This coming Sunday, July 29, the third annual Permaculture Design Intensive offered by the University Centers of the San Miguel begins just outside of town. Participating in a design course can be a life-changing, life- enhancing experience. I took my course at the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt many, many years ago. I had a background in forestry and horticulture, but the class synthesized many of my ideas and beliefs and pushed my understanding of “gardens” far beyond the concept of rows of neatly weeded veggies. Since then, I’ve tried to put that learning into practice on Tomten Farm and share those experiences with others. The Permaculture course is the best sharing around – intense, stimulating, brain-filling – and lots of FUN.
Permaculture is a term coined by two Australians – Bill Mollison and his graduate student David Holmgren – to encompass a combination of permanent agriculture or even permanent culture. What’s that mean?
Wikipedia states, “Permaculture is a branch of ecological design and ecological engineering which develops sustainable human settlements and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.”
Though accurate, that’s pretty dry and does little to capture the excitement most students experience when they begin to look at the world through my permaculture lens: Care of the Earth, Care of People and Care for the Future (or Fair Share). It is a way to ethically provide for our human needs by copying, mimicking and incorporating Nature’s wisdom. It is much more than just growing food.
I am one of five teachers for this class and we’ve been together on this teaching journey for the past three years. Pat Frazier has created a biodynamic paradise at Peace & Plenty Farm on Redlands Mesa. Wind Clearwater is part of the Oasis community also on Redlands Mesa and does beautiful, thoughtful and functional landscape designs in the region. Daniel Aragon built a tiny house and brings his eye for design, art and compassion to the group. Robyn Wilson brings a south of the border perspective from her Central American permaculture course and has been the catalyst for the work we do through her position with the University Centers of the San Miguel.
What will we be doing?
At the Oasis, we’ll see how water flows on the land and how we, as humans, can adjust those flows to help create thriving mixed gardens with fruit trees, annual vegetables, perennial and annual herbs, flowers and so much more. At Peace & Plenty, we’ll see how the work we did in Year One has helped transform the orchard, see the vibrancy of biodynamic processes and learn how the addition of animals to the “farm organism” changes the scene. On Tomten Farm on Hastings Mesa near Placerville, we will get the basics of permaculture in front of folks as we look at two different types of greenhouses, see water catchment in action (and learn about the legality in this state), milk some goats, look at the forest/garden interface and start practicing with mini design slams to get creative juices flowing. We’ll also talk about the invisible ‘structures’ (cultural and interpersonal) that hold things together.
Permaculture goes beyond the farm and explores different ways of supporting and building community including bartering, natural building, restore diminished landscapes and more.
We’re excited by this opportunity to bring this to our region. For more information on the course check out www.ucsanmiguel.org or call 970-369-5255.