User:Graham Robertson

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Work Plan/ Contract



I awoke at 7 to Aaron getting me up to help with stuffing hay into the ceiling. We shared some coffee and got the rest of the ceiling stuffed. The hay coats you in a fur of chaff, so I went on a run to the lake, had a quick dip, and came back. The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. I am compiling the house guidelines that we have written during our house meetings so far.

  • I could only find house meeting notes from July 8 and 21. Might anyone have the other meeting notes and be willing to add any remaining guidelines from past proposals?

House Guidelines

No bleach in the drains. Alternatives: Dish Soap, Baking Soda, Vinegar

Nobody eats others' foods without asking. Share shelf/cabinet is fair game!

Personal items are taken away from bathroom upon leaving.

We all clean our dishes right after using them.

RO rejects 4 gallons per every 1 gallon. Take boiling water out of the tap. Put RO water in the gallon jugs when you can.

Drink Tap water at your own risk, or boil it.

Things you dont know can be very dangerous. Ask before you touch stuff.

Return objects to electronics station after use.

Regarding Microtrac and general development styles, I consulted our Agile/Scrum guru Vann, and he introduced me to Contract-First Design. This means that we define parameters for each interface before starting design, so that contributors can run wild with innovation, while keeping within necessary limits and specs of our rationale.

Here I have listed the interfaces and began listing their parameters.


So the wiki decided not to post my last entry from the 28th.


I had a cold for the past three days and finally feel physically functional. I still feel more mentally aloof than normal. Drinking lots of caffeinated tea to get back on track--Microtrac, that is.

Friday our Microtrac team had its first Scrum Planning Meeting. I am grateful for Vann's help in clarifying the process and meaning of Scrum and Agile development. Our task board is here:

We have three active remote collaborators: Ben from Australia, Andy from Baltimore and James from Oklahoma. We have made some great progress since Friday and I feel really excited and comfortable with my role as Scrum master: one who directs and guides the project's process. At first I felt overwhelmed when I assumed the roles of researcher, designer, builder, documenter, etc. Now I see myself as a stakeholder: I want to see this built so that I can replicate it in Texas. My parents are designing and building a new home this year. Site preparation will be much easier and cheaper with a microtractor, plus I plan on major earthworks in the next few years while we set up a sustainable food system.

I assume another stakeholder: you, being the rest of the world, our biggest customer. Would you buy or build a compact utility loader that is replicable, low cost, and easy to fabricate? Industry standards cost 15-20 grand: most people are willing to pay less than half that for a reliable, used car. Materials and labor for OSE machines have shown 70% decrease in cost for Industry Standard tools. Because it is a replicable design, people all over the world can build it and improve on our design, remix it to meet their needs, and contribute documentation. Am I preaching to the choir here or is anyone new to OSE actually reading this? Maybe I am just clarifying for myself.

I talked to Aaron today; he requested taking time off Microtrac to gain velocity and focus on CEB production. So after this design sprint (Friday) we will probably review the designs and make more changes. Then, we will see where we are at prior to CEB production. If time allows, we plan a sprint for parts sourcing and build of Microtrac V2.


Experimenting with for organizing my time.

Tomorrow I am going to my first ever auction. We hope to get a good deal on a bandsaw.


FeF is the first place I have worked with where people joyfully work until after midnight, then get up with little sleep and do it again. I have worked on many projects and organizations where my energy was drained at the end of the day because of opposed project management styles without shared intention.

In my years since leaving school, my vision has been forming and honing. I abandoned some values and held onto others. Through all my empowering and hopeless moments, the idea of a world that values sharing and open collaboration endures and grows stronger. The OSE paradigm enables this vision, and I am grateful to be able to contribute.

Woke up early and went to Savannah with Aidan to help unload three power cubes at a small engine repair shop. A husband and wife run the business out of their garage; they seem to make a good team and the guy was really knowledgeable. Hope to mine more insights about the workings of the cubes when we pick them up. We stopped in St. Joseph and picked up some mistic metal mover, found a groovin tape by Loggins and Messina in Marcin's truck.

Your mama dont dance and your daddy does not rock and roll.

Found a source in KC for water cisterns. They can give us quotes on any kind of fittings, manholes, insulation, inlets etc. There are many options that can be factory installed/modified. At our next water meeting, TBD, we will discuss options to consider for cisterns.

Aidan is leaving in four weeks and wants to see the microtractor built before leaving. We will be holding a scrum planning meeting, if anyone wants to join the team, see the following discussion on Microtrac Development's Google group.

Also posted to, asking for peer review on our current concept drawing.



Water system

  • Parts sourcing
  • Integrated site design


  • 9 more 1000 foot lines at 50 ft intervals...180 data points total
  • Scrum update video halfway

Cold Saw

  • milling remaining parts
  • double threaded rod


Here is what I have been working on since last weekend with Bri, Aidan, Yoonseo, and Alex. I helped Bri mill, drill, grind, and tap while learning how to use the mill and surface grinder and work on welding. We had a lot of fun building this thing, and we will be able to use it to cut parts to make more cold saws and more!

I plan to use the skills I learned this week in CEB production runs, and prototyping Microtrac II, which is now being reworked in Solidworks by Aidan. Andrew Spina is developing a rubric for modular drive systems, specifically for suburban use cases. I imagine more drive system rubrics will be developed for small farm and construction purposes. I think we can also assume different sets of implements will be needed for certain use cases:

  • farming: tillers, chippers, mowers, balers, buckets, backhoe
  • suburban: mowers, tillers, snow throwers
  • construction: trenchers, buckets, backhoe, levelers, concrete mixers, etc.

Dorkmo has generated some awesome tracks CAD, designed to be cut on the Torch Table prototype II. Again developments can be closely followed on Microtrac Google group. The mailing list is open to the public.

We still need to create a survey for SMEs on frame geometry, hydraulic design, motor/shaft supports, track design, implement designers, mini/loader/skid steer industry insiders.


Today was the last day working with Bri and I am really grateful for her willingness to train us on the mill, welding, tapping, etc. Also thanks to Aidan for guiding me in the shop during my first days and everyone here for welcoming me to the FeF community. I am thrilled to know you all and share this exciting work.

We started assembling the Cold Saw around dusk today, and have tomorrow morning before Bri leaves to get as far as we can. I will do a Scrum update before she leaves. Also painting the Ironworker!

I am lying in bed and feeling guilty about asking the Greeks to go to bed at 1 AM.. Sometimes it is hard to understand people because you are constantly together. I am having a hard time caring for others' needs because I am losing sleep due to their noise. I wish there were more thin building wings where people are able to party and enjoy themselves without disturbing others, or being disturbed. I am sad to say I believe the cause is in the building's design. The space is too deep and there is no private or hidden place except by isolating oneself in a bedroom, where there is no real peace, quiet or privacy (only visual). It is this fundamental problem that I see as a hindrance to true comfort and harmony with each other.

I would like to step back and look at how far FeF has come. I can't imagine living here without a dignified kitchen and food storage. I am grateful to have a place to gather in the shade, protected from the elements. Any building is better than what was here before, but I believe there is a lot to learn from being Hablab's first inhabitants.


Today's me and Fef's one month! Let's look back at this month's accomplishments:


  • basics of electrical wiring
  • how to solder, wire breadboards, differentiate between diodes, capacitors, and resistors
  • welding, surface grinding, milling, cutting, tapping,
  • basics Solidworks
  • using Virtual Machine to dual boot with alternative OS
  • how to facilitate consensus style meetings


  • helped Aidan build a welding table
  • saw torch table prototype II cut its first sheet
  • drank milk warmed by cow utter
  • abstained from smoking for 3 weeks and counting after two years of habit
  • organized HabLab construction workspace
  • built a pallet chair
  • plastered much of HabLab's remaining rooms and walls
  • organized Microtrac development, team building
  • published Microtrac industry standards analysis
  • surveyed 40 elevation data points at FeF

Today I helped Bri in the shop on milling and grinding more parts for Cold Saw, then surveyed 20 more points with Gabi. We are moving swiftly across the site. We will be skipping the tree line tomorrow and moving to FeF East


We started the day by prioritizing during our scrum meeting. We organized all the user stories by priority, then each person placed one post it note next to the project they wanted to work on. Yoonseo had placed three post it notes, and it was interesting to see how difficult it is for us to emotionally detach from the 2 or more projects to which we are committed. I chose surveying today.

Gabi and I surveyed 1000 ft of the property. We got 20 data points at 50 ft intervals. We will be developing a grid of elevation data points before making any major changes to the landscape (terraces, ponds, berms, swales). I think our main plan of action at present is to get the data points, mark the contours, and then go through with a string trimmer and lay all the plant stalks on contour to form "brush berms." Also called chop and drop technique. Ragweed is abundant here and the pollen is an allergen for many. So cutting it at the stalk in early fall and laying it on contour will help prevent erosion, allergies, spreading of seed, and build organic matter right where it is needed.

Surveying only took a couple hours for a thousand feet, and there was a bit of a learning curve, so we will be improving on our speed every day. The sun takes a lot out of me.

I worked for a couple hours with Bri on milling Cold Saw parts. I learned how to use a cutter on the mill and how to sharpen the cutter blade.


Got to work on milling more parts for Cold Saw. I learned how to tap a hole (making threads for bolts) and use the Bridgeport mill as a drill press. We also learned how to use a vice and torch to heat and bend pieces of metal into clean corners.

I am now researching long term water storage systems, the first being rainwater catchment from HabLab roof runoff. Read the report on rainwater harvesting, published here. I do not know much about well drilling so feel free to update our research on deep wells on the aforementioned page.


I have been ill with what WebMD calls Gastroenteritis since Monday. It's time to bounce back! Marshall and I discussed CEB Hopper design changes on Monday. I plan to help draw up the new hopper design in Solidworks, if and when I can get it working on my Windows 7 Virtual Machine. I started a Google group called Microtrac Development. Dorkmo and Andrew Spina joined the discussion and we are defining a rubric to guide design of modular drive systems. We expect there will be many different use-cases where the unique needs of terrain, costs, ease of fabrication, etc will come into play.

Bri and Yoonseo are starting the first build of the Cold Saw today. I helped Bri mark some pieces for a motor mount and a blade guard. Bri demonstrated using a circle cutter with a torch, like a compass for torches. This machine is going to be so awesome. It is amazing to see how fast such a valuable tool can come together. All the fabrication drawings are uploaded on GitHub thanks to Yoonseo.

We held a meeting to assess the problem of clean water scarcity. We are now starting a new clean, sealed storage system with a few barrels; we hope this lowers the risk of sickness from washing or brushing teeth with the unfiltered water.


Worked more on Microtrac research today. Updated the Status Brief. Made some shelves for the back room of HabLab. We need as many shelves as we can get here.


Building progress is on hold until we get a better plan for the construction of the rest of Hablab. Marcin did not like our somewhat haphazard installation of the ceiling panels. I agree, there are gaps where mice can get in. He wants the building to "look good" as it is a showcase for CEB building. So Matt will be spending the rest of the week making plans for moving forward on construction. I spent a few hours on Microtrac research, published Industry Standards Analysis. I am very excited to have discovered Kanga Loaders out of Australia. They are the first designers of mini loaders/ skid steers. in 1980 they created the concept of a motorized wheelbarrow. The prototype resembles the simple boxy frame of Lifetrac.

I have also decided I am not qualified to fully design Microtrac. Marcin had greater ambitions than me. I have mostly theoretical knowledge about the inner workings of tractors, engines, hydraulics, frame geometry. Research and development management is where my abilities lie. I would rather put my energy into pooling resources and contacts. I am willing to make preliminary drawings, as I do understand what works based on Industry Standards. As for reworking in Solidworks, I want to learn this, but I will need some guidance and support. I am very excited to be contributing to this project, and have direct interest in seeing Prototype II built before leaving in fall (I plan to use this in landscaping ponds, terraces, swales, berms, gardens, house foundations etc). I would like to begin developing the design at a workshop somewhere in Dallas or elsewhere.


Matt and I worked til five today putting up ceiling panels and stuffing with straw. We got about 90 sq ft installed. Made a bonfire and had a good time as a group.


We now have more raw milk than filtered water. I am drinking about two to one milk to water. I am surprised by how great I feel. I never drink this much milk, if any. Matt and I started on installing ceiling panels and stuffing straw today. It was a bit of a rocky start as the screws kept falling as we were drilling. Once the panels were up it was fast work to stuff the cavities with straw. We need at least one extra hand to help installing panels. It is much more worthwhile work than doing wood 1x8 ceiling boards. All the toil of 15 minutes for a 3 ft ceiling panel is much better than cutting to size each board and taking thrice as long to secure 3 ft of wood, and less expensive. Maybe not as aesthetic, but aesthetic doesnt seem to be the theme of HabLab.

I am still slowly making progress on Microtrac Industry Standards Analysis spreadsheet. I would like to dedicate time to finishing today when I have a free hour. Also making a simple iteration of our new Microtrac design in Sketchup.


Lots of excitement here. Matt and I went over plans for finishing HabLab and cleaned up the construction workspace. We organized lumber into like piles, then I made CEB shelves and organized tools. I feel much more calm and clear with everything organized.

Good cow is settling in and loving the forage here (former primarily grain fed diet). Gabi says this is her 'spring fling' which means she is peaking in production as there is so much forage available.

I met with Marcin and discussed design changes for Microtrac. We will be using track designs similar to Bobcat, but with metal wheel design for ease of replication and interchangeability. The design will become even smaller as the power cube will be used as part of the structure. I enlisted the help of the Greek students to use their Solidworks skills for the first drawing.


Worked on plaster for most of the day. Aidan and Chris chipped in for a bit. I am grateful for the help. I have finished plastering almost two rooms. Matt, our construction director and I discussed plans for finishing construction of these rooms. I am very excited to work with him. I appreciate his care of research and planning before acting. We also talked about safety and organization. The rooms I have been working in have tools, lumber and materials in the way of paths and work space. Tomorrow we will work on cleaning up the rooms and organizing tools and materials. I still have some plaster left over that needs to be applied.

I came up with an idea for cooling HabLab that works into a bigger, unofficial plan for Creating Microclimate and Gathering Places Around HabLab. When I first arrived, I noticed the need for many improvements (I realize we are still in the construction phase). 1. social gathering space. this could take the form of outdoor rooms with food plants and trees serving as privacy hedges, and shade. 2. erosion control. I see terraces as the main strategy for surrounding Hablab with fertile soil, good food, shade, and prevention of flooding and erosion. Terraces with low sitting walls also serve as the main structure for creating gathering places. 3. Cooling and shade. We HabLab dwellers have observed most heat coming into the building is caused by reflection from the ground into the southern living room windows. When the bedroom doors are closed, the rooms stay an average of 10 degrees cooler in the day. We have discussed options for low energy cooling. Ideas include cross draft/stack effect ventilation, and earth cooling tubes. I am envisioning an arbor that spans at least the south facing windows, extending 10-15 ft in front of the house. This arbor would provide structure for growing kiwi, grapes, berries, and other deciduous edible vines. In the winter they die back, letting the low winter sun into the living room. This could also extend into the solar arc concept of having trees planted on the north, west, and east sides of a house to cool the building.

We had an awesome soccer game today, thanks to Aidan's diligence in creating a small field for us to host our games. It ended abruptly when the ball was kicked into a thorny locust tree. Bri and I let the chicks out and watched them chase each other and fight over mulberries and bugs.


Had our first house meeting today. Gabi taught consensus methods for decision making. We passed a meeting agenda around for people to write ideas they wanted to speak about. I liked what everyone had to say. We chose a structure for organizing chores, and discussed shop safety, cooperative food buying, workshop organization, and options for cooling HabLab. Spent a few hours stuccoing. Got one wall done, then spent the day at the lake. Aidan got a rowboat and picked us up. We went on a voyage and they tried to maroon me on the other side of the lake. Nice try Aidan.


Spent most of the day plastering. Got two walls done.


I attempted a digging knife for Gabi today, which proved to be unnecessary since we have hand shovels whose edges can be sharpened. Still I got to practice my welding and grinding skills.


Today was a food extravaganza. I started on sauerkraut, made a lentil soup and rice dinner for everyone, and showed Yoonseo how to make bread. He loves to document. Check out our sourdough bread baking instructions. I spent a few hours addressing envelopes to be sent worldwide to our kickstarter supporters. During late afternoon I joined Gabi and Aidan in the workshop and welded some pieces of metal together and called them hand hoes. Gabi needs hand tools for weeding and digging in the garden. Today I am going to make a digging knife.



Aidan and I spent most of the afternoon running around Maysville and Cameron shopping for envelopes and stamps to mail the kickstarter rewards. We returned around 4 and I spent the rest of the day plastering the east rooms. Need to figure out how to control the quality of the plaster. Had a good bean lentil chili made by Gabi and then Yoonseo and I got straight to our breadboard temperature controller lesson. We worked from 9 til midnight. By the end of the night I knew how to solder, wire breadboards, differentiate between diodes, capacitors, and resistors. I liked the way Yoonseo teaches. We first went over basic principles of Ohm's theory of resistance, roles of diodes, capacitors, resistors, and general layout of the circuit. He had me solder a few practice wires and then we got right to building the board. By then end of the night I was exhausted.


12.15AM After Scrum, familiarized myself with the Flashy XM Control Panel. It was overwhelming at first, but now I see it as a helpful and innovative tool to organize research and development. Spent rest of today stuccoing the outer south wall. Had a good day working alone and getting back to mud plastering. I missed working with earthen plasters. It reminds me of working on the pallet house with Texas Natural Builders in Pine Ridge, SD. Yoonseo and I finally gave up trying to install Ubuntu from a USB Flash Drive containing a bootable .DMG file. He gave in to everyone's advice to use Virtual Machine. It was a fast and easy success. Documentation is here: ^Needs peer review from Mac users interested in running Ubuntu^

Plan for tomorrow:

  1. Help Yoonseo with peer review. (the ability to peer review his work using Ubuntu was the main reason for our research, plus I wanted to try it anyway).
  2. Start filling out Industry Standards Analysis spreadsheet for Microtrac.
  3. Plaster East rooms


Woke up, heard the rain and was so grateful that the cardboard and hay got a nice soaking. Gabi covered the paths in the garden with cardboard just before the storm. There were 30 mph winds heading straight north. I hope the Hablab will be able to handle 60 mph, because we were all scared watching the overhangs rattle. Today I plan to work on the new scrum board, get kickstarter magnets punched and counted. We need 380. ...1 AM: Scrum board is up and magnets are punched. Aidan is testing the magnets to see if they can be glued to the punches. I made a sweet potato stew for the group, conversed with a Polish family from Chicago about systemic change, helped Aidan clean up the kitchen. Today is my sixth day here, and I feel comfortable, empowered, and free. I love everyone I have met here and I am looking forward to starting production runs of the Liberator. The workshop is getting close to optimal efficiency and organization! Soon we will be able to cut sheet metal with the torch table instead of by hand. I want to do an update video with Gabi on the garden progress tomorrow, make some shower curtain rods, and go to the lake and drink beer and swim. I have learned to keep my intentions focused on my desires and needs, but to relinquish expectations and assumptions. I dont know if I will be able to do what I want, only the goal.


Today was workshop organization. We started by finalizing our shop layout in Sketchup with Chris, Aidan and Aaron. I am amazed to see all we did today. Update vid from tonight on shop organization.

I periodically glanced at the work Gabi and Aidan were doing in the field, plowing and fence building. There are many lessons to be learned from the Lifetrac that will benefit Microtrac prototype II.

1. Width must be narrow to be able to spin in place.

2. Needs rear attachment for plows and other towed implements

3. Loader arm shaft must be placed farther back to prevent tipping.

More to come later. Feel free to add to this list.

From 5-9PM Gabi and I finished up working in the garden. We tweaked the beds' height and width, covered with soaked cardboard and hay. Tomorrow we will fill in the paths with either carpet or cardboard. We will be planting corn, beans, and squash on the north side and sorghum and millet on the south. I have enjoyed the freedom to choose how I spend my time. I spent a few hours organizing in the shop and a few in the garden. And I am glad to work longer hours rather than appeasing a boss's demands. I look forward to be able to direct my own work AND carve out a locally sufficient enterprise based on GVCS. Vann arrived today. He will be working on gathering a remote team to develop the power inverter. When Gabi and I finished we returned to Hablab and yum pasta and soup made by Aidan and Yoonseo.


15 Chicks went outside today for the first time. Started the day by repairing wires and extending the welding power to the southeast corner of the shop. We rearranged and cleaned the scrum board to accommodate for general/daily house tasks on one board and specific shop/agriculture tasks on the other. Aidan and I worked on building another welding table. I spent about an hour machining four small squares with holes for the legs, my first time using the mag drill and abrasive saw. Aidan and I were both frustrated when we discovered none of the power cubes were working, so we were not able to use the iron worker. I was amazed by how fast the ironworker is compared with the abrasive saw. We just have a little more to do tomorrow and we will have a new table! I am really grateful to have Aidan guiding and helping me develop my skills. Yoonseo hosted a great class on Solidworks. I am trying to download Windows 7 so I can dualboot and use Solidworks on Mac.


To Do this week

Clean up of shop and Hablab, familiarize myself with organization of shop

refine short/long term work plan,

Solidworks class with Yoonseo, Microtrac Mob?

Plaster "hotel rooms"

...ended up killing the chick with the splayed leg. I am relieved she didnt suffer any longer.. Heavy breathing, somewhat immobile. I am glad to have the support of everyone here as this was my first time killing an animal. Gabi helped me with some words of gratitude towards the thing...

Participated in my first Scrum meeting and helped organize tools, shelves, and tables. Rewired the welding cables overhead, learned about wiring. Learned how the power inverter works. Practiced my first ever weld. Helped Aidan grind down some newly built welding tables. Tomorrow I will help make another welding table and practice more welding and grinding. We set up the new welding area at the end of the day. After dark we saw the first ever cutting of metal with the CNC Torch table Prototype 2. Very exciting! The neighbor and local gardener Walt brought over a cake, and it just so happens it is Yoonseo's birthday. I made lentil soup and then we celebrated with cake and presents for Yoonseo.


Jose left today, along with Creation Flame who brought Bri along for a week. My Dad got up at dawn to go back to Dallas. I wish he had been able to stay with us on Father's Day. Aaron and Gabi went to pay for the new resident cow, while Yoonseo, Chris, Darren and I went to Pony Express lake and enjoyed swimming, eating, drinking, napping. Aaron met us after returning from the trip to pay for the cow. I enjoyed the constructive discussions had while at the lake. We grilled some meat on the campfire behind Hablab when we got back. Photobucket

grilling on Darren's last night at FeF



My dad and I spent all day today driving, arrived around 7. First thing we saw was the tricked out LifeTrac. We were welcomed Chris DeAngelis, and Aaron from Creation Flame. Witnessed some torch table testing. Learned a bit about stepper motors. Met the rest of the crew over at Hablab as they finished a day of stuccoing. The plaster is looking really smooth and strong for being just sand/clay. I am guessing this is because of the sand used, with its irregular, sharp grains. We were also introduced to the new flock of chicks in the incubator. A couple were having a hard time hatching, and Aaron assured me it will damage their muscles and bones to pick the shell away. It was eventually ignored and helped out of the shell and we now have a chick with a splayed leg. Not sure what to do, but it was a very direct learning experience. Trust the gentle voice in your heart!

Rod Phillips