Do It Ourselves Education: Permaculture Study Group

I’ve just finished my second reading of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, and have been obsessively listening to a set of free online permaculture lectures given by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. The world outside my window has been recently blanketed by snow, and temperatures have fallen to 20 degrees F. The long winter is here, and I am feeling the need for some juicy brain-work.

Although I had dabbled in it before, I have only recently started serious exploration into permaculture. I am attracted by it’s depth. I’ve been doing and thinking ‘sustainably’ for long enough that I have fully exhausted all the classic beginner books. Permaculture seems to me to take things to the next level.

For those many of you who have only the vaguest idea what permaculture is, let me take a moment to explain. Permaculture (permanent agriculture) was coined by an Australian named Bill Mollison back in the 70s. It’s about conscious design of functional landscapes; it’s about following absolute ecological principles, but keeping human needs as the end goal.

It’s also a lot about thinking outside the box, creatively turning ‘problems’ into ‘solutions.’ (Your garden doesn’t have a slug problem, instead you have a lot of duck food in need of ducks.) Sadly permaculture has grown to a full on religion, complete with a living prophet and an actual bible, the $85 Permaculture Design Manual. It’s ironic that something intended to push us past our mental boundaries has created new mental boundaries, but– that’s humanity for you. We love a dogma.

Anyway, I’ve gotten better about looking past the dogma for the pearls. All widespread religions are based on something really good, that’s why they take off. And I just can’t resist permaculture anymore. Permaculture is all about design, and I am a designer, above all else. I am designed to design. I love to garden, and I love to read about gardening, but designing my garden has always been my favorite part of the process by a factor of 12. I have reams of designs for gardens I never even planted, I once designed a homestead for a piece of property I coveted but knew for a fact I would never own. Just for the shear joy of the brain-work.

I can’t help myself, sometimes it’s actually a problem. Because although I love the work, I love thinking about the work even more, and doesn’t that make me one of those dreaded ‘dreamers?’ But permaculture tells me it’s not so. Permaculture instructs me to spend 100 hours observing and thinking for every one hour of doing, thereby insuring my actions will be appropriate. Whether or not this is a truth for the world, it sure sounds attractive to my brain!

So, winter is coming on. The perfect time to do a lot of thinkering, and I am primed. With limited free time, you all might be thinking, ‘Damn her! She should spend those free moments writing posts for us!’ And I do hope to do a little of that as well. But there are times in one’s life for sharing, and times for learning. After several years of mama-induced intellectual stagnation, I think I am ready for some serious learning.

For the uninitiated, permaculture is an international phenomenon with accredited Permaculture Design Courses offered all over the world. There was even one in Anchorage last summer! They are a minimum of 72 hours, sometimes spread over a full year, other times done all at once as an intensive. They’re a big damn deal, and priced accordingly– starting at $1,500 and going up considerably from there! Even the online courses range from $800-$1,600.

I would LOVE to take a course, but 1. I’m poor, and 2. I live in the middle of nowhere. I started thinking about it, and realized this must be a boringly commonplace problem! Surely there are other perma-curious folks out there willing to spend the time, but not the money….

Reading books is all well and good. I read a lot. Drawing up my own plans at home over and over is great fun. A teacher would be fabulous, and I do not mean to diminish the value of a qualified mentor. But I think what I would value most out of an actual course is the commraderie and idea sharing of a group.

So, here’s my idea. We make our own online class! If we are so keen on doing everything ourselves, why not education as well? So, I’ve put together a permaculture study group prospectus, over at Homegrown. I hope to find at least two or three other folks interested in committing to 6 months of serious independent study, I’m thinking 3-4 hours/week. If that sounds like a good time to you, come on over, join up and introduce yourself!

15 thoughts on “Do It Ourselves Education: Permaculture Study Group

  1. So glad that you are getting into permaculture! To me, it came as this beacon of community, hope, and answers that I was sorely needing after getting too pessimistic about our world situation. My permaculture design certificate was an awesome use of funds, although I acknowledge that it is really expensive..However, I have never felt so ‘at home’ with other people who ‘get it’ in similar ways. It was truly a beautiful experience.

    1. aha! i suspected there might be some PDCs in our midst. i believe it’s worth the money, and maybe someday i will be able to afford it. in the meantime, i hope to get a foothold.

      1. i would love to have an experienced member. i assume you already read The Book, right? so you would be totally welcome to join in discussions!

  2. Hah, CJ, great. I have been reading permaculture books and trying stuff out for about twenty years. Never gone for the big money qualification stuff. If I wasn’t so overloaded with the community food project I’m involved with I would love to join your study group. Hope you find a good crew for it.

  3. This is an awesome idea. Coincidentally, I started looking into permiculture semi-seriously just last week. I picked up Gaia’s Garden from the library, but shortly after realized that we are soon to move to a smaller place, with basically no yard. I may join the group anyway, even if it places me squarely in the “dreamer” category :)

  4. Good luck. It is busy season (Spring) here in Australia, with enough projects on my plate already, so sadly I won’t be able to commit to your group.

    I am interested in following up my Introduction to Permaculture with an actual PDC, but I want to pursue it for more than just agriculture/ growing food side of things… I have this dream of being a permaculture consultant to help people set up urban homesteads, but apply it to their lives as well. Really, the principles are just commonsense approaches, well, it is to me, but they can be applied to many facets of life, not just setting up an edible food garden. Sort of like a permaculture life coach!! People would hire me to help design and set up their urban homesteads, I could do preserving, chook keeping, real food cooking, gardening & beekeeping workshops, I will write a fabulous book and be amazingly successful! Not sure if anyone would pay money for this (or from me) to make it a viable business, but I just keep this little dream in the back of my mind all the same.

  5. Hi, CJ. I’m seriously considering joining you. We moved to a great place with a 1/3 of an acre in the Santa Cruz mountains last January, and definitely want to move into the permaculture way of thinking and doing. You’ll hear from me on Homegrown, no doubt.

    1. Thinking of joining as well! Oddly enough, I live in the santa cruz mountains too, but don’t know centeringmama… glad other people in the area share some interests though!

  6. If it weren’t for the over $100 (where I live) book I would so definitely be in. I LOVE the idea of making your own course to suit your own needs. Good idea.

    1. check out that course outline i linked to in the post, it is nearly 80 pages long and full of lots of great info. free!

  7. Just decided to go for it. I haven’t used Homegrown for a while, so I had to re-submit my membership and it’s pending. Experienced gardener, just over 2 acres in SE Wisconsin, 2 little kids, need to order the book, need something to focus on outside motherhood and housekeeping!!!!!!

    1. that’s really exactly what it was for me. i want to go to school too! for something i’m interested in. that kind of really deep committed exploration of a topic. yum.

  8. congratulations on the bar.

    bigger congrats on the sleeping thru the night! (beat my second son by a full year, he did)

    biggest yet? congrats on surviving 3 weeks solo. sheesh. where’s the medal?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s