Blog

The US Presidential Election Through a Permaculture Lens

There is an eerie quietness around here this morning following last night’s election of Donald Trump and the GOP holding on to both houses.

The media missed it by a mile, so we look to the ethics and principles of permaculture and ask the foundational questions;

  • What is?
  • How do things really work?

Bill

This is a good time for deep reflection. It is a reminder to observe what really is and to let go of any judgments we have about the way things are or should have been. For when we judge others we are not defining them, we are instead defining ourselves.  And how does that serve the greater good? The world is not served or enlightened by our petty judgments.

It is my observation that the Western world supports living much of life within an illusion of what is real and important. In this world up can be down, yes can mean no, right can be wrong, and good can be bad. And all of it is fueled and supported by a populace that is mostly kind, but mostly asleep and happy enough living within the illusion (though frightened at times). Continue reading “The US Presidential Election Through a Permaculture Lens”

Epic Greenhouse Rocket-Mass Heater

Taught by Bill Wilson and Members of the Midwest Permaculture Design Team

Bill Wilson

Built at Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm – Early 2016
Designed by Bill Wilson (MWP) and Kevin Kepplinger (HTP Farm)
Construction and Design Assistance from the Heal the Planet Farm Team (All are Midwest Permaculture PDC graduates)

We call it the Epic Greenhouse Rocket-Mass Heater because of it’s sheer size and multiple modifications we designed into it. The whole stove is built around an 8″ flue system that exits outside of the greenhouse below floor level, under the greenhouse end-wall, and then turns towards the sky.

Rocket Stove Mix

The key modifications we made to this stove that are not usually found on more traditional rocket mass heaters are:

  1. ?The feed chamber is very large capable of holding full-sized firewood logs so it can be loaded to burn for up to 4 hours at a time and produce a lot of heat.
  2. The thermal battery or thermal mass is below grade and insulated so the heat will not wick into the soil surrounding it but instead radiate up to keep fish (aquaponics system) and bedding plants warm even in the dead of winter.
  3. We installed a multiple-speed flue fan and a flue damper near the end of the exhaust pipe to give ourselves greater control over the speed of the exhaust and even the burn. We can slow the exhaust down to hold the heat in the thermal mass longer when it’s hot or speed it up when we need a stronger pull to get it started. We know this is unorthodox and a bit like cheating, but it’s very helpful and the fan is variable speed using very little electricity.

Continue reading “Epic Greenhouse Rocket-Mass Heater”

Permaculture Earthworks – The Clay Model

Permaculture Earthworks lay Model

Dripping water slowly on to the clay model clearly shows how rain water can be moved around a landscape and held to rehydrate the soil.

As permaculture teachers, we have landed on this simple clay-model demonstration as an excellent tool for explaining earthworks. We can cover how swales, ponds, key points and key lines all fit together. The appreciative response from our students continually confirms this.

We wanted to make this video available to more than just our own students so we videotaped this session at one of our summer PDC courses and are sharing it here.

Birth of Earthworks Model

We created this model out of necessity when hosting our first winter PDC course (2010) and realized that we couldn’t take students outside to carve into our earth-mound because it was frozen solid. A quick call to a potter friend produced this 15 lb. block of clay and the Midwest Permaculture Earthworks-Clay-Model was born.

The model also lends itself to an introduction or review of micro-climates, frost zones, house and garden placement, soil building, carbon sequestration, nutrient accumulation, variations in swale design, and more.

This video and demonstration is not an exhaustive study into earthworks, just a simple but clear model. We go into greater detail about keylining and pond building later in the PDC course but the model makes even those explanations more understandable too.

After viewing, you are invited to share your thoughts at the bottom of the page. Your ideas on how to improve the model are welcomed.

Note: We give our permission to other permaculture teachers to use this video or to share this model with their own students. We are openly sharing this educational idea under a Creative Commons License.  Sharing is a permaculture pattern exemplified by the very gift of ‘permaculture’ that David Holmgren and Bill Mollison gave to the world years ago. Many other permaculture teachers continue this pattern today. Let’s be the change. Cheers.

Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade

3 Miles of Swales Cut in 5-Hours

We are making early progress on our 320-acre Missouri permaculture-farm project (Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm).  Last fall, a local dozer operator was brought in to dig the first swales.  It was a small dozer but it did a respectable job and did the work in a relatively short period of time compared to an excavator. See the blog post with video here.

Before we brought the dozer back in this spring, Kevin, a long-time farmer in the area who is also Jordan’s lead farmer on this project, suggested that we simply try the 135hp farm tractor with it’s 9-foot tilting scraper blade (it’s just over 6′ wide when fully angled at 45 degrees) to see what kind of swales it would cut. It certainly seemed worth trying though I’d never seen it done before.

Adam and I headed out early one morning with the laser level and marked off about a mile of swales with white-wire flags.  When Kevin arrived later in the morning with the tractor all he had to do was adjust the angle of the blade, drop it down, and start running.  He ran three passes on every swale we had marked and did it all in about 60 minutes! Continue reading “Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade”

Plant Guild Designs for ‘Heal the Planet Farm’, Missouri

Midwest Permaculture Plant Guild Designs, Bryce Ruddock, Rubin Project - Compressed Version

Click on Image to View the Full Size (10MB)
Feel free to download, forward, print or share with others. It’s really interesting.

As part of the full design for Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm in Koshkonong, MO, we will be creating a demonstration food-forest walk consisting of 6-distinct plant guilds, all designed by Midwest Permaculture’s official plant guy and co-author of Integrated Forest Gardening, Bryce Ruddock.  We thought you might like to take a closer look at the final design sketch which was digitally crafted by our fellow teacher/designer, Milton Dixon. 

The earthworks and tree planting are scheduled to happen either this fall or in spring of 2016. We’ll keep you posted.

Below is the overview image of where the guild fit into the larger Zone 1 area.

Bill Wilson Continue reading “Plant Guild Designs for ‘Heal the Planet Farm’, Missouri”

Dry Brick Rocket Stove Maple Evaporator

Greetings…

At the last minute this winter we decided to tap our mature maple tree (just one tap) and boil off some sap to make a small amount of maple syrup.  I was equally interested in building an experimental rocket stove as an evaporator with the materials I had on hand.  It worked great!

With some landscaping bricks, a dutch oven and a bit of home-made cob we had our stove chugging along in about an hour… maple syrup in 5 hours.   3+ gallons of sap made 1 cup. of syrup. Here are some pictures:

 

Built by stacking the dry bricks into a chimney and burn chamber. Sap is boiling. All smoke is just the steam from the dutch oven evaporator.

I built the stove by dry stacking (no mortar) the bricks to form a chimney and burn chamber. We nestled the dutch oven in to serve as the top of the burn chamber so it would receive direct flames for a hot, rapid boil.

Continue reading “Dry Brick Rocket Stove Maple Evaporator”

Pictures of Winter PDC in Stelle, IL

Midwest Permaculture Winter PDC Course 2015

Here is a brief picture summary of our
2015 Winter PDC at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, IL.
As expected, during a winter course with high temperatures below 32 degrees, we did not spend a lot of time outdoors but we did manage to capture a few pictures of these activities.

Continue reading “Pictures of Winter PDC in Stelle, IL”

Bulldozer Digging Swales

The Design

We have been invited by a family in Southern Missouri to assist with the design of a 320-acre farm.  They want to transition the land into a permaculture landscape capable of producing a wide range of perennial foods (nuts, vegetables, herbs, fruit, etc.) as well as livestock (beef and goats).

 

Over generations, rain has slowly degraded this sloping landscape with a loss of nutrients and topsoil. It is not uncommon for a million gallons of water to wash off this landscape with a 1-inch rain. Continue reading “Bulldozer Digging Swales”

Pictures of PDC at Fox Hollow Farm

Hayden and Bethany

Hayden Wilson and Bethany Gardner of Midwest Permaculture

Hi Friends of Midwest Permaculture.

Bill, Ernest, Hayden and I ( Bethany) are at our farming PDC course here at Fox Hollow Farm in Ohio. Bill is doing most of the teaching while the three of us support the delivery of the course along with the Rickard family (the farmers) and staff.

Bill asked me and Hayden to make a brief photo-log of the course and to drop the pictures here into a single blog post.

We’ll break it down into daily selections which we hope will give you an idea of what happens at a typical PDC course along with the unique aspects of this wonderful farming course.  We’re having a great time.

Hope you enjoy…. Bethany 

 

 

Day 1

Students

On day 1 we toured the farm meeting one of the Rickards horses, Polly. It is a halflinger breed used to pull logs and other heavy items around the farm.

 

Continue reading “Pictures of PDC at Fox Hollow Farm”

1000+ PDC Graduates

Over the last 7-plus years, Becky and I and our Midwest Permaculture team have hosted 49 PDC Courses.  Course #49 graduated today (July 13, 2014) and with it our 1000th student earned their PDC Certificate.

Midwest Permaculture's 49th PDC Course and Student #1000 - July 2014

Midwest Permaculture Course #49 — Students Posing on the Hugelkultured Swale They Built — There were people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  Permaculture is appealing to many regardless of political, racial, religious or socioeconomic differences.

As most of you know, Midwest Permaculture was started on a shoestring with the belief that permaculture was an ethical-based design tool that could be applied to most challenges facing us in the 21st century.  We felt that this brilliant approach to creating security and abundance on our planet needed to be shared with the larger culture. Continue reading “1000+ PDC Graduates”