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posted : 2007.Sep.05 @ 9.50pm

summer cool--
the gate to Buddha's
Pure Land

~ Issa

permaculture education and garden design:
from wild land to polyfunctional permaculture space in 20 hrs

1.0 permaculture paradigms : foundational mapping and design

one of the countless pod outreach units
appeared again in the fabled elphinstone rainforest
on the north wet coast of Cascadia

visioning a workshop template
for permaculture education-in-action
this is a virtual record of a remixable model
for introducing basic permaculture concepts
in the context of creating a community permaculture education demo site

included here is glimpses at the whole process
including all the facilitation notes
so you could use this as a starting point for a workshop in your own area

first the call was sounded

a group of 13 gathered
on the Edible Landscapes
of the Sustainable Living Arts School Grounds
to offer themselves to the task,
creating a lineage learning community
of people and plants, animals and insects
in a more-than-human world

so many thanks to Robin Wheeler for making this splendor possible
and props to natalie for helping with the photos


introduction : facilitator

introduction : participants
- who you are
- where you are from
- any permaculture projects you have been a part of
- permaculture experience
- why you came to the class
- what practical skills you have (eg. gardening, landscaping, woodworking, artist, sign making, graphic design, website building)

introduction : the land :
sustainable living arts school : vision statement

We wish to close the gap between those with particular skills in the sustainable arts and those wishing to hone their abilities, by providing learning opportunities, existing landscape samples, and time for networking.

The Sustainable Living Arts School will assist learners to be better equipped to deal with changes (both chosen and those that may be thrust upon them) in their lives and environment, that they may be confident in living a healthy and happy life within the restrictions of what the planet can actually offer, and capable of creating a new standard of normalcy within their own communities.

site logistics :
- staying on the paths : moving slowly with great intention
- composting toilet or indoor bathroom go there?
- go to the bathroom whenever you wish

and a quick visit to the nearby composting toilet
next to a bus converted into a living space

class tech :
- importance of notes (application back to your world : take notes on everything including your own ideas, to do lists, things to remember etc)
- focus (keep dialogues relevant)
- active listening
- everything is optional
- the wash of information - let it wash over you : this is an introduction : you are not meant to memorize everything that is said

- i will give a short talk about the history and definitions of permaculture
- then we will talk about basic permaculture ethics and principles
- we will then begin a series of green mapping and experiential design activities
broken up with directed discussions and 'drops' or short talks

observation meditation

sitting or walking zazen : open eye


we go to outdoor classroom

permie introduction

brief history of permaculture
Uncle Bill
old school and new school permaculture

definitions :

Delvish definition : in 3 dimensions : increasing complexity each time

Permaculture is about creating and maintaining relationships. Developing healthy communities, permaculture people live by sharing resources and supporting each other. It begins with all the plants and animals, buildings and resources that can be found in and around your home. Permaculture is a continuing process exploring the ways in which you can fulfill the needs of the things around you while having your own needs met.

Permaculture is a process of growing awareness. Linking people with plants, permaculture promotes conscious living, sustainable development and resource conservation. It is a response to the industrial urbanization of the Earth and resulting toxification of the biosphere. The permaculture path opens dialogues about finding creative solutions for problems in the present.

Permaculture consciousness delves into the deep spirit of the space, enhancing our ability to work with the maps and travel across the worlds. It looks towards saving energy, conserving resources and forming long-term interdependent relationships with whole communities of living things. Permaculture develops applied understandings of the subtle implications and felt impacts of our actions on the world around us. This whole system design perspective can help us to streamline the way we plan the course of human development.

Dan Hemenway

Permaculture seeks to design sustainable lifestyles based on conditions unique to each place and designed according to the same principles by which nature integrates other species into her ecosystems. While permaculture obtains its design principles through careful study and search for comparable principles in nature, permaculture strategies are based on the realities of the 20th century.

Bill Mollison

Permaculture. A copyright word, owned as a common copyright by the Permaculture Institutes & their graduates. Derived from ‘Permanent’ and ‘Culture’, as follows:

Permanent: From the Latin permanens, to remain to the end, to persist throughout (per = through, manere = to continue)

Culture: From the Latin cultura - cultivation of land, or the intellect. Now generalized to mean all those habits, beliefs, or activities than sustain human societies.

Thus, Permaculture is the study of the design of those sustainable or enduring systems that support human society, both agricultural & intellectual, traditional & scientific, architectural, financial & legal. It is the study of integrated systems, for the purpose of better design & application of such systems.

and another gem from the master:

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.

Patricia DuBose Michael

Permaculture is the harmonious integration of people into the landscape in such a way that the land grows in richness & aesthetic beauty.

Graham Bell

Permaculture is a way of life which shows us how to make the most of our resources by minimizing waste and maximizing potential. Living ecologically doesn't mean giving everything up, but relearning the value of nature & understanding new ways of being wealthy...Conscious design of a lifestyle which is highly productive and does not cause environmental damage.....Meeting our basic needs & still leaving the earth richer than we found it.

permaculture ethics :

talking about each ethic and brainstorming as a group what might be some examples of applications of that ethic

earth care : whole system

people care : building sustainable human communities

fair share : generating surplus and sharing it with all living things

transitional ethic : its sometimes ok to use unsustainable means to transition into a sustainable system
truly our world is in transition
we are surrounded by unsustainable technologies and materials
often this is inescapable
the permaculture movement supports all transitions towards sustainability
in an environment of non-judgement
(eg. if you have an old can of non-eco paint, would it be better to use the paint or throw it out and purchase eco-paint?
if there is only one of you and you are clearing a tract of grasslands to put in permie gardens, do you use the gas weedeater
sitting in the shed or cut it all down by hand with shears?)

3 jewels of permaculture


notice how the course models this on a microscale
and note that this would happen ideally over at least two years

one year to observe the full seasonal spread of growth patterns, sun, shade, frost etc
deeply mapping the design site during this time (all existing elements, geography, plant and animal id etc etc)

half a year to integrate these observations into a deep understanding of the elements
and the relationship between the different elements
and creating a series of designs based on wants, needs, existing elements and functions

finally beginning to apply the design
slowly and starting at the beginning
over the time that follows

permaculture principles :

use dimensional map
with a homemade blackboard as the surface
a hat to create a little elevation
and a number of cut out cards displaying some elements
commonly found in a permaculture system

for those that have done this before
try to think about how these principles may apply to your home design
or perhaps on your personal presence in this course

together as a group we create a preliminary design

each question is asked to the group who moves the element cards to illustrate examples of this
then we talk about each design principle that relates to the answer to each leading question

do any of the elements play more than one function?
(multiple functions)
is there any elements that can share the same physical space?
(space sharing - intensive systems)
do any of the elements play complimentary functions so they work better in the same space?
(symbiotic systems : guilds)
are any of the elements put somewhere because of their distance from another element?
(relative location)
are there any situations where different elements play the same function?
(each function supported by many elements)
is there a way we can make our design more energy efficient?
(energy efficient planning)
is there a way we can catch and store energy?
(catch and store energy)

how might we recycle or reuse energy in our design system?
(energy, nutrient and resource cycling)
is there any way our system can generate more than we need of some product?
(generate surplus)
if this were a design on raw land, where would we start our application process?
(start small and simple at your doorstep)
what is the benefit of having many edges between different elements in our system?
(increase edge)
is there a way we can reduce our waste?
(produce no waste + use biological resources)

then a few principles which are just discussed to save time
and because they dont work so well with the map model

design from nature : observing conditions for plants or structures
: eg see how things work in nature then model it
use small and slow solutions : these have the least impact on the environment
: eg. mulching instead of mass digging
creatively respond to change : every situation is different
: dont try to use the same solutions to different problems
increase diversity : untold benefits of a strong web of life :
diverse selection of life in our rainforest will be more secure
the problem is the solution : every problem is actually a solution for another problem
: water hyacinth story see pod drop see pond area of pod drop.
work with nature instead of against it nature produces no waste and works harmonically
: eg. good soil encourages plant growth plant something there dont just weed it clean
make the least change for the greatest possible effect : lower your impact
makes sense doesn't it?
everything gardens : the garden is a metaphor for any system of relationships

: 10 minute break : (you bet)


whole system intro

in line with SLAS experiential and practical guidelines
we will do our introduction to permaculture concepts and techniques
by building a lineage education site on the property

the idea is that this have a number of qualities we will explore throughout our learning experience
to help learn about permaculture and to teach others about it

explicitly educational with signs
easy to move around on
controlled weeds

we will now continue with our observation phase
think about design
what is already there
might might be nice there in relation to our permaculture principles
and own visions
while we begin to clear and prepare the land

land crew : 30 minutes
(12 of us rocked this out)

this will be a key beginning

clearing the land
using all the hand tools we have available cut down grass and blackberries
pile up into 3 piles (grass/weeds + brambles + wood)

notice the plants
look for patterns and relationships between plants and each other
notice where plants are located and how that might reflect on their needs

look around and check out elements and features that might influence patterns of sun, shade and wind

map crew: 30 minutes
3-4 people who are either good at drawing or who don't want to work on the land
(2 people teched this out)

do a map of the land as it is
including the immediate surrounding area

including trees and shrubs and existing functional plants which we will leave in

the land was once cleared and has a few trees on it
we take a few minutes to observe the task at hand

there is a dead apple tree
and a bunch of grass and blackberries to take out by hand

our multigenerational group all comes together
to lovingly prepare the land for development
so far no soil is disturbed
and everything cut down is saved for use in the design

we take one half hour to prepare the land

slowly but surely we begin to transform the space...

even the dog 'gaia' is helping out!

we are in the clear!

we now have a pile of grass

a dead tree

and a pile of brambles

along with our pile of mulched plants from the property

and some recycled cardboard (along with a pile of old plastic we dug up!)

and a permaculture classroom to be

here is a map of the space before we design it

: 10 minute break : (we deserve it)

green mapping

: a way to create awareness of the nature and natural spaces
: a popular development in communities and cities : demonstrates eco-consciousness
: may help to show community gardens, farms, parks, beaches and forests
could even include green businesses, ecology centers, farmers markets etc etc

essential elements on a map

includes all elements present on the property
eg. contours, plants, rocks, trees, dirt, any already existing things...etc

room to write plant names on it
room for notes

we had the land steward
and amazing facilitator of the Sustainable Living Arts School
Robin Wheeler
come to talk to us about the history of the land
and identify the existing trees, shrubs and herbs already located in our design site

thanks to our mapping crew we now have some preliminary maps:

mary went home and translated the design space map
into digital format


drawn onto the dimensional map chalkboard
and elements are moved accordingly to illustrate

zone mapping : charting the property based on the amount of energy use and requirements

you can zone each small micro-area
or larger areas as a whole
for the purposes of this simplicity we will map the property as a whole

* ZONE 0 — The house, or home centre.
TIME : where most time is spent
USE : super intensive
CONTENTS : bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, office, family room
FUNCTIONS: provide a warm, safe, healthy living environment
*urban Zone 0: Home.

* ZONE 1 — Doorstep
TIME : visited everyday
USE : intensive
CONTENTS : salad crops, herb plants, soft fruit like strawberries or raspberries, greenhouse and cold frames, propagation area, worm compost bin for kitchen waste, bird feeder, workshop
FUNCTIONS : extension of the house living space, provide food, create microclimates to help house
* urban Zone 1: Walking distance ("pedosphere").

* ZONE 2 — Yard
TIME: visited almost everyday
USE: semi-intensive
CONTENTS: perrenial gardens, barn, larger greenhouses, larger composts, shop, wood storage, small orchard, pond, chicken coop, beehives
FUNCTIONS: home food, market products, plant propigation, storage
* urban Zone 2: Bicycling distance ("cyclosphere").

* ZONE 3 — Farm Zone
TIME : visited every couple days : sometimes more and sometimes less
USE : sem-frequent
CONTENTS : main perrenial crops, large orchard, fields for grazing animals like cows and goats
FUNCTIONS : cashcrops, pasture, non-timber forest products
* urban Zone 3: Reachable by public transportation or by a short drive.

* ZONE 4 — Semi-Wild Woodland
TIME : visited weekly
USE : infrequent
CONTENTS : managed woodland, tree crops, larger animal graze, habitat for animals
FUNCTIONS: foraging, wildcrafting, firewood collection, selective logging
* urban Zone 4: Driving distance.

* ZONE 5 — Wild Conservation Land
TIME : visited weekly or even monthly
USE : very infrequent
CONTENTS : completely wild land
FUNCTIONS : conservation of habitat, observational learning
* urban Zone 5: Reachable only by plane or other long-distance transport.


draw on chalkboard

charting flows of energy coming from outside the property

east to west
summer sun comes from south and hits 280 degrees almost
winter sun comes from south but is way lower so only hits about 120 degrees

cold wind from the north
warm ocean breeze from ocean
windbreaks (from trees, hedge or building)

people movement
paths, trails, driveway, roads etc

is there unwanted noise coming from anywhere

fire sector is area in danger of forest fire approach

running water

* urban
crime, noise
direction to key stores and services, schools, city farms, parks

and any other energies flowing into the property from outside...

design breakout groups

3 break out groups for design ideas (15 minutes)
4 people per group

before you go draw a quick ruff sketch of the land
come back with visual representations of a design models

remember to make it :

explicitly educational with signs
easy to move around on
controlled weeds

this must include
- paths
- at least one large garden bed
- a small sitting area for 4 people to sit comfortably

- have reasons why you choose new elements or designed it the way you did
- think about what functions already existing elements might play
- remember the permaculture principles we have already discussed
- designate at least one note taker and at least one design drawer

anything goes : though remember we have to apply this ourselves with minimal budget

each group splits off and begins a design process
created to think about the permaculture principles
an imbed the concepts of the day into another dimension

we return and each group shares what their designs were

together we recognize common elements
and talk about designs aspects that we liked

just as we finish the rains come...

and thus we come to the end of chapter 1
5 hrs and a quarter of the way into our educational design application

posted : 2007.Sep.08 @ 8.45pm
The day is fresh and cool,
Staff in hand I walk through the gate.
Wisteria and ivy grow together along the winding mountain path;
Birds sing quietly in their nests
As I reach a high peak a village appears in the distance.
The old pines are full of poems;
I bend down for a drink of pure spring water.
There is a gentle breeze as
I pretend to be a crane softly floating among the clouds..

- ryokan

2.0 permaculture possibilities : from design to application

once again we gathered at a group
this time for a two and a quarter hour class
on the first day of
a permaculture weekend of all different classes by different teachers

we were primed to complete our initial design
and do some application
once again we had 13 participants

this time i got some photo support from jorge (bows)

and once again many thanks to Robin Wheeler
and the Sustainable Living Arts School once again

starting in the outdoor classroom
we took a while to do a new introduction
since there were some fresh faces

including a review of what had happened in the last class
as well as the permaculture ethics, jewels and principles


we then did a final 10 minutes of observation
while doing a bit more clearing and detailing of the land
with our hands and hand tools


next we returned to our outdoor classroom
to review our design process in the last class
and finalize our plan to put in paths and a large hugel bed
and our previous design dialogue

we came up with a practical path plan
that created a sun
with the paths as rays going to the three entrances and exits
with a fourth weaving into a secret location (keywhole? nature art installation?)



we talk about the efficiency of using cardboard

alternative mulches: straw, wood chips, leaves, newspaper etc.

living mulches : groundcovers or shrubs with quick producing, high volume and high nutrient green matter like leaves and stems

sheet mulches : use layers of pee, compost, hay and newspaper in addition to cardboard

functions of mulch: ask class
prevent weeds from growing
draw up worms
decompose to make rich soil
prevent evaporation (hold water)
keep roots warmer in the winter by holding heat
keep roots cooler in the summer by insulating against direct sunheat

we also talked about
the classic organic growers dirt dialogue
we did not want to have to bring non-organic dirt in to build the beds
but we talked about how it was easier and had a lower impact on the delicate soil ecology
to do no dig gardening

we decided to dig out the paths a couple inches to recover some soil

now we returned to the design site closeby
and divided into application crews

path crew :

mark out path area
cut out chunks of grass with cutter and shovels (but don't disturb the soil too much beneath)
shake the grass out into designated soil saving area
pile grass upside downf in a pile
cover the area with two layers of card board
finish with the bark mulch

classroom crew :

mark central circular area
dig out the grass (but dont disturb the soil too much beneath)
shake the grass out into designated soil saving area
pile grass upside down in a pile
cover the area with two layers of card board
finish with the bark mulch

map crew :

make a design sketch then good copy of the design plan

together, a multigenerational group of plant people, got a huge amount accomplished
in the 45 minutes that remained in our class

first we cut out the paths and sitting area

then we dug two inches of soil out of the pathway space

next we covered it with cardboard

and coverd it with 2-3 inches of bark mulch
(these paths will keep the weeds back quite well
but will need to be remade every 2 years or so
as both the cardboard and the bark mulch eventually turns to soil)

another ray in production

tired but happy
we quit for the day

uber thanks for the inner circle crew
who came before and stayed after to help rock the tech

thus ends chapter 2
and now we are just over 7 hrs into our introductory class
and educational site creation process

pod collective is indeed the unmitigated intelligence
for sharing, learning, teaching and evolving the ness
infinite props to Air and Phong

posted : 2007.Sep.12 @ 11.02am
a third thought from our friendly
ancient mountain recluse nature poet

My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
No news of the affairs of men,
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe;
When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report my friends.
If you want to find the meaning,
stop chasing after so many things.

- ryokan

1.0 permaculture paradigms : from application to implication

welcome once again
as we gather in this learning community

together we continue to build a living classroom for permaculture education
many thanks to mary and corinna for helping with the photos


review :
permaculture definitions, ethics, jewels and principles
modeled a design process : observing, making many designs, forming one design, starting at the beginning
sheet mulching and pathway creation

focus :
after having experienced the joys and challenges of a large group design process
today we will focus on the application process
bed building, planting and sign creation

relating the material :
think more today about how these techniques and design processes
can apply to your own life and land projects

i want to tackle a heroic amount of stuff
will do this by creating teams and doing organized work
broken up by regrouping with short informational interludes


plant dialogue

companion planting : when two plants play complimentary roles
guilds : when a group of plants play complimentary roles
layering : when plants can share space
succession : when plants with different growth seasons are planted together

evaluation :
soil needs
sun needs
water needs

plant identification

Robin takes us to her onsite nursery
and we learn about a few new plants and their functions

sign education

dimensional and self directed education through signage
importance to have accessible and clear information to educate those passing through

we give our garden classroom many names
one is 'elfinhome'


we talk about it as we do it
intention is to use up wood, brambles and other materials that break down at a slower rate
than materials you would normally put in the compost
can also provide a living environment for you to put normal compost too,
instead of waiting for it to break down into soil before using it

we start with a few piles of things left over from clearing the space : wood, brambles, rotting vegetation and dirt

first we put down cardboard

then some old rotting wood
which will hold water and make the bed a xeriscape habitat

then a bunch of blackberry brambles we cut down

a big mound of blackberries

we then added a layer of partially composted and rotted vegitation
this will generate heat for the fall and winter of the garden
creating a kinder microclimate for the plants first cold season

since we have so much wood mulch, we decided to put a layer of this on top
to fill in the spaces in the brambles

we covered the bed with this wood mulch too!

onto this went dirt from our paths


taking a short break we talked about planting

we want to make the transition as effortless as possible
prep the hole, add water, then plant, cover with soil, water again
where does it make sense to place your plants in the bed : aesthetically and functionally

planting trees, shrubs or edges - clear space, dig hole, water, plant, cover with dirt, water, put cardboard leaving room around the plant for water, mulch with bark mulch

so next we planted our mound bed with comfrey

putting in jerusalem artichoke and comfrey
spike rooted plants which will help breakup the wood and brambles
while producing potent food and medicine

we also planted a sunflowers in the ends

we finished it with a layer of barkmulch to hold it together

and covered the cardboard around it too!

and voila a simple mound bed
which will hold water and heat for a couple years
then be a rich bed of all soil
and which will generate heat for the coming cold season

we celebrated our creation

sheet mulch garden

garden drop:
healthy dirt means healthy soil
cardboard, grass w/ seed, water, dirt, holes for plantings

we first put down cardboard right ontop of the grass

we then got a bunch of grass that had gone to seed which we cleared

we piled this grass in a sheet mulch layer on the cardboard

then we added some manure to this

this pile got covered with a generous layer of newspaper

all over

then watered well

we then proceeded to plant the bed with a guild of medicine plants

giving the plants lots of room to grow

until we filled our small bed up

we used rocks from the soil as a border to help keep the bed together

and now we have a small functional sheet mulch bed

permaculture education

learning paths

classes and courses
advanced permaculture classes and courses
Permaculture Design Certificate : 72 hrs minimum of learning : allowing you to use the word 'permaculture' in your business or project
Diploma : two years of applied permaculture work which is documented with photographs and journal entries
BA : two years of directed, supervised work with a thesus
MA : two years of directed, supervised work with a thesus
PHD : two years of directed, supervised work with a thesus

you can find educational information here
Permaculture Institute

for my masters i am putting together a 72 hr Permaculture Design Certificate that will happen by correspondence
this self paced, experiential, multi-media supported course will allow you alone, or you and a small group of learners to do
a Permaculture Design Certification where ever you live, doing practical activities at your own home

permaculture media

we flow through some modules on

i asked for written feedback about the course to help me in crafting the second 10 hr segment

deep thanks for participating in this 10 hr foray
may this be a starting point or momentum generator for permaculturing your life and projects

end of chapter 3 be continued....

posted : 2007.Sep.25 @ 1.34pm

chu his recites

"a pure stream flows by a jade green peak
the water and the sky have the clear look of fall
dozens of miles from the world of red dust
white clouds and yellow leaves appear without end"

permaculture media outreach

now i am sounding the call for the new chapter, this one in a different format of open education

first i set up the media room with books, videos and signs to make

since it turned out to be a wildly stormy day of pouring rain and wind
I ended up working alone for a few hours with the raindrops

i did manage to
finish up the paths and doing an autumn cleanup despite the weather

slowly but surely the permaculture classroom was being created

a frog came and stayed with me while i worked

then Robin came down and helped me get a couple of signs up

one for the whole garden site we are calling 'elfinhome'

and one celebrating the drought resistant intentions of the garden

four people showed up despite the rain
and Robin led an incredibly wet garden tour and plant id walk
which was enjoyed by all

I will reschedule a similar format workday / free workshop day in the spring and hope the sun comes out

deepest of thanks to Robin Wheeler
of the Sustainable Living Arts School Grounds
for making this possible


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