25 November 2009

Plumbing Again

First it was the Header Tank.

The Header Tank lives in the roof of the house, and provides cold water to the kitchen and Geyser by gravity feed. Some gunk had found its way into the ball valve that regulates the water inlet. Oh Joy! An hour spent hacking about in the (cooking hot!) ceiling above the main bedroom, doubled over in the cramped, dark, hot and humid ceiling-space, gammy knee complaining all the while about the weird angles it is forced to whilst supporting the weight of Me, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid putting a foot through the ceiling-panels, dismantling and rebuilding fiddly gunky bits. Did I mention it was hot and foetid up there?

Two days later, upon awakening, I stumbled downstairs, mumbled my way to the kettle to start my accustomed Morning Herb Tea (fresh Yarrow, Rosemary and Spearmint, if you must know!) But... no blue light from the kettle! Ugh. A glance at the microwave clock confirmed: No power. Given current circumstances with the State Owned Electricity Kakistopoly I leapt to the obvious conclusion -- a power outage. But no! For once Eskom were off the hook; our Earth Leakage tripswitch had quite perfectly done its job.

Having some days previous noticed a tiny leak from the house water-pump, I immediately and correctly fingered the culprit. Clearly, some water had found its way into the pump electronics or motor. I had already investigated the various cost options for replacing the motor and/or pressure dome and or other associated bits and pieces. But, judging by the evidence, Herr Murphy's Famous Law had beaten me in our race to A Fix Or Bust.

Upon dismantling the various pressure switches, gauges, inlet, outlets and domes, I discovered that the problems were Multiple. First was the Pressure Dome. For mysterious reasons it fills up with water outsidethe rubber bladder that makes it all work. This is impossible. Actually, there is one way this can logicaly happen, and that's if the bladder has a leak. Then it is Bicycle (Puncture) Repair Man to the rescue. Only sometimes, there is no detectable leak. In which case the water, in defiance of all laws of Classical Physics, is somehow osmosing1 itself through the very fabric of the rubber bladder. Must be something Quantum.

Easily fixed, at any rate. Take the bladder out of the dome, dry everything out. Replace. Repressurise the dome -- which is what makes the whole pressure-switch system work in the first place -- and we're done. Unfortunately, along the way, I discovered the source of the original -- tiny!very tiny! -- leak. The base-plate of the dome had corroded and developed a pinprick-sized hole. A quick trip into town to the farm-supply place confirmed my most jaded guess: Buying a replacement base-plate is not an option. One is forced to buy an entire new pressure dome (including bladder and base-plate) despite the fact that only one piece is faulty. All Hail the Kakistopoly at work!

Nothing daunted, I returned home and got to work with some epoxy resin, and patched the corrosion. Not for the first time, either.

Along the way of fixing the pump and its associated machinery, I decided to replace a couple of the fittings which were badly corroded. Not too surprising after 14 years, really, but I have to ask, who the hell makes water fitting with Steel instead of Brass? I mean, what were they thinking? Had their brains been surgically removed? Or had they simply never heard of Rust? (The lower-left picture tells the story...)

Put all back together, along with a couple of other minor fixes -- like replacing the electrical cable from the motor to the switch, which the manufacturers decided to supply just exactly 5mm too short to allow the entire structure to be assembled in such a way that makes it impossible for water to leak onto the pump electrics, no matter what. All Hail to the Kakistopoly! This involved dismantling the little box housing the electrics and then searching for some of those little round metal wire-connector goodies, which involved...

You get the idea. It is my belief that any single job, if allowed, is fractally composed of smaller jobs that need doing first, each of which is, in turn composed of yet smaller, but conceptually identical (but different in their details and implementation) jobs,... and so ad infinitum.

Stuck the whole business back together. "Throw the Switch, Igor!"

"Yeth, Marthter!"


Tripped the damn Earth Leakage again, didn't I?

Choices. Life is full of choices. I could move back to Cape Town, get a well-paid job as a software designer or architect, live in a little flat in Kloof Nek or Bantry Bay, and be able to afford hiring Someone Else to take care of this sort of shit, or... I could spend the next couple of hours dismantling the motor to see whether I can dry it out and make it work again, with no assurance that this will work, nor any experience of doing anything vaguely like it before.

Anyway, a solid tap with the hammer got the motor into pieces, and 10 minutes with a hair-dryer had it all nicely dried out. Would it ever work again?

"Throw the Switch, Igor!"

"Yeth, Marthter!"

Click. Hummmmmmmm...

R1200 -- the cost of a new pump -- saved. And only a morning spent. Until the next time.

[1] Is there actually such a word?

21 November 2009

Abbreviated Update

A miscellany. Life has had too much happening to have blogged it all in detail. I may get around to telling some of it in more detail, but, like all other Good Intentions, don't hold your breath.

Last week was a trip down to Cape Town to chat with all the microbreweries between here and there, gathering some basic data for a business idea I have. Along the way was a most interesting visit to the SA Barley Breeding Institute! Many thanks to the kind folk there who were so generous with their time!

CT was a bunch of hectic running around sourcing various materials for the brewery, culminating in a get-together with the SouthYeasters Brew Club on Wednesday evening. My good friend Franz kindly gave me several new yeast strains, including a couple of Belgian abbey strains, so I'm looking forward to brewing some Belgian Ales in a little while.

Cut the trip a little short and returned home on Thursday, as the OB Dog was obviously very seriously ill. And I am very glad we did. We spent a last few hours with her on the vet's lawn last Friday. That evening I had to take the very sad decision to let her go... she was suffering from an inoperable liver tumour that was causing her all sort of grievous problems. We're still very sad about losing her... tears come to my eyes at the oddest moments. I've had many special dogs in my life, but none as special as OB. She taught me things about what it is to be a wolf/dog, and also things about what it is to be a human. The truest friend anyone could have had, we were extremely fortunate to know OB -- most people will never experience that privilege!

This week has been a bunch of gardening, still trying to get beds cleared, Tomatoes transplanted, squashes in,... I've left the bloody Fennels too long in the seedtray... endless litany of weeding and clearing.

Culled a couple of roosters on Wednesday morning, only to have someone leave the chicken-house door unsecured that evening, whereupon the Ratel (or maybe a Gennet or a Lynx) got in that night. Rudely awakened at about 10.30 to the squawking and screeching of dying chickens... the bastard took out 2 roosters and 3 hens, which amounts to half the flock. So I got to spend Thursday morning plucking and cleaning Still More Chickens. Too late did I read Hedgewizard's Really Good Idea... Would have saved me a bunch of work, I can tell you! The only consolation is that I was planning to cull those two roosters anyway.

Also started on making another batch of malt. 2kg of Barley soaking, half of which I'll make into ordinary Crystal Malt, the other half will get roasted much longer in an attempt to make something like a Special B Malt in preparation for those Belgian Ales. I'm thinking of brewing a special Belgian style beer to be named for OB. (She was a Belgian Shepherd.)

And the drought goes on. It's even too hot to brew!

05 November 2009

Drought Finally Official

 Finally our region has been officially declared a Drought Disaster Area, and the Provincial Gov is pumping in emergency funds for "emergency projects such as drilling of boreholes/treatment of effluent water etc."

A couple of weeks ago the local Muni announced that they're going to be constructing a desalinisation works for  Sedgefield. They're even trying to get emergency permission to delay parts of the Environmental Impact Assessment processes that are legally required... despite the fact that brine from a desalinisation works is classed as toxic waste... despite that fact that Eskom has no spare electricity generation capacity to power such energy-intensive boondoggles projects...in the same breath as local pols are mouthing empty bullshit about reducing our Carbon Footprint...

Something is very smelly in the District of Eden! (And it's not just the illegal-but-ignored below-the-water-table septic tanks in Sedgefield.) Apart from totally abdicating responsibility for allowing the development of housing estates in Knysna and Sedgefield far in excess of the actual carrying capacity of our catchment, local officials seem to studiously avoid looking at much simpler, lower tech, more sustainable and cheaper options.

Like requiring rainwater catchment for every house...
Like requiring in-house water to be gravity fed and not pressure-driven (thus reducing by about a factor of 4 the flow rate from taps)...

Despite the drought our rainwater tanks are all full, even while our dams are pretty empty.

Even when the boys were both still living at home we never, ever used as much as 5000litres in a month. And yes, we do wash ourselves and wash our clothes. Pretty regularly. Perhaps when you know and can easilymonitor your stored water levels being conscious about water usage comes more easily.

I shudder to think what the situation will look like in another few weeks when Peak Tourist Season hits...

Update: Forgot to add that the Provincial Gov rates this as the worst drought in 100 to 150 years. Didn't know they were capable of keeping records from that long ago! :-O

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