Bamboo compost bin

After the inspirational  and motivational inaugural Bamboo Sculpture Competition in Mullumbimby recently, I got to thinking about how to use bamboo to age my current compost bin contents. I trawled through endless Google images seeking my simple solution. And it really was simple. The image to the left is what I based my compost aging bin on.

bamboo compost bins, bamboo

The original inspiration – simplicity itself

bamboo compost bin, bamboo

My version, replete with compost

First I set some bamboo stakes in a square to guide my stack and keep it more or less square. Then, I harvested several small culms of obvious age. The design I had in mind only had small gaps between the rails, so the compost would stay inside. The harvested culms were then sawed to length, and I started stacking – with a bit of tie-wire here and there to hold things together as I went. I’m rather pleased with the result.

bamboo compost bins, bambooMy research also took me to Amazon and eBay. I was surprised to discover some very sexy bamboo compost bins (pails, for some) – the ones that live in your kitchen, before the contents make the trip to the outside bin. The research also provided another revelation – bamboo charcoal deodorisers for compost bins. (I lead a sheltered life). Who leaves their compost in the kitchen that long?

 

The inaugural Bamboo Sculpture Competition

bamboo sculptureThe weekend of 6-7 September, 2014, saw the Bamboo Society of Australia (BSA) put on its first Bamboo Sculpture competition. The competition was held in conjunction with the Living Community Festival at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens (7 Sept.). The weekend was, in a nutshell, fantastic.

The comp attracted a dozen entries, each one distinctive, and diverse, in its own way. The judges must have struggled. First prize and the People’s Choice Award went to the two entries by the same creators. There are lots of images of the weekend on the BSA Facebook page.

bamboo sculptureThe event was made more fascinating for me because I was on site for the two days leading up to the exhibition. Most of the entries were so large that they were (re)constructed on site. Just by hanging about and lending a hand here and there, I picked up some useful tips on working with bamboo. On the Sunday there were also impromptu demonstrations around the BSA bamboo yurt. Pictured above is Munir from Giant Grass. Munir travelled from Melbourne to create the sculpture behind him. Here, he is showing a fascinated crowd how to bend bamboo using heat, one of the processes he used to make the sculpture of bamboo funnels.

bamboo world, victor cusackAlso present was Victor Cusack. Victor is well-known in Australia as probably our most prolific writer on Bamboo. He was on hand to promote the beautiful new edition of his book, Bamboo World. You may find it on eBay au.

It was something of a revelation for me to meet a group of people who are so passionate about bamboo and so generous with their knowledge. Really, all they talked about, with very few exceptions, was bamboo, in its innumerable manifestations – growing, collecting, constructing with, creating with… Future events are planned. Keep an eye on the BSA website.

 

Bamboo treehouse

bamboo tree house, bamboo treehouseGuadua Bamboo, rich source of practical information about bamboo, recently featured an architect-designed tree house in Columbia. The tree house started life as an idea for a small bamboo house for the grandkids, but Guadua Bamboo architect Jaime Peña suggested a tree house. He designed this stunning tree house drawing on principles of biomimetic architecture.

Biomimicry, examines nature, its models, systems, and processes for the purpose of gaining inspiration to solve human problems. Biomimetic architecture doesn’t replicate natural forms, but rather seeks to understand the rules governing those forms.

For examples in architecture think:

bamboo treehouse, sagrad familia

  • Barcelona’s Sagrada familia – columns that model the branching canopies of trees to solve statics problems in supporting the vault;
  • London’s Gherkin – inspired by the Venus Flower Basket Sponge;
  • The Eden Project in Cornwall – modelled after soap bubbles and pollen grains to construct the spherical shapes;
  • And now, this highly desirable tree house in Columbia.

bamboo treehouse, bamboo tree house“Of course, as bamboo is a natural, strong, flexible and sustainable resource, it automatically became the main building material of choice. Fractals, the golden ratio and sacred geometries, were studied, interpreted and applied in the proposal. This resulted in a spiral dome with ellipses and arcs as the basic structural geometries of the bamboo tree house.”

Biomimicry is not limited to architecture. For some fascinating examples of biomimicry in agriculture, medicine, natural cleaning and more, see Biomimcry.net.

I highly recommend viewing the images of the tree house on Guadua Bamboo. (Click on a small image to start the slide show). Breathtaking and inspirational.

References:

Bamboo on the Internet for August, 2014 – my picks

Date Claimers for September

bamboo sculptureThere are two important bamboo events on the east coast of Australia next month. One I’ve mentioned before is the bamboo sculpture competition in the delightful northern NSW town of Mullumbimby. 6-7 September at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens. The Echo recently ran a story on the competition. Maybe I’ll see you there.

bamboo events, Big Australian Bamboo Annual EventTwo weeks later, in Bellingen, on the mid north coast of NSW, is the Big Australian Bamboo Annual Event. The program offers workshops, tours, and social events in beautiful Bellingen. You could learn some new construction techniques, more about maintaining and propagating bamboo, and attend the social events.

Other notable posts about bamboo for the month:

  • library-cardBamboo library cards – for that extremely rare entity, the well-funded library. Although the library says they are only slightly more expensive than plastic cards. Perhaps we could all make the suggestion to our libraries and institutions that are keen to demonstrate their green credentials.
  • You’re probably already aware of bamboo knitting needles and bamboo crochet hooks, but what about bamboo yarn? The Craftsy blog published a post this month extolling the virtues of bamboo yarn. Amazon has a range of bamboo yarn. Some is viscose made from bamboo, and some are blends of bamboo and silk or bamboo and cotton. eBay au has quite a different range of bamboo yarn, including some bamboo-wool blends (Australian Marino, of course). If the bamboo knitting needles or crochet hooks you want on Amazon will not ship to Australia, eBay have some too.

bamboo construction, Neelam Manjunath

          • Indian architect Neelam Namjunath is a strong advocate for the use of bamboo in construction. Read more about her work and philosophy here.childcentre
          • More bamboo architecture:  DesignBoom featured a childhood centre in Columbia emphasising bamboo…

“…as a way of re-valuing local traditions in a contemporary manner [that] speaks of the need to use local elements as well as preserve the nearby riverbeds.”

There’s more interior and exterior photos, and a walk-through video clip on the DesignBoom website.

bamboo beer

  • More bamboo beer: A young Mexican entrepreneur, recipient of a Chinese Ministry of Commerce scholarship, returned from his 2 months in China with the idea to brew beer from bamboo. The beer is described as “a brown Ale beer (highly fermented), refreshing, spicy, fruity and herbal final flavour, with six degrees of alcohol and a thick foam.” Read more here.

Drill bits for bamboo, part 2

drill bits for bamboo, forstner bit, triple cutterOn a recent trip to Japan I purchased a few more tools for working bamboo. Visiting yet another large home improvement store on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Star-M triple cutter was spotted. Not by me though: one of my kind and generous Tokyo hosts drew my attention to it. (Thanks Koh). I was too focused on locating more spurred drill bits to even notice the picture of a clean hole in bamboo on the packet.

drill bits for bamboo, forstner bitsWith a little online research it was identified, in English, as the Star-M triple cutter. It is listed in the special use category of the Star-M catalogue.  The drill bit is made in the style of a Forstner bit rather than the more common auger bit.

As a Forstner bit, the triple cutter requires more pressure than an auger bit, so it’s better suited to a drill press than a portable drill. In the absence of a drill press, I did, however, manage to drill a very neat, clean 10 mm hole in a section of dry bamboo using my portable drill without too much trouble. The small diameter probably helped here. And a measure of patience. I had to stop from time to time to clear the shavings from the hole that started to smoulder slightly. Overall though, I’m very pleased with the end result.

Amazon have a selection of Forstner bits. Although I couldn’t see any from Star-M, there are some with similar tips to the triple cutter. The situation is similar on eBay au. If you have your own drill press you probably already have a selection of Forstner bits. Do you have recommendations on the best Forstner bits for bamboo? Please leave a comment.

drill bits for bamboo, Star-M, forstner bitsThe Star-M catalogue makes for fascinating browsing (if you like drill bits). It also offers some tips on sharpening the bits. On the Star-M website you will also find this:

The skilled workers grind the spur and cutting lip by hand one by one and confirm the sharpness”

Confidence inspiring.

Bamboo skirts on trees

bamboo skirtNear where the Takano river joins the Kamo river in Kyoto sits the ancient Shimogamo shrine. The main approach to the Shinto shrine is along a wide path through the Tadasu no Mori (the ‘Forest Where Lies are Revealed,’ or the ‘Forest of Correction,’ depending on who you ask). This woodland of broad leaf trees is, apparently, quite rare in modern Japan. Some of the trees are up to 600 years old. And a few of these trees have bamboo skirts.

bamboo skirtsInvestigations into precisely why some of these ancient trees wear skirts revealed little. It seems the bamboo skirts are providing some kind of protection to the trunk of the tree: one local thought that it may be protection from disease. I saw only three trees under bamboo, but I did not fully explore the 12 hectares of national historical site listed forest. The shrine and the forest are of such renown that you will find items such as jigsaw puzzles, mugs, books and prints celebrating them on Amazon.

The only other instances of bamboo skirts on trees that I found online were academic studies detailing experiments to prevent Nipah virus infection in local populations who harvest and consume date palm sap. The bamboo skirts act as a barrier to fruit bats, also fond of the sap, that transmit Nipah virus by contaminating the raw sap with their saliva.

bamboo skirts on trees, Shimogamo shrine, Tadasu no Mori bamboo skirt path1Bamboo skirts aside, the Shimogamo-jinja and Tadasu no Mori is a lovely place to visit should you find yourself in Kyoto. One of my visits coincided with a market day. Numerous local craft stalls at the market had attracted quite a crowd. And still, the place was quiet and subdued. Lovely.

References:

Activated Bamboo Carbon

Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, activated coal, or carbo activatus, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption.” 

activated carbon, activated bamboo charcoalHmmm, so? Bamboo is just one material used to make activated carbon. Activated carbon has special qualities over plain old charcoal. Adsorption is the key here. Adsorption is the binding of molecules or particles to a surface, as distinguished from absorption, the filling of pores in a solid. Activating carbon gives it high degree of microporosity, increasing the surface area so just one gram of activated carbon has a surface area in excess of 500 m2.

Activated carbon has many industrial applications, but probably the best known use is medical. The adsorptive qualities can treat some poisonings and overdoses. It’s so important that it appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. For everyday personal use the list of activated bamboo charcoal is extensive: odours, soap, humidity, water filtration, baking, face masks, indigestion, toothpaste, insoles for shoes….

The list of products on Amazon goes on for pages, (but not every item will ship to Australia). Ebay au has a smaller but still diverse range of activated bamboo charcoal products. The most popular products seem to be the air freshening/odour absorbing ones. There is range that comes wrapped in hemp bags – much more attractive than the plain black bag I picked up at the Bamboo Festival. There are some pretty ones on eBay au though, as well as some disguised as dogs. Maybe stuffed dogs in the back windows of cars are really there for a purpose?

The most interesting looking product, I think, is the food-grade powder. Or maybe the tooth and gum powder. With the powder on hand, you could make your bamboo charcoal soap, use it to make bamboo charcoal bread, treat indigestion and certain poisoning events, or whatever you can think of.

In case you are wondering, activated carbon is usually made from charcoal and, increasingly, high-porosity biochar, both of which can be produced with mature bamboo. Two different processes may be used: physical reactivation and chemical activation. There is a Wikipedia entry that explains the processes.

Reference list:
Activated carbon
Adsorption