As PDC#2 kicks off at Ridgdale Permaculture, we publishing a daily blog to detail the experience for those who may be interested in what takes place at one of our trainings as we establish Scandinavia's first Keyline Designed farm & dedicated Regenerative Ag/ Permaculture Edu hub at a working farm. Daniel McGough, one of our pioneer Farm Managers joining us from Australia shares his experience of the (Un)Learning journey over the next 2 weeks.
As people arrive for the training suddenly there are new faces everywhere on the farm and an immediate flood of excitement as new students arrive for Ridgedale Permaculture’s second PDC of 2014, partnering the commencement of the second 10 Week Internship for the season. With sixteen countries represented in all, from Uruguay to Belgium, Iceland to Columbia, Canada, Romania, South Africa and Italy plus many more, this was definitely going to be an adventure!
After everyone had arrived we settled into the main dining yurt (technically a Ger) for a deliciously warming organic vegetable soup, skipping over to the classroom (another Ger) to meet all the students proper, learn names and orientate to the journey our facilitator Richard Perkins, Owner & joint Director of Ridgedale, will be guiding us on over the coming 14 days.
Before bed was a visit to the farm’s steam room. Now if you’d told me one year ago that in my future I’d be discussing the benefits of broilers and the essentials of egg laying chickens in a caravan sauna in the middle of a field in Sweden, I would have described you as a character of large imaginative capacity. Probably would have sounded something like “You’re crazy.” And yet…
The course facilitator, Richard Perkins: “My role here is really to act as a nutrient to stimulate learning, and help unravel complex systems to leave you with an in-depth understanding of Permaculture and how to go about assembling elements into cohesive and integrated systems” And so our course begins.
Richard explains how he wants Ridgedale to be a place for education but importantly a functioning viable farm so as to demonstrate what he is teaching; that the designs and strategies explained during the next fifteen days can be demonstrated via practical examples on site. After explaining the objectives & decision making process to determine the property he was looking for (and the magical story behind how he and his partner ended up on this site), we begin the farm tour. Richard spent time explaining how to read the landscape and optimize prioritization & placement of elements without risky "imposing" ideas on the landscape using the Keyline Design Scale of Permanence as a reference. He explained the appropriate use of new technologies and older traditional technologies like a root cellar and how they can seamlessly function together. Working with the resources you have access too.
The first lightbulb moment was seeing Richard demonstrate productive elements in marginal spaces as he explained the planting of Salix species (Willow) along one of the wet farm boundaries to form a alternate row coppiced wind break that will supply a material resource for fencing, baskets and biomass. From a longer term perspective he’s also planted an avenue of Oak as a future investment for his child's financial interest. This is Permaculture; "future-proof" (as Richard calls it) conscious design being demonstrated at a highly functional level.
With a hearty lunch in our bellies we commence an in depth investigation and discussion of existing global issues people from all corners of the globe are experiencing and the converging crises on the planet. From environmental pollution to educational institutionalization to water catchment and ownership to human health and the existing fascination with pharmaceutical therapies, we brainstorm our way through problems we can see building, but hold back from developing any solutions too quickly. Richard tells us that is for the following days.
“It’s amazing how many ‘super foods’ are transported around the planet, when we have ‘super foods’ that can be grown in every climate. Clever marketing." We hear about the "medicine cabinet" planting on the east of the site and the importance of stocking up on high potency medicinal foods before the long winter to maintain optimal health & resilience. Most modern farms don't eat much of what they produce. Richard explains how the farm is designed to meet it's own consumption needs first, then supply a surplus. The rapid development of this project begins with providing it's own needs which provides a platform for research & data collection to really understand the specific land characteristics before scaling up production next year. The ticking of the brains in the room can be heard from the neighbors barn; the discussion continues well into the afternoon and before we know it the dinner bell is ringing.
After dinner I chat with Vigfus, a young fella from Iceland living in Gothenburg who is developing a straw bale house project in the Swedish city called Halm Huset (http://halmhuset.org/) hoping to provide a community Youth Centre Facility. He is highly motivated to bring this technology to a stronger stage of development and is getting very creative in his resourcing. I’m looking forward to his presentation of his organisation tomorrow night. Earlier in the day I had spoken with another student, also from Sweden, who is looking to retro-fit his traditionally insulated house with straw bale… Isak, meet Vikfus… perfect match! The students here are from such various backgrounds and cultures, just from the introductions I can hear the wealthy spread of passions and learning interests. It's going to be hard trying to catch up with them all, but hey, I've only got 15 days so I'll just have to try extra hard, and if there's one thing I've learned from Ridgedale, the networks built here are lifelong experiences.
Our facilitator concludes the day with an evening presentation titled "10,000 year history of Agriculture" which explores theories put forward by Jared Diamond (Collapse and Guns, Germs and Steel), who purports it is geography & luck, not biology or race, that have determined the cultural disparities across the globe. An interesting set of theories and certainly ones that deserve to be studied further. We explore James De Meo's Saharasia and how these two propositions mesh and discuss how extreme and rapid climate change may well have given rise to major cultural & societal shifts in history. While recovering from how many times is my mind has been blown today, I wander off to hit the sack.
Just from this first day I imagine the incredibly comprehensive journey into the realm of Permaculture Design this course might be, it is priming up to explain the greater workings of the planets complex inter-related systems, with clear descriptions of highly practical strategies that can be applied across all climates. Just what I'm looking for, Gravy! Here we go :)
Perennial Cropping: Silvopasture meets Forest Gardening meets Keyline Design ( soon to meet Holistic Management!)Read Now
This article documents the major patterning of the farm at Ridgedale PERMACULTURE as we laid the Keyline tree lanes and planted thousands of long term perennial crops within our pasture lanes. For a better introduction to the farm's context you can read an article here. Water systems and Keyline patterning is also addressed here. The original plan for the tree layers of the farm design is outlined in another article available here. So now we explain & assess the actual implementation. For context, at the time of this work we ourselves had only been on site for 6 weeks and the planning, layout, machine work and major planting all took place in Week 1 and 2 of our 10 Week Internship. (We have another 10 Week Internship program running July- Sept)
The Core Team are gathering at Ridgedale shortly for our busy first season at the farm. We're breaking ground on Scandinavia's first dedicated Permaculture & Regenerative Agriculture farm & edu site. We're establishing a pasture and perennial crop based beyond-organic local food system at 59°N, one of the northern most projects of this ilk on the planet, and the first Keyline designed farm in the region. We previously advertised this role, and had a bunch of great applications, but our vision was too broad and we did not really know which direction would be most beneficial to take this in....
Ben Falk's book is a must for cold climate Permaculture designers, homesteader's and anyone keen to learn from insightful and experienced holistic decision making. We thoroughly enjoyed the read, and most importantly from our perspective; it's a work based on raw experience, dedication and enthusiasm. Permaculture design is learnt by doing; we need more practitioners out on the ground working professionally & implementing resilient and effective solutions restoring ecosystems, connecting people to bring about robust local economies & exchange systems and meeting our human needs holistically. This book supports those objectives, written in a refreshing tone that sets aside theory from observed practice. Ben has a diverse and deep design experience, and we are very excited to have him join us this spring for the first PDC at the farm as a guest lecturer via conference call.
Wanting to take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC)? Wondering what you get out of taking a course like this & how they differ around the world? There are regular courses all over the world now and because Permaculture is decentralized there is a great variance in different courses, which we have observed on our travels working & teaching around the world. We've compiled a list of 10 reasons why taking a training with us represents a good investment in both your own learning pathway and offers points well worth reflecting upon generally if you are considering taking a similar training...
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