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Extremely Hot Bumps in the Road

Hello, I have been meaning to use the natty blog tool on our new website back end software for ages, and lo, the new year seems as good a time as any to start. Well, some inclement weather that I don't much want to stand in has if I'm being completely honest, but the difference is much the same I guess.

I was busy looking for some inspiration as I wandered in from the fields and as I compulsively checked the power management app on my phone for at least the tenth time that day, it occurred to me that our new, new fancy fleet of solar panels was as good a place as any to start. I appreciate that I talk about my beloved solar panels a lot, but they really do hit that sweet spot of saving money and the environment at the same time, so I make absolutely no apology for doing so.

To do this, we must go back to the start of harvest, so far back that this is already starting to feel like a two parter. No matter, at this point we had already negotiated a fairly ticklish harvest season – you will have noticed that it rained a bit this year – with a combination of wit, experience and blind luck. The troublesome Germanic varieties had made it through the growing season, had been picked and were either stacked up in the winery waiting to be squished or were already fermenting, having been squished.

Your correspondent was strolling round the winery feeling fairly – okay, insufferably – pleased with himself, squeezing the life out of the last of the Bacchus and looking forward to a couple of quieter days while we waited for the Pinot Noir to ripen. As I looked out across the fields from the winery door, I noticed this sinister looking mist, that on closer inspection turned out to be smoke. And not that nice smoke that comes out of chimneys either. The press continued to do his thing to the Bacchus while I legged it to check that the house wasn't on fire. I couldn't find a fire anywhere, so went back to the winery and finished up, blaming the smoke on one of the locals, who aren't entirely averse to setting fire to the occasional car.

You will imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was in fact me that had caused the environmental event and that the winery generator had set its enclosure on fire. I see myself as something of an educator, so if you ever find yourself in this position, the correct procedure for dealing with it is panic, panic, reach for water, remember that generators also make electricity happen, turn the generator off, panic, put out fire with the appropriate extinguisher.

After a walk around the vines to allow us both to cool off a bit, I went to see the patient. It was making some very interesting “I am extremely hot noises” and had melted one end of the case along with, ironically, the cooling apparatus. I called a long suffering friend who is also an engineer for a diagnosis and was told not to expect much, but that it probably wouldn't hurt to have a go a putting everything back together once the engine had cooled down a bit. We obviously needed the three phase power that this generator produced for the winery – it being harvest and all – so we also put a local generator hire company on standby in case by some miracle I wasn't able to repair the old girl with absolutely no formal training.

We did then consider buying a new generator, but they are expensive and we already had plans afoot to make the winery work without any fossil fuels at all, spending generator money now would kick these plans into the fairly long grass. I should point out at this point, if you are new here, we aren't connected to the grid, so can't just use that like normal people. And while the majority of our power was already being produced by solar panels, the three phase machinery required at harvest was still entirely reliant on a generator at this point.

This is where my plans hit a bit of a roadblock. Since there was a pandemic on and that dude had made it even worse by parking his ship sideways in the Suez canal, it was impossible to source the correct fan and radiator in time to continue with harvest. We were on the verge of admitting defeat and pulling the trigger on a hire generator. Which, okay, was in budget, but really, how can it be cheaper to hire a car than a generator? No, this wouldn't do, we would have to call upon the ingenuity that got us through our early years when absolutely nothing was in budget, there was principle at stake. Or I'm incredibly tight. On reflection, one of those things must be right. On further reflection, it's probably the latter.

So I'm walking around my “things that I don't know what to do with, but definitely won't throw away” area of bits that all farming people have hidden away and I notice my sad looking, destined for the scrap heap Toyota Hilux. That definitely had a water tight radiator in it the last time that it could move under its own steam. And for a fan? Does someone sell dirt cheap generic car fans with next day delivery? You bet they do.

By the end of the following day – and after a couple of panicky phone calls to a higher power (he is called Mark by the way) – we were ready to push the go button with crossed fingers on our Heath Robinson brand generator. And off it went.

And it kept on going until the end harvest. We had a couple of bumps in the road, but nothing too onerous. By the time that last press of the year was over and done with, the spluttering supply chain had come good and I was able to install the correct fan and water pump to the old girl. At this point we were hoping to never have to switch it on again, but it's the least we could do in the circumstances.

I shall be looping back to the new solar panels next week, but reckon that I have probably taken up enough of your time for now.


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