Minecraft: Agrarian Skies – The Fires of Industry

Oh my.

The major thing you need to know about me is that I tend to break the scales as a Bartle-style Explorer.

When confronted with a system I don’t understand, my reaction tends to be “YES, something to DO!” “Holy shit, this is so intricate and deep!” and “Time to knuckle down and figure it out and beat it into submission, reducing it into smaller and smaller principles until slow old me (and thus, anyone else) can understand it… or until it breaks and is proven to be lousy design.”

I don’t mind if it takes me longer to understand than others, or even most people.

I’m a very slow, steady and helluva persistent type of learner.

I’m not the sort to just copy a guide or walkthrough to satisfy a need and then forget about it until the next time I need something. No, I’ll copy the guide or walkthrough, but I’ll be doing my best to figure out exactly WHY that person did it that way – why it worked, while this or that didn’t.

The Agrarian Skies modpack for Minecraft feels like A Tale in the Desert, on steroids, mixed with a side helping of The Incredible Machine (not quite, but I use the example because I think more people recognize it) or more specfically, a very old game that came out in the 1980s – Rocky’s Boots (which somehow successfully taught circuits and AND, OR, NOT gates to kids by absolutely masquerading as a fun game, and it was.)


Each step of progress just opens out a dizzyingly insane universe of possibilities and MORE THINGS TO DO, MORE FUTURE PROJECTS, OMG WHERE DID THE TIME GO.

The utter coolness is that you can progress through it at a pace that is comfortable to you, especially when playing singleplayer where you don’t have to compete with anyone else, or be influenced by them (until you yourself -choose- to research online and watch videos and stuff.)


As you can see, I caved in and put a JABBA barrel (from the “Just Another Better Barrel Attempt” mod) in place of the simple vanilla Minecraft chest on my automatic cobblestone generator.

This barrel basically stores only one item, but up to 64 stacks of it (or 4096 potential cobblestone blocks.)

It can also be upgraded with structural upgrades to hold even more, if you really needed it.

At the moment, I’m quite happy with a stock of 1000-1300 readily accessible cobblestone.

The downside to this barrel, as I found out, when the Terrain Smasher block – the main workhorse of the generator – got stuck and had to be pickaxed and replaced to kickstart it back into action. I pickaxed the barrel unthinkingly to get at the Terrain Smasher and STACKS of cobblestone exploded out as the barrel popped out from the ground.

There was framerate stopping lag for a couple of tens of seconds as my ailing computer shrieked at trying to handle the inventory issues, calculating how many stacks of cobblestone could be attracted to me, how many fell into the water and floated downstream, plus how many fell into the lava and got burned up. (I really don’t want to know. I’m just thankful the barrel escaped unscathed.)

The chests in my house had to be temporarily co-opted into taking on stacks of cobblestone – and the lag was such that they were almost refusing to open for a time.

So yeah, I wouldn’t break any more barrels without offloading them first, if you can help it.


Speaking of the chests in my house, I made a desultory attempt to sort them out a little more.

Unfortunately, Agrarian Skies lacks the pretty lockers that I was using in Hexxit (which is more of a ‘fantasy realism’ sort of modpack) so it’s been chests all the way.

This particular modpack enforces a sort of ‘chest progression’ with the Iron Chests modpack. Larger capacity chests have to be upgraded with expensive metals (silver, gold, etc.) and diamonds and stuff.

Makes a certain amount of sense for the feeling of progression and achievement but is kinda horrible aesthetics-wise.

The house is really getting too small to handle the clutter. May need a new base of operations at some future point.

(I -hear- that there is a super-sophisticated futuristic storage option in the Applied Energistics modpack – which is sort of a matter/energy network that can pretty much send/transfer items on demand. I’m sure it’ll be awesome when I get to it, but when I peeked at it, it required Redstone Flux power and a whole lot of other things that I don’t think I have the mental capacity to deal with learning just yet.

So yeah, chests. They’ll still open even in a virtual power blackout.)

The coolest new thing is the Vacuum Hopper, which I finally was able to build when a chance Enderman spawned in the night, on the outer edges of territory I was expanding and failed to keep well lit.

I went after it with an axe, screaming “I want your Ender Pearl. DROP me my Ender Pearl!”

(Oh, another cool thing about this modpack is that a well-used Iguana Tweaks-leveled up Tinkerer’s Construct tool can do a fairly awesome amount of damage, so there’s no big need for any other weapon on normal mobs.)

It kindly did.

My Sieving chain is now pretty much complete (with the exception of ludicrous amounts of automation to feed stuff in automatically and get it all chained up, of course.)

I just load up my Autonomous Activators with whatever I want Sieved into metal ores and so on, and the Vacuum Hopper sucks it all in and feeds it into the large capacity Silver Chest.

I spent a while trying to figure out if it could send stuff into the two vanilla chests I was using to store Sieved products, experimenting with Itemducts, and while it did, it messed up the very particular and rather OCD arrangement I’d gotten my metal ores manually sorted into.

That was unacceptable. *nervous eye twitch*

So I settled for letting it auto-sort how it wanted into another chest, and I could come back later and cheerfully hum and manually sort things all Bhagpuss-like into the ‘proper’ arrangement JUST SO and everybody’s happy.


The next Ender Pearl went into a Vacuum Hopper for the mob grinder.


Now no drop is wasted, even when I’m not there, but merely watching mobs fall down the glass chute from a distance, cackling away to myself.

The sharp-eyed may have noticed the extra head on the pillar.

Lesson learned: When playing around with the extended map and waypoint system (accessed by pressing “M” and “B”) and seeing a “Teleport To” button and thinking to use that to get out of a hole that one got accidentally stuck in (Microblocks and fences can act a bit funny)…

…It was probably not a good idea to use the only existing waypoint called “Last Death.”

Especially since it teleports you to the EXACT coordinates of the death – aka directly on top of 5 damaging Punji Spikes, in a glass chute specifically engineered for 2 block tall mobs and people to have -nowhere- to run.

Cheaters never prosper.

At least the vacuum hopper sucked up all my items for easy retrieval.

And I learned that the vacuum hopper can also suck up XP. Hence the new tank of green Liquid XP fluid which I have no real clue how to use just yet, but I’m sure it’ll be useful down the road…

As for Tanks, there was a learning process to them too.


Seared Tanks from Tinkerer’s Construct are generally what one encounters first, as part of the Smeltery, but those can only hold 4 buckets (or 4000 mB) worth of fluid.

In the main quest book, the first step of the Fluids section is to construct three different tanks from three different mods and experiment with them to see which suits your purposes.


The Fluid Tank from Mariculture holds 16 buckets of fluid.

This is certainly an improvement over Seared Tanks. It uses copper ingots, planks and glass to construct – not too terribly expensive.


The Portable Tank from Thermal Expansion seemed promising at first.

When you scan it in the NEI, you can see that it actually comes in 4 versions, with increasing progression and cost.


It starts out at 8 buckets capacity, goes up to 16, 32 and tops off at a whopping 64 buckets.


Despite its name, it, however, does not save the fluid when the block is pickaxed and moved elsewhere manually.

I guess ‘portable’ in this case merely means ‘compact.’

Being that I’m still using a lot of manual processes, moving tanks from machine to machine by myself, instead of dealing with tubes and pipes (or Fluiducts and Itemducts) all over the place, this was not currently ideal.


The winner, for my personal tastes anyway, was OpenBlock’s Tank. (Here seen collecting milk from Mariculture’s Tank, via a Seared Faucet.)

This simplistic beauty looks great, being an essentially clear glass block containing colored fluid. It saves the amount and type of fluid that goes into it, even when pickaxed and physically moved to wherever.

One block of it holds 16 buckets.

It also cheerfully -expands- its capacity into a multiblock tank, by sheer virtue of placing other Tank blocks beside it, or stacking them together. A full 16,000 mB block will divide its capacity into 8,000 mB by placing an empty tank next to it.

It’s quite awesome to see the fluid flow, though of course, one has to be careful when arranging these tanks next to each other. Full tanks of different liquids won’t mix, but an empty one will.

It uses 4 obsidian blocks and 5 glass panes to make 2 Tanks, which isn’t terrible either.


You see, apparently you can make stone barrels, not just wood ones.

And stone barrels can hold lava.

And if you dump water on top of them, voila, obsidian!

AND they cheerfully pop right out with one right-click, rather than having to mine endlessly at a solidified block with a pickaxe.

Obsidian brick-making, who’d have thunk? For me, it’s just as addictive as brick-making was in ATITD.

(The Portable Tank above has been relegated to a simple non-moving water-storage device for me to bucket water out of and place it back in again.)


The lava, meanwhile, comes from the nearby crucibles.

Which have been upgraded to being powered by Netherrack fires.

Ever since reading the very helpful Agrarian Skies Reddit thread, one has learned that the ever helpful lava-filled Stone Barrels can produce Netherrack by right-clicking redstone on them, or even Ender Stone, by right-clicking glowstone on them.

I’m getting tired of manually loading in cobblestone, so I might figure out a way to automatically load in cobblestone soon. (Taken to an extreme, of course one can also pump the lava directly out into the stone barrels and then automate the whole process too. But that might be more trouble than it’s worth, for small amounts of obsidian.)

After all, I did do something similar already:


Behold, the Pulverizer Mark 2000.

The Igneous Extruder block seemed like too much of a pain to construct, so I went for the Terrain Smasher on vanilla cobblestone generator idea.

I glass-encased it, because…purty, you know?

The Terrain Smasher breaks up the cobblestone, and outputs it directly on top of a Crucible.

The Crucible melts the cobblestone into lava.

The lava is pumped out of the Crucible via a Fluiduct, and sent into the Magmatic Dynamo.

Which produces Redstone Flux energy from the lava, which powers the Pulverizer.

This can now be left running and self-powered for all time – though of course, I can’t resist installing shutdown levers… just in case.


Sometimes, figuring out machinery has its quirks.

I wanted an automatic dirt composter to run while I was busy collecting leaves and chopping wood and growing trees from bonemeal.

It was a bit of a struggle with the whole circuit of Chests, Itemducts, and banging on them with a Crescent Hammer to get them to flow appropriately and still remained powered.

Trying to get a more compact configuration to curve around corners ended up a struggle with levers and redstone and pneumatic servos trying to get the Itemducts powered on and functional, so I gave up eventually and went for a straight circuit.


Another odd quirk of barrels that froze me in my tracks for a while, researching other people’s videos, was the discovery that barrels will not offload their cargo from the side.

They -must-  come out through the bottom.

I’ve not tested it yet, but I’m going to assume that the same is true of the input and that they must be loaded in from the top…

This does, of course, have aesthetic implications.

Honestly, I like my humble composting shed more. But I can walk away and let this run while I do other things, so yeah.


Said other things being growing a tree in an empty swimming pool.

Ok, ok, the original intention was to expand out my humble fishing pond into something a little more respectably pond-sized.

But I had to have sufficient birch wood planks to construct the sides, and the simplest way to do it was to directly obtain the birch wood there and then.

It turned out a rather comfortable way to manually mass grow trees and harvest leaves, since it was a safe cozy room that I could jump to my heart’s content and not worry about falling over the side, and everything was well lit, so no mobs (beyond those plunging to their doom in the glass shaft in the distance.)

I gotta make me another one of these rooms just for tree-growing, I think.

Some day.


I eventually stopped tree-growing and filled it in with water.

The trick, as I learned via lots of Google research, is to put a layer of dirt just one block below the water layer, and fill only a one block surface until all the water is still, aka, become source blocks of water.

Then dig down and remove the dirt, and the water will flow down to fill the remaining layers, while not creating any currents.

Fishing is a bit easier now, though experiments with the Fishery part of the Mariculture mod will still be a while.

Some attempted in-roads into that revealed some clunky design and weird logic/naming conventions (eg. if you stand out of the water and fish, you get fish with male and female traits, that are used for breeding. However, these are ‘dead’ and yet cannot be eaten?

If you stand and fish -in- water, either completely submerged – using snorkels and scuba gear or whatever – or as I figured out later, standing in just one block of water with head above water and feet in water, you get ‘raw’ fish. These ‘raw fish’ are used to construct other more complex mariculture equipment like fish feeders and automatic feeders, and can be eaten straight out of hand.


Doesn’t it make more sense to have breeding type of fish be ‘live’ and fished from within the water? And then the dead and raw fish ought to be fished from outside of the water, and ought to be possible to be eaten raw, or cooked and eaten – currently it’s not possible to cook Mariculture fish – and used to construct the complex mariculture equipment?)

Even the creator of the mod admits it’s due for a bit of a revamp.

In its current state, it still has some promise and potential, but I’ll have to chase down a whole separate path of Mariculture-only equipment to do it. And that’s not something front and center on the agenda when I can work with other mods that interrelate with each other more.

Bees, apparently, do everything that fishes can, and better. So they say. Not that I’ve had time to go down that crazy-making path either.


You know what’s really crazy-making?

The front of my house, where Pam’s HarvestCraft mod has taken over and run rampant.

I -meant- to create a big square of dirt, that I could turn into a tidy organized farm.

However, since composting takes so long and I was distracted doing other things, the square courtyard had been left only half-filled with dirt.

I’d installed a sprinkler system to water the couple of crops from seeds collected from the tall grass around the previous farm…

Turns out I’d chosen to place this dirt square on the bulk of a Forest biome (with only one small corner of it Plains).

Presumably between that, and the Sprinkler watering everything, there’s Tall Grass -everywhere-.

And in Pam’s HarvestCraft mod, where there’s Tall Grass, there’s wild crops of every imaginable variety, wild saplings that will grow into fruit trees by themselves, and when you clear Tall Grass, you get seeds of the crops of every imaginable variety.

Every time I get a seed, in order not to worry about storing it in my ever flowing chests, I just hoe a patch in the dirt and plunk it in…

…now I’ve got an unorganized humongous square of the most diverse crops ever (hooray for no crop rotation needed, eh?), fruit trees every which direction, and STILL no end of Tall Grass.

I am more or less resigned to treating this place following the in-game lore/premise as the first ever reclaimed part of the natural world.

From this central location of odd factories, the new mortal creator will spring forth and generate a new world, complete with hand-crafted rivers, forests and mountains… like Slartibartfast’s glaciers, and this small patch of wild is only the beginning…

It really feels like Noah’s Ark in here, but for plants. I’m collecting one of every possible type of flora to re-populate the world or something.

It does, however, mean I need yet another courtyard for more organized crop planting/harvesting, possibly automated, and yet another courtyard for more organized fruit trees, with possibly automated fruit pickers.

(And if I want to play with bees, I think room for apiaries and bees to interact with other Forestry trees need to be made somewhere around here too.)

Le sigh.


Still in progress is the High Oven ore-processing chain.

Well, the High Oven is done, and it’s a beauty.

From Tinkerer’s Steelworks, this is an upgrade of the Smeltery and very reminiscent of the great variety of Furnaces (Blast, Hades, etc. all with unique operating parameters) one can find in a Tale in the Desert.

It’s a multiblock structure, built tall for higher temperatures and higher capacity, and requires Charcoal Blocks to get it up to super-operating temperatures in a fast amount of time. Feeding in normal Charcoal is like trickling in the power and will take you forever and will probably not even get you to the temperature desired.


This thing is a monster of high octane large capacity production.

It converts ore into 3 ingots, where the Smeltery only converts it into 2 ingots worth, and the vanilla Minecraft furnace only produces one.

It takes so long to heat and cool down though, that you probably don’t want to just do one ore type at a time…


I was running out of things to throw into it at the end. Even sand went in for molten glass. Note the many different colors of fluids all stacked on top of each other.

The high oven doesn’t produce alloys, so one is safe, and the Smeltery still has a use.


OMFG. Where am I going to PUT all this stuff?

There’s plenty of potential for automating the whole process, of course. Something I neglected to do because I like building things piecemeal and figuring them out that way.

The immediate problem, naturally, is figuring out how and where to funnel all these molten fluids into holding tanks, and from there, funnel them into casting basins for metal blocks, or casting tables for ingots. Preferably at speeds and quantity faster than one at a time.

This is going to take some thinking…

There is also a Deep Tank as a companion multiblock structure to the High Oven, which I also need to get around to building since it’s some Agrarian Skies quest or other.

The Deep Tank apparently can store all these fluids from the High Oven, with the potential of a larger structure to have more surface area for drains and fluiducts to move things from one place to another.

Still working out how it’s all going to be arranged…


Finally, like an idiot, I thought I’d take a baby step into opening up the Magic quest section and faithfully followed instructions and created the Thaumonomicon from the Thaumcraft 4 mod.

It turns out that a) There’s a complete separate Blood Magic mod, that can be quite dangerous and uses up life essence/hearts, which I want to dabble with because it can produce chicken and squid spawn eggs – two animals I’m having a shortage of.

And b) the other line is Sky Shards and the Thaumcraft 4 mod is INSANELY huge….


This is the Thaumonomicon book.

7 Sections – covering basics, wands, alchemy, golemancy and god knows what else.


There are pages and pages of esoteric info like this to work one’s way through.

It’s insane.

It’s incredible.

One is not going to have nothing to do for a very very long time.

(Oh, I hear there’s a WvW tournament happening, back in GW2. I guess I should get back to that too, since a new week is out and it’s no longer walkover ‘get your alts 100% WvW map exploration’ week.)