Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This is what we hope to get out of the Solar Coffee Bean Drier project, coffee,  good tasting coffee.  I had several of the faculty talk to me today about helping Rufino learn more about maintenance and how they could help him be better prepared to help the people in his area of Guatemala.  Rufino will be here long enough to learn some skills that will help him be more helpful when he returns.  We just have to figure out how to maximize his learning time.  So far the welding is going well.  Jeff Joos is doing a very good job working with Rufino.  I have a couple of projects that I need to put together over the holiday weekend and then we can have Rufino start on them after Labor Day.  Actually making things does help  the learning process and it is more fun.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Administrative meeting

I had several meeting this week about the Guatemala coffee project and things are moving along.  Now that the first week of school is behind us we should all be ready to do a little bit more work on the actual design.  I am waiting to get some design information about a grain dryer that was used in the USA before everyone switched over to the large bins and started using natural gas and propane.  Once I have that information I can start getting supplies and start the construction.  I have several ideas for smaller driers but the local farmers dry 500 to 1000 pounds of beans so we will need something bigger.  We also may need some type of solar powered fan.  I don't know that much about solar energy but I have enrolled in a class at ICC and I have homework to read this weekend.  More important, I am a motivated student.
What I really enjoy about this project is the degree of enthusiasm I get from the other faculty when I talk about this.  No one says, "oh a solar coffee dryer", yawn and rolls eyes.  People do seem to find the project interesting and are willing to help in some small way.  This could be a good thing for ICC as the years go on.  I am sure what ever we do in the near future, will need to be worked over and improved in the months ahead.  That is also what I like about the project.  It will always be fresh because technology is always changing.
I plan to be at Landscape and Garden Day on Saturday, September 10, to try and sell some of my yard stuff.  I need to clean out my old metal work, because we are not taking any of that stuff to Silver City, New Mexico.  I am going to try and sell it and use the money to buy supplies for the model solar coffee dryers.  I have built one already and will get supplies for another this week end.  If anyone needs something for the yard or garden, at a good price, I will have some things at Landscape and Garden Days.  I will be at the Green Expo that same day, also at ICC.  Busy, busy, busy, or Wo Hen Mang.  Sorry, Wo Hen Mang, is another blog.  That is going to be kind of rough, to try and learn some Spanish and at the same time try to improve my Chinese, and not be very good at either one.  That is what makes life interesting, the challenges. I love the challenges.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First solar energy class at ICC

Monday was my first evening class for solar energy at Illinois Central College.  I have never taken any classes in the area of renewable energy or solar power, so this will be interesting.  The classes are at the Dingeldine Campus.  The old solar house has been torn down for many years. The solar house was the solar energy of the 70's and now we are learning about the solar energy of the new millennium. I really think the course will be a good source of information for me to use as we work to develop something to dry coffee beans. My instructor is Brain Weaver and he has been helpful and worked with me over the summer.  I have built a basic dryer that he told me about earlier this summer.  Pete Fandel, the ICC crop science instructor, is working to get me information on a system that was used years ago to dry grain.  I think, once he gets me the information, that we could make the old technology work.  I think it could dry more coffee at one time, than some of the smaller units I have seen on the Internet.  I found some metal in a scrap pile that should work for some drying racks.  I need to make use of as much "junk" as I can because we will probably do that in Guatemala.   All the faculty members that I have talked to have been very helpful and are interested in this project.

Rufino Caniz has started his welding training and we have a plan for the type of courses and training that ICC will supply him with while he is here.   We hope to teach him how to weld, some basic electrical skills, mechanical maintenance skills, plumbing, and small engine maintenance.  It seems like a lot to cover in three months but it can be done.  I need to get started on my pictures and project work.  We hope to develop some projects that could help raise some money for the coffee dryer project.  I am probably going to be at Landscape and Garden Days and sell some of the stuff I have made over the years.  I need to get rid of things anyway and this is a good cause to use the money for.    I just need to get in to the routine of writing and taking pictures, like I did when I was in Xian.  One thing good about working on a coffee project, I have no excuse for being tired.  Caffeine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welding equipment

I have bought some welding equipment for Rufino Caniz, the visiting professor from Guatemala. Tools of the trade.  I still need to get a welding bag and some other hand tools and a four inch hand grinder.  But he does have enough to start and I will get him a good welding jacket that fits, later on.  Rufino is at ICC to help with the development of the solar coffee bean dryer and to learn skills that he can take back to Guatemala and teach others.  I will be working with him and will be the person to do the introductions to the other instructors that he will take classes from. He should arrive on campus on Wednesday, probably for the faculty dinner.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New blog first post

Since I will be working on the development of a solar coffee bean dryer for Guatemala, I decided to start a blog about the process.  I find writing a blog to be helpful to me to stay focused and to get things done.  As a friend of mine said to me in China when he wanted me to enter a beer drinking contest, "Do it for your blog."  I did and I won.  So I will be keeping track of what I am doing and what others are doing as we work towards our goal of trying to dry coffee beans in a more environmentally friendly way.  I am also going to try and post some of what I am doing on my QQ blog, so my Chinese students will know what I am doing and hopefully be able to practice their English skills.  The project is really international.

This project should be very interesting.  I have made several good contacts with instructors at Illinois Central College and we should have several working models to test this fall.  I have one just about done and will start on another very soon.  I hope to have some students that are interested in collecting data from the working models so we can have benchmark data to work with.  I will be taking two solar energy classes at ICC this fall semester and hope to learn a lot more about solar power.

I can always use some help on this project.  Feel free to volunteer.  Any help would be appreciated.  I could use ideas, information, the name of an organization to contact for funding, labor and just words of encouragement.  I will be able to be more specific as the weeks go by.  Right now we are just in the process of getting started and waiting for the fall semester to start so all the faculty are back on campus.   I plan to post pictures of the area and the people of Guatemala, our project, and the people involved so people can see what we are doing.  I also will post information about the different types of driers we are testing so people can see what we are doing, offer suggestions, or start on their own solar drier to see if they can do a better one.   Time to go to work.   I need to finish my mini-grant for ICC to see if I can get some type of funding.