Stealing the Last Forest

Solid evidence on illegal logging in Romania:

Making Together

I’ve gotten used to doing things on my own here at Bhudeva … it’s the way things have been for quite some time. I have learned to adjust my aims according to what I alone am able to execute. I plan construction projects in such a way that I can create and bring all the elements into place on my own.

However there has been, even if a slight, opportunity for this to change … there are two pairs of helping hands which are occassionaly here and passionate about helping. I also share with Andreea things I am planning to do and sometimes she has inputs which I want to incorporate. But I am not adapted to being helped. I am not practiced at communicating what I am thinking or what I am doing.

This has resulted in a recurring scenario where one of the few people who are involved send me an idea … but late in the process … when other things have already been set in motion or put in place which would need to be changed to make room for the new idea. Though the ideas are given with good intentions and I want to include them in my work … the fact that they arrive late usually leads to frustration or confusion … “why didn’t you say so earlier?” kind of situations. There are numerous reasons for this … but one of them is my lack of communication.

With that in mind I’ve decided to try something new. I’d like to practice being more open in communicating my plans and activities. I’d like to invite feedback earlier in the process. I’d also like for the feedback to be collaborative … so that everyone who may be involved can know what is going on and give input in time.

I’ve created the Make space for that purpose. In it, I (and others in this small group) can publish thoughts, ideas, plans, etc … and comment on what others publish. Whenever something is published everyone else in the group gets an email notification so they can, if they wish, keep track of what is happening. I’ve prescribed this kind of solution for other groups I’ve been involved with … and now that an opportunity has presented itself I’ve decided to give it a try here at home.


Dual Sun

A french company is bringing to market a solar panel that combines photovoltaic cells with solar hot water. The combination is not only interesting in a utilitarian way but promises improved performance of the PV cells by reducing the panel temperature (PV efficient drops as temperature rises).


I wonder what this combination implies in terms of longevity and warranty. PV panels are typically rated to last more than 25 years. Would that still be true when they cease to be a simple static element and include flowing water? Is the panel leak proof (especially with the hard water flowing flowing through my pipes) for 25 years?

Collony Collapse Disorder

Collony Collapse Disorder is the official name given to the worldwide epidemic of entire bee hives dying or simply disappearing by the thousands. I have a feeling that this issue goes deeper then our current science can explain, that it is a reflection of a dominant relationship of extraction/ control / manipulation between humans and nature. However this video does a good job of explaining the part of the story that can be put in our current box of logic and rationality:

My Power Woodworking Tools

I was recently asked about my set of power woodworking tools and thought it best to deliver the answer in a post.


My intention, when I set out on this journey, was to be free to create the things I needed / wanted … from small wooden accessories to furniture and even structures. Though I haven’t blog much about it (I hope to catch up with that story in the future) I have done what I set out to do. However I have experienced certain limitations that I think are as valuable to acknowledge as the tools I have chosen to work with.

The greatest challenge, and most of my time in the workshop, is spent on converting raw construction grade pine wood into workable pieces. This is an unpleasant task with power tools because it is noisy and very dusty. I believe that with hand-tools this experience can be very different … maybe even more pleasant, but maybe also more time-consuming. However I don’t have any experience with alternative hand-tools … except to say that good hand tools are as expensive as good power tools. This work also depends greatly on the quality and state of the wood I am working with. I have some air-dried (over a few years) wood left over in my attic which behaves very differently then the current green wood I am using to build a new outside roof and deck.

I consider the results I am able to achieve to be mediocre. The tools that I have do not enable me to achieve for reliable, consistent sizes. This effects my entire process of design and construction. I have learned to work within these limitations. I both enjoy the limitations and simplicity that this requires of me AND look forward to having better tools that will enable me to produce better quality materials and projects.

As you will see I chose to go with Bosch professional tools. When I did my initial survey my impression was that they had better build quality than Makita tools and similar quality to Dewalt (which are harder to find here). I consider this a long term investment and so opted to go with Bosch professional tools (blue products) and not the home tools (green products). Ideally I would have liked to go with Festool – I believe they are superior in quality but this also reflects in their prices.

A mitre saw (GCM 12 SD) is a very versatile tool but is often first in line for cutting long board to length. I chose this model for its large cutting capacity (effected by the blade size and sliding rails). A sale in the UK and a friend that helped in getting it shipped to Romania in an affordable way made it possible for me to enjoy this saw … otherwise I would have probably opted or a smaller size:


Next in line is a circular saw (GKS 55 CE) which I use for both cross-cuts (simple cuts on long boards that are difficult to get on the mitre saw) and length-cuts. The main choice to make here are the size of the blade and the strength of the motor. Sometimes I wish I had a larger blade, but I chose to go with this size thinking that on a construction site it is lighter to carry / lift / hold in less then ideal positions.


The next tool is the planer (GHO 26-82). The numbers reflect two dimensions – the maximum depth of cut (2.6mm) and the cut width (82mm). I rarely use a depth of cut deeper then 1.5. The larger the cutting width the stronger an engine is needed. I use it to convert the raw surface into something more pleasant, workable that can accept finishing more effectively. I use this tool a lot and I was wrongly expecting it to provide better results. I have not been able to use this tool to brings board to a predetermined size … I try to use it efficiently and make use of the resulting sizes as effectively as possible. This is not a substitute for a jointer and a fixed planer (where the tool is stationary and the wood is moved) or a combination planer-thicknesser (which is high on my wishlist).


The results of the planer depend on the qualities of the wood and my proficiency in using it. Regardless, after planing there will be sanding to do … and plenty of it. The orbital sander (GEX 150 AC). I decided to go with only one sander (because of costs) hence the orbital sander which can be used for both rough and fine sanding. Because of the limitations of the planer I spend a lot of time sanding. I think the sanderis the machine with the most working hours in the workshop.


The combined work of the planer and sander takes, by my estimate, 10 times (or more) time then it would to run the same piece of wood into a planer-thicknesser and the results (no matter how much care and efforts I put into the work) are lesser. I don’t enjoy this preparation phase and it is a demotivating part of the work that sometimes keeps (or delays) me from starting a project. This effect is magnified by the poor-to-mediocre quality of wood I have access to.

For smaller, more subtle, shaped cuts I use a jigsaw (GST 150 BCE):


… and a router (GOF 900 CE) is a very diverse tool, but is more complicated, takes more learning and experimentation to get to know and harness:


Though I rarely use it for wood-working an angle grinder (GWS 8-125) has been a priceless addition to this set. I didn’t initially get one and didn’t intend to. However I soon needed it and have since used it many times. It’s engine doesn’t run much, but it too is a diverse tool and when it does run it does precious work.

Despite their limitations I have been able to create almost everything I have wanted to create with these tools. The results are not particularly refined however I value more a freedom to design and shape things to be exactly the way I want them, to fit into the exact spaces I have available and to cater to the functions I intend them to do.

There are many more tools that serve me in the workshop … but these are the major wood-working related power tools.


Tesla Energy presents Powerwall

no more batteries and battery rooms
no more charge controllers
no more grid tie
no more cable messes


Tesla just announced the Powerwall one integrated unit to hang on a wall… a battery with a purpose … connect it to a photovoltaic array and (if you want as backup) the grid and you are good to go … at a fraction of the price of existing, more complicated solutions:

Desert Water

These collection of clips are from the desert in the south of Israel. These are usually sudden events (though fairly predictable after rainfall events) in otherwise open and dry river-beds. Vast amounts of water that could have been held, directed and put to some kind of ecological use … but most of it just flows through (I don’t know where to).

Cooking on a Rocket Mass Heater (Rocket Stove)

As winter set it and the rocket stoves started burning regularly I thought about using them for baking bread … which I do regularly and I thought would be great if I could do without having to use the electric oven. The stoves can be used for cooking but it takes them a long time to bring a medium/large pot to a boil … so I’ve only used them for a bit of partial cooking.

I remembered coming across (I think in the original Rocket Mass Heaters book by Ianto Evans) a kind of aluminum-foil dome that you could put on top of the barrel and use that as an oven. I was doubtful but decided to try making one. I thought about how to go about doing it for many weeks and came up with an approach that seemed feasible.

I built up a wire-frame that was designed to create two layers of aluminum foil (inner and outer) with insulation in between them. I used the commonly available in the village fencing wire … it wasn’t as thick or rigid as I would have liked it to be so I two twisted strands to get it to be more structural.

In these images you can see the continuous foil sheets, the inner layer already creating the dome and the rock-wool insulation going on. It wasn’t precision work … and it took much longer than I thought it would … I think I played around with it for almost an entire day.



I ended up with something pretty fragile, funny looking … and honestly … discouraging.


The structure wasn’t precise or solid enough to create a good seal with the top of the barrel … I didn’t think it could hold a temperature that could bake bread … and I just set it aside.

It took a few weeks until I decided to cook on the stove and to cover the pot with the aluminum cap. WOW … the pot came to a boil very quickly. I was surprised. I decided to give baking a chance … and boy did it work. The first couple of times I burned the bread a bit. I also ruined one of the silicon baking trays (and weakened the other one) because I placed them directly on the barrel top … and it apparently reaches a temperature much higher than what the silicon is designed to handle. I now place two flat (half) fire bricks on top of the barrel and the baking trays on top of them.

I now do a lot of cooking on the rocket stove. It takes some planning in terms of timing … for the cooking to coincide with the burning of the stoves. But with a bit more attention and intention a lot of the cooking is now done on the rockets. Pizzas are also now made on the rocket … much faster … tastier … and no electricity needed:


Mamaliga goes on the rocket in small clay pots (that hold personal servings). Melted cheese on bread goes on … and more and more. There is a journey of discovery … what should be put directly on the surface, when to use bricks, etc … but the electric oven has been used very little in recent months. The gas cooker is also working much less. It is satisfying to be able to harness that is already there (and would otherwise rise to the ceiling) instead of expending (and paying for) more energy.

It works based on radiated energy. The aluminum foil reflects radiated heat back down onto whatever is cooking under it. It also locks in some convective heat (hot air rising) … I don’t know which is the more significant source of energy … I suspect the radiated.

One “problem” with the aluminum cap is where to put it when it isn’t used. Then a few days ago I had a thought … if the aluminum reflects radiated heat then couldn’t it reflect that heat back into the room. I went to the workshop and came back with a scrap copper pipe and used it to prop up the aluminum cap so that it reflects heat towards the couches in the room:


… and that works too … really well … a very noticeable effect when you are sitting in the beam of heat that comes from the dome. I still need to bring in the copper pipe cutter to cut it down to size so that it can be supported with the edge of the barrel instead of projecting all the way down to the cob indentation … but it works.

What started out as a disappointment has turned out to be a really useful winter tool and upgrade for the rocket stoves 🙂


Maple Syrup

Lovely short video … hint … those lines between the trees are not strings or ropes!

Weather Report November 2014

These images were taken at the warmest time of today ~16:30:




The day before yesterday when I went to the market at 08:30 it was -5c. Looks like winter is settling in.

The summer was fairly wet. During the 6 weeks I was away it rained every other day. The grasses have been continuously green. The stinging nettles were productive all through the summer and until a couple of weeks ago.

Fall was fairly dry. There were a couple of rain events but nothing major … didn’t have much effect on the rain barrels … it was a very good year for mice and flies (signs of the last of both species are finally fading out of the house). Snow has not yet made its first appearance … though according to the forecast it may arrive any night (I just covered the piles of wood in the picture above in case snow or slush does arrive tonight).

The first wave of cold came relatively late … around mid-October. I started heating the house with the rocket stoves around that time, but not every day. Shortly after that I had to empty the solar hot water system to prevent it from freezing … so showers have also been based on wood-burning since then.

For the last 2 or 3 weeks the rockets have been burning every day – a morning burn in the living room and a night burn in the bedroom. During the last week there has been a noticeable drop in temperatures … I have had to feed the rockets 3 batches instead of 2 …  and on a few days I’ve even had to do a second burn during the day to keep the living room from getting to cold.

Yesterday, when the images above began to unfold I finally moved into a thermal under-layer of clothes and have had to put on quite a few layers when going outside. Hurting hands have set in too. The kitchen (entrance hall to the house) is becoming less pleasant to be in since it is only heated indirectly (heat that escapes from the two adjacent rooms and from cooking). Ricky, the small dog, has started spending nights inside. Rain water barrels are freezing over night, I can still break through the ice in the mornings … but I don’t think I’ll be able to do that much longer … I think I’ll have to empty them soon.

Days are short. I have settled into a winter rhythm that involves the routines of heating (carrying wood in, starting and feeding fires) and living in between. I still need to change the main water filter and add the final layer of insulation (straw bales and tarps) on to the two man-holes through which the water supply system passes … and may this winter be warm and pleasant.

Winter is here.