2019 Appropriate Technology Course in Montana

July 1st- 12th 2019

The Appropriate Technology Course is about getting hands on experience building solutions with safer and more sustainable materials. This course will also experiment with new ideas in appropriate technology. Some of the past projects and experiments included:

  • a giant solar food dehydrator
  • a low energy augmentation for a hay box cooker
  • a johnson style air well
  • a rocket oven
  • a rocket water heater
  • a biosand filter
  • a greywater mulch pit

Rocket Oven Solar Cooker Welding Rocket Oven 2

And every year all of the students get to build experiences with the creations of previous years, plus:

  • a collection of solar ovens
  • a collection of rocket stoves
  • a collection of rocket hot water heaters, rocket kilns, smokers and cooktops
  • a collection of willow feeders (composting toilet alternative)
  • welding
  • driving an excavator

Rocket Stove Excavator Greywater

The ATC is held right after the PDC for Scientists, Engineers, and Educators. In the past, 2/3rds of the students have signed up for both courses. The ATC is always held back to back with the PDC.

Click for Registration Information

The location

Near Missoula, Montana

Work-trade options are not availible at this time.

Projects and Experiences

This Year's Projects

  • Build a crusher & sifter for onsite glass recycling
  • Build a solar kiln for recycling glass and metal
  • Build ceramic forms for melting glass in a rocket stove
  • 1 Day Repair Cafe
  • Plumb a simple off-grid cottage water system using gravity or a foot pump
Circular Saw Sawmill

Student Choice Projects

The group will collectively prioritize the projects and work on them as time permits.

  • Build and use a simple solar water heater that mitigates Legionella risk.
  • Build a moveable insulated cottage or sauna from mainly local natural materials
  • Build a basic water catchment system for off-grid water supply
  • Build a “willow feeder” dry toilet
  • Build a portable “Cottage Rocket” Mass Heater
  • Build a wood-fired forge for simple blacksmithing
  • Build a rocket stove trash incinerator and argue about whether it should ever be used
  • Build a greywater system to water your garden with your used water
  • Build a cheap, simple bermed or underground shelter for woodland climates
  • Build a deep-well hand pump
  • Further optimize the Easy Bake Coffin(augmented haybox cooker)
  • Augmenting a solar food dehydrator with a rocket mass


  • Learn simple mechanics by building a workhorse utility bicycle from parts
  • Learn safe chainsaw use and care by felling and bucking a tree
  • Use a solar powered sawmill to make lumber for one of our artifacts
  • Cook using a variety of low energy or free energy solar and rocket stove powered ovens
  • Drive an excavator - move dirt and dig holes in a hurry
  • Learn how to sharpen and care for and use hand tools such as knives, axes, saws and scythes
  • Select glass for use in solar thermal applications and install in a trombe wall.
  • Calculate the energy needs of your necessities and luxuries.
    • Learn strategies for decreasing peak loads and phantom loads, calculating storage needs, and sourcing and maintaining reliable hardware. We will use both theoretical models and participants' own electrical demands
  • Build a cheap, flexible, mobile power source to get USB, 12 volt and 120 volt power from the sun or a running vehicle or even from some place else using an old car battery
  • Use and improve:

  • Solar power bank
    • Learn how to use and maintain an off-grid Solar Power Array
    • Explore system capabilities & test possible upgrades
      • Track the battery use of different homestead tools
      • Wire in a small inverter and convenience outlets

Experiences: Collective Group Priority

The group will collectively prioritize the projects and work on them as time permits.

  • Operate a tractor - Does size matter?
  • Develop a “Good, Better, Best” list of tools for your own shop
  • Learn basic metal welding & cutting by building a small household tool to take home
  • Learn basic blacksmithing by heating things up and pounding on them to make a tool
  • Learn basic sheet metal fabrication by building something fun and useful
  • Learn soldering and wiring and circuit testing by repairing a simple appliance
  • Learn from the “Master Scrounger” how to get, store and use free or low cost:
    • Building materials, Tools, Transportation and even food from the industrial waste stream.
  • Learn how to use thermal mass and insulation to reduce or eliminate heating and cooling costs
  • Carve a useful thing out of wood, like a spoon
  • Build a watertight wooden bucket
  • Learn multiple tested ways of making “candy money” using basic shop skills and tools
  • Replace a tool handle with one you have made yourself
  • No-fuss easy timber framing (with and without fasteners) for beginners
  • Techniques for building with scrap, rough-milled and roundwood
  • Make & finish walls from various local natural materials/techniques
    • Simple Rubble Stone
    • Cob
    • Rammed Earth
    • Adobe Bricks
    • Straw-Clay
    • Wattle & Daub
    • Lath & Earthen Plaster
    • Clapboard/Siding
    • Lime Wash and Clay Paints
  • Learn how to get water (dowsing, rainwater catchment, improve a spring or low-flow well)
    • Build a simple brick Rocket Mass Heater and learn how RMH technology can drastically reduce your heating costs
  • Use and improve:

  • giant solar food dryer
    • Dry food for off-grid storage
    • Explore dryer capabilities & test possible upgrades
      • Add thermal mass
      • Add insulation
      • Add auxiliary heater
  • giant super insulated crockpot
    • Learn how to cook for large crowds with very little power
    • Explore system capabilities & test possible upgrades
      • How much power does this thing use compared to ______
      • Can we power this thing in zones for smaller cooking tasks?
  • Rocket Water Heater
    • How little wood can we use to have a hot shower?
    • How fast can we heat up the water?
  • Tractor
    • How can we use/make the best of/improve someone else's poor design?
    • When do you give up and sell something for scrap?
  • “Willow Feeder” dry Toilet
    • Learn safe human waste treatment
    • Build a urine diverter to capture and use “nature's best fertilizer”

ATC Structure

The ATC is a learning experience that is tailored to the students and their abilities. We want to give the students a wide variety of experiences such as learning to weld, driving an excavator, or using a solar food dehydrator. There will also be time reserved for larger projects such as rewiring a solar system for 12v power, building a glass recycler, a solar kiln, or making bricks. The instructors of the course have chosen a set of projects and experiences to ensure that students get exposure to a well rounded set of appripriate technology and useful skills.

On the first day of the course, the students will review the list of projects and experiences they would like to have. The Experiences list will contain the items the students want to learn and experience. The Projects list will contain bigger projects which will produce durable artifacts. Students will always be working on a mixture of having learning experiences and working with the hands-on projects. As a collective group, the students will rank the projects and experiences. The group will then work down the list as far as time permits.


Daily Schedule

  • 7:00 AM Breakfast
  • 8:00 AM Morning Circle
  • 8:30 AM Hands On Activity
  • 10:00 AM Fruit Break/Mini Story Time
  • 10:30 AM Hands On Activity
  • 11:45 PM Lunch
  • 2:30 PM Hands On Activity
  • 5:30 PM Cleanup
  • 6:00 PM Dinner
  • 7:00 PM Story Time
  • 9:30 PM Quiet time (10pm-7am)

Story Time

Most of our learning at Wheaton Labs will be hands-on, but after a long day we like to sit back with a favorite beverege and absorb knowledge in a more relaxed manner. Story Time is our casual presentation time after dinner. It may be a powerpoint presentation, it may be a more casual discussion around the camp fire.

We will lead out with our presenters' favorite subjects: Scrounging and Natural Building, sharing stories about our experiences. We include a list of possible topics below, and we may even take requests, but as the ATC progresses we expect that we will do less of the talking as participants share their own stories and experiences.

The Story Time format culminates in two nights of presentations by participants on their own homestead projects and plans, with positive discussion and feedback by the teachers and fellow students.

  • Natural Building Around the World
  • Harvesting the Local Waste Stream
  • Maintaining the Homestead Boneyard (or Genteel Hoarding)
  • Rocket Mass Heaters
  • How to find Land
  • No Mortgage Building Strategies
  • How to Succeed in Building an Intentional Community
  • Free Hot Water from Compost


Questions about this course can be asked in this thread on permies.com

2019 PDC for Scientists, Engineers, and Educators in Montana

Preceding the ATC, there will be a PDC (Permaculture Design Course). This PDC is designed for scientists, engineers, educators or people with a lot of current knowledge of permaculture. Once you have a deep and fundamental understanding of the design process, you can design for any situations: urban or large acreage, dry or humid climate, tropical or cold, etc.

This pairs well with the opportunity to learn about really cool appropriate technology and homesteading infrastructure, and techniques used on site: rocket mass heaters, solar ovens, natural buildings, hugelkultur, and much more. Learn more...


Chris McClellan - 2019 ATC Instructor

Chris McClellan 2018 ATC

Uncle Mud (aka Chris McClellan) raises free-range, organic children in the wilds of northeast Ohio. Between building things out of mud and junk he writes for Mother Earth News Magazine and teaches simple DIY skills at workshops and fairs.

  • Greenhouse Rocket Mass Heater with Chris McClellan

James S. Juczak - 2019 ATC Instructor

James S. Juczak 2018 ATC

James is an author and lecturer on topics such as self-reliance, true sustainability, building off-grid energy systems and mortgage-free housing. He has had numerous articles published, been a contributing author to several books and is presently working on a much expanded second edition of his book "The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging". He has been dubbed "The King of Scrounge". Jim spent much if his career as a high school and middle school shop teacher. He has also worked as a Community Energy Educator in 10 northern New York counties. He also brought skills to Kandahar, Afghanistan where he worked as a civilian contractor with the US Army's 10th Mountain Brigade teaching appropriate technologies to the US and Afghan armies as well as the local civilian population. Jim lives with his wife, Krista, in their round, cordwood and papercrete home on the property where they have established an off-grid intentional community. He is an EMT and an adjunct professor at SUNY Jefferson where he teaches the NABCEP Solar Installers course.

  • The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging
  • Jim Juczak Shows Us His Off-Grid Home
  • Article: King of Scrounge: North Country man finds simple living is easy


Note: 80% refunds up to two weeks before the event starts. If you are not comfortable with being recorded, please do not attend. Tobacco free and drug free site.

Permaculture Design Course only is $1650 per student

(there are currently still spots open)

Appropriate Technology Course only is $1650 per student

(there are currently still spots open)

both 2019 courses are $2600 per student

(there are currently still spots open)

Or via bitcoin: 177pNU2a9iCpUXQwXX9EbtA2UwZpgeqcMT

Lots more details, FAQ, discussion, etc. on permies for the PDC and here for the ATC

Location Information

These courses will be taught at Wheaton Labs, a learning facility located west of the Rocky Mountains, in the Missoula area of Montana.

Established in 2013 by the founder of permies.com and richsoil.com, Paul Wheaton, the expansive property features a spectacular sampling of natural buildings, eleven rocket mass heaters, eight rocket cook stoves, hugelkultur garden beds, earth berms, showers heated by compost, a variety of solar power systems, sustainable horticultural practices, and a broad collection of projects and experiments intended to shape the future of permaculture.

Wheaton labs is actually two pieces of land: “base camp” which has a few buildings on it already, and “the laboratory,” which started as bare timber land. It is surrounded by beautiful mountain views and expansive coniferous forests, and nearly a thousand acres of federal Bureau of Land Management land. Wheaton labs is truly surrounded by beauty!

This “farmer laboratory” fosters innovations and experiments such as wofatis, poopers, hugelkultur, polyculture food systems integrated with holistic management-style animal systems, a different style of community, aquaculture, and earthworks for privacy, water retention and frost protection. The ultimate goal is the least toxins possible.

Note: For the security of our residents and staff, the exact location of Wheaton Labs is only revealed to paying customers. You will receive detailed location information and directions upon receipt of payment.

For Those That Fly to the Event

If you need a ride from Missoula, we can arrange for somebody to pick you up.

  • Between 8 am and 9 pm: $15 per ride
  • Outside of those hours: $35 per ride
  • Please be ready to pay driver in cash

For those that may not be able to fly with sleeping bags and tents, there are a limited quantity available to rent for a small fee; and of course, you can always rent the Tipi, Wofati, or other structures for your stay to lighten your luggage.

A few people have shipped a box of this sort of thing here. And a couple of those have left tents and sleeping bags for future people attending these events.


Everybody must be okay with being photographed or filmed; and people are encouraged to take video and photos of the course. Details here.


Tent camping is included with the courses.

We have a few formal tent pads with a sand bottom, to give you a soft, level surface for setup. First come, first served. Some people last year came a week early. ( I believe we would like people not to come week early unless there talk to us first)

Once you are registered, we will give you information on local hotels, lodges, campgrounds, etc. - we have had several people that prefer that sort of thing.

We have had some people arrive with a van or truck to stay in - that's fine. Some people want to bring a camper - please coordinate with the registrar about that - there is no fee, but we need to put you in an appropriate spot. We don't allow plugins or the use of a generator. Solar panels are okay.

You are welcome to harvest some of the food we have growing here, just be respectful, and leave some foods behind to reproduce.

Slumber Party at Cooper Cabin!

Cooper Cabin is also known as "Wofati 0.8". The structure is not quite done yet, but people have been living in it since August of 2014. This spacious structure has plenty of room for large groups.

We will be allowing up to twelve people to throw a sleeping bag down on the floor of Cooper Cabin for a small fee. This requires a seperate registration.

A step up from camping - rent one of these

Course instructors will be occupying most of the structures we have, but there are a few structures with bunks still available. (We will try to update this page to reflect availability)

The Love Shack

The Red Cabin

The Tipi with Rocket Mass Heater

You probably won't need to fire up the rocket mass heater, but you could if you wanted to. This is the tipi and rocket mass heater that was part of the great rocket mass heater experiment in the winter of 2013/2014. Most people want to stay in it during the winter to fully appreciate the function of a rocket mass heater.

You can learn more about the tipi with the rocket mass heater here.


Meals are not included. BUT attendees will be invited to join Paul at his table. If you have any special dietary needs/desires, you might want to bring your own food and make use of our rocket cook stoves, ovens, solar ovens and other interesting contraptions for cooking.

Watch 2017 PDC and ATC

We filmed all of the previous 2017 permaculture design course and the appropriate technology course. All 177 hours of video is now available HERE!

The students and staff took a lot of photos and video of the 2017 PDC. Take a look HERE!