2003? For heaven's sake, it's only January 5th!
That's correct. And I've started already!
And it's all thanks to John Bannen in the USA who runs a mail-order renewable energy supply company in California.
With my two wind turbines, I'm just a little worried that I'm going to be overloading my batteries, regardless of controller, and it's a shame to waste the excess electricity. So I was thinking of a dump load to stick it in.
So a quick 'phone call to the States, and hey presto, ten days later, came two immersion heater elements (one to run off each turbine) - 12-volt!. Now I'm not expecting big things from them, but the idea of having some sort of free hot water is very tempting indeed!
Meantime I was back on the farm at Easter for a couple of weeks. The bad news was that, due to the heavy frost so late in the Spring, many of the fruit trees I planted in the autumn of 2002 didn't survive. That was really disappointing (and expensive) news but I don't suppose it can be helped. They were mostly the "fragile" ones, like the cherry, apricot, and plum trees too!
The local hypermarket in Montlucon though, still had a few pear trees left at half price (like £1.00 instead of £2.00!) so I chose a few that had grown leaves, and quickly planted them, to see what would happen. I reckon the next lot I plant, I'll have to dig in a lot deeper to protect the roots.
Meantime, after a ruthless bit of "forest clearance" in the garden, I put up the plastic greenhouse I'd bought, and planted the tomato plants I'd been growing from seed in the apartment in Brussels.
I finally built my outdoor "shower cubicle" consisting of a camping shower pack, and a solar heat exchanger using a refrigerator heat exchanger.
The shower pack works quite well but I'm disappointed with the heat exchanger and can see several places where I could have designed it better. I'm going to redesign it in the summer and incorporate in it the 12-volt immersion heater elements for when I get the new wind turbines up on the roof.
I had a play with the wind turbines but they're beasts of machines and I can't get enough height just messing about. Some serious engineering work is needed for this sort of thing!
At least - that was what I wrote in the Spring. What happened in the summer was that my health problem worsened. So much so, in fact, that it led to a spell of a couple of months in hospital.
When they finally let me out of hospital, I went back to the farm but was in no fit state to carry on working. Consequently I had to return to Brussels to convalesce.
Not before my neighbour Claude and I succeeded in getting one of the wind turbines up on the roof, however.
Here's a photograph of the turbine, taken in December 2003 when I was down on the farm for a couple of days just before Christmas, in the snow.
See more photos from 2003 in the photo gallery.