Sunday, 12 June 2011


As an ex-computer professional I should be good at working on computers. Unfortunately, I'm not. If I have a blank document in front of me my mind also goes blank. Luckily the word program on my phone doesn't have the same effect on me, so that is how I write my blog posts before emailing them to myself which I then open on the little laptop we have with us.

Unfortunately, the battery in my phone isn't very good, and I have lost several unfinished posts as I forgot to save the document before the battery runs out of energy. So for more updates about what we have been up to look at

Hopefully I will not have this problem anymore as we have found out why our 12V to 240V inverter wouldn't work from our spare van battery, which charges perfectly well from our solar panel, and runs our light without any problems.

A cigar socket adaptor was wired to work from the solar regulator, rather than a straight connection to the battery. This has resulted in two blown fuses in the inverter and two devices permanently broken. I found this out whilst we had a few days off at The Sustainability Centre near Petersfield, just before V bought a small book on 12V electrics and just after I had bought a new Leisure Battery as I thought our old van battery must have been the problem!

Having read most of the book I was able to offer real help to our host at Easterwood as we plugged our 40W panel into their battery and could check as the voltage increased slowly over a couple of days. A 12V battery does not stay at 12V all the time. As you put energy in the voltage increases and as you take energy out the voltage decreases. A fully charged battery waiting to be used will be around 12.8V, you can charge it as high as 13.8 but any higher produces Hydrogen gas and can destroy the battery. A battery will give out electricity till it gets below 11V but doing this will permanently reduce the total capacity.

It was nice to tell Dave that his battery was still good as the voltage/stored energy was increasing slowly. A battery that fills up quickly doesn't have much total capacity so a slow increase for a given energy input is good. My phone used to charge fully in about three hours, but using the same charger it now takes about one hour. Not very good!

Easterwood is mainly overstood Sweet Chestnut coppice, the locals just call it Chestnut but as the only Chestnut trees I have seen in Yorkshire are Horse Chestnuts I still call it Sweet Chestnut!

I spent most of our week there felling these trees and looking for straight sections to make a shed. I counted twenty five rings in the trees and most coppice rotations work on a 7-8 year cycle which maximises habitat diversity and useful wood production, so the woodland had been neglected for a long time.

It was really enjoyable felling and cross-cutting the chestnut, but I couldn't believe how hard the work was. I know we want some woodland when we settle down, but now I know I don't want to fell trees fulltime. I do need to add another couple of tools to my hoard though. I decided against a felling lever before we set off but having felled trees without one and with one, the difference in ease of felling is amazing. The other thing I am going to get are some timber tongs, after giving myself a taste of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from lifting large diameter timber by hand and catching the nerves in my wrists. The tongs pincer onto the log with a nice straight hand grip which makes moving roundwood much easier.

As I am really getting the hang of solar electrics the van batteries will be getting extra charging from the solar panel now, rather than running the engine as they lose power. Also the 12V electricity book explains how to change cordless power tools with useless batteries into corded 12V tools. Old Black and Decker Quatro, here I come!

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