through and have had nothing but cold since. Winter looks to be very cold.

Which brings me to the next item – Home Made foods. We’ve started looking at differing foods we could make from scratch – purely out of interest for what is supposed to be a sustainable future, where less reliance is placed on a retail store for the supply of foods.

Bread is one of the key products that fits in the ‘milk, bread, sugar’ types of foods – if you forget it, you’ll have to go get it. So, making our own will at least fit with the sustainable future goal, removing our dependence on oil, and retail to supply it.

We’ve tested a few recipes found on the internet – and they seem to vary greatly in what they require – so we took the simplest we could find: flour, salt, yeast, water and bread improver.

Bread Improver however contains something or other that isn’t ideal, so we replaced it after some research with Vitamin C tablets (ascorbic acid). This feeds the yeast to get the bread to rise.

So far results show it works good, and it warms the kitchen up too. The bread itself tastes alright – not the same as the store bread – but that might just be a good thing.

Next up won’t be milk (council laws prohibit cows on residential land), and it won’t be sugar – not enough land. So, pasta seems like something else worth trying from scratch.

The vegie gardens have slow progress – we’ve had a heap of beans but there isn’t a lot happening. We have a monster Cherry Tomato vine that is fruiting but taking a long time to ripen. Some seedlings which are slow progress. Shallots which we don’t use a lot of (and probably couldn’t kill em if we tried). Beans – which we’ve got maybe 3 handfuls off one plant. Some corn which is still growing.

The fruit trees are dormant at the moment. Apples are not moving much at all, Citrus are slow. Banana is moving but slowly and Paw Paw was just planted recently so is still too young.

If we give it a couple of weeks though, the seedlings should be more advanced and a few weeks after there fruiting, ready to be replaced yet again.

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Nearly out of debt

Nah – we haven’t paid the house off, however, we have nearly finished paying off the credit card enough to claw back our interest free period.

It’s most satisfying that I can see we get to go back to the norms of paying down the house enough to get a redraw balance fat enough to fund an extension.

And then I look at what is going to threaten that and it can be seen that there are significant expenses coming in terms of rates.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

Our neighbours with townhouses are looking at getting their driveway fixed – this has a likely expense being added for a fence to some scale. Ideally they’ll give us a bit of a break there, it’s not anything at all to do with us that the fence is falling over – their driveway is designed poorly and large trees and cars driving over rocks are the forces pushing it over.

The fence really should be replaced entirely at their cost! But we’ve also recognised the fence is being replaced instead of repaired (it’s broken in many areas), so I emailed earlier today to see if they would agree with a smaller contribution from us given that the fences act states negligence as an issue.

I hope my email wasn’t too harshly received, merely copy + paste of the law, some photos and a suggestion of what I’d like to have happen.

A gentle reminder also included that their retaining wall must be inside their boundary for our building is at the legal limits.

Nothing says ‘out of debt’ like more bills – really. It becomes a mountain too – so you climb to the top of it, only to have another peak added.

I’ve also got other expenses related to licensing, and car repair issues  – we’ve got a leak through the windscreen seal, and more firewall rust. And I can easily see the interest free period on our credit card (which is really just a measure of our ability to pay for all our expenses on time) is going to disappear again.

You’d think from the rough description above that I might be somehow underpaid – but not the case, I get paid well – it’s simply we are carrying too much cost over run from our renovation – and seriously, next time there will be costs cut – so much was simply excess charges – and your not going to tell a builder that’s just finished a week’s worth of work that the bill is too high.

I only hope work gets a little more interesting instead of the boredom that it currently is in the nearer future.

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Chickens are free.

Last weekend, we took the time to clip the wings of the chickens to give them some lawnmowing time.

You’d think the first place they’d rush is our garden beds, with the straw, green leaves, food to tear apart. Not so. The chickens (maybe that’s why), were too ‘chicken’ to go near the garden beds and clean up the grass around the edges of them.

Instead, they sat around the trampoline, which is in front of their chook run, and ate grass from under it.

Fast forward one week, they are now happy to chase us to the back door, near the kitchen, where we can throw out broken pieces of bread for them to eat up.

I was secretly hoping we’d get lucky and have eggs from them over easter, but this has still yet to occur. I hope they get to laying eggs soon, we are ready for the next lot to go in, but want to make sure these will lay before interrupting their living quarters with 3 younger trespassers.watch movie Why Him? 2016 now

Recently, we’ve caught them perched on the axle of a boat trailer (which has a boat on top of it), sitting in our back yard – they are funny, yet stupid.

When we were ready to let them out, they’d go into the chook run, and run back and forth trying to find a way out to the one single bird who wasn’t so chicken to come out (they’d be stalking it, trying to get out with it).

Now they seem a lot more relaxed and happy to wonder around just like any family pet. We haven’t had them fly away either, but they do try and fly by running (yes, they get some speed, I reckon they’d give the kids a good run).

We will need to get some grain for them too (they are currently still on grower mix, but eat grass and food scraps as well). Oh, and they get a source of protein, caterpillars and snails found in the garden are happily fought over.

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Worm Farm now seems productive

We had originally established the worm farm based on a simple idea of two styrofoam boxes stuck together, and bedding based on garden soil, newspaper and straw.

The worms seemed to be OK with that, but after 6 months or so, I was expecting far more worms than we have. After fishing through what seemed like mountains of newspaper, the obvious occurred, they obviously were not breeding because of their home. They didn’t really seem happy in the previous setup.

They had little to keep them in a dark place, the bedding was garden soil. And the food seemed to be taking ages for them to eat away.

I had a look around on the net, and found that coir (coconut fibre) or peat make ideal worm farm bedding – strange, this wasn’t mentioned in the article we found on one of the NSW councils websites.

I figured it sounds good, Coir holds more moisture and is free draining, it’s a different colour so you can readily identify coir over worm castings, and inside the styrofoam box, it’ll be a wonderful insulator.

The first step was finding Coir or Peat that did not have any fertilisers in it (as it’s used for seeds typically). Worms need a fairly neutral pH level else they’ll get burnt. We found Bunnings and K-Mart sell it. Bunnings had some organic labelled stuff from their catalogue for $3 or so, and K-Mart (much closer than Bunnings for a brick), had a Coir-Peat brick from a company called “Brunnings” (nice name..) for $2.

I couldn’t easily ascertain if the product contained any foreign chemicals to that of the coconut fibre and peat mixture, after I emailed them asking for the MSDS, it turns out it’s 100% coconut fibre – straight out of Sri Lanka.

Perfect, the next step was setting up a temporary home after getting the coir-peat brick expanded. This was easy enough, one small brick, 4.5L of water, and the bucket is full with the moisture absorbing mix.

After that was cleaned out and draining clear, we then set up a temporary home for some candidate worms, we took out 10-20 worms and placed them in the coir-peat mix temporarily. Left them for 24 hours, to make sure they survived. They did.

The next tedious job was picking out from our months of mixed food, worm castings, soil and newspaper, the individual worms. What a time consuming job that was, tediously filtering through about 20L of material for worms. We bought a pack allegedly providing 1000 worms through a mixture of eggs and worms. Not the case when I’ve gone through and pulled each one out. There were heaps of smaller worms, some larger worms, but the total amount was far less than the 1000 (and considering there was supposed to be eggs, you’d think they’d have hatched already).

So we don’t have 1000 worms, it’s probably in the area of 500.

They’ve been in the new bedding and fed far more broken down food, lettuce flakes and apple flakes seem to be keeping them well, unlike the previous farm, there are worm that are definitely visible, they are all over the food (whereas previously it would be rare to see them eating food).

The newspaper is used on top of the farm, the worms still seem to try and eat that as well (I can find them inside it), but that’s not an issue, the newspaper cover is easily enough replaced – and it ensures they have a source of food.

I’ll have to figure out how long it’ll take for them to double in numbers – they control their own population according to space and food though, so it’s difficult to say if they’ll add more worms to the 50mm thick coir bedding that is currently there.

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A new tree addition

After considering more what our desired trees will be, we went out over the weekend in search of some stone fruit trees and some kiwi fruit vines to bury the chicken house with (it’ll double as shade cover and provide fruit).

We had no luck on the stone fruit trees, the plum varieties on offer were in bad shape, and the kiwi fruit were both male at one nursery,  and the other nursery had sick looking kiwi fruit plants for $30 each (pass…).

We did find a “Lady Finger” banana tree, decided on that. Bananas are a little bit fussy when it comes to heat and cold (they love humidity). We’ll have to try and create that artificially in a micro-climate of sorts.

We’ll go looking for the stone fruit varieties in spring when there should be more of a variety.

Fruit trees at the nurseries we go to are typically grafted varieties – to get them in Dwarf form for example. This takes a good 2 or 3 years to confirm success, so we aren’t actually able to source them locally any younger than 3 years – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I was hoping to get the kiwi fruit in action due to the growing time (the shade requirement is more of a ‘now’ thing). But with Winter coming up in a few months, perhaps the chickens will be thankful for all the sun they can get.

Adding the extra fruit trees poses a small issue as to where they’ll sit in the block – many of them love sun, so orienting them so they can get the best amount of sun, at the same time ensuring they don’t cause shade problems takes a bit of thought.

I also want to look into Aquaponics some more. My partner doesn’t seem to want to breed chickens for food (and the council won’t let us have a rooster anyway), so that leaves us with fish as an alternative (suprisingly, she will let me kill fish).

The worm farm is something of a poor performer – we added lettuce to it some weeks ago, and it’s slowly disintegrating. I want to take the old castings out, but in my last attempt at doing that, I removed so many before I gave up due to my impatience in separating worms from masses of castings.

The idea was to get them to migrate over to one side of the farm (by feeding ONLY that side), and then clear the other side out – but there were worms all through it.

This alone raises questions for me, like, if there are so many worms, then how come there is still lettuce in the top of the box after 2 weeks with no food! Something to look at later.

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A day in the garden

Today, we spent much of the afternoon fixing up the odds that occur in the gardens.

First up was the front, the flowers we placed there last year are still going strong, but the weeds have found paths through the thick layer of mulch we placed there to suppress the weeds and grass.

Next, we cleaned out the shed – it’s not as bad as the storeroom out the back of it, but when you finish with something, be it the shovel, cow manure or straw bale, most of the time it’ll end up all bunched at the front of the shed.

Then we started tackling a large problem, we have a cherry tomato plant we placed in one of the garden beds and left it, it’s gone wild and has branches off everywhere.

I don’t normally want vines growing in the garden beds, for I’d prefer if they remained open and the vines sat in their own beds, but that wouldn’t make sense for this massive overgrown Cheery Tomato plant – so we knocked together a bit of 2×4, some stakes and some chook wire to form a trellis to hold it up.

The branches of the vine typically break if you try and train them through a trellis, so I took the long branches and cable tied them to the trellis. That should help see them grow – it’s got a lot of fruit on it, but it wasn’t going to be too fruitful struggling with itself.

The pea and bean plants now seem to be larger and growing more. The tree we transplanted seems to be recovering, and aside from a small isolated case, we have eliminated the Citrus Leaf Miner from our citrus trees.

The passionfruit are still showing their strength and are growing more and more each time I look at them, a new tendril, a new height reached.

Our strawberry patch remains interesting, though slow, there’s a heap of strawberries on the first plant, a heap, but they seem to be taking forever to get large and red. There are a heap of runners and more plants that spawned from that singular plant, so it might now be a good idea to look at snipping those off so it can put more energy into getting that fruit growing. The next growth on the strawberries should be even better – there’s a stack of plants, and likely to be more strawberries than the kids could ever eat.

The worm farm is slower than the strawberry patch too – we know there are large and small worms in there (some babies), but the lettuce that was added last week is taking them a long time to get through, the Hessian bag seems to be of more interest to them.

The chickens have well and truly settled in what will be 2 weeks in the chicken run. We have an issue with shade for them which will be addressed in one of many ways, my preferred is to plant out some more fruit trees to shade them in – but that has cost issues for now. Vines running over the entire run would be interesting, but I would have doubts as to how long the netting would last if it had vines growing all over it. Shade cloth might be the solution.

The weekend never seems long enough. Even if you look at the imaginary hour daylight savings adds and subtracts every 6 months.

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Funding our projects

Finding funding for many of the changes I want to take going forward remains difficult.

The solar panels are paying for themselves, but we still need to pay the upfront charge which is restricting our ability to expand and add more garden beds, for the time between fruiting and seeding is an obstacle to be addressed (plus there is a desire for more vine based foods).

Then I want to incorporate shading for the chicken run, they would spend more time in the run if it was more shaded – the solution there is simple – add fruit trees around the outside of the run, which will shade it – this will require some fruit trees, so will wait until the panels are paid down.

It also doesn’t help with bills happening all at the same time, and the sheer amount of some of them – i.e. Rego – our car costs exactly $857.60 to merely have registered to place it on the road each year. Then shortly after that, $200 for Third Party Property Damage – a must, there are some expensive cars on the road, and plenty of stupid people driving them. Then shortly after that, $600 for House Insurance – a must for the house is worth many times that.

The debt is building and so much of what I would like to accomplish must wait to save on the painful credit card interest the bank will impose.

I haven’t bothered to mention council rates and water – rates alone cost us $487 every 3 months. I’d hate to see what Sydney siders pay in rates considering the extortionate prices they pay for property. Water is very cheap – too cheap such that it doesn’t give any desire for rain or grey water from a financial point of view.

The true cost of living in a society which values it’s environment is not cheap (the cheap comes from the damage to the surrounding environment, through either cheap labour sourced overseas, or through unsustainable practices).

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An Electric Car

The concept behind moving from a petrol driven engine to an electric car is amazingly simple (when you remove all the safety aspects):

– Pull out the current petrol engine.
– Source an electric motor, lithium batteries, thick cabling, motor controller, and charge controller.
– Remove fuel tank, fuel lines.
– Create battery bank storage where fuel tank was.
– Run cabling to engine bay, installing motor and charge controllers.
– Fit electric motor to transmission after having custom plate made to mate the motor to the transmission.

Drive buy tadalafil online.

That’s the key items that are needed to do a basic conversion – ignoring the motor mount for the electric motor, the work involved in getting the motor controller working, and so forth.

There are plenty of the conversions out on the internet that I’ve looked at and pondered the logistics involved in starting our own conversion.

There are many factors at play that simply make it not worth while – the batteries are good for 3 years typically, they cost around $2000 for a decent range (around 100k). After this, they need to be replaced.

That alone is a reason enough to think twice about it.

You need to find a good body, not one with rust, one that will clean up nice and be pleasant to drive, the older models of vehicles are typically easier than newer models. Weight must be a key consideration.

There are plenty of alternatives to an electric car – such as reducing fuel consumption in the current car by making it more efficient, or, getting a bike with a kid carrier on the back to allow transport to school, shopping and so forth, or convert the current car to LPG.

I thought of these but haven’t yet convinced myself of either of them – the bike sounds good, but it is a longer transport method than the car, meaning what the car can accomplish in around 5 minutes, the bike would take longer. Time is something that would need to be considered if it were me doing the riding.

Converting the car to LPG is something I’m not liking, for it seems to be bad for the internals of the engine, but the fuel itself is far more viable and sustainable than the ethanol crap that is being forced upon us (and typical governments never consider that it actually requires more energy to produce ethanol than that is taken out of it.. dumb and stupid).

Making the current car more efficient – I’ve been reading ecomodder.com for a short while now, and the amount of changes some of them have pulled off are sheer amazing. Admittedly many of them are focussed at long range driving – most of our trips are very short trips – right up the alley of an electric car – if it weren’t for it’s wasteful batteries, it’d be perfect.

A bike with kid carrier seems like the best compromise – except it is limited, for if we all want to go out, we need the car, if we are going medium range (think Bunnings, or Gosford – i.e. 20ks), then we’ll need the car. But most of the trips would be satisfied, with the bike – excepting it’s time component for I need to be able to get back to work reasonably quickly – impossible on a bike I think. I’m yet to consider average travel time so maybe it needs more thought. I’m not seeing it yet.

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Chickens are in!

We had finished the setup of the chook house during the week, and then set out to get some chickens.

The plan is to start with just a few and see how they work out with respect to feed and the room they have to move in, then expand that to 7, and again to 10 to maximise eggs.

The breeds we had looked at where Australorp, and Isabrown. The place we bought from (a rural / farm supplies store reasonably close), had several Australorps, 2 Isabrown, and several cross breed Australorp / Isabrown varieties.

So we got 1 Australorp, 2 Isabrown, and 1 Crossbreed. Unfortunately, 1 of the Isabrown chickens had something wrong, it was sleeping in the pen when we arrived but after approaching, it was a lot more lively.

We took it, and found it just lazed around all day the next day, so we took it back and the store believed it (in their words), “to be screwed” – OK. They swapped it for another Australorp / Isabrown cross breed.

Now we have the 4 of them and 5 days in they seem to be happy. I originally intended to make a feeder and drinker for them, but settled for buying one instead – they would need food and water immediately, and the weekend was still 3 days away at that time.

Initially they were fighting with each other, the remaining Isabrown was pecking at the Australorp. We introduced the cross breed the next day and they were both ready to tear each other apart initially. It was amusing. They do now seem to be getting along, probably after realising a last man standing death match would only mean one would be left standing.

The Oven wasn’t completely secure at the start either, the back of chook house having a gap between the fence, where the sick bird had tried to escape. A piece of 2×4 later and it’s all good.

It was most interesting to hear the store owner has 45 birds on his farm, so we took his advice without a shred of doubt – feed them grower mix for 4 weeks, then change em over to grain and they’ll produce great eggs.

They appear to love basil, lettuce and apple cores.

This gives us a possible problem in that they might end up taking all the food otherwise destined for the worm farm, but we should be able to find a way around that as the worms won’t need a heck of a lot and the chickens will always have grain.

It’ll be very interesting when they get some freedom from the cage in a few weeks, the kids will almost certainly give them more exercise then they desire. We’ll have to clip their wings though.

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The Oven is nearing completion

I’ve spent a lot of time lately on the car that I’ve left the chook house – “The Oven” – alone sort of.

A few weeks ago, we bought drill bits capable of boring large holes into the stump and removed the large roots that were already a hazard to the kids.

The remaining stump is simply too large to do much about now aside from a stump grinder, which is far too expensive for the amount that needs to be chipped.

The wet weather has hampered progress this weekend with our efforts confined to areas of dry, which has been the few hours of an afternoon.

We managed to get the stakes in the ground for the fence, and fit out the fake floor, and give it a door, and block off one window.

The Oven is made by converting an old cubby house/ dog house that was already here and weighs too much to move. The beauty of it being there is it’s cost benefit – the house needs to be reasonably weatherproof, and this place is. It’s comfortable, as it’s got a whirlybird!

It’s reasonably dry, and doesn’t flood (we’ve had a large downpour last night to tonight, and the interior is barely damp!).

Throughout the week (assuming dry weather), I hope to:
– Finish fencing the 3m x 4.5m chook run, and place the bird netting roofing on top.
– Sort out the remaining issues with the second window, and sort out weatherproofing for winter.
– Sort out food and water for the chickens and confirm availability.
– Drain the water tanks and dry them, then patch the drain holes so that they no longer leak.
– Repot our Mandarin tree so it stops flooding out (seems it’s not draining water, so we got some rocks to put in the bottom of it’s bin).

And I’ll hopefully have seen the holes placed in the tree stump that will rot it naturally when the chickens get on top of it and crap all over it encouraging the natural break down behaviour.

A lot more ideas continue to come to mind with our goals of being self sufficient, or failing that, continue on with more of a sustainable future.

The front and driveway areas aren’t yet ruled out as being targets for expansion of fruit trees, I’d like to add more fruit trees to the collection.

I’d like to eventually find a way around the back so that we have the chook house surrounded by Fruit Trees, thus providing them the necessary shade, and us fruit.

Vines are a good idea for the chook house, as they’ll give something for them to peck at too.

It’s Sunday night, which can only mean one thing – Monday is coming up. And I bet it’s a stinking hot day too.

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Passion Fruit Moves to New Home

I was contemplating making Strawberry planters which make the most of the space given to them, by placing the plants in a vertical position, growing out of pipe – the online one uses PVC pipe – we looked for alternatives, came up with some not so good ones, from fibreglass to bamboo, and decided.. they seem to be OK in the small bed we have.

So, the strawberries will continue their runners that try and invade the grass in the current bed. We started with 2 plants, it’s in excess of 12 that have simply formed from runners.

The passion fruit plants shared the same smaller garden bed, and the tendrils that came off it were growing over the very small, poorly planned trellis that was in place for the cherry tomatoes. They were starting to tendril the over grown grass – possibly a good outcome for it, until the lawn gets mowed.

So this weekend, we moved them to the back fence and built them a trellis 5m long – this will allow them to expand over that distance, and in around 18 months they should be bearing a lot of fruit.

I’m looking forward to passion fruit, it’s got a great taste to it, and can be used to make a lot of different juices and foods the kids will suck down in a nano second. They are typically fast moving plants too – we’ve had ours mostly dormant until recently, when they moved out of the garden and on to the grass, it was this that made me move on to the new trellis.

The Zucchini plant that was outgrowing the garden bed it was in and starting to shoot on to the grass. It was pretty much at the end of it’s fruiting life though, having just one small Zucchini left – out it is.

Our Tomatoes are at the end of their fruiting cycle too, we lost a lot to some invasive pest that would eat some of it, and run away, the fruit would rot and be useless. But, we still did get around 10 edible from them.

I’m still yet to fix the second water tank, the first off the granny flat delivers good results, currently about 750L in it. The tank off the shed seems to have a few issues – the pipes are round, the diverter is rectangular. We did glue on using Araldite some couplings to take it from rectangle to 90mm, but upon close testing today, found it was leaking behind the glue.

This then made me think – why bother with overflow if there is no overflow to begin with. So, we went to Bunnings – and tried to match up some fittings, something like 90mm to 40mm and then get some tubing and clamp that onto it, allowing all water to flow to the tank, from which, overflow could be sent to stormwater (or redirected to another tank, then onto storm water, and so on).

Unfortunately, in the fittings they had, the smallest we could get to was 32mm, and the largest tubing they had was 25mm.

So, I got thinking some more tonight, there’s no fitting we can get ready made for this. It’ll have to be something we make – and the solution is ridiculously simple. Take a 90mm cap, drill an 20mm hole in it. Get a 20mm screw type conduit fitting, place some glue around the edging of the fitting, screw it in, cut the excess thread from the inside.

Get 20mm tubing, and a clamp, clamp it on to the conduit fitting, and that should let the good water flow!

Overflow would be managed as above, either to another tank (we are on a gentle slope, so it’s good enough to add more tanks), or back to storm water by making the same situation again – and attaching that to the overflow of the tank.

We are also looking at waste water – unsurprisingly, we waste so much water that should be happily reused, the toilet for example, couldn’t care if it was flushed with laundry water, dish water, or shower water – yet drinking water is used.

In our renovation, water will be highly focused on – the toilets won’t have any choice but used water – if we use no water, then the toilet simply can’t be flushed.

Laundry should have only waste water and rain water available – there are very good systems out there that store water, and treat it bringing it to near drinking quality. This water will be fit for washing the clothes, and the rain water is more than capable of rinsing them.

By using water twice, three times, or more, there is much more value obtained from it – the requirement for a massive rain water tank diminishes – because you aren’t wasting the drops falling from the sky!

It’d be nice to manage black water on site as well – but that has ‘sh*t happens’ written all over it – I have this vision of it backing up, requiring manual maintenance, and I just don’t wish to be knee deep in it, so I think the sewage connection will need to stay.

For the moment, buckets collect the laundry water for toilet flushing, and the shower water for clothes washing. Tonight, it’s taken 60L from the town supply, through the shower, into the washing machine, and we’ve captured 20L for toilet flushing. 60L for showers, 60L for washing, 20L for toilet, we just saved 80L of water – it cost us $2.31 for the buckets – not quiet competing with town water prices yet – over the life time of the buckets tho – inside 1 year, we’ll have saved 12000L, and we pay $1.90 something per 1000 –  $22.80!

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Future of Food

I was watching The Future of Food on SBS, this was an interesting documentary on exactly what I’ve thought were unsustainable farming practices.

It was a good watch, noting just how much grain is used to produce 100g of beef (it was a pathetically large amount). It was also interesting to note the fishing expeditions into poorer nations were depriving them of fish.

It then went over to India, where a few families have been deprived of community garden room as the government wants to grow plants suitable only for biofuel (they previously were farming their own food – but on government land).

Further into India where Wheat is grown, and they have a water crisis, ground water contains more salt the deeper they dig, and they’ve taken on debt way beyond their means to get water for their crops which is bearly usable anyway.

The documentary was a good watch, but I found it to rehash much of what is already known, food production relies on Oil, the output is proportional to land size available, the yield a result of water quality and farming procedure.

They did touch on the fact that as the world’s population continue to grows, more farming land is needed to continue consumption of grains, vegetables and fruit in quantities it is today.

They even managed to include the “Climate Change” buzzword as a possible cause of a future food crisis.

They touched on how prices will increase because of shortages of land, oil, water and food (as the demand for food grows).

What they did not touch on is how the impact on use of ‘mass’ farming techniques deployed widely today, are impacting the yields of tomorrow. A farmer who poisons his crops to control pests is in many respects reducing his future yield as many of the pesticides used remain in the soil for years on end.

The soil is in effect destroyed, and needs repair by use of fertiliser to artificially bring the soil to it’s food growing quality, the trouble with anything that is artificial is it’s never, ever, a full reproduction of the original. The fertilisers won’t ever be able to restore the original soil to it’s condition.

So, the farmer faces a reduction in yield, minor as it may be, it is a reduction.

With yield reducing, and demand increasing, it’s very easy to see that food prices will rise ever higher. That is, unless more yield is magically produced from the same amount of land, or demand is reduced.

The solution will be in releasing more farming land of course, for with more land, you will be able to produce more food, and with more food you’ll satisfy more demand thereby keeping prices in line with.. well, oil price increases for our farming practices require it.

Now, this demand trend continues to rise with population increases and population density, for people need fuel, and fuel for humans comes from food.

We have a finite amount of land that needs to be used for many purposes, housing, commercial, industrial and farming.

The current farming practice cannot be sustained – it is unsustainable. Water quality will continue to reduce in India and they cannot take on more debt when they’ve already taken on unsustainable levels, Land is finite – adding more for farming will not solve the issue.

Food needs a new source – one which reduces the consumption of finite resources to produce and transport.

Removing pesticide and fertiliser usage is a good idea too.

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Rain Rain Go Away

Items on the list of things to take care of involve the garden out the back – I need to move our passionfruit to the back fence, the small garden bed they are in was never supposed to be permanent, they are taking off with shoots and these need to be on a trellis.

It was all planned to be moved this weekend, but there is rain, so that’s not happening today.

Then, I need to get the car ready for rego, which is simply getting it up on the ramps and checking for rust, leaks and making sure it’s running fine. It makes sense to get it a full fluid change too, so I’ve got everything ready, but Thursday my back and neck begin to act up (an ongoing issue), leaving me thinking it won’t get better. I was going to do it anyway – a little pain is nothing to worry about.

But, the rain, I’d have to have everything getting wet whilst changing out the fluids and that’s just not a good idea. So the car is going to have to wait til either during the week or next weekend (when it is actually due for rego).

I’ve also got to get the back wheel off and figure out what’s the noise that’s happening under compression of the back wheels – someone I spoke with today suggested the shocks or springs. Needs to be looked at, I should have looked at it after the incident but it’s just not been too much of an issue (just a noise really).

Then today I think about the brake lights and figure we could probably fix them (the bottom set work, just not the top). The spoiler light has been disabled too (just like the ABS system – what is it with our brake setup..).

I can’t do anything about our Chicken situation either (the people we visited today have really good growing tomatoes and I think the chook leavings are really what is responsible, they didn’t feed them up – but they do have a pest issue with tomatoes just like we did).

The rainwater tanks aren’t performing too well either, which makes things worse as I should have fixed the tank behind the shed months ago (it’s just not filling up for some reason).

Rain Rain, Go Away. My weekend.

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Data capture works well

I rebuilt the initial circuit I had used for the ALDL port on the car to a far more simpler design – this had solved the issue of Idle RPM showing up as several thousand. The data is spot on now!

Today, I got some information on how many questions I could ask in 1 second, this is needed so that I don’t overlap seconds of information – I read online that the OBD-II cars (ours is not one), are generally providing information in the area of 7 – 12 updates each second (this limits how many items you can query, 7 updates a second could be 7 speed updates, or 7 RPM requests, or 3 RPM, 3 Speed).

I found 100 requests takes 1618ms to complete, 1618ms divide 100 gives 16.1ms each request, and 1000 (ms = 1 second), divide by 16.1 = 62 requests each second. A lot of data.

My intention is to have function modes, e.g. we don’t want to ask for stored error codes every second, neither will I care what the air temperature is, but RPM, Injector pulses will matter.

So, if I break it up into different function modes – “error scanning mode”, “fuel monitoring”, “performance monitoring” – etc, these will mean the requests per second will likely be very few, we don’t want to be making excessive workload for the ECU either!

I couldn’t get the speed data from the ECU, I’ve seen reports a 1998 model or higher is where this is available from ECU, I could get it from the ABS ECU though.

Now, where did the relays for the ABS system go – our car doesn’t have them, and I didn’t take them out.

So, the next option to get speed information (the original idea here wasn’t ever fuel economy monitoring, merely, data logging of speed, brakes, and perhaps video). To get speed,  I can count the pulses that are output – this is available, nice and handy on pin 11 of the ALDL connector in my car.

Unfortunately, it’s now Sunday night, so I can’t test how many pulses make up one km, so that’ll have to be something I do another day – maybe tomorrow.

I’m still waiting on an LCD display for it too, taking it’s sweet time to get here, so the laptop has to come along for the ride.

The other idea to have was – I came across some RF transmitters some time ago for a Hot Water monitoring setup (still not completed, must be by winter!) – the RF transmitters can be used to send the collected data wirelessly to my server at home when we are at home (by using some sort of heartbeat method when stopped).

This would work good, but I need to get some more wireless transmitters. Unfortunately, one of the two I got found itself attached to 12V DC in the car when I first started this project – loose 12V pin caught the chip on the module.

I then considered where the LCD display for it could sit. Below the CD player would be pretty cramped, and not be easily visible for purposes of monitoring whilst moving. So, I could run the cable (I’ll have to make this too), from the ALDL port, using sticky clips to hold the cable out of the way, to just in front of the drivers speaker – this would make it easily visible, not distract, and the cable clips would ensure the cable stays out of the way.

I also need to think about what to enclose the lot in. Perspex maybe..

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Car Data Logging

In a previous post, “A new idea“, I was contemplating the benefits of logging various information from the car.

I’ve since done some checks to see what would be possible, and after many hours of smacking my head, and bringing back results from Google from 2003, I’ve been able to put a circuit together that successfully communicates with the ECU.

Today, we successfully asked it for Engine Speed and Battery Voltage levels and received legible answers almost all the time (there was the odd Idle at 6000RPM, unexplained).

With this new leap, I will put together the rest of the information I can gather (I’m now also interested in the O2 sensor information, a good measure of vehicle performance / fuel efficiency).

I’m lucky in many ways here, the engine in our Hyundai Sonata is a Mitsubishi 4G63, which is one of the DSM “Diamond Star Motors” motor, which has wide amounts of information on ECU hacks (yes, hacks, changing rev limiter values, fuel cutoff removal, fuel map changes).

I’m not looking that far just yet, merely to gather data relating to speed, brakes, and then engine performance data, and finally DTC fault codes for fault tracking purposes.

If you asked me last year what I was doing with the car, I’d have said getting rid of it inside of 3 months. I don’t think I will now. I think the kids need more time to destroy it’s interior with dried milk product, chocolate, ice cream, shoes, and the like damaging the interior fabric. The exterior has a few marks now too – oh, and there is also the Bunnings carpark incident with the dent in the side of thr

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The Status Quo Trap?

I’ve been thinking lately about well, the future, and what that holds.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a working crystal ball (and I don’t know anyone with one), however, it is always going to be something to consider – where are we going to be in a few years time.

At the moment, I hope to have finished paying down sufficient amounts of the mortgage to a state where we can add the necessary third bedroom, and finish off what would be the long term plan for our house.

The planning always changes though – always. The granny flat out the back could easily be extended to, and we’d have that as a second living area – something an architect contact I have insisted was a necessity.

Back to the topic though, the random thought that was the subject “The Status Quo Trap” – I don’t know if I do or do not want to be doing the same thing, day in, day out until we reach some desired objective (mortgage paid off).

The trap would be where one would be caught up in the ‘norm’ that they find themselves unable to adapt should the future force a change. I think I would liken this to some of the people I’ve met in my younger years.

Thinking on that for a minute, I do realise humans are indeed adaptable to the changing world – basic survival instincts and the like.

Perhaps the trap is simply the outcome of having the same set circumstances for so long, that they accept that as normal.

This can be seen perhaps more so in my mother, more than anyone, who readily adapted so much to receiving government disability payments, she thinks they are a basic right. And then gets that for my brother and sister – who are certainly able.  She’s been on government payments so long, that any suggestion that there could be better is just unrealistic.

But I think back to my younger years, and well, I never saw kids at a younger age, I did somehow envision paying cash for property *yes, cash – my own money – but that was never going to happen!

Maybe that’s where the expression “Live life one day at a time” comes from – take each challenge that presents itself. And perhaps don’t aim to ‘better’ the present.

This has ties to sustainability too. If the situation we have at the moment, i.e. the ‘status quo’, is not ‘made better’, our world, regardless how it is perceived, is continually being abused and won’t ever recover.

The trouble with the ‘status quo’ is, because everything works, there’s no incentive to make it better, even if X has Y flaws.

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A new idea…

I’ve just thought of something useful for once.

Purposing an arduino to maintain logs of speed, brake pedal (on / off), camera facing front, camera facing rear with 150 degree (or higher) viewing angle.

What this can be used for is two fold.

We see a lot of stupid things locally, it’s likely emphasised with the Sydney and Queenslanders on holidays here, we see no indicators changing lanes, tailgating, mobile phone usage…

It’d make for a good YouTube channel I think.

The other purpose is reviewing driving, i.e. recently I had stopped at a stop sign, and started to proceed after stopping and looking. My partner in her usual ‘stop, stop, stop’ manner, said Stop. As I was taking off.

I noted a car pulling out and turning, so I can’t know how I missed that – reviewing the video would have helped.

There was also another carpark incident last year, where we proceeded and someone hit the drivers side rear – I still have no real idea how that happened, I did and still do suspect someone parking illegally, which meant I still proceeded without having a deep enough look – but only video footage would show that clearly.

The other purpose, in the event an accident happened, for example, someone rear ending us, we’d have their plate on camera, and the state of their head (on the phone for example), recorded.

Two SD cards recording the data means one copy to the police, one for my own purposes.

The setup, couldn’t cost a great deal with 170 degree wide angle cameras on ebay going for about 15 a peice. I’d mount one at the dash, facing forward, and one at the rear, facing well, backward.

The data from the speedometer is accessible via the dash, and brake via the brake lights, which are tied up to the brake pedals. The indicators can be also checked from the lights on the indicator panel, and using unity buffers, can ensure they don’t interfere with their operation whilst gathering the necessary data (no different to a multimeter).

The car stereo can provide the necessary on / off functionality so it’s only on when it should be, off otherwise (i.e. parked).

Needs a bit more thought before diving into it, but it sounds like it’d be useful.

I might even add a GPS chip in too, to log location from satelitte.

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Checking and fixing belt tension

After I changed the alternator belt some time back, a squeal had redeveloped.

This was likely due to the tension backing off after it had worn in, so a short while ago, I tried to fix it by tightening it further, but unfortunately, guessing the tension was a hit and miss effort.

I got it to a point where there was a squeal for a few minutes at start up, and this would disappear during driving, so stuck with that.

The support bolt for the alternator also had sheered edges on it, so I got a replacement over the weekend.

Today, I got it up on the ramps, got two thin pieces of timber, placed one across the belt, supported on the pulleys, making sure there were no sharp edges to damage the belt of course.

Then, I took the second piece with it’s smooth edge, and pushed against the belt until it wasn’t moving – this was intersected with the piece I had running across the belt, so that I could see how far the belt would deflect with the small piece pushing against the belt.

Then, I carefully held both pieces together, and got a ruler and measured the spot – it was at 16mm – therefore too loose.

So I tried tightening it as I did previously, by trying to pull the alternator down whilst tightening the bolt – but this would only give me 15 – 16mm.

The workshop manual for my Hyundai 1997 Sonata found free (after registering) here. This stated 6mm deflection for new belts, and 12mm for older belts, with adjustment required after a new belt has worn in.

I removed the air intake assembly, this allowed my partner to push some force from above down on it, whilst I tightened up the bolt underneath.

I then checked tension – 12mm! Perfect.

Put the air intake assembly back on, made sure both bolts were tight, and then started up – sweet, silence, no squeal perfect.

Took it for a run up the street (incase it squealed under load) – no squeal!

Perfect! Very happy with the result, I should have got the ruler and timber pieces out sooner.

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pH fixed – crops formed

Back in November, I was doubting the success of our vegie garden, the plants seemed to be growing, but no food was to be seen – we had plenty of healthy plants with no food.

The cabbage was attacked by the White Cabbage Butterfly, and the caterpillars ate several of them too far back such that they did not recover.

One lone soldier remained, and put out a lot of growth, but this continued to be eaten through inadequate action on controlling the problem – the cabbage still has new growth, but still eaten by caterpillars.

The tomato vines have tomatoes growing on them, a lot, as I expected. However, the tomatoes have thus far been eaten by something, we’ve lost 2 I think, that went red, and had been eaten.

There’s still a heap of fruit out there, but if there’s no action taken on whatever is eating them, there will undoubtedly be more eaten tomatoes. The problem is we don’t even know what is eating them.

Then we have the Zucchini plant – there was 5 or so to start with, but they got crowded by one very dominant plant – and that’s the one that remains – we’ve had several Zucchini’s from it and it’s a realisation of just how big those can become. Picture a store brought pineapple, it’s got roughly the same diameter as one. It’s huge.

The cucumber plants have got 4 cucumbers on them, and they seem to be behaving. Our lettuce plants is also showing new growth and they look a lot better.

The carrots are showing orange tops, but they don’t seem to have grown long, the problem seems to be they were not thinned out, as should be done, when they are seeded close together this causes them to twist, and that prevents ‘normal’ size carrots. Baby carrots, but none the less carrots – and a lesson learnt, thin them out next time around. We have two watermelons popping up – but that’s the crop I could care less about.

The fruit trees have some fruit on them at their very early age, and the lemon tree, whilst has no fruit is shooting up more growth.

We’ve also had our first strawberry, but the crops are thin because it’s got ‘runners’ from it, which form new plants, this allows for more strawberry plants, and next time around we’ll cut off the runners to allow the plants to fruit better – we now have 7 strawberry plants after only buying just two.

The fix to the problems was to do with pH, the soil was always testing at 7.5, one night I was cruising through a book we borrowed from the library and noted most of the fruiting plants had pH levels in the 5 to 6 range – so we went and got some ‘sulfur’. which reduces pH.

We haven’t yet tested the pH again yet – will do so today after we remove the carrots and get some more Zucchini’s, fix up the cabbage so the caterpillars can’t eat them, and give the tomato vines a bit more support by adding another stake.

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How to rot a tree stump?

After having our tree chopped down, I wanted to get rid of the stump, but paying nearly $600 for that isn’t an option right now, so I hunted out alternatives.

Nitrogen and water are the best from what options we do have (soaking in kerosene being a very close second). So, we have the cow manure (very rich in nitrogen), and we have water – about 1500L of it in the rainwater tanks.

Today, I drilled out numerous holes in the stump and the larger roots, more of a random layout than the planned ‘cubing’ of peices to make attacking with an axe manageable, but oh well.

After drilling the holes, I soaked the area with water to make it a near swamp, once done, cow manure was applied liberally to the stump and root surrounds. Once complete, more water was added.

A tarp applied to the top of the area, and some of the tree branches and some rocks used to weigh it down, hold it in place.Watch Brothers (2015) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

When the sun comes up tomorrow and hits that, it should have a good amount of rotting going on in the stump, and late afternoon, add more water to keep the swamp a ‘swamp’, and the stump should suffer from a lot of rot in some sort of time frame (I want weeks instead of months).

Will have to keep at it to get the desired level land though!

Our chickens (“Schnitzel, Roast, Roll and Satay”) are going to have to wait some more, the stump is in the way of the planned chicken run.

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Don’t screw with the alternator

What a pain in the arse waste of time that was.

I had set to go about replacing the remaining 3 mounts, and the alternator, and power steering belts today.

I began with the engine mount, it seemed to be the worst to do, as well, it would get in the way changing over the power steering belt, so I could knock that off at the same time.

Car on ramps, jack holding weight of engine, off comes engine mount (a bit of force needed).

Undo the support bolt on alternator, knock it forward, V belt comes off crankshaft, and alternator. Looks in good condition, put it aside for emergencies.

Remove the power steering pump support bolt – whoops, we need to remove the plastic air intake moulding for that, struggle with the clip and awkward positioning, but the plastic moves.  Next, remove power steering support bolt, stop – need to remove the two bolts holding it, into the other end. So, I place the socket on, start twisting it off, and the bolt snaps off. Fantastic. Next bolt, set ratchet to spin in right direction (sigh), undo bolt just enough, knock pump forward, belt is off! Hooray.

Put new power steering belt on, ensure it fits in grooves correctly, and push some full weight down on the pump to apply tension to belt. Great, do up the support bolt and pump bolt (the other was already done on account of the head of it snapping off).

Install new alternator belt, make sure it fits snugly, and apply enough force that the belt resists a bit of human hand force. Tighten up. Great.

Install new engine mount, tighten up bolts, jack up just a tad to line it up better, repeat and drop / raise enough, and the mount goes on. Great!

Reinstall air intake moulding (what a crap of a job it is). Crank car over, watch for belts snapping. Belts don’t snap. Nice. Car makes exceedingly loud squeals. Not so nice.

Remove alternator support bolt slightly, knock it forward, pull back down on it, do it up again. Still squeals.

Ahh @#$# it, time for some lunch I think. Down goes hood, away goes socket set, jack, and ramps.

Have lunch, sit and think about it some more, back out to the car – car up on ramps, alternator bolt released a little, tension readjusted, tighten up bolt. Crank over, still squeals. Try and identify which one squeals, so I turn the steering wheel hard left and hard right, the sound changes slightly, but persists.

Readjust power steering belt, remove the air intake moulding again (what a crap job that is, a struggle to move it out of the way for a single bolt). Move the pump back, and then full force down on it, bolt back in, reinstall air intake, try and see for squeal. It remains. Maybe we have too much force – remove power steering tension altogether perhaps. Remove plastic moulding for air intake. Set belt with as little tension as possible (so it could slip off or be chewed at if it wanted to), reinstall air intake plastic moulding – it’s getting easier this time, just don’t do up the bolt on it!

Turn it over, it still squeals. Rinse and repeat, and alternate between power steering belt and alternator,  to try and find cause. Not found.

Get ready to give up, then I noticed a bolt at the top, which controls the tension – something I earlier last week thought about not changing, as I wanted to leave same tension on. The bolt was loose, strange, I must have taken that off a little before and not noted it.

Anyway, undo it a little more, and push down on alternator, tighten bolt up – viola, the car works without squeals.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Take it for a drive up and down the road, to test the engine mount isn’t going to collapse, check the belts don’t slip under a usual work load – they don’t. Alls well again.

I could have saved so much time if I did just tighten that bolt, a lot of time. Hours. What a pain.

Next weekend, I might have time to do the transmission mount, but that means removing the air intake and air filter, a right pain. They really couldn’t have wedged that in the car any more than they have – seriously wedged in. Taking out just the air filter, requires some serious twisting and bending of hoses. And that’s just getting the old one out.

The worst part of the ‘fixes’ isn’t actually the errors in the work, that’s easy, the worst part is the concrete, it’s not nice on the back.

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A Christmas Present!

Initially, I had an idea to make a RC Chopper for our oldest to fly around, it wouldn’t take a lot, as I have wireless receivers and an Arduino from our Solar Hot Water monitoring setup that I’m now rethinking as I can’t seem to get it’s power under control (the batteries last 3 – 4 days now).

Then, an MSN message came on Friday.

“Do you think you can make something?” (seriously, what kind of message is that to send me.. of course I can make something).

So I ignore it, continue working, and after work, the idea is demonstrated to me in detail – make a custom play ‘kitchen’ for the kids.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

I ummed and pondered about it, responded that several regulations that are there to protect kids toys would get in the way, considered the ‘screw the regulations’ type response, and said OK anyway.

The Kitchen for the kids to play with will make for some fun, the kitchen will contain a stove top, wall oven, fridge, freezer, microwave, pantry – everything including the kitchen sink.

It’ll get made with some MDF cut to size, and painted up with some small tubs of paint, given the chance to dry in the shed, and both kids will be more than overjoyed come christmas morning!

Maybe I need to rethink the design on this some more, chuck in some LED lights for the cooktop, and a small piezo buzzer for the microwave to give off the hum they make with switches built into the hinges, to make it seem more lifelike.

Speaking of making things, there was a toy ad on TV today, showing a kid cutting up some sort of foam / fake wood. What is with that? Get the kid some parental supervision, non structural pine off cuts, a saw, some nails, a hammer and build with REAL wood!

The Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, and fake wood shall remain on the display stands, we’ve got board games and some other toys for the oldest, blocks and some dolls for the youngest, and the Kitchen for them both!

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