Saturday, 22 February 2014

Rain,reflections, limitations and failure

I've found it tough to do all the things I've wanted to do this Winter while the rain hasn't stopped, but my ambition remains the same. This blog has been a great outlet to order and prioritise my ideas and thoughts. I knew I was taking on a lot, and I'm enjoying the ride, but there have definitely been some failures.

One of my projects was to create a rocket stove with my friend Scotty Garret and Bohemia dad (see links below for his blog). Its been ongoing, snatching pieces of time here and there, having a beer and tinkering while both sets of  kids play together, effectively cancelling each other out, a superb equation I never bore of.

Our 'almost' Rocket Stove

We've used tin cans as the feeder and chimney within a large tin, a wholesale can of cooking oil from the Chinese takeaway round the corner. The void is filled with a mix of clay and vermiculite. A contraption built almost entirely from recycled material. The theory being that if the chimney and feeder tube are the correct dimensions, then you can create a highly efficient  burn from a minimal amount of fuel (so many permaculture principles!). We have managed to create a burn somewhere on the range of 7 out of ten. Its not yet a rocket stove, which should produce a flame that looks like its coming out of the back of a - you guessed it - ROCKET! The flame is more akin to a intermittently fierce common garden fire. Tweaking and adding to the design is in progress, that's the joy of it, and its very clearly all about air flow. Where we are is a lot better than where we were Initially we had managed to create an exact opposite of a rocket stove, a structure which could put any fire out which was started within it, an anti rocket stove, a black hole, a fire extinguisher!

The first batch of beer didn't work. I had to go back to the home brew shop down on Norman road, and get more supplies. When I told the very nice lady what I'd done, she looked at me in the nicest possible way like I was the most useless berk in the world, I could read her mind ' Useless, just useless' as I regaled to her how I'd failed using a can't fail system.

I now know why though. And whilst the mixing and initial temperature control went well, the subsequent care (leaving it in the kitchen, the  coldest part of the house) meant that the fermentation process stalled. The next batch, one of the jobs for the weekend will be kept in a more central part of the house and will be wrapped in a special 'beer jacket' knitted by my mum (see left). I will give my beer the attention it deserves, just as I do any children or seedlings in my care That should do it, and if it doesn't, I'll be learning another lesson, so in a way, my methodology becomes 'win - win' (mental gymnastics people, I refuse to be too down on myself!)

What? I thought it was a boob tube!

Using a veggie box scheme was another eye opener. When you desperately want to support local businesses you can accept a premium on what you're paying for when you compare with supermarkets, because the point is to circulate money locally. When that price differential becomes so large that you are effectively doubling part of your food budget, it no longer fits into my aims for this project, which is to 'obtain  a yield'. The inputs to any system should be minimised, not maximised, and that can include money. I not only have a responsibility to my community, but also to my family, and how well we feed them. I am hopeful of using another supplier, better still, the food from the new supplier should be locally grown and far cheaper. This gives new challenges and opportunities, not only for me, but for Shell. Local food will dictate what we get, rather than simply picking what we want. Keeping us eating seasonally will improve diets, and it's my belief that the food delivers us what we need at specific parts of the year, but that's for another day

And I am simply not far on enough for my liking with the front and back yards. The planting of certain trees and shrubs is all very well and good, but the front still needs attention for the wall, and the build at the back is still to be started. I know what I want, but the limitations hold me back - namely, you guessed it, time (STOP. RAINING. PLEASE!), and money - inextricably linked, and even more so for someone with a day job like mine.

But I've laid the tiles down in the room designated to be a larder, with the help of my father in law Dave and it looks good. Its ok to let the wife know you want to better utilise the 'dumping ground', but it has to look pretty or you're not allowed to do it. Stylish AND functional. That's the key. The days are lengthening at pace now, and the local community is introducing me to new projects all the time. Its exciting when this type of thinking begins to spread, or more accurately, like minded people begin to connect, because they're inherent, these goals, its just that we've forgotten what we should be doing and it takes energy, time and guts to relearn this and reject the values fed to us all the time by most of the media.

We are all going to fail at times, but when the systems we are putting  in are aimed at unlinking ourselves from the treadmill culture of modern day western society, our aims and goals are so life changing it is important to stay the course. 'They', the media, the government, the top 1% don't want you to think like this. Far better to sate desire and control people through consumerism, but if we can begin to break their hold by taking responsibility for ourselves, and what we need, we can end up in a better place full of failure, learning and happiness. 


  1. To be fair Marky, i think if it was just you making the stove then it probably would have worked. I'm the extinguisher!.... of dreams!!!

    1. No way scotty, we're both responsible for the inverse rocket stove misadventure