Smokeless bamboo charcoal making

With the help of my good friend Ray Eshelby we built a smokeless charcoal retort from up-cycled materials and it works perfectly – we use wood from the garden as fuel in the outer chamber and pack the inner chamber with bamboo pieces, light it from the top and then put the lid with the chimney on top.

The wood gases are being burnt off inside for extra efficiency and only a heat flare is visible, there is no smoke whatsoever after closing it. It burns for a few hours and the huge amount of heat can also be used, for example for cooking, frying or boiling water for purification.

I am hugely excited about this success, since bamboo charcoal has superior qualities and a wide range of practical applications such as soil enhancement, filters, and fuel, just to name a few.

Simple bamboo instruments

Crafted at home in Liverpool with simple hand tools from bamboo I harvested in private gardens in South Africa and  Germany, and some bamboo I ordered online in UK:

Eco whistle


Eco kazoo


Transverse flute embouchure hole trial


Guiro flute case


Pentatonic recorder




Unfinished panpipe/xylophone


Mobile phone stand/amplifier


Short demonstrations here:

Thanks to Bananas Media for photos and video  🙂

Bamboo babies in UK and Germany

In early July last year I ordered 3 Moso seedlings (Phyllostachys edulis – a giant timber bamboo) on ebay Germany and had them sent to my parents who lovingly potted them up and looked after them.

Moso August 2017 Germany

One of them I took to Liverpool in my hand luggage, and the other two were moved into my parent’s conservatory in autumn – to receive great interest from a little visitor who managed to sneak in unnoticed:

German field mouse
German field mouse

Unfortunately the liking was to such extreme that she completely devoured one of the bamboos and badly ‘pruned’ the other – to then have a nap in the sun-warmed pot!

Digestive nap after eating the whole bamboo plant

Luckily the survivor recovered with plenty of TLC by my parents and is currently doing very well on the warm and sunny window sill in their lounge.

Moso recovered October 2017,  including a new shoot of hope – thanks for caring and the great pics dad!

The Moso I carried in my hand luggage survived the trauma of the journey to England with no signs of damage:

Moso baby arrived in Liverpool

I keep moving it around the room during the day for maximum sun exposure, and beginning of October a beautiful new shoot emerged:

New shoot 6th October 2017
New shoot 6th October 2017

I decided to give it a bit more space so now it is living in a discarded colander suspended in a bucket:

Moso in bucket October 2017
October 2017

At the end of February, I got news from Germany that a new shoot emerged, and the plant in UK also produced this beautiful new sight over the last couple of weeks:

New shoot 12th February 2018
New Moso shoot 12th February 2018

New moso baby shoot 23rd February 2018
23rd February 2018

Of course the new shoots still have a very small diameter, and growth is very slow compared to the species I planted in South Africa, but they are equally enchanting:

Moso shoot 23rd February
23rd February

One day they will be big and strong enough to be planted out, I yet have to find a suitable location – Moso is a hardy bamboo native to China and Taiwan and can survive temperatures down to minus 17 degrees celsius, but it likes a long, hot summer with plenty of rainfall to grow to it’s full size. In Europe it is now being commercially farmed in Southern Italy, and I would love to see how it will do in the area I grew up in. Aschaffenburg has the nickname “Bayrisches Nizza” (Bavarian Nice)  for it’s mild climate, and in the right spot with the right care I believe Moso could do well.

Starting small – bamboo whistles

As a musician, of course I can’t wait to make musical instruments from bamboo, and once you start looking into it you’ll find the most amazing bamboo music all over the world, including percussion, wind and even string instruments.

As I said, I am starting small, so here are two of the tiny bamboo whistles I crafted – I made about a dozen already but gave most of them away as presents.

bamboo whistle


Is there any smaller ‘musical instrument’ than this?

As small as they are, these whistles produce a surprising volume and apart from looking and feeling much better than plastic whistles, they are also much more durable and completely biodegradable – instead of glue I used resin from a pine tree to fix the plug and then I sealed the mouth piece with bees wax, which looks pretty and feels lovely on the lips.

So, technically speaking, these are 100% eco-whistles!

Welcome to my blog!

A few years ago I deeply fell in love with bamboo for its

  • beautiful sight, sound and touch
  • infinite creative potential
  • fast and sustainable growth
  • strength and flexibility
  • regenerative power
  • socio-economic value
  • philosophy

and since then have been investing most of my spare time into online research,  developing a growing vision of sustainable livelihoods and raising funds working as a freelance musician/tutor/composer/musical director in UK.

In August 2015 my vision started to become reality when I planted 64 bamboo seedlings on a piece of land in the subtropical coastal climate of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

In this blog I will share my experiments, experiences, successes and failures for you all to enjoy at your leisure.

I am also sharing the most fascinating and valuable bamboo facts and knowledge I came across during my online research on Facebook, stay tuned by liking my page and joining the group @BambooWoman.