Below you will find a schedule of Fall 2015 PDC, and some of the highlights that we will cover for each weekend. We provide glossaries, outlines, additional written materials, self-testing material, videos and more, to assist you to access and absorb the information. Please note that there are sometimes changes in this line up based on needs of students/instructor availability (we have sometimes had surprise visits by veteran designers for instance).
Permaculture principles, patterns and design
9 AM to 5 PM
Location: Clearwater, FL (14 Nov TBA, 15 Nov is at Moccasin Lake Park, Clearwater, FL)
Learn to work with nature, instead of against her
Apply permaculture principles and design in any setting or circumstance
Recognize and use the patterns of nature to increase abundance
Get practical tools that can be immediately applied to your life to increase abundance and quality of life
Hands on design techniques – zones, assessments, sectors, mapping, and more
We will cover an overview of the scope of what permaculture is and what it can do for your life and your community
To register for this or all weekends, call Taina at 727-495-6145
Secrets of the natural world – energy patterns of trees, water, land
November 21-22, 2015
9 AM – 5 PM
Special guest instructor
How to bring the magic of nature into every aspect of an urban environment through conscious design
Think like an ecosystem
Climates, strategies for temperate, drylands, tropical, subtropical and changing weather patterns
Rainwater catchment and sustainable water use
The transactions of trees – mimic the powerful energy transactions of trees in your design
Simple secrets of building soils – how to grow lush, healthy plants anywhere
Broadscale applications with water and soil – transforming the landscape
Hands on techniques for preparing your land for regenerative abundance
Growing food sustainably and abundantly
Work with nature instead of against her to create abundant organic gardens
and “food forests” that need little work to maintain.
December 12-13, 2015
9 AM – 5 PM
How to grow food in Florida, the easy way, from seed to harvest
Jump-starting a food supply – feed yourself within one season
Integrated pest management (organic)
How to design and build a Florida friendly forest garden – plant lists, guilds, step by step implementation, propagation, low-water and no-water techniques, and more
Animals in a permaculture system
Hands on techniques
Container gardening, aquaculture, urban farming, agroforestry, small integrated farms, making a living by growing food
Wrap up of food forestry specifics – designing, plant choices, etc
Field Trips and Hands-On Activities
See what is going on locally that will impact our future, get hands on experience,
and define careers and purpose.
Dates – 9-10 January 2016
Get into the garden and plant! Hands on intensive will assist you to integrate classroom learning.
See examples of permaculture in action.
See “green” buildings, organic farms, etc, and get feedback from experts on how to improve the designs using permaculture principles.
The built environment and appropriate technology
January 23-24, 2016
9 AM – 5 PM
Learn to retrofit your built environment to reduce costs and help the environment
Ctting edge “green building” and how to solve problems of the built environment yourself with creative, low cost or no cost solutions.
Natural building techniques
Alternative energy and technology
Appropriate tech workshop – solar power, rocket stoves, and more
Putting it all together – integrating the off grid homestead for maximum production
Financial and social permaculture – invisible structures
February 20-21, 2016
9 AM – 5 PM
Creating a regenerative local economy
Alternative approaches to creating abundance – how and why do time banks, local currencies, etc, work?
Business and community guilds; how to create abundance through connection
Social, economic and energy aspects of city and town life – practical solutions that work
Urban design – visible and invisible structure design for the specific challenges in cities and towns
Community building strategies and social permaculture
Intentional communities, increasing quality of life through permaculture design
Saturday: Disaster permaculture – creating resilient systems, where do we go from here?
March 19-20, 2016
9 AM –56 PM
Efficient ways to create more resilience for yourself, family and community.
Design for disaster – key elements to understand.
Where do we go from here? Options and resources.
Sunday: Really Free Market, design presentations, and afterparty
Bill is a real pioneer species. After taking the first two weeks, on site permaculture design course taught in the state of Florida at age 77, braving primitive conditions and unexpected wind and freezing temperatures to gain the knowledge, Bill started a small book study group on the book Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, in his home town of St Petersburg. This group helped build a permaculture meetup site to over 500 members, and created a groundswell of permablitzes, backyard and front yard permaculture gardens, and hundreds of people introduced to the concept of permaculture. When it came time to choose a name for themselves, they became Gaia’s Guardians, a fitting name for what this group is doing.
As a veteran native plant landscaper and now a permaculture designer, Bill was the ideal person to help establish a permaculture project at the Faith House, a transitional housing organization with 1/2 acre of land given over to grow food for the participants in the program. Along with Emmanuel Roux, another energetic pioneer, and many volunteers who lent their hands and backs to the project, Bill has created an organic garden paradise on this lot. Complete with several dozen chickens, a kenaf forest to feed them, an exotic looking banana lined and papyrus stocked pond, native pollinator borders, numerous productive vegetable beds and a budding food forest, this plot provides a large amount of food for the Faith House, with leftovers for volunteers. A number of 275 gallon containers catch rainwater from the roof, and a well provides clean water to the garden. The site gives a boost to new community gardens by collecting pallets and dock wood for raised beds, and tools and other materials. You can find Bill working in the garden on just about any Wednesday or Sunday morning, and pitch in and help, if you like.
Bill’s own home permaculture garden is a regular and favorite stop during the permaculture home tour that is organized by Gaia’s Guardians. From the weeping yaupon holly and other beautiful natives, and the huge kale and watermelon growing on his hugulkulture bed in his front yard, to the large abundant backyard overflowing with perennial edibles and potted permaculture plants for sale via his permaculture nursery, to his greywater and rain catchment systems and pond, Bill’s garden is a great example of how permaculture style organic gardening can create abundance, and a real nice place to hang out.
Bill regularly tours permaculture students, school classrooms, and others through the Faith House, and shares his wisdom and experience on creating community through permaculture style gardening, via our Permaculture Design Courses.
Bill has taken his activity up yet another notch as one of the original members and continuing very active member of the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition of St Petersburg. This Coalition is a diverse group of individuals from many walks of life who want to see both the city and the environment become healthier and reap all the other benefits available through growing much more local food. Bill heads the Education committee and is very active in the Board selection committee, Community Gardens committee, and as an advisor for new community gardens. Bill’s community involvement is truly inspiring – he has gone above and beyond to bring permaculture to his community.
Eric is one of the more dedicated and enthusiastic designers we have met. He didn’t wait to finish the course, but got one project started during the PDC itself, creating a food garden at a Habitat for Humanity site in Pasco County. He has shown many other people the advantages of permaculture through personal contact and an active permaculture web site, Codegreencommunity.org, that provides support and information to permaculturists in the greater Tampa Bay area. And most recently, he has become co-founder and one of the driving forces of a local food co-op in Pasco – Suncoast Food Co-op. https://www.facebook.com/groups/264378686981983/?ref=ts&fref=ts
He has transformed his yard into a food forest jungle complete with a pond ecosystem and much more – showing his neighborhood how to make food, not lawns. And he is selling the food he grows to the cooperative. How much carbon is he reducing by growing and selling food locally, eliminating thousands of miles of travel and the energy and pollution associated with pesticide and herbicide use, and by setting the example, influencing others to do the same?
We focused on the natural world this year at Pine Ridge, immersing ourselves in nature awareness and communion with the land.
It started with the arrival of over 100 wild horses rescued for release on 8000 acres of prairie stewarded by Oglala-Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitilization Initiative. Nothing could embody the spirit of freedom via self-sufficiency that we’re striving for more than to watch, from the garden, this wild herd in full gallop across the range – purely because they feel like it. Our breath ends up in our throat regularly in response to the beauty and majesty of this animal.
We had many chances to watch the behavior of the wild herd and learn design lessons from it. We’ll share some of those in future articles.
As beautiful and intriguing the horses are, our biggest focus for this year was food sovereignty. Pine Ridge is a “food desert”, with almost no grocery stores on the rez (many people travel 1 hour or more to Rapid City, paying huge sums in fuel costs as well as for groceries), and almost no local, fresh food available. There are small, positive changes being made, and we made connections with some other great organizations on the rez also working on this issue – Roots and Shoots has installed several community gardens in Kyle and other areas, and Thunder Valley is engaging the community in discussions about the subject, raising awareness and gathering information on needs and resources. They have also helped create more access to the few farmer’s markets on the rez. The Pine Ridge Fire Dept is growing a community garden and giving the food away to the public, and this will be a good outlet for our excess crops as well.
Our goal was to make what we did in our garden as relevant and useful for others as possible, and we’ve been gathering information about what people are struggling with in trying to grow food on the rez for a couple of years now.
We decided to completely redo the garden (as the original wasn’t designed for water catchment) and create an experimental site in order to find out exactly what people deal with in the harsh climate of the plains.
A common gardening method here is what could be described as “scorched earth.” In an effort to keep pests from finding the garden, people mow down the prairie grass for dozens of feet surrounding it, leaving the soil exposed to dry winds and baking sun in the summer, and erosion in the wet season. We decided to try to see what would happen if we let succession happen naturally and worked with nature instead of against her, letting the “weeds” grow near the garden.
We sheet mulched about 1/4 acre with composted manure (plenty of it on the ranch), and straw, cut a swale, measured out a pond, and cut paths to capture rainwater and send it into the garden.
We created two small greenhouses out of pallet boxes and old clear tarp lying around. They didn’t warm things up much, but they protected young seedlings from wind, hail and creatures. We planted more than 80 species of heirloom veggie, herb and flower seeds, to see how each would do in this particular environment, and started a spreadsheet to keep track of results.
Because we didn’t do the scorched earth thing, our garden filled up quickly with pigweed, lambsquarter, the dreaded goathead and wild sunflowers. Pigweed and lambsquarter are very edible and also dynamic accumulators, and the pig loves them. So we let them stay and added their nutrition to our salads and potherb dishes.
Goathead is another matter. It is a ground cover pioneer species that spawns a vicious burr that has two giant spikes on it like devils horns, or goat’s horns (thus the name), sharp enough to flatten a bicycle tire or leave a gaping, bleeding wound in your foot. The manure we used for the sheet mulch was inundated with goathead seeds. So we weeded a lot more than we usually do. Normally we would have just mulched it into non-existence, but we also wanted to try out numerous heirloom veggie and herb species this year, and we got a late start for a number of reasons, so we left the beds uncovered to plant seeds and seedlings. Next year, our strategy will be to let the goathead come up while growing seedlings in the greenhouse and allowing the soils to warm up, mulch it down, then plant in the mulch. That way, we should avoid having to weed at all, while adding fertility and protection to the soil.
By pushing the system, opening it to pests and weather, we discovered which varieties did well and which didn’t. We also learned a tremendous amount about the challenges people face when trying to grow vegetables in this tough climate (hot, dry summers, very cold winters, hail the size of baseballs sometimes, strong, dry winds, only a three to four month frost-free window, heavy clay-silt soils, and tons of pests – every plant chomping and sucking insect you could think of seems to live here, and some I had hardly imagined! The abundance of insect life is quite impressive). Though it took some courage because we knew we would probably lose crops, we wanted to deal with what we’ve seen the average gardener dealing with her, and see how hard it would be to get those factors under control, starting from an imbalanced system.
We had visits from just about every pest that must exist in these parts. That was interesting, as I have rarely had to deal with pests in the balanced systems we set up. But, from our surveys done last year, we found that many people do deal with them on the rez and handling them organically seems difficult. So, what works once they are in the system and active?
We wrote an article about our findings, here:
We spent many hours researching suitable plant species for the area – which are invasive? Which are toxic to horses or cows? (many of our favorite nitro fixers and other permaculture staples are toxic to horses – we now have a pretty thorough list). Which are easy to grow, drought and cold tolerant, nutritious and healthy, similar to what people already eat and like, etc? We came up with a list we were excited about (and still are – some of the things on the list did really well – for instance, we now have several hundred sunchoke plants on our swales and will be adding many more next year – a real survival native crop that grows well under a wide range of conditions found here. Bonus – the inulin in them helps with diabetes, something that 60% of the people on the rez suffer from).
In the midst of planting and caring for the garden, mid-June, we got a hot tip about some bare root trees that could be bought for almost nothing. We were planning to do a food forest, and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity to get the wind break trees we needed to create a suitable microclimate for the more delicate fruit trees we’ve wanted to plant on the plains. We ended up getting more than 600 trees – 400+ honey locusts alone.
Getting 600 trees planted fast when you weren’t planning on it can be a bit of a challenge! Since they were bare root and it was late in the season, soon to become hot and dry, we couldn’t take our time about it – we had about three days before trees started dying.
We received some amazing assistance from Bryan Deans, head of OLCERI, who commandeered getting 600 holes dug with his bobcat in only a few hours, and from three volunteers, Dave Karp, Felicia Hobart and Dani Slabaugh, all of who worked extra long hours to make it happen. We got some key natives into the food forest system such as buffalo berry, hackberry, and cottonwood, and other edibles like rugosa rose, caragena, elderberry, and hawthorn. And windbreaks up in many of the major areas (though we still need cedars, which will come next year).
Many of these trees can be easily propagated, so next year, we will create dozens of pots to give out to people who need windbreaks and/or fodder. Already, we have a number of requests from others on the rez for honey locusts and some of the others for next spring.
The trees are beautiful – leaves swaying in the wind and new growth shooting up faster than usual (probably because of the mychrorrhizia we soaked the roots in and added to the soil). We can’t wait until next spring when the sweet fragrence and flowers of 400 honey locusts will fill the area. This tree has so many uses – it is great fodder for animals, much of it is edible for humans, but perhaps its strongest quality for the mostly treeless prairie is the wood, which grows rapidly and does not rot. It can be used for posts for fences, for firewood (which can be lifesaving in prairie winters), or for round beams in buildings. We visited a greenhouse earlier in the year in Wisconsin that is built from raw trunk wood of black locust, which has similar properties. The architecture is beautiful, and there is a lot less waste of wood. We can coppice honey locust trees for the wood without killing them, and continue to enjoy their beauty for many years. Another possible bonus is that they may fix nitrogen. Though their roots do not collect the nodules usually associated with nitrogen fixers, and some people insist they do not fix nitrogen, there is scientific evidence that they do bring nitrogen to the soil. We’ll be watching how other plants do around them, next year.
We created a list for a seven layer food forest that focuses on native and traditional edibles and medicinals of the Lakota, as well as a wide variety of fruit and nut trees that grow in this climate zone. We are trying a few species that grow in warmer zones, to see how we do with our microclimates. In an area with extremely harsh winters (wind chill of down to -50 F, wide temperature swings, early and late frosts, etc), this is a special challenge. We would love hearing from and exchanging knowledge with people who have food forest experience in this type of climate!
Some of our plants did splendidly well, growing with wild exuberance and abundance, while others struggled with the climate and soils. We’re documenting the heirloom varieties that do the best, so we can share that knowledge with the rest of the rez (and publicly, via our web site). Again, we’re very interested in hearing from others who are gardening in W South Dakota or NW Nebraska climates, their successes, their favorite varieties, etc. Please feel free to post on our page or share on our facebook page at
Our other major project was documenting some of the wild edibles on the prairie. We explored our pasture and the larger range, documenting wild medicinals and edibles and where they are to be found. This has only begun, but we found many wonderful species and will be continuing that project next year. We’re sharing some of our findings on our partner Facebook site at facebook.com/olceri. Check out the photo albums on our Facebook sites, of our gardens, food forests, horses, Pine Ridge life, and more.
From Florida Earthship PDC grad Diann Dirks: It was so sweet to be reminded of our Permaculture course in Fla. last March. Since then I have been using so much of what I learned and integrated there.
Right after completing the course I taught 3 series of classes in organic gardening – 13 classes all told at the local libraries and at a local forming sustainable farm. I became a the paid consultant on the creation of a community garden for a Jewish Temple, consulted at a CSA to increase yield, as well as a multitude of private gardens. And one of my students formed a CSA after taking my classes. I created my own school, Mother’s School of Self-Reliance, which has taken off, and I have been giving classes between one and three course days a week since January. Classes have included hand sewing, sprout bag making, sprout bag growing, sprout bread making, and seed propagation classes.
I have also incorporated so much of what I learned in putting in 1800 sq. feet more garden space. And I have been growing some food all winter, even in sub-freezing weather.
Soon after the course I set up a community garden in our own area and am the director. Since then we have acquired a 22’x60′ professional steel green house which is being built this spring on site of the garden for propagation and year-round growing of food.
I also founded a local farmers market that enjoyed a successful season last year, and participated and help found another one beginning this fall into winter, and participated in one all last summer selling instant raised bed gardens which helped over 100 new garden beds be set up in people’s yards where they had never gardened before or extended already growing gardens.
I have been interviewed twice on the radio, and have been writing articles for the local newspaper on sustainable issues all year and have my own column now called “Surviving the Times”.
I’m going to be on the panel of the film “Fresh” tomorrow after the film is shown, and have a booth where I will be promoting my school, community garden, and selling seeds.
I founded last year’s first City of Auburn Garden Expo and did a seminar on Permaculture Princliples to about 25 people.
Our teacher Wayne (Weisman) told me I should teach so I have been.
And I have grown enough food and herbs over the last year to provide a vast amount of food for myself and my husband, as well as sell at the farmers market. I have a .7 acre steep hillside yard which is 1/3 zone 5 (wild), with a house and large lawn which gradually I have been converting into garden by raised beds and terracing.
Anyone visiting the Atlanta area need only call for a tour. 678 261 8141
Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer