in Mike and the Bush Mechanics on 29 April 2010
You've heard of the UBC, I'm sure. Everybody’s talking about the UBC. The UBC is a revolutionary organisation.
It’s also just a group of my friends. After much discussion and self-mockery, we called ourselves the Urban Bush-Carpenters. We take discarded timber, make things and give them away to people who need them. The three S’s: salvaging, socialising and sharing.
It started over summer. A group of young men decided they wanted to do something practical, enjoyable and valuable for the community. One Monday evening they met up, dismantled a pallet and transformed it into a veggie planter box, by way of much hammer clanging and gnashing of screws. We’ve built many since, plus some outdoor benches and a big chook house, and held some workshops to encourage other people to have a go.
Our skills vary. Geoff and German Michael are engineers. Sam’s an electrician. Andy works in a bronze foundry; Stephen, in community development; and Dale, a council. Mainly, we’re enthusiastic.
Our crowing achievement is the chook shed at Stewart Lodge, a supported residential service in Brunswick, Melbourne. Stewart Lodge is home to 80 men and women living with mental illness, physical or intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, or drug and alcohol dependency.
There was a permablitz there last October and as part of the follow up, we were asked if we could construct the coop. We built it in one long day, directed by Geoff and Andy, and assisted by a brood of helpers.
I showed up at nine o’clock in the morning. I looked at the rough plans and I thought we’d never get it done. Despite my furrowed brow, we dispensed with the spirit level and completed the framing by eye. Geoff would squint and say: “Oh yeah, that looks good.” And it did. Damn good. At eight o’clock in the evening the residents walked down carrying the chooks to their new home.
I’ve seen the future and the future is urban bush-carpentry: we take a waste product and make something useful, often to grow food in. We don’t wait for things to happen for us; we get out of the house, swing a hammer and learn something. We share our time, experience and output. Then we sit down for a good natter, and maybe a beer.
UBC-guru Geoff and the new Stewart Lodge chook shed