On the up…

Big day last Friday as the main growing section of the polytunnel got fitted out!

racking-5

Thanks to the kind loaning of a 7.5 tonne truck the racking was picked up from storage and delivered on site.

racking-1 racking-3

After carefully measuring and levelling the foot pads the upright frame went up with literally an inch to spare!!

racking-2 racking-4

The idea is to build a platform on the beams at the base, on that we will put grow bags to start us off whilst the last section will be the hydroponic test area. This gives us the opportunity to learn about running such a system and then roll it out over the whole polytunnel as we gain confidence.

racking-6

The tomato’s, cucumber and other vining plants will be trained up guide wires so eventually all you will see is a wall of green.

Dibbing about in Donny…

Well,  It’s a new year and a new you. So hello to you !!

After much ado this year that has kept us pretty busy we are officially launching the DUG network in the salutation inn on January the 24th at 7PM

I’m sure your asking what the hell all this is about, so sit down put on your slippers and get comfy because I’m about to tell you !

DUG was created to help folks like yourselves take that first tentative step into the wonderful and exhilarating world of home grown food. Maybe the ever rising costs, especially fresh local produce, brought you to our door. Maybe it’s a concern about industrial practice or just a desire for a simpler better way of life. Whatever the reasons we welcome you with open arms to our friendly fraternity…

DUG is here to fill that gap between allotments and their associations and farmers and their experience. Here you will find like minded people, all with a story, a hint or a tip to help you get started, fight of those bugs and get the best out of your plot no matter how big or small. You don’t need an acre of garden or an allotment to grow loads of fresh high quality ingredients. In fact we think you’ll be surprised just how much you can cram into even a terrace garden with a bit of know-how.

Our vision, our aim here at DUG HQ is to see Doncaster turned into a food lovers paradise, a garden of plenty with little urban farms dotted through out or great borough.

Join us to help make it happen…..

DUG growers’ poster January 2013

MAKER SPACE

 

or how I learned to stop worrying and just love stuff !!

In 2012 we exported a lot of stuff. One direction, rain water into the north sea, British pride and the royals ( the Americans get that last one free to make up for 1776 ).

But the export business started long before that… it started with ideas. And one of those ideas was the maker space. We sent it over to America where they have latched on to it with the same vigour they had with the Beatles. So once it became the done thing to hang around with old guys that knew more than you did, knew it and could give a toss they sent our baby back. Now we have sulky petulant teen of an idea ready to take on the world and the world be damned !! So what is this maker space I hear you cry ??

A maker space is simply a place where a group come together Co-operatively and in collaboration.

Errrr OK that’s not so simple is it…? I’ll try again….

A maker space is a building which house’s all the tools you need to build what ever you want. Fancy building a bookcase ? Maker space. Got a great idea for a product but can’t afford prototype or production cost’s? maker space.

You see not all of us are nicely well off middle class types with google chrome as our task bar. Most of us have an idea or two or just want to simply learn how to do stuff properly, that age old ache to create, to produce to express .. but the cost of the equipment is way out of our league and we may find it a bit hard to justify the cost of a pillar drill or bench lathe to our spouse’s if we just want to play. Especially as the benefits get cut and I wont get a pay rise this year. And forget about adult extension classes. Who has the time ??

Well your local space might have that equipment, if it doesn’t it might have the tools you need to build it. The people that you meet down there will come from a wide background, an untapped resource of unbelievable potential from welders and fabricators to draughtsmen and designer’s. The computer girl that will show you, that if you can use a photocopier you can use a 3D printer. The old time carpenter that can teach you all you need to know about making that presentation box.

You know, the one that wowed the sales team and convinced them that your doohicky is what has been missing all their lives….

A maker space is an eclectic mix of old world wooden hand tools to mega gig computers and star trek replicator’s …

So why am I banging the drum for the maker space. Well my nearest one is access space in Sheffield. It’s main focus is multi media but its also a bit too far to travel if I want to make a bike trailer !!

However a new year a new opportunity. Doncaster is getting it’s own maker space !! . the copley roadproject will soon open it’s doors to you fair and creative citizens so please show support for what could be the best thing since an ironed shirt….

Lets take a chance and become producers not consumers. Lets learn things we didn’t know we wanted to learn. We are willing to pay 20-30 quid for a gym membership why not the same for our local maker space ??

Here’s a few links to get you in the making mood…..

A podcast about maker space’s, it’s woth skipping the housekeeping !

Maker space in ann arbour

And another american based one

Hope to see you at the Copley road project !!

The Fiscal Cliff & the Permaculture Parachute

The world may not have ended on December 21st, 2012, but it looks highly likely that the economic dominance of the US will be very much in its death throws during 2013…

This puts the UK, with its intimate links to both the US and the Euro-zone, in a very precarious position. On hearing about the looming fiscal cliff and the risk of hyperinflation there are some people who will be tempted to build a bunker, dress like an action man and stock up on freeze-dried chicken noodles (the kind of people who give preppers a bad name courtesy of the Discovery Channel). But those of us who enjoy fresh air (and fresh fruit & veg for that matter) like to take a more logical (in actual fact ‘methodological’…) approach.

The word economy comes from the Greek oikonomos (manager of a household) and is closely related to the word ecology (oikos = house + logia = study), but modern attitudes which focus on ‘bottom lines’ and ‘perpetual growth’ can seem far from homely. This is because the economists define wealth and security in terms of access to the market. But despite being elevated to a central position for the last few centuries the market is not the most important factor in the economy… the real driving force of the economy is – and always has been… – the land. As The Land magazine say in their manifesto:

Anyone who has land has access to energy, water, nourishment, shelter, healing, wisdom, ancestors and a grave. Ivan Illich spoke of “a society of convivial tools that allows men to achieve purposes with energy fully under their control”. The ultimate convivial tool, the mother of all the others, is the earth.

Don’t get us wrong, markets can play a vital role in the peaceable exchange of skills & resources and in countering creative and cultural stagnation, but when the market is placed above every other aspect of human ecology the effects are devastating… hence the current crisis. The dominant economic and legal systems we are expected to live by have divorced the vast majority of us from both the land in general and the skills to cater for our own central needs – food, shelter, sanitation, etc. – in a convivial and ecologically sensitive way. And as the ongoing economic crisis makes it ever harder for an increasing number of people to secure access to the essentials, the ecological crisis – which is itself a product of a dysfunctional socioeconomic worldview – is making present human ecologies even less stable… a viscous circle spinning at the heart of a perfect storm.

sandy

Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES

If this sounds a bit gloomy, it is; there’s little point in denial when it comes to one of the most rapid and monumental changes in the earth’s climate. What’s more there’s not a whole lot of real, decisive action taking place… in fact, thanks to a political system ultimately based on lobbying clout (whoever can pay has the last say), the very opposite is true. On a global level we’re about to witness some of the most dramatic shifts in sovereign power for centuries, but there is little evidence to suggest that Gaia will replace the gun regardless of who’s in the big chair. On a local level even before the economic crisis there were very few local authorities which paid anything more than lip service to building genuinely resilient communities. But we have now reached a point where we are being forced to reconsider both our economic and ecological systems in the light of the overwhelming evidence that continuing along our current path is almost certainly suicidal.

london-futures-main

From Robert Graves and Dider Madoc Jones digital art series Postcards from the Future

Well that’s the doom & gloom done with, now for a glimmer of hope… THERE IS A BETTER WAY!..

Permaculture is a design system which uses naturally occurring ecological patterns and feedback-loops to create highly sustainable, convivial and resilient human habitats. Far from being a pie-in-the-sky utopian dream these are widespread everyday practices which often take advantage of techniques that have been known to humans for millennia (and to mother nature for billions of years). What’s more it is a process which doesn’t rely on any outside help from politicians, bankers or business gurus; so regular people (like you and me) can begin to make a very real difference – both locally and globally – regardless of the inactivity of government and the local authorities. Some might find that they have to bend the rules a little depending on exactly where they live and the socioeconomic circumstances they find themselves in, but absolutely anyone can – and should!.. – begin to practice essential permacuture principles today.

Permaculture is no magic bullet, as you’ll quickly discover it’s all about small steps and a lot of patience. But taken seriously each small step you take will lead you  to a healthier, more fulfilled and resilient (not to mention cheaper!..) way of living.

P13-1382_7664

Design for Eco-Village Wroclaw

There are plenty of freely available online resources (this is a good place to start), but if you have some spare cash one of the most accessible (not to mention most beautiful) introduction books has to be Graham Burnett‘s “Permaculture, A Beginner’s Guide.

permabeginners1

At the moment it’s on special offer and includes a copy of Graham’s “Top of the Crops“, but even if you miss the offer we recommend ordering Top of the Crops as well anyway… especially if you have kids!

PermaFuture will be hosting an Introduction to Permaculture workshop in Doncaster sometime in the Spring; drop us a line or follow the blog for further details… in the meantime, GET GROWING!

Views from International #Permaculture Day 2012

International Permaculture Day occurs each year on the First Sunday in May.

Here are some great little videos from Patrick Whitefield, Andy Goldring and Polly Higgins, as posted on the wonderful IntPermacultureDay YouTube channel, enjoy…

Growing in a Small Space

As a follow up to our presentation for The Fringe last week, John Briggs will be giving a practical lesson* in Growing in a Small Space on Saturday 12th May, 2012. If you’d like to join us we’re meeting 9am at The Cenotaph on Roman Rd, Bennetthorpe, Doncaster.

Click here to download a copy of our ‘Growing in a Small Space’ poster.

* To cover costs we’re asking for a minimum donation of £2.00 on the day.

Digging Doncaster – #doncasterisgreat

Just to remind anyone who’s going to be in Doncaster this week that we’ll be presenting An Introduction to Permaculture this Thursday night (26th), 7:30pm at The Salutation on South Parade. A big thanks to The Fringe arts group for the invite…

we’ll also be taking the opportunity to formally launch D.U.G. our Doncaster based practical Guerrilla Gardening and Urban Homesteading project…

 

Why pay for sickly @redbull when you can get delicious #SilverBirch for #FREE

It’ll soon be that time of year when the sap begins to rise… both metaphorically and actually. Spring is when we begin to feel rejuvenated after the grey days of winter. Luckily for us there’s a natural energy drink which becomes freely available just when we need it the most (and which doesn’t rely on a bombardment of crappy advertising). Filled with sugars, amino acids, proteins and enzymes, Birch Sap is guaranteed to deliver a Usain-Bolt-paced-energy-jolt to tiring bodies. 😉

Birch Sap is also so delicious that it is sold commercially in some countries, and because it can only be collected during an average period of 1 month in every year and is highly perishable, it can demand a very high price indeed (even higher than that overpriced Red Bull stuff) – in Japan it has sold for as much as €50 per litre!

Any prepper, bush-craft enthusiast or forager worth their salt will find the idea of paying such a high price for Birch Sap a little crazy, because we know how easy it is to obtain…

A cut branch will provide a good drink, but we wouldn’t recommend this technique. It’s much better for the tree, and more ethical for the forager, to learn how to properly drill a tree to leave it in good repair. With this in mind the ever wonderful A-Z Bushcraft & Srvival Skills  have produced this informative, Creative Commons licensed video…

The video recently featured on Permculture Magazine‘s website, where they also included the following recipe taken from Ben Law’s book The Woodland Year:

Ben Law’s Birch Sap Wine

Ingredients

1 gallon of birch sap

2 lemons

1/2 lb (454g) raisins

2 lbs sugar or 2 pints of honey

yeast

Method

Squeeze lemons. Add a little grated zest to the birch sap and boil for 20 minutes. Pour sap on to sugar or honey and raisins. Stir until the sugar or honey is dissolved. When lukewarm add yeast, cover with a cloth and leave in the fermenting bin until fermentation has slowed down. Then strain into a demijohn. Top up with water as necessary and fit an air lock. Should be ready to drink by late summer.

Special Offer direct from the publishers: save 25% on The Woodland Year and get it p&p free (in the UK). RRP £19.95. Discounted price £14.96. Offer lasts until March 31st 2012.

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 4

And now for the final part of our series on security options for a post peak community…..

 

Establish Economic Security

“Economic Security” in a Peak Oil context likely has a far different meaning than we currently understand it. Economics is the study of the intersection between psychology and resources, and we currently focus far too much attention on this description than on studying the resources themselves. Hence, our fall into a world of Peak Oil and global warming without having understood how our extraction (and abuse) of resources undermined the resource base itself.  In a post-Peak Oil context, economic security has a more obvious connection to resource security. This would include developing farming capabilities (food security), ensuring a clean water supply (water security), assisting families with developing sustainable post-PO homes (shelter security), as well as setting up specialized operations like blacksmithing, carpentry, medical care, and so forth.

 

Conduct Regional Community Outreach

A wealthy community with poor neighbours is not a strong community. The interdependence of neighbouring communities has largely been ignored in modern times and will sharply regain prominence in the years ahead. Becoming insular will not serve to improve a community’s security, but rather put it at risk of retaliation due to the envy or ire of its neighbours. Remember that the wisest military leader is the one who engineers conditions such that a war need never be fought.

Diplomacy with your neighbours increases security by establishing a network of mutual aid in the event of attack, natural disaster, crop failure, or any other calamity that can befall a human. The benefits of reaching out and sharing with your neighbours most often result in exponential returns back to you.

Specific strategies could include:

1) Organize a regional council of community leaders to identify projects that would provide benefit to the entire region. Politics will always intrude on human affairs, so it is important to ensure your representative exhibits strong skill at navigating political minefields.

2) Establish a Community Reserve Corps to deploy to other communities for building up sustainable infrastructure. This may sound ludicrous for a community that is itself caught in the throes of a post-Peak Oil world, but it is not as ridiculous as you might think. The concept is to send rotating teams of sustainable designers, builders, farmers, doctors, and security professionals to spread what your community has learned to others that might have no such capability. The investment would very rapidly reap rewards by putting more heads on the problems involved with establishing sustainability, and — most importantly — improve the stability of the region surrounding your community. This concept will be discussed in more detail in the future on this site.

 

Establish Robust Information Systems

Communication can have a massive impact on human psychology and in turn lead to economic, diplomatic, and military capability developments, all of which add up to drum roll — community security.

Information is the grease for the engine of a well-functioning society. Information – and control of information – is the key to leveraging advantages for your communities against potential adversaries. This includes not only communication (internal and external) but gathering of intelligence. A community must have a clear understanding of what is going on inside and outside its borders and use that information to develop intelligent plans. I would hazard a guess that most of us know fewer than ten of our immediate neighbours, and few details even of those ten. This will largely contribute to the death of some communities in the near future, but you can easily take steps to encourage communication in your own immediate area. Laying that tentative groundwork now will improve your community’s ability to weather ever increasing risks.

 

Raise and Maintain an Appropriate Physical Security Presence

 

Addressing economic, informational, and diplomatic issues will provide a solid foundation for a secure community, but in order to execute a security strategy there must be a physical security presence. We currently see such a presence in our communities every day in the form of police. Consider that even currently we live in an extremely stable society, which requires only a minimal security presence (police) to maintain civil order and prevent the friction of crime from significantly impacting the workings of the community. Unfortunately, a post-Peak Oil situation inevitably leads to a weakening in the three foundation areas of economics, information, and diplomacy, for which we must compensate by increased physical security.

The first item that we must recognize for any community security strategy to succeed is that the current model of municipal police will not be enough to secure a community in an unstable post-Peak Oil environment. However, please note that it is extremely important to separate military function from police functions — blurring this line inevitably leads to authoritarianism, which is the last thing a struggling community needs. The training for municipal police versus military is starkly different in philosophy, and it would be best to establish and maintain two distinct corps of security personnel.

So how best to augment the police force? For a community, this can take many forms. As alluded to above, the security situation consists of both internal and external threats. Internal threats would include the typical array of crime with which we’re familiar: theft, domestic issues, fights, and other more violent crime. This should be dealt with by a corps of people whose training is focused on resolving disputes peacefully (the function of municipal police — “peace officers”).

 

External threats in a post-Peak Oil environment require a different approach, as preserving the community peace often means keeping interlopers out. This is likely the best function for employing the former military in your community, and training should focus on more military-style tactics. I don’t mean to pretend that developing this capability will be easy, particularly due to potential conflicts with police authority, difficulties winning approval from the community, and the substantial risk of a Para-military team being viewed as something far more sinister than a community protection force. Every community situation is different and will evolve differently. Some areas are perhaps already perfect (in a sense) for establishing a robust external security force, and yet other communities might view their position as so stable that the mere whispers of armed men augmenting the police might bring horror. That is why a clear and flexible strategy is necessary and must be very carefully tailored to the individual situation.

 

We hope this has given you all food for thought, and that you find it useful in developing your local security plan..

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 3

Following on from part 2 as it does, here is part 3 of our ongoing series…….

4. Internal Threats

So if biker gangs, martial law, and foreign occupiers aren’t our greatest security threats, what is our greatest risk? In short, crime. This is not a trivial threat. Consider the number of neighbours or relatives you know who have made preparations or even listened to concerns about Peak Oil and the host of other crises on the horizon. Chances are they can be counted on one hand, at best. This presents a huge security risk literally in our own backyards as our hungry friends and neighbours grow desperate in their needs for food, warmth, and water. Crime will present itself more and more frequently as time goes by and is by orders of magnitude the security risk about which we should be most concerned.

The catch, however, is that we need friends and neighbours in order to assure our long-term survival. Despite many survivalist claims to the contrary, it is a much greater risk for an individual or family to attempt to survive the wilderness alone than the threat of attack by those closest to you. The strategy for security preparations against local crime is by no means a purely military one. Remember the adage “war is continuation of politics by other means”. The wisest strategy for security is one that focuses on developing a strong political situation which dictates the smallest possible military backup.

So now that we have identified threats and risks how do we deal with them?

What follows is the core of that strategy.

Now that we have identified the primary security threats to our community, where do we begin defending against them? The answer, as most any military professional will tell you, is to define clear goals in an overarching security strategy.

When talking of security, you must first understand that security does not necessarily equate to military solutions. Community (or National) security includes many different aspects, the most significant of which are economics, diplomacy, information, and military power. Security is based on social stability. Stability is the aggregate measure of all aspects of security. You cannot hope to establish stability to a post-PO community by a military solution alone. This is the source of the failure of authoritarian regimes throughout history and it is the source of current failures in the Middle East. Stability cannot be dictated. A wise and sustainable Community Security Strategy (CSS) must encompass all aspects of a stable community. This means dividing appropriate attention and resources to not only martial solutions, but economic, informational, and yes, diplomatic aspects.

It is absolutely critical to understand the context of military decisions before making them. To do otherwise would unquestionably doom your community to failure from unseen directions. I propose the following key elements for a comprehensive CSS: Establish economic security, raise and maintain an appropriate security presence, conduct regional community outreach, and establish robust information systems.

Tune in later for part 4 of this series, coming soon ………