Sunday, 16 December 2018

Marvelous Microbes

My favorite power food is Greek yoghurt and honey.
Misty May-Treanor

After heating up some ordinary supermarket milk (boosted with two heaped dessert spoonfuls of powdered milk) to just pre-boiling, we rapidly cool it down in an ice bath to room temperature and then inoculate it with a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt from the last batch. Pop it in the EasyYo container for just over 12 hours, cool in the fridge and voila - surprisingly good yoghurt. Cheap and easy(yo), our favourite combination!

OK so we dug in to test it, making a heart shaped dent!
We've been to a couple of TFS run sessions lately, just to find out what to do if a conflagration looms on the horizon. Conclusion? Run away!

The circle of learning
It seems strange sometimes to think about a big fire on the property - we've often had our fireplace in action right up to around Christmas, and sometimes back on again late January! Just today, after a marathon session mowing and then slashing in the paddocks, down came the rain to alleviate the heat and humidity. Thanks Tasmania - we like the cool stuff.

With Anthony and Kym both at home at the moment (well done holiday season), we are looking forward to completing many projects around the place - helped by our many visitors? Time will tell, and it would be nice if the weather co-operated. As Christmas looms we are looking forward to a full house and even fuller stomachs.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Let there be (better) light

“How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, His precepts!” 
Benjamin Franklin

Bunnings currently sells Solar Lights at $1 a pop, but they throw an insipid light and have a paltry 150 Mah NiMh battery that gives little joy hardly commensurate with the importance of the season. So we felt a little "pimp my light" session coming on, which happily coincides with great success on the joule thief front. A typical joule thief oscillates like mad, producing voltage that is suitable for an LED, in that it flickers so fast that the human observing is convinced it's a solid lamp. Our $20 oscilloscope reports a frequency of around 140KHz:

Crazy oscillations
So recently we've been wondering if we couldn't wring the last out of our batteries in a more productive manner. Obscure Russian web page to the rescue, and our reworked circuit has been tested and found wonderful for producing a solid DC current that is suitable for flickering LEDs (which contain a small IC). Indeed the exciting news is that we are able to sustainably power our favourite Attiny13 microcontroller, which has interesting possibilities for the future (watch this space).

So all is now in order for a retrofit of the Bunnings light - firstly, cut out the existing circuit and change out the anaemic 150 Mah battery with a more respectable 2100 Mah version. Then replace inadequate generic solar garden light circuitry with our modified version based on the QX5252 chip.

Out with the old, in with the new
Before you can say "stable DC current please" we have the new circuitry in it's old housing and ready for lashings of hot glue.

Not dodgy looking at all!
Finally we can close it all up and gaze upon a Christmas landing strip that Old Nick will be no doubt chuffed to visit come late December. Here is the new trace via the oscilloscope...

Stable as, Bro!
And if you are wondering what is the point of all this, here is the result before suturing as well as the view that Santa will get from above.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

A rose by any other name

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title."
Juliet channeling Bill Shakespeare (R&J Act II Sc II)

Sunday, 18 November 2018

One day a lovable eccentric, the next day a (loud) birden to my friends...

“Birds will always sing a song for those that they love.”
Anthony T. Hincks

A very loud bird has taken up residence in the tree on the southern side of our house. And when we say "loud" we mean the following:

We think it is a grey shrike-thrush (pictured), but really we have no idea - maybe it's a relative of big bird from Sesame Street!

The local birdsong, frogsong, etc is amazing - so many different species and such a wonderful backdrop in both colour and sound to our lives here.

Speaking of colour, here is Kym with a lovely bowl of new season strawberries straight from our garden, and also a wonderful vase filled with flowers reflecting the season.

Thanks Spring!
This weekend we hosted Peter from Canberra who, like most visitors, slept, ate, drank, laughed, conversed and ultimately left refreshed and reinvigorated for the daily challenges of life - thanks Peter we loved having you here.

Take care y'all and if you can identify the songmeister above, then please let us know.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Does a beer ship in the woods?

"Beer. It always seems like such a good idea at the time, doesn't it? What's worse is that beer seems like an even better idea after you've had some beer."
Steven Hall

The looming festive season and tonnes of thirsty travelers due on the doorstep has galvanised us into a fermentation frenzy. The bug was planted (pun intended) with a tilt at yoghurt making using the previous culture as a starter. Although that project has had limited success at this point, there was enough encouragement to prompt the great homebrew IPA experiment, helped along by many youtube videos, the odd online forum and the friendly folks at Country Brewers. So on Sunday we cracked open all the packets of goo and powder and plant extracts and popped them into an impressively professional looking bucket to get the following living brew.

It's the yeast we could do
Within a few hours the pot was bubbling away, filling the air with pungent hoppy goodness and making the rudest noises. We shifted it a few times to find the best spot, and it's now sitting in the bathroom, contentedly gurgling to itself. If all goes well we'll be bottling in a couple of weeks and then welcoming Santa with a nice frothy cold one about the time he does his Southernmost run.

Not to rest on our laurels, we then built a GBP from scratch. We have made ginger beer before, using the frightfully useful CWA cookbook and relying on wild yeasts found on sultanas. This time round we actually stumped up for some champagne yeast and even as we type the plant is happily churning away like some ginger infested lava lamp. In about a week we can bottle that and then a few days after it should be good to drink.

Years ago we solved the problem of exploding glass bottles by not using any glass bottles! Twenty four 600ml bottles of water from the supermarket is around $6. The water is used in the production stage and then the bottles are re-used by filling up with the ginger beer and sugar mix in preparation for in-bottle carbonation. If you squeeze the sides in when filling, the bottles expand quite safely and the resultant brew is quite refreshing (and this time around most likely alcoholic thanks to the commercial yeast).

Also on the weekend we gained another goat - Genie joined us for a bleating fest in the vain hope that the constant complaining might bring back our three wanderers who haven't been seen in these parts for about two months. Come back you obnoxious Capra aegagrus hircus, all is forgiven (almost - Anthony's ankle still hurts).

Genie in a rare moment when her mouth is closed