From the zine How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.

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.

rocket stove instructions

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.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Simon on June 27, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Good stuff. I use most of the above. i tend to solar heat water ,then use that for cooking on gas (most of my food is quick cooked, and/or sauteed). Pasta or rice only need to be brought to the boil ( perhaps with green beans or broccolli ) and put under the bed covers to finish , I find.
    I would like to try biogas, but it really requires good airtight containers and pipes, seals, etc, and I try and minimise buying new plastic or metal goods.
    I also want to test different arrangements of solar collection to see if i can make a quick cooking hob – perhaps an upright black metal pipe, encased in old plastic bottles, with a perforated plate on the top,covered with insulation, removed to put a pot on .Reflective surfaces ( used tinfoil or inside out crisp packets ) could focus more sunlight onto the pipe .


  2. Posted by Simon on June 27, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I sometimes find keeping stuff cool tricky when i’m living an a sub tropical climate, as we’ve very little shade, and i don’t use a house. I find that refrigeration is completely unnecessary though .If people really need milk, it’s better to lose a little at the end of a bottle ( or make yoghurt with it), than to use loads of energy and materials to save those small amounts. Cheese keeps well for some days in the shade mostly, and has a much better taste and texture at ambient temperatures. It is after all a pre-refrigeration milk preservative method, probably originating in the desert. Frozen or cooked flesh will usually keep fine for 24 hours in the shade, and otherwise tinned or fresh is the way to go.


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