A course is a course is a course?
In Australia we are quite spoiled – there are quite a number of permaculture design certificate courses to choose from. For me the choice was between the one at Castlemaine community house because it is relatively close by, Milkwood’s course in NSW and Good Life Permaculture’s course in Tasmania. In addition to the other courses having more detailed descriptions, I didn’t really want to do it stretched out over 10 weeks, as in the long run that would take more time away from the family and at this stage in the children’s formative years that quality time is really important.
So, for me, it was a tough choice between Milkwood and Good Life Permaculture – both had very detailed descriptions, course schedules down to the session level, detailed CVs of the instructors, details on assignments and so forth. So it all looked good on paper… the content was very similar and both had instructors that have worked with David Holmgren, one of the originators of the permaculture movement right here in Australia.
In the end Good Life Permaculture “won”, mainly because it was presented very early in the year, which despite being a very busy time on the land actually suited me better. OK, maybe, just maybe because it was presented in Tasmania had some influence on that decision too. Since coming to Australia, I’ve always dreamt of spending some time in Tasmania. Now halfway through the course, I’m very, actually extremely happy about that choice.
The course is held at the Okines community centre in a small little coastal town called Dodges Ferry, about half an hour East of Hobart. This isn’t a travel blog, but if it were I would have a lot of nice things to say about the town and its surroundings!
The town has a strong supportive community and some really helpful and interesting people. One of the guys I regularly surfed with early mornings was Pete, an Olympic silver medallist in rowing – but you would never say that – as down to earth as the next guy. In fact, Andy, the “landlord” of the AirBnB where I stayed (on a little nature-surrounded headland with the most exotic sea views), also a very helpful bloke, told me the story. Andy himself spontaneously applies a few permaculture principles – he’s got the chooks and the worm farm going.
Class vs practical
We do a healthy balance between theoretical work in class and practical work out in the field.
Practical work outside covered such a wide range of topics – zone identification, plant functions, water management, slope and contours, composting, planting and the list goes on!
In a real interesting group dynamics class, Nick demonstrated the effects of connections and what happens when keystone elements are changed or removed.
During the first week (already!) we had to do a concept design on a property of our choice, following all the correct permaculture design principles, approaches and techniques. For my assignment I did a feasibility study of what it would look like if we took what we are doing at Dreamland and implemented it on a bigger scale on the “open” 3.5 acre property on the other side – the one we are always dreaming about!
At the end we could walk through and study and admire each other’s projects. Some really interesting ideas and some beautiful designs – artworks really – that were on display. This was also open to the public on community evening.
Site visits and people
At the end of the first week, we visited three very diverse sites to see how permaculture principles are applied in real life. I’ll cover that in a separate post as there is quite a lot of interesting points to go through. I’ll also cover a bit of the people dynamic, so watch this space!