The Eggstractor Homemade Autonomous Egg Collector

One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday.  Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.

Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem. 

Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches. 

 

Making Pear Wine

We have a large winter pear tree. Every year the pears fall onto the floor. By mid December they are almost ripe. Some of them have started to rot and the Jay birds have started to peck at them.  Winter pears are strange because if you pick them off the tree earlier in the year and store them inside they don’t go ripe. They seem to prefer being outside or they need some frost before they ripen.  About 3 years ago I decided to try and use my pear  windfall. After a while surfing on internet I found that the Roman soldiers who were stationed in Britain had no access to grapes so they bought pear trees with them and made pear wine. Roman soldiers tended to drink a litre of wine each day so they must have needed a good source of wine.

My pear wine recipe is very simple and could be very useful in a dystopian  post technological age in latitudes where there is no grapes but it is still possible to get sugar.
I suppose the Romans’ pear wine must have been pear beer because they had no access to processed sugar so the alcohol by volume must have been about 5%. (maybe they used honey)

Ingredients:
 A treeload of ripe winter pears maybe 100kg
Some yeast. I used Young’s Dried Active Yeast.
Lots of sugar.
Boiling water.
Sodium Metabisulphate

Equipment:
200 litre plastic barrel
Plastic trugs
Knives

Method:
Cutting up pears

Pick the pears discarding pears which are totally rotten.
Wash the pears in cold water to get rid of old leaves and other debris.
Cut the pears up into chunks. Maybe 1.5cm chunks. Discard all the really nasty rotten bits but keep the over ripe areas. I did not discard the cores. 

Throw the cut up pears into Sodium Metabisulphate solution and let them get covered in the solution.

Three years ago I did not use any chemicals and everything was fine but last year the whole batch of 150 litres turned to vinegar. I don’t like using chemicals but as I am using semi-rotten fruit hopefully it will stop it turning to vinegar. I got the pears out of the metabisulphate trug with my hands and put they into an intermediate trug before throwing them into the plastic barrel. 

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

The next thing to do it to pour boiling water into the plastic barrel as fast as possible. We use every available kettle and put big pans on the wood stove.  The idea is that the heat of the boing water will kill any unwanted bacteria. I don’t know how hot we managed to get the must but it was too hot to put a hand in, maybe 60C. 

Heating up water

Heating up water on the wood stove

The next thing to do is to put in a lot of sugar. I put in 22kg. It can be disolved in the water in the pans but it seems to disolve OK in the actual plastic barrel.

I used a refractometer and the sugar reading says that this has an alcohol potential of 5%.

I want the wine to be about 13.5% so I use my Chapitalisation Calculator

This is what it tells me

“You have 150 litres of must
At the moment your must has a potential alcohol volume of 5 %
You would like your finished wine to be 13.5 % alcohol.

To do that you have to add 24.23 kilos of sugar to the must.
BTW: That is 53.42 pounds

If fermentation goes OK I will add about 20KG of sugar after a couple of weeks.

It is very difficult to be scientific about the amount of alcohol because the pears are in chunks not in solution. Supposedly they have a sugar content which would be about 5% alcohol. The last bit of sugar is added bit by bit.

The yeast and Pectolase is added the following day one the liquid has cooled down.

Maybe I had beginner’s  luck with my pear wine 3 years ago. It was wonderful. The pears shrivelled and the wine cleared on its own.  All I had to was siphon it off in April.

I served it chilled to 11C and it was really tasty.

 

 

 

 

How to cork a wine bottle using a hand corker.

This is my first ever instructional video explaining  How to cork a wine bottle.

bottle corker

The bottle corker

Why do we bottle  wine

Putting wine into a  bottle with a cork is an excellent way of keeping the wine until you want to drink it. When wine is stored it should only have a very small amount of oxygen available. Uncorking  a bottle of wine is a pleasant ritual which many prefer to using a screwtop bottle. The corks seen in the video are number 9 corks and are they are the most common. They should last 10 years with no problem.

When to bottle wine
The simple anwser is when no more gasses will be created which could cause the bottle to explode. Wine made from Grapes is picked in the Autumn. The initial very vigourous primary fermentation when most of the sugar is converted into alcohol, lasts about 10 days. The fertmentation then slows down and then many people say that the wine should be kept in a cool place for the  first winter.  The cold temperature seems to help the wine clear. The wine is just about drinkable by March of the following year and by May it should taste good. However, wine is not generally bottled until at least one year after it was first  picked because  sometimes  more subtle types of fermentation can occur such as maleoactic fermentation. This could create carbon dioxide which may cause the bottle to explode. Other types of wine such as champagne and fizzy wine can be bottled when fermentation is still active but they need high pressure bottles and a special cork. It is possible to stop a wine fermenting when it is still sweet by adding Potassium Sorbate which stop the yeast reproducing. However we never put chemicals of any kind into our wine.

 
Cork crusher

Where the cork is crushed.

The video below explains how we put cork into the bottles. For a very small producer like ourselves, a small floor mounted hand corker is enough for our needs. In reality we store a lot of our wine in recycled 5 litre plastic containers. However, a bottle of wine with a cork and a label is a pleasant object so we always bottle some to give away as gifts and to add a sense of occasion when sitting around the table etc. By the way the sphincter like crusher in the centre is called an iris. It dilates and reatracts a bit like the iris in an eye.

Facts about our Vineyard

This is just an information sheet to contain the information about our vineyard for internal use.

grape_picking

2013
We start by planting 75 petit verdot on the Era field. There are also a few plants made from cuttings which are white grapes.

2014
Planted 250 new vines on the new field. Half of them Cabernet Sauvignan the other half Bobal.
We did make some wine but it was a mix of our own and some grapes from over the hill.

2015
We made about 40 litres of wine.
The plants were pruned correctly for the first time in October.

2016
We planted 125 Tempranillo and 125 Cabernet Sauvignon

An audit in June by Daniel the Dressing Gown Man states:
There are 660 growing vines.
About 50 did not make it to October.

Harvest:

The harvest happened on the 21st September.
4 crates from new field
3 crates from the Era field
3 crates from down below.
It took about 2 hours with 6 people to do the harvest.

Made about 100 litres of grape must.
About 12% alcohol potential on the light meter.

Pressing:
The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Jordan, Pierre, Jane and Caroline the Belgian girl. The wine was quite dry. I estimate that there were about 65 litres.

Notes: Many of the new vines planted were ripped out by foxes searching for insects.
Maybe the goatshit, leaf mold and earth mix should be aged longer before use.

2017
100 bobal ordered. Arrival date 1st April.
 We planted 1 new line and the rest were used to replace dead vines

This time we used the new petrol auger and it took most of the work out of preparing the holes. In August we put the top wires on all the lines.

Harvest:
The team was Sam, Heather, Alex (skateboarder), Phil Kiwi, Nitsan

The harvest happened on the 15th September.
35 crates in total.
18 crates from new field
11 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 6 people to do the top fields
6 crates from down below this took about 25 minutes

Made about 450 litres of grape must.
About 15% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Sam, Heather She-Wolf,  Phil Dynes. The time before pressing was much shorter and wine was still sweet. I estimate that there were about 280 litres.

2018
We planted 200 bobal in the top half of the Era field .
This was done by Aida and me after Christmas.
It is the first time I have planted the vines early.
All of the holes were done with the petrol auger.

Aida counted all the vines and there were 813.

Harvest:
The team was Jen (australian) Amber kiwi, James.

The harvest happened on the 9th October.
30 crates in total.
21 crates from new field
9 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 4 people to do the new field
4 crates from down below.
These had powdery mildew so they were dried for sultanas rather than wine.

Made about 390 litres of grape must.
About 14% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 9th of November with just Sarah and I.  I estimate that there were about 260 litres.

The harvest was less than the previous year because the table grapes below the house got a bad case of Powdery Mildew

Chemicals for powdery mildew. Contact fungicides work well as preventatives and for early, mild infections, notably potassium bicarbonate compounds and horticultural and neem oils.  Phytotoxicity can be a problem with some plants, however, so care should be used before broad scale application.  Systemic fungicides include triflumizole (e.g., Terraguard), myclobutanil (e.g., Eagle), the strobilurin group (e.g., Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), which is very prone to inducing resistance in pathogens, and thiophanates (e.g., Cleary’s 3336, OHP 6672).

Chemicals for downy mildew. Contact protectants such as mancozeb (e.g., Protect) and copper, alternated or mixed with systemics like mefenoxam (e.g., Subdue MAXX) applied as a drench at the beginning of the season and sprays of dimethomorph (e.g., Stature DM), phosphonates (Aliette), and strobilurins (e.g., Fenstop, Compass O, Insignia, Heritage), have shown good control.  Effectiveness of any given chemical depends on the particular downy mildew pathogen present; what works well for one may give minimal control for others.  Tank mixes of more than one of these agents in a rotation can be useful.

 

2019

Harvest:

The team was Pud, Julie, Rael, Maggie, Helen Tinsel, Sarah

The harvest happened on the 7th September
About 15 crates in total.
It took about 2 and a half  hours. 

The low harvest was maybe due to the fact that we did no irrigation.
The powdery mildew was very successfully controlled. 

We had no tractor until around may so the weed clearance was done with the weed wacker in May.

About 13% alcohol potential on the light meter.

 

 

 

When does grid parity happen in the south of Spain?

A view of grid parity from someone who has been living off grid for 10 years.
The date of writing this post is 8th July 2017.

What is Grid Parity?

Grid parity  occurs when an alternative energy source can generate power at the same  price as buying power from the electricity grid. Or to put it another way: After installing an alternative energy system how long will it take the before the cost of installation will be the same as if the house had been connected to an electric company. This is called pay back time.

The Quick Answer

In case you just want a quick answer in my opinion it would take 8 and a half years.
Below I will explain how I calculated this figure.

Calculations

Our annual electricty usage is 2005 kWh per year.
This is in our  house which is not connected to the grid.
The average occupation is about 4 people.
We do not use electrity for heating, cooking or AC.
The biggest electricty use we have is the swimming pool pump.
We live a fairy normal life and we have a freezer and  fridges.
We very occasionally have to use a generator when there is a prolonged cloudy spell but the cost is minimal. Maybe 20 euros per year.

We calculate the costs of the electric company by looking at the electricty bill we have for another house. The name of the company is Iberdrola.

We use the figure of 3000 watts as the maximum amount of power that can be used at any one time. (la potencia) The figure we use for the price of electrity is 0.16 euros per  kWh. There are other expenses such as electricty tax (impuesto), equipment hire (alquiler) and VAT (IVA).

The price per year of electricity from the GRID.

The cost if we bought the electricty from the grid would be 598 euros per year.
224 for additional costs and 374 euros for the electricity.

How much our solar electrical installation would cost.
To replicate our system you would need
1250 watts of panels – 840 euros 
50 amp combined inverter charge controller 750 euros
12 x 2v Lead Acid batteries 800 amp hours. 3500 euros.

Total cost 5090 euros

Total installation cost divided by GRID cost is 8.5

So time to parity is 8.5 years

Conclusion:
There are lots of other variables such as battery life and efficiency of the batterys which we have not considered here but 8.5 years  is a good basic figure and it feels about right..  

If I lived in a city would I cut off from the grid?
No probably not. If you have solar power  you always have to be a bit conscious of the time of day and if there is sun or not. The battery technology is the most important factor.  Batterys like the TESLA powerwall sound very promising and could provide about the bare minimum which would satisfy most people. I imagine that within 10-15 years in the future we will see a green energy revolution with excellent power storage and the  demise of the internal combustion engine.

The best thing about this situation for me is that we have been here for 10 years so our electricty is now effectively free. I just hope that our existing batterys can hold out long enough so that there are very good possibilities are available when the time comes to replace them.  

Aparently  450g  of carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere per Kwh for electricty bought from the grid.

According to these figures we have not caused 9 metric tons of C02 to be released into the atmosphere.