This is a radical book – not because the ideas within it are going to change the world, but because it contains funky little DIY projects that could make a lot of people think ‘hey, I’ve always wanted one of those, but was put off by the cost – but actually, I could do it myself’.
That might not have sounded too radical a generation or two ago, but in the UK, fewer and fewer people realise that they can actually do things for themselves. The vast majority of 21st century jobs in developed countries, from project management, finance, IT, shelf-stacking and burger flipping, require no real practical skills at all.
This is a very dangerous scenario. I don’t want to get too gloomy here, but if civilisation starts to fall over (and there are a hundred reasons why it might – ecological degradation being the main one), a population without practical skills – notably providing food, shelter and energy – will find things very tough. OK, I am getting carried away – civilisation might stumble rather than fall over, and making a bench from pallets wouldn’t get you very far, but obtaining the essentials of life may become that bit harder in a future with 10 billion people, a degraded ecosystem, massive soil loss and increased toxicity.
Right now, however, DIY skills can help us provide for ourselves, and possibly start small businesses to provide for others in our communities. Local resilience is necessary to reduce the distance goods are transported, and to reduce reliance on the giant corporations that damage our democracy and environment. But enough of that, did I mention that these projects are fun too?
Another Brucie bonus is that all the projects can be completed using recycled materials (including the cider press, although you’re going to need very new apples to make the cider). Pallets have a starring role – they shake off their Cinderella character, often unwanted after a delivery – to take centre stage as benches, solar dryers, raised beds, or cider presses. You’re going to look at pallets very differently after this, possibly along the lines of, ‘how am I going to get that in my car?’. My favourite project was something I’d never seen before – a way of firing pottery without a kiln, using rolled up newspaper! It did say that pottery fired like this might need treating with beeswax to make it waterproof, but what a fantastic idea and great to do with kids.
The book is user-friendly and encouraging in a way that even the least handy amongst us could end up building something that they didn’t think they were capable of. Just imagine the satisfaction of building your own garden furniture / hot tub / rocket stove / natural paints / natural swimming pool / shave horse / wind turbine (from a bicycle wheel) / container garden / pizza oven / solar food dryer / geodesic greenhouse and more, all from recycled materials, and maybe from that stuff that’s filling up your shed because ‘it might come in handy one day’. Well, that day might be here.