Permaculture Design Course – Implementation

After months of design work and preparation, the time finally arrived to begin this two week adventure in permaculture design. I met with my co-teacher Chowgene Koay a few days before to go over the schedule and get our first few days really well cemented. I also met with guest teachers Dani Slabaugh and Daniel Rollings. We reviewed the course plans and schedule and prepared for the first days of the course.

I’ve separated the course outline into various sections and included images and video below where available. Sadly, my external hard drive crashed while working on the documentation of this section and so some of the areas below have gaps that I hope to be able to fill as I gather resources from course participants.

My follow-up notes can be found by clicking on the images of the course outline below. Some of this data is incomplete as well because I failed to do my followup writing during and directly after the course. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from this course and one that I hope to correct in future courses.

Special thanks to Chowgene Koay and Daniel Woods for photography and video and all the guest speakers, teachers and course participants.

Permaculture Design Course

This video, filmed and edited by Chowgene Koay is a great summery of the course implementation. This video was posted along with my course follow-up article on the Permaculture Research Institute’s website.

Permaculture Design Course at Creation Flame from Chowgene Koay on Vimeo.

Day 1

7:30 – 11:30 am – Introductions


Everybody spent a little time introducing themselves and talking about what brought them to this thing called permaculture.

Even Me

Even I had to introduce myself and spend a little time talking about what lead me to permaculture.

Sony e-reader

Lessons plan loaded onto my Sony e-reader for quick and easy reference

11:30 – 2:30 – goals

Goal Post-it Exercise

We put all our goals on Post-it Notes and stuck them on the whiteboard for everyone to see.

Erin Organizes

Erin does a great job organizing the goals and we begin to see how our ideas converge.

Art added to intention

Erin begins to add graphics to the emerging image. The tinder of knowledge is fueling the flames of passion!

Looking on

Akira and John look on in interest as a picture begins to emerge from the clusters of post-its.

Group Intention

The groups intention has emerged into this amazing graphical representation of what we all hope to achieve from the course.

Chow explains

Chow gives a great explanation of how the instructors goals are fitting into this co-creation.

2:30 – 4:30 Creation Flame tour

Hugel Mounds

Bunny and Wes describe using dead wood to build soils in Hugelkultur mounds


Describing the use of a hugelkultur system for the dry climates.

Wicking Bed

Creation Flame uses wicking beds to conserve water in a dry climate.

Grey Water System

Inspecting the overflow for Creation Flame’s reed bed grey water system.

Reed Bed

Observing the grey water filtration system that treats the Creation Flame’s waste water.

Open Source Ecology CEB

The Open Source Ecology’s Compressed Earth Brick machine that was fabricated by Creation Flame.

Goji and the goats

Goji watches over the goats

Home scale Aquaponics

Touring the green house, complete with a home scale aquaponics system made from recycled coolers.

The Power Cube

The modular Power Cube for all the Open Source Ecology machines.

4:30 – 6:00 History & PHILOSOPHY

Day 2

7:30 – 11:30 Ethics

Permaculture Ethics

The foundation of permaculture is in the ethics: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

Discussing Ethics

Chow and I discuss ethical design challenges during the group exercise.


Testing decisions through an ethical framework is challenging and takes a lot of deep thought, careful consideration and thorough discussion.

Carbon Credits Vs. Earth Care

How well do carbon credits stand up to the Permaculture Ethic of Earth Care?

Planting Trees Vs. Fair Share

What questions would you ask when testing the work of tree planting against the Permaculture Ethic of Fair Share?

Carbon Credits Vs. Fair Share

Can Carbon Credits stand up to a deep consideration of our Fair Share Ethics?

11:30 – 2:30 Best/Worst case SCENARIOS

2:30 – 4:30 Principles introduction

Permaculture Principles

Chow discussing the principle of Patterns to Details and how it applies to permaculture design.

Permaculture Design Principles

Using David Holmgren’s Permaculture Design Principles with only a slight modification.



4:30 – 6:00 design methodology

The ins and outs

Listing the inputs and outputs of various elements within a design.

Making Connections

All things in nature are connected to one another. Finding ways to tie the inputs of one systems to the outputs of another is good design.

Drawing Connections

Connecting the inputs and outputs for a better understanding of how things can be arranged in design.

Day 3

7:30 – 11:30 Principles Continued

Principles through story

Permaculture Principles being portrayed through dynamic story telling.

Interpretive dance

The Permaculture Principles being relayed through fun interpretive dance.

Visual art

A visual representation of the permaculture principles

11:30 – 2:30 Zones & Sectors

Sectors Design

Sectors are all about understanding the energy flows through a property or system.

The Art of Zones and Sectors

Using modeling clay to represent the placement of various elements based on a Zones and Sectors analysis.

Relative Location

We also used the concepts from our input/output exercise to help determine Relative Location.

2:30 – 4:30 Patterns introduction

4:30 – 6:00 Patterns continued

Patterns in Design

Designing a zone one garden based on patterns found in nature.

Branching Pattern

Using the Branching Pattern of to design a raised wicking bed water delivery system.

Spiraling Pattern

The worlds largest herb spiral! A new ‘twist’ on the herb spiral design, this group decided we should be able to walk through our herb spiral.

Waver Pattern

This team combined ripples in a pond with the iron cross to form a functional water efficient garden.

Patterns in Time

A rotational garden design system that builds fertility over time.

Clusters Pattern

Clusters of guilds scattered throughout the landscape. Order within chaos.

 Day 4

7:30 – 11:30 Trees and Forest Systems

Forest Systems

Discussing the dynamics of trees and the effects they have on the forest community.

Biomass Zones

The three main biomass zones of the tree go far beyond the what we would normal call a tree.

11:30 – 2:30 ecological Succession

Successions first steps

The first steps of succession are the introduction of plants to hold the soils together and mine minerals deep underground.

More Diversity

As diversity increases what used to be a gravel driveway starts to look more like a forest ecosystem.


As the Hardwoods begin to populate an ecosystem it can be said that the ecosystem has reached what is considered a climax.

2:30 – 4:30 Orchards & food forests

4:30 – 6:00 Animal Systems

Day 5

7:30 – 11:30 Climate

11:30 – 2:30 Mini-Design Challenge Intro

Design Challenge

Each group was given a design scenario and asked to create a design that best fit the goals.

Brainstorming ideas

Designers brainstorm the best design given the skills they’ve learned, the goals and their limiting factors.

Designing within limits

Each group was given similar design scenarios with different budgets as design limitations.

2:30 – 4:30 Mini-Design Challenge Cont


Thoughts began hitting the paper in the second part of this design session.


Putting designs to paper takes a lot of consideration, discussion and effective planning.

Artistic Touch

Permaculture design is a mix of art and science. It’s very important that we exercise both of those skills in the design course.


This group chose a creative strategy of making scale models of the elements they wanted then moving them around until they found the right placement.

Taking shape

The designs beginning to take shape in a very real way.

Design as a group

Part of the challenge is learning to think, work and design in a group setting.

4:30 – 6:00 Mini-Design challenge presentations


Groups present their design work based on the scenario they were given.


Part of the design challenge was to imagine you were presenting this work to a potential client.

All about the goals

The scenarios were made to be as realistic as possible with meeting the clients goals being the highest priority.

Day 6

7:30 – 6:00 Site tours day

Lettuce Grow a Garden

Our first stop on the tour was the very exciting home of the Food is Free Project.

Wicking Bed

Food is Free Project is best known for their easy to install wicking beds made from recycled materials.

The Vortex

There is a lot more to the Food is Free Project than just wicking beds… The vortex is home to chickens, aquaponics, composts and community gardens!


The folks at the Food is Free Project were kind enough to loan us Bessie, the Food is Free Bus, for a fun day of site tours!


Boarding Bessie we head out to our next destination… the Tillery Street Project.

Shade of the Pecans

Tucked away on Austin’s east side is a quite little business park and permaculture garden space.

Day Off

Day 7

7:30 – 11:30 Water on this planet

11:30 – 2:30 Water Catchment Systems

Dani's Water Powerpoint

Click on the image to see the full powerpoint Dani used to give her lecture on permaculture water systems

2:30 – 4:30 Water in the landscape

4:30 – 6:00 Aquaculture

Day 8

7:30 – 11:30 Soil Chemistry

11:30 – 2:30 Soil Biology

Planting seeds

Planting seeds in a wicking bed at Creation Flame during morning hands-on session – August Permaculture Design Course

2:30 – 4:30 Making a compost pile

4:30 – 6:00 Compost tea & Bio-fertilizer

Day 9

7:30 – 11:30 Earthworks

11:30 – 2:30 earthworks cont

2:30 – 4:30 Earthworks hands-on

Sandbox Landscape

Beth observes the landscape of her group’s sandbox before the design work begins

Earthworks begins

The group analyze the contours within their sandbox to determine how to layout earthworks


The dams and swales begin to take shape as students recognize the opportunities in the keylines


The group discusses the various possibilities for maximum water storage capacity in the landscape

More progress

The concepts, which can often be hard to grasp on flat topographical maps, become more clear in three dimensions

Transit level

Using a transit level to map out contour lines within a landscape in preparation for earthworks design

Shooting level

Caroline looks through the scope of the transit level to find the level in the landscape


Learning to find contour with a transit level helps to remind us how easily the human eye can be tricked


Everyone takes a turn looking through the scope and holding and moving the post


4:30 – 6:00 Map reading

Contour Design

Using google scketchup to create contour maps that help determine flow and design effective permaculture earthworks

Day 10

7:30 – 11:30 Appropriate Technology

11:30 – 2:30 Natural Building

2:30 – 6:00 Final Design Introduction

Day 11

7:30 – 11:30 Climate Regions

11:30 – 2:30 Community Cultivation

Community Cultivation

A brainstormed list of the local community systems, projects and resources that support permaculture.

2:30 – 6:00 Design Time

Day 12

7:30 – 6:00 Design day

Day 13

7:30 – 6:00 Presentations Feedback and Graduation

Realistic Design

Projects were designed to be as realistic as possible.

Layered Design

A layered design strategy helps to organize the information in to manageable pieces.


To make the designs realistic and manageable I asked people to design phases of implementation.

Future Dreams

Some design elements are too lofty to include in the final design. Layers of design.


Many design groups incorporated multiple media formats to display their work.

Broad Acre

Creating realistic scopes for the design of large properties can be very challenging.

Patterns to detail

Designing from patterns to details helps when taking on such large properties.

The details

John zooms in on the details of one of the main production areas of the design.

The largest

This groups didn’t stop at property boundaries. They worked from a broad acre design out into the broader community.

Making it cool

Jonathan serenades us with the ukulele to add a little flavor to this beautiful design project.

The broader issues

This design team looked at the broader historical context for the design and then zoomed into a regenerative design strategy for 130 acres.

Hitting the mark

How well did we hit the mark? This bullseye represents peoples opinion about the course. Most of the feedback was clustered in the first two rings!

Additional Materials

Vendor Donations

Kitchen Budget Analysis

Kitchen Schedule

PDC notes FALL 2012

The next section of this diploma project will detail the feedback from the course participants and my own personal evaluation of the overall design and implementation.

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