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.


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.


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.


Should be an interesting little project.





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 !!

Getting back to basics

In order to move forward sometimes we need to take a step back. Here is an article about just that,

Primitive Living as Metaphor
Adapted from Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills

Here in Montana I practice and teach classes on primitive or stone age skills–which is to say, camping with little or no gear. We build shelters that are warm and comfortable without a sleeping bag or blanket. We start fires by rubbing sticks together. We harvest and use edible wild plants, make baskets, and tan hides–that sort of thing. Fundamentally, these are skills that allow us to discover nature by participating in nature. Instead of merely hiking through or camping in it, we can move in and become part of the process. It is an intimate way to learn about nature by using it. For instance, just the process of using plants for food, medicine, and materials causes a person to become more aware. You learn about the specific properties of each plant, and you learn about the communities of plants and animals around each plant. As you collect these wild plants you begin to notice different soil types, and how the soils affect the plants growing there. Thus stone age skills are a great hands-on way to interact and discover nature. Yet, primitive living is even more than that. Primitive living is a metaphor that teaches us about ourselves and the world we live in.

A metaphor is often a story about life which is simplified into characters and settings of stereotypes and symbols. We learn simple lessons about life from fanciful stories about princes and princesses or Old Man Coyote. We may not be able to describe exactly what those lessons are or how they affect us, but the stories do nonetheless make change in our lives. In today’s complex world, primitive living is like a metaphor, but it is better. Primitive living is a metaphor we participate in and act out. Life is simplified down to the bare essentials such as physical and mental well-being, shelter, warmth, clothing, water, and food. We go on an expedition to meet those needs with little more than our bare hands. As we quest to meet those needs we learn to observe, to think, to reach inside ourselves for new resources for dealing with challenging and unfamiliar situations. We build up our personal strengths, and at the same time we interact with and learn about the world around us. In a story we can only join a quest in our imaginations. But in primitive living, we physically leave the contemporary world. We journey into the world of primitive stone-age skills, and we return with knowledge, wisdom, and strength to enrich our lives in contemporary society.

I experienced the power of this “participatory metaphor” when I was sixteen. I went on a twenty-six day expedition with an outdoors school, where we hiked 250 miles, ate little, and generally endured a lot. The personal strengths, the wisdom, and the ability to persevere that I brought back from that “quest” have helped me to be successful in contemporary life more than any other single thing I have done.

In a similar way, my wife Renee and myself went on a “quest” together, an adventure where we started in Pony and walked five hundred miles across Montana to Fort Union on the North Dakota border. That was a year before we were married. At the time we could not give a definitive answer as to why we were doing it. But looking back, I would say we were testing and building our relationship and our abilities to work together towards common goals, before formally committing ourselves to a long-term relationship.

Thus, primitive living is a metaphor that brings out our inner resources. At the same time, it is also a metaphor that teaches us about the resources of the earth as well. You see, the person who carries in a lot of gear, from tents, to propane stoves, with the intent of living “no-impact”, is, metaphorically speaking, living a lie. Such a person may claim to practice no-impact camping, but the truth is, the resources they pack in had to come from somewhere.

Our contemporary lives have become so removed from hand-to-mouth survival, that we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking our items of survival come from the store, rather than from nature. We think of ourselves as being somehow separate from nature. We think we can draw lines on the map and separate “wilderness” from “non-wilderness”, but really, there is only one wilderness and only one ecosystem, and we are part of it. Like the deer eating grass, or the robin bringing materials back to build a nest, we all must use the resources of the earth to maintain our own survival. This is true whether we live in an apartment building in the city, or in a wickiup in the woods.

Primitive living allows us to practice living on a model scale. By “living” I means that process of procuring our needs for physical and mental well-being, including such things as shelter, fire or energy, water, and vegetable or animal resources. In primitive living we are faced with these needs as realities we must meet. We are faced with the realization that in order for our lives to go onward, we must take from the world around us; like the coyote stalking a mouse, we must kill and use to survive. It is too easy to forget that in the contemporary world. We think resources come from the store, and we forget that there are impacts and consequences, throughout the ecosystem, from our every purchase, our every decision. In primitive living we face those consequences directly. We can see the effect of our needing to eat causing the loss of life of a plant or an animal. We can sense that by picking the berries from the bushes we may be taking someone else’s meal. Primitive living is a metaphor that gives us an awareness of the true costs of living, no matter where we are.

The metaphor of primitive living can also teach us that it may be okay to take from the earth; that perhaps we do not need to feel guilty about our actions, only aware of them. The deer takes from the ecosystem and causes surprising impacts; it’s presence causes successional shifts throughout plant and animal communities, destroying habitat for some and creating it for others. Similarly, the presence of humankind living primitive, today or yesterday, creates all kinds of havoc in the ecosystem. Groups of primitive peoples rewrote the ecosystem daily as they hunted and gathered for their needs, or torched the brush to drive the game out. Even an individual person displaces habitat, competes for food, and forces the animals to take new trails, all influencing successional communities. Perhaps our contemporary cities are not so different. They are still wilderness; only different successional plant and animal communities are favored there. Primitive living, as a metaphor, can teach us that, like a bluebird eating a fly, perhaps it is okay to take from and alter the ecosystem. It is neither good nor bad, it is simply reality.

Of course, primitive living also reminds us that our link to the ecosystem goes both ways. We are participants in the ecosystem and therefore we have no choice but to take from it, and we will inevitably alter it, but also, for our own survival, we must maintain it. Our actions affect successional communities of plants and animals in the ecosystem, and we are included in those communities. Succession will forever be in a state of flux, for as long as life exists. Nature will continue on, ever changing, destroying habitats, and creating them. In the face of global climate change and ozone depletion, it is important that we consider what successional changes may mean for our own species.

Primitive living is a metaphor for living. It brings us face to face with our own survival. It brings out our inner resources for dealing with challenging situations, and it reminds us, that no matter what technologies we have, we are still in integral component of the ecosystem. Primitive living is a model for living that gives us the basic foundations, the very laws of nature, upon which all of our solutions, in primitive and contemporary living, must be built.