Saturday, February 25, 2017

Primitive Technology: Planting Cassava and Yams



He released this video yesterday and it has already been viewed over 1.5 million times.

Published on Feb 24, 2017
In this video I build a garden to grow Cassava and yams, two staple food crops. Cassava is a shrub that develops large edible roots. Yams are a climbing vine that produce large, edible underground bulbs and smaller aerial bulbs on their vines.
I had 5 huts, but the wattle and daub hut (from the first video uploaded on this channel nearly 2 years ago) became dilapidated. I abandoned it in favour of the other huts I built and neglected the roof. This let water in destroying a wall. Also, the sweet potato patch behind it had a tree fall across it destroying the fence. So I demolished them both to make one large garden.
After removing the fence I set a fire under the fallen tree to burn it in half rather than spend the effort of cutting it with stone tools. After burning almost all the way through, it rained. So I came back later and cut through the rest of the log with stone tools. I eventually broke the tree in half. Using smaller logs as levers I moved the tree out of the garden clearing the space for the garden.
I then collected wood and built a simple fence that was woven loosely together with vine. The fence needs only to discourage large animals from entering to prevent them causing damage. Most times pigs and wallabies don’t know that food is growing in the garden and won’t try and enter if they see no reason to. Or at least that worked for the sweet potatoes so we’ll see if it works this time.
For the yam and cassava planting material I travelled far down stream to the site of my old stone hut that I built over 10 years ago. It had a corbelled dome roof that was damaged when a tree fell on it during a cyclone and it came down a few months later. The thick walls however have stayed standing for about a decade though.
Yams and cassava grew wild at this site which is one of the reasons I built the stone hut there. These plants are not native to Australia but grow wild here after having escaped from people’s gardens (similar to how wild pigs live here now after escaping from farms). The planting material for the yams are the bulbs that grow on the vines. The planting material for cassava are simply 25 cm long pieces of stem.
On returning to the garden, a scrub turkey was seen digging in the mounds. Protected by law, this bird has lost its fear of humans and in this case I’ve semi-domesticated it. Originally it was attracted to soil I dug up for the worms it exposed. I started leaving a pot out with small sweet potatoes in it for it to eat and now it investigates any pottery I leave for food. Now it visits my projects and will only leave if bored or chased away. I suppose this is similar to how chickens were domesticated, in fact bush turkeys and chickens are related and will produce hybrid offspring.
Unfortunately, it has learned that the garden contains food. Originally, I was only going to plant yams but I saw the turkey digging them up and eating them. So, I planted cassava in the mounds so that the turkey would be discouraged by finding only wooden stems to peck at. I secretly planted the yams along the fence of the garden because the turkey only thinks the mounds contain yams. They can’t smell very well and only find food by sight and learned behavior.
I planted the cassava in mounds 1 meter apart by pushing them flat into the soil. I planted the yams at intervals along the fence so they could use it as a trellis. 32 cassava stems and 12 yams were planted. Then a storm began and watered the garden. In less than a week the cassava had sprouted shoots and began to grow. The yams will take longer as I planted them deeper.
Cassava produces the most calories per time and space of any plant apart from sugar cane and sugar beet. But it requires much less fertiliser and effort. A hectare of cassava produces enough calories in 2 days to sustain a person for 1 year. It takes a year to come to harvest but will stay in the ground for a year without becoming woody. The tubers are high in starch and are what tapioca is made from.
This variety is called sweet cassava (actually not bitter cassava, it doesn’t taste sweet but starchy instead) and it needs to be boiled for 20 minutes to get rid of some cyanide it contains. The bitter variety contains such high levels that it kills if eaten raw and requires more extensive treatment to eat. There isn’t much nutrition in cassava other than the large amount calories it contains so other food would be required to provide protein and nutrients.
After I harvest the cassava I planted I’ll try fermenting it (which adds nutrition), drying it and pounding it into flour to make flat bread. Cassava flour has the same energy content as wheat flour, stores well and tastes somewhat similar. Or I could just cook it and eat it straight from the garden. I’ll use the yams like potatoes when they’re ready.

International "House Tomato" experiment & update

Friday, January 27, 2017

January in the Grow Room

Primitive technology: Bed Shed




He must be doing something right he has over 3.5 million subscribers.


I built a bed shed, a small shelter with a sleeping platform built into it. It’s quicker to build than a large hut but can be extended later on when materials and time become available. It’s not far from the dome shaped grass hut I built earlier.
The hut is 2 m long and 1 m wide. Four posts were hammered into the ground, two 1 m high posts (1.25 m long, 25 cm underground) on the low side and two 2m high posts (2.25m long, 25cm underground) on the high side. Onto this, a sloping rafters was lashed on with fish tail wait-a-while, a spiky palm with a vine like habit. To remove the needle like spikes from the plant, the leaves are pulled off so that the frond sheaths come with them. This made suitable lashings.
Battens were then tied to the rafters and bundles of long grass from the mountainside were collected. Using vine from the bush, the bundles were lashed to the battens starting at the low side and continuing to the top so that the grass would shed rain. Cross bars were lashed to the frame of the shed at each end to support the bed. These were at a height of 1m above the ground.
The bed frame itself was made from four poles (two 2m long and two 75 cm long) lashed together to form a rectangle 1.75m long and 75 cm wide (the ends of the two longer poles extending further to sit on the cross bars in the shed). Lawyer cane was then wrapped length ways over the frame to create horizontal threads. Then more lawyer cane was woven between these threads to form a sort of bed spring net. The bed frame was then put on the cross bars and tested to see if it could hold my weight. A mat I made from woven bark in a previous video was used for bedding and a bunch of grass for a pillow. In a rainstorm it was possible to make a fire in the space under the bed.
This structure is quick and easy to build. The bed is 1 m above the ground and provides plenty of area beneath to store fire wood and tools out of the rain as well as a place to sit and make things. The bed is comfortable and keeps the occupant off the ground away from ground dwelling creatures at night. The smoke coming up from the fire keeps mosquitoes away while providing heat and light reflected back from the roof. In fine weather the fire can be placed in front of the shed in the open while during rain the fire can be kept under the shelter to keep it dry. If room is needed to stand up the bed can be folded up against the roof and tied to it using cordage.
This shed is literally one half of the standard rectilinear hut I usually build (2m x2m floor plan, 2m tall ridge line and 1 m high side walls e.g. from wattle and daub hut and tiled hut videos) and was built to be upgradeable. Later, the other side of the roof could be added on and then walls of some kind built around the frame to form a full hut.