Monthly Archives: December 2012

Course on constructing solar hot water panels

Curso paneles solares Sunseed

Curso paneles solares Sunseed

From the 6th to 9th of December 2012 we hosted a course on solar hot water panels. The main objective to the course was to build a solar hot-water panel of two square meters starting with some recycled materials and minimize what is newly acquired. The course, with four participants, was planned and lead by the department of Sunseed’s Appropriate Technologies.

A theoretical introduction included exploration of what impact the use of the sun to heat water might have on reducing fossil fuel consumption and, therefore, on climate change. Then we visited various water heating installations in the town of Moulins, where all houses have their own power generation systems and hot water systems based on various techniques.

The practical workshop began with the removal of one of the two solar panels from the main house of Sunseed, which was to be renewed and reinstalled during the course.

The materials to reuse were:

  • Copper sheets from old panels.
  • Copper pipes and elbows of various diameters welded together.
  • Tempered glass panel from the former main house.
  • Galvanized iron sheet deteriorated (from the old panel).
  • Glass wool.

The new acquisition was:

  • Copper pipe for collector.
  • Aluminium profile for the frame.
  • Glass wool

The copper plates were initially flattened, cleaned of old tin and re-shaped to accommodate the newly acquired copper tubes used for this purpose. At the same time, test-welds were made with a tin-welding torch to properly assemble the heat-collector. We also prepared and cleaned elbow joints of different sizes for the assembly of the copper pipes.

When all the pieces of copper were recovered, and when we were well practiced on welding, the pipes were welded together and the heat collecting plates were adhered. Then we proceeded to paint the heat collector matte-black (to attract sun), and set the paint using a compressed air gun.

The galvanized iron sheet was cleaned of rust (where it had appeared after a previous life of 20 years!) and then we proceeded to cover it with zinc paint and an exterior paint-job to give it a little more weathering protection in the exposed parts.

The aluminum was cut to the proper size and shaped to the design being done. The rear plate of the frame-sides were joined with rivets, but we left an open side prepared so we could make the final placement of the tubes and glass. The glass wool insulation was placed by sliding it into the frame assembly. With care not to break it, the top layer of tempered glass was also placed. We closed the assembly by finally completing the riveting under the last segment and then applied silicone to give it waterproof joints.

 Curso Paneles Solares Agua Caliente Sunseed

Participants were able to take part in all the processes of panel construction, and they were happy to be in contact with all materials and tools. By using recycled materials and learning the “do-it-yourself techniques”, the participants’ capacity to use such materials has grown – they can be more confident to do it themselves, and be able to avoid using primary source materials or commercial panels, too. We hope they will try it themselves in the future!

Pako Ibáñez, Appropriate Technology Coordinator, Sunseed.


Click here to see all the pictures.

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Hunting Mushrooms

It had been a few days that members of the Community of Sunseed had been discussing the possibility of going to pick mushrooms in the forest. Although this activity is normally considered as a fun thing families do on Sundays, we wanted to view this more as a way to take advantage of the nutritional resources that the forest offers us during the fall with the appearing of various types of edible mushrooms. Nevertheless there were a lot of unknowns: Where can we go? There aren’t any forests in the vicinity of Los Molinos. Will we find enough mushrooms to make it worth it? It wouldn’t be the first time that we haven’t found any mushrooms. Will we find mushrooms that we know we can eat? These being milk caps, boletus and a few others. We wanted to avoid having to pick any other mushrooms of which we weren’t totally sure of as it would be a loss for everyone if we had to throw them away later on.

Jose heard about some mycoligical days in Abla, in the hillsides of Sierra Nevada. A village named Abrucena is situated a few kilometers further up. This is where the first forests of repopulated pines that cover the slopes of the mountain until the very top can be found. The place can be reached by car in an hour, which seems reasonable for a one day excursion.

We then formed two teams, Team number one that was responsible for the hunting of the mushrooms and Team number two which had to stay in Los Molinos waiting for Team number one to bring back the mushrooms so that they could clean, cook and finally put the mushrooms in jars as a way to preserve them. Would we gather enough for it to make sense to preserve them? Would we have enough for the whole year or just for the winter? There wasn’t any other way than to go out to Abrucena and hope for the best.

Call us pretencious but we left early one morning in the direction of Abrucena with plenty of boxes ready to be filled by the precious and tasty mushrooms.

Sunny weather awaited us in the part of Sierra Nevada where the supposed hidden treasure was to be found, even though we could see a group of clouds starting to cover the sky. We passed the town Abrucena following a small road which brought us to the forest. We decided to stop at a recreative area which looked so nice that it made us think that mushrooms had surely made their home here. This part of the forest is situated on the bottom of the area of forest exploitation as the undergrowth is basically clear of vegetation. One minute after we’ve looked around a bit we find the first milk cap, a few seconds later the first colony. Everything is right next to the parking of the recreative area! What is happening? The thing is, that day was Thursday, everyone was at work and the mushrooms had time to grow since the last week-end.

Then the hunting began. Those who had a certain experience in picking mushrooms knew where to look for them: in a mountain of pine needles, in a humid area or underneath certain branches for example. The novices slowly started to figure it out. We found a lot of colonies which created emotional moments of harvesting. At one moment I called Trudy to tell her to come and have a look. I revealed to her that there were at least ten mushrooms located no more than two meters away from us, the first one just a step away. Yet she could not see them and I therefore started pointing out the mushrooms which brought out the question of “where do the mushrooms hide?”.

Sarka recognized a type of boletus which is much appreciated in her country (Czech Republic) and promised she would use it to make a stew for us. Kirsty got more and more animated during the hunt and with the basket around her shoulder collected abundant amounts of mushrooms while searching the corners of the forest. David went up and down the slopes dragging along a plastic bag which got fuller by the minute. Jose was in his environment. It would have been easy to confuse him with an inhabitant of the forest. Natalia the dog came and went without knowing who to follow. Trudy looked amazed from the experience and was making the most of it. I have to confess that I was enjoying it like a little child. It had been many years since I had last gone out to pick mushrooms. This goes without mentioning the intensity with which we harvested on that day.
During the previous days I had insisted that the term “hunting mushrooms” was more appropriate than “picking mushrooms”. Now you could understand why. Every one of us was moving around fully concentrated through the forest observing the ground in search of clues which would indicate us the location of the mushrooms. Our senses were put up to the test: our sight, our sense of smell and touch as well as our minds. You take the knife in your hand and cut at the foot of the mushrooms which is then exposed and identified as “good”. There is a relationship that creates itself between the environment that offers us a resource and us who are trying to obtain it. If it was simply “picking mushrooms” it would be more like harvesting a fruit off of a tree. This implicates that you have only to reach your hand to pull the fruit off and place it in the basket. But with the mushrooms it is different. They are not waiting there for everyone who passes by to be able to collect them. It requires physical, mental including meditational work which makes the experience unique.
That day of “hunting mushrooms” I would define as complete. First a few hours of walking in the mountain collecting numerous mushrooms. Then a barbecue in the same mountain to cooking the fresher and younger ones. Later we went back home and prepared the rest of them to be preserved.
For the more than twenty kilos of mik caps that we brought home, each and every one in perfect condition and without any worms, the task of preservation was going to require a lot of labor. Fortunately, the friends and volunteers of Sunseed mobilized themselves immediately and started the hard tasks of cleaning, cutting up, cooking and preserving the mushrooms as soon as we arrived. We sautéed most of the mushrooms with oregano, salt and pepper in the olive oil. With its own delicious juice we placed the mushrooms in jars and cooked them a la bain marie. The smaller, tender and nicer ones were sweetened with wine and spices. These were then eaten as an appetizer later on.
The following week we returned to the same place, this time on a Wednesday, and we had another successful harvest.
The harvesting of mushrooms is an activity where we make good use of the forest. It mixes the ludic side with sustainibility and makes up another source of tasty food that can be obtained.


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