There’s lots of old-school technology around that’s not any less useful because new hi-tech electrical versions have come along. But since most people think it’s not useful, it’s probably easy to get hold of for free or cheap. There must be so much of this stuff around, in sheds, attics, cupboards under the stairs and rusting on farms. I’m talking about things like washboards, clothes wringers, chaff cutters, push mowers, scythes, ploughs, mills, wood stoves, carpet sweepers, Coolgardie safes, rowboats, hand pumps, windmills, candles, spinning wheels, foot-pedal sewing machines, crosscut saws, hand drills. Playing and working with these implements can be really fun, and since they don’t make noise you can work with other people and carry on a conversation while working, which should be an integral aspect of any manual labour. Through using hand tools you can learn how to use your body with optimal efficiency. You develop physical strength, and can actually enjoy your work. These are tools that we can co-operate with, unlike machinery which seems to have a mind of its own, which can make us feel like we are being controlled. These tools can be fixed without too much equipment or expertise. Some of them you could even make for yourself.
There’s plenty of other technologies that can be handmade from natural and recycled materials, without too much effort.
Rocket stove. A cooker made from used tins and fuelled with leaves and twigs. It’s super-efficient because it is well insulated. I use scraps of ceiling insulation that I find on building sites. See centrefold for instructions on how to build one.
Zeer pot. A non-electrical refrigerator made from clay pots. Instructions over the page.
Solar cooker. There’s a few ways of making this, all of which can be done easily with reclaimed materials. The basic principle is to concentrate sunlight and trap heat. It cooks food in a few hours on a sunny day.
Solar food dryer.
Biogas digester. Biogas is produced from the fermentation or anaerobic digestion of organic matter. The gas can be used for heating or cooking. The infrastructure required can be home-made, but the process needs tropical temperatures to work, so it’s not viable everywhere.
Haybox cooker. This one needs nothing more than a blanket. Wrap it around a pot of dinner that’s been brought to boiling point, and it will continue to cook in its own heat insulated by the blanket. A box of hay would serve the same purpose, hence the name.
Cool cupboard. This needs to be built in to a new house, as it requires a tunnel to be dug through the floor. It’s a refrigerator that works by drawing cool air from under the ground, through the cupboard, and out the top. There is an air inlet outside the house.
- How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.
- Nature, economics and the free life.
- Get moving.
- Human powered.
- Grow food.
- Garden things to make.
- Make your own waterless toilet.