Living Woven-Willow Brush Fence

Another Experiment at Midwest Permaculture
How one can attractively store woody brush to give it time to break down.

Our intern Meg trimming some of the new growth off the austree-willow posts in this willow-brush fence.

Hello permaculture friends. We wanted to give something a try. We have not seen this exact design in the literature or on YouTube (although it certainly could be out there) but the idea is to use our yard brush while also building a sturdy fence. Continue reading “Living Woven-Willow Brush Fence”

Residential Design for Midwest Permaculture Home

Below is the full design map of our Midwest Permaculture Home. Click on the picture to enlarge and zoom in on any details that interest you.

Click on Above Image to Enlarge or Save if you Like

Click Here to View a PDF of Each Layer as it Develops
or Download to your own computer by right clicking, then – ‘Save link as…’ 

We created the video below for a local-food summit which we were invited to co-host. It includes many pictures and information about our (Becky and Bill Wilson) reasons for starting Midwest Permaculture and how we designed and evolved our own home.  The blog-post that follows is a condensed version of this hour-long video presentation.

Continue reading “Residential Design for Midwest Permaculture Home”

Dry Brick Rocket Stove Maple Evaporator


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”

How To Build a Worm Tower

Update by Bill Wilson – March 2018

Worm towers are just one of many techniques that permaculture designers might use to totally transform their home or piece of property.  Join us sometime for a deep and inspiring look into Permaculture.
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The empty insides of an installed worm tower.

How to Use
Above is the empty worm tower as it was installed into the ground at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, IL.  We then put in some wet straw for bedding, a handful of composting worms (red wigglers) and a days worth of kitchen scraps. For the next couple of weeks we added our daily kitchen scraps until it was full.  Thereafter, the contents would slowing sink down as the worms enjoyed their feast, turning scraps into pure worm castings.  About once a week there would be enough room to add another days worth of kitchen scraps.  If someone had 7 towers they could top-off one per day.

Continue reading “How To Build a Worm Tower”

What A Difference A Path Makes – Before & After


As I am doing my year-end clean-up and organizing of my computer files, I came across these two pictures of our front yard (Midwest Permaculture – Bill and Becky Wilson). Here is how the yard looked the spring following the digging of the rain gardens which we did in late October.



And here it is in June after we dug in the paths and covered them and the raised beds (our keyhole gardens) with shredded hardwood bark mulch. The mulch gives the yard a more finished look while also helping to hold in moisture and add organic matter to the soil. Because this is the front yard we felt it was important for it to look more ‘landscaped’ being located in a suburban setting. If we are going to help mainstream to see the value of permaculture, we will have to make it look nice as well as be functional & productive. 

Becky and I are strong advocates of making pathways a priority as well. They not only make it easier to get around the yard but they really help define space which helps the mind to organize what to do where. 

The plants in the foreground are sweet potatoes. The vines grew all the way down into the rain gardens and whenever it rained and they filled with water, the vines would float on the surface like water lilies. It was lovely.

Becky and I would like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season. We look forward to sharing much with you in 2012.

All the best…. Bill Wilson



Hugelkultur Video

Check out this time lapse video we made of the construction of a hugelkultur bed…

Hugelkultur is a raised bed filled with wood. As the wood decomposes it slowly releases nutrients to the plants in the bed. It also acts like a sponge, holding more water for the plants to access in between rains. We built this bed in Bill & Becky Wilson’s yard as a part of our Hands-On Permaculture Training this past August.

Fall Freeze

Our first freeze is soon to be here so it’s decision making time for Becky and me… what to protect, what to consolidate and possibly replant, and what to let go of.

These tomato plants (left) grew to over 6 foot high and have produced very well. They are located on a berm that is fed water from the rooftop, 2 rain gardens and a swale. We hardly watered except to get them established early in the year. Rather than protecting the plant from frost we will go ahead and harvest all of these green tomatoes and enjoy them over the next month as they slowly ripen, turning red, in a box in our home.

Here is some more of our harvest in a holding area near our back door. Our permaculture students coming to Stelle in a week for a their training will enjoy a majority of their meals from local gardens and farms.

Fall Update

The dust has settled following our full schedule of trainings in August. It feels good to be home and to be getting into the garden harvest while starting to think about the upcoming winter season.

Becky made some fresh salads from our gardens including pickled beans, tomatoes, nasturtium flowers and fresh sauerkraut.
Yesterday we had two cords of oak delivered for our winter heating needs. I have cut and split our wood many times and believe me, it is a real blessing (and a bargain) to purchase the finished product.  

Invasive and Delicious

This Spring, I’ve discovered a new plant growing in profusion in our garden. I noticed it last year, but it was just a small mound. This year, it quickly grew tall and flowered. Before I had a chance to look it up, Milton stopped by and said that it was Garlic Mustard, and it makes great pesto! Sure enough – it was wonderful, with both flavors in abundance. Use the leaves just as you would basil. We picked lots of it before it went to seed, as it can be quite invasive; and we’ve enjoyed it several weeks before our basil will make a showing. Let’s hear it for free food!