Further in the art of PBC’s

Today’s journey was a short one as I had to pop down to the men’s shed to fix my extension tow bar.  It all went smoothly and only cost me $2.75 to fix it so we can use our trailer again…. so very thrifty.  On the return I then looked at our recycled cement mixer and it seems the motor has had it, so it will be scrounging our local reuse center to find another mixer or another electric/petrol motor to suit, I am also thinking of MacGuyver’ing it to the exercise bike we have on the property so we can get fit and mix stuff

On to todays progress, we made a 3:1 mix of sand to cement for our mortar bond and used recycled plastic sheeting for our damp course, we ran out towards the end so tomorrow we will be recycling our dog food bags to use as damp course.

Ok so to carry on from our other post, the pad is level…ish (its within reasonable standards) so our next step is to make a datum point (a datum point is a reference point to wich all other levels are based off of)


So we set up the string level and corrected its height to reflect our straight line from our datum point (now any builder knows string levels aren’t the best but I cannot find my level so this will have to do)


so our next step is to mix up some mortar for the bottles to rest on


once it is mixed to the correct consistency we lay it down on our plastic damp course and place bottles on top of the mortar, we then “bed” them in by tamping them to the correct level (from our datum point)


more plastic, mortar and bottles laid down, round and round we go


now an important factor to keep in mind as we move up in height with the PBC is to keep it all held together as weight and pressure set in, it will also give us something to bond our cement render to when we finish both the inside and outside of the bottles, so in the next 2 pics you can see the “looping” of our recycled bailing twine around the outside of the bottles, the first layer of bottles does not have any twine on it on the inside on purpose and this will be explained when we cement in the floor.

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and lastly the BIG boss has to inspect our work to make sure it conforms with Australian Standards



We hope you have enjoyed this update and will keep you all posted on the progress and any other projects on the go


– The satyr

Tragedy strikes….. Innovation is Born

This morning was a gloomy overcast Tasmanian winters day, a cold that settles into the bones, creeps into your soul and clutches it within its frozen claw of an appendage.   Well now that the descriptors are out of the way lets continue shall we.

Our eldest DD was taking her morning ablutions when she noticed a noise out by our water tank, upon further investigation of the curious nature of children she happened to notice that our trusty second hand free rainwater tank had sprung yet another leak, the problem with this one is that this time the tank is holding approx 10K litres of water.  Which is meant to last us the Summer.  On a good note it is only the start of Winter so if we can get enough materials we may be able to finish this project before summer gets here and maybe collect some more water before the tank runs dry.  We do have to 1000L tanks as back ups, but we use the big one for drinking water, the 2 smaller ones are for veggies and the animals as well as washing water.  So we had to think of something to do to either stop the flow or come up with another idea for storing water.  So begins a project we were not going to start until we were up the hill at the new house site……. oh well.

Today was the beginnings of our Plastic Bottle Cistern or PBC for short (yes that is our coined abbreviation of the word and will use it from now on)

This is our leak, it started out as a pin hole leak first thing this morning, this pic was taken just before lunchtime


So we begin by marking out our area, the PBC we are building will have a 10K L capacity it is 2.5m in diameter and 2m in height.


the secondary ring is our “extra” for added support for the base


Mrs Nymph trying her hand at physical labor, shes a very hard worker and has to be with our 4 children


We try and utilize as much water as we can before it all runs out and digging in the dirt is thirsty work, so one of our little miss Nymphs is helping mum get some refreshments


Shes such a lovely caring helper 🙂


This was her “special” rock and just had to show us all


so we had some sand and metal on the homestead for sometime now and its finally got a use, we are using it as the foundation pad for our PBC to sit on

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More and more until its all used, there is almost a tonne of sand and metal used for the pad, that equals ALOT of wheelbarrow loads, good for the burning of the satyrs fat supplies


next along is the “tamping” process, a process in which we compact the base material to form a solid hard pad for the PBC to sit on, with the help of lots of little feet this can be accomplished in no time.

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I made a quick compaction plate out of some recycled timber I had lying around for when little feet have had enough


The Boss is on site so we have to look sharp, she is checking for level and compaction, all seems good to continue

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our next step is to lay out our “bricks” for a test run and to see how many we will need for each “course”


Ta Da, all done for the day, the courses are going to consist of 74 x 2L milk bottles, the little miss Nymphs had a blast helping count all of them and in the process learn numbers over 20.


Next on the project is to make more bottle “bricks” and then to begin tying them all in with a course of cement in between each course of “bricks”, once we have made the PBC about 1m high we will be cementing in the floor and then continuing up to a height of 2m, we will be closing it over with a domed cement roof with an access man hole for cleanouts and preventative maintenance, it will also have a pipe instaled within the first course so we can actually get the water out of the PBC


We hope you have enjoyed our post today, subscribe to be kept updated and share our page if you know anyone who can benefit from our trials and tribulations.

Also stay tuned for Mrs Nymphs first post on our wordpress site

– the Satyr

RMH are the way to go !

I am truly sorry its been so long between the last post and this one, we have all been sick at one point or another over the last couple of weeks, coupling that with homesteading duties and the numerous projects on the go its been non stop.  I do have some good news for you though, we have almost finished the RMH, now do not be too angry with me for a lack of enough photos, we are doing people and keep forgetting to document in the form of pics bu we do have  a couple to post so you can see what we have done.  Now this post is very image intensive so I do apologize now in advance


Ok So the first 2 pics are of the original 44 gal drum heat riser cut down to the 60ltr drum size


next is the dry layout of the RMH


the heat riser now has a new clay capping over the sawdust and slip insulation, and the next pic with the Drum just for placement and a quick test


the test run wne twell until the drum went on and you can see the back flow of air, this is due to the slight windy conditions of the day and it not being sealed around the bottom edge to create a “draw” effect, the next picture is the beginning of the inside placement and mortaring, we use what we have on hand and this is just a standard but thin concrete brick mortar

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A plant pot makes a good mold for our ash cleanout area in the feed tube, and the finished mortared RMH minus drum and insulative cob.


A down view on both heat riser and in feed


A look inside the drum and the pic below is all of it in place ready for insulation/cobbing


Now onto the Cob making bit of this Pic fest of my RMH First we need Straw and clay, then you mix them both together


Mix mix mix, lots of leg work, heavy panting and sweat oh so much sweat… I am so unfit :), turn and repeat (turning is jsut grabbing the edge of the tarp and “rolling” your mass over so you can better mix all the binding agent and mud/clay


More straw and more mixing


Once it is mixed enough (now this is a realtive thing and there is no set way to really gauge a readiness to the cob, but if it looks well mixed and binds good enought then your good to go) we rolled it into balls for ease of carrying inside the house, its always good to get as many hands helping as possible even teeny tiny hands


They did ok, I had to dock them a days pay for slacking.  More and more clay balls



It was quite fun to play in the mud/clay again after all these …….. days (I guess I haven’t grown up yet and doubt I ever will :D)



Now to Inside the shack to start laying in the cob, I didnt get a shot of the beginning but Miss Nymph was able to take some shots while I was getting the next load of cob balls


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This is most of the cob mix we made, the last of the cob was used to seal around the drum and flue pipe

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and here we are all the cob used up that we had made.  We will be making more tomorrow to make our Thermal heat storage bench which will go in the area from the “outlet” to the RMH


It works, yay.

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Im quite pleased how this RMH turned out, It is the first RM I have built using a smaller barrel type and it functions really well, we used about 2 kgs of wood “splints”, dry tree limbs etc. to heat the shack and its still warm now at 22:24pm, I couldn’t help but put my feet up and have a cuppa after a long days cob stomping.


I hope you have enjoyed todays post, we will make another one in a day or 2 showing the bench WIP

– The Satyr

Another project down

Today is Duck culling time, so no piccy’s today, it was long and as usual with killing anything emotionally draining but yesterday I decided the trailer we recently purchased wasn’t big enough, so I went about and made a cage for the trailer, this will allow us to get more feed and other materials on the trailer, it was a very basic affair and is yet to be finished with corner braces, but it works rather well without them.  The Cordless drill doesn’t hold charge very well anymore it is 8 years old, so the trusty hand drill came out to play.


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-The Satyr

RMH Continues………

Yes yes I know I said I would post on the following day but a family of 6 needs to eat and bad weather kept us from our task, so wet weather and shopping day put us back.  But I finally made some head way,  yesterday I mocked up the setup by calculating the height width and length of the in feed, burn tunnel and heat riser, now alot of people build to the scale 1:2:4 which is you burn tunnel is half the height of your heat riser and your in feed is half the height of your burn tunnel, while this is a good calculation, if you can get a longer heat riser it is more often the better option as the higher the heat riser the more draw/intake you gain from the infeed through the burn tunnel.  So a heat riser of 22″ would have good draw, but a heat riser of 44″ will have twice the draw due to it being twice the height, this will increase the amount of oxygen “pulled” through the burn tunnel creating a hotter cleaner burn.  the following pics are just the measurements and dry layout of the brick work on the bench, I will transfer these measurements and bricks to a temporary outside base to give it a test fire, Once I am satisfied with the calculations I will set them in place and use a thin layer of mortar between the bricks to smooth the internals and also to seal any pits and divets in the bricks.  So here is the work so farImageImageImageImage

And so it begins

Finally, I have finally gotten of my bum and started the rocket mass heater for inside the shack, We are building a small 6″, 60Ltr barrel setup as the space we have is quite small and we don’t overly feel the cold much, but its nice to take the chill off when it does get really cold of a night/morning.  I will explain each step as the photos appear.  It has only just begun but I will keep everyone updated as the works progress.  So with out further aplomb here is the beginnings.

To begin with I marked out the area on the floor where the base of the main part of the heater will go.


The besa brick was used for a width measurement as it will form the base for the heater to sit on, I chose besa bricks as they are hollow which will allow for a measure of insulation under the heater.   So after the carpet is removed to show the clay floor under it I added sand to level the area for the bricks to sit on.  After I got a rough level at a point slightly higher than I wanted I tamped the sand down using a bit of 2×4 until it was compacted sufficiently.


This is the sand pad after the tamping


next step was to add another layer of insulating material, we are using a reflected foam off cut, one side has a reflective surface and the back facing has this green covering.


The next step is to place the base onto the insulators, as said before we are using besa bricks, the next photos are pictures of us laying them.



I wont bore you with photos of all of them (4 in total), after they are leveled, the pad is checked for level, it has a slight left/right tilt in this picture which was fixed just after the picture was taken.  Having a level pad to work from is crucial for the RMH


Once i was happy with the level and placement of the bricks and pad I made up a slurry mix of sand and cement to seal between the besa brick s and to make the base uniform


Thats it for today, tomorrow I will be making a mock up of the rocket mass heater to make sure it sits well and we have enough room.

Below is a link to a youtube clip showing Erica and Ernie Wisner the forerunners in RMH technology, there are alot of other RMH gurus out there.


I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog, I will update everyone on tomorrows progress of the RMH and other projects


– The Satyr

Blow the house down

Todays post is just a little one, it is about one of my latest “Make something so I dont go crazy” projects.  I am making a home forge for metal work, and as such I need a way to pump air into the forge (once its built) so the next couple of photos are just the beginnings of the hand bellows that I worked on today.CAM00464[1]ImageImageImage

the bench its resting on was made today as well out of our recycled front door, it folds up and locks away when not in use.


Have a wonderful day

– The Satyr

Almost there

Today was a busy day, out getting some winter hay for the poop machines, more to get next week as funds become available, for those of you who don’t know The Nymph and I are both currently doing distance courses, Mrs Nymph is studying an Advanced Diploma of western herbal medicines while I am studying both a Diploma in interactive Gaming and Mobile phone apps and a Diploma in permaculture.  As such our money comes from the government, our goal as we have said is to do away with money altogether (as much as reality will allow).  So our budget is very tight, after major expenses are laid out (we live off of $150 a week for grocery/meat shopping) we are left with almost nothing, so we buy as we can and save for what we cannot buy outright week to week.  A long explanation I know sorry :), So we were able to afford bales this week, on the arrival back to the homestead Mrs Nymph pestered me to do more work (I swear its a conspiracy).  Either way the day was good after a morning shower or two, and the kids were put out to pasture to stop the “cabin” fever that happens with all children :).  We decided it was time to get our raised bed filled with soil, but soil for us is diminishing and the soil on the property isn’t the best for growing, also the clay just under the half a foot of topsoil is almost pure clay strata (great for our upcoming projects) so we decided to put into practice a lasagna style raised garden bed to minimize our soil use, this will also provide good compost for the garden bed as it decays and decomposes down, I have pictures for you today of how we did the layers and a brief description.  So it will sit for a day or 2 for the top soil we put on to settle and then our other practice run is a 3×3 planting method to maximize our range of plants in a smaller area.  As the lasagna decomposes the level will drop but the best thing about this is once the veggies have grown we can turn what we cannot eat over into the layer and top up, creating a rich no tilled soil for continued renewable gardening.  With out further adu.

So we added cardboard to the bottom to stop any weeds and such from growing through, not necessary as its on rock but always good practice.


And the Poo going in, about 60 ltr (3 x 20 ltr bucket)


The finished layer of Poo, now the poo layer is important as it is this layer that adds the Nitrogen to the decomposing process.


Next comes the Carbon layer, in this case our carbon is straw/grass hay,  It is used to stop flies getting into the poo AND to provide food for decomposition.


Didn’t take a pic of the straw in on the first layer but its there 🙂


more poo and straw sorry I should say Nitrogen and Carbon layers


the layering continues


last layer off Poo (Nitrogen)


When the last layer of poo (nitrogen) is placed  on you must always place a layer of carbon on top, never leave the nitrogen layer uncovered as this will attract unwanted pest, also the nitrogen layer will not decompose at a sufficient rate.  So our last layer of carbon will be newspapers soaked with rainwater.


On top of this is our own soil mixture, which incorporates, sawdust (old) Manure (old/seasoned), sand and the second grade soil we got delivered


The last bucket for the evening, we will need to make another batch of soil in the morning to fill the last of the bed up


and here we are at the end of daylight.



Now over the next 6 months this will decompose and lower but all the while getting more nutrient rich and much much better, this will also turn into its own soil, no tilling will be done in this bed, also a note on the nitrogen layer, this does not necessarily have to be straight manure, it can be leaves, grass, kitchen scraps, green scraps and fresh green weeds minus the seed heads of course.  Hope you have enjoyed this post 🙂  and here are some random pics


This is us The elusive, Satyr and Nymph and behind us the “shack” we are currently living in until we finish building our house


The little trou……. I mean well behaved children 🙂


The last piccy is of Mrs Nymph and our tomato Tree



Getting better equipped

Good morrow gentile peoples, how are we this fine blogging day.  This is just a small post to give a heads up on the progress of our homestead, We enlarged the greenhouse (not by much, but more than we had), we have placed one of the recycled irrigation pipe planters inside the greenhouse and are in the process of mixing up some good soil to fill it up with, the raised bed is 900 x900 900, we are going to do a 3×3 planting to try and maximize what we can grow in a smaller space.  I wired up my first stator motor from an old washing machine for the 44 gal wind turbine I am making I will post photos of the next one I do to show the process of how it is done and a link to a video that has taught me how to do it.  I am also a member of the local community Men’s / Women’s shed called the “Dog house” it is a free workshop for those of us who do not have a shed (as yet).  It is equipped with all the tools needed for all kinds of wood working projects and helpful people with years of experience.  Any way I was there yesterday and today making a Press, the press will be used to make our brickettes and CEB’s (Compressed Earth Bricks), I made a mold for them it almost looks like a lego block 🙂  this way the CEB’s can be stacked on top of each other and “lock” in place to stop movement like LEGO :).

I updated the thermosiphon / rocket stove hot water system with the concrete one I made, it has a better burn and draught than the first one I built, also upon taking out the old rocket stove I noticed that the temp inside the rocket stove got that hot it has disintegrated the metal cylinder heat riser.  I also adjusted the sheet metal sleeve around the rocket stove to make it tighter which has increased its draw strength as well.  I will be making pre made rocket stoves from some molds I am making and will be available to buy very soon, they will be made out of cob and will come in 3 pieces, the burn tunnel, combustion chamber and molded skirt.  This way it makes it easier for people to use alternative cooking methods making a smaller impact on our surrounding eco systems.  the molded pot skirt will make it easier to incorporate it into a bench top or other uses.  Stay tuned for the updates on this project.

We also think our milking doe might be in kid so hopefully this means little goatlings and more milk production for us yay!

As the weather cools down either further its harder and harder to get motivated to get outside for the chores that need doing everyday, but the next week for us should be clear skies and temps around 16-18 deg Cels. so lots of good weather for getting firewood stacked, stalls mucked and improvements made to make it less harsh through the coming winter.  Indoor activities have included using water Kefir to make probiotic sodas for the kids and us which we ALL love, they taste different but refreshingly delicious.  We are also a member of CENT’s which stands for “Community Exchange Network Tasmania”  in which we exchange our produce/product/services and excess for what others themselves are also offering or are in need of, we have a link to their website if you wish to register and become a CENT’s trader.  We whole heartedly behind this concept and believe its another way to help each other out when money is either tight or non existent.


We will also be making a biogas digester to make our own home made methane to cook with reducing our need on the petroleum companies for LPG and other forms of gas that damage our eco system.

Well enough of our blogging today we hope you have enjoyed the read, sorry for no piccys today will post some up tomorrow

– The Satyr

What a dreary day

Well today in the homestead was one of procrastination and unending childly antics resulting in not much getting done, and a lot of frustration and oh god oh god oh god why did we have kids…….. Seriously they are lovely little gems (on occasion, usually when they are sleeping)  So today was researching and learning about various homesteading things, we researched making our own rennet both from animals and vegetables so we can make some hard cheeses, soft cheeses are quite easy to do and will be placed in our recipe pages once we get that far along.  We also looked into ginger bugs and kefir for lacto fermented drinks.  Which we will be experimenting with and putting up on the recipe page too.  We didn’t work on the greenhouse today but we will when the weather fines up as we have rain forecast for the next 2 days (yay means we get water in our tank, its almost empty)  With the colder weather approaching us we are looking to do things and keep learning with the whole family inside so the next couple of months posts might be in relation to that.


Stay tuned and here are some pics of what we have been up to over the last year