On 15 Feb we kicked of our part of the PDC Exchange program with 4 eager students. We covered ethics and principles – you can’t really start anywhere else on a full course, I think. Anyway, shortly after they were joined by three more students, so we had a catch-up session for the “old newbies” on the 28th, followed by a full day with everyone together (OK, minus 1) on the 29th, when we covered some important permaculture terms, concepts and techniques which we’ll use throughout the year. Zones, sectors, that kind of stuff.
Our next class was supposed to be on the 7th March, but I was coughing my lungs out so I postponed until the 21st to avoid anyone else getting it too. (This was before any of the crazy virus scares hit Australia yet…) Since then it has been a whirlwind of scheduling nightmares. My lesson from that was to try and not re-schedule ever again. But what do you do if you are crook? And nowadays it’s even worse… you just have to be extra-careful.
Anyway, during this crazy time leading up to the 21st, we’ve had 3 more students join (the “new newbies”), but of course, they had to have catch-up sessions too. So I’m teaching some things twice, and ethics and principles three times already. Well, for one, I won’t forget that stuff easily now! It’s a time drain to teach it so many times, but we have a nice and varied group now. Small enough to discuss the material intimately but big enough to get a lot of varied input and contributions.
On the work-front, it’s amazing how much so many hands can achieve in an afternoon. I’ve never participated in Permablitzes, a) because they don’t really speak to my introvertial character, but b) I’ve always had too much work or family commitments on to attend – there was always some urgent work to be done, and c) we were never organised enough to host one. You have to be really well prepared to host a blitz. The tools and all the materials have to be lined up, the area prepared, and so on, in addition to snacks and food. But from those first two work parties I can really appreciate what can be achieved. Now with so many hands on deck, things are getting done at such an incredible speed. I think because we don’t work full days (we only work 4-hour afternoon shifts after our classes), everyone is still fresh and productive, and hopefully super-enthused from the morning class! The first day with four students, we made fair progress. The second day with 6 students working, we were generating so much compost fodder that the chipper and its feeder couldn’t keep up! We literally built two big compost piles in three hours and cleared all the market vegetable beds of 2ft high weeds, and a few more things got done too.
Unfortunately I didn’t take many photos during these sessions. I guess we were too busy having fun! However, this particular bed was prepped during our first work day, and it is now growing lush broad beans.
In our third teaching day we covered patterns – patterns in nature, patterns in time, weather and land form patterns and using patterns in design.
On that work-day we climbed into the Homeland raised vegetable beds. Some were pulling out kikuyu runners, which have crept in there from 6m away, while others pulled out compostable weeds and other overgrown stuff. In an afternoon, we literally restored order to an overgrown jungle. We filled 2 wheelie bins with kikuyu runners and turned two compost heaps with new material! So the time and effort spent on the day job and in preparing course materials is nicely made up for by the work parties. Win-win in my opinion. And I have to say it again, we’re really blessed by having a really nice group of people to study and work with.
So I guess, a lot of our posts from now on will be PDC Exchange course updates, but I find it to be interesting, inspiring and lively days, so hopefully the stories should be so too. Some very interesting stories are being exchanged while working too. Maybe we should ask the students for guest posts to recount their experiences first-hand?
But of course, now with the stupid virus, we’ve had to put the whole thing on hold. It such a pity, we had a good thing going. And it was picking up great momentum. Who knows when we’ll be able to resume? I’m looking forward to that day again. In the meantime, I’m getting a bit ahead in preparing some of the course materials, in between the days spent on skype doing day-job meetings.