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.

Fuelling the fires…

 

The main greenhouse had a gas fired water heating system that had been condemned. So after much toing and froing and the application of a reciprocating saw it has been pulled out.

boiler boiler-3

Gas is something we just can’t afford to use at this time and we can’t generate enough of our own on site (more details to come) so we hit open the idea of using a rocket stove based water heater.

rocket-mass-heater1

For those that have never heard of them, rocket stoves are essentially hyper efficient and well insulated burn chambers that convert the fuel into useable heat leaving nothing but ash. The whole process is called pyrolysis and occurs in a j shaped tube that allows air to mix freely with the site of combustion. We will be building a kitchen version into the outdoor cooking space.

rocket_stove_details

Originally we were going to use the output to heat water but after reviewing the pluming arrangements we have decided to go with a rocket mass heater system. In this type of design the output heat is run through a large thermal mass which absorbs the heat and releases it back slowly.

rocket-stove-mass-heater

Should be an interesting little project.

 

Next DUG meeting 28/3/13 at The Sal… #DoncasterIsGreat #GuerrillaGardening

small DUG poster Mar 2013The next Doncaster Urban Growers (DUG) meeting is at The Salutation from 7pm on Thursday 28th March, 2013. As you can see from recent DUG posts members are itching to get active. With Spring in the air and mud on our minds you can expect some interesting debates and ideas! 😉

Click here to download a PDF of the poster.

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 !!

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 ………

Lentils: An Investment Opportunity!

Only when the last tree has died

and the last river been poisoned

and the last fish been caught

will we realise we cannot eat money. 

~Cree Indian Proverb

After years of lobbying by powerful bankers and hedge fund managers, the strict (and rather sensible…) regulations surrounding speculation on food were relaxed allowing financial companies to make huge unearned profits (i.e. they didn’t actually do anything – such as till the soil or reap the harvest – to deserve a cut!) by gambling on food prices. This has drastically pushed up prices for essentials like wheat and corn, which has added greatly to everybody’s cost of living and is leading to worldwide increases in hunger, poverty and civil unrest.

Although speculation by it’s very nature does mean that prices do actually rise and fall, these fluctuations are rarely passed on to the end user (a situation we see regularly with regard to oil and gas), which means consumers have faced near constant price increases for food at the tills (not to mention a near constant reduction in the size of processed food products like chocolate). But there is a way to fight back – by fighting fire with fire and investing in food!

Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest that you join the bankers in their addict-like quest for more, more, more! Not when you can invest in food and stick it to the banks at the same time…

The 5th of Jack Spirko‘s 12 Planks of Survival is:

Food stored is an exceptional investment. You simply can’t lose by storing additional food that you use on a regular basis.

In other words if you buy and store food you get a much higher rate of return than if you simply ‘store’ your wealth as money in the bank – and if things get really bad any Cree worth their salt will tell you that beans and lentils are a lot more digestible than cash. This is not to say that you should empty your bank account and build a cellar (not yet anyway 😉 ), but you should at least start thinking of ‘wealth’ in terms way beyond mere bank balance. At a time when traditional bank ‘savers’ are being hit hard it makes a lot of sense to diversify… things like land, food, building/manufacturing materials and gold are all sensible options (the SAS technique of carrying gold sovereigns hidden about your person to help buy food, shelter and safe conduct behind enemy lines is good prepper practice – as long as you know how to handle yourself in a mugging situation 😉 ).

Don’t worry if you’re not a saver, or even if you’re totally skint (I lost everything I had during the 2008 crash and have virtually no disposable income), you can still invest in food. If you grow your own (highly recommended) then you can experiment with different techniques for preserving the surplus, but even if you have no garden or allotment Jack Spirko shows that you can store more food than you think simply by using your regular food budget:

The key with storing food is you don’t run out and just buy 50 cases of military style rations and put them away for a decade in a basement.  Instead modern survival philosophy revolves around the mantra of “eat what you store and store what you eat”.  When you follow that concept you soon realize that storing food for the most part doesn’t cost a dime more then you will spend anyway.

A good approach is to join – or start – some form of buying group. Simply get a bunch of like-minded people together so you can collectively place bulk orders with wholesale suppliers. We’re currently involved with setting up a bulk-buying group in our area – so if you live in or near Doncaster, South Yorkshire then feel free to get in touch. We will place quarterly orders with the Yorkshire based workers’ cooperative, Suma, for foodstuffs which are easily stored (bulk buying is also a good way of buying other household goods like soaps and detergents). The order will be split up as requested between each member, but some items will be placed into our special rainy-day cache to be stored both as an investment and as good survival practice… more on that in a future post 😉

1st ever HarFest: Alternative Harvest Festival takes place in Doncaster on Oct 2nd…

The PermaFuture project, along with the Living Arts Trust and PIXIEWORKS, are helping to create HarFest, an alternative harvest festival, at The Leopard on West St in Doncaster next Sunday – 2nd October.

Why not drop by and bring something for the ‘harvest table’? If you live in Donny why not help spread the word…

Click here to download a free PDF of the HarFest poster.

Meet the ‘Uppies’: Part 1

Introducing the Uppie

Definition
An Uppie is a person who has taken the decision to live a less wasteful life in the hope of ensuring a brighter future for the generations who have yet to set foot on our beautiful blue-green planet. An Uppie is different from most self-proclaimed ‘greens’ in that they do not believe t hat we can buy our way out of the mess we’re in. Eco-consumerism alone cannot reduce C02 and other greenhouse gas emissions to an acceptable degree; in order to truly reduce our impact on the planet we must address the innately wasteful nature of modern living.

The Uppie reduces their environmental impact by becoming a dedicated ‘upcycler’ – hence the name ‘Uppie’. Upcycling is a process conceived by German chemist Micheal Braungart and architect William McDonough whereby end-of-use, disposable materials (especially items that are usually considered ‘waste’) are transformed into objects that have a greater use and/or value. Braungart and McDonough argue that the present industrial system – one which currently “takes, makes and wastes” – can become more sustainable through a system of “lifecycle development”. But Uppies aren’t prepared to wait around for business and industry to finally get their act together; instead we choose to turn the existing “take-make-waste” principle on its head by taking their waste and making something new from it, thereby retro-fitting a ”lifecycle development” policy to any old junk we can find.

The Uppie ‘upcycles’ everything that they possibly can in each and every aspect of their daily life. They live by Henry David Thoreau’s maxim “Never buy what you can make.” – indeed Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ could be considered a primer for Uppie living.

The Uppie is not anti-consumer or anti-technology, rather we seek to take back control of our lives by utilising (and openly sharing) technological, engineering and artistic skills to avoid blind consumerism; this has a positive effect on our personal health, the health of the planet, and the health of our bank balances (for those of us who still bother with banks). In fact the thrifty, creative Uppie can be seen as the antithesis to the greedy, ultra-consumerist Yuppie; ironically the Uppie is in a position to be financially more secure than the Yuppie – even if we use traditional economic yardsticks (‘wealth’ in Uppie terms is a whole new board game). Also with the greatest respect to Thoreau we do we wish to live outside of conventional society (even if it were still possible to do so in the GPS age); you can become an Uppie without having to go through any major physical or emotional upheaval.

Principle
The Uppie philosophy is that there is no such thing as waste, only wasted opportunities. A large percentage of our waste is needless; created by unnecessary packaging or the whims of fashion. Packaging waste is perhaps the easiest to deal with; leave excess food packaging at the till when you do your shopping and avoid anything that is blatantly over-packaged (this is hardest to do with kids toys – but then again they usually like the boxes better than the toys themselves and cardboard can be like gold-dust to an Uppie). Fashion is a subject we’ll approach later; needless to say Uppies are far too flamboyant to allow themselves to be tied to other people’s tastes.

The aforementioned “take-make-waste” ethos shows a distinct lack of regard for the imagination; which is a shame when you consider how central creativity is to the human condition. Indeed, as Erich Fromm observed, we are creatures that evolved to become creators. You only have to watch kids at play to see how innately creative they are; which is why you spend a fortune on the latest ‘must-have’ toys at Christmas only to have them play with the boxes they were (over)packed in – if you don’t believe that kids are born artists then maybe you’re prepared to give a child a crayon and let them loose on your wallpaper. 😉

Unfortunately modern consumer capitalism would rather breed consumers than creators and the creative urge is all too often suppressed; which, in turn, leads to widespread neurosis and ennui. When the creative urge is smothered it leaves a psychological void that demands to be filled; this is good news for the money men because we tend to try and rid ourselves of that empty feeling by going shopping, or by going to the movies, or by binge drinking, or by watching TV, or by playing computer games – Welcome to Generation X-Box.

When you think about it, most modern activities aren’t very ‘active’ at all, they’re more like “passivities”. Small wonder that our environmentally friendly actions are by and large equally as passive; we fill our recycling bin and send it away so that somebody else can turn it into something green for us to consume just so we can feel better about our passive consumerism. We become emotionally more stable (and less likely to over-consume) when we find an outlet for our innate creativity, so we would do well to concentrate on ways to be creative with waste; thus the Uppie movement is as much a creative movement as it is a green one.

Creativity is best illustrated through practice rather than abstract philosophy, so in Part 2 we will look at the practical, everyday life of the Uppie…