Designing a Permaculture Design Course is really not that much different, in regard to process, as designing a landscape. As with any good design, it all starts with thorough goals assessment and analysis of available resources.
In the case of this design project, my goals were many and, when I recognized the opportunity to stack so many of my personal life goals together into one design, I couldn’t resist the temptation to run with it.
- Fulfill my dream of teaching the Permaculture Design Course
- Take a trip home to Austin to see friends and family on a shoestring budget
- Challenge myself to learn all the aspects of promoting, booking and teaching a course
- Teach a course that incorporated all the greatest aspects of the courses I had taken over the years, including interactive and group learning
- Share the design course with those who have contributed to my work and adventures
- Share the design course with people in Austin already doing amazing work but who have not had the opportunity or financing
- Build a curriculum that I could use and refine over time
- Gain enough hours teaching in a PDC to meet the minimum qualifications to become a PRI Recognized PDC Teacher
- Develop my own skills and knowledge of permaculture design systems
- Provide the tools and the inspiration to supercharge Austin’s already thriving permaculture scene
- Provide a source of income for organizations doing positive work in and around the Austin area
Environmental analysis and resource assessment for this project was ongoing throughout the design process. An assessment of the skills I had developed up to the time I committed myself to facilitating a course can be found here.
On my way to a startup project in a rural village of Thailand, I did not have a complete picture of the resources I would have available to me for designing a PDC. I did know, however, that there was a good chance I would be teaching a part of our first PDC at that location. I was also aware that there would be a second PDC taught at our facility, as well as a PDC Teacher Training, prior to the fall, when I planned to fly to Austin to facilitate my own Permaculture Design Course.
With that, I trusted that there would be ample opportunities to continue to refine my teaching and facilitation skills throughout the following several months. Additionally, I was joining a team of inspirational permaculture students and educators on a project that was sure to test my knowledge and skills.
Rak Tamachat (translated: Love Natural), as it would later come to be known, was the project that awaited me. Here is what I had, at that time, to assess the skills and knowledge I might gain that would contribute to facilitating a Permaculture Design Course:
With the prospects of learning from and teaching alongside internationally recognized designers and educators such as Christian Shearer and John Champagne, I felt confident that I would gain the knowledge, skills and resources to facilitate a course by the fall.
I had several host locations in mind, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. My hope initially was to find a location inside the city limits of Austin, Texas. There were a few places I assessed before finally coming to the conclusion that many of the possible locations in town would not be in a position, either in a physical or administrative capacity, at the time I was planning for the course.
One location that kept arising as a viable option was just outside of town in Cedar Creek. Creation Flame, aside from the obvious disadvantage of being outside of town, had a great facility and was gaining a lot of momentum from being the first group outside of the “Factor E Farm” to replicate a product from the Global Village Construction Set developed by Marcin Jakubowski, creator of the Open Source Ecology project.
Just after settling on Creation Flame as the host location, another unexpected challenge arose that caused me to apply the permaculture principle “Creatively Adapt and Respond to Change”. It was just discovered that a new born baby was expected at the same time I was scheduling for the course, between late September and early October. As a result, we decided to move the date up to the end of August.
As with anything, there are limiting factors that need to be considered, understood and accounted for during the design. It’s best to try to identify as many of these as possible as early as possible.
One of the most significant limiting factors I had on this project was being so far removed from the location where I would teach the course. Having just arrived in Thailand, with the expectation that I would be fairly well fixed there until, at most, a week before the course commenced, posed several serious limitations:
Host site preparation
Use of limited vacation time
Another obvious limiting factor for me was the fact that, at the time of planning, I had no prior experience teaching in a Permaculture Design Course. I also had to develop the curriculum entirely from scratch.
Lastly, hosting the course in August, traditionally the hottest month of an often excruciatingly hot Central Texas summer, was not ideal by any stretch. With the likelihood that this schedule might hold some people back from attending the course for fear of incineration, the show had to go on.
As I often do, I saw many of these limiting factors as both challenges and opportunities. This was the beginning of an exciting adventure of development and discovery.