Low-cost, knock-down, outdoor shower house

Here is some information about the progress we are making with our outdoor shower house projects. With campers coming to our Stelle (Il) and Bending Oak (Youngstown, OH) projects this summer we want to have a way that they can take a warm shower using current sunlight (scrap wood) to heat the water. (More on solar vs. wood burning hot shower water systems below.)

The goals for our shower houses are 5-fold;
     1. Non-permanent and portable
     2. Knock-down for winter storage
     3. Inexpensive (easily available or recycled materials)
     4. Easy to assemble/duplicate
     5. Attractive (Has to have a welcoming factor)

Prototype #1

The first concept we came up with that cost the least turned out to be more of a job to construct than first imagined, may not hold up in a hard wind, and frankly, looks a bit tacky (to me). But the price is right at $65.

Low-cost outdoor shower house made with T-posts and a tarp

Prototype #1 – Tarp and T-posts

Continue reading “Low-cost, knock-down, outdoor shower house”

Natural Building Workshop Successful

Hello All. Our natural building workshop this weekend was a great success.

Hassan Hall, our natural-builder friend from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, taught a great hands-on class this past weekend here at Midwest Permaculture.

Hassan in building flanked by Justin and Will

Everything was ready to start the next phase of construction on the first of 9-small earth shelters we have planned for EarthCamp Village. It was now time to put the rough coat (or base coat) of earthen ‘plaster’ on to the walls of clay-slip-straw that had been packed in last fall. Continue reading “Natural Building Workshop Successful”

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. Continue reading “Permaculture Earthworks – The Clay Model”

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”

Bill to Teach a Farming-Focused PDC in Michigan

Josh and Brian Shultz

Josh & Brian Shultz

This was a great Course
We are Considering Repeating it in 2015
Please Check our Schedule

Training was May 6 – 13, 2014
Pierce Cedar Creek Institute – Hastings, MI
Start 1-pm May 6 —  End 3-pm May 13

I am very much looking forward to teaching this upcoming PDC with fellow permaculture designers/farmers, Josh and Brian Shultz. Both are Midwest Permaculture PDC Graduates but had been doing advanced permaculture work long before that.

PierceCedarCreek

Pierce Cedar Creek Institute

Starting off however, the training, meals and lodging will be hosted at the beautiful PCC Institute.  Be sure to check out these pictures of this wonderful location.

While there, we will learn about the work they are doing on behalf of the environment and how they are teaching ‘care of earth’ to school students and the general public.  The people at PCCI are walking the talk every day.  We will be in great hands and at a great location for this training.

Bill with Bloomingdale the cat

Me (Bill) with Bloomingdale the cat.

And when it is time to get out of the classroom and learn by doing and seeing I will be taking everyone over to Josh and Brian’s combined endeavors, Fair Lake Farm and Cedar Creek Permaculture Farm (see picture summary below).  They have both done amazing work in various fields and I know that as students, you will be learning a great deal by examining what they have accomplished and are planning to do.

To be clear, since this will be a PDC course I will be teaching the full PDC Curriculum including urban, suburban and residential permaculture applications.  We will be looking at how to design for various climates and for unusual circumstances.

Students will also be invited to bring their own design projects for we will set aside an entire evening to do nothing but explore the real-life design challenges of those who have a specific project.  Not everyone will or is expected to bring a project but we will all learn by exploring those projects that are brought to the table.  This is going to be a fabulous training and I am looking forward to meeting many new permaculture minds and hearts.

Continue reading “Bill to Teach a Farming-Focused PDC in Michigan”

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.
72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate Courses
It is a life-changing week for many.

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”

Pictures from our July 2012 Hands-on Permaculture Course

You can see and read more about this course in an awesome blog post by one of the students in this course: These Light Footsteps – Hands-on Permaculture.

 

Classroom Panorama

  Continue reading “Pictures from our July 2012 Hands-on Permaculture Course”

Chickens for the Orchard (Part 1)

Part 3:    8-13 Weeks of Age (As Adventurers)
Part 2:    4-8 Weeks of Age (As Kids)
Part 1:    0-4 Weeks of Age (As Chicks)   

Objective: Raise some chickens for food and to also help with insect, grass and weed control in our 2-acre organic community orchard…!!!

As most of you know, in permaculture design we attempt to:

  1. garner the greatest amount or number of yields
  2. from the minimum amount of work 
  3. while creating no waste (at least minimal)
  4. and restoring the environment.

Let’s see what additional benefits we can obtain from this project other than just the insect, grass and weed-removal help from 100 chickens.  This will be our chicken saga as it reveals itself in real time.   We’re always learning too and raising this many chickens at once, and in this way, is stretching us some.  

We will take the experience we do have, plus apply permaculture design principles, while adding in good-ole common sense (with help from some great books, friends  and the internet) to work creatively and see what we might come up with.

It all starts with an order of 100 chicks (multi-heritage breeds from McMurry) that Hayden and Cameron (our two work/study intern students) selected.  All were delivered through the U.S. mail.  All survived!  Hayden created a safe and warm habitat from a yard-storage container, a heat lamp, and some old boards and fencing.  This structure lasted almost 2 weeks before they outgrew it.  During this time we worked on a more permanent home/coop.

  Continue reading “Chickens for the Orchard (Part 1)”

Photos of a Winter PDC at Midwest Permaculture

Special Note:
Wondering about missing some hands-on activities at our annual Winter PDC Courses?

Grafting Workshop at Winter PDC

Grafting Workshop at Winter PDC

You won’t!  Most all of the hands-on activities we undertake at our regular PDC courses we can also do at our winter courses.  These include:

  • Learning to use the A-frame and sight level.
  • Building a dry-brick rocket stove and firing it up.
  • Making a clay model of a landscape to learn about swales, keylining, and ponds.
  • Touring Midwest Permaculture’s yard and the CSC land
  • Doing fruit tree grafting
  • Making cob from clay, sand and straw
  • and touring the Malchow’s (our neighbors) permaculture home to fire-up their thermal mass rocket stove couch/bench.

The one thing we cannot do because of the frozen ground is continue to work on the hugel-swale we are constructing for CSC, but this basically consists of digging a section of a ditch, putting logs in, and then covering them up. We’ll show some pictures of the details related to this so you’ll get the information without the tactile experience.

 

Raising Profitable Heritage Breed Hogs at Spence Farm in a very Humane Way

Raising Profitable Heritage Breed Hogs at Spence Farm in a very Humane Way

The one thing we do extra for this course is focus a bit more on the growing of food and what it takes to create a successful farming/growing/permaculture operation.

Many people want to make part or even all of their annual income from growing food.  This is certainly possible but it requires quite a bit of knowledge and then real practical experience. Our objective through this training is to save you years of time and money by giving you some critical information and fresh insights. 

To help anchor this learning experience we’ll be taking an extra field-trip over to Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL, to meet Kris and Marty Travis who are doing pioneering work in these areas. 

If the timing works for you to attend this winter course, we are confident that you will not leave feeling like you missed any hands-on activities.  It’s an amazing and very-full 8 days like all of our other PDC Courses.

Here are Pictures from one of our Winter PDC Course (from 2012)
Narration by Hayden Wilson (Standing, far right, son of Bill and Becky)

Our Group Photo with Rocket Stove in Foreground and Midwest Permaculture Home-site (our house). Mom (Becky Wilson) is standing on far left. Dad (Bill Wilson) took most of these pictures.

  Continue reading “Photos of a Winter PDC at Midwest Permaculture”

Thermal Mass Rocket Stoves on our Minds…

Why Thermal Mass Rocket Stoves are part of This Permaculture Design

Thermal Mass Rocket StoveWe cover the foundations of rocket stove building at every Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course we host.
Upcoming Courses

Whereas wood gasification turns wood scrap into a flammable gas to run engines (generating electricity  power and heat), a thermal mass rocket stove simple turns scrap wood into heat…. lots of heat…with a lot less wood!!!

So, we have included them in our overall design, especially for Earthcamp Village, because they are:

  1. Relavtively simple to understand, construct and use
  2. Inexpensive to build
  3. Beautiful, functional and warm.
  4. Fueled from current sunlight (i.e. wood)
  5. Very…very… efficient at converting wood into clean heat!

Bottomline:  They burn 1/4 of the wood to generate the same heat from a conventional wood stove and the outgases are 90% cleaner as well.

The Key?  They burn the wood, smoke and gasses at very high temperatures…SAFELY!

The exhaust system of Bev and Wayne’s stove before cobbing it over into a bench for heat extraction. More pictures at bottom of this post.

Thermal Mass Rocket Stoves Explained

Not long ago, our friends and neighbors, Bev and Wayne, started to build a thermal mass rocket stove in their living room.  Wayne took one of our PDC courses and was inspired by the rocket stove concept (See the illustration and links below).

Bev and Wayne have been sharing their adventure with us and we are very excited about the possibilities.

Imagine having a wood burning stove in your home that:

  1. Burns less than 1/4 the amount of wood you typically burn
  2. Keeps you as warm or warmer
  3. Allows you to easily burn sticks, twigs and branches instead of just large chunks of firewood.
  4. Burns cleaner than any wood stove ever made

The big thing for us, living here on the prairie in Illinois surrounded not by woods or forests but by corn and bean fields, is the very real shortage of easily available firewood.

What I am talking about are the large hardwood trees with trunks and large branches which are typically chainsawed to length and then split to fit into a wood burning stove.  All of this tonage of wood then needs to be hauled out of the woods, dumped or stacked somewhere, then loaded back into a truck for delivery to be driven to someone’s home (a lot more energy) and then unloaded and stacked again for winter use.

Continue reading “Thermal Mass Rocket Stoves on our Minds…”