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.

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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.

 

#DoncasterIsGreat for Growing in a Small Space… amendment

Please note the change of date on the following event…

small GGB_May_meeting_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PermaFuture co-founder John Briggs will now be giving a presentation for Growing a Greater Bentley (GGB) on Growing in a Small Space at Bentley Baptist Church at 6:30pm on Tuesday, 14th May (rather than the 7th as previously stated). We’ll be following this up with a practical session in the heart of Doncaster at the end of the month, so watch this space for further details.

Click here to download, print and share a PDF of the altered poster. 🙂

#DoncasterIsGreat for Growing in a Small Space…

GGB_May_meeting_poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PermaFuture co-founder John Briggs will be giving a presentation for Growing a Greater Bentley (GGB) on Growing in a Small Space at Bentley Baptist Church at 6:30pm on Tuesday, 7th May. We’ll be following this up with a practical session in the heart of Doncaster at the end of the month, so watch this space for further details.

Click here to download, print and share 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

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 ………

Future scenario’s of an energy descent world part 2

Here is the second instalment in our ongoing series of articles dealing with possible security issue’s in a post energy world…

2. Foreign Invaders

Although the United Kingdom is currently bogged down in foreign wars, many within and without the U.K. military predict that the U.K. will soon face the threat of another peer competitor along the lines of the U.S.S.R. Such a peer competitor would likely not be a single country, but a global alliance centred on a major power like Russia, China, or both. Some in the Peak Oil community fear that such a strong energy secure player could easily overrun a now weakened western society and play havoc with its people. Admittedly, a new alliance is a real and credible threat in the very near future. However, to leap from the current situation, with the western economic and social model spreading to all corners of the world, to a time when Chinese troops march down oxford Street, is a monumental shift in realities. Even though the west is significantly weakened politically, economically, and diplomatically, it still holds significant physical and figurative ground world-wide. The approaching depression alone will not completely unravel this power; it will take sustained pressure in a world of declining energy availability to erode globalisation. A third world war would likely only result in the western powers losing its overseas footholds and retreating back within its borders – and that would be after several years of conflict. Adversaries of the West will likely continue to use asymmetric means to weaken the powers that be, by further undermining our economic, energy, cyber, and political interests long before the advent of open warfare. Our adversaries understand that it is foolish (and will remain so for at least several years) to attempt to compete with the west in the one domain we have trained and prepared for exceptionally well — large-scale open combat. This is not to imply that we shouldn’t be concerned about the very real possibility of major war, just that it is not a near-term (i.e. within the next one or two decades) security problem at the local community level. Even if, decades hence, we face the prospect of foreign powers on western soil, all the difficulties outlined in scenario 1 apply to a foreign occupier — only much more magnified given their foreign status.

 

3. Mutant Zombie Bikers

Many in Peak Oil circles and other groups speak frequently of “Mutant Zombie Bikers” (MZBs), or the golden horde, which are composed of highly mobile independent groups of heavily-armed bandits scouring the countryside for riches or destruction. In this “Mad Max” scenario, individuals or even isolated communities do stand a reasonable chance of mounting adequate defences against MZBs. But are scores of roving MZB groups attacking peaceful communities a likely scenario following societal collapse? To state the obvious, with the advent of Peak Oil, or even during any societal collapse, fuel will become a very valuable commodity. As recently witnessed during the gas shortage in the U.S. Southeast, gasoline supplies dwindle to near zero within a matter days. In such a scenario it is unlikely that any sizeable group have the ability or the foresight to meet their logistical requirements over any significant length of time. While some isolated cases of MZBs may exist (e.g. gangs commandeering tanker trucks or well-fuelled military units going rogue), MZBs are unlikely to pose a significant threat to the average community. While it may be prudent to consider the possibility of an MZB encounter, it could prove a disastrous (or even fatal) waste of resources to focus on MZBs as the primary security threat while ignoring the key risk to post-Peak Oil communities.

The real source of consumerism…

It’s easier to learn to do without some of the things that money can buy than to earn the money to buy them.” ~ Dolly Freed

It isn’t that we buy stuff. Or that that there’s stuff to buy.

No the answer is both simple and complex, though the question is being asked more and more since the protests such as those outside Wall Street and St Paul’s continue to rise and fall in the media spotlight.

We recognise the legitimacy of this process, however to the average person in the street can still seem like a pointless thing; both the protest and what people are protesting about. It’s all very well to say capitalism and consumerism is wrong, but where did that tent come from? Where did your food or sleeping bag come from? They can’t see a way of replacing the current financial system and still have the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

And that’s the root of the problem. Lifestyles.

People no longer want to think for themselves. People no longer want to learn new skills. The Renaissance man is dead. It has become easier to buy a product to solve a problem than it is to learn to solve the problem outright. For example rather than have a set of rods to clean a drain just buy drain unblocker, rather than walk or bike to work buy a car and then pay someone to fix it.

And so we end up with house’s full of stuff we don’t need and then we complain we no longer have room and so buy a bigger house to fill with more stuff. And end up deeper in debt. Debt is indeed, as Jack Spirko says, a cancer.

So learn to do more with less. Learn to cook, concentrating more on techniques rather than recipes. Move to a smaller house closer to work and walk or bike there. Or, and this isn’t easy these days, move your job closer to home. Commit to learning a new skill each month. As a bush-crafter and martial artist I can assure you this technique works. Each year the boss over in Japan sets a theme for the year, in bush-craft terms I set my self a goal to learn a new plant each month, learn a new weaving pattern or use one plant only, till all its uses have been explored.

This month now the nights are drawing in I’m learning to knit (might not fit with everyone’s image of a martial artist, but I for one would rather be warm and active than macho and hypothermic).

So that’s the answer to consumerism. Learn to do more with less, learn to improvise. And whilst it might cost more to learn to sew than going to Primark, in the long run it does work out cheaper once you have a stock of material.

Learn the value of time. Learn the value of the Renaissance man.

Let’s see if we can bring him back from the dead.

Calling all writers, preppers, artists, permaculturalists, survivalists and appropriate techies!

The PermaFuture crew are currently working on an exciting new project and we’d like YOU to get involved…

OTF (Own Two Feet) Magazine will be a completely DIY/grassroots publication created using solely upcycled ‘end-of-use’ (i.e. scrap) equipment and Free Open Source Software (FOSS) applications. As with all PermaFuture projects we want to show that both the resources and the skills needed to create something new and exciting already exist within each and every one of our communities; all that really needs to change is our attitudes towards creativity, technology and blind consumption.

OTF will be a magazine about resilience, self-reliance and self-sustainability. As with the larger PermaFuture project, it will draw on the principles of Permaculture, Bushcraft, Martial Arts and Appropriate Technology in order to encourage the development of healthier, happier, more creative and thriftier individuals, families and communities. The emphasis will be very much on the practical, with each issue offering tips and detailed plans which can help people meet everyday needs, get fit, save money and/or become less dependent. We also intend to include philosophical, inspirational and lifestyle stories along with artworks, photographs, cartoons and letters.

As we’ve already mentioned this is a grassroots project which currently has zero budget, so we can’t offer payment or prizes. But we do believe that this is an exiting opportunity for writers, artists, cartoonists, permaculturalists, survivalists, appropriate technologists, preppers and planners to get involved with a brand new magazine… and who knows, if things go well we might even be able to pay people one day 😉

If you’d like to submit something for the first issue of OTF – or if you’d like to subscribe or make a donation to help get us started (offers of finance and/or equipment will be warmly welcomed!)  – then email us via editorial[at]permafuture[dot]org or leave a comment below.

The deadline for the 1st issue is November 18th, 2011.

Advertising inquiries to advertising[at]permafuture[dot]org