Episode 1

FROM DERELICT TO JAM

A big hello to my follower in the UK after my very long absence from blogging. She says my next blog is eagerly awaited. I hope this one doesn’t disappoint. Before I launch into the next episode in my world of moisture, there has been a reason for my lack of regular insights into moisture. About a year ago, building work started on our old garage. Window frames were rotting and gaping holes were regularly appearing. Panes of glass were falling out of the door. Actually, we had lived with our ever-disintegrating garage, a home to local wildlife, since moving into the house 16 years ago. Circumstances over 2017 kind of dictated that we should do something useful with the garage…..

All the preparation and ongoing decisions on the garage renovation needed a lot of focus. I just didn’t have the time to attend to my bog. So it’s a happy return and to a topic I’ve covered before: “deliquescence”. It’s a natural process involving moisture that fascinates me. Indirectly, it was a consequence of renovating the garage that led me to stumble upon another example of deliquescence.

My obsession with moisture goes a long way beyond just writing a few hundred words every now and then. In 2007 I came up with an idea for a business and we gave it the name “Relequa”.  A name extracted from Relative Humidity and Equilibrium.For the uninitiated, I describe what these terms mean in my eBook A Wet Look At Climate Change.

But what circumstances in 2017 caused us to start thinking about doing a garage makeover? Around about the middle of 2017 we started to look locally for premises for Relequa in order to assemble and package my new invention called the MP-1000 (watch a video). It is a precision built machine involving electronics and electromechanically controlled parts for measuring the moisture status of materials. Our first instrument developed during 2007-2009 taught me in the intervening years a lot about the way materials interact with moisture. I developed a technique called “Moisture Profiling” and built the MP-1000 around this.   

A home for Relequa

No suitable commercial business premises were available, but, it just so happened, that the Enterprise Centre had a room about the right size for our needs. As a Government funded establishment the Enterprise Centre had its own set of rules and board of management. When the Centre manager told us that we were an ideal company for tenancy we thought it was a shoo-in.

An application to the Enterprise Centre was carefully crafted and answers to the difficult financial questions, such as,“how are you going to pay the rent?”, were prepared. A wait of four weeks ensued. Eventually The Board got their act together and the call came from the Centre manager, “I’m sorry, we cannot offer you a place because of the Five Year Rule”. We knew about the ‘five year rule’ but were led to think that this could be waived. Basically, if a company has been established for more than five years then they cannot be offered a place in the Centre. Thanks lads.

The not so Alpine Lodge

Our electronics engineer who was working on the final bits of the MP-1000 suggested looking at a new style steel framed shed.We located a supplier just outside Dungarvan and went to look at their show sheds. Immediately we set our hearts on an “Alpine Lodge”. The company suggested we demolish our old garage and they erect our “Alpine lodge”. This could be done quickly and without planning permission. Just the one hitch, we’d need to get someone in to lay a concrete base to pin the supports for the “Alpine Lodge”.

The steel shed people gave us the name of a builder they worked with who would demolish the old garage and lay the concrete base. Enter onto the stage a really nice man called John. After taking measurements and having a look around, John says “I wouldn’t demolish this……the walls are double blocked with the required airspace between…..and then there’s the cost of disposal of the rubble”.

We had in hand an outline of how we saw the layout for the “Alpine Lodge”. John got his tape measure out and we planned what came to be known as the “Alternative Alpine Lodge”. Just one little hiccup, the roofing felt was crumbling to bits. Introducing the next member of the cast, ‘Michael the Carpenter’. Michael was contacted by ‘John the Builder’ to come round and give us an estimate. So far, so good: we agreed with Michael about replacing both the roofing felt and the old tiles that were from the 1970s.

“We have a problem”

First things first, the roof had to be done before the concrete base was laid. Less risk this way with the Irish weather being what it is at that time of year in November. Michael the Carpenter was onsite to begin work one fine day and after not more than ten minutes there was a knock on the door. I heard one of the two phrases to which I was about to become accustomed: “we have a problem”. The other phrase is “we’ve been thinking”, the ‘we’ being John the Builder and Michael the Carpenter. A dynamic duo! Well one not quite so dynamic due to his age and dodgy hip.

So back to “we have a problem”. This required a demonstration at the roof. Michael took a hammer and banged one of the rafters where he’d started removing the soffit. A cloud of dust surrounded him. “That”he said “is woodworm”. Thanks to the work of hundreds of little beetles and their progeny the whole roof had to be replaced. Every cloud of dust has a silver lining and that’s where “we’ve been thinking” comes into the story, but that comes later.

So we were left with a shell.

I’m leaving the story of the “Alternative Alpine Lodge” here and will continue in my next post.

Silver Spoon but other makes are available

Getting back to deliquescence and where it fits into this story. In preparation for the garage revamp, we had to sort out a lot of stuff. Most of it was focussed on the garden tools and the usual junk that accumulates. A freezer and tumble dryer had to be relocated into the house.Generally things were moved into new places or dumped. Taking this opportunity to organise our stuff better, we emptied a cupboard that had in it, hidden behind other containers, a bag of jam sugar.

We use standalone open wire shelving in the cupboard. Our forgotten about jam sugar was on the second top shelf of four tiers:well, most of it was. Some sugar had made its way over the contents of the lower shelves and all the way down to the floor. You know when a simple job turns into nightmare?

This particular cupboard was built against an outside wall and it’s in a kitchen. Every time its door is opened, warm moist air enters in from the kitchen. During winter the wall is cold all of the time and it cools the air inside the cupboard. Moist warm air, that has arrived and closed in, cools and the relative humidity shoots up. Just like the sugar in an open sugar bowl, high humidity caused the jam sugar to take up moisture.Eventually over time, including an usually cold winter, enough moisture had been adsorbed to cause the sugar to dissolve into a sticky liquid at the walls of its paper wrapping. “This” I’m telling you “is deliquescence”.

You probably haven’t thought about this, but the paper around bags of sugar is not meant to hold liquids. After soaking through the paper this sticky liquid dripped down over whatever was underneath and then dried. No matter three hours later, what was cleanable was saved, what wasn’t, was dumped.

So there we have our story of consequences, anew home for Relequa Analytical Systems Ltd., a garage renovation and deliquescence of jam sugar. More to follow……

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Welcome to my world of moisture

2 thoughts on “Episode 1

  1. Susannah

    Your uk reader who is stateside atm is delighted that the blog is up a dripping again!!! The alpine lodge is no doubt a great asset despite all the traumas getting it built!!! Hopefully you will be looking after your preserving sugar better in future!!!

    Reply
    1. PeterMoir Post author

      Hi Susannah UK reader, I’m getting too old for preserving but good news Episode 2 is on its way!

      Reply

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