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DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

This wood-heated oven is made from two large barrels

It has been a long time since I wrote an update about what is going on around our homestead. The truth is we have been so busy redoing fences and putting up new ones; making new grow beds; planting perennials, trees, and some annuals; enclosing our deck with screen to keep the yellow flies from biting us; moving our huge rainwater tank into place; and other projects. I’ve found it hard to keep up with the blog. I do hope to have a post with pictures to show our progress very soon.

I promised to share some of the simple technologies we learned on our recent trip to ECHO; things which can benefit anyone wanting to live more sustainably or independently. The more we learn now about simple ways of making things work with common materials, the more ready we are for unexpected interruptions in our current lifestyle. First I’ll touch on cooking without modern conveniences.

Have you ever thought of making an oven from 55 gallon drums? Here is one made from two steel drums, one inside the other, lying on their sides on concrete blocks. The outer drum is cut open and the ends cut off to create a shell around the inner drum with air space between. The ends are sealed shut with a mud mix of some kind. Heat from the fire below enters the space between the two drums and circulates around the inner one, providing very even heat. Smoke escapes through the chimney coming out of the top of the outer drum. A fire is built under the oven in the back. Sand inside the oven under the baking rack is an insulator and heat retainer.

With this oven you can bake much like with a conventional oven, with high even heat and no smoke or fire in the baking chamber. I’m quite sure with a little creativity it could also be made to look pleasing as well.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

The back of the oven, displaying the fire pit underneath

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

The front with the lid opened...notice the sand under the rack

I’m afraid I can’t explain the next one very well, but cow manure is used to make methane gas using three plastic 55 gallon drums and some other easily obtainable materials. After fermenting in these barrels, the end product is fuel for a cooking stove. How cool is that?

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Methane gas made from cow manure in the barrels heats the burner

You may remember the rocket stove we built earlier this year. ECHO demonstrates many applications of rocket stove technology. Rocket stoves are fuel-efficient, wood-burning cook stoves, designed to efficiently burn small pieces of wood. They are easily built using available, low cost materials such as metal containers, stovepipes, clay tiles, fire brick, or other resources. The short, insulated chimney becomes a stove top for cooking. The “elbow” shape of the stove and a metal “skirt” around the cooking pot contribute to its efficiency. With this technology it is even possible to make an oven.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Our 16 brick rocket stove

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Basic rocket stove technology per ECHO

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Various rocket stove applications

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

A deluxe two-burner rocket stove

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

A close-up of a metal "skirt" around a pot which greatly increases the efficiency of the rocket stove

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

A large clay oven is built over a rocket stove...notice the teapot on the opening at the top which is actually the chimney

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

An intern feeds small sticks into the rocket stove to heat the takes a little work to get it hot

Water filters can also be made from readily available materials such as sand and buckets or trash cans. One filter they demostrate is called a Sawyer filter made with purchased lifetime hollow fiber filters. It removes bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and down to .02 micron-sized particles.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

The Sawyer water filter

A very simple way to disinfect water is by exposing it to sunlight in a bottle for six hours. Solar radiation and increased water temperature destroy pathogens. SODIS stands for Solar Disinfection for Water. I’d use glass bottles to avoid toxins leached from plastic.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

SODIS - a simple water purification method

Many more things were demonstrated. Homemade solar ovens and dehydrators, handmade garden tools made from material scraps, simple moisture-checking techniques, homemade grain silo, PVC water pumps, rainwater catchment systems, and pedal-powered or treadle-powered equipment are just a few more things we saw. It was enough to make one’s head spin.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Homemade solar dehydrators

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Simple corn shellers

One of my favorite little things was a solar liter light, made from a two liter bottle filled with water and a bit of chlorine to magnify the sun’s rays. Installed in a roof to catch the sun’s rays it produces the equivelant of a 50 watt lightbulb. In a dark shed or room needing light when the sun is shining, it may be an valuable option some day!

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

A two liter bottle with water installed in a metal roof

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

This is the effect on the room below when the sun is shining

I didn’t even mention all the uses we saw for bamboo. It’s amazing how many creative things can be done with it, such as conveying water and making carts, buildings, trellises, fencing, lattice, and so much more. We started a few varieties from shoots we harvested at some of Silver Oak’s customers’ houses, and we can’t wait to use them some day. A clump of bamboo cools the air passing through it, so we want it growing near our windows. But that is for another post!


DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

Linked w/Creative HomeAcre Hop, Barn Hop, Natural Living Mama, Chicken Chick, Eco-Kids, Growing Home, Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Abundance, Down Home Blog Hop, Rock n Share, Frugally Sustainable, Seasonal Celebration, Country Garden Showcase, Country Homemaker Hop, Homemaking, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Wicked Good Wednesday, Natural Living, Tasty Traditions, HomeAcre Hop, Green Thumb Thursday, Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thur., Old Fashioned Friday, Little House in the Suburbs, Farm Fun Friday, From the Farm Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday, Simply Natural Saturday, Great Blog Chain, and Eat Make Grow.

DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials

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28 Responses to “DIY Technologies Using Local and Recycled Materials”

  1. bobbi says:

    great post. good information too. thanks.

  2. Mindy W. says:

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Crystal says:

    I must say that I really love your posts about the ECHO village and i check and read your blog daily. My boyfriend and I live off-grid in Oklahoma but we live in a tipi. So I’m constantly trying to find things for off-grid living. I really like the barrel oven from this post. We have a barrell wood stove for winter heating that we built, but I didn’t think to try making an oven out of them. Very ingenious! I’ve wanted to build a cob (clay/straw/sand) oven for a while but I think I will try the barrel method first. Thanks for sharing all your homestead and off-grid experiences. I’m learning a lot.

    • Rose Petal says:

      Thank you for introducing yourself. I would love to see pictures of your tipi and off-grid accessories if you have the time to share. I love learning from others. So glad you are benefiting from our blog.

      • Crystal says:

        Thank you Rose. We’ve only just moved off-grid in April so we don’t have much at the moment. Still kindof “camping” I guess you could say. Using a campstove and occasionally fire to cook with. We are slowly gathering things like solar lights and anything for off-grid living. I will soon be ordering a windmill generator from a place in Arizona so that we will finally have some electricity, hopefully before the summer heat hits. We are on top of a mountain and there are springs below us so we are trying to figure out how to get the water from the springs up to us. It’s all a learning experience for us at the moment. So I’m really enjoying seeing all the things ya’ll are experiencing and utilizing also. I will try to send you some photos of our tipi.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    Wow, this is just amazing! Not only is it good for people in our society to know “just in case”, but I hope these things are being introduced in developing countries.

  5. Thank you for sharing this post on our From the Farm Blog Hop. What an amazing collection of innovative ideas!

    I just pinned this post to my Pinterest boards. I know that my followers will love this post as much as I did. I hope that you’ll come back and link up again next week!

    Jennifer @1840Farm

  6. Charlotte Boord says:

    Rose, this is one of your best posts, IMHO! Chock-full of self-reliant ideas! I truly enjoy reading your blog.

  7. Thanks for posting at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

  8. Tricia says:

    Wow, that is chock full of great stuff! Thanks so much for sharing. I hope you’ll consider linking to our Upcycled Linky Party going on right now at

  9. Wow that is all really cool. I love it! Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday.

    Now go do your work. The blog will be here when you are done. :)

  10. Very interesting post! Thanks so much for sharing! Hope to see you again soon! Blessings, D@TheShadyPorch

  11. Jenny says:

    Fascinating! Thank you for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop! We look forward to having you back again tomorrow.

  12. Stephanie says:

    I love all of these amazing ideas!

  13. Alison Bayne says:

    Seeing your ideas-filled post linked up at the Creative HomeAcre Hop was great! Thanks for joining us and we hope you’ll come and party creatively again on Sunday at

  14. Gretchen` says:

    Wow – what creating interesting ideas!

  15. Hannah says:

    Lots of great info. Looking orward to the bamboo post! Thanks for sharing at Eco-Kids Tuesday. Hope you stop by again today!