Friday, April 1, 2016

Appropriate Tech: Branching Out

Well, now that we've got the Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide off to a decent start,
(Kickstarter! Click Pledge Share!)

what shall we do next?

The obvious answer is to double down and teach a lot of rockety stuff, maybe cash in on the book promotions by starting some online courses or something.

But we're your crazy R&D people.  We like developing new things more than we like marketing proven stuff.

One thing I'm excited about this year is learning more tech tricks.

Ryan Chivers polishing a tadelakt bowl (Denver Post)
I got to take my first tadelakt course this winter.  Ironically, I may get to use it for the first time on a return trip to Morocco.  (Yeah, they could get the expensive guy in from Marrakech... or they could see if the American novice can pull it off, third-hand from Canada and Colorado back to its ancient origins.)

One of the project ideas is a rocket hammam (like a Turkish bath, a heated steam-bathing room).

I am so excited by the idea of a soapy-smooth sauna-like bench, which if it all goes well would be waterproof enough for anyone.   I am eager to try, despite my very beginner experience with the tadelakt process.

I would also like to stop waiting around with my hands in my pockets when I need help welding or pipe-fitting on the stove prototypes.

If I had realized earlier that I would want this skill, I could have learned from my late grandmother Enid, who was a top-grade welder in Portland's Swan Island shipyards during the war effort.  (She claims she only made the top-six list for her yard because "they didn't know if Enid was a man's name or not.")

Or I could have asked my father-in-law before his eye problem which left him, as he puts it, "blind in one eye and can't see out the other."  He is a bit embarrassed by the rough quality of his work nowadays, and I guess that makes me embarrassed to ask him (he puts in a ton of help on our projects anyway, whether we ask or not).

I bet it was Priscilla Smith
who made him look all dreamy like this...
big vision, black fingerprints,
that's Tim all the way.
One of the handiest welders I know is Tim Barker, who is normally in New Zealand.  But he is potentially coming back for a PDC and Appropriate Technology course in Montana this June.

Between Morocco and our book events, the PDC is a conflict for me.  But if I squeeze, I can get in there for almost the entire AT course.  Get that Shrimp heater prototype of mine up and running, and maybe we could even plumb and seal the darned hot tub.  Or build a new darned hot tub (if you have never tried to 'rescue' someone else's abused redwood, it's a real tragedy).  Maybe I can tadelakt the hot tub!  But wrestling with a hot tub all week could be a waste of time, when there's so much else to explore.

Others will be presenting solar, power generation, pumps, all kinds of DIY tech.  I can earn my keep with some rockety demos, and maybe show off my softer side with some fiber-based structural tech like wattle work, pole lashings, sewing.  (I did learn that from Gran'ma Enid, at least!)
Or bring the physics side with passive solar, heat transfer, simple machines. We haven't hit the details real hard yet, just excited to get the team together!

So jump on that early bird registration, and convince these Australians we want them out here already.  They've got a superb forest gardener, and Howard Story of Permaculture Asia, also lined up for the courses.


Back to the Kickstarter:  To keep knocking down those stretch goals, please keep sharing.  We have 10 days left, and while the initial popularity has been amazing, it does take creative repetition to keep bringing in the newbies right up to the last bell.

We've just announced our stretch goal for the $25,000 mark: if we reach that level, we'll write up a brand-new e-book on a topic we don't normally share with the public: Bitter Lessons from Rocket Mass Heaters: Hopes, Misconceptions, and Faceplants.  Or something like that.  Basically, all the 20-20 hindsight, terrifying prototype moments, and surprise errors behind the simple-sounding rules in the Builder's Guide.

Serious builders, given a chance to set down together, swap these stories of nightmare jobs and near misses like a private currency.  So we're planning to put that bonus out for backers at $50 and up.  We figure that's the "serious builder," book-plus level, where you appreciate our work that much more because you have seen the dirty-hands workshop videos, or maybe have built a few home-built projects yourself.
And in any case, those backers have gotten themselves a copy of the "how-to book," can't blame us if they build a "bitter" project for their own stubborn reasons.

We have more than enough personal embarrassments to fill the whole book, but I'm considering letting our top boosters and colleagues submit a story or two, just to add to the feel of it being a coffee-klatch.  We certainly won't name anyone else's names without their express permission.

Whaddya think?  Sound more exciting than a teeny tiny mass heater plan?
Kiko's mini-masonry heater
(one possible example of a
Teeny Tiny Mass Heater)

(The good news is, if we hit $25,000, we make both.)

As a sort of bad-planning April fools' joke on myself, the North American book is going to print this weekend, a full week before the Kickstarter closes.  I'd love to be sure we can order 500 to 1000 books, for a much better per-book rate, as soon as possible.

So please send in all that last-minute support you can muster, and consider April 3 as this week's "last minute."

Send us other stretch goal ideas, or creative marketing.

Or just sign up as a booster and do your own creative marketing, and take full credit.

Thanks again for keeping our lives exciting.

Erica W

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