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 - shaoyingtours.com

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 - shaoyingtours.com

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 - shaoyingtours.com

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set Your Goals Last

Build Values First

Stuart Hill urges us to be driven by our ethics and values, feelings and passions rather than particular goals or resolutions.  By revisiting our ethics and values at the end of the year we can keep the positive fire burning.

By listening to our feelings and passions we give ourselves the energy to create a better future. Though acknowledging our passion we formulate a vision, purpose. Once our passion is invested in our future, we can find energy to develop goals, and sustain the plans and activities.

  1. Self reliant eldersAwaken your ethics and values
  2. Acknowledge your feelings and passions
  3. Research your ideas, visions and design (doing this permaculture course is a critical tool in developing systems thinking and building your own design)
  4. Create action plans
  5. Finally start the regular activities that will help you realise your goals. At the end of each day, set goals that help achieve the actions you set in your plan.

Hill urges us to:  “Act from your core/essential self – empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present (contextual) – vs. your patterned, fearful, compensatory, compromising, de-contextual selves”

Core Values for Social Permaculture Design

Every person is different. No two permaculture designers will have the same passions and goals. Here are two different applications of Hills suggestion to act from your core self:

  • Ana* knows her core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] involves working with rare fruits and edible flowers. She builds skills in growing food plants. She also develops her catering projects, observing what drives people to try new foods. She searches for the best way to harvest and cook these unusual foods. Ana strives to find way to integrate rare foods into household gardens and onto the plate.   Finally, she aims to build community awareness.  Whenever Ana has a set-back (like the time vandals broke into the nursery to destroy plants) she listens to her core passion. This gives her energy to mend flaws in her action plan.
  • Zane* knows his core self [empowered, aware, visionary, principled, passionate, loving, spontaneous, fully in the present] loves working with people. He listens and helps them relieve their hunger by helping them to grow food, build water catchment and storage and make efficient stoves. There are more than a few daunting barriers in achieving the long-term goals of this project. The barriers include social perceptions, land access and resources (like seeds and access to water).  Over the years, Chris has some devastating set-backs.  Sadly, the setbacks include natural disasters. He knows these disasters will strike because the projects are on marginal land. Revisiting his core passion gives him some solace. Through re-visiting his core he recharges his passion. With renewed passion he strengthens his action plans.

[*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.]

Discover your core principles and enjoy the discovery.

Happy new year from us at Permaculture Visions.

Design Theory Into The Zones

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Where is it?

confused roosterDo you ever get frustrated because you can’t find something? How many times have you wished there was a better system? Have you struggled to complete a task because the tools or resources are not at hand?  Ever wished to add a little something but it is too far away? Are you always feeling for your keys in the bottom of your bag only to find forgotten debris instead? Is there sometimes a touch-of-confusion at work making it hard to get stuff done?

If only everything was in its place. But wait… how do we know where the right place is? This is where it pays to do a little bit of designing.  Permaculture Zoning gives you the design tools to make life more comfortable and work more efficiently. We have a tool that can sort things into zones according to how much we need them, and in return, how much they need our care.

Tea herbs from the gardenSome things need to be close-by because we use them often. For example: tea herbs near the cups, kindling next to the fire, or pens on the desk. Some things need a watchful eye but need some space in order to thrive (like a children’s play area, or the berry patch).  Other things may prefer not to be bumped or tampered with so they do well in an area that is typically neglected, like wine in a cellar. These also include a nesting robin, or the soft yoga mat in your sports bag.

Zones for Efficiency

There are a few basic factors to help us determine which is the right zone for something. Firstly, ask how much observation does the item need? Secondly, ask how frequently am I going to it? If the answer is often, put it nearby. If the answers are rarely, put it far away.

This design tool is super flexible. You can apply the zoning tool to your design for a farm, a home, a community garden or a work station. You can even use it to pack your luggage.

When Bill Mollison was introducing the concept of Zoning as a design tool, he talked about having food plants that were needed regularly near the kitchen door.

These include herbs and plants like lettuces and kale that we can clip each day rather than rip it out of the ground.  Zone thinking can also be applied to the design of your bag. Those items that are needed regularly need a pocket up high to keep them accessible. Whereas, things that are rarely used but handy in emergencies can dwell in the outer zones.

Applying Permaculture Zone Theory To Design Of A Bag

Get Your Nest of Zones

Zones don’t have to be separated. But compartments, pockets, or fences are often useful. In zone 1 we keep regularly used and valuable items. In a bag these items might be your keys, phone, medicine or photo of your favourite chicken.  On the farm, Zone 1 might hold your dog’s box, your pick-up truck, your trusty tools and your favourite wet weather coat. In Zone 2 you will find intensively grown food-plants and the smaller species of fruiting shrubs. The hen-house might sit in this zone to help manage weeds in the orchard and provide regular eggs. Bigger trees, pumpkin vines and corn patches site well in Zone 3 and larger farm animals go well in the Zone 3 or 4 area. Zone 5 is a great space to dedicate to wildlife which thrives on careful management and minimal disturbance.

Zones according to use and micro-climates. Our design for yoga retreat in Otford

What about Zone 0 you may ask?

Self reliant eldersZone 0 is traditionally indoors or in your head where all those secret recipes dwell and where you hone your powerful ethics and motivation. But In a house design or on a farm, zone 0 can also contain ferments, indoor production and work stations, the office and first aid.

As you can see, there are a lot of design tools taught through Permaculture. Learn more design tools with a Permaculture Design Course. We offer courses online and on-site.

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Going Bananas –

Get Some Real Banana Bread

One of the greatest challenges for building a sustainable culture is learning to eat what the climate and soil want to grow and not forcing it to produce what our culture is accustomed to eating.  During the recent ‘Hunger Period’ when Cuba was is economic turmoil, the locals grew food on street corners and in government city farms. The power of that community was celebrated yet Cubans hung on dearly to a cultural remnant called white bread. Bananas grew everywhere during that time and still they grace street corners because nobody needs to remove them. (See tips below on how to grow or remove them).

Home-grown Special

Given that most people around the world can grow bananas and most can keep hens or quail for eggs (if you can keep a cat or a dog, you can find a way to keep quail). Imagine growing and cooking pancakes from your own garden on your home-fuelled stove.

Green Banana Great Cooking

Bananas, green or yellow, make a great flour.  In addition, it is gluten-free and full of nutrients. Real Banana Pancakes are super easy. Basically use two eggs for each banana and add milks or spices to your tasting.

Use It or Share It

In our warm temperate permaculture garden we have designed some micro-climates that the bananas love. And best of all our bananas ripen in winter! Winter is usually a lean time our food forest so this abundance is enjoyed. We have thousands of bananas which we readily share. but now we know how to use up the green banana, we can enjoy more of the crop.

The other abundant crop here in winter is from the Rocoto Chilli trees.  No typical western recipe springs to mind to combine these two delicious resources. Green Banana + chillis = Cayeye and Cabeza de Gato (Colombian Mashed Green Plantain) with home-made Salsa on the side. Yum.

Green Bananas of any variety can substitute for plantain in most recipes. If you want a quick and yummy snack, you can make green banana crisps. simply slice the green banana, salt it then fry it.  This fast food will keep for weeks because it dries out crisp as it cools.  Alternatively, you can dry your bananas in a solar dryer.

Want A Banana Beer With Your Banana Fries?

The passionate and experienced researcher, Bruce French, has studied the amazing array of produce from rare and under-appreciated food plants. Before you get into the beer, find out more about the benefits of a range of banana ferments.

There are many recipes out there for banana beers. Most use a cereal crop such as maize to get it going, but anything once living will ferment. If you are keen to make pure banana beer beware it just may take a few conventional beers prior to get the stamina to like it.

Bananas are Tough

In all honesty, in good soil and mild climates, Bananas are hard to remove. If you need to remove them simply dig up the pups to give to other people, cut the main stems with a bread-knife, cover the area with an old tarpaulin, you can cover that with mulch and potted plants for a year.

Did you know?

Did you know that the banana stool is not a tree? Bananas are a herb. In fact, it is the tallest flowering herb.

Bananas are more than just a lunchtime companion. Every part of the banana is useful. For permaculture designs, the banana is a great erosion stabliser, good to grow on fast eroding banks and in gullies and shallow or intermittent water courses to slow the water down. They have a tendency to travel slowly over the years because the new pups need to grow in the shelter of their parent. Each mature banana stool will only fruit once so you can chop it down and feed it to the poultry, or a worm farm, use it as mulch or garden edge. With some practice you can cut tall fruiting stems whilst keeping the stem vertical. This way,  the bunch is not damaged as you chop. This also means you don’t need a ladder to access a big bunch.

Design To Exclude Wind

The biggest thing that will limit your crop is wind. Wind rips at their leaves, reduces the local moisture available to their roots and can spread disease. Bananas love sun-traps. In your permaculture design, sun-traps have multiple functions.

Sadly, the main threat to commercial Bananas worldwide is disease. So, check that you are not violating agricultural restrictions. These restrictions are there to limit the spread of disease.  The modern banana was predicted to become extinct by 2020, but we can all help turn that around by choosing unusual, organic and less than perfect varieties when we shop. Diversity is the key to our resilience.

And Wait, There’s More!

Nothing need go to waste from a banana plant. The leaves can be used for fencing, temporary roofing, bedding in the hen house, even as a compostable umbrella. Many people cook foods in the leaves and big leaves are a beautiful throw-away platter.  It is also possible to make paper out of the banana fibers. This video shows a school girl making banana paper.

Learn how to design your permaculture world.

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