Integrated Technology 7000 yrs+

Rocket Stove Powering On

Get Hot Chow With Low Costs

Rocket stoves are super efficient. All you need is a bundle of sticks or dried cobs to cook dinner for the whole family.  Best of all, this fuel is easy to find. There’s no need to chop down trees or burn fossil fuel.

Last month we went on a great adventure shaoying from shaoyingtours.comstaying in an ancient village in the Shandong province of north-eastern China. We went with fellow Australian, Shoaying. She grew up in rural China and has expertise in Permaculture and Environment Management.

Shoaying is patient, knowledgeable, well-organised and fun. We were keen to see early stove technology known as the Kang.  April and Shaoying on Mulberry Island - shaoyingtours.comOur Permaculture courses demonstrate the use of integrated technologies such as a hybrid Rocket stove.

According to research at Tongji University, “The Chinese Kang is an ancient integrated home system for cooking, sleeping, domestic heating and ventilation. It is still widely used today in nearly 85% of rural homes in northern China. In 2004, there were 67 million Kangs used by 175 million people.”

Archeologists have found Kangs from 7,000 years ago. The Kang is still cooking, heating, drying herbs and garments and ventilating millions of homes everyday.  Ingeniously, the flue of the stove fans out underneath the big family bed in the next room before rising up a chimney in the next wall.  The warmth must be a joy when it is snowing outside and fuel is low.

Unfortunately, the Chinese Kang is in slow decline due to intense urbanisation. Given that each household uses approximately 4kg of poor quality fuel, a small city of a million people would need to bring in 4,000 tonnes of fuel each day and dispose or reuse the ash. This would incur a transportation and network cost. Not to mention the need to redesign existing urban buildings to incorporate chimneys.

However, more efficient rocket-stoves are growing in popularity in other rural and sub-urban areas of the world.

Ancient Rocket Stove Technology hasn't changed much -

What Is A Rocket Stove?

Essentially, a Rocket Stove has well-engineered air flow, there is a J bend to the chimney and  good insulation to increase combustion temperatures. The hottest spot in a rocket stove is not at the flame, it is a little further up where the gases get fully party. As a result, the gases burn off furiously, whipping around in circles before they go up the chimney. A modern rocket stove sounds like a primitive turbo. To get this effect, it has a very good air intake and an elbow in the chimney. The fuel sits on a grate letting the air rush up from underneath. The combustion chamber is underneath the cookplate. In many other wood stoves, a lot of the heat flies away up the chimney.  The rocket stove intensifies the burn then concentrates energy directly at the pan.

Today, science is building toward a standard for the term ‘Rocket’ stove.  Because there is a tiny-sized, yet big difference between a modern Rocket stove [or Rocket-mass heater] the ancient Kang.  The modern Rocket stove has an insulated post-combustion chamber (technical term for a space between the flametips and the cookplate). This chamber intensifies the burn and reduces potential pollutants.  In addition to this technical development, a moving cowl would increase the Venturi effect of the chimney.

Insulation Builds Intensification

Insulation in a firebox is vital for conserving energy. As a result, the outer area of the stove stays cool. Only the flue heats up. In well insulated stoves, the energy is concentrated on the cook-top.  In China, locally made mud-straw bricks surround their stoves.  Sand or ash in the mud-brick can ensure even higher insulation-rates.  The Kang utilises the residual chimney heat. The chimney gases travel from the cooktop through the wall and fan out along a set of tunnels under the bed in the next room, then up a chimney on the next wall. Unlike the insulated stove, the bed has plenty of thermal mass, and the mattress is thin. So, the bed is toasty warm up by the time the dishes are washed.

Stove Fuel Resourcefulness

dumplings on rocket stove -

Fuel is easy to find for the stove. For instance, most people burn a bundle of prunings from local orchards or stalks from the corn and wheat fields. In addition to these, dried corncobs  (after the juicy kernels have been removed) combust very well.  Each house has a collection of little bundles of sticks at their door and sunning on the roof.   Corn husks (the papery outer layer) are a convenient, easy, biodegradable material. Perfect to wrap the dumplings.  Also, rinsing and drying the wrappers enables easy re-use. Finally, these used wrappers become great starter-fuel for the stove.

steamed buns from rocket stove -

Northern Chinese Kang Stoves are very adaptable. You can cook fish or soup at the bottom of the giant wok and stick corn cakes to the sloping sides. Alternatively, you can use water in the base and insert a grid at half way up to steam foods like the dumplings. The video shows how to make glass noodles.  Rocket Stove cuisine of Northern China doesn’t bake or grill foods. In summary, closed cook-pans with quick cook times are more efficient.

At the end of the day, home-made Mooncakes taste wonderful when steam-baked on a kang stove, the traditional way.

By the way, we have a
Permaculture Design Weekend Course
– Nov17th and Nov18th
come and join us!









Tiny Joys

Little goes a long way

One tiny change can be a fun way to reduce waste, provide food, and connect with nature. Small solutions may appear to be whimsical yet they are inherently robust when well-designed. These tiny designs have the capacity to give you the tools, skills and understanding to make a lasting change. Starting small and feeling successful is a critical step in building resilience.

Observe and Interact

One of the core principles of permaculture is to turn the ‘problem into the solution’. For us there are some persistent little challenges. One of the greatest challenges is the bird-life. We love being close to nature but we also want to grow some food for ourselves.  Generations of wild-life enjoy easy pickings from our permaculture garden.  With good design tools we out-smart them. We get to benefit from their manure and let them eat the foods that grow outside the cages.

4 easy wicking pots
4 easy wicking pots

Whimsical World of Waste-Not

Boundaries and constraints often give rise to creativity.  For years, we have used re-purposed bird-cages to protect delicate plants.  In the intensive-care corner of the garden we often made wicking pots to nurture young rare plants.


In a whimsical moment recently we wondered: what it look like if we bundled these powerful features?

So, we made some wicking beds inside the bird-cage.  The tray is the water reservoir, the base holds our bio-char and compost which we mounded in the middle to increase surface area. (In a miniature way that Emile Hazelip used mounds to great effect.) Small gardens can be highly intensive. If you find a weed you have simply found a wasted space.

The cage acts two ways: as a support for young shoots and protection from wildlife . You can even use it as support for a cover if you wish to convert the whole thing into a tiny greenhouse. This concept of multiple-uses is another principle of permaculture.

Everlasting foods

New plants, like ginger, grow from selected green buds on fresh pieces at the grocery store. Set them to sprout in a warm place like a bathroom or kitchen window. The effort we spend in observing and caring for their development is well rewarded. We see the true value of the foods that we love.

Sprouts and Micro-greens are small but powerful

High levels of nutrition in a small space with little effort comes from sprouts and micro-greens. Within days, you have fresh food ready to eat raw or cooked. This food can be grown inside, even during winter. As long as they do not get too cold over night and are rinsed in luke-warm water each day, they supply nutritious fresh food.

Balconies all around the world connect people with the outside world. Imagine if these balconies grew some of their favourite foods, gave them more privacy and a mini sanctuary. What joy they would find in their tiny food forest.

If you want to learn more about Balcony design, tiny bird-house gardens, bio-char, wicking or Permaculture living you can join a workshop, sign up as a hybrid student (online and on-site) or enrol with us online. Drop us a line.


Something Big To Crow About – Discounts Celebrate Moodle

We Now Have A Moodle For You

Soon after the internet fizzed into being, our permaculture project was born.  Now we have grown a big Moodle to help our students stay connected.

When we started out in 1993, our mission was to nurture online permaculture students. We wanted to give them a new way to learn from the comfort of their home.  Pioneering adaptable time frames, a space to ask questions as they go and freedom to participate with exams was fun and creative.  As you may know, ours was the first Permaculture school online with one of the first permaculture webpages.

Bill Mollison and April Sampson-Kelly

What kept us going was the incredible standards of our graduates. We developed graduates who have become permaculture leaders, educating many others and playing key roles in social permaculture activities. We are proud of our graduates and the new Moodle is designed to keep them engaged and support their post-graduate work.

Still Smiling

Student focused learning is a fun way to teach. It has enabled us to reach people in remote places. As a result, the teaching journey is still engaging. With the new moodle we have kept this creativity and flexibility but added better tracking services.

What You Can’t Get Online – is Skill to Design 

Design is a skill that requires more than knowledge. Designing is a holistic thinking practice. Amazingly, the sum of all the parts is actually greater than the bits. Creating a personalised design takes skill, not just information. We aim work to develop student skills in designing, as well as the vital knowledge on how it the pieces work.

Tada! Here’s Our Limited 10% Discount  For You

To celebrate our new Moodle, we now are offering a special deal of 10% off.  Ends July 10th. Our new Moodle gives you a speedy way to upload your files, get the design learning completed and do the quiz to check the efficiency of your first design. Keith Mikkelson of Palawan in the Philippines, uploaded his work, completed the design check process, got personalised feedback on the design and was awarded his certificate swiftly. His feedback was great. “the process was clear and smooth”.  There is also the bonus of staying supported s a graduate.

You can design an ethical, healthy lifestyle to help build a truly sustainable culture.

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.


Mulit-Functional Permaculture

multi-functional people in permaculture

Being Multi-functional

Permaculture design promotes things that are multi-functional rather than things that have only one use.  A medium-sized sharp knife can be used for a wide range of tasks indoors: even be used for circus acts. Whereas fish knife is only designed for fish. And, even then, the fish-knife requires skill and patience. Without this specialist skill we could get cold fish with hidden little bones.

A building can be masterfully designed to be multi-functional. It can shelter us in many ways. As a result, we can have natural light to illuminate many activities. We can be protected from wild-fire. The roof can collect water and shed debris. The internal walls can store heat to be released at night. The shape of the building can also serve as a wind break. An internal courtyard can provide a welcome shady retreat.

  • On the other hand, a poorly designed building requires artificial lighting during the day. A sick building can make us ill from poor air circulation and we are less likely to be productive or enjoy life.

Multi-functional People

multi-functional people in permacultureWe live in an era where workers are expected to have high levels of expertise in order to compete. Contrast this with a permaculture lifestyle where we explore new ideas. Growing food at home, connecting with others, learning from elders and reconnecting with nature helps us develop a range of skills that are productive and rewarding.

Multifunctional Plants

Here are some tropical trees with multi-function. This information was provided by our recent graduate, Keith Mikkelson. He has uses permaculture design to boost production at an orphanage in Thailand. 
1) Moringa Moringa oleifera,
  • Nutritious leaves
  • Seeds edible –  the horseradish tree
  • Seeds filter water
  • Fast growing shade cover/erosion control
  • Goats and rabbits feed on leaves
2) Madre de cacao Gliricidia sepium
  • Fodder crop for our hogs, goats and chicken
  • Living fence-grows from cuttings and used to form fence
  • High N for compost
  • Used for contour planting
  • Biomass for mulch
3) Ipil Ipil
  • Leucaena leucocephala
  • High N for compost
  • Used for erosion control on contours
  • Biomass for mulch
  • Leaves made into meal for high protein by weight feed
4) Neem Azadirachta indica
  • Shade
  • Leaves repel weevle in rice
  • Leaves prevent termites in books
  • Fuel for cooking, charcoal and wood
  • Grows vigorous after pruning
  • Berries are good fertilizer
  • Village pharmacy
  • Medicinal oil
  • De-worming medicine
 5) Bamboo [technically a grass]
  • Solid fuel and charcoal
  • Decorative woodwork
  • Furniture
  • Shade
  • Contour erosion control
  • Edible shoots.
  • Leaves for goats and geese.
  • Tea for humans high in silica. This tea can also aid hair growth.
  • Building material

Enjoy our new moodle Elearning program today. 

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.