New year, new projects

I love doing projects, especially ones that are somewhat novel.  But, as you can see from my projects page, 2009 was a bit of a fallow year.  The only material thing we did was to sort out the back room, and put some big bookcases in it … but there was nothing novel in that.  All for good reasons – we had a number of jobs that needed finishing.  The back room was one of them.  There were also electric gate openers finally got put in the ground, after ‘only’ 3+ years in a box in the garage.  And innumerable worthy tasks that consumed time, but did nothing for the soul.  The only minor dalliance was to experiment with auto-watering (more on that below).

But, the time has come to maintain the soul not the house, and for that I need more fanciful and novel projects .. but thinking of things to do has never been hard, so here’s a few things we intend to play with this year :-

Micro-irrigation control

Over the last couple of years I’ve experimented with auto-watering systems.  Some like soaker hose and hydroponic systems have worked pretty well.  But, micro-irrigation has been less successful – I have found it very hard to control the flow so that all plants have the right amount of water as the temperature of the days has varied.  So, I plan to look at more sophisticated control for irrigation, with the goal being that each end-point has to be controlled independently and automatically (so allowing for plant growth and varying days), and cheaply, so allowing many end-points without prohibitive costs.  If that allows for better control of houseplants as well then so much the better.

Geodesic sunroom and pond

We have a triangular back garden that is a mix of lawn and brambles.  As long as  we’ve had the house we’ve thought of how we want to landscape it, but never really settled on a plan.  However, what we really wanted was a pond and somewhere to sit near it – we did it on a small scale in a previous house and loved it.  Our latest plan is to use a geodesic style glasshouse (see here for examples) that overlaps a pond, with the largest part of the pond outside, but part also inside, so allowing more tropical water plants and being able to sit inside even if the weather is poor.  And, a back wall that is planted as well, and acts as a thermal store.  Still an awful lot of thinking to do before we break ground though.

Spiral staircase to the deck

Our house is configured with the living rooms upstairs and bedrooms downstairs.  We have a lovely deck off the lounge, but the one downside is that you have to go right through the house to get to it, so in the summer it gets used less than it would otherwise.  There really isn’t enough room for a set of outside stairs, but we’ve think we could put a spiral staircase up, and that somehow feels cooler anyway!  This isn’t a hugely novel project, but we just haven’t got round to it yet – well, this year I am determined!

Impossible waterfall

This has been a thought knocking around for simply ages.  The visual illusion of a running tap hanging in midair is fairly well known (see here if you don’t know what I mean).  I rather fancy making a derivative version for the garden or maybe in the house – a small rocky ‘island’, with ferns planted on it, with three small waterfalls coming off it, floating in mid air with no visible means of support.  We might put this inside the sunroom outlined above

Water bath for Sous Vide cooking

I am intrigued by the relatively new cooking method known as sous vide (means without air).  It is based on putting food in vacum sealed bags, and then cooking them in a water bath at very precise temperatures – like a grown up boil-in-the-bag really.  Vacum sealed bagging also seems like a really good way of storing stuff in the fridge or freezer with less spoiling, and no freezer burn.  The only trouble is that to do sous vide properly you need a very very accurate water bath – like 0.5 Centigrade accurate.  And, if you go to a cooking appliance supplier you won;t get a lot of change from a thousand quid … but the technology involved isn’t complex, so I think I might have a go at building my own precision water bath, probably from a deep fat fryer – which might also allow much better temperature control for deep fat frying as well (it can be relatively healthy as long as the cooking is very precise).


There are more ideas as well, but I suspect that that will keep me going for a few months!

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