Saturday 20 October 2012

My Permaculture Design Course (PDC)

Having explored the wonderful world of permaculture (see previous post) from books and the extensive material available on the web I decided to take the plunge and sign myself up for a full PDC.

I started to search the internet for a course that sounded best suited to my needs. Here I had a dilemma since, although the basic design elements were common throughout all the courses I researched, they were slanted towards the issues that arose in particular environments, and I was considering two very different environments. The chilly Northumberland countryside in the north east of the UK and the hot dry Mediterranean climate of our project in Crete. I was initially undecided which should be my primary focus so I decided to let fate play her hand and applied for one in Finland that would cover the harsh winter scenario and one in Malta that focussed on the challenges of the long dry Mediterranean summers. The physical challenges of applying by post for the course in Finland, whilst I was in Crete, is another story (see www.cretanodessey.blogspot) but in the end I made it but was ultimately turned down as the course was over subscribed. I therefore took this as a sign and focussed my efforts on the Maltese course where I was able to secure one of the few remaining places.
A Friend - photo thanks to Mill

Whilst in Crete I was spending many happy days at the plot undertaking an initial rough survey  of the site using a tape measure and compass, observing the sun's passage across the site at all times of day and noting what vegetation existed and considering how water moved through the site by observing the relative lushness of the trees across the site. From photos posted on previous blogs it can be seen that given the harsh dry summer climate this really is a relative measure.

Bahrija Oasis - Malta
 The course I attended in September 2011 in Malta was held at the Bahrija Oasis and was designed to look particularly at permaculture design applied to drylands with Malta also adding the limitations of a rocky landscape and salty winds. So directly comparable with my plot in Southern Crete.

"Bahrija Oasis is a small scale research and development project promoting permaculture systems, afro-forestry and integrating today's green technology with ecological land based living through a sustainable vision. The integration of traditional, forgotten methods of re-creating suitable micro-climates that suit our needs, to re-grow biomass, fruit and rebuild the soil ecology, while harvesting and using water effectively are highlighted in the project."

The Lecture Theatre - photo thanks to Jules

I found the course quite exceptional.  The standard of the teaching and the hands on experience was excellent. Since at one time in my long and varied career I had developed and run residential courses I was well aware of the challenges involved in maintaining the momentum and learning experience throughout the course especially given the long hot September days experienced in early September in Malta.The teaching style of Aranya (the course leader) ably assisted by Mill and Peppi was very well suited to my own particular learning style with an excellent mix of clear background information and real practical examples and exercises. The Bahijana Oasis itself is an excellent dry land demonstration site and what Peppi and his team of supporters have achieved is truly inspirational.

One of the aspects of the course that I found particularly rewarding was that I had taken the basic information about my plot that I had put together earlier in the year (see above) and was therefore able to offer my plot as a real practical example as an option for the group permaculture design exercise. This enabled me to act as both the "client" and as a member of the design group. Following the usual mix of group dynamics that occurs when a variety of people from differing backgrounds work together to deliver a project to a tight deadline, the outcome, which involved significant inputs from all members of the group, was a coherent, well argued and well presented design that I am using as a starting point to develop my final design for the plot based on further observation, ideas and needs that are now becoming clearer as I am spending more and more time in Crete and in particular on the plot itself.

In my next blog I will start to outline some of the experiments I have been undertaking during my time in Crete in 2012.