Making it

By Day 5, signs of real life were apparent. The first faint pinpricks in the sea of off-white had given way to something approaching the real McCoy: actual bubbles.

Almost imperceptibly Lactobacillus, airborne yeasts and Eureka Mills cake flour were collaborating in that familiar biochemical reaction. The ancients in the Fertile Crescent thousands of year ago, so it’s said, knew it.

My sourdough culture wasn’t quite that old. But it seemed to have survived weeks of neglect in the fridge. In the absence of its regular twice-daily feeding, it had gone to sleep, fortunately not eternally. Despite the faint signs of mould around the edges. It still wasn’t quite ready for full-on baking duty, but that would come.

In the case of my culture we are, after all, talking about a living thing that turned 7 on 1 May. That’s the 7th anniversary of my first successful loaf, by the way.

You see, I too am a maker. With an M, not with a B.

Until the Cape Town Maker Faire this past August, I might not necessarily have considered myself to be one. But the emcee’s remarks at the opening ceremony got me thinking. Making, he said, embraces all kinds of stuff. Why, he himself fell into making through his interest in cooking

Hey, that makes me a maker, too, I thought.

If you’d then wandered through the exhibits as I did, you would have noticed that making is about a lot more than 3D printers. It’s about repurposing worn-out appliances. Cultivating worm farms. Being patiently talked through the intricacies of 3D printing by a clued-up, terribly serious exhibitor whose voice hadn’t yet broken.

And baking.

To explain: the Faire was an opportunity to meet up once again with a very Pop Mech kind of guy, Billy Hadlow. We have featured Billy’s ingenious, award-winning portable electricity initiative ( online. Billy hasn’t stopped there: at the Faire, he was showing off his FAABulous stove. It’s a fan-assisted gasifier design. If its modular construction looks sort of familiar (see picture), think paint tin. The way he describes it, inside the metal container fuel is converted into combustible gases through intense heating. These gases are then burnt with a clean flame. “The design allows for cleaner, safer and more cost-effective cooking than traditional paraffin stoves,” says the citation prepared for Inventors’ Garage competition at the recent SA Innovation Summit, where Billy’s stove was one of the finalists.

Powered by renewable energy or a 220 V mains source, its key market is peri-urban and rural areas where cooking is typically done using firewood, charcoal or paraffin.

It can be powered by various combustible agricultural materials. Assembly takes place in mini-factories that require no Eskom power (!), providing job opportunities and flexible distribution. It’s more than just a stove, too: it can be used to power an LED light, operate a small oven, charge your phone and it can be turned into a food dryer.

And it can bake.

“I can fit a loaf tin in there,” Billy says. “An hour later…” Makers are bakers. Bakers are makers, too. Let’s get making.