This Is What Happens When You Do a Permaculture Design Course…*

A notional design for Spiral Ridge Swales, walipini, and arterial paths.
A notional design for Spiral Ridge Swales, walipini, and arterial paths running through a new food forest. 

I’m writing this from Spiral Ridge, a sustainable, permaculture homestead outside of Summertown, Tennessee. I’m here for 12 days to get a Permaculture Design Certification. The folks who are teaching it are a married couple who have been here for six years. When they arrived, they had almost nothing, except a lifetime of knowledge and useful skill building. They built a cabin, powered by 400W of solar panels, heated by passive solar, and supplied water from a well. They transformed the landscape from a barren, just logged hilltop to a lush and densely packed edible forest and food production hub, while raising four children. Pretty awesome and dedicated people.

What is Permaculture? Everybody who practices it gets asked this question at some point, and there are plenty of different answers. The word is often interpreted to be a mashup of “permanent agriculture.” That’s only one aspect, though. At its core, Permaculture is a discipline to care for the Earth and to care for people, in a responsible and fair way. Permaculturists interact with and support their local ecosystems, strengthening the productivity of landscapes with care create more value than they will harvest, thus improving the land. They build great empires of biodiversity using small and slow solutions, which eventually produce yields which are magnitudes of order above that of “traditional” farming. I get to experience this first hand because the Air Force has seen fit to pay for and send me out here for this class. It may be surprising, but this is where my Intelligence career has led me.

In the style of so many other listicles, here are 10 things that happen when you go to a PDC.

  1. You realize that you are not alone in trying to save the world for future generations with your neurotic recycling and composting habits. Actually, you are falling short.
  2. You share your intimate life goals with strangers. These strangers share their life goals with you. These strangers become your friends.
  3. You make friends with skills. Like, real skills that are useful. Building skills, bow hunting skills, tracking skills, planting skills, negotiation skills, food preservation skills…
  4. Because of all those skills, you suddenly feel like you have a pretty good chance to survive any impending apocalypse, including the arrival of zombies.
  5. You realize how much you don’t know, and you become intensely curious about matters of microbial soil life, what pigs like to eat, how to sculpt turtles from clay, and where water goes when it lands on the ground after a rain.
  6. You get excited when your new friends can answer your questions.
  7. You develop the ability to design lifescapes, where land and life intersect in a way that is beneficial to both. This feels awesome.
  8. You feel so awesome, you believe you can do things that you have no business doing what-so-ever, like DJing karaoke in a country bar (maybe called “The Rebel.”) You do it, and it actually works.
  9. You spontaneously burst into dance/clapping fits/chanting “nematode”/laughter, because you trust the people around you like you trust your childhood friends.
  10. You develop the urge to share this experience with other people, and you form your own plans to host a permaculture design course, so that others can experience what you have just gone through, and enjoyed so much.

PS. There are still 3 more days of this course to go…

*Results typical under specific circumstances.

Published by

Scott Church

Leadership, Permaculture, Technology, Wellness. These are things I want to bring into the world, so I write, talk, and think about them a lot. I want my son to grow up in a better world than the one we have, and I want to have fun creating it for him.

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