HeenanDoherty Charter

“...HeenanDoherty's Charter is to provide the potential for people to be informed about the regenerative economy, whether it involves their work in agriculture, land management, corporate life, domestic services, manufacturing or other activities that are within the domain of humans…”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Off the Contour' #4 - A Permaculturalists Retrospective Version II

'Off the Contour' #4 'A Permaculturalists Retrospective Version II'


This article was stimulated by the nice piece that emerging Permaculture Designer Nick Huggins put together promoting Permaculture Design practice and the course that he has designed to go with this...I have a few pointers around my own experience with all of this...some of which was shared with the good folks who attended our recent (August 2010) 'GIS/Watershed Analysis for Permaculture' workshop. I also penned an article on some of this topic for the wonderful Spanish magazine 'EcoHabitar'. Also following my meeting with Nick at APC10 I was able to hear his fantastic vision for ‘Permaculture Business World i
' as a networking concept and so this piece in some way also responds to this call as well though I look forward to Nick outlining his proposal further.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) as presented by myself now some 38 times (up to September 2010) since my 1st co-training with Janet Millington & Bill Mollison in Tasmania in 2001. This is particularly appropriate now that ‘The Permaculture Institute’ (TPI) Teacher Registration is no longer and whilst the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) are looking at having a teacher registration process put into place, this has been explained to me as ‘not a replacement of the TPI teacher register ii’ due to a lack of resources to support it. With the TPI system many of us were quietly critical of the lack of facilitated dialogue between the Registered Teachers nor any ability for this faculty to engage effectively with the TPI as one would expect as professionals. This was despite repeated representations to TPI otherwise. I have spelt my feelings on this matter in the various forums including on the PRI forums so I don’t need to regurgitate anything there.

After nearly 40 PDC’s

For the last couple of years I have decided to put the ‘design’ back into the Permaculture Design Courses (no longer Certified as I am not a ‘Registered Teacher’ anymore!). I was growing very bored with the whole format of the course, not helped by the fact I did 6 or so PDC’s in 2007, particularly as I was using the familiar ‘day to a subject, major design exercise at the end of the course’ format that many of us PDC graduates have endured. Much like design becomes automatic after a while, so does teaching to an extent. Bill Mollison said to me once that ‘after a few hundred designs you'll become bored with it iii’ and after over 1300 I am yet to find that to be the case though with teaching it can be if you don’t keep reinvigorating your format and delivery.

I found myself speaking automatically and ‘parroting’ the same old verse. I don’t think that our students picked up on this necessarily as I am a pro and worked in Permaculture design, development and management for over 8 years before I started teaching, but nonetheless I felt something needed to change. So the ratio of projector/voice time to practicum has changed considerably to where now we have a 50:50 approach of talk:practicum, and assessable practicum at that. Being a design course most of the practicum’s are design exercises and we have found this to be very successful in equipping participants with greater skill in design upon graduation.

Where in most PDC’s people get but one opportunity at the end of a PDC to do a design and then get assessed, and often ‘softly’ the results are designs that are more often than not overdesigned, poorly illustrated/graphics, poorly presented, unrealistic proposals of what I call ‘Permaculture Dreaming’. In my opinion and experience this set’s people up with unrealistic expectations of what can be practically achieved post PDC, especially immediately post PDC. We have by no means got this perfect but at we are working towards what is the antithesis of the ‘2 week single design exercise chalk & talkathon’. It certainly doesn’t hurt for experienced PDC teachers to go and do another PDC with another teacher (s) to freshen their approach and gather new ‘material’ and methods to teach what is my opinion becoming a more and more challenging course to teach.

Why increasingly challenging? In my opinion and experience the main reason is that as the PDC gets more and more mainstream folks coming along we are finding less and less capability and ecoliteracy and so, at least in our participatory course environment (perhaps not so in a less participatory course where you just sit and listen and maybe get the guts to ask a question occasionally perhaps embarrassingly exposing your lack of knowledge!) we are having to spend a lot of time both during class and especially in breaks and after class explaining very basic, key issues around ecology that people just don’t get and that in the time allocated are difficult to otherwise get across: Photosynthesis by plants and phototrophic bacteria for example!

We had a student once who had just done a 4-year Environmental Science degree (US) and declared that despite this she felt ‘useless’ as her degree was largely academic. We then went on to advertise our PDC’s with the slogan, ‘Want to become more useful? Then do a Permaculture Design Course!’ Dr. Tim Flannery pointed out in his most recent tome ‘Here on Earth iv’, that in the Agrarian age humans have lost brain size and capacity due to more sedentary behaviours which don’t rely on as keen a use of the full range of our senses. Those industrialists who amortised Adam Smith’s ‘Division of Labour v’ really put the reductionist nail in the coffin then as far as human capacity and capability is concerned.

This perhaps points to the importance of us almost requiring the prospective PDC students either do an Introduction to Permaculture short course or that we use the time following enrolment to give people the appropriate reading and instruction using the multimedia we now have available so widely.

With the dilution of time comes a simplification of the material such that I am seeing many PDC graduates coming away from some courses taking often disintegrated ‘grabs’ of design approaches with ‘one size fits all’ strategies, for want of a better word as carte blanche is by no means good nor effective design practice and I strongly believe the wrong message for people to take home about Permaculture. We need to strengthen the understanding of the processes of decision making around the Permaculture Ethics and Principles not dilute them such that they fall foul of oversimplification lacking due diligence and process. For those yet to do a PDC it is important that they speak to this and demand that the PDC bar is raised.

In this commentary I am of course referring to PDC’s being delivered to literate folks of developed countries as the PDC for illiterate or underdeveloped countries/locations has a whole measure of other issues not discussed in this piece.

Integration of Holistic Management® Decision Making into the Permaculture ‘Toolkit’

I have come to a strong point that you have to start somewhere in building practical reality into Permaculture design. Our idea was to bring into the whole PDC process from the outset the Holistic Management® Model for decision making. This puts in place a decision making framework from the get go that has worked for many people for some 30 years now and has resulted in over 30 million acres on the planet being under Holistic Management.

While we were at it we have also included in with the Mollisonian and Holmgrenian Permaculture Ethics & Principles discussion, principles and ethics developed by respected designers and ecologists such as Sim Van der Ryn, Art Ludwig, Dr. John Todd, Lynn Margulis, Kirk Gadzia & William McDonough among others. Bill Mollison himself stated around this, ‘I broke through when I started to think that if I took all the principles of environmental science and made them into directives that tell you what to do, then we've got a way to go. Luckily, Kenneth Watts at the University of California at Davis, had just put out a little book on the principles of environmental science so Kenneth had listed all those principles and rules that people had thought they'd discovered and I took each one in turn and changed it into a directive vi

In a subsequent article I will provide this list of principles as I believe that they are most useful and inform the PDC student of the world of ecological design outside of that of Permaculture as is important in my opinion and experience.

It is clear that ever since we opened our PDC (and Keyline Farming, Carbon Farming + Carbon Economy courses) with an explanation of Holistic Management principles that we are reducing the incidence of ‘Permaculture Dreaming’ though not holding back the creative forces that define the design and management outcomes of sound Permaculture planning. As Holmgren put it, ‘Integrate not Segregate vii ’ and in doing so continue the incremental evolution of Permaculture thinking and action.

Changing the PDC Subject Order

Nothing is static and in many ways now that the TPI Teacher Registration program is over I have more freedom to develop our PDC accordingly. Not that the old format is broken by any means. In fact it wasn’t until I started teaching the whole PDC that I understood the genius of the ‘animal’ I was dealing with and the whole ecology of the PDC itself, which as with any ecology is an on-going process. We still run day to a subject and go for 16 days if we can (around 95 hours with 14 days of subjects {according to the Chapters of Permaculture: A Designers Manual viii}, 1 day off and ½ a day for goodbyes, final design presentations, ‘certificate of completion’ ceremonies, ‘where to nows’ etc.).

We have changed the order a little though again this was influenced by my seeing all of these student’s design’s come through where there was no financial basis to them, nor were good aquaculture systems included either and most pragmatically no quality of life considered. This was a function of the order of subjects not being supportive of these two very important subjects: 13. Aquaculture & 14. The Strategies of an Alternative Nation. So now we go with the following order:

Day 1 – Introduction

Day 2 – Concepts & Themes in Design
Day 3 – Methods of Design
Day 4 – Pattern Understanding
Day 5 – Climatic Factors
Day 6 – Trees & Their Energy Transactions
Day 7 – Soils
Day 8 – Water
Day 9 – Earthworks & Earth Resources
Day 10 – Aquaculture
Day 11 - Strategies for An Alternative Nation
Day 12 – Humid Tropics
Day 13 – Drylands
Day 14 – Cold Humid

Stimulated in part by Mark Shepard, Wayne Weisman and Bill Wilson of MidWest Permaculture ix in the USA on our most recent course we started a Google® Group where a month ahead of the PDC we asked registrants to introduce themselves and make some statements around their expectations and list of outcomes they would like to vision for Gaia. We also asked people to assemble plans of their own place such that we could use these potentially through the course as design exercises. This is especially valuable where on a course like ours we are trying to generate a lot of design experience and might have up to 30 odd bright minds eager to ply their ideas and concepts as part of an experiential design process. Furthermore therein lies the opportunity for students to practice both being a client and a consultant as for many either of these roles is new territory.

Emerging Permaculture educators such as Ethan Roland, Greg Landau (USA) and Grifen Hope (Chile/NZ) are also leading the way in using internet communications in creative ways to broaden the scope of learning opportunities allowing cross-continental participation of Permaculture luminaries such as David Holmgren, Geoff Lawton & Bill Mollison along with the likes of myself on their PDC’s. I can certainly see in the future the potential of a completely multi-media PDC, though for mine nothing will ever replace the residential PDC, and yet this now time-honoured format will become increasingly difficult in a world where cheap energy is a thing of the past, especially if more localized PDC participation does not increase.

A New ‘Work’s Pattern’

When we started out in 1993 I used to do all of my designs by hand and did so until I discovered MapInfo Professional when doing my Whole Farm Planning Certificate at the University of Melbourne in 1995. This was a revelation to me as at that stage we were doing around 20 designs a year and then after buying this software (for about $1000 at the time with the help of my former colleagues in Will Dalgliesh and Joy Finch) we were able to step this up to 1-2 designs a week. We were still doing rather long winded, though very descriptive and thorough reports for clients as well, these taking the lion share of the time. In some special situations the latter are required but in most of our jobs it was clear that clients were only flicking through these tomes and that the long days and late nights assembling them were clearly a waste of time and effort. What they really wanted, and we were happy to oblige, was a ‘shopping list’, code for a ‘Bill of Quantities’ or ‘BOQ’.

We learned pretty quickly that the problems with developing effective and accurate BOQ that we had when designing broader scale landscapes carried on from doing hand-drawn to computer generated plans still existed...this cost us a lot on quotes and gave us considerable angst as we were generating a lot of work and throughput over this period (1995-1997). The shit nearly hit the fan on a couple of large installations and so we bit the bullet and got a surveyor to join our team full-time (as a sub-contractor as with all of our team as I don’t believe in ‘employees’ as it does not denote self-reliance in my opinion or experience).

Why did this happen? The main reason is that the base maps you are working with consider the world as being on a horizontal plane (ie. completely flat) and on larger installations this distorts the measurement of areas and lines enough to throw your figures way out. Total Station surveyed projects take this error out altogether as plans are 3D and overcome as best we can the 'map is not the territory' epithet that otherwise will come to plague you down the track. As many Permaculture trainers don’t do broadscale design and installation work they don’t know of this and therefore don’t necessarily move beyond David Holmgren’s aphorism, ‘the map is not the territory’ in their advice to students.

Another hindrance in all of this is the base topographic data that most people source and base their concept and ultimately their detail designs on have 10, 20 or 50m contours. These are ok for assessing basic landscape patterning but for serious detail design these are just not accurate enough. This is because of the process of generating the contours used stereoscopes and photogrammetry. Photogrammetry has come a long way since the old Army Survey Corp (here in Australia) and their equivalents in other countries developed the bulk of the data that we use today. But even most digital topo data these days is simply a digitized version of this data rather than newly developed topo data using the latest computerized photogrammetry technology, which is quite good by comparison.

Our approach therefore is to use the overlay the government topo data onto aerial photo data to do digital concept sketches, from this then advise our surveyors to conduct <0.5m>
The pros/cons of using GIS (and some higher end 3D CAD) software versus ‘Drawing/Graphics’ packages is as follows:

GIS Pros:

• Scale is easy to apply

• Map is geographically registered and as such uses commonly used map coordinate systems
• Handle’s 3D data and provides accurate distance and area measurement
• Easily replicable legends
• Industry standard symbol and line styles
• Ability to develop ‘queries’ of data sets
• Ease of creating multiple layers

GIS Cons:

• More utile packages are relatively expensive

• May require some short training prior to use
• Packages may be increasingly complex
• Potential for ‘Paralysis by Analysis’

Graphics Software Pros:

• Often free or bundled with printers, cameras and other devices

• Generally easy to use with familiar cross platform tools and language
• Easy to start off working straight away on a design without geographic registration etc.

Graphics Software Cons:

• Scale is not necessarily available or practical

• Geographic registration not available (linked to scale)
• Doesn’t maintain scale from software such as Google Earth
• Doesn’t work in with GPS data

Streamlining Permaculture Design Reporting

As mentioned before, on producing reports we found that despite our best literary efforts clients tended not to respect the effort we put into these very well thought out and thorough tomes and therefore we were spending way too much time on writing reports costing us valuable time that could have been more productively spent keeping up with all of the work we had piling up and with my young family. So I went full circle and developed an MS Excel-based BOQ model that has now become what we call our ‘Workbook’. This also followed the process we call 'Our Work's Pattern' (circa 1997) and since then has been expanded considerably. The ‘Workbook’ is available as an open source document upon request and will soon be placed on the RegenAG website. The ‘Work’s Pattern’ document is also available upon request, though it is now somewhat antiquated it may provide some insight into some of the processes professional Permaculturalists go through in their workings with clients.

Adaptation of the ‘Bullseye’

Many people have started using our ‘Workbook’ and adapt it for their own purposes, which is as we had intended. We are now working on adding a range of new analysis tools based on the work of our good friend, colleague and mentor, Holistic Management Certified Educator, Kirk Gadzia x. Our lithological analysis tables up to then had been based on the Australian standards for land survey, which are still appropriate though do not question the appropriateness of a specific category of condition against the goal of the project. Furthermore being in a tabular proforma layout, unlike the ‘Bullseye’ these are not in a graphical layout and so are not as easy to read, nor assess readily whereas the ‘Bullseye’ charts allow one to make immediate assessments of the situation due to their graphic layout.

At our most recent PDC on the Atherton Tablelands (September 2010) we had our students complete a design exercise on Day 3 (‘Methods of Design’) where they had to adapt the ‘Bullseye’ platform to other ‘Domains of Permaculture xi’, which turned out to be very useful, and an approach I would like to broaden following this intra-PDC ‘Action Research xii’.

Rediscovering Holistic Management

In 1993 I was 1st exposed to the term Holistic Management and with all of my new post PDC bravado (and relative youthful 24 years of age) I had an animated discussion with a young grazier in George King at a party at St Arnaud in Central Victoria. He had just done a HM course and was gung ho about it and I had just done my PDC and was equally as gung ho about Permaculture and let’s just say we agreed to disagree. A couple of years later and I attended my 2nd PDC as a student this time with some 75 others at Tagari Farm at Tyalgum with Bill Mollison, Peter Wade & Tim Winton and again HM came up, this time with Bill Mollison himself. I found a copy of Holistic Resource Management xiii (coincidentally released in 1988) in Bill’s extensive library and so in a quiet moment I asked what he thought about HM. Bill told me that ‘…cattle were the main problem in Africa and this doesn’t work… xiv’. Respecting Bill’s opinion I left HM at that and it wasn’t until nearly 12 years later that HM came around again, this time in the US during our world tour which exposed us to our now good friend and business associate, master grazier and carbon farmer Abe Collins.

Abe is an amazing grazier whose focus is soil building with cattle production being a tool towards this process. Abe brought into sharp focus the integration of Keyline Design and HM, having had his flat Vermont property designed remotely by famed Keyline Designer Ken Yeomans (son of the late, great P.A. Yeomans). Abe had developed it according to the plan and it’s a fantastic layout. We had a 3 day Keyline Design Course there as part of our 2007 World Tour and so we immediately brought the ‘wholes’ together. Abe was running his herd at the equivalent of 1 million lbs per acre, which is effectively one cow for every 3m2, pretty well as tight a stocking density as it gets and moving them 6-10 times a day with amazing results in terms of land and livestock health and performance. He gave me a copy of the Holistic Management Handbook xv and straight away I bought a copy of Holistic Management: Frameworks for Decision Making xvi, which I ended up reading first.

The next part of this ‘whole’ process was to connect these dots in California with our good friends and clients, John Wick and Peggy Rathmann on their 650 acre Nicasio ranch. My consultancy with them was around creating a Keyline plan that included a grazing layout. Their intention was to increase the number of perennial native grasses on their holding and so in doing we brought Abe into the consult where he developed with Peggy and John a HM Grazing Plan. John and I immediately talked about the big picture around the globe’s broken down carbon cycle and he agreed with me that the best way to tackle this problem was to put the recalcitrant atmospheric carbon back in the soil and that farmers were incentivised to do so, but that we needed top down strategy with a farmer-centred bottoms-up approach.

And so we brought in Abe and we teamed up to facilitate a meeting that included the Marin County Ag Commissioner and other representatives, UC Rangeland Management Directors, United States National Parks Service staff, the Marin Organic CEO and a few others. Here was my 1st experience of using HM-derived conflict resolution tools, though in this case we were not resolving any conflicts rather we were determining the development of a carbon farming project.

Following a short presentation by Abe and myself on the various soil building and regenerative agriculture techniques, we then gave each participant an A5 card asking onto which they were to write the answers to the following question, ‘..What would be the best possible outcome of increasing soil carbon in the world?’ which they then in turn had to read out. This gave a wide range of responses that ranged from the wistful to the more academic. Mine was something like, ‘…that we would have to start burning fossil fuels again!…’. The next question was, ‘…What would be the worst possible outcome if we failed to prevent global warming?’. This time the faces were downward looking and those who did answer were pretty graphic with those not answering saying later that ‘…they couldn’t because it brought back memories of nuclear war drills etc.’

What was the whole point of this process?

This whole process ultimately resulted with John’s (and his local collaborators) establishment of the ‘Marin Carbon Project’, a 5 year US$2.3 million research project across Marin and Petaluma county grazing property’s in which UC Davis Geophysicist, Professor Whendee Silver was put in charge, and from all accounts is doing a great job to help reveal the potential of seasonal Mediterranean grasslands to sequester atmospheric carbon.

Including Holistic Management Processes in our Family Permaculture Business

It was interesting to hear from Geoff Lawton once of how following his first PDC in 1983 that he and his wife of the time suffered what he termed a ‘Permaculture Divorce xvii ’ and that following this he has tried to enable couples into his various courses such that they don’t suffer a similar fate. Its interesting that this might occur though unfortunately Geoff is not alone with this experience, certainly we can only look at our own experience where I went off to my 1st PDC in 1993, leaving my wife, Lisa Heenan our then infant daughter Isaebella at home with me returning full of the energy that follows a PDC whilst Lisa was at home fending for herself with a new born child. As anyone who is lucky enough to know Lisa would know, she is not backwards in coming forward: being the youngest of a family of 12 children ensures that! This was one of my 1st experiences at the art of what Lisa calls ‘the renegotiation of the contract’.

With the development of our young business we spent a lot of time negotiating our marital contract along with that of our business profile. It is one of the great features of owning your own business that you can meld its profile around the personal life you are trying to develop in concert with this. Permaculture per se, didn’t offer us any solutions to provide us with, not that what Permaculture is perhaps about doing: it is after all not a design system that deals with life skills as such, though of course these are implied in the Ethics (especially the 2nd ethic) and with creativity can be extricated from the Principles.

In 1996 Geoff Lawton contacted me and asked if I cover him on a PDC he scheduled in Patagonia in the Argentinian Andes. Of course this sounded amazing and with this I also was asked to do a PDC in Wisconsin a couple of weeks after this. Lisa and I thought it would be tough month but worth it so I could gain experience in different climates etc. So off I trapsed on the long journey over the southern pacific where I landed in Buenos Aires, then catching a 18 hour bus ride across the Pampas to the sleepy mining town of Zapala, a 4 hour pick up ride heading north and then a 4 hour journey in a tractor pulled trailer up into the mountains arriving ultimately at the remote and very spectacular 110,000 acre Estancia Ranquilco. No phones and no communications and only 7 students! So the promised remuneration was not forthcoming and in the short term Lisa was stuck at home minding our children not knowing where the hell I was or if I was dead or alive. I finally got word out to her after a week or so that all was well and then when I finally got to a phone myself after nearly 3 weeks I called a very distressed and angry wife, even moreso when mortgages were due and I was coming home virtually empty handed. It didn’t end there.

After a couple of days at home I then did a stint at the local PDC here in Bendigo before boarding another plane back across the pacific and the US to the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. I start the course and again I only have 7 students, which is fine for intimacy but crap for the course budget so again we take a hit…I ultimately hit home and again its time to renegotiate our contract!

This time we resolved the following family rules:

1. That any jobs over 10 days would require (at our discretion) that our whole family were supported to join me and fed and accommodated for the duration

2. That a 50% deposit of the full course fee be deposited 10 days before the commencement of the course
3. That we would negotiate within our family a work strategy (culminating in our 2007/9 world tours and RegenAG Ltd.) such that our effectiveness and energy efficiency was as high as practical

Lisa and I attended a 3 day Holistic Management workshop that we’d organized as part of our ‘Carbon Economy Course’ in 2009 led by the wonderful Kirk Gadzia at ‘Orella Ranch’ on the California coast just north of Santa Barbara along with the ranch owners and our good friends Mark, Guner & Heidi Tautrim and farmers from that part of the world. This provided us with an opportunity to ‘stocktake’ what our goals, aspirations and better still exposed us to the HM ‘Testing decisions’ and led to the development of our Holistic Goal. This whole process changed many of our behaviours and foci from what they were before and really, things have been a lot clearer than they ever have been.

Following the end of this tour we headed home and then headed to New Zealand for a short break before our annual PDC at Rainbow Valley Farm. We purposely designed to use this break to not only take a breather but also to revise our family goals and what ultimately became our Holistic Goal. Our children were involved in this process as ‘Decision Makers’ and accordingly felt more included in the direction of our ‘ship’ than they had been before. From this we set up some new ‘family rules’, some directives to act, strategies for dealing with the world, intergenerational policies (i.e. principles of family succession) in a relative painless and productive way. The latter point is particularly important to me having suffered considerably according to the succession processes in my mother’s family and the fate of what was our family farm xviii.

Heenan:Doherty Holistic Goal

'…to maintain creative & intergenerational family lives built around regenerative & profitable production, management & educational systems...’

Top 10 Outcomes

1. Produce stable environments with sound watersheds
2. Restore profitability via integrated and regenerative agricultural development & management
3. Increase wildlife species, numbers within species and stability of populations
4. Improve water, soil, vegetation resources of cities, industry, agriculture and nature
5. Re-establish and regenerate riverine & riparian areas
6. Prevent waste of financial, human & natural resources
7. Entrench Holistic Management Decision Making Frameworks & Permaculture Design Ethics & Principles with the education system, communities & organisations
8. Develop viable decentralised energy production systems
9. Restore local, regional and global water and mineral cycles
10. Provide value to our collaborators, course participants, clients & community


At the very recently completed 10th Australasian Permaculture Convergence (Kuranda, Queensland, Australia September 2010) it was clear from talking to many (particularly recent) PDC graduates that they are wanting a lot more after the PDC. The PDC is clearly the great introduction to the thinking involved with Permaculture Design, but is by no means the end of the learning especially as, in my opinion and observation, humans become less and less capable and ecoliterate as time goes by. Unfortunately this condition is not just reserved for the ever-increasing urban populations but those remaining and diminishing agrarians as well.

This only increases the necessity for us to provide the experiential post-PDC training that organisations such as PRI and RegenAG provides as we gear ourselves up for the enormous challenges that confront us. Accredited Permaculture Training® (APT) vitally fills this space as well though needs to expand its reach to be more effective, and in time I am sure it will. The outreach of Gaia University further broadens the post-PDC brush with its Bachelor and Masters programs, though again is in its relative infancy as an organization.

We are looking to fill some of these vital niches with our own programs as delivered by RegenAG and Australia Felix Permaculture and its great that experienced professionals relatively new to Permaculture such as Nick Huggins are also looking at doing the same.

Doing so efficiently and cost/time effectively is our great challenge and this extends to those emerging Permaculture professionals heading out to help with the task of what I have labeled as the ‘Great Retrofit’. The paradigm by which this occurs needs to be open & inclusive, adaptive & duly diligent and modeled on Gaia’s economy, though within the laws of the land and lore of the people.

i. Pers. Comm., Nick Huggins, 2010
ii. Pers. Comm., Geoff Lawton, 2010
iii. Pers. Comm., Bill Mollison, 1996

iv. Flannery, T. Here on Earth – An Argument for Hope, Text, 2010

v. Smith, A, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 1, Oxford, 1993
vi. Seeds of Change Newsletter, Scott Vlaun Interview with Bill Mollison, 2001, http://www.seedsofchange.com/cutting_edge/interview.aspx
vii. Holmgren, D, Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, Holmgren Design Services, 2002
viii. Mollison, B, Permaculture: A Designers Manual, Tagari, 1988
ix. MidWest Permaculture operate the 1st half of their PDC online through a series of streamed ‘Webinars’ reducing the amount of actual contact or ‘face to face’ time required
x. Gadzia, K. & Graham, T., Bullseye: Targeting your Rangeland Health Objectives, Quivira Coalition, 2009
xi. ibid, Holmgren, 2002
xii. ibid, Holmgren, 2002
xiii. Savory, A, Holistic Resource Management: A model for a healthy planet, Island, 1988
ixv.Pers.Comm., Bill Mollison, 2006
xv. Savory, A, Holistic Management Handbook, Island, 2001
xvi. Savory, A, Holistic Management: Frameworks for Decision Making, Island, 1998
xvii. Pers. Comm., Geoff Lawton, 2006
xviii. Doherty, D. J. ‘Challenge of capability, community & caring: Aphorisms & a grandson's journey towards a permanent culture', 2º Encuentro Internacional Amigos de los Árboles - 'Más Árboles ante el Cambio Climático' - Institución Cultural El Brocense, Cáceres, Extremadura, España, June 2010


  1. Darren I like the changing of the order, being someone who likes to give aquaculture its full two session rather than the 30 minutes most teachers go for, I like moving it up so that it will be incorporated in designs. I can see their designs progressing and then I drop the aquaculture session on them and then they go scrambling to insert it somewhere.

    I too have noticed the lack of eco-literacy and have begun to put together an online reader (treeyopermacultureedu) so that students can basically view what is to come in the upcoming PDC. WIll probably take a year to put together but we will do it. Sara Wuerstle, whom you met in California, has joined me for a year of designing and teaching back in Europe and looks like Africa as well this year. The reader will be for all to see and use and am keen to use it as a network document, kinda like the keyline Article you commented on my site not so long ago. I will be doing similar articles for each topic like in water- swales, terracing, keyline, rain gardens, silt traps..... Each chapter will get its due service but trying not to overwhelm people at the same time. Pictures will accompany text and designs. This will be linked to a database that holds articles like your much longer take on Keyline from the activist article you wrote as an example. Would like to make it part of my diploma but I don't even know who gives those out these days.

    Also we are gearing our PDC's and design work to integrating HM. Really is the way forward for PC in my opinion. It really does tie into what I am learning in my small business degree which is of course not holistic but does give me more of a framework for my client interview. Now diagnosing the company culture at the larger farms with multiple employees has just as much relevance as the soil type. The social side really seems to be paramount in this day in age.

    As for the design stuff, I think somebody like myself who is just going to fly by the seat of my pants till I get it right, Like the 230 HA horse breeding farm I am about to design in Spain, is that there are not enough opportunities yet for mentoring on broadscale. I will happily come to Australia in nine months if you give me the go ahead and I can come and learn software directly from you. Cheers mate, I love that you are pushing the envelope.

  2. Thanks for updating your PDC outline Darren. Evolving the syllabus is an important process for me, having been taught mainly by Chris Evans, an early student of Bill's, rather than Bill himself. I get to meet & share ideas with a lot of other teachers here in Britain, having taught nearly 40 PDCs now myself, but feel a lack of 'cross-fertilisation' with those teaching in other climes. I'm really looking forward to you bringing RegenAg to Britain in the autumn & learning about your ideas for broadscale farming here, which looks a little different to the Aussie landscape. It will be great for Eliza to have some backup for transforming some of Cowdray's 17,000 acres (that's a big estate over here!).