Long time no blog post, sorry... I had a writers blockage

November 5, 2021

The regularity of my blog posts is gone for the past year. For reasons which even I do not can explain rationally, I just did not feel to write anything. One should not conclude that nothing has happened here, we are continuously busy with all sorts of things. But on an annual basis writing about picking the olives and carob beans is not something I find interesting enough, so recurring activities like these I will not address in my blog post every year, unless something interesting has come up. Which in fact is the case with the price of the carob beans as it's still going up every year. This year we received per kilo €1.15. Not surprisingly you see new carob trees being planted on many places.

No news is good news.
This accounts a bit for us, the fact that we have not posted anything means that the actual activities absorbed all our energy. It's a bit early perhaps to look back on 2021, but maybe I will not be writing another post in the remainder of this year, so let's evaluate the current year.

Solar panels and the energy transition on a household scale.
Our house is now running for 98% or so on our self generated energy through two arrays of solar panels (12 x 280W on the Bad House and 6 x 450W on the garage). The other houses and the workshop and Ans her glass studio are still relying on the electricity of the energy company Endesa - although we have 6 panels of 280W each on the terrace roof of the cottage which are directly connected to the water heater. I had some issues with the installation - mainly because of the badly translated manual of the inverter from Chinese to English - but everything went very smooth. The performance can be monitored through internet and right now I can see on my second monitor that I am generating 2.5kW of which 1.7kW is being consumed by our house and the rest is being stored in the batterypack , which consists of 6 high end lithium-ion batteries of 2.4kWh, all nicely stacked in a 19" cabinet. The consumption is now kind of in line with the generation, although it will be interesting to see how the this will be in the Winter period when the sun is lower.
The next solar project will be the biggest as I intend to cover most of the south side of the workshop with solar panels for the rest of the electricity needs. Therefor I will need a 3 phase inverter as we have many machines depending on this. The winner in highest electricity consumption is by far Ans her glass oven, which takes 8kW. At the moment Ans runs the oven during the night when electricity prices are low, but in the future it's better to run it when the sun is shining; the electricity will come almost directly from the solar panels. Before we can start placing the solar panels on the roof, we must remove most of the rooftiles and replace this for corrugated fiber-cement sheets. It's a big project and I want to do this when we have a suitable volunteer here as it's not a one-man project.

One year ago Ans started working with glass and make nice objects with it. She is still very busy with new creations and watching a lot of online videos to learn new techniques. If you want to see her work goto www.instagram.com/AnsGlassArt. She posts regularly on this. My role in this is creating everything she needs which is not made of glass, like a stand of wood, stone or metal.

In an earlier post I mentioned the making of 2 large tables for a friend of an acquaintance. Due my inexperience as a professional carpenter it took me much longer than it should, but this is learning it the hard way and I don't complain. The person I made the tables for works part time with an English interior designer and I was asked to make two trunk tables as bedside tables. I made these from a very thick almond tree trunk, which was given to me by a neighbor. The width of these trunk tables was around 60 cm, which is very thick for an almond tree. And the wood was relatively in good condition on the inside as many almond trees hollow out on the inside and maybe therefor die easily. But these two pieces of the trunk were quite ok, only one was hollowed out, but placing the hollow side did not make a difference for the actual table top and it weighs less. I was assisted with this job by Dan, an American volunteer who stayed here for a month.
A while later the interior designer - Samantha - bombarded me with as much as 30 different items for 3 fincas, ranging from simple shelves to huge outside tables, bedside tables, console tables and more. First I liked this very much, but everything I had done sofar within making furniture from wood was not stress related. And now Samantha mentioned 'deadlines' and this eventually made me decide not to do this, or at least, not do this all by myself. I was already introduced to a guy from Chili of around 30 years of age who had just rented a small workshop in an old shoe factory building here in Selva where he intended to start his work as a carpenter. When I was visiting him the first time his workshop was still completely empty, no workbench, no machines, nothing apart from some manual tools. I visited him again after Samantha came with all her new items and to my positive surprise the workshop was much better including some highly professional new machines like a bandsaw and a planer machine. He appreciated my possible work and since then I have involved him with all furniture Samantha wants.

Grapes, juice and wine
This year we had very little issues with the grapes and no mildew for the first time. I followed a regular schedule of spraying during the first months after the leaves started to grow using diluted sulfur. In general there were little mildew problems on the vineyards and I don't know if my tight spraying schedule was necessary, but I just wanted to do everything in my power to get good and healthy grapes as this would be the last year we would try to make wine if we would have huge mildew problems again. Although the bunches of the grapes were very good, the quantity of it was relatively little. The reason for this was the Winter pruning. We pruned the branches just after the very first bud for the next year and this is wrong. It needs to be pruned after the second or third bud as not always the branch growing from the first bud will bear fruit.
Good wine starts with a good grape, but we did not want to put all our eggs in one basket and decided to make grape juice of half of the quantity of grapes. The other halve we turned mainly in rose and around 15 liters of red wine. With rose the chance of issues is far less and you can bottle it sooner. The juice is magnificent, very sweet of course, but the fact that we know for 100% sure that nothing has been added to it, makes us enjoy this very much.

Bathroom, complete makeover
We never liked out bathroom at all, mainly because it contained a bath and we never like to be sitting in a bathtub. We rather like to stand under a hot hard beam of water pouring down on you in a shower. Besides this the bathroom was dated, the little shower surface was old and..... we discovered a leak of the incoming water. This leak was inside the wall to the outside and both inside and outside water was slowly leaking out. Leaks inside a wall are a nightmare as you have to quite some breaking before you get to it. What I feared happened when I finally started the work to fix the problem: one thing leads to another, so I decided to do a complete makeover of the whole bathroom when the wall was completely open, we found roots behind the tiles, under the bathtub was a lot of mold and the copper tubing was in a bad condition and needed to be completely replaced soon anyway. Volunteer Dan was still here and with his assistance we made good progress in a week time. All tubing and electricity was renewed, the bath went out, the new shower tubing was all inside the walls and we installed an oak bathroom table top with a large mirror. The end result can be rated as a 5-star hotel bathroom. Ans is happy and I am proud of having achieved this during the hot Summer months.

3D printing and modelling
I bought a Prusa 3D printer this year which I had to assemble completely by myself. This version was cheaper, but the printer contained also many parts which were in fact printed using a 3D printer. The manual of this product was super good (not from China, but from the Czech Republic) and I printed some samples which all went very well. The reason for buying this 3D printer was to make prototypes for the glass powder pen which I intend to develop for Ans. The software which I selected to make the models in is Autodesk Fusion 360. I also bought a powerful desktop computer for this software and everything has been setup to get started. Problem however is that I lack the time to do this due to all above mentioned projects. There is an American/Chinese young woman who would like to come here as a volunteer in February and start working on the 3D modelling as she has experience with Fusion 360. But if I want to start sooner I have to make hard decisions like: stop making tables and such. Of course... I could employ someone, but this will induce a stress factor as it would become too serious.

My last mini-project: making steel table legs
My friend Piet asked me if I could make 2 legs for a wooden tabletop he was working on. The steel to be used was rectangular steel tube of 6 x 4 cm, 2 mm thick. I took on this 'order' and decided to finally buy a decent metal bandsaw for this, so I could saw the tube exactly under an angle of 45 degrees. The saw arrived a few days later than expected, but it works super good and it's very accurate. I can even saw of 1 mm of material, like the 6 x 4 tube.
I did experience problems when welding the various sawed parts together. When checking the angles which should be 90 degrees, I discovered that it was 1 or 2 degrees of. I started welding with little dots to prevent the steel from warping, but even this did not really make a huge difference. After many experimenting I found out that you really have to clamp your work piece solid with clamps and not with magnets as even the strongest are to weak to prevent the warping.
I made everything according to a very clear design drawing and when I had painted the two legs with a primer I sent a photo to Piet, which he forwarded immediately to the person who ordered the table. Half hour later he responded to my Whatsapp message with the question if I was sure that I had used the correct measurements. I was dead sure, even after this concerned question. But when Piet came by the next day he pointed out on the design drawing where I had went wrong... and he was right. For 1 measurement I forgot to include the thickness of the steel tube (4 cm).
What to do? Start from scratch or adapt the current version, cut it open, insert another 4 cm on 4 places on the 2 legs. This was only possible if I cut the 2 legs in half first otherwise I could not reach all places where I had to apply the welds. I did not start from scratch, but used my new saw to take it apart.
All in all a lot of work, a lot of welding and cleaning of the welds with a grinder, but the end result is so good that you cannot see where I had cut it apart and my welding skills have greatly improved. By the way: I do want to have a welding table where you can fix your work piece. It saves tons of time.