and then a Provenḉal inspired egg plant parmigiana for dinner, all from our abundant summer garden. BBQ’d egg plant and zucchini simmered in Janine’s fresh tomato sugo, made with lots of chilli in this batch and then finished under the grill with a bit of parmigano grated on top.
Before my summer ‘time-off’ ends this week, I need to get a few more jobs done.
The washing machine had started to leak a few drips of water from somewhere underneath. I moved it out and took the back off, but couldn’t see anywhere that it was leaking. It was just such a small leak. I checked all the hoses as best I could with a torch, laying on my back, but no insights were gained in this or any other way. I put it all back together and waited for the leak to get worse, so that I could find it. Now, 6 months on, it’s worse and a small trickle of water is emanating from somewhere underneath now. I manoeuvre it out from its snug position. It’s a heavy thing. Removing the front and back panels now reveals that the leak is coming from the water pump and not a perished hose, as I had suspected. This machine is 23 years old now and has proven to be very reliable. As a front loader, it uses very little water, good choice for us here on tank water. We can also use our own hot water, which we source from the wood stove or the solar panels, and which we have plenty of.
The water pump is a sealed plastic unit, so I can’t see the leak directly, but it appears to be from where the steel shaft passes through the plastic casing. I don’t think that I can do much about this very easily, so will enquire about a new replacement part. 23 years is a good life span for a plastic pump, so I’m not too unhappy. As long as the cost isn’t too excessive. I’ll just buy a new one and swap it over.
I replace all the panels and put it all back together. It will last a few more weeks the way it is, while I see about the cost of a new part.
The next job on my long list of repairs and maintenance is the wood fired stove. Purchased 40 years ago 2nd hand. It has served us well. I have done all sorts of minor repairs on it over the years to keep it going. This time it’s the cast iron heat shield in the fire box that protects the oven from the direct heat of the wood fire. It has corroded through and split apart in the middle.
There is nothing that I can do with it. It’s done a tremendous job over the years, but now its life is over. I don’t have any access to cast iron, and this is a custom made part. The Northburn company was already out of business when we bought this stove back in the seventies. We couldn’t get part then, so there is no chance now. But this isn’t a problem. I think that I can make something up that will do the job.
I decide to try using one of my home made, refractory kiln shelves. I’m sure that it won’t last 40 years, but it may last a few more before it cracks. Ceramics are very brittle and are sensitive to heat shock, and there is plenty of heat shock in a wood fired stove firebox.
The refractory mix that I have developed to make my kiln shelves is based on very good quality kaolin and high fired refractory grog that we made by recycling our high alumina wadding after each stoneware firing. This sort of material will last as long as any ceramic. But ceramic slabs like this don’t like to be heated unevenly from one edge only. So I anticipate that this will be just a stop-gap measure.
It may not work for very long, but it will probably work for a while. I have another 30 or 40 of these old home made kiln shelves that I no longer use, so if it lasts a year. I have a life time supply already in stock. If it doesn’t work. I might try a sheet of mild or even stainless steel in stead. Mild steel will rust through fairly quickly, ceramics will probably crack and shatter, Stainless, apart from being very expensive, expands and contracts excessively, so will be hard to locate with sufficient leeway to get it to fit snuggly and yet stay securely fixed.
So I decide to go with what I’ve got and give it a go. All I have to loose is an hours work.
I have the challenge of adapting the flat slab of ceramic to the same profile as the original cast plate. It is fairly easy to cut the edge to resemble the original, but the locating lug for the other ceramic brick that is interlocked with it needs some thought. I decide to bolt on a steel lug using a recessed stainless steel bolt.
It all goes to plan and the new heat shield is soon back in place. The original top brick is totally shattered and spalled away, so I decide that the easiest solution is to cast a new top edge out of castable refractory. Simply because I just happen to have a small amount in a bag in the barn that was left over from a repair job for someone else a while ago. It doesn’t take long to cast the new section in-situ, all we have to do now is wait for it to set and then dry. A week should do it.
It is important to wear rubber gloves when handling castable cement. The cement is highly alkaline when freshly mixed with water, so it is extremely caustic on the hands. The essential ingrediant being quick lime. Once set however, it is no longer caustic and safe to touch.
Not a bad day, all in all. We reward ourselves with our Australian version of Japanese pan fried okonomiyaki cabbage pancake, sans flour, just using egg.
It’s a gas stove delight while our wood burning stove is out of action.
Another day, another problem solved, This is self-reliance.
Best wishes from the frugality twins.