Liz & Matt’s Home Extension Blog

a journal by Liz & Matt Coates

Didn’t I say? Didn’t I? Didn’t I?

by Liz & Matt Coates Oct.25.2010 11:49:47 am

Much to everyone’s surprise (not least my own) I finally completed the construction of my long-awaited biodiesel processor one evening last week.  After spending about a year in the “research and dithering” phase, the actual construction phase took a little over 5 months, most of which time was spent on the “waiting for parts to arrive”, “avoiding making critical decisions” and “generally faffing about” steps.

So anyway - here it is in all its glory.  The photos were taken a couple of weeks ago so don’t show the finished article, but you’ll get the idea.  I’ll upload a proper publicity shot of it in it’s final pristine (not covering in oil) state soon.

Biodiesel Processor Mk I - almost complete Main mixing/circulation pipework with venturi injector
Lots of valves Pump and non-syphoning in-line heater

In case you’re interested, this is based on the ”GL Eco-System” design.  This is an improved, safer and more environmentally-friendly version of the original American “Appleseed” design.

As you may know, there have been a number of well-publicised cases of people injuring themselves messing about with this stuff in recent years and there’s also a lot of misinformation about biodiesel and how to make it on the Web, plus a lot of poor-quality (and downright dangerous) systems available on ebay and even from commercial suppliers.  Just to set your minds at rest (thanks for your concern), this system includes a number of built-in safety features, all of which are described on the GL site.  More details than you will probably want to know and a guided tour are available on request.  Actually, come anywhere near the house and you’ll probably get those anyway so you may want to steer clear for a while.

I haven’t had time to actually put any oil in it yet but hopefully that will happen within the next couple of weeks, just as soon as I get a free weekend.  I’m aiming to have my first batch of fuel from it by the end of November.

Biodiesel beginnings

by Liz & Matt Coates May.22.2010 8:58:07 pm

Last year’s big project was supposed to be building a biodiesel processor using the old central heating cylinder that’s been sitting outside since we had a new one installed a few years ago (link).  As it turned out, what with converting sheds and building chicken runs (link), various bit of decorating and other priorities, I didn’t get very far and had to settle for buying biodiesel from a company in cambridge (  

I did lots of research, made some new friends (, visited a few home producers, bought some of the necessary equipment and chemicals ( and acquired a large amount of waste cooking oil which has been sitting under a tarpaulin in the patio all winter, but I never actually got as far as making any fuel.

This year is going to be different.  You just watch!

Daphne does us proud

by Liz & Matt Coates Mar.10.2010 11:21:24 pm

We’re a bit behind with this news but, back in the first week of February, much to everyone’s delight, Daphne produced her first egg, followed by two more over the next couple of days.  Slightly smaller than the hens eggs, they are a beautiful pale blue-green colour (I guess it’s what you’d call duck egg blue) and they taste lovely too.

Daphne’s first 3 eggs

Soon after this, the ducks decided that their converted guinea-pig hutch was no longer adequate and they moved into the shed with the hens (to be fair I think it was Daphne’s idea - Draco just did what he was told).  We installed a nesting box for them and they now occupy the ground floor at night, while the hens roost above them on the perch.  They have also become much more confident and adventurous over the last month.  They are now very keen to get out and about in the mornings and, although they spend most of their time in or close to the pond, they have even started exploring around the rest of the garden.

The supply of eggs slowed considerably after the first week, but we still got the odd one every few days and thought nothing of it since they are still quite young and are not supposed to produce all year round.  Today, however, S discovered a magnificent total of 17 eggs in a nest hidden in the hedge by the pond, which at least explains why Draco has been defending the area from the hens so aggressively.  It’s been pretty cold for the last month and Daphne hasn’t been seen sitting on them, so hopefully most will still be good for eating.

Anyone fancy an omelette?

Let it snow

by Liz & Matt Coates Dec.18.2009 1:01:57 pm

We woke up this morning to thick snow. Thick enough to get the girls off school anyway. This was the first time the birds had encountered snow and they really weren’t sure they liked it. After a bit the ducks decided it wasn’t too bad and ignored it. The chickens on the other hand wondered around looking confused for a bit until E let them out. Then they wandered round trying to eat snow and falling off things (like walls) that were slippier than normal. What fun.

Inside the house things have started happening again; the stairs and landing - almost - have a base coat of paint (Hooray).  Bought 2 sets of shelves off ebay that are destined for the landing (Hooray again) and what with all this snow and house-bound-ness more things might start happening again (double Hooray!).

The ducks don’t mind snow Georgie - The cold chicken
Hens - Looking confused I did say almost…

Chicken Run part four - Two Ducks A-Swimming

by Liz & Matt Coates Dec.14.2009 3:15:48 pm

Today, for the first time, the ducks went for a swim in the pond - after turning their beaks up at the idea for the last 3 months.  They had great fun and came out a lot cleaner than they went in (despite the fact that the water is disgusting). See:

Daphne and Draco

In other news we have finally come to the conclusion that, despite being sold as apricots, they are actually mallards.  Which might explain why Draco’s head is such a pretty green colour.

And I think that’s everything… so Happy Christmas!


Chicken Run part three - Duck!

by Liz & Matt Coates Aug.31.2009 9:15:21 pm

Actually Ducks! would be more accurate.

We’ve had a pair of Apricot call ducks on order from a local farm for the last 6 weeks, waiting for them to reach the point where they could be reliably sexed so that we could have a pair.  We finally got the call this morning and went to collect them this afternoon.  Draco and Daphne are now tucked up in a converted guinea pig hutch just outside the chicken shed.  So far they have not ventured outside the hutch but seem to be settling in ok.

For those not in the know, “call” ducks are a small breed with many colour varieties and a louder than average voice. The advice we received was to get a male-female pair, rather than two females, as only the girls call and they do so whenever they hear another duck call.  This means that two females will spend the entire time setting each other off.  The drakes, who have a much quieter voice, will gently soothe their ladies into silence.  I intend not to draw any analogies.

The hens, with whom they will be sharing the run, were a bit bemused by the strange noises coming from the hutch but have largely ignored them so far.  We also let the hens out into the garden for the first time today to give them a bit of a distraction. They opted to stay within a few feet of the run this time, although they had a splendid time scratching around in the rockery by the pond and fighting over the slugs they found there.

Pictures of ducks coming soon.

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