Sunday, 23 April 2017

Fig Tree Planter ...

We've a south-facing sun trap formed by the kitchen wall, garage extension, and the eastern boundary fence with our neighbours.

On this small area, we've astroturf laid down on top of the concrete and this is where we've placed our palm trees and other hardy 'exotics'.

To add to the Mediterranean flavour, we've decided to grow a fig tree and so I set about making a planter with an integral trellis.

After playing around with several designs, we decided which one we wanted to go with and then out came the cut-off saw and a batch of our hardwood slats.

Construction was quite straightforward.  We made the trellis fan first, the lower part of which also ties into the back wall of the planter.

forming the fan ...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Financial Planning - 2017 Annual Review

I've now been following our Grand Plan for four years, and here's the annual progress update on the anniversary date of 31 March 2017.

Firstly, the usual pair of graphs of Actuals v Targets :-


As usual, click on the images for a larger version.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Lawnmower Deck Repair ...

Late last week, I gave the lawns a first cut of the year.  It should have been done three or four weeks ago, the grass was long enough then and the weather not bad, but I hadn't managed to get around to it.

We've an old self-propelled petrol-engined mower, which makes the job very easy.   

It's lost its brand decals, but it probably came from one of the big DIY chains originally.  We'd bought it secondhand around six years ago, and in that time I've made several minor repairs including reconstructing the lever mechanism that controls the cut height and rebuilding the self-propel clutch, but generally it's been a great machine and starts first time every time even after standing unused over the winter months.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Investment Review - March 2017

Here's the spreadsheet summary for the combined portfolio as updated on 31 March 2017.

(click for a larger image)

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Making a Garden Drinks Table ...

There was an advert on eBay from a local joiners yard who were selling off 1,828 x 31 x 17 mm wooden slats (6' x 1.1/4" x 5/8"), in a mixture of soft and hardwoods, at only £2 for a batch of ten.

I drove down to the yard and the guy showed me racks upon racks holding thousands of these slats inside an old barn, all brand new.  Apparently, they used to use them for making 6' high fencing panels, but they now use a larger section and so these were all redundant.

He left me to my own devices to pull out what I wanted, and so I weeded out the softwood types of which they weren't many anyway, and came away with 100 unused hardwood slats for just £20.   I'd only wanted ten before I'd actually seen them, but it was too good an opportunity to miss !

I'd wanted a few hardwood slats to make a small garden table, using an old cast-iron parasol base.  I'd bought this cheap years ago, when I didn't really have a use for it in mind but I thought it would come in handy some day.  And today's the day...

I first drew up a basic design of a 600 x 600 mm table top, and cut the slats to size on the cut-off saw.  I sanded the ends and edges of each piece as I laid them out for assembly, and then used another two lengths of slats to screw to the others, to form the table top.   These two runners are attached from underneath, so there are no screwheads visible from the top.   After I'd formed a simple square, I marked off 150 mm chamfers at the four corners and cut them down by hand.

table top profile ...

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Rescuing an old Wheelbarrow ...

We inherited our garden wheelbarrow from the previous owners of the house - it looked ancient enough then and they obviously didn't even think it was worth taking with them to their new place - but it's served us very well for the last six years.

However, the steel body tray fell off recently when tipping garden waste - the tray's totally corroded around the four bolts which fix it to the tubular frame.

old steel tray totally buggered ....

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Solar Powered Greenhouse Ventilation ...

It can get very hot in our big greenhouse in the summer and we need to remember to leave the door propped fully-open if we're going to be away, or even just out for the afternoon, otherwise some plants can start to wilt as the temperature rises to the mid-40s celsius.

I therefore decided to build a passive ventilation system, i.e. one which works automatically and needs no intervention from us.   There are no opening windows in the greenhouse, so fitting a pair of extractor fans high up on the rear wall was the plan.  

There are already five low-level aluminium louvre vents provided along the front of the greenhouse from the time of its construction, through which fresh air can be drawn in as the hot air is expelled.

I suppose I could have used kitchen-type extractor fans powered from the mains supply, but I've four 108 Wp solar panels in the shed simply gathering dust at present.  

To first confirm that the solar option was feasible, I dug one panel out, gave it a wipe clean and hooked up a 24V dc fan to the panel connector.   Even on an overcast morning the fan started to run immediately, and checking with my multimeter showed that the load voltage of the panel under those conditions was 20-24V (open circuit was ~34V).

So I decided to refit one of the solar panels to the greenhouse, but this time to one side of the roof which will also form a covered porch over the door.  

I still had the multi-panel wooden frame from when I removed the panels, so I cut off one panel-sized section and used that as the basis for the construction.  It only took the addition of a couple of knee braces back to the greenhouse structure and a fresh coat of paint to finish it off.

panel support frame over the greenhouse door ...