Category Archives: General

Solar heating- re-using our mobile home!

Hello and welcome to the newsletter once again.

As always things have been ticking along and lots of things happening here- not least because of our current (and long term….) volunteer Tim, who is young fit and enthusiastic, and has helped move us swiftly through a long list of tasks to the point where we actually feel like we might be ‘on top’ of things for a while.

Amongst these projects has been the Solar Water Heating panels.

Initially my thoughts were to purchase aluminium clip on solar fins from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)- these I have used before in the several systems I have built. On looking however I found they were no longer for sale. We eventually settled on a plan- since we had recovered the aluminium sheeting from the outer of our mobile home we would manufacture our own clip fins…..

After a few trial goes, we settled on a jig that worked, and wearing ear defenders proceeded to hammer out the slots in the cut rectangles of aluminium sheeting. We used a 15mm steel bar (from a well known on line auction site….) and the jig from scraps of wood and angle steel.

We used a Header/Footer and riser layout for the pipework- 22mm for the main Head/Foot and from panels to the cylinder, 15mm for the risers which the fins clip to….

After soldering each of the four panels up, we installed the fins using silicone to fill the small gap between fin and pipe (silicone conducts heat better than air…). A slap on of matt black paint, and we moved to the installation.

As those who have read earlier posts on the house blog site may recall, the outdoor kitchen roof pitch was set to get the best average summer sun, and our intention was to mount the panels into the rafters of the roof. This inevitably meant removing the polycarbonate roofing sheets, and drilling holes in perfectly good rafters…. a window of good weather was needed and we were lucky it happened just as we were ready to install.

Tim installing the backing to a panel.

More soldering, lots of awkward ladder positions and messing about balancing on narrow bits of wood, and we had the panels in place. We backed them with more aluminium sheeting and insulated with the remains of our old futon mattress… hoarding things that ‘might be useful one day’ sometimes pays off!

The pipework to the cylinder was the next challenge- hindsight is a wonderful thing and it showed me that I should have left myself better access to the hot water cylinder- I had to cut a hole in the wall between Elowens’ room and the airing cupboard- messy and awkward, and has left me another thing to tidy up. Ah well!

Drilling through straw walls is interesting!

Without further minutae of detail suffice to say I managed to plumb the system in and solve the few small leaks in solder joints. The indications thus far are that all will work fine- but we have not had a good hot day to properly show this to be the case….. I will keep you updated.

As with any of these posts if you would like further information or to chat about stuff we have done get in touch.

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Gatherings, botany, sap, salads and spoons

Here we are in all our post-build glory! The last of the scaffolding has just come down so in my book that means we’ve finished the house! Time to start a new phase with a new blog. The house build blog will remain accessible via the web site as it may be of use/interest to other would-be straw house builders. This new blog will be a general one to include anything of interest going on here including information about the Community Woodland.

The sun is making a very welcome appearance, the leaves are just breaking on the trees, the birds are singing, the lambs a-gamboling- surely this signifies the coming of spring! Hurrah! (just be careful mind- them there frosts do catch e out!)

So, what has been going on or is going to be going on that may be of interest to you? We have a few gatherings that we’ve been asked to host:

Jane, our part-time WWOOFer, is running Everyday Botany through the WEA as a weekend course in the roundhouse with optional camping on May 7th and 8th. This is then to be followed with Community Ecology and Prove it in June and July. For more information on all of these visit or phone 01872 320036.

The Cornwall Coppice Group is visiting later this month and we’re hosting the Summer gathering for the SW Art of Mentoring group following on from my attendance at an introductory course in the Autumn. If you agree with me that the way to repair our environment, our communities and ourselves is to re-connect with nature, each other and self then have a look at the website. Such an inspiring movement to be a part of.

Although Anthony’s workshop space is up-side-down following the build, we are planning to get it back to a functioning state ready for a bent hazel chair course and traditional hay rake course both due to happen over the summer but dates yet to be confirmed. Both these will be run using our first cut of Hazel coppice. We have only cut a very small area but we have sold pretty much all that came out of it for fencing and bean poles which feels very positive. We are taking orders for poles for next year for Hazel and Chestnut so let us know if you’re interested.

Food produce wise, we are only aiming to produce enough food for ourselves and volunteers but have recently begun to sell surplus salads to The Growing Project which runs an organic veg box scheme in Pensilva. Ruth is very happy to buy surplus produce from any local organic garden on a week-by-week basis which suits us perfectly. We are also buying a weekly box to see us through the hungry gap and can highly recommend it!

Our present volunteer, Tim, gained experience with his previous hosts in making syrup from Silver Birch sap. We were a little late in the season with our tapping but have succeeded in making a small quantity and will be better prepared for next year. It tastes amazing! We’re also enjoying getting back to brewing with gorse, bramble tip, oak leaf and mint wines on the go and fire cider sitting in a dark cupboard.

Pentiddy Natural Burials continues to trickle in the funds to keep the project progressing. We are currently looking at extending the site to enable it to continue for many-a-year to come. The area to the south of the existing site which was planted with Chestnut as part of our intended coppice has not flourished due to a variety of factors. We are looking at removing the trees and fencing this area to provide more plots available for burial.

On a less positive note however, the wooden ‘Pentiddy Community Woodland’ sign at the entrance to the site was vandalised last week and has had to be removed. I won’t rant and say all the things you’re probably thinking, we’ll just carry on doing what we’ve always done and hope that some of the positive community intentions eventually rub off. To help the charity to raise the funds to replace the sign you can of course make a donation or you can order a load of prime ash firewood for next winter. Get in quick! Contact us or call us if this is of interest to you.

Spoon whittling,

We have a thought of running an open (and no cost) whittling evening sometime in the summer- an opportunity for anyone interested to come and sit around a camp-fire with a cup of tea and a knife and create something of use- a spoon, a hanging hook, a pointy stick…..Please contact us if you would be interested.

Sorry, but we were going to have some nice pictures to brighten up the post- but we have a few issues with the uploading process….. maybe the next one I will have ironed out the creases!

Regards to  all…….