The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Learning to cook on a rocket stove

Rocket stove

Our power was out for about 21 hours Sunday afternoon through Monday morning.  That seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the new rocket stove that our neighbor gave us!

Stovetec rocket stove

I'd like to be able to tell you "I only needed two sticks of wood to scramble our breakfast eggs," but the truth is that this first iteration of rocket-stove cookery was a learning experience.  What I mostly learned is that damp wood doesn't fly in rocket stoves --- I didn't really get the fire blazing until I tracked down the piece of kindling in the middle of the photo above, which had been sitting in our woodshed for a couple of years and was bone dry.  The sticks that have been drying on the porch for a week mostly smoldered instead of burning.

Perhaps because I only ended up using one dry piece of wood, the temperature in the skillet on top of the rocket stove never got warmer than what equates to about medium on our electric range.  That's fine for scrambling eggs, and would be great for things like soups, but for my next experiment I look forward to trying out the skirt that fits around a pot to increase the stove's efficiency by 25%.  I also want to get a more solid handle on exactly how much wood the rocket stove consumes, although I have to say that I'm already impressed in that regard.

Rocket stove on cinderblock

What was the biggest surprise about making breakfast on the rocket stove?  How much I enjoyed the fire therapy!  Usually, I get a little cranky during power outages due to internet deprivation, but a dose of fire first thing in the morning instead set me singing happily as I weeded the garden.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that our Cyberpower Battery Backup combined with my laptop battery means I can enjoy about an hour and a half of blogging time even while the grid is down.

In case you're curious, everything in the freezer stayed frozen during the outage, despite highs that nearly reached 90.  If the juice had stayed off for more than 24 hours, though, we would have topped off the cold with our generator.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Always great to read your blog Anna. I'm considering using a rocket stove in my place when I get it.

Comment by Terri Tue Aug 26 07:45:54 2014

You warm your house and are now cooking with wood. Do you ever notice the wood smoke smell on yourselves? Maybe when you venture out into the world. When we camp I don't notice the smell and even like it but the minute we are back home I can't stand the smell. Does your home smell of wood smoke? How about your food, does it ever change depending on what is burning?

Comment by Kathleen Tue Aug 26 15:17:51 2014
With the new hand generator, you might be able to keep blogging as long as you can convince Mark to keep cranking. :-)
Comment by Roland_Smith Tue Aug 26 16:31:19 2014
Rolands comment made me think of another idea. I'm sure Mark could rig something up to where a hamster running in a wheel could power that generator!. LOL
Comment by Emily from Bristol Tue Aug 26 17:55:24 2014
Kathleen --- I love the smell of wood smoke and never hit the point of wanting to wash it off. (Probably good I don't go out in public much.) In the winter, I do get a bit smoky when starting a fire now and then, but our efficient wood stove doesn't make smelly smoke otherwise and I never notice the scent lingering in the house or on food. The breeze carried the rocket stove smoke away from me and I don't think any got on me. Too bad....
Comment by anna Tue Aug 26 18:01:17 2014
I was cracking walnuts and got to wondering if the left over hulls and shells would make good rocket stove materials. What do you think? Do you do much with nuts out there?
Comment by Kathleen Fri Nov 21 22:13:53 2014
Kathleen --- Hazels are the only nut trees we've planted that are currently producing, and they just barely started this year. We do have lots of wild black walnuts, but I never quite talk myself into harvesting them in the fall --- their shells are just so darn hard to crack! I'll be curious to hear how they do as rocket stove materials if you give them a try.
Comment by anna Sun Nov 23 14:27:19 2014

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