Sunday, 23 July 2017

Itchy itchy scratchy scratchy

Armed with secateurs, pruning shears and a small step ladder I returned to our house on Wednesday morning.  The real estate agent was due at 10am and the plan was to have the curtains rehung before he arrived.  Well that didn’t happen because when I climbed the stepladder I realised all the plastic eyes on the curtain rail had been broken.  Obviously someone had pulled on the curtains breaking the eyes.

Thwarted over the curtains I decided to cut back the native tree which had grown through the bottom and top timber decks reaching the roof of the upstairs pergola.  I’d almost completed that task when the agent arrive.  His advice was very informative and help set my priorities.  His observation was structurally the house looked good but that the new owners would likely redecorate.  Therefore I should forget about the curtains.  Actually his advice was to remove them as they “dated” the house.  I should also forget about replacing the carpet with the patch as any new owner would likely replace the carpet.  He gave me the name of a good handyman/gardener who could prepare the house for sale.  Also, an empty house is hard to sell and we should have it temporarily furnished with selected modern furniture to highlight the positive aspects of the property.  Again he gave me a contact.

I spent another four hours with the secateurs and shears battling the jungle.  It was apparent to me I wasn’t going to make much of an impact with the tools I had and that evening I mentioned the problem to Trevor asking if I could borrow the small battery powered saw he had mentioned the previous day.  After describing some of the trees he produced a petrol chainsaw.  for the mould on the deck and joists he produced a pressure washer.  Obviously I was going to be busy on Thursday!

Next morning I was at the house for a 7.30am meeting with the handyman.  We agreed I would do as much as I could then he would return to assess the size of the task and give me a quotation.  The first task was to remove the tree from behind the water tank.  The tank stand has been pushed out of shape by the growing tree but it can be repaired.  Next I pressure washed the lower deck, timber ramp and roof joists to remove all the mould.  Of course I got soaking wet and covered in mould.

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The deck can now be painted.  All the rubbish and vegetation from the house and ground floor area was piled into the paved clothesline area awaiting removal.

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The next task was to cut down all the native trees in the backyard with the chainsaw opening the area up to light.  The bougainvillea growing over the steel arch on the lower path received a very close haircut with the chainsaw.  I even used the chainsaw to cut back the lavender bushes.  All this vegetation was placed into three piles for removal.

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I decided the Jacaranda tree was too nice to touch, however the fruit trees got pruned in an effort to get them growing in the right direction.

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The handyman will have his work cut out removing all these cuttings up to the road for removal. 

After a short break I tackled the front yard, again with the chainsaw.  All but one of the tall native trees were cut down.  The large gum tree on the verge beside the letterbox receive a ‘short back and sides’.  The cuttings went onto two large piles. 


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It’s now possible to see the house from the road

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By now the sun was starting to set and I was exhausted.  It was a tired and dirty old man who arrived back at Trevor and Carolanne’s after the sun had set.  I was so tired I couldn’t eat all of the lovely meal Carolanne had prepared.  You might think I would have slept like a log but for some reason it didn't happen.

Friday morning I had another meeting with the real estate agent handing over the keys before leaving for the airport.  My return flight was with Jetstar (EasyJet equivalent) and it’s fortunate I’m only 4’6” tall otherwise I wouldn’t have fitted into the seat .Smile

Jan collected me on arrival in Perth and took me home for a light dinner.  I was too tired to eat a normal sized meal!  That evening I had to take off my wrist watch and fitness bands as my wrists were starting to itch.  Lots of scratching during the night and I woke to find both arms covered in a red itchy rash.   By Saturday night the right side of my face and neck had a lumpy red rash which itched.  Another restless night!  I think this is “The revenge of the bougainvillea”.  I was wearing gloves, safety glasses and a long sleeved shirt but it obviously wasn’t enough.

On reflection I became so engrossed with the work I failed to take a photo of my very kind hosts, Trevor and Carolanne.  I also failed to take a photo of the panoramic view from the upper deck.  Rather than disappoint you I’ve placed some photos taken in 2011.

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The house won’t go on the market until Jon (the handyman) has completed the maintenance and tidied the grounds.  Angela (decorator) will then temporarily furnish the house.  It was quite interesting to hear Charles and Harry (real estate agents)  tell me they had sold five adjacent properties, all with the same floor plan and views.  They only furnished one of the houses and every time that was the house that sold.  Buyers weren’t interested in the unfurnished homes despite them being exactly the same.  They did eventually sell all five homes, but had to move the furniture five times! 


Saturday, 22 July 2017

Indiana Jones

This time the gap in blog posts has been caused by too much work rather than a lack of things to report.  We had made the decision that something needed to be done about our house.  The tenant had left (without paying the rent) and our assumption was there would be numerous minor maintenance tasks.  The property manager was chasing the tenant’s bond money and also arranging the insurance claim.  We really needed to take steps to get the property on the market.

After searching some of the flight websites I managed to get a cheap flight from Perth to Adelaide with Virgin Australia.  It’s not my preferred airline; but needs must.  My impression is virgin hasn’t yet decided whether it wants to directly compete with Qantas at the top end of the market or stick with being a budget carrier and compete with Jetstar and Tiger.  Anyway the flight from Perth to Adelaide is 3.5 hours with a 90 minute time zone change.  I’d allowed 2 days to do everything and then added a 3rd day just in case something happened.

I was fortunate with the Virgin flight as the middle seat was empty giving me slightly more room.  Adelaide was experiencing some bad weather which made the landing slightly rough.  Fortunately the showers had passed by the time I exited the terminal.

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View east from the Adelaide Airport Terminal towards the Mt lofty Ranges which I used to regularly walk in the days when I was fit.

I’d booked a small cheap (relative Australian term) car from Firefly.  They appear to be affiliated with Hertz with the Firefly vehicles possibly being ex Hertz.

The first task was to visit the office of the property manager and collect the house keys.  On the way I was reminded that Adelaide suburban roads are a mosaic of patches.  The only person in the office was the receptionist however she was able to give me the house keys.

You can possibly imagine my consternation when I couldn’t find the house.  All that could be seen was a jungle.  Bob Geldof could have used the site for the next episode of Survivor Guatemala!  Just like Indiana Jones I managed to push my way down through the undergrowth to reach the front door.  In relative terms the interior of the house was in better condition.  I noticed the floating timber floor I laid in the foyer is desperately in need of sanding and another coat of varnish.

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The curtains in the main lounge room were hanging down.  I erroneously assumed all that was required was to connect the hooks back into the eyes on the rail.

2Another shock awaited me in the family room.  Our expensive heavy duty commercial carpet  was stained and had a rough rectangular patch.

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In 6 years no one had mentioned this!  Over in the bottom far corner of the room was a hole in the wall which had been roughly stuffed with stainless steel scouring wool.

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I’ve subsequently been informed this is how you block a mouse hole!

Both electric roller doors in the garage have been replaced during our absence (we paid) and I noticed the door closest to the house doesn’t lock leaving a gap at the bottom. 

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At the rear the house has large upper and lower timber sundecks with magnificent views of the city and gulf.  Well they would have views if it wasn’t for the jungle.  We have paid $000’s for gardening since vacating the house in 2011 and it looks as if nothing has been done.

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The lower deck was covered in green mould and we have one rotten plank.  At the other end of the deck the shrubs have grown so high they have pushed the water tank off it’s stand causing it to collapse.  The same shrubs have grown through the lower deck and up through the upper deck and then into the roof of the pergola.

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You had to crouch to get underneath the branches when walking down the ramp to reach the lower garden. 

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All the trees and shrubs in the lower garden have grown wild.  The native trees have particularly thrived drowning out the fruit trees and lower shrubs.  Australia is a dry country and the native vegetation has to be hardy to survive the long droughts.  However our garden has an automatic water reticulation system which has provided the native bushes and trees with ideal growing conditions.

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I’d arranged a meeting with a Real Estate agent for 10am the following morning and given the state of the property I wondered what he would make of it.  It was with much consternation I drove away thinking of the work (and expense) required to get the property ready for sale. 

Our very good friends Trevor and Carolanne had very kindly offered me accommodation in their lovely home located up in the Adelaide Hills.  I thought I might be able to borrow a small stepladder from Trevor and re-hang the curtains.  I hadn’t brought much clothing with me having anticipated finding the house in good condition.  Not only could Trevor provide a ladder, he also had secateurs and heavy duty pruning shears.  When I protested I didn’t have any clothing, he willingly provided an old shirt and long trousers.  Obviously he was determined to ensure I wasn’t bored! Smile

Well that’s enough for you to read today.  I’ll explain what subsequently happened in the next post.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Busy…. but only sometimes

The last few days have been a combination of very busy and total boredom with nothing to write about.

The media server project has come to a halt whilst we await the arrival of the hard disk drives which are in one of the UK boxes.  Using the laptop has become easier now I’ve connected the big monitor and full sized keyboard to it.

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I’ve also ‘nobbled’ the only table and sole chair.   There was one small thing I could do to advance the media server project and that was to fix the Raspberry Pi to the router using velcro.  It’s an idea I copied from our youngest son.  The Raspberry Pi will eventually be powered by the router and I will replace the existing blue ethernet cable with a short cable we have in one of the UK boxes.

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I could connect the Raspberry Pi to the router wirelessly but I prefer using ethernet cables believing they provide a more reliable connection and are also more secure.

Yesterday I washed and polished the Isuzu for a second time.  I’ve become very technical with my washing technique.  During the last few years on Waiouru I adopted the ‘two bucket’ method using a microfibre mitt and a leather chamois to dry.  I now realise drying with the chamois wasn’t the best option.

My new technique is:  

  • Initial high pressure water wash to remove surface dirt.
  • 2nd high pressure wash using a snow foam gun to cover the vehicle with a layer of foam which is supposed to ‘lift’ some of the more stubborn dirt.
  • High pressure gun rinse.
  • Two bucket hand foam wash using micro fibre mitt.
  • High pressure rinse.
  • Dry with micro fibre towel (this is easier and much faster than using a chamois).
  • Polish.  I’m trialling Meguars Wet Look polish.  Apply with a sponge pad and remove with micro fibre clothes.  so far I’ve managed to avoid those swirl marks in the paint.

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I’m not sure this expensive ‘wet look’ polish is making much difference!

The snow foam adapter that came with the Gernie pressure washer proved to be a failure and after some research I identified the ‘purists’ were using a $120 snow foam gun.  More research indicated I could buy a Chinese copy from Ebay.  Of course it arrived the morning after I’d washed and polished the car.

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I’ve now discovered the brass fitting on the gun is slightly too large for the Gernie connector.  I need to file it down…. but of course I currently don’t have a file!

The courier also delivered a package for Jan.  It turned out to be the cast iron pancake pan she has ordered from Ebay.  Unfortunately the overseas seller had made a very poor job with the packaging and the handle had been broken in transit.  hopefully they will send her a replacement handle.

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I got a hell of a shock yesterday when I went to the website to check on our 240V electrical consumption.  There was significant usage between 1.00-3.00am.  That’s when we are asleep so why so much power consumption.  The only two Items I could think might be using power were the fridge and freezer.  Checking back through the consumption historical data revealed it was occurring every night.  Then I went right back to the day prior to our arrival in Australia and discovered the high consumption was still occurring!!!!

Finally it dawned on me……… I hadn’t logged into our data and was looking at the website demonstration data.   What an idiot….. what a relief! Smile

We appear to be averaging approximately 6.5kW daily.  I entered a budget of $150 and so far this month we have consumed $28.96 (plus the monthly service fee of $14)  That is approx $2 daily or £1 which is less than we would have spent in diesel on Waiouru.  Although I acknowledge the fuel on Waiouru was also being used for propulsion and hot water which means I need to factor in the cost of fuel for the 4x4.

After being introduced to sloe gin by Jan and Alistair (nb Qisma) Jan has decided she would like to grow some sloe bushes.  They are as easy to find in Perth as the end of the rainbow.  After several hours of internet searching she bought some seeds off Ebay.  Hopefully they don’t arrive broken. Smile  She also wanted some thornless blackberries which resulted in us driving to Guildford which is not on the River Wey.  It’s beside the Swan River.

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The garden centre didn’t have any in stock “Next weekend”.  Someone at the centre is a mini minor fan.

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I did check on the location of the ship conveying our container to Perth.  It left the tip of Peninsula Malaysia and called onto Singapore before heading south towards Australia.  The website doesn’t show the location on the live map to non paying subscribers.  However the latitude and longitude was shown so being sneaky resourceful I copied and pasted it into google Earth.

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It looks to be on track to arrive on 19 July.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Let them eat bread

Having a vehicle has given us more freedom to start setting ourselves up in Perth.  The new freezer is significantly larger than the Engel we had on Waiouru (500L –v- 32L).  The obvious plan is to buy in bulk and save money.  We have visited the nearby Beef Shed and bought wholesale meat, the majority of which has gone into the freezer.

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The next stop was Mirrabooka Shopping Mall to visit Aldi.  that’s when Jan noticed the temporary shop selling very familiar UK products at fire sale prices.

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You might notice the word ‘Australia’ on the tins of mushy peas.  It was a competition and prize was a trip to Australia……. So of course I entered six times! Smile

Aldi was selling an electric food vacuum sealer which will be very useful for food being stored in the freezer.

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The next stop was the “All About Bread” store in Wanaroo.  Jan wandered around looking at all the bread mixes and mulled over what she would require in the way of storage containers if she buys bulk flour.  Then we crossed back to Malaga (Australia…. not Spain) where we’d identified there was another food wholesaler. 

The prices at Elite Foods were much cheaper than All About Bread and it’s also closer to home.

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Having the Cake Factory next door might be a temptation!

The next stop was ‘Spotlight’ which sells manchester, handicraft components, kitchenware,etc.  you might think we stopped for Jan, but it was me who needed to buy a couple of items.  some Velcro for the media server project and flexible curtain wire for the 4x4 projects.

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We returned to find these wretches had taken up residence on our front lawn.  Pretty to look at but they make a racket. 

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Why is it that pretty birds screech and songbirds look dull?  The tree in the front yard has shed even more foliage.  I would mind if it was leaves, but this tree casts off large chunks.  It’s starting to look bald on top (like me!)

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We noticed nb Chance has been sold.  James and Doug were two of the first narrow boaters we met when we arrived in 2011.  Despite us having more than a few issues at the time we readily accepted their invitation to join them on Chance for a brief cruise.

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We will always be grateful for the opportunity to be reminded about the joy in narrow .boating and it reaffirmed our determination to be part of the canal community.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Tomato and Golden Frog

Yes readers, it’s been a few days since the last post.  I’ve been totally absorbed with the new computer.  Initially the problems revolved around the physical assembly of the components.  It’s been 10 years since I last assembled a pc and in that time either my eyesight has gotten worse or the printing on the components has become smaller (probably the former).  Anyway it took me a full day to assemble the pc and then the damned thing wouldn’t start.  The fancy LED’s inside illuminated and the fans started running, but nothing on the monitor.  When this has happened during previous builds I’ve listened for the series of “beeps” the pc makes on start-up and been able to find the fault based on the sequence and number of beeps.  Well this pc doesn’t have a speaker.  Compounding the problem was the fact that the labelling of the cable terminals in the case didn’t match the labelling of the terminals on the motherboard.  What I needed was a diagnostics POST card.  This gets plugged into the motherboard and displays a fault code on a small LCD display.  EVENTUALLY the problem was identified.  There was NOTHING wrong with the way I’d assembled the various components.  However whilst the motherboard has a socket for a monitor the Ryzen 5 cpu does NOT support on board graphics.  In order to resolve the problem I needed to buy a graphics card.  This computer is going to be a media server and doesn’t need a monitor as it will have remote access.  But I needed to attach a monitor to configure the system.  So I bought a cheap second-hand graphic card.  That solved the hardware issue!

The next step was to install the software and I’m using linux.  It’s been some time since I used linux which has also made for slow going.  I can’t configure the RAID (redundant array) as the computer hard drives are in our boxes on their way from the UK.  Consequentially I’ve been trying to do the setup around that issue.  I can report the pc is actually working and I can access it remotely either using ‘putty’ or ‘vnc’.

Another step in the project has been to replace the propriety firmware (operating system) on the Netgear router with a more advanced firmware which will give greater functionality.  I’ve opted for ‘Tomato’.  I’d already changed the firmware to another version of Tomato but two days ago I discovered our VPN (Virtual Private Network) wasn’t as private as I would like.  After some research I selected VyprVPN from Golden Frog.  Their firmware will integrate with Tomato, but when I attempted to do that yesterday it wasn’t successful.  Eventually I worked out that the latest version of Tomato was incompatible with the Golden Frog ‘add-on’.  This meant I had to roll back the Tomato firmware to an earlier version (not easy) then re-install the Golden Frog add-on.  That was finally completed this morning. 

It’s now much easier to select a VPN destination using the Golden Frog firmware on the router.  Moreover Golden Frog use high level encryption software so I’m reasonably confident we are surfing the web anonymously.  Having the VPN software on the router means that every device on our side of the router is now protected.

For several days we lost track of our UK boxes.  The container ship made a port call at the bottom of peninsula Malaysia and then headed towards Korea.  My assumption was our container had been unloaded and was awaiting transhipment.  Pickfords had previously provided us with the container number and after a brief search I confirmed the container was in Malaysia awaiting the arrival of the E.N. France.  Going back to the international shipping website identified the E.N.France was moored at Bangkok.  She is scheduled to arrive in Malaysia on 12 Jul before heading towards Fremantle Port, Perth with a forecast arrival date of 19 Jul.  Allow 3 days for Customs clearance, etc and we might have the boxes by 22-23 Jul.

Oh, there was a knock at the door.  A courier had arrived to deliver the dashcam I’d ordered from China.  We now have both the dashcam and TPMS but I don’t want to start fitting them until we have a few more tools.  The Leatherman has been very useful, but I’d rather have a few more specialist tools before I start disassembling the new vehicle.  

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

More rain

Well we have been on the receiving end of some heavy showers.  Coincidentally the internet to the house died which is one reason why there have been no blog posts.  The majority of Perth is built on sand and there is a very limited stormwater system as the sand absorbs much of the runoff.  I suspected water had seeped into some of the in-ground phone line connection boxes degrading the system.  Telstra are only obligated to maintain the old copper system to voice standard and we still have dial tone so I wasn’t expecting any improvement until the ground dried out.  That’s not going to happen anytime soon as the showers have continued.

However I had a pleasant surprise when I turned off the router and disconnected it from the 240V supply for 30 seconds.  We got some of our connection back, hence this post.

Both of us are going stir crazy inside an empty house.  The ship carrying our boxes has arrived in Singapore and is transhipping containers.  The container is scheduled to arrive in Perth on 19 July but we don’t know if it will be carried on the same ship.

Despite the rain we had to get out of the house.  In the morning I went to a computer parts store and purchased the majority of the components I’ll need to assemble my planned media server (on the bucket list).  It’s been a few years since I last assembled a pc so it should keep me occupied for several days getting the hardware to work.  They all the software has to be installed and configured.  My guess is this part will take several weeks as I stumble my way through.

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In the afternoon we visited Spotlight where Jan purchased wool and knitting needles to knit another of those blankets that “knit themselves”

Daykin, we were able to sparingly use the small amount of our phone mobile data allowance whilst the ADSL network was inoperative.  But mobile data is expensive so we were eking it out.

Oh…. and there is yet another cat wee orange on the back lawn!

Sunday, 2 July 2017

More land and less speed

Further online searching yesterday evening identified another potential block of land currently on the market.  We drove to look at it this afternoon and it wasn’t until we arrived that we realised it’s on a slope.

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Photo taken from the opposite side of the street.

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The frontage is 23 metres and total area approximately 1800 sq mtrs.  The site has potential.  our thoughts are that if we were to raise the height of the house by building a garage underneath there would be view to the north and east over the tops of the homes on the other side of the street.  There is enough land for Jan to have her swimming pool and small orchard whilst I could have a workshop under the house.  It’s all very preliminary as we have yet to place our home on the market.

If you are wondering why the blog posts are spasmodic I can tell you it’s the internet speed and reliability.  Whilst we have a DSL connection, the speed is woeful with frequent dropouts.  Currently we are running at 28KB/s which is slow dial-up speed.

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Unfortunately things are NOT going to improve!  Telstra own the copper POTS (plain old telephone system) and have no interest in improving the situation.  I was hoping for a great connection, but this is Australia where politicians tell the public how wonderful everything is and a percentage of the population actually believe them!

The current government has even managed to screw-up the new fibre NBN (National Broadband Network) by modifying the planned fibre network into a part fibre and part copper system.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the system was obsolete before it’s completed.

Bill, Jan’s chairs might be labelled “lipstick red” but they are actually burgundy.  The cat wee smelling orange tree dropped a further six on the ground during the overnight storm and the Frangipani almost looks like Kojak.   The chainsaw is rising on the shopping list…….

Saturday, 1 July 2017

It’s Freezing

Jan was in the local supermarket yesterday when she overheard one lady tell another “my husband will be flying to Adelaide and it will be 14°c tomorrow.  My husband will freeze!”  Meanwhile, we are still in our summer clothes.  I guess we will have acclimatized in 12 months.

I became slightly concerned when the container ship transporting our UK effects appeared to be loitering at the bottom end of the Red Sea.  Had they done a deal with the local Somali pirates?  Then I realised the tracking system had stopped.  The MAERSK MC KINNEY MOLLER is due to arrive at Singapore in 3 days and I’ll be interested to see if the international ship tracking system recommences.

We are starting to get some meaningful data from the electrical monitor I fitted at midday on 26 June.

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Only 3 days of data for the end of June, at the moment we are averaging approximately 6kWh of electricity daily.

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The graph for the morning of 1 July shows the spikes where the kettle, dishwasher and washing machine started their cycles.

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With only half a day of data I suspect the estimated cost for the month might be rather inaccurate.  Currently we appear to be consuming approximately $3 (£1.77) of electricity daily, which is about half the cost of our winter diesel bill on Waiouru.  Of course our electrical consumption is going to increase significantly when both our UK and Aust house packs arrive.   The average Australian home uses 20-25kWh daily ($177-217).  So living on Waiouru meant meant we had a very low energy bill compared to the average Australian household.