Category Archives: PDC

The Permaculture Design Course – To Do or Not To Do? On the 4th Day of the PDC….

Apologies for the delay, patient people, life got away from me – farm-sitting, PhD-ing, PDC prep… what happened to July!  I’ll be a bit sporadic over the next month too, with a PDC running in the last two weeks of August and my research proposal due mid September – eeeek – so don’t worry if I’m offline for a while, the story will continue as time allows.

This next bit is a little schmaltzy, so if you are easily nauseated, please skip down to the next solid line and you’ll dive right into the PDC Day 4.

I’d like to take a moment to say thanks to everyone who supported me both before, during and ever since my decision to retire last year.  Last Saturday (August 1st) marked the one year anniversary of that huge step in my life and, whilst I cannot say I have never had a moment of doubt about the decision, I have never felt so in control of my (and my families) future.  With all that happens in life – to us; our friends, family and loved ones; our neighbours and community; our country and planet …. its easy to feel a little lost, saddened and perhaps disillusioned at the direction we might be heading.  But there was a brilliant story in a movie I watched recently which sums up how I feel and which helped me find where my comfortable place is within the chaos…. The movie, oddly enough, was called ‘DIRT! THE MOVIE’ (little distressing in parts, but if you persevere it does end on a positive note!) and the story is told by Wangari Maathai.  Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace” in 2004.  The story she tells is most beautifully summarised in the following description:

“Professor Maathai embodied the ideal that small steps we each take will add up to make real impact.  Her poignant story of the hummingbird helps us envision how mighty even the frailest among us can be:   When fire breaks out in a huge forest, all the animals flee, except the hummingbird. The little bird flies back and forth, back and forth, filling its tiny beak with water. The other animals feel helpless and overwhelmed.  When they criticize the hummingbird’s attempts, the little bird answers, “I am doing the best I can.””  (Reference, where you’ll hear her tell it)

After loosing my way a little at the end of my ‘mainstream working’ career, I am back to doing “the best I can”.


Like every big question in life (let alone the morePDC Cover Page Autumn 2015 SMALLER important ones about soil!), everyone wants the same answer…..  THE RIGHT ANSWER.

But everyone who has been involved with Permaculture (or asked the Guru a question) will know that we’ll all get the same answer…. IT DEPENDS.

I am now well and truly qualified to say “They’re right”.  It definitely does depend and in this BLOG SERIES I’m trying to explain what is talked about and why, so hopefully, my posts will give you enough information to determine what a course like this can or can’t offer to meet your current needs.

Click here to head to Day 1.

Click here to head to Day 2.

Click here to head to Day 3.

This is the fourth in the series.

So here we go with ….. Day 4

Day 4 consists of a heavy morning of botany, the purpose of trees and how they can fulfill so many roles within a system.  Planning is needed to understand the needs and products of a tree with certain characteristics through-out its life, so that we can cater to those needs and reap the rewards (by gaining our yield, but also by benefiting other flora, fauna and the soil).  Then (weather permitting!) we look at the importance of community and what is possible when like minded people work together.  Getting like minded people (who have never met before) together is a key goal of community gardens, they fulfill (along with growing food) the important massive role bringing socially active folks and those who have become isolated through injury, age, differing interests or any other reason where a talent or enthusiasm has been left untapped, together.

Day 4Session 1 – Recap and Qns – Discussed previously

Session 2/3 – Forests and Trees Intro / Botany and Plant Characteristics

In these sessions we look at the plant kingdom in general, introduce terminology frequently used and focus in on the function of trees within a system.  What roles do they fulfill within a natural forest system – including discussion of the criticality of energy input into the forest system, the role of trees in the water cycle and then converting this into a crop type setting.

The scale of a design is critical in this discussion when we consider monocultures versus mixed cropping in an urban, semi-rural (recreational sense) versus rural cropping (financial dependence).  So we then look at introducing the idea of a fruit forest to replicate natures mutually beneficial forest systems but with the human guided yield.

These sessions introduce many other topics that will be covered in more detail throughout the rest of the morning.  Scene setting as it were.

Plant Layers(Ref – Rob Hart – via

Session 4 – Plant Succession and Purpose, Guilds, diversity, resource sharing.

We run through succession within mixed plant systems, the need to embrace change (holding back change or keeping a system ‘frozen’ – think of those prize roses – takes significant work), and how we can guide the evolution of a system by planning the placement and support networks to act together.

We explore the products of the individual plants within food forests using a neat key word trigger called the 7 F’s.   But using mind mapping we challenge the group to beat the record of the number of potential products…. there are heaps – perhaps challenge yourself, let me know your record!

We revisit guilding of plants which might be compared to ‘companion planting’, but looks more at the characteristics for co-operative growth, resource sharing and production (from roots, to canopy, to nutrients needs, to habitat creation, to pests/predators…..) rather than a recipe for putting plant A with plant B as that is best in climate X and soil condition Y…. but maybe not in yours.

This is a fascinating look at how nature has this all figured out.  We explore how we might pick and choose some of her well developed tactics (which can be observed and learnt visually as repeated patterns in nature) to both develop the space we are considering, but also to minimise the input required down the track to make the system thrive in our harsh climate.  One of my favourite topics…..

What we learn is that, like a forest, diversity and resource sharing is critical to the evolution of a system.  Each plant produces multiple products to meet the needs of others (e.g. leave litter, root exudates, fruits, shade etc) whilst gaining multiple benefits from the plants around them (predator habitats, bee attraction, birds to deliver seeds elsewhere, soil bacteria to deliver nutrients)….. a plant on its own in the middle of an open space or a field of identical plants (monoculture) miss out on this cross beneficial effect – all drain the same nutrients so we need to do work to replace them in the system.

We also learn that we can fit more into a smaller space if we are looking for plants who work together – for urban spaces and rural settings feeding off natures learnings are equally critical but for very different reasons.  I.e. in rural setting work minimisation would be the win, in urban setting where there is less space to tend to, high production without depleting the soil would be the win to be aspired to.

Session 5 – Forests – Tree Crops. Forage, Coppice, Windbreaks…..

This session focuses on the function of trees – be it for shade, wind breaks, growth etc – and what influence we may have on enhancing or moulding these functions for a defined purpose.  It is acknowledged that this purpose may either create or reduce work, but that the overall benefit to the system needs to be assessed and weighed up against this ‘cost’.  Assessing the benefit requires an understanding of the tree’s needs and potential (as we may be messing with its characteristics), as well as what impact the influence has on other elements.

10519569_10152674104169610_186514464810301503_oFor example – if we are talking about tree crops, typically orchards or forestry, then we are looking at a monoculture arranged for easy crop collection.  Permacultures  ‘orchard’ is designed and considered with more complexity, examining the elements and functions within the system as a whole in the sense of developing the food forest with tiering systems to help cropping, sun harvesting, soil replenishment etc.  So there may be trees combined with annual cereals or veggies that can be cropped opportunely. The soil might be protected from the sun and weed’s controlled by a trafficable rambling productive groundcover like sweet potato.  For deciduous systems, it may be that once the fruit and leavsomeone's larva feastinges are gone, so is the habitat for the pests (yay!), but also the predators (boo!).  Keeping a year round habitat for both the food source (pests – small numbers, but quick to multiply when season is right!) and the eaters (predators – smaller numbers, but there, so able to respond when food increases much faster than if they had to recolonise first) And so on….  One day I’ll get back to food forests as this is a ripper topic to explore in full, but for now, we’re looking for diversity so as to minimise our work for optimum yield.  The diversity can also subsidise income if there is a problem with the primary crop….. the resilience chestnut raises its head in this very coarse simplistic example, but you get my drift.

FROG1Preserving pockets of nature’s system and farming by foraging is an alternate means of obtaining an opportune yield and, ensuring you understand the inputs to / drains on that system (and hence your health and the health of the system are considered), then this yield may be obtained and maintained with minimal work.  Such an arrangement is tricky in an urban sense – especially with council weed control spraying and so not advised – exploring rural properties can be a fascinating and nourishing experience for land holders.

Whilst I could waffle on here, needless to say the shaping, pruning and placement of trees can be planned to fulfill a purpose. Coppicing, being the practice of cutting trees back to the stump, enables fresh growth from established rootstock produces faster wood regrowth, a more diverse forest laying and deliberately shaped plant.  Non-deciduous plants can be heavily pruned to effectively ‘deciduise’ for winter and hence with this work accepted as necessary, the plant’s placement (or not removing it) can be slightly different to what its characteristics might define.  I.e. you can have a lot of fun with placement (one less constraint), use what already has been established, or work with a potential mistake by finding the opportunity in the problem.

PET HATE – REMEMBER – Trees really want to just photosynthesis and grow.  If one is already in a space, please, please, please don’t remove it so you have a blank canvas to start your design on! Later you may elect to remove it, but do it with careful consideration and in depth understanding – look at what it gives to your system and what ‘opportunities’ it provides….. if there are negatives, can they be worked around or used to advantage…..

Session 6 – Urban Trees – Fruit, shade, etc…

1 Slipper Gourd 3 (Large)Here we focus in on the interests of the PDC group.  So depending of the mix of people we cover – urban vs rural; size, productivity, needs…. (the trees that is, not the group!); common easy plants vs less common niche plants;  consider Perth’s and its surrounds micro climates that are already available versus what we might create; etc.  Often in this discussion, there are members of the group who share successes and failures.  There are also often guru’s within the student and teaching group who have elected to specialise in a particular species or variant on the main stream.  This particular session pulls together the morning’s conversation into a local context and provides reference to resources/experience/support groups for further information.

Bare in mind – the aim of this course is not to provide us with a list of plants to use in every design.  The aim is ensure we know the characteristics we want for a certain purpose for a certain place.  Its good to be familiar with options, but if we get lazy and lock ourselves into a standard, then we start to miss out on the true nature of a design and will fall short of the optimum set up for meeting needs.  Plus, we may find that nurseries are not stocking that certain plant for some reason and then we (or our client) is left dangling without a clue about what to put in that space.  If we understand the why, then we can look for an alternate to fulfill the role on that basis.  Whilst the PDC covers a huge range of topics, it is not intended that you need to become knowledgeable in all things botanical, there are already wonderful folks who know far more than we have time to cover.  Most good nurseries (but choose carefully if its a big job!) have resident gurus who understand the characteristics, needs and products of the plants throughout their life, and can advise on available options.  By learning from them, over time we develop our own local niche and plant supplier knowledge.

Sunflower smallAn important part of plant selection in the designing process is not only drawing on the client and/or designers knowledge strengths (plus our friendly nursery folk), but also in observing what those locally have had success with.  So encouraging people to wander around their suburb and look at what the council has planted, what is visible in neighbouring properties and even what the parks or community gardens locally have given a go.  By doing this, whilst you then get to understand the longer term climate influences allow (taking into account individual’s skills and watering habits – which can also be observed from the footpath!), you may also get chatting to locals and start that fundamental connection and support network which we will move onto in the next session…. leading to long term information, seed, cutting, social and many other exchanges that advance a design (and a community) far more effectively than an individual working on their own.

There’s that African proverb of it taking “a village to raise a child” (and i could not agree more!), which could be extended in western culture in so many directions – a community to raise a child…  to nurture/value an adult; to raise a garden; to direct a change…. as individuals we can do the best we can, but as a group of individuals we can do even better. (Plus have people to celebrate the wins with!)

Session 7 – Designing Social Fabric – Community Design and the common threads. Why we get involved  +   Session 8 – Community Groups and Growing Local Capacity   +  Session 9 – Community Links and Activities

Wow, how to tell you about this topic in a paragraph…… typically we tell stories – ours, local gardens, examples across Perth, Australia and the world.  This discussion can be really up lifting when you see what individuals have been able to achieve as well as understanding the enthusiasm already out there to help others.  After three and half days of ‘facts’ (sometimes to the point of info overload), it is a great opportunity to explore the trials and tribulations of others, learning from their journeys and thinking about our own contribution.

The key theme of this discussion is “Grow Community, Grow Resilience”.

As a brief aside – I have many folks ask about what is available for people hoping to ‘learn on a budget’.  As a society we seem to be taught we need to pay money to get value.  However the more I learn, the more I find that most community initiatives prefer energy or enthusiasm to financial contribution and, whilst presenters need to be financially sustained, the Permaculture community and many others aim for low cost, and large audience to maximise skill sharing/value.  Even the councils around Perth are getting on board as they try to deliver services their ratepayers are asking for..  There are heaps of free workshops or festivals with talks happening, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look so you can plan your soon to be busy schedule!  A good place to start is local council websites; “Perth Green Events Calendar“; your local community garden; your local Permaculture Association, Transition Town Group…. web pages; local markets; community centres or roam through facebook.

Its a whole new way of thinking….. or old way I should say.  We seem to be moving back to the unspoken barter system….. I’ll come to your talk and reward you with useful questions and my surplus yield of tomatoes…. You’ll know you’ve improved a groups knowledge; the council has subsidised both the talk and the community get together/exchange of knowledge; the produce has cut shopping costs for all who attended and exchanged; plus you can afford to volunteer your time free the following weekend at a festival to impart knowledge to an even wider audience….

Here I have to repeat a little anecdote I stated once before about community as it just rings so true…. for my avid readers, please forgive the repetition.

This small passion of mine is summed up by the absolutely brilliant Terry Pratchett (whose passing was a great loss to us all) as Miss Level (a witch) and Tiffany (a witch in training) wander through the local villages and farms “doing medicine” –

“Tiffany couldn’t quite work out how Miss Level got paid…..Hat full of skya woman would scurry out with a fresh-baked loaf or a jar of pickles, even though Miss Level hadn’t stopped. But they’d spend an hour somewhere else, stitching up the leg of a farmer…and get a cup of tea and a stale biscuit.  It didn’t seem fair. 

‘Oh, it evens out,’ said Miss Level…’You do what you can. People give what they can when they can.  Old Slapwick there, with the leg, he’s as mean as a cat, but there’ll be a big cut of beef on my doorstep before the week’s end, you can bet on it…..Pretty soon people will be killing their pigs for the winter, and I’ll get more brawn, ham, bacon and sausages turning up than a family could eat in a year.’  

‘You do? What do you do with all that food?’  

‘Store it,’ said Miss Level. 

‘But you-‘

‘I store it in other people.  It’s amazing what you can store in other people…..I take what I don’t need round to those who don’t have a pig, or who’re going through a bad patch, or who don’t have anyone to remember them.’

‘But that means they’ll owe you a favour!’

‘Right! And so it just keeps on going round.  It all works out”  (A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett, 2004).

And, whilst I don’t really fall in with the ‘owe you a favour’, the sentiment of storing surplus in other people is key element within a community that is missing with individuals and which makes the community as a whole more resilient than a group of individuals…..we are hearing this a lot now as Pay it Forward.

A very obvious example is seed saving – storing seed in many people’s gardens gives you the best chance of getting seeds the following year. Someone is bound to get it right and with us, being time poor, there is unlikely to be a whole lot of productive growth in our seed storage cupboard!

A fun activity in this session is looking at community as an element analysis as everyone has a different view of community and has angles they have not considered….. this also tends to bring out the quieter members of the group as, being typically observers, they have a grasp on the topics discussed, what’s happening local to them and have often pulled together the link between our garden designs and community structures which work….. After today, normally we have a far more open and bonded group with several pennies dropping – especially for the more scientifically minded people – me included!

Session 10/11/12 – Community Garden Tours

This session is on the go, with a tour of local examples of community gardens – looking at the history, the evolution, the current structure and the future plans.  There is a look at both the problems incurred in setting up such community activities, and the shining lights they form within local communities.  There is discussion about the design features within the gardens, the council interactions/involvement in the development of the garden and the various community groups which indirectly support these gardens through donations of time, energy or experience.  The wealth of knowledge and unwavering enthusiasm to share that knowledge with others must be the most refreshing part of watching a community garden develop, along with the way shared produce encourages others into that space (in the current economy, this is more and more often initially just due to financial hardships and the need to finding a new place in society’s structure).

And so we’ve negotiated Terra Perma’s PDC Day Four and I have to say each time I sit to write these blogs it starts with dread…… but somehow ends with impatience that our next PDC is not starting tomorrow.  The joy we get from guiding peoples thinking from just putting a plant in the ground as gardening; to learning what that plant really has to offer; and how to fit it into a system which will both benefit the system and ourselves.  Follow this up with an understanding of how these systems work in a garden context and then exploring the fact this is not so dissimilar to an understanding how individuals in the community work better with support, both for themselves and initiatives which encourage others.

Whoops a little deep for a Tuesday night…. but don’t worry, I found some fascinating fungi in the garden a couple of weeks back, which I’m keen to investigate – so next blog will be light and fluffy.

Until next time, enjoy


(P.S. Happy Birthday Carole, this one is for you!)

The Permaculture Design Course – To Do or Not To Do? On the 3rd Day of the PDC….

Like every big question in life (let alone the morePDC Cover Page Autumn 2015 SMALLER important ones about soil!), everyone wants the same answer…..  THE RIGHT ANSWER.

But everyone who has been involved with Permaculture (or asked the Guru a question) will know that we’ll all get the same answer…. IT DEPENDS.

I am now well and truly qualified to say “They’re right”.  It definitely does depend and in this BLOG SERIES I’m trying to explain what is talked about and why, so hopefully, my posts will give you enough information to determine what a course like this can or can’t offer to meet your current needs.

Click here to head to Day 1.

Click here to head to Day 2.

This is the third in the series.

So here we go with ….. Day 3

Hold onto your hats people. We introduce a number of new ideas across the course of this day and by the end we’re starting to appreciate the tip of the ‘tool iceberg’ at our disposal as a designer both in thinking about new house designs and methods to improve conditions in existing houses.  Such tools range from the building of ‘man made’ structures/shade to plant based cooling, changing habits to suit the seasons and using the free energy to limit our use of ‘non-free power’.Day 3

Let’s learn about some of the tools we can use to design both our house (new or with limited changes to optimise) and garden to make the ‘easy option’ where money and energy (grid power) is saved too.

Session 1 – Recap and Qns – Discussed previously

Session 2 – Passive Solar, Sun, Season, Shade, Thermal Mass, Breezeways and ‘rooms’ –

We have a quick reminder of sectors with a detailed look at how this fits into the orientation of the house (Zone 0) and garden elements (typically in Zone 1 for urban design) that impact upon it.  Later we’ll look at other influences on Rural Landscapes.  We look at the suns angle and intensity and seasonal change (sun, wind and water (ocean currents, evapotranspiration and rain) influencing our design.

One of the key aspects in a Permaculture design is in the approach of an opportunity from at least two sides.

Take for example keeping a house cool.  You can act to prevent the heat from entering in the first place and you can set your self up for efficiently removing what heat makes it in (especially after a few hot days in a row). (e.g. eves, window location or insulation versus late afternoon breezeways combined with cleverly positioned ponds)

Alternately you can consider the two sides as (a) the use of nature’s energy as a priority, then thoughtful use of non-renewable sourced energy as secondary to bring the temperature down in addition to (b) considering the other side of the coin which asks “how cool do we really need it to be?”.solar passive copy

Often the ‘easy option’ is perceived as the one where money takes the place of effort – run the air conditioner all day and night every day over summer to achieve a wind chill factor of 18 Degrees C.  However with clever use of water features, breezeways, shading, etc it is possible keep a house cool over most of the Perth summer capitalising on our dependable south westerly and, even on that fourth day of 40+ degrees, the use of air conditioning only when solar panels are functioning can take the heat out of the house in preparation for a comfortable night’s sleep.

This thread runs through the whole day.

(Illustration from Your Home –

An excellent case study of Urban Solar Passive Home design is Josh Bryne’s – Josh’s House, look it up on the internet.

Session 3 – Buildings and Structures

This session looks at different building materials (including local examples) and typically one is selected for a power point, video or photo diary of a home construction.  We talk about public resources for getting information and specific regional information to consider.  Designing buildings, as well as the garden, for a climate is the key message here.  Passive solar design principles can be seen as a methodical way of assessing what we have and what might be able to be modified to achieve an optimum use of our location and free energy sources.

A PDC needs to teach you how ecological home design changes with location (so we can’t just cover Perth), in tropical areas we don’t want thermal mass, and chasing breeze to help with the humidity is priority number 1. In frozen climates (homes even need to be insulated from the frozen ground) and in desert climates (the ground is used as a temperature moderator day and night) are all discussed and the suitable building designs given these climatic conditions become are a logical progression.

The bit I found most interesting in this discussion when I was the student, was the different building materials and their strengths (or not) in various ‘catastrophes’ – e.g. fires, earthquakes etc.

Session 4/5 – Tours – with multiple discussions

We always ensure the location selected for this day has a large number of practical examples of both the day’s topics as well as the Permaculture principles in general.  Discussions of buildings – their design, materials, installed and retrofitted features, man made versus plant (perspex pergola versus plant covered)…. then garden features – ponds, shade plants and fruit/nut tree examples, large scale trees as well as forest layering, veggie patches and the relationship that might be built between them all….  This tour can take an hour, but typically we can’t get back in under 3 hours as the paths and conversations always wander further than expected.

Session 4/5A – Seedlings and Cuttings Hunt

This is one of many opportunities to get seeds and propagation materials to kick start your patch.  We tend to look at the shape size and root behaviours of trees informally during this and the previous combined session.

Session 4/5BAppropriate Technologies –

As we’re talking about structures, buildings and other man-made equipment, we tend to run through the options and use of appropriate technologies.  Generally these fall into the topics of heating (space and water), cooling, cooking (solar, steam, …), water harvesting, transport and energy in general (solar, gasifiers, wind,….).  Information Technology is also discussed in the light of David Holmgren’s assessment.  Making the most of open source software and building upon it supports developers rather than commercial companies.  Sharing information freely across the internet is the express option for dissemination of information, but speaking face to face builds community.  Combine the two and you have information getting to the people who wish to see it and will share it in their local community through action and expression.

Session 4/5CPlant Retrofit –

(Photo from  As mentioned earlier trees can be located in a design to perform many functions.  From shade and cooling to breaking up destructive winds to visible screens and noise dampening all to create a more appealing zone 0 (the house).  Re-writing a notable third law…. for every function there are multiple and often co-operative options.  We discuss the combinations and some examples which cover multiple roles.

A key teaching of Permaculture and one I magnificently failed to cover in my Day 1 discussion of elements is that for a system to function well it needs redundancy.  An assessment of each element identifies its needs, products and inherent characteristic.  This not only allows you to position elements together that can work in a complimentary fashion, but also to ensure that you have multiple elements performing similar ecological functions.  In this way, should one element fail within a given set of circumstances, then there are a number of other elements preventing the function from failing to be performed.  E.g. a pond in combination with a deciduous vine over a patio and trees beyond the pond…. pond, trees and vine cooling in summer breezes and creating shade in summer, but in winter letting light in and buffering winter storms …. not to mention habitat creation in many elements for garden predators, fruit production, mulch….

Session 6 – Rainwater, Greywater, filters and toilets

The key to a good integrated water system is understanding what sources you have already as well as your water use habits.  Once again we attack from two sides.  In an urban environment that fresh water from the tap takes a fair amount of energy to treat, pump and quality control.  First plan of attack is to determine just how much of this valuable commodity we need to use.  In a rural setting this luxury may be present or rainwater tanks are the source for the house in which case this process of assessing the ‘how much’ has likely already been done.

Once you’ve looked at your habits and determined what needs pristine water and what can be achieved with a slightly lesser quality source, then you can to look at what water is present on your property apart from tap…. rainwater, bore, grey water etc.  This is generally known as the process of conducting a Water Audit and that in itself is a good way to look at the value of water on your property.

As we walk through the water audit it is interesting to note that as you look at reducing your use of fresh water ( for example with larger washing loads per wash or a more efficient machine), then you are limiting your ‘tap water’ use (a hugely undervalued commodity in our climate!), but also you are lowering your grey water production.  Consideration of the adjustments you are willing to make on the initial water audit should be factored in so that your final installation of what ever system suits you actually reflects the value that you based the decision on. Grey water code for WA (Note, your main resource for grey water info for WA should be:; specific attention must be paid to the local regulations before any recommendation of grey water systems are made!)

There are so many warrens we could (and do) venture down in this discussion as their are many opinions and motives involved, but when it comes to each option there are some facts which can be presented and then the decision of the option is up to the client.  For example rooftops can be assessed for area and hence catchment volume based on location annual rainfall information.  Tank locations can be suggested based on the gutter and down pipe locations, with tank sizes based on household consumption and rain event expectations.   Having said that, fix your soil, avoid gutters and minimise your hard surfaces (which allow water to run off your property to the storm drains), and your topping up the aquifer.  So you might consider soil filtration and natures subsurface tank so a bore becomes a eco-logical option for garden retic.

Considering Perth’s rainfall pattern and hence duration of the year when a rainwater tank might be filled, you might instead like a grey water system which has the consistent year round water delivery.  We’ll consider rural water catchment later in our Topography and Contour discussions as well as on our Rural expedition.

So much to consider…. as you can see IT DEPENDS!  Considering the options within specific household environments and regional climates under the guidance of an iterative water audit is seen as the  challenge for the Permaculture Designer.  Just remember that the tap is just one source and as mentioned above multiple elements performing the same function meets the systems needs even if one fails…..  I love this topic, nothing like a bit of controversy to get the fact hunting juices flowing!  Move on SH, move on!

Session 7 – Urban Animals

Chicken with Indi smallWe covered this a little in the Nutrient Cycling and to be honest we need to work more towards a variety of animal information.  The problem is, that in most urban areas, chickens and rabbits the only ‘livestock’ permitted and …. well…. those chickens are amazing machines.  We look closely at the urban allowed ‘livestock’ considering them in an element type analysis, but with detailed examination of their needs.  Cows, sheep and goats are discussed especially in respect to the nutrient availability in the soil which in some instances can only come via the path of something’s digestive tract.  However it is important to note that, while there are many other animals we can purchase and cultivate in our system, there is a huge variety of ‘wild life’ we can attract to our garden and which do a huge array of jobs in the system to earn their keep.  Setting up our system to cater for the habitat needs of birds, insects, reptiles and other creatures is critical in designing one that can cope with predator attack.



And that, my dear friends, is Day Three – this day is one of the most eye opening when it comes to what we can do and how we observe a property when we enter a clients design environment. By now, we’re just starting to understand the magnitude of what we’re in for……

Day Four, we come back to our comfortable base camp to look at all things planty as well as a community adventure to look and discuss the features (and mental climate required for) school and community gardens.  Unfortunately at our last course, it was not even nice weather for ducks as the rain bucketed down, which was such a shame – there is nothing quite so magical as seeing a group of strangers caring for each other and a garden in a purely giving capacity.

Until next time, enjoy


PS Apologies for delay in issue of this blog, as I Canberra for a Soil, Big Data and Agriculture Conference for a couple of day – Will write a little about it at some point, was an intriguing angle from which to observe the players…..

The Permaculture Design Course – To Do or Not To Do? On the 2nd Day of the PDC….

PDC Cover Page Autumn 2015 SMALLERLike every big question in life (let alone the more important ones about soil!), everyone wants the same answer…..  THE RIGHT ANSWER.

But everyone who has been involved with Permaculture (or asked the Guru a question) will know that we’ll all get the same answer…. IT DEPENDS.

I am now well and truly qualified to say “They’re right”.  It definitely does depend and in this BLOG SERIES I’m trying to explain what is talked about and why, so hopefully, my posts will give you enough information to determine what a course like this can or can’t offer to meet your current needs.

Click here to head to Day 1.

This is the second in the series.

So here we go with ….. Day 2

Some of Day 2 we have also covered in past blogs, so please again forgive the references.  Hopefully this enables you to delve to the depth you’re happy with rather than to clutter up this post with too much repetition.

Day 2 Session 1 – Recap and Qns – You’ll see this repeated often as the amount of information delivered per day leaves folks either (a) dazed and dreaming about Principles, sectors and a million queries  or (b) looking out the side window at passing properties while they drive home, seeing sun angles, opportunities and a million queries….. Each day holds a lot to digest and its important, especially with larger groups, not to leave any comrades behind.

So we run briefly through the previous day’s topic and re-iterate the key items.  The big point to get across is that Day 1 has covered universally applicable concepts which are termed ‘world wide problem solving’ – Ethics, Principles, Elements, Zones, Sectors and Slopes.  This may be in contrast to some other areas of the course when we cover the theory generally, but draw examples from Perth/South West specific experience.

This session is also used to start introducing the books from our library which are offered for borrowing.  There are heaps of fantastic books, not all of which suit everyone – we encourage trying before you buy to make sure the structure, technicality of content and applications are right for your circumstances.  We also endeavour to fit in a recapping group activity to give those who learn better by doing, an engaging memory to lock in some of the previous day’s concepts.


Session 2 – Soil Basics – Delivered by yours truly and remarkably similar in content to my blogs!  Rather than re-write it here, please head to the following locations for more information:

(1) High level recap of soil components and ways to prepare your soil for success.

(2) Detailed topics of soil components for those wanting more technical – mineral particles and pore spaces, organic matter, resultant properties.

(3) The cheat sheet for those wanting less technical.

But please note that we save the proposed solutions until later in the day, focusing now only on what makes up good soil so we know where the goal posts are.


Session 3 – Matter / Nutrient Cycles, Soil Food Web – In this session we dig down into the organic matter in more depth (ha ha!) to learn more about the components (fungi, bacteria, etc), why we need them (their amazing relationships with the plant root system) and what options we have to feed it.  Options ranging from the most simple deciduous leaf litter or chop and drop mulching to the more labour intensive hot compost.  The benefits of each option are discussed stemming back to that old chestnut…. which one should I use?  IT DEPENDS.

When compost must be turned smallLooking at your:

– stage in the garden (are you getting lots of woody prunings or are your plants very young),

– your current versus future plan (you may have only veges now which get frazzled in the sun, but you might plant an evergreen tree adjacent so the veges – shade in summer, thin or sun can get under in winter…. veggie scraps now, tree prunings later – chestnut number two  THINGS ALWAYS CHANGE – YOU CAN WORK HARD TO KEEP THE STATUS QUO, OR WORK WITH THE CHANGE NATURE IS INTENDING AND GET MORE FOR LESS – we’ll come back to this as it gets pretty important in our thinking down the track),

– or your kitchen/cooking habits and hence household scraps characteristics (perhaps chooks are an option)….

These all provide different waste products which could either leave your property in the bin or green waste collection and take those soil nutrients (see section 1) with them, or be processed in an appropriate nutrient cycling system and returned to the soil.  We did a talk on this particular topic on the weekend, so have a quick squizz at those notes (linked) if you want to know more.

(Adapted from Picture Source; Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils, Brady, N.C. and Weil, R.R., 2004; and the Soil Hugger herself!).Soil Food Web Expanded copy

Depending on the season there are practical examples of these nutrient cycling techniques – the last course was nicely timed with Autumn where those trees which are classically evergreen are ‘deciduised’ to allow light to the understory for winter.

Other topics touched on are plants to produce ‘green manure’ (bring nutrients up to surface or fix nutrients (e.g. nitrogen) in root system); how to process your various sized ‘compostables’ (chopping, drying, chipping); the water saving versus soil feeding properties of fine (straw) versus coarse (woodchip) mulches; what sheet mulching is; compost carbon to nitrogen recipes  and basic info on what products contain what ratio; and what the dominant  factors are for compost progression – air, moisture, temperature and volume.

By now we’re so intrigued, the conversations/questions are flowing thick and fast, plus we’ve been out in the garden looking at examples and applying techniques….. we find ourselves running behind time – quick let’s get onto the next session!


Session 4 – Soil Formation and Remineralisation –

Now this is one is my favourite topics and one I want to learn so much more about one day.  How are soils made? What makes them what they are today? What have we got? and What do we do to reach our goal posts suggested in Session 2?

We talk about parent rock formation (magma to rocks to sediment), climate influence on this (temperature and moisture), topography (or slopes and land formations), time/age of materials, and organisms acting on the material (from those microscopic life forms we’ve talked about on the left of the soil food web, to the presence of certain plants in a system and to human land management practices).

We look at Perth’s history when it comes to soil, what we now find ourselves with (excellent resource: (Source of schematic) and (Description of sands) and what other areas of Australia have and why.

We think about how native species survive in our soils and why we need to remineralise to grow non-natives.  In this light we compare the mobility of minerals as part of the long term pedogenic process (where soil comes from) and the mobility of minerals as part of the short term in garden “apply fertiliser then water it straight through our sand and into the water table” process.  So what do we do?

First step is to know your starting point – some soil direct tests and indirect indicators (simple vs complicated vs laboratory dependent) to define what you have to work with and hence which direction you need to head to reach our goal posts.

Second step is to know your tools – what can you add and at what cost/benefit ratio to permanently set up your system not only to approach your goal posts, but also to remain there and do so with limited effort on the part of the gardener.  There’s recapping here about the texture triangle and the goal of loam for water and hence mineral conservation in your soil.  But once you have your water holding capacity, rock minerals and kelp are the long term (5yr, slow release) and short term (1-2 yr, quick health, quick yield – see Permaculture Principles from Day 1!) are the next cab of the healthy soil rank.  With these mineral sources you can also add biofertilisers, animal systems, and hence recap our nutrient cycling information for additional nutrient inflow into our soil.

Thirdly there is the ‘everything else’ – pH can be useful to understand (and I find it amazing!) but not get too worked up about because if you do everything else, the pH will sort itself our through the buffering effect of the organic material (both in neutralising the pH, but also even before this is achieved, reducing the impact of extreme pH on plant growth and mineral uptake).  It’s pretty amazing how the soil system works together to make a healthy environment for growth….. guess all that evolution time has been put to good use – the forest floor is a great example.  Permaculture aims to work with this system and replicate is as much as possible to let nature find its balance in the long-term making the system more resilient for less work on our part.  There’s a lot more to the ‘everything else’ but if I keep down this path, we wont get Day 2 completed before the next PDC.  If it were up to me, we’d be almost 4 hours over time by this stage!


Session 5 – Soil Hands-On Testing – pHsmall 

Once again in the post lunch session….. sleepy and dazed students are expected so we’re up on our feet getting the blood pumping!  Out on the back deck we’re playing with examples of different soil types collected Jar shake testfrom multiple locations around our back yard and south Western Australia to illustrate the large variety of low cost testing we can do to identify where we are.

These tests include soil tests from sausage making to jar shake to pH to colour/smell/taste (always gets a shudder and laugh! “It’s not a mouthful, folks” and “only do it with your own soil as you never know what other people’s soil has been exposed to”) … we look at the different amendments and have fun playing with repellancy, permeability and leaching. We have some fun and again get those that remember/understand by doing stuff (as well as those who zoned out at any point during the morning) aware of how the components we discussed can influence these test results…..making practical the mornings classroom discussion.


Session 6 – Close the loop –

As the title suggests, before we leave soil as the foundation topic – we don’t grow veggies, we grow soil! – our aim is to revisit the interconnections between the different components and functions within the soil, how we can influence them so we all win and then watch a quick video to get the take home message clear and concise.  A key link drawn here is the importance of animals within the system and the importance of preparing the soil for holding minerals to promote more production with less work in the future.


Session 7 – Seed Saving –

Cotton parts copy smallThe key learnings to be gained in the kick off of Seed Saving is – What seeds to save, how to seed save and can we use nature to do the work for us?

The different types of seeds are explained – open pollinated (heirloom, heritage, home saved), hybrid, GMO.

Methods of seed saving – including nature saving the seeds in the ground directly under the plant or the use of wind, animals and insects for transport and ‘processing’. We take a look at a variety of seed types and the treatments for them both in the preparation for storage for the next growing season and for readying them for planting.  We also look through the seeds in our personal seed bank and how you should store them (its a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, but at least we know with our seeds it is survival of the fittest!).Encourage others _ Kids 8 small

We talk about annuals, biannuals, perennials and vegetative cuttings when it comes to options for propagation.

There’s ongoing discussions throughout the course about different propagation methods for different plants as well as opportunities to swap or take seeds/cuttings for students to start their own garden….. the most important and best spot to store seeds is in other people’s gardens – it is less work, better seed viability as they are used sooner and the following year there are more people at the seed swaps with more variety to offer!


Session 8 – Pruning and Grafting –

This session kicks off with Plant Anatomy 101 so everyone is on the same page and then goes onto the tools of pruning and grafting.

Each graft (whip, cleft, side, bud and to a lesser extent bridge grafts) is reviewed and then we get back to the practical.  Firstly lesson of the practical grafting is host selection, then graft type selection and, amongst many other rules, when you’re a beginner there’s nothing like experiencing failure to teach you how.  The emphasis is on doing several grafts and seeing  what takes – start grafting on simple easy ‘disposable’ grafting options before moving into the more technical aspect.  Grafting is an art, if you enjoy a challenge then go for it, but it is not an essential skill.  It represents the first of the topics where you need to understand why you’d want to graft and when it is appropriate, but not necessarily how to perform the skill in order to be a successful designer.

Bud grafting a citrus is a great place to start, grow your own rootstock from seeds one year, practice bud grafting from desired top wood (scion) in the third year at no cost, or practice bud grafting on full sized trees. The later can be hard to get the graft to shoot due to all the competing (unsullied) buds – but don’t be disheartened.

Pruning on the other hand is a skill that will be more applicable in your work as a designer where understanding pruning for shape and light form a critical aspect of resource sharing.  There are often practical demonstrations related to this topic of conversation, but as pruning is depended on tree, location, function…. (the list goes on) pruning is only lightly covered and is addressed later in the design discussions where we select certain tree characteristics for certain locations and can adapt the pruning accordingly.  Pruning is also covered when we do our site visits as there are invariably examples of good pruning or where pruning is required to feed discussions.  The May course saw pruning examples from secateurs to chainsaws so there’s something for everyone’s level of subtlety.


Session 9 – Nursery set up and role – Poly tunnel nursery

Another activity to keep us inspired at the end of the day, noting that sometimes we don’t get to all the activities (as we got too excited about topics earlier in the day!) or we select the ones that people are most interested in and cover them first. This nursery setup carries on from plant propagation and seed saving.  We discuss the much lower cost of experimentation (risk/reward) in practicing growing seeds to seedlings.  Allowing the chance to learn without costing the earth is a key point that is highlighted throughout the PDC, covering the Principles of Simple slow small solutions, seek and accept feedback, and observe and interact. Growing from seed is initially harder than heading out and buying a punnet of seedlings, but in time this skill will set you free.

The Permaculture garden is a survival of the fittest place so, to grow things from seed or strike cuttings, we often need a safe and well maintained space (the nursery) to care for our young plants and keep them away from overly vigorous chooks, nasturtiums and sweet potato.

Simple nursery construction and recycled materials are covered, from a small cold frame box, to a cheap plant rack wrapped in clear plastic sheet, to a large poly tunnel made from agricultural reticulation pipe star pickets and greenhouse plastic. The size of the space you have to plant will decide which size nursery you should set up.



Well, we survived Terra Perma’s PDC Day Two and are well on our way to a Permaculture Design Certificate.  Day Three sees us head off on a field trip for a change of scenery as well as seeing first hand examples of ecological building design; discuss the importance of understanding sun, seasons and breeze ways not only in the garden, but in house design/modification; what options are available for indoor climate control to reduce our energy consumption; and to see a huge range of trees species, not often seen together in an urban environment.

Until next time, enjoy


The Permaculture Design Course – To Do or Not To Do? On the 1st Day of the PDC….

Like every big question in life (let alone the more important ones about soil!), everyone wants the same answer…..  THE RIGHT ANSWER.

But everyone who has been involved with Permaculture (or asked the Guru a question) will know that we’ll all get the same answer…. IT DEPENDS.

PDC Cover Page Autumn 2015 SMALLERMy silence over the last few weeks was due to my attendance at approximately my 6th Permaculture Design Course as a logistics coordinator and sustenance deliverer; my 2nd as part time presenter and general sounding board / mentor; and my 1st since sitting through the whole thing as a student.

I am now well and truly qualified to say “They’re right”.  It definitely does depend and in this BLOG SERIES I’ll try to explain what is talked about at Terra Perma’s PDC and why, so hopefully, my posts will give you enough information to determine what a course like this can or can’t offer to meet your current needs.

As I have been asked to document/formalise the Lesson Plans for this last Course (May 2015), we’ll take the opportunity to have a sneak peak at what is covered each day.  And who knows, there might be a few incriminating snaps along the way.

But my challenge is to make it fast and short so we can get back to our Permaculture Design site visit (links below) and the New Guinea Bean investigation (promised at the end of our Klip Dagga exposé).

This also fits in well with our other series of conducting a design – The Permaculture 102 Series – where we are ready to go to our design site.  A good recap and brief look forward won’t do us any harm at this point.

(See (1) Permaculture 102 – Permaculture Design: For Rural Only? Not in the slightest! – Part 1; (2) Permaculture 102 – Permaculture Design Part 2: Assessing an Urban Garden’s Potential Based on Sun Angles, and other Sources of Natural Energy; (3) Permaculture 102 – Permaculture Design Part 3: The Client Interview Sheet – Part 1.; (4) Permaculture 102 – Permaculture Design Part 3: The Client Interview Sheet – Part 2.)

So start at the very beginning ….. Terra Perma’s PDC Day 1 

Terra Perma Timetable Day 1Much of Day 1 we have covered in past blogs, so please forgive the references.  Hopefully this enables you to delve to the depth you’re happy with rather than to clutter up this post with too much repetition.

 Session 1 – Introductions

General Welcome – Discuss background of participants, specific interests and hopes for the course.

Icebreaker – best keep this a secret as it’ll lose its effectiveness and depending on the vivaciousness of the group this might be done at the start or end of the day.

Logistics – from loo locations to car pooling; parking to filming/photography; book borrowing to the 300+ page Design Manual provided.  Essentially how are we going to work through the mountain of information as a cohesive group to emerge empowered, bonded and unscathed?

Scene setting – What are we here for? Presenters get to discuss their passion and objectives for the course….. and an hour passes rapidly by!  Its hard to put a time limit on that enthusiasm. This discussion also give the high level introduction to the concept of Permaculture – a term blending the words PERMANENT with AGRICULTURE, and is described by its founder as “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.  It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” (Permaculture, A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Future; Mollison, B.; 1990)

Other – Emphasis is on group learning, ongoing questioning, and contributions of experiences.  However where people feel uncomfortable or shy (especially in the early days or the course), private discussions of issues, special considerations, or additional help are very much encouraged to ensure every member gets the most out of the course.


Session 2 – Design Process in Fast Forward

This is a glimpse of the future.  The design process is run through from start to finish to give the students a feel of the end goal.  An example is provided in both the Hand Sketching, the Computer Drawings and Design Reporting.

(I reckon this bit is kind of scary for the first day, but the students seem to want more and more of this up front….. A great suggestion coming out of the last PDC was for our students to get their design project diagrams at this point and work with them through out the course….. we’re going to try this in the August PDC.)


Session 3 – Ethics, Limits and Changelorax

Permaculture (as a balcony, courtyard, backyard and farm design and lifestyle integration opportunity) is based on the following ethical basis: (Described at length in “Permaculture, A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Future”; Mollison, B.; 1990, but often simplified)

  1. Care of the Earth – Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply.
  2. Care of People – Provision for people to access those resources necessary to their existence – this is acknowledged as an extension of (1) in that we are a life system
  3. Setting Limits to Population and Consumption – By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.”   – this is again acknowledged is an extension of (1) and we like to call it “A Fair Share“.

We see these ethics as wrapped up in the immortal words of a great man who documented the need for change and instilled it in us as children well ahead of any mainstream movement. Theodor Seuss Geisel has captured the sentiment of Permaculture for “kids” of any age in the immortal words:  (Source: The Lorax, Dr Seuss, 1971)


Session 4 – Principles of Natural Systems and Holmgren’s Principles

Now I’m going to be a very cheaty here as (those hardened readers will know) we have covered this in quite some detail before. Ive included a few diagrams to trigger those old memories from September!


(Quoted everywhere without source, but the likely Original Location)

For those who are new, please have a look back to Permaculture 101 – 1.1 Ethics and Design Principles – An Introduction where we took a fair amount of time to wonder through the back bone of Permaculture and the checklist against which all designs should be assessed.


Session 5 – The Garden Tour

In this session, (note it is just before lunch and just after lunch….. sleepy and dazed students expected at these times so we’re up on our feet getting the blood pumping!) we are talking about the examples of the Principles that can be seen in the garden, reinforcing and making practical the mornings classroom discussion.  The purpose of items in the garden are discussed as well as the inter-relationships which will crop up as a topic in the afternoon.  Are we working with nature and guiding it or are we trying to work in opposition? The importance of diversity, the balance of pest and predator, each item having lots of purposes, the impact of the seasons and the nutrient movement through the system in soil preparation, plant growth, pruning and compost/mulch.

Lots of Examples can be seen….

SKYLINE MAPLE APRICOT SWEET POTATO apple  My Acidic Experiment  Lady Bird Nymph 1 Slipper Gourd 3 (Large)  4 copy Chicken with Indi small


Session 6 – Patterns to Details (Broad to Specific)

Whilst I have discussed this in the Permaculture 101 – 1.1 Ethics and Design Principles – An Introduction blog, as this is a significant Principle within this day, I have elected to copy it into here as I could not have said it better myself….

“7. Design from Pattern to Detail –  Now we start to get technical…. The ability to recognise spacial (across a space) and temporal (over time) patterns in nature enable us to make sense of what is happening and of converting/capitalising on the pattern within a different context or size of system.  “Complex systems that work tend to evolve from simple systems that work, so finding the appropriate pattern for that design is more important than understanding the details of the elements in the system.”  This topic is at the core of Permaculture Design and should be a whole blog (if not textbook) in itself.  So I will promise to come back to it and do it the justice we deserve, but the exploration of one very important example should at least help us understand where this principle fits within the whole.

Example 1: Forest Patterns –  One type of plant grown in the same location year in year out, creates individual mineral deficiencies in the soil, poorer soil life diversity (and every ailment that comes with that!) and ultimately the need for the importation of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides to correct the imbalance (which nature is trying to do with the weeds and pests!).  No natural landscape on earth operates in this manner, but conventional agriculture does just that. 

lady birdNature does not have “weeds” and it does not do “weeding”.  Weeds are natures pioneers they are deliberately prolific, opportunistic, vigorous and short life cycled.  They are the first plant species to move into a damaged area of soil to ‘fix’ it for more complicated, sensitive plants and eventual succession to forests.  Shallow mat rooted weeds are designed perfectly for bare soil stabilization and the shading bare ground.  They stop the top soil blowing or washing away, reduce the temperature extremes and allow time for deep rooted weeds and other dynamic accumulators to bring up minerals and trace elements deficient in the top soil (initial germination and growing zone). Once a few generations of weeds have grown, seeded, died, composted and provided habitat for an accumulating little ecosystem, the more advanced but sensitive plants can start to germinate. Various plants then develop to perform various functions (e.g. nitrogen fixing trees) which in combination with each other and the animalia, build up the soils (both in minerals, carbon harvesting (leaf litter, roots), water holding capacity….) to then support even larger trees.  The forest ends up with multiple layers (canopy / understory, low tree layer / mid-story, shrub / small shrub / herbaceous / understory, ground covers, root dominant plants, climbing plants and fungi ) all with their respective function. We can draw on this pattern in design, by looking for shade zones already existing for the canopy to protect our sensitive plants or by mulching and planting nitrogen fixers in advance of our fruit trees. 

As well as Sun/shade patterns across a garden across the seasons, attention to this patterning of plant purpose and potential structure seems to be up near the top of the list for the DIY Permaculture design tips and tricks. 

We’ll come back to this – and have a lot of fun at a later date (plant-nerdy as it might be) – as every design I see created, has these layers defined and their implementation phased through time depending on the starting point. This principle also covers zones, sectors, slopes etc

seattle park2 (Source – but these diagrams are everywhere.)


Session 7 – Methodology of Design – Elements

Elements are essentially all the bits with in a design and their needs, products and inherent characteristic define how their interaction with one another.  Put elements together that can work in a complimentary fashion rather than direct competition and you’ll get a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


Session 8 – Methodology of Design – Zones

Zones are used to group elements and systems with similar needs for frequency of human interaction into functional areas, or proximity to the home (Zone 0). Human habits and pathways are examined so we can see the areas with existing higher and lower human interaction habitually. Successful design is comfortable, easy and logical if we have to change our habits and pathways too much, things will not get done.  To be honest, I find a whole garden design so daunting that I hide behind “zones” to break it down into bite size pieces!  By setting different goals for different areas of the garden based on their location (e.g. proximity to kitchen, a habitual path) and hence we can start thinking about placing the right Elements into that Zone.

Generalised Sector Map


Session 9 – Methodology of Design – Sector Analysis

Looking at what is outside the design but has an impact on it – I.e. the channeling or alternately, protection, from natural energies – wind, sun, fire, water, frost.  One of these will often represents a dominant force in a design – e.g. the sun – pretty dominant in Perth!


Session 10 – Methodology of Design – Slope and Orientation (high level)

SlopeFor larger properties or those on a severe slope, there is an art to selecting locations for different activities / systems as there are micro climate factors already set up on the simple rule of warm air being less dense than cool air.  Clever designs that can capitalise on these characteristics and/or manipulate them through the placement of elements. Additionally with slope, runs water and with water runs nutrients.  Another aspect to consider.  Rapid flowing run off can be destructive, but techniques to capture, carefully guide or, at the very least, slow water movement can be used to gain benefit from such a landscape.  In a rural setting, slope is also a huge consideration for potential fire behaviours.

orientationOrientation is more critical for the capture of sunlight – in winter to maximise the gardens bulk production period with its free energy source, but in summer to limit the midday and afternoon sun.  The orientation of the house and consideration of its solar passive features are just as important in your garden layout as the protection of the garden itself.  Cooling Zone 0 (the human living space) is a critical design feature in Perth’s harsh summers.


AND with a short recap at the end of the day focused on what the rest of the course holds, that is Day 1….. By now, we’re all pretty exhausted, a little frightened by the magnitude of the task before us and yet eager to continue to journey.  The first day is tough as students are typically a little quiet, the presenters are trying hard to make everyone comfortable with the learning environment and the logistics co-ordinator is in overdrive as she ensures people have what they need and ask for help when necessary.  Everyone walks away a little stunned…..but, fear not, tomorrow is a day filled with Soil (our happy place and the first thing we need to grow in a garden!) followed by seed saving, sowing, and propagation. A light hearted, hands-on, interactive day for all.



Well, we survived Terra Perma’s PDC Day One and as a treat for those Soil Lovers who have persisted through a purely Permaculture post…. eminent groups around the world have released videos for the year of the soil.  I have chosen one  (sorry UN, yours came second!) for us to both ponder and gain inspiration from….  Mr Permaculture / Mr Pemberton / Mr MGee –

Down Down Down (Song for Soil) – Permaculture Day 2015

(And as another treat – I just realised that the difference between Lover and Loser is only one letter and I nearly repelled the entirety of my readership by missing the key I wanted on the keyboard by an inch!)

Until next time, enjoy