Thursday, 23 April 2009

Was Easter That Long Ago?

It seems like only yesterday!

We went out to the block for a couple of days camping over Easter with my brother. It started out rainy, but by the time I'd erected the camp kitchen covering (of dubious utility in the end) the rain had eased off and it looked like we were going to have a great time of it.

It was great to get out there and not be thinking about working there, just to enjoy the place. We had a campfire on the Friday evening, and retired relatively early after a big day getting everything together.

On the Saturday morning we took a walk down the eastern gulley, discussing the geology of the region, and examining the rocks in the outcrops we came across. We found some nice specimens of sedimentary rocks that had been broken and reset during their lifetime, where the alternating bands of coloured stone had shifted in relation to one another. I'll remember to get a picture of some next time I'm out there so you can share in our excitement ;-)

After that little jaunt we set out for the creek. We'd brought the inflatible boats along so the lads could have a float about which they enjoyed for a while. They've got a bit of learning to do before they get paddling under control though!

After doing that for a while we wandered up the rocky hillside, then returned to camp as there was quite a storm brewing on the horizon. It set in after lunch, torrential rain like we would only expect whilst camping. DW packed the kids up and headed home, whilst brother and I resolved to brave the elements and camp onward.

The rain calmed down in the early evening, so we sparked up another fire and he cooked me up a camp stew. That and a couple of beers helped keep the chill at bay, and by bedtime there were hints of moonlight through the clouds, offering us the promise of a sunny dawn.

Sadly, that wasn't to be, with even darker clouds on the horizon the next morning. We madly packed up the site and set off home, resolving to choose better weather next time. All in all it was a great time, and it helped clear the head of all the issues surrounding the place. It's funny how spending time out there doing jobs prevents me from remembering the other reasons why we liked the place, just for the sheer beauty and peacefulness of it all. Being out there has reaffirmed that, and made me keen to get on with the project so we can live out there (sometime in the next 10 years ;-) )

To that end, I stopped procrastinating over designing the intersection for the laneway, finished drawing it up and had it submitted to council not long after Easter. Back to the waiting game again, but with a bit more enthusiasm than we've had in recent months.

April 30 (if all goes according to plan) sees the end of the fire danger season, which will mean we can camp out and have a fire whenever we choose, rather than needing to organise permits in advance. I think the odd weekend campout will do us all the world of good! I can do a couple of days (or half days) of work there, with a relaxing evening around the campfire to finish it off.

Photos courtesy of Mr M.C. used with kind permission!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Forged Iron Product Process

The diagram above presents a generic model for creating products. It's the same as pretty much any process diagram, in that it has inputs, processes, outputs (product) and a feedback loop. When looking at the overall household system, we can break each input to the household down into one of these models. The products of one model will form the inputs for another model and so on down the chain.

It's useful to consider things at this degree of detail for a couple of reasons. First and foremost it allows us to consider just how much hidden activity goes on out in the wider economy to supply what seem like simple goods into our households.

Below is a more complex diagram that details the major components of a model for any forged item. This covers a kitchen knife, a fork, spoon, fire poker, coat hook, gate latch etc. items commonly seen in our households.

As you can see there are a number of inputs, two of which could be considered "consumables", one other material item, "other tools" which covers things like hammers, anvil, tongs, swages etc. Then there is labour and skill. I have distinguished these two items because feedback has an important effect on them in particular.

As we undertake the process of forging, and examine and use the finished items, you provide yourself with feedback that goes toward the development of your skill. More skill equates to more productive and economical use of your labour. Feedback also affects the other items, both via the conduit of skill and directly. You may use less inputs next time around, or slightly different inputs, perhaps your charcoal wasn't as well made as it should have been, so your feedback from this process actually affects the production model for charcoal.

Labour and skill we provide from ourselves, but what of the other elements. The other tools might be forged or cast items in their own right. Of course they could be purchased, but we are considering the systems in totality, examining just how much we would need to do if we were to supply everything ourselves. Metal certainly deserves a more detailed analysis, but for this post we will simply accept that it can be either recycled or extracted via mining.

The final diagram for today is the product model for charcoal.

In it we can see that the basic process takes wood and a pyrolysis unit and produces charcoal and sundry other outputs. In a more detailed examination it would be worth considering what those other outputs are, as they would certainly be useful, but for today we only want to know that they exist. We're most interested in the charcoal.

This diagram differs from the previous ones, in that it includes two other product models within it. You have most likely already noticed that I've used the bluish colour to represent the entire model. So we see that wood is a product of a forestry or wood production process. The pyrolysis unit also is the product of another complete process. You can probably guess that both of these processes will contain a wide range of inputs, which are themselves the product of other processes. We now begin to see the depth of the systems that operate to provide us with the knife and fork I will soon be using to eat our evening meal.

In the next post following this theme I hope to draw some common processes out from the much larger mass that goes into the household system. These common processes will be selected due to the fact that they lie at a root level, or are fundamental to a large number of other production processes. Besides the sheer joy of the insights, this will also allow us to get a grasp of the fundamental skills and resources we need within a community in order to maximise resilience.