Current projects

In progress

Most energy in the last couple of years (aside from not very exciting jobs in the house that need doing) has been on  It came from frustration that we were loosing track of the recipes we were cooking, which were any good, cooking notes and the like.  And, it has been fun to do some coding which I haven’t done for maybe 20 years, and it was frustrating me that I couldn’t do it any longer.

Still at the musing stage

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.

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).

Building modern life from scratch

This one does sound rather all encompassing, and it could be.  The aim being to see if one could make a relatively modern artifact life a steam engine or a metal clock entirely from raw materials, including building all tools required along the way.  More information here.  Suspect it will take quite a few years of on and off work.  Someone is doing something similar here.


Library (Oct 09)

We are decorating a large room at the back of the house, and are planning to make part of it into a proper library, both because Sa and I have always wanted a library that has roof-high shelves with a ladder, and because there are simply far too many books to handle any other way (getting rid of a material amount is not a valid option, as any bibliophile will I’m sure support). Currently, we have a basic idea (very high shelves, back half of the room, movable ladder to access to shelves), and after many many months of indecision have made some progress of how to decorate the rest of the room.  Sketch shown here.  Eventual choice shown here.

Electric gates (July 09)

I confess that several years after we replaced the gates, it rather escapes me why we bought a gate opener kit.  But, we did, and it has sat in the garage, glaring at me for some while, so I decided it was time to get it installed.  It took three days in total, and it’s nice to now have the gates open open their own rather than having to duck out of the car each time.  The surprising thing to me is that whilst doing it I wondered whether the time spent would ever be recouped,  but, if one spends a couple of minutes a day opening and closing the gates, it only takes 2 years to cover the time taken. Or, putting it another way, since I bought the kit we’ve spent twice as long opening and closing the gates as the time I eventually spent putting the openers in.

Shower room (Mar 09)

We have a large shower room, and ever since we bought the house we noted that the flow through the drain is too slow. We got a chance to look at the drain, to discover that it is 6 metres long, with no fall at all!  Having played around with the drain orientation, the solution was simple – move the shower across the room.  All it took was a new water feed, new drain, new electrical feed, moving the door in the room, making a new loo surround, rebuilding part of the wall and ceiling, plastering/decorating.  Work of moments 🙂  As a bonus with the door moved, we had space to put in a sauna (sits six apparently, though they would have to be both small and very very friendly).

Hydroponic greenhouse (Apr 08)

A couple of years ago we visited a hydroponic centre whilst on a trip to see Chris Rix in Inchnadamph Lodge in the north of Scotland. We were pretty impressed and thought to might be fun to do at home. We experimented with a plastic greenhouse, and got good enough results to want to do it properly, so have now put up a 10×6 proper greenhouse.

I’ve just finished the flood and drain hydroponic system – made slightly more complex since there is no mains power in the greenhouse. We could put mains in, but we have a couple of old 12v batteries from a mobility scooter that ought to be big enough to power the requisite pumps for months, so it feels more fun to see if we can use them. I’ve adapted a two-channel digital mains timer to provide the control (see here), and have a small boating bilge pump to shunt the water around.

Invisible sub-woofer (Nov 07)

After several years, I finally decided that I absolutely didn’t like the look of our old sub-woofer (a Celestion S10), and also suspected that it was fairly third-rate in terms of sound. That started a simple search for a better looking replacement, and (though I don’t recall quite why), I decided to try and hide it altogether. This seemed to fit with an Infinite Baffle speaker (see here for more details) which is also supposed to give the cleanest sound with the lowest range. More info on progress on this thread on the AV Forum, the final construction blog post here, and calibration here.  Flat response to 13Hz – wow!

Renewing the central heating system (Aug 07)

When we bought the house it had a boiler out of the ark. Well, the late 70’s anyway. The time had come for it to be replaced, and that provided a perfect opportunity to redesign the system to be more functional, with split heating zones.  Lots of work to identify the best system – Interestingly, after much work to look at using solar heating, the economics just didn’t stack up well. Using a heat pump looks much much more promising, but not easy to retrofit in our house.  So, we went with a single large condensing boiler, with five different heating zones, and it works a treat.

Patio and deck (Jul 07)

Our front garden has been a mess since we bought the house in 2003. We have made slow progress in between times, and particularly in removing a vast amount of Ground Elder. We were determined to finish it off properly, with a nice patio and some where to sit. I don’t really recall why I thought it was a good idea to do it myself since it is neither fun nor something I can do better than an average tradesman (my normal criteria). Sa thinks it’s because I’m tight, and she may be right ;-). Anyway, after endless delays due to rain it’s all done, and looks pretty good (we think). We’ve also now done the deck that goes on the end. We chose Ipe (a hardwood), and it looks pretty superb, though it was a lot of effort over what a pine deck would have taken.  And, a year on, it all stills looks great.

Replacing ballustrades with stainless and glass ones designed like a suspension bridge (June 06)

This post says it all one this one.  This was part of a larger remodelling of our hall to make it much more light and airy by taking out a small gallery that went around the top, but didn’t form any useful purpose.

2 Responses to Current projects

  1. Pingback: New year, new projects « Greg Pyes blog

  2. olivia MacInnes says:

    We have had fun watching your old film about the tent fire which is now the top tent fire film hit on youtube.

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