New Solar PV and Battery Installed

We have had our solar power installation upgraded from 3,000 watts to 6,000 watts of panels. The old panels are now 10 years old and have worked perfectly for the decade and still produce to their specification at midday. We were told to expect a 10% drop in output over the first decade of their life and then a steady drop-off in output for the next 25 years. There doesn’t seem to be any noticeable decline as yet. So we are really happy with them.

At the time we paid a little bit extra for them, to get Australian made PV panels, made in Sydney at that time. These have been faultless with 0% failure so far. This is not to say that any other panel wouldn’t be just as good. I don’t know, so I can’t say. However, it is our intension to support Australian industries and employ Australians wherever we can, so we paid the small extra premium for locally made product and that has worked out well for us so far.

On this principal, we decided to buy Australian made panels again. As I understand it, there is only one tier-one PV panel manufacturer here. ‘Tindo’ in Adelaide. They are still just 10% more expensive than the imported Chinese PV units, so I had no hesitation in choosing to employ Australians and support Australian industry once again. It isn’t worth saving $600 to put Australians out of work.


Over the decade the efficiency of the PV has increased significantly. The new panels are almost twice as efficient as the older ones, so the new installation is much smaller. 12 PV panels instead of 18.

We now have 6 kW of PV and we decided to buy a battery to store our own power and use it directly ourselves. Now that the solar feed-in tariff is so low and the price of green power is increasing, it makes sense for us to make the move. In fact we decided to do all this 13 months ago. It has taken Tesla over a year to supply the battery. We ordered the new Tesla PowerWall 2 as soon as it was announced. Tesla is good at advertising and self-promoting, but a bit slow to deliver. Anyway, it’s here now. It’s installed and working just as it should. The battery filled up on the first sunny day and has been powering the house since then. Once the battery fills up in the morning, it then starts to sell the excess back to the grid. Even today, when it is overcast and raining and the PV output is way down, the battery has filled up by early afternoon and we are now exporting again.



We bought our original PV array 10 years ago to extract ourselves from the coal economy, which we did. Now we are able to be independent from the grid. The new latest version of the PowerWall 2, has a built-in function to isolate us from the grid when it goes down. In the past the system shut down when the grid went down. Now we are able to stand alone and continue to run everything directly from the panels during the day, whenever there is sunlight, and from the battery at night. If there is a blackout, we won’t know about it.

We have enough power now to charge an electric car – at some stage in the future.




The Last Week of Summer

Here we are in the last week of summer already. We have survived the 44oC day and months of desiccating extended dry weather. Today it is raining – at last! It’s such a relief to hear the rain gently tapping on the tin roof of our house. I wish that it were hammering, but I’m grateful for this small amount of precipitation. It would be nice to see some water flow into the dam again. it’s been almost 12 months since the last time we collected water in the dam.

This hot weather that we have been having has brought on the nuts. The hazel nuts are all harvested now. We pick up a basket full every couple of days. Hazels are ripe when they fall off. So it’s just a matter of raking them up. They flower in clusters of one, twos and threes, sometimes even in quads, but that is less common.

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After each meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, we sit at the kitchen table and shell and sort the viable nuts from the empty ones. This is done by dropping them on the kitchen table and seeing if they bounce or not, they are them saved or discarded into separate baskets. Full nuts don’t bounce. They just plonk down on the table with a thud. We test a few every now and then to confirm the bounce prediction and its usually correct. Empty nuts bounce all over the table. Only a couple of percent of the nuts are infertile.

The almonds are also ready just about now. Almonds split open their outer shell while still on the tree. So we know when they are ripe and ready to pick. We have to peel off the outer leathery ‘fruit’ coating and then crack the inner shell to get to the nut inside. The inner nut is nearly always quite damp, even in this very hot and dry weather. We spread them out on the kitchen floor in front of the big window, so that  they can dry out a little and become brittle, then we can crack them open with our fingers. This is quite time-consuming and luckily the almond crop follows on after the hazels have finished. We can only cope with one thing at a time.

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The almonds are not all off the tree. We have harvested 10 of the dozen trees. Almonds don’t like to get too wet when they are ripening. They have a tendency to go mouldy. We have 6 different varieties and the last two trees are a late variety. They may be OK if this rain is followed by another week of hot dry weather.

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The nut harvest is closely followed by the grape vintage. Both the shiraz and the isabellas are both ripe now. Yesterday we had a very big day picking, de-steming juicing, sterilizing and bottling about half the crop. We were both very tired by the end of the day, but now we have the best part of our years supply of dark grape juice in the pantry. So, although we are tired, we are satisfied and rewarded by our efforts. Not just this days work, but the 40 years prior effort, planning and preparation that have made this possible. We have managed to harvest and process and preserve half of the crop so far, about 9 baskets. Even if the weather stays manky now for the next week, we can’t lose. If its wet, we get the water and the garden thrives, if its dry, we’ll be out there harvesting the last of the crops.

My tank is half full.


Lucie Thorne House Concert

We held another of our house concerts again on Saturday night. This time with Lucie Thorne. We have a couple of attempts to get her here in the past year, and this time all the stars were in alignment.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon/evening/night. Lucie is a very talented singer songwriter. We have all of her CD’s and enjoy listening to them a lot. So it is really nice to be able to have her here in our house for a few hours.

We particularly enjoyed our private performance when Lucie did her sound check.

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and everybody else enjoyed the full performance, later that night.

Lucie has developed her own individual style, a soft breathy vocal style and such a gentle lyrical guitar sound that she has developed from her hollow body electric guitar, but turned down to the lowest possible level, so that the sound just gently washes over you with a soft reverb effect. She doesn’t really strum the strings, but emotes through her fingers in keeping with the vocal line of the songs. It so individual and idiosyncratic. She is a totally engaging performer.  The music critic from the age described her music as “some of the most simple and beautiful songs you will hear” The Age.

We consider ourselves so lucky to be able to host her here in our house.


We have already invited her to come back again next year.

Check out her links below for more information on Lucie and her music.

The Dam is Dry

The big dam is dry. We haven’t had significant rain heavy enough to flow water into the dam since March. The small dam is all but empty. I’m trying to save a small amount of water for firefighting – just in case.


This week I started watering the garden using the rain water stored in our water tanks. The weather continues very hot and dry in the mid thirties. The fruit tress in the orchards are really suffering. There isn’t enough water for every plant. The pot plants and vegetables get priority. We are starting to eat corn form the second planting of three lots of sweet corn. We have started picking from the second planting of zucchinis and tomatoes, even the third planting of cucumbers. It may be hot and dry, but we still eat well with carrots and beetroot still doing well.


The new zucchini plants are just coming into their own now and flowering profusly. it’s time again for stuffed zucchini flowers. A 50/50 mix of ricotta and finely diced feta for texture, mixed with a few olives, capers, artichoke hearts and an anchovy, all finely diced.


These are pan fried in just a hint of olive oil, just to stop them sticking and covered to allow them to sweat out and steam in their own juices. It’s a lovely seasonal meal, as the flowers are only profuse for the first month of the plants 3 month productive life. All the old plants that we planted as seeds in September were down to just one small zucchini per day, when these Xmas planted seeds started producing this week.

The old zucchinis are now on the compost and caulis, broccoli and cabbages are now planted in their place.


Summer Intern

This time last year we had a summer intern called Lauge from Denmark. He was terrific. A great cook and so helpful with everything that we had to do. He wanted to experience all the environmentally sustainable ceramics activities that we engage with here, from vegetable gardening through to rock crushing and making clays as well as kiln building and rock glazes.

This year we have Catherine and her husband HansPeter from Switzerland. We spend 5 weeks together and get a lot done. She particularly wants to learn  all about my kiln building techniques. She helps me build 3 different kilns over the summer break. We work on finishing kiln number 301 and then we build 2 new prototypes for the portable, dual fuel, little wood fired kilns.

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These smaller monocoque framed little kilns are so much easier to move around and line. It’s such a pleasant experience compared to having to rotate the bigger heavy kilns.

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As well as ceramics, Catherine is a trained blacksmith in Switzerland. The combination of a few metal working skills along with ceramics is an advantage in this ceramic kiln building workshop.

Roasted capsicums and home made pizza for the musicians

We have hosted the local musicians in our home after the monthly ‘session’ in the village hall. I decide to make pizzas.

I roast a few red capsicums and peel them after sweating them off in a plastic bag for 20 mins. Then peel them and dress them with a little oil and vinegar.

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As the weather continues to be very hot. We are invited to our neighbours home for the afternoon/evening for a swim in the pool and a BBQ. Such is summer. We are very lucky to have such generous neighbours.

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After all this fun and good times, it’s back to work in the kiln factory. I still have to finish one order from last year and then I have 10 kilns ordered for this new year. I’m actually trying to cut down and retire from so much kiln work but these are orders and they mean guaranteed income.

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This is kiln number 301 and hopefully my last of the big heavy ones. My amazing and highly skilled friend Warren and I pose for a final photo in this last kiln. From now on I will be concentrating on the small light-weight portable dual fuel wood fired kilns.