Sun, Snow and Solar Electricity!

This morning I dashed down to take advantage of the clear, if very cold, day. My first job was to tilt the solar panel. It’s so heavy that in the end, I gave up. The metal tilt props are too tall to use so whilst I was trying to work out how to shorten them (cut down and drill holes to raise and lower the panel more easily?), I collected a large piece of wood and used that instead. It worked but it’s only a temporary solution. Once the panel was propped up, I went to check on Roxy in the greenhouse. Today was going to be a big day for her!

At half ten, I ran back home and we both jumped in the car. We drove to the services at J16 of the M6. There we met a lovely lady who was selling a silver birchen bantam hen. Apparently she is a breeder and shows her chickens so I was confident that her birds would be in excellent health. The only reason she wasn’t breeding from this particular hen is that she is a little large for the breed standard. Hatched in September, she is laying and is quite tame. As I climbed I to the car with the box containing our newest arrival, my husband pointed out the irony of buying a chicken outside a KFC. He had a point! Carefully, we drove back to the allotment, full of excitement to see what Roxy would make of her new little friend.

We took the new hen out of the cardboard box and had a good look at her. She is all black except for some lovely silver flecks around her neck. Between us we had spent the drive across trying to think of a name for her and my husband liked Trixie. I’m not sure whether it’s a trait of the breed, but Trixie has a rather big-eyed look to her. In the greenhouse, we put her down and let her explore. Roxy was so excited to see us, she completely ignored Trixie until we picked her up and put her next to Trixie. It was a tense moment. Would they fly at each other? Would Roxy terrorise Trixie like she had done to the silkies at home?

The only word to describe what happened next was anti-climatic. Roxy moved towards Trixie as Trixie moved towards Roxy. They stared at each other. Trixie then took a few confident steps towards Roxy. As if it has been an all out attack, Roxy legged it and hid behind me. I tried to encourage her out but she wouldn’t go anywhere near Trixie. We watched rather nonplussed as Roxy jumped up on the top of the nest box to get away from Trixie. In all the commotion, all poor Trixie had done was to discover the water and food bowls. My husband left to do some jobs at home whilst I went off to have a chat with Liz and Sarah.

Before I got beyond the shed, the both appeared and we had a chat about chicken coops. Debating the pros and cons of different styles, we all walked around the site comparing them. On the way round, we stopped by Cliff’s plot to have a chat. I disappeared off after a bit to feed the chickens – a job that takes longer now that our girls are spread out a bit more. In the main coop, I discovered that Sadie had laid her egg on the roof of the nest box for some reason. I collected it and three others before spotting something that looked suspiciously like an egg in the corner of the run. Walking over carefully, to avoid upsetting Tommy, I reached down and found Sadie had laid another egg (probably from yesterday) on the ground. Idiot bird! There are two nest boxes to lay in, but no, she’d rather lay on the ground!

Late afternoon, I walked back to the allotment armed with a multimeter. Once and for all, I was going to find out why my solar system wasn’t working! Adjusting the ladder, I reached for the cables and connectors by the top of the panel. I disconnected the cables and used the multimeter to check the panel was working. As I waited for the voltage to appear, I held my breath. Up it came on the screen – it was working! What a relief! Now I knew that the problem was probably the MC4 connectors. Separating them, I noticed that the crimped ends seemed a long way back in the socket. Wondering if that might be the problem, I compared it to the other connectors on the cable running into the controller. Sure enough, the crimped ends were much nearer the top of the connector. I took off the MC4 casing on the live wire and removed a little more of the plastic covering the cable. Inserting the crimped end back in, I pushed hard and felt a click. Turning the connector around, I saw that the crimped end was much further forward than before. I had a sneaking suspicion that this must have been the problem. Quickly, I did the same to the second connector and reconnected everything. Then I climbed down the ladder to see if it had worked…

On the solar controller was a new image. A solar panel and an arrow pointing to the battery icon, showing the solar panel was connected and was charging the battery! I confess I let out a whoop of celebration before taking a photo of the controller to prove it was working. This was immediately sent to my husband and my dad who were both suitably impressed that the system was up and working. I think there was some relief felt by dad who has had to cope with my endless electrical questions over the past month. Just to triple check it was working properly, I plugged in the radio and turned up the volume. The inverter was taking power from the battery, the battery taking power from the solar panel and the solar panel taking power from the sun. This has to be one of the more difficult projects I have done but it is about to pay off!

My husband appeared to see the solar panel in action and disappeared off to the coop, collecting another three eggs! This took todays total up to 9 – a new record! Before I left, I checked on Roxy and Trixie. Trixie is a lovely little hen who seems quite happy with Roxy. Phil swung by to meet Trixie and wondered whether Roxy had ever been with other hens due to her reaction to Trixie. Maybe she hasn’t spent much time with other chickens? That would certainly explain her desperation to be picked up!

So what to do tomorrow? If the weather is good, I will work on the tilt mount and clean the top of the cable reel table. The excess grout needs removing and I am pondering putting a layer of resin to simultaneously protect the mosaic and create a level table top. Or I could just sit in the shed, with the radio on and write the next chapter of my book manuscript. The possibilities are endless…

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