Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Fight for your Rights!

No sunshine calls for desperate measures....
The weather is improving, with a whole week of sunshine behind us!  The bad weather had afforded me a day indoors to cook up a storm in the kitchen - I bottled 7 bottles of peach jam (courtesy the freezer - I had frozen 1 1/2 kg peaches last summer, as I had already made 2 batches of the stuff!  So I banged them in the freezer and was reminded of them one morning as we tucked into some home-made jams on ciabatta bread for breakfast!).  And then made some gingerbeer.

Mike has painted the new solarium ceiling and walls.  The former nearly did him in for 3 days as he recovered from neck and shoulder strain.  I potted up some wonderful Tropical plants in our newly acquired ceramic pots.  Our entrance pathway has been concreted, now we can create a Mediterannean style courtyard - can't wait!  I will plant 2 silvery wispy olive trees as screening from the neighbours, so that we can sit there and soak up the sun without any prying eyes.
The new solarium on a very dull day
The floor to the Solarium was ground and sealed a few weeks ago - it is brilliant - looks like a million dollars and cost the same as laying tiles.  I am very, very happy with the look!!  It is supposed to absorb the sun's heat and reflect it slowly over the evening.   Long may we be warm!  The daybed (as seen above) cost a grand sum of $30 and was built out of 2 old kiwifruit packing crates by Warren, a very handy American helpxchanger.  The mattress is an old one covered with Indian cloths.  Wonderful for lying on during the day, whilst ready and occasionally dozing off...........ZZZZZZzzzzzz.  I await that occasion with anticipation!

There was a little hiccup with the solar voltaic panel installation story when the company informed us they had miscalculated and  the panels would exceed the crest of the roof by 150mm!!  Of course I freaked, and they came up with a better plan - some of the panels will be placed horizontally, so they all fit in to the existing roof structure!  So those will be installed tomorrow and we can start to generate our own energy!!  Yeeha! Our power company has already come to install the new energy meter, to measure the usage against energy coming in.  Mike also discovered that the solar panel water heating was not working - probably hasn't worked all winter (we wondered why our power bills were so excessively high!) - to discover that the sensor on the roof was not working!  Oh boy, all these little challenges with technology!  I guess it's all still relatively new technology for NZ!  I could write a book on the challenges we have had with our hot water solar panels to date!!  There have been 3 replacements in 8 years!!

But wait...... there's more!  The solar system plumber also discovered that the switch for the solar water cylinder is faulty, also needs to be replaced.  Uh oh, what's this?  He took the control cover off of our hot water cylinder to check everything was working, only to discover that the very expensive hot water cylinder that we had to buy for the solar system, was leaking internally!!  There is a ceramic glass cylinder inside the cylinder which is NOT supposed to leak into the external chamber!!  It is not even possible to repair.  We are looking at TOTAL replacement.  So he rang up the company and they said - oh, dear, the cylinder is 7 years old, warranty is only 5, thank you for calling. Huh?  This is not something that we expect to replace every 7 years!!  It is also not an item you handle daily, and so could be subject to wear and tear - it sits under our stairwell in an enclosed cupboard, sulking away.  How can an internal leak not be a manufacturing weakness?

SO!  I went online.  Found out that this little short-lived beauty was Aussie built.  So I rang them - the operator in the call centre gave me the 5yr warranty line.  I insisted I wanted to speak to the manager.  Not possible, the manager would only tell me the same thing, she said.  So I got angry, and eventually she put me through to a "team leader".  Team leader told me about the 5 yr warranty in a very very whiney and irritated voice.  Like I was the one who was not up to the mental arithmetics of 5 and 7yrs.

SOOO!  I filled in an online inquiry - and I went APE!  I won't repeat on this post what I said but the sentiment was very irate!  I also went online and found out who supplies these Aussie misfits in New Zealand and did the same thing on their inquiry box.  I mentioned that their buy-line that most hot water systems were Japanese owned, but this one was proudly Australian, permitted me to remind them I would purchase a Japanese cylinder next time, which might cover more than 5 years on manufacturing fault.  That night I received an email response from the manager of the Aussie company - she said sorry, but there is only a 5 year warranty on the product.   At this stage, I would have taken a Bazooka to the friggin' cylinder.  Yesterday I warily opened my emails to find that the New Zealand company, CAROMA, had replied, saying that they understood my frustration and ALTHOUGH there was only a 5 year warranty on the product, they would like to replace the cylinder out of goodwill.   They only carry the product here, they don't manufacture them!!  Worthy of mention!!  A company that will stand by it's product!    Good on ya, Caroma!

Fight the good fight people.  Don't let companies fob your off when you buy their product in good faith and it does not last a reasonable mile.  Manufacturers need to take responsibility for their sustainability factor - we consumers should not accept the warranty line IF there are extenuating circumstances.  Can you imagine what our landfills would look like if every householder had to replace their hot water cylinders every 7 years??  There's a whole lot of metal, glass, polystyrene and electrical paraphenalia in each one!  At least they should be able to be recycled, repaired or reconditioned!
Ginger-beer, bottled and ready for the fridge.
Moving right along................ as I said before, I managed to make some gingerbeer and a HUGE batch of biscuits one cold morning - should have lasted the week - 80 seed biscuits in all!  Well, they are sort-of healthy, so we scoff them down in the blink of an eye!  The recipe is one I got off a grandma of a kid I taught about 20-odd years ago, so I call them by his name!  They are very nutritious and a wonderful treat inside children's lunchboxes:

Richard Trevor's Grandma's Seed Biscuits

300ml oats
150ml oatbran
500ml flour, sifted
500ml sugar
pinch salt

Mix all of the above together, then heat the following up in a pan and add bicarb which makes the melted mixture frothy, then add to dry mix:

260g butter, melted
50ml honey
50ml water
7ml bicarb

100ml sesame seeds
25ml aniseed
45ml poppy seeds
150ml sunflower seeds

Add the seeds and melted mixture and work well till all is blended.  From into small balls, place on greased baking tray.  Flatten with a fork and bake at 180 degC for 15-20 minutes.  Makes up to 80 biscuits.

We are still harvesting grapefruit, oranges, silverbeet, leeks, asparagus, herbs galore and just started to collect bowls full of strawberries.  I made a yummy pesto with a bowl full of parsley (bush going to seed, so it had to be harvest pronto), Herb Robert - about 25 leaves, 2 leaves kale, oreganum, bunch chives and half a bulb of garlic.  Minced in the blender, then added salt, pepper, chilli powder, juice of half a lemon, olive oil (half cupful) and tahini (about half cupful).  Lots of chlorophyl and green goodness, and oh my goodness, it's pretty delicious too!
I harvested all the leaves of one silverbeet bushel reaching for the sky as it goes to seed, steamed it in the pot with a little salt, then scrunched small handfuls of it into balls which I placed on a baking tray.  Froze it for a couple of hours then bagged the frozen balls - this way, when we need small amounts for pizza, we just grab a frozen ball and it doesn't need to be prepared.  Short cut Suzy!  It's great to use up little bits that would normally just end up in the compost!

Silverbeet and more silverbeet

The newly planted tomatoes ..... just wait till they are dripping in hues of reds, yellows and oranges

Some leftover sheep wool insulation becomes weed suppressant around the bean teepee

Shells strung up together for a sculptural effect

Leeks to last the miles..............

Leafy green bed with curly kale and lettuces
So we are happy with the outcome of our hot water cylinder woes - but it would not have happened without a little carry-on!  Sometimes it pays to put up a little fight - but as a wise friend once said: "know when to pick your fights, or else Life will be one Giant Battle!"

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