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posted : 2010.Sep.23 @ 3.01am

Climbing the Mountain

I burned incense, swept the earth, and waited for a poem to come...
Then I laughed, and climbed the mountain, leaning on my staff.
How I'd love to be a master of the blue sky's art:
See how many sprigs of snow-white cloud
I've brushed in so far today.

- Yuan Mei

Gaiacraft Permaculture is about the way we create and maintain sustainable relationships. It is also about building templates that reflect not only paths of learning, but paths of teaching, not only examples of work done but also templates for doing that work. Here is a narrative tutorial
 illustrating how one might approach the development and recording of a two year Permaculture Diploma.

(photo : Jacob Aman)

Permaculture is a dynamic educational platform for inspiring awareness about the real implications of our actions on the extended ecosystem into which all life is interwoven. By recognizing the role and place of humans in the web of life we may better understand how to navigate through the 
transition that we are in as individuals, communities, cultures and civilizations. We can cultivate this earth consciousness in order to help stabalize the planetary ecology as it too seeks to transition back into a place of symbiotic balance with all living and non-living things.

(photo : Jacob Aman)

In Permaculture one takes a 72 hour or more Permaculture Design Certification then manages their own time for two years of integrated study. During this two years one records their activities as related to permaculture. This is what I started doing here.

Though the auspicious of permaculture legend Larry Santoyo and the Permaculture Institute USA, I am putting together this Diploma. Larry Santoyo suggested my work have some kind of web presence, so here I post it to share with anyone who is interested in doing a Diploma so they can see how I approached this creative task.

I dedicate this work to my dear mother who has inspired, supported and deepened my practice at every step of the way.

Although my permaculture work will take me all over the world, the focus of my Diploma is the Heart Gardens, an all ages education initiative in my little coastal rainforest mountain village. Special thanks to Don, Lorinda and Mark van Kleek for their amazing support over the years in creating and maintaining this community garden classroom space.

This diploma is centered around my work over a two year period in the Heart Gardens, a community demonstration site and living classroom intended to teach people about native plants, bioregional ecology, and ethnobotany as well as organic gardening, permaculture and sustainable development. The staple food and medicine plants of the First Peoples are a huge part of achieving any kind of food security or ecological conservation ethic. They are also teacher plants for the peoples of the land, with much to communicate to us. The gardens intention is to help conserve these key plants while educating people about them and promoting their use.

There are 250 species of food plants, 150 of which are staple food-medicine and tool plants of the Coastal First Peoples.

The gardens are linked up with all levels of local government (Community Association, Advisory Planning Committee, Official Community Plan Committee and Sunshine Coast Regional District). They are also linked with every community school in the district, the Alternative School, Waldorf School, Capilano University and School District 46. In addition the gardens have support from eco-education organizations throughout Cascadia. Besides hosting regular tours, classes, courses and workshops, the gardens promote eco-education in local media while stimulating dialogues about sustainable development and conservation between government bodies, educational groups and non-governmental organizations.

The main mandate of the gardens and my diploma is to facilitate educational experiences and develop media for people of all ages, educational backgrounds and geographical locations about permaculture and native plants.


Keeping track of all your work requires staying organized. I summarized my journals into seasonal reports, although you could choose to do monthly or even weekly entries to help you stay on track.

Autumn Equinox, September 21, 2010

It is a cold equinoxal day at Melliodora, the home of permaculture co-founder David Holmgren in Helpburn, Australia. Back at home its Autumn equinox but here it is actually Spring Equinox! I am here doing an advanced permaculture training with a focus on community resilience and disaster preparedness. Having just completed my Masters Degree work, I am now engaging my dream of getting a diploma through the Permaculture Institute USA. Out here on the land of one of the originators of permaculture, it seems appropriate for me to begin a two year journey into permaculture education. 

(Photo Camassia : Robyn Hume Photography)

(Painting from my dear and much loved grandmother Wynn Dennett)

Winter Solstice, September 21, 2010

Its a beautiful snow blanketed Winter Solstice and I just came in from watching the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse on the land where I am staying in upstate New York. This autumn was totally inspiring. I got to take the entire PDC course with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton at Trinity College in Melbourne, a deep adventure into learning. Following this was a week 'Up, Close and Personal' with Bill and Lisa Mollison,  a dream come true! I spent the rest of the autumn integrating my learning while I gardened in my little village on Mt. Elphinstone and beginning two new 15 month long permaculture design courses.

(photo :

Spring Equinox, September 21, 2011

It's day after the super full 'perigree moon' and the sun is shining in an open blue sky. Today I met with the new All Seasons Advanced Course group, 11 students who i will lead through an advanced curriculum and support them to all do 2 year diploma projects so they too can gain this valuable certification. It was a wonderful winter season in which I studied biodynamics and continued to settle into a regimen of teaching that includes 2 once a month PDC groups and 2 twice a month PDC groups in addition to the new Advanced Course. With Tamara who I met in Australia last November I have begun planning a 'Permaculture Pilgrimage' including a series of back to back advanced teacher trainings in Australia. I am very inspired about the spring to come. This year I have renewed my connection with photographer Robyn Hume who will help take some pictures of the heart gardens this year. The following Gummy Gooseberry was the first flower to bloom in the heart gardens only a week ago.

(photo : Robyn Hume)

Summer Solstice, June 21, 2011

Its a beautiful summer day, the sky is clear and I awake at dawn preparing to teach the soils unit in one of my PDC classes. Its been a whirlwind spring and amazing that summer has arrived again. I left my home this last season and am beginning to set up again in a 700 square foot suite in the heart of the heart gardens, feels like an appropriate place to anchor in my permaculture practice to a deeper degree. This season I taught my weekend course through Capilano University and the Dean came! I also started two new urban-rural 14 month PDC courses. With my friend Tamara who I met at Tagari Farm when I was with Bill Mollison last autumn, I have been co-organizing a planetary permaculture pilgrimage to take back to back teacher trainings from some of the greatest permaculture teachers in the movement. I am deeply grateful to have this diploma process to help anchor in my practice and look forward to meeting the legendary Larry Santoyo, who this diploma is being created through, at his teacher training in August. My goal is to become a sanctioned permaculture teacher of the Permaculture Institute USA, able to give out their certifications to my students if they would like a North American certificate. Traveling to Boston Bar, BC in the interior mountains I went to a festival and gave a multimedia presentation including permaculture content.


Permaculture is about education, during the two year Diploma process record any opportunities you have to teach, facilitate or participate in educational opportunities.

a. Elphinstone Permaculture Design Certification Course : November 1, 2010 

We gathered together at the Heart Gardens, six bright eyed students and I. Fitting into the Elfinhome, the permaculture education center I had set up at the Heart of the gardens, we explored the vastness of permaculture by looking at all the resources, media and books available therein. It was a gorgeous day so we proceeded to the micro-orchard where we all took 15 - 20 minutes each to tell our personal stories. It was touching to hear about the inspirations and challenges of 8 new students, all primed and excited about our 15 month long PDC course that would take us, amongst other places, to all their properties. After a lunch break we met again in the Yoga Studio on the top floor of a building above the Heart Gardens and I talked with the students at length about the course content, plans, logistics, assignments, readings and requirements. By the time our short 5 hours was up we were all extremely excited and full of ideas about how to proceed.

We met again at the Heart Gardens : December 7, 2010.

It was an inspiring day, my favorite class to facilitate, the introduction to permaculture. Travelling between crystal shop, yoga studio, forest, ocean and stream, we explored permaculture definitions, principles and design. Having told our life stories, we did a short summary to integrate two new people into the class, filling it at 8 people. Anchoring in some organization and whole system awareness about the course was a great benefit. I left the day feeling inspired and activated.

b. Vancouver-Elphinstone Permaculture Design Certification Course : November 2, 2010

The rain was falling hard when this day began, but the rain left in the morning to leave a clear but cold day. This group of ten students all travelled in from Vancouver to meet in the Heart Gardens. We will rotate between the Heart Gardens, Sustainable Living Arts School and an urban location in Vancouver each week.  

The day was spent moving between the Yoga studio, Crystal Shop, Dave's Greenhouse and a few locations in the local area. The day was full to the brim with information and curiosity, I am looking forward to seeing how things unfold. 

c. Edible Garden Tour : September 1, 2010

My intentions for the Heart Gardens has been to create a transparent educational space that can be used without my facilitation, as a self guided educational experience for people. I was joyed that when in Australia doing advanced permaculture trainings with David Holmgren, Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton that an edible garden tour happened featuring the Heart Gardens as a self-guided experience. 


e. Permaculture Design and Natural Gardening Micro-Course, October 23, 2010


I did some heart gardens outreach and taught a short 20 minute micro-course at Capilano University to a small group of adults. 

d. Capilano University Class : Organic Gardening, Composting and Native Plants - Permaculture Design, April 30 - May 1, 2011
It was a wonderful experience teaching this weekend continuing education course through Capilano University. Almost the students were over 60 and it was a special honor to have the Dean of Capilano University present for the class. We explored the permaculture ethos, definitions and principles along with mapping and design methods. We also toured the heart gardens and identified native plants, made a worm farm and biodynamic teas and talked extensively about soil.
e. Full Circle 2 Course : April 5, 2011
Since my co-teacher in the course is recovering from surgery instead of meeting at the Sustainable Living Arts School we met in the crystal shop at the heart of the Heart Gardens. Exploring Patterns, we toured the heart gardens, gumboot gardens and surrounding forest. Watching video, discussing readings and looking at natural patterns while we talked about them this was a profound class completing at the ocean with a panoramic view from the end of a long pier.
f. Urban-Rural PDC 3 : May 16, 2011
This awesome new group came out from Vancouver to being a new 14 month long, once a month PDC program. Starting in the elfinhome permaculture education center and meandering to different beautiful locations in the rainforest by Roberts Creek and the Ocean we told our life stories, and talked about the curriculum of the course to come.
g. Urban-Rural PDC 2 : May 23, 2011
It was time for another initiation of a new PDC group, this was mostly mirrored on what was done with the other class a week before. These classes are a week apart and will run in tadem. If someone from the PDC 3 group misses a class, then they can jump in on the PDC 2 group to make up that class.
h. Crystal and Spore Multimedia Presentation : Entheos Festival, Boston Bar, BC, Canada : June 19
Connecting with 5 other men and one woman, I helped co-curate a multimedia environment and performative presentation on three screens with digital sound scapes supporting me and my friend on the mic giving a talk about 'future culture'. I gave a talk about permaculture in concept and in action to a crowd of about 200 onlookers on the Saturday night at 11:11 pm of the small micro-festival.


Here is a list of courses that i have taken as part of my learning curriculum for this diploma project. The teachers of these courses have become the teaching staff for my diploma, and the classrooms I visited, the learning school grounds for my work.

a. Permaculture Principles and Planning Tools, Hepburn, VIC, Australia : Saturday 18th to Tuesday 21st September 2010 

Advanced Permaculture Principles and Planning Tools 4 day course with David Holmgren
This course is targeted at permaculture practitioners, designers, activists and teachers, Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) holders and other suitably experienced people, who are looking to deepen their understanding of permaculture and improve their conceptual skills and tool kit for design and action.

In this intensive course, David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept (with Bill Mollison), provides an insight into permaculture as a set of design principles for reshaping how we manage land, our lives and our livelihoods in a world of energy descent. Using a combination of free flowing lectures, visual presentations, case studies of his own work, structured group discussions, observations and a site design exercise, David breathes life into the design principles which link the diversity of permaculture solutions. The core of this course is the presentation and workshopping in groups of the format of design principles from Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability. Additional presentations and group work focus on Reading Landscape, Landscape Mapping, Energy Descent Scenarios and Community Mapping. This 4 day format allows participants to gain experience in using the design principles in an extended small group site design exercise. 

Rolling off the 30 hr journey I slept for 5 hours with a new friend in Melbourne who took me in and then made the drive up to Hepburn, a small town of 300 located a few hours from Melbourne. Together with a beautiful group of 20 others, we explored permaculture principles, reading landscape, community resilience, disaster preparedness and did much work imagining energy descent scenarios and how we as individuals and communities can respond if things turn sour down the road. 

Some of the classes took place at an elementary school a block from David and Sue's legendary permaculture property.


We ate our meals at David and Sue's hearth, eating all local organic food from the land or down the road. The integrated permaculture homestead reflecting the deepest level of permaculture ethos and sustainable lifestyle. Here I learned what it truly means to live permaculture.  

I got a bit of one on one time with David and partook in delightful wisdom teachings from one of my most respected teachers.

b. Permaculture Design Course, Trinity College, Melbourne 

Gathering with almost 100 in a classroom environment at the Seminary School of Melbourne University was a fascinating experience. An incredible combination of wisdom stories from Bill Mollison, fast paced, high energy, on point lectures from Geoff Lawton and well crafted teachings from Greg Knibbs. Going through the entire curriculum in less than two weeks was astounding! I also comprehensively reread the entire designers manual during this time as well as integrating my learning into my teaching notes for the 14 month PDC's that I teach. This course surpased by dreams of how amazing it would be.  

I got only a small amount of one on one time with Geoff Lawton and would love to take his teacher training in November 2011. If anyone out there wants to help fund me, I would be deeply grateful. I believe this trip is a key part of my evolution as a Permaculture Teacher and an essential part of my path.  

It was a life changing course and a transformative meeting with Bill and Lisa Mollison.  

c. Up, Close and Personal with Bill Mollison and Lisa Mollison

The small plane to a little town in Tasmania started a grand adventure. Spending 5 days on the famous Tagari Farm with Bill and Lisa was absolutely incredible. The farm is less than a decade under Bill's care but still reflects an amazing design intelligence.  

(photo spread : Nick Mann) 

I had some great one on one time with my hero and ultimately loved and respected teacher, Bill Mollison.



Waking up with the sun I got to live the farm life.

(photo : Nick Mann) 

I learned alot about Australian permaculture, woke up at dawn to feed all the animals and made many new friends.

Here is Bill's dog. 

Here is Lisa's Horse. 

Here is the black pig. 

(photo set : Nick Mann) 

It was awesome to be with Jeff Knibbs and Bill exploring the local area of Stanley.

Inspired by meeting Pepo Dibbs and Tamara Griffiths, I gained a whole new respect and understanding of the permaculture pratice.


d. Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage

Working with Tamara Griffiths who I met at Tagari last Autumn, I am co-organizing a global pilgrimage to Australia for back to back teacher trainings in November. Here is the media platform.


4.0 Core Diploma Project : Diploma Course Creation and Facilitation

A diploma course is essential two years of applied work in the field of permaculture which is documented and summarized in a thesis at the end of the work. The USA, UK and Australian systems currently in place do not require registering yourself until the completion of your diploma work when you hand in a package that includes some or all of the following items : a thesis, letters of support, an illustrated journal of your work, a letter of intention for the future and a permaculture CV. Often people's diploma's center around a major project like a map, a design implimentation, creating a course curriculum, media development, an event production, the writing of a book or creation of a website or any manner of relevant permaculture activity. In my investigation of missing links in permaculture education that I did during my masters degree, I discovered that many people are not doing diploma's because there is not enough support for them to do so. This course will allow me to explore the potentials of designing an Advanced Permaculture Design course and helping support them to do a two year Diploma Project. Thus my Diploma will partly be done by helping 11 other advanced permaculture students to get their diplomas.

All Seasons : Advanced Permaculture Diploma Course

Spring Equinox : March 20, 2011

For year one we are working through three books, two locally written and oen from the fabled Bill Mollison.


The Zero-Mile Diet : A year-round guide to growing organic food - Carolyn Herriot

Plant Technology of First Peoples in British Columbia - Nancy Turner

Permaculture 2 : Bill Mollison

The main projects for the course are an in depth two year mapping-design process and the creation of a diploma folio based on projects done in the course. We meet once a season formally and there is a second optional 'permaculture social' every season as well.


Our first meeting took place at the Rolling Earth. We gathered to tell our stories, and explore the curriculum and projects for the course which include map folio, design folio, journals, activated calendar and daytimer, four season harvest gardening, as well as creating a teaching tool, facilitating our group, helping create a media event for the local community and doing a two year diploma process. There are only four core meetings a year over 10 seasons, but there are also four 'permaculture socials' a year. We have a wonderful and diverse group of advanced permaculture teachers and learners and we are off to a great start!

A Growing Affair : May 7, 2011

As the seasonal offering for All Seasons I am also offering an optional 'Permaculture Social' which is open to people from all classes past and present. There were representatives from 4 of the six classes. We went to the UBC perrenial garden sale, the biggest of the year and walked through the extensive UBC botanical gardens. To complete the day we did the canopy walk on metal boardwalks through the treetops.

Second Class : Country Haven, Wilson Creek : june 26, 2011

It was a beautiful blue summer day and we met at a permaculture farm in Wilson Creek, a small town on the Sunshine Coast. An inspiring tour of the land reviewing permaculture principles from an advanced perspective we did a live design for part of the land including hugel kultur and contour swaling. Our cob oven pizza lunch was fantastic and followed by a glimpse at the new permaculture movie 'The Growing Edge'. The afternoon was spent at different locations on the farm talking about everyone's map and design projects, then their diploma. Seeds were given out and calendars reactivated along with cards and photos given out to demonstrate new media developments.


Creating supporting media for your permaculture work, along with participating in the local and global media is also a key part of permaculture. This creates a legacy of your work and enables it to be shared with others. 

(photo : Jacob Aman)  

a. new map

A new Heart Gardens map is being created. My much loved and appreciated roommate Mark Lee has created a magical map of the Heart Gardens for the new version of the map. I have also updated the plant lists which allow people to locate the different plants there. Sijay one of my closest friends and inspired design ally will do the whole system design and layout of the new map.

Here is Mark's map! 

b. Full sized map.  

Here is the first full version of the new Heart Map. It is attached in small peaces for readability. This map was printed by the Regional District Government and is being both given away freely in the Elfinhome and displayed on the front of the Post Office.






Three months later had this map redesigned. Here is what the new redesigned map looks like.

c. Map Installation

I had a large version of this map designed for a custom made wood display area on the front side of the Post Office in the center of the Heart Gardens. This is intended to be more visible for the community who might not go into the Elfinhome eco-education center to see it. 

here is the picture of the upgraded map.

b. Heart Book

With Robyn Hume, a talented local photographer beginning to take macro shots of the flowers and fruit of the Food-Medicine plants of the Coastal First Peoples, I am now turning my attention to creating an integrated map book of the Heart Gardens.

This guidebook includes the map and a garden list. Here one can find a sun microsector map showing the total sun light, and when that sun comes, for each garden each month of the year. This is just being started now and will be completed over the course of the Diploma. Also in the Heart Book is a full plant list of all plants in all the gardens and some ethnobotanical listings of the functions and characteristics of those plants. Finally is a wanted plant list, and a place to write ideas for future maps and educational media.

c. Sunstream Article

I collaborated with students from my two previous permaculture design courses to make an article for a local magazine on permaculture education. This was never printed but now I am printing and laminating a copy for the Elfinhome.

e. Gaiacraft institute seed media 

Taking a few days with Jacob Aman was an inspiring and tranformational experience. Together we are visioning a new global permaculture education platform. 

Here is a bit of seed media that was designed by Jacob Aman. It features pictures from the Heart Gardens and is the seed for an online permaculture institute which will include Heart Gardens content. 


f. Gaiafolio 

Here is a sample from an initiative to create a global online Gaiacraft Institute. It is my dearest hope that I can begin a doctoral project about Permaculture Education and Media that is centered around my work creating this online institute with Jacob Aman and a team of other people. In this case I will stop working on this second diploma and come back to it in 5 years when the doctorate is completed. 

f. Newspaper Article

The Heart Gardens got mentioned in this article in the local newspaper illustrating how the Heart Gardens now has a life of its own in the community media. 


It's important to keep track of any changes and developments in your gardens, or the land on which your practical permaculture work takes place. Make sure to have a plant listing and add to it when new species get added or old ones dissapear. 

Here is the new site plan that I consulted on and features many new gardens and trees I will instal over coming years. 

a. new species added

These are all native plants with a long history of use by Coastal First Peoples

Autumn 2010

Black Hawthorn - Crataegus Douglasii
Columbine - Aquilegia Formosa
Hardhack - Spiraea Douglasii
Pearly Everlasting - Anaphalis Margariacea
White Rhododendron - Rhodondendron Albiflorum
Meadowsweet - Spiraea Splendens var. Splendens
Alumroot - Heuchera Micrantha

b. new garden areas added

Autumn 2010

Berry Way : This area of blackberries was always a place for garbage and dog poo. I simply cut the blackberries down to the ground, covered in cardboard and covered this with woodchips from the woodworking school. On top of this I temporarily put the small trees in pots that I will plant later in the year on different parts of the property.

Berry Way (native trees) : Vine Maple, Rocky Mountain Maple, Common Juniper, Pacific Ninebark, Crap Apple, Rocky Mountain Juniper 

Nature's Medicine Bed : This area of lawn was never doing very well. I put a layer of cardboard over the lawn and some certified organic soil and over night this ragged lawn was transformed into a medicine garden dedicated to the mid-wives who have their center in the building this is next to. They are happy to have more privacy now as well as more plants to use in their practice.

This spring I was in great transition and without a home for two months. I gave up my plant budget this spring and instead ordered $800 worth of high quality organic black soil made from worm compost and fish to top all the beds with. I also began a process of replacing all the treated wood that lines with the gardens with good untreated cedar.

d. Elfinhome

After the major construction we have now repainted and reset the small permaculture education center that stays open every day in the heart of the gardens. This all ages eco-education center is open daily and unstaffed so locals and visitors can explore the resources in their own way. 

Here is me while another person browses.

There are two shelves, this first is for free media from local green organizations.

This includes a seed bank which invites people to take seed for free.

The second set of shelves has in house resources, books and videos that people can use in and around the center. This includes a Permaculture Designers Manual, Gaia's Garden and some Native Plants of BC books.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District has printed the Heart Maps, one for adults and one for younger kids.

Here is the old Heart Map up on the outside of the Elfinhome.

Here is a new picture of the heart gardens after it has been cleaned up and upgraded with new media and signage.

c. non profit updates

I was happy to have a local organization, The One Straw Society sponsor my application for non-profit status. Having completed the package for non-profit application then having it rejected for something technical to do with how it was signed by the Board of Directors and another legalese mistake. I am now in the process of having the papers remade and resigned.

Here is the basics of what I am setting up.


1. The name of the society is the Heart Gardens Society

2. The purposes of the society are:

a) Dedicated to community eco-education promoting knowledge about
native plants, permaculture, green mapping, organic gardening and sustainable development

b) To organize community eco-educational workshops, presentations, conferences and events

c) To purchase or subsidize the purchase of native plants for publicly accessible community garden projects

d) To purchase or subsidize the purchase of sustainable technology for
installation in publicly accessible community garden projects

e) To print media to be given away freely to educate the local community
about native plants, permaculture, green mapping, organic gardening and
sustainable development

f) To link up with and support other like minded groups and societies

3. The purposes of the society shall be carried out without purpose of
financial gain for its members and any profits or other accretions to
the society shall be used for fulfilling
its purposes.

4. On the winding up or dissolution of the society, funds or assets
remaining after all debts have been paid shall be transferred to a
society or charitable institution similar to those of this society or,
if this cannot be done, to another charitable institution recognized by
Canada Revenue Agency as qualified under the provisions of the Income
Tax Act of Canada.

5. Paragraphs 3 and 4 and 5 of this constitution are unalterable in accordance with the Society


Kind gratitude for reading this far in my Diploma Process. I will update seasonally for another 5 seasons.

If you have not taken a Permaculture Design Course I recommend you consider doing so. Those who have their PDC could take the time to do their own two year diploma. It's as easy as just recording whatever you are doing that relates to applied permaculture for two years after completing your course. You could start today!

Anyone wanting to support me to take a Teacher Training (I would be so grateful to take an advanced teacher training course at Esalen in May and a key one back in Australia in November), or be a part of funding the Global Online Institute please contact me at



The clouds above us join & separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves & returns
Life is like that so why not relax?

Who can stop us from celebrating?  

- Lu Yu

posted : 2010.Dec.25 @ 7.11am
i started over this august ! full upgrade now in place


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