Category Archives: DIY

Simple Living: Directing Rainfall, Eating Mallow Wheels & Making Shade

February – March 2014

Plants: Mallow, Sea Buckthorne, Sapodilla, Blackcurrant, Gooseberry.

Creatures: Utah the Doggle (a peculiar cross between a dog and a fraggle)

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Simple Living: Pond Swirl Filter, Feeding Koi, Releasing Geckos, Using Rocks, Aquaponics

In this instalment, I work on improving the food pond by adding a DIY swirl filter made from a dustbin / trashcan and a simple gravel filter / growbed for kangkong, watercress and other plants that don’t mind being constantly flooded. There’s still room to expand with more beds in the future, as well as floating island planters. The medium for the growbed is volcanic rock gravel from my land. The swirl filter uses a modified laundry basket lid at the bottom, and although I forgot to show it in the video, there is a T connector at the end of the hose under the laundry basket lid to send the water in two diferent directions.

I also show off a quick bench I made out of a pallet, some uses for rocks including simple terracing, and I release some geckos into the house for pest control.

Simple Living: Food Pond Permaculture, Talking to a Tree Rat & Homemade Beehive

Putting my new camera to use around the homestead. My new pond should give me greens all year round, and when I have enough fish I’ll expand further into outdoor aquaponics & grow all kinds of fruit and veg in the water on floating foam rafts. If this experiment is a success, I plan to put more ponds between the trees in the orchard.

I made a path (hand-mixed concrete poured over a hacksawed rebar frame joined with wire) and new raised beds to go with it. Hopefully some of the visiting bees will take up residence in the very basic beehive I put together. It doesn’t have trays so harvesting of honey is a no-go, but bees need the honey they make to feed their young, so that’s just fine.

Mosquito fish are likely the best fish for hot climate aquaponics systems, especially if you’re not interested in eating the fish (tho they are edible if you’re so inclined). They can survive all kinds of calamities unfazed, don’t need a pump, breed like flies (they’re one of the few live-bearing fish), and even survive in a few cm of wet mud when the waterways here dry up in the summer. The ideal permaculture fish. Tho I’m trying other fish in the pond, I’ve kept mosquito fish most of my life and doubt anything can top them.

I sunk holed bricks and cages filled with stones in the pond to allow fry to hide. I also added some driftwood.

Simple Living: Building a Low Cost Panel Home (Structural Insulated Panels / SIP)

Using painted galvanized steel structural insulated foam panels (SIPs), my awesome brother (the one wearing the hat) put together my 96 square meter (including the large verandah) house in 4 weekends. That’s 1033 square feet. The building materials are all readily available and cheap, with the big expense being the concrete foundation that’s needed to bolt the panels to.

The panels are highly insulated and make for comfortable temperatures inside year round, saving up to 50% on energy costs compared to other building styles. I also chose a cool and breezy mountain-foot site to build. I have 3 solar photovoltaic panels and 2 wind generators for power, connected to a sinewave inverter.

I was initially going to make a much smaller house, but quickly realised that the panels were so cheap that adding another room and a large verandah wouldn’t increase the cost much at all. If I need more space in the future, I can close the verandah and turn it into another room.

Because we didn’t use a skeleton frame, the house has to be a bungalow. For multi-storey buildings, a steel skeleton frame is needed.

Panels: €11,000
Foundation: €12,000

More information about SIPs here: http://www.eco-panels.com/
(I didn’t use this US company as I’m European, but their website is informative)

Simple Living: How to Build Raised Beds on Compacted Rock

This is how I make modest raised beds on a particulary rotten corner of my land that’s almost solid rock, using all kinds of free materials from the forest and beyond.

Simple Living: Shipping Container Cabin, Edible Green Manure Permaculture and Raw Vegan Foraging

A look at my shipping container home, and some of the re-purposed materials I used to make it. I also go for a walk with my dogs and pick a few wild edibles along the way, including some edible flowers.

The wild edibles I come across this time are: Globe thistle, dandelion, caper blossoms, smooth sow thistle, corn marigold / crown daisy.

The edible green manure plants I feature are clovers and forage peas. Two amazing plants that have the ability to grab nutrients (such as nitrogen) from the air and put them in the soil.