2018 Appropriate Technology Course in Montana

July 9th - 20th, 2018

Most of our PDC students for the last 2 years have attended both the PDC and the ATC. We are doing that again this year. We are also running a "Peasant" PDC which is a less expensive option for a PDC.

  • Peasant PDC: May 22 - June 21, 2018
  • Homesteaders PDC: June 23 - July 7, 2018
  • ATC Appropriate Technology Course (this course): July 9 - July 20, 2018

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!

The ATC Quick Look

Everybody will get to build a rocket mass heater shippable core, and those that add in the $200 materials cost can take it home, or ship it to themselves.

Other projects include:

Register Now!

Following the Permaculture Design Course, the Appropriate Technology course, led by Chris McClellan, takes the permaculture principles to the next level by applying some crafty science and engineering to basic life essentials like hot water and water catchment. With this course, you'll cover a wide range of topics and get real life experience building the systems you'll need to live comfortably and sustainably

The location

Missoula, Montana

The cost

  • PDC only $1250
  • ATC only $1250
  • Both ATC and PDC $1950

Click HERE to register

Information on work trade here.

Break Down

Daily Schedule

  • Daily Schedule (may vary)
  • 6:30 AM Morning Stretch (optional)
  • 7:30 AM Breakfast
  • 8:30 AM Morning Circle
  • 9:00 AM Hands On Activity
  • 10:30 AM Fruit Break/Mini Story Time
  • 11:00 AM Hands On Activity
  • 12:30 PM Lunch
  • 2:30 PM Hands On Activity
  • 5:30 PM Cleanup
  • 6:00 PM Dinner
  • 7:00 PM Story Time
  • 8:30 PM Campfire/Music/Heated Discussions
  • 9:30 PM Quiet time (10pm-7am)

Homestead Tools: Selecting, Maintaining and Basic Safe Usage

  • July 9-10 - Safety Gear & Protocols Hands On: Safety First! Even when we've been doing this for years we all get lazy or in a hurry sometimes so we will all start with the fundamentals of safety in the shop and in the field, trying on equipment and making sure we are using it correctly.

  • July 9-10 - Metal Shop (Mig Welder, Torch, Grinder, Saws) Participants are introduced to basic metal shop tools by using them (with direction) to cut, grind, bend, drill, bend, screw and weld scrap metals into a useful project of their own selection.

  • July 11 - Field Wood Shop (Solar Powered Chain Saw & Saw Mill): Participants will cut down and limb trees safely with a chain saw they sharpen themselves. THEN mill them into useable planks and beams using a swing blade mill. Did we mention that the saws and mill are SOLAR POWERED?

Click HERE to register


  • July 12-14 - Hands On Building Design In which we go into detail about what is necessary to design and build a comfortable, energy independent building using local resources. Our focus will be 1. Hands on laying out a building so the sun passively heats and cools it to the greatest extent possible using thermal mass and insulation properly. 2. Selecting and using to their best advantage local Natural Materials and those that can be repurposed from the local waste stream. We will also start to take time to work with participants' plans for their own projects at home.

  • July 12-14 - Build a Small Insulated, Moveable Cottage on Skids Participants will be guided in using local natural and repurposed materials such as slabwood, straw-clay, cob and rough milled wood to build quick, cheap shelter.

  • July 14 - Natural Building Sampler Participants who get bored with our cottage build will be guided in use of their choice of additional natural materials and building methods (cordwood, papercrete, cob, roundwood, earthen plaster etc.) to build a small project.

Click HERE to register


  • July 15 - Finding Water In which we study and use multiple resources from hands-on to high tech to locate water and discuss how to get it. Includes using online resources, reading topographical maps, "reading" the land and trying your hand at dowsing.

  • July 15 - Improving Existing Water Resources Participants will learn methods for upgrading the output from an existing well or spring by troubleshooting a low-performing well including pulling the pump, testing the components and adding water storage.

  • July 16 - Water Catchment and Off Grid, Low Pressure Plumbing Build a small system to catch and clean and use rain water from your cottage roof AND learn how to effectively use this low pressure/non powered water supply by plumbing a hand washing sink using gravity or a foot powered pump.

  • July 16 - Cheap, Safe Composting Toilets and Graywater Gardening Learn the science behind safely disposing of human waste. We will discuss the wide variety of systems available and their pros & cons based on our years of experience using them while we build at least one model suitable to the site. We will then "break open" an existing system and examine and harvest the processed soil for use in on site agricultural systems. Our "stretch goal" will be to build a system to turn "waste" water into a nutrient rich water supply for your garden or orchard.

Click HERE to register


  • July 17 - Understanding and Tuning your Energy Needs We will seek to head off a primary source of off-grid frustration and danger by working together to calculate the energy needs of participants' necessities and luxuries. The process will include 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 for our delight and enlightenment.

  • July 17 - Performing Basic Electrical Repairs Because most of us use electricity even off-grid, participants will learn this important homestead repair skill by assembling a small controller for charging batteries in the field or repairing an electrical device.

  • July 19 - Build a Portable Rocket Mass Heater out of Mud & Scrap Metal In which participants learn the principles of clean, super efficient wood stoves by building a Rocket Mass Heater. This particular design, Chris McClellan's "Cottage Rocket" has the benefit of being portable. For an additional materials fee, participants will have the option of building a full heater or just a core to take home with them.

  • July 18 - Mobile Power for your Tools and Toys (Voltswagon & Solar Tractor) In which we turn an existing electric vehicle (or salvaged car batteries) into an Expandable Mobile Power Station that can be charged from the grid or solar or wind or even jumper cables. Our main project will be adding 12 volt, USB and a small 120 volt inverter and timed kill switches to an existing (Voltswagon) electric vehicle to turn it into a highly functional off-grid mobile power source. Our "stretch goal" will be upgrading a poorly executed electric tractor conversion into the Mighty Machine we always knew it could be.

Click HERE to register

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

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

    2018 Homesteaders PDC (Permaculture Design Course) in Montana

    Preceding the ATC, there will be a PDC. The aim of this PDC is to teach you the Permaculture process of design with a homesteading flavor. 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.

    The homesteading flavor comes from 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 - 2018 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 - 2018 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 teachs 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 $1250 per student

    (there are currently still spots open)

    Appropriate Technology Course only is $1250 per student

    (there are currently still spots open)

    both 2018 courses are $1950 per student

    (there are currently still spots open)

    Or via bitcoin: 177pNU2a9iCpUXQwXX9EbtA2UwZpgeqcMT

    Lots more details, FAQ, discussion, etc. on this thread at permies.com

    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 the airport, 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.

    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.


    Workshop food will generally be an omnivore diet and might have paleo, gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, and/or vegan or vegetarian options at many meals. Note that this means it might be often or some times, but not always. Due to budget and staffing constraints, we are not accommodating special diets at this workshop. If you have a special diet, we recommend bringing back up foods just so you don’t go hungry.