Self watering plant pots AKA wicking barrel

This video tutorial explains how to make a self watering barrel.


One of the common problems novice gardeners have is knowing how much to water their plants.

Too little water and they wither and die, too much water and the root can begin to rot. Either way the result is bad and means reduced crops which is a really big problem, especially if you are relying on them for food.

This watering barrel which you can make your self with simple tool  and techniques allow the water to ‘wick’ from a reservoir at the bottom of the barrel. The design also incorporates an overflow for the reservoir about 0.3m (12 inches) from the bottom to prevent the soil becoming too wet (waterlogged).

Other features is that the plant is raised above ground level and can have netting added to prevent animal eating or destroying crops.

Diagram of a cutaway to further explain wicking barrel.

Diagram of a cutaway to further explain wicking barrel.


Completed wicking barrel

Completed wicking barrel


The inlet pipe can be connected to a rain water collection system without fear of over watering.


the only thing i might add to this design is bare copper wire around the outside of the barrel to deter snails and slugs form entering the pot. The copper itself can also treat some micro-nutrient problems plants may develop.

Make Sodium Hypochlorite AKA bleach

bleach making 2


Sodium Hypochlorite

bleach, it will damage the dye in fabrics but more importantly it will kill a wide variety of pathogens.
This makes bleach a very important substance for modern settled life. For any settled life the abilbity to create bleach could be a life saving skill.
Surprisingly beach is quite easy to make, the process does release some hazardous gasses such as Hydrogen gas and Chlorine gas, but if done in a well vested area this should not be a problem.

The basic chemistry

Chlorine gas if exposed to an alkaline solution will produce hypochlorites.

Cl2  +H2O  ==> ClO‾ + OH‾

NaCl + H20 ==>  Cl2 + H2 + NaOCl

For this reaction, where the chlorine is formed is important as we want it to have a long path to the surface to react with the water, so the chlorine producing electrode should be close to the bottom of the electrolysis container.
The hydrogen gas we don’t care about to much, so the negative electrode is close to the surface.

The container

<pic of chamber>

create chamber from plastic bottle

The electrode.

carbon graphite from a battery, larger in diameter is better.
wash to remove chemicals and plastics that may be on the surface, heating is an aceptable way to remove plastics.

Add to bottle cap by puncture. seal with candle wax.

The salt

the salt used should be NaCl, without added iodide which is common in some manufactured salt used for consumption.

some salt has anti caking agents, these should not cause a problem.

100 grams used

The water

avoid impurities
the water should be as clean as possible, distilled or rain water is preferred
1 liter used.

Impurities such as transition metals , copper, iron, manganese… will reduce the shelf life of the NaOCL

The power source

12V -24V DC
possible sources, car battery, solar panel, 8 x 1.5V batteries in series.

Time taken

1 hour


bubbles will form from both electrodes, a smell of chlorine will be detectable.

the water will become yellowish.


Use pool testing strips to test for chlorine levels.


2 to 3+ table spoons in 5 litres of water.
after about 20 minutes add another half a tablespoon of bleach to water.

1 part bleach to 100 parts water (up to 130 parts water) by volume.

Some slight smell of chlorine should be present in the water, a little stronger than domestic tap water smell.


addition notes:

pictures and experiment needed

citing and correcting source document. site owner has no operational email address

adapted from:

note the website link talks about charcoal , but actually means graphite.

Download a 2 page printable document  bleach making flyer

The Bronze age collapse and you

Now firstly you may be thinking “What does the bronze age collapse have to do with me or the current world environment?”

More than you think it does.

The bronze age collapse occurred about 1200 BC after flourishing since 3000 BC, a period of 1800 years.

This was the single largest collapse of civilization known.

The important bronze age civilizations were centered in the area from modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq all the way south to Egypt.

The bronze age was the time just before the world power in the near east shifted to Greece and the fading empire of Egypt, which then moved to Rome and Carthage. Obviously the bronze age was based on bronze an alloy (mixture of) Tin (~10%) and Copper (~90%). Copper was quite common in the region of the fertile crescent but the tin ores were mined out quite fast requiring extensive trade networks to acquire it. Bronze was used for weapons and armor, allowing war as well as trade to be the mechanism used to acquire it. The trade networks to acquire the scarce tin extended all the way from Egypt to Brittan (which was actually named after its tin ores). It is believed that the bronze age trade networks were almost global, spanning at least 3 continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe, this can be demonstrated by the types of precious stones found  in the artistic styles of bronze age civilizations and other items that must have been sourced from very far away.


Bronze was first discovered by accident from smelting copper ore with arsenic impurities. different levels of arsenic impurities created soft or hard or brittle bronzes as the arsenic impurities increased. The smarter metallurgists of the time realized that by grading the bronze from soft to hard they could then remelt the high arsenic bronze 10% with the low arsenic bronze 1% to get  the best bronze 5%. Arsenic is of course toxic to the metallurgist  (causing paralysis)and eventually the metallurgists used tin instead of arsenic. All this smelting consumed large quantities of wood in an arid environment so supply caravans also had to source wood as well as tin  requiring extensive trade to create bronze, another way empires controlled bronze. Importantly bronze needed to be cast (poured molten into a mold) to create items, this required a lot of specialized artisans (including the mold maker) working together to create bronze items. This made bronze unlike iron which followed it.  Manufacture and distribution of bronze weapons and armor could be controlled by a hierarchy, the bronze armed soldiers could control everything else.

Bronze by its nature could be controlled, and it allowed control of populations. He who controlled bronze had total control of their society.


Iron can simply be refined and shaped with just three tools, fire, a hammer and water which could be done alone and in isolation. Iron ores were common and impurities weren’t such a large factor in the production of the low quality steel needed to make swords. Iron did not need to be cast like bronze, it could simply be heated and hammered into shape then plunged into water to keep it hard. Iron didn’t generally contain toxic impurities like arsenic so it was safer to experiment with. Tin was not needed to make iron or steel. the most common impurity in the iron was carbon from the fires used to create it, carbon actually made the iron into carbon (mild) steel which was harder than iron.

Iron could not be controlled, it was too plentiful and too easy to make once the secret was discovered.

A scene from bronze age Europe. Five men are engaged in the complex process of smelting and casting bronze into a sword.  from

A scene from bronze age Europe. Five men are engaged in the complex process of smelting and casting bronze into a sword.

Bronze age society and politics

For much of the bronze age different states warred with each other, small empires expanded and contracted, rose and fell, merged or were taken over, one thing remained constant, bronze was the weapon and amour of the professional soldier. The professional soldier was charioteer dressed in heavy bronze chain mail, charioteers worked in a pair on each chariot. One charioteer was the driver armed with only a large knife and a few throwing spears, the other charioteer was an archer with the same knife and a bow with arrows. Chariot wars were quite a spectacle chariots and arrows going in all directions, eventually a chariot would become disabled and the runners would come. Runners were the mercenary army of  poorly armed ( non salaried ) peasants that would charge to a disabled chariot and swarm and kill the crew, who were too laden down with heavy armor to outrun the swarm. Each army would have their own army of runners, runners generally didn’t fight each other, they just attacked disabled enemy chariot crews. The Chariots themselves were expensive so were well out of the reach of the local peasant. All of the high technology weaponry was expensive and controlled.

Society was highly stratified with a large number of slaves, peasant farmers with smaller numbers of artisans and soldiers and at the top very small numbers of  aristocracy and royalty. This system was in place for  thousands of years and a real civilization sprung up along with it. The full extent technology of the Bronze age will likely never be known, only hinted at. The explosion in knowledge from this time period is quite staggering. Writing, Law, Stone architecture, Mathematics, complex society, pottery, metallurgy, coinage, irrigation, Navigation,the plow… The Egyptians inherited much of their civilization for the Bronze age near east civilizations, every innovation they had was simply imported from Sumer and its neighbors. Not all parts of the world experienced the bronze age, some societies were forced to wait for iron , either the bronze technology wasn’t available or the cost of tin and copper was just too high. The end of the bronze age wasn’t the end for bronze as a useful material it still had applications in swords but a cheaper alternative became available for the masses. Technology and knowledge for the masses was a hallmark of the iron age, the simplified phonetic alphabet of the Phoenicians was modified and adopted by Greece and later Rome, as it was a  simpler (less elitist) system than the hieroglyphic based system that were popular in the bronze age societies.

So what went wrong?

Several things all occurring at  about the same time.

Strangely no long-term bronze supply problems. Though a short-term supply issues may have created problems. Bronze is still plentiful today. Today bronze is about 1% of the price of silver of the same weight. So to this day, no bronze shortage. Today’s prices (February 2013) in  troy ounces (31.1 grams) and US $:

Silver $30.18  Bronze $0.33 Copper $0.27  Tin $0.82.

Bronze age collapse conditions

Environmental problems/ agricultural degradation  – Soil salination , Deforestation
After thousands of years of irrigation and deforestation soils became salty and less productive, sometimes non productive. Even today not an easy problem to fix, it required digging up all the soil and washing it in fresh water and then placing it all back in the ground. Remember this series of empires was built on agriculture and held together with military might and  control of bronze weapons. Because Bronze needed to be smelted and then cast vast quantities of wood were needed to be burned for this process. The region was deforested and in the process became more arid and this amplified the soil salination problem and droughts.

Natural disasters  – Earthquakes
For a period of 70 years before the collapse a series of major earthquakes occurred in the northern part of the fertile crescent. It became costly to repair a large amount of damage in agriculturally declining state without a war of conquest. Earthquake damage to major cities would have disrupted  major trade routes at the center of the Bronze age empires.

Destabilizing technology  – Development of iron smelting
Iron smelting, a relatively simple process took away the control of hard metal away from hierarchies. Now anyone could make a sword (and possibly armor) and many people made the Naue type II sword. Iron rich rocks could simple be heated in a large fire to create the pure iron, Iron once created could be beaten into shape with another fire and a hammer. Hot iron could be quenched ( hot iron put into cold water) to increase its hardness.  Iron ores were plentiful, iron working quite easy compared to bronze casting, and people were angry.

Naue II sword. The first popular sword of the Iron age. From

Naue II sword. The first popular sword of the Iron age.

Economic changes – Iron economy
The development of iron as a replacement for bronze would have disrupted bronze economies. As trade routes  changed and previously profitable businesses, town and entire infrastructure became marginal because of competition with the iron economy and products. The change to iron would have caused significant social upheaval. Imagine a centuries old industry with all its vested interests suddenly coming into competition where none existed before. Huge monopolies would have collapsed.

A period of extended peace – The Pax
For about 100 years (1300BC – 1200BC approx) there were no wars between major powers, leaving the mercenary armies with little money and growing ranks, and states reluctant to attack each other to solve economic problems.
Peasants weren’t accustomed to fighting against peasants from neighboring states and were more likely to see them as friends and not enemies, perhaps seeing their own greedy faltering state as a real enemy.

Complex extensive trade networks
As an economy develops there is a chance it will become too specialized and too reliant on monopolies. If critical monopolies fail, the entire structure of the economy can fail. Needing tin from Britain, a break in the supply line could be disastrous, could there have been a tin and/or bronze supply monopoly that failed, leading to a collapse?

Catastrophe design – Centralized power and control
With just a hand full of states all located in a relatively small geographic region having the majority of power, any small localized event could destroy the entire empire. Apart from Egypt all the power and grandeur of the bronze age was located in the east and north. A calamity in the center restricting trade would be disastrous. Egypt’s major contribution to the empires was slaves and food, once the flow of theses resources was restricted a collapse was inevitable.

Map of the near east Bronze age civilizations  just 50 years before collapse. This region was the Centre of power for north Africa, the near east and much of Europe.

Map of the near east Bronze age civilizations just 50 years before collapse. This region was the Centre of power for north Africa, the near east and much of Europe.

Social upheaval – Sea people and civil unrest
All of these factors lead to a group of people called the sea people forming a large army (armed with home-made iron swords) and sweeping through the region from north to south basically destroying everything in their path and collecting more recruits from the disenfranchised populous destroyed cities (many of which had already been damaged by earthquakes in the preceding decades). The sea peoples traveled by small civilian ships frequently but fought on land. Because the sea people destroyed almost every thing. There are few records of exactly who they were or their exact path of destruction. Like the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, Nagasaki had no idea of imminent danger, the devastation in Hiroshima so complete, that no one was alive and credible enough to recount the event. Many cities had no warning the sea people were coming. Any one likely to have told them was either dead or had joined the sea people. One thing is known, The Egyptians had learned of them before they arrived and battled them at sea and destroyed their army. Afterward Egypt had lost its major bronze age trading partners and went into decline. Looking at the map of the central bronze age civilizations it seems that the sea peoples attacks cut the empire in half, cutting Egypt away and destroyed all the trade routes to Egypt. Catastrophe design in trade networks. the Sea people were the catalyst for the complete overthrow of the bronze age empires.

Addition: Likely identity of the sea people; Aegean Greeks.

Research seem to point to a confederation of Greek sea going pirates from the Aegean sea. Several thing point to this. The early Greeks would have had access to Iron from Azarwa or Hatti in modern day Turkey. Their homeland was made from many small islands which made them good sailors and sea travel was normal for most people. The large number of islands would make a perfect place for pirates to hide their loot and ships and forma natural barrier to invaders or reprisals.  Sailing into uncharted island chains is hazardous as reef (rock or coral) can easily destroy invading ships. Tales from he Iliad effectively tell of the raids the Aegean Greek pirates did in the Mediterranean. The pattern of raid match the sea people raiding from the north and then clockwise around the Levant until finally reaching Egypt when all other the loot had been picked clean. The sea people most likely followed the coast line and didn’t require complex navigation and hence made longer and longer journeys hugging the coastline until finally reaching  and being defeated by the Egyptians. It likely the original Sea People added other nations and even refugees to the pirate confederation as the raids continued so it became not just one ethic group doing the raiding to confuse matters for historians further. The tales from the Iliad span several generations which seem to mirror the transition period from Bronze age to Iron age. Some island settlements in the region show special defenses against sea borne attack having  bee created on mountain tops with difficult to see trails leading up. Such a settlement would be quite impractical unless a pirate raid was a serious risk, this of course points to pirate raids being a serous problem for an extended period of time. The land based raid (possibily supported by sea going vesssels) seem to fan out from the city of Troy in more or less the same direction as the sea based raids supporting the idea of one localized confederation being the source of the pirate raids.

The Sea Peoples and their invasions into the Bronze age civilizations. While no-one is certain where they came from, Cyprus is one of the possibilities.   From

The Sea Peoples and their invasions into the Bronze age civilizations. While no-one is certain where they came from, Cyprus is one of the possibilities.

In the approximately 70 years following the bronze age collapse there was no real order any where, just groups of despots with militias attempting to take what ever they could, where ever it was. 70 years at the time would have been
about 2 new generation of people growing up in the chaos of transition from Bronze to Iron, in a world where ancient empire once controlled everything, now everything was uncontrolled. Then Greece and Phoenicia started to form as the first iron age empires, on the north-western and western outskirts of the former bronze age fertile crescent. The rest of history since the Greeks and Romans is known quite well, But have we learned lessons from the circumstances of their rise from the ashes of the previous empires?

Oil age collapse conditions

Icon of the 20th century, the Oil age.

Icon of the 20th century, the Oil age.

Environmental problems/ agricultural degradation – mining and fracking
Hard rock mining and fracking, both are creating major environmental problems,  fracking threatens to poison the  water table important for agriculture and drinking water supplies. Fracking shows the true desperation to gain the last remaining combustible liquid hydrocarbons from the earth at the expense of any other current or future use of the soil. The oil age is ending. Remember the bronze age ended with an abundance of bronze, and there is still plentiful bronze now 3200 years later. As oil ends so does trade and large amounts of industrialized food production. In  sad irony oil is required for the industrial scale production of food, but destroying the land and water table required to grow the food to get the oil seems counter intuitive. Counter intuitive until you realize that corporatist thinking only focuses on profit and all other matter are externalized to the point of being non-existent. Incredibly blinkered thinking enshrined in corporate mentality.

Natural disasters -US Hurricanes, Earthquakes, oil void collapses?

The US has endured some significant hurricanes and ocean borne storms in the last 5 years in the region of the business banking and government hubs on the east coast of the USA. Not to forget deep water horizon a major oil exploration disaster poisoning fisheries and riparian zones in the south-east. Oil once removed from the ground leaves a void which i often filled with water to help float the oil to the surface. Water is unlike petroleum in that it does not create pressure by releasing gas in response to shock. A void filled with oil stabilized the void, how else could it have been in the ground so long? A void filled with water will not significantly out gas to pressurize the void. the water will instead seep into fractures and lubricate them (better than oil strangely) and exacerbate any earthquake conditions. eventually the void will collapse creating or amplifying an earthquake. How many of these void do you think there are? Are they a ticking time bomb ready to detonate at the end of the oil age?

Destabilizing technology – Internet, 3D printing, others?
The established order is under threat from many sources who seek to change the way things are done. Information can now be spread wide fast and low-cost. The 3D printer allows a thing to travel in information format and be replicated almost anywhere. A recent development in 3D printing is rifle parts, rifle are  in most places a  restricted (controlled) item. these controls are dissolving. A very strong parallel to iron make the sword common place in the  beginning of the iron age. Could the 3D printed rifle be the last gasp of the oil age? A large-scale war of ‘new sea people’ armed with plastic home printed guns?

Economic changes – Fiat currency under threat.
People are beginning to realize fiat currency is just a scam. The established order relies on this scam not being revealed as they are reliant on fiat currency to maintain the empire. Will a real economy emerge to challenge the old one? A great deal of the major parts of the economy are monopolies or are near monopolies, all primed for a single event  to collapse their networks.

A period of extended peace – The (ongoing) cold war
Did the cold war ever really finish or did the bad guy just get out sourced to N Korea? Starting in about 1946 we have about 67 years of relative peace in the world. WWI (1914 – 1918) and WW2 (1939-1945) were large wars designed to
accomplish two goals. reduce working class population and reinforce/reorganize states as the mechanisms of power with more ethnically homogenous populations. Even after WW2 had ended people were relocated all over Europe (and the world) based on ethnic lines.

WWI to reduce the population levels of working class people as they have become somewhat unnecessary due to industrialization. (37 million killed – soldiers and civilians ) (Spanish Flu adds another 20 – 50 million deaths)

WW2 to relocate the population of Europe and the middle east into artificial states and reinforce state power over the older established order of monarchs and emperors. (60 million killed –  soldiers and civilians )

1914- 1945 A period of 31 years where about 6% of the world’s population was killed,  the survivors became under the control of states (not ancestral monarchs) and the newly developed, city destroying, atomic bomb.

So in the last 67 years population have grown significantly, with no wars to cull out people, a population bubble is forming.

Complex extensive trade networks –  World trade and Globalization
Our economic networks are complex and fragile, more so than was ever possible in the bronze age, just in time supply and algorithmic trading being examples. Much of our world trade is based on oil, the transport of people, things and food; all reliant on oil. Oil as we know is running out. Trade networks face total collapse once oil becomes too expensive or unavailable.

Catastrophe design – Centralized power and control
Power centralized in a few places in the world, Washington DC (military),  City of London (financial), Vatican City (religious), Mecca (religious), Zürich (financial) Frankfurt (financial), Beijing (Military, Financial, Manufacturing). Four of these centers of power  are in Europe currently under its own economic and currency crisis. On the population map look at how power seems to be where population is small and concentrated. Three continents seem to have no power at all South America, Africa, Australia.

World population map. Stars indicate approximate location of world centers of power. L-R, Washington DC, City of London, Zurich - Switzerland, Frankfurt - Germany, Vatican City- Rome-Italy, Mecca Saudi Arabia, Beijing China . Notice how close the four European powers are together, centered around Zurich. Source image from

World population map. Stars indicate approximate location of world centers of power. L-R, Washington DC, City of London, Zürich – Switzerland, Frankfurt – Germany, Vatican City- Rome-Italy, Mecca Saudi Arabia, Beijing China . Notice how close the four European powers are together, centered around Zürich. Source image from

Social upheaval – The bank  bailouts and Austerity
People are being robbed by their governments and are understandably angry, but what form will their resistance take, and how long will they wait before demanding change that can’t be ignored. Could fiat currency be phased out without significant transition problems? Europe with four significant centers of world power  in the grip of austerity and a unified currency that is rapidly loosing confidence. Is another European war in the future likely? Could the center of world power move after a collapse of European power, to one of the other centers of world power, Washington, Beijing or Mecca? Will people accept being squeezed economically into an even lower standard of living? When will people reach their breaking point and simply rebel?

Transition – To what and how long will it take?
People want life to be different, what do they want and how long will it take to achieve amid the chaos of transition? Will people fall into the trap of simply recreating the same unstable, unfair system all over again? Will another’ sea people’ arise? what role will the internet play in the end of oil and the beginning of something new? Could the internet reduce the transition time? Could the internet allow for a completely new type of economy based on 3D printing and virtually free information?

Complaining does not help

Complaining will not make a bad situation better.

I went for a hike recently.
The brief for the journey was that we were to go about 3 km on mostly dirt roads to a creek.
The environment was dry Australian forest, mostly eucalyptus trees.
Thinking that the creek would be full of fresh water I foolishly didn’t take any water.
The journey was mostly down hill on the way there. The weather turned from warm to hot and humid.
The creek turned out to be a largely stagnant trickle. I had no way to purify the little water that was there.
Fortunately my companions had brought some water with them, but on the way back to camp we quickly ran out.
I was beginning to suffer the effects of dehydration and heat exhaustion. I felt very tired and even a few minutes walking was exhausting.
We stopped many times on the way back to the camp for me to recover some strength.
My friend asked me on the way back during one of our many stops ” What’s the most important thing for survival?”

Immediately I said “Knowledge”

Had I known the water in the creek was not drinkable I would have taken water.

Had I known the weather would become so hot and humid I would not have carried a jacket in my bag.

Once we had arrived back at camp we all drank lots of water and rested.

My friend commended me on not complaining about my obviously exhausting return journey.

I said ” Complaining never helps, so there’s not point in doing it”

He nodded knowingly.

Hearing the complaints of other people simply converts their problem into your problem.
It multiplies their irritation and makes that person your irritation.
One person complaining a lot can really destroy the morale of a group,
and then people will start arguing and fighting rather than attempting to solve the real problems they are being faced with.

So in the forest (or other places away from civilization) there will be hardships,
how you deal with them physically and emotionally is your choice.

Occasionally the person suffering will be you, it’s easy to ask people to not complain when you are not the person suffering.
When the suffering person is you, remember to not complain, you won’t be respected for your weaknesses, but you will be respected for being laconic.

Scram Bag:The Needle


A needle, more useful and more difficult to make than you think.


Why is this so significant?

Yes it is a needle, it is used for sewing materials together.

The reason it is significant is because it is the oldest tool ever discovered that was not designed for killing or eating.

The first tool of construction. Men and women made clothes and other usefull items from this one giant leap in technology. It’s our first actual tool of construction. Everything before it was a tool for cutting, chopping, crushing or stabbing. Most previuos tools made things smaller, except this one which made things bigger. The first bone needles were found 6000BC older than recorded civilisation itself, You might assume it was a prerequisite for civilisation.

If you still think the needle is insignificant, try to make one that works well. you’ll find it’s very hard to do.

Using this knowledge imagine what would happen when civilsation as we know it collapses. The factories that currently produce needles would likely cease production at least for a time. Trade and transport networks will be disrupted perhaps permanently. The production of new clothes would likey halt. People would have worn and damaged clothes and be perhaps unable to replace them. New clothes may become rare and expensive to manufacture. Clothes are made of woven threads, theads will not be scarce. Needles possibly will be. Needles will likely become quite valuable. It’s possible may become a form of currency or at the very least a valuable item of barter. It’s clear that needles will be far more valuable than they are today.

Less obvious uses for a needle:

A needle can be bent and turned into a fishing hook.

Needles can be used as pins for sewing.

Needles can be used to clean out a wound or prick open a blister.

A magnetised needle floating on still water can be used as a compass.

Needle can be use to clear a small blockage in a metal filter or small gague pipes.

Stitching a wound closed.






Soil stove

If found this looking through old documents.

A stove made from a mix of sand, soil sand an dung slowly piled up in the corner of a house. I think anthill sand is coarse sand, soil being loamy soil, and dung having fibre binder like mud daub houses.

All natural products, no metal or money required. Get primative but use your head, this likely to  work only in hotter/ drier regions. Uses less fuel and produces less smoke.

3 week construction time.

A stove for free made from soil, sand and some cattle dung with straight stem branches for moulds.