Wednesday, January 07, 2015

My Personal Permaculture Curriculum

During the PDC I took last year, I was reading the Permaculture Design Manual along with each chapter of the PDC released.  It was a TON of work, and I admit to falling behind a couple of times, but it was amazing to get the context of the PDC within the framework built for me by reading the corresponding chapter of the Designer's Manual prior to watching the PDC videos.  What Bill wrote and Geoff taught wove together beautifully, and I learned bunch.

I also realized that I have a penchant for book learning, and coupled with depth supplied either by a teacher or by experience I learn extremely well.  I also realized what the PDC I was taking really was; it was a detailed syllabus, with many resources to backup the importance of each subject to the student, and offer paths of further study and research to all who studied it.  Sure, the PDC offers quite a lot of depth as to how all these topics tied together, but not nearly enough to give anyone mastery of any subject.  So, I started developing my "Personal Permaculture Curriculum", or PPC.  (I couldn't help it.  Permaculture is full of acronyms, so I'm adding my own.)  Each chapter of the Designer's Manual focuses on a topic that is a doctoral career (or 3) in and of it's own.  A person could spend the requisite 10,000 hours of studying the topic of just one section in one chapter for more sections than not throughout the book, and run out of life before they've gotten through more than half the chapters.  At 2000 hours a year for the typical work week, it's 5 years to mastery.  And that's a work week of studying, 50 weeks a year, for 5 years.  Just studying and practicing permaculture.  At that rate, I'd only get through 9 chapters by the time I was 76, and only that if I spent full-time work towards it for the next 45 years.

But then I thought, that's not what permaculture is about.  It's about living healthy, taking care of your family, and having more leisure time to enjoy the abundance this planet has to offer when you are in harmony with it.  Toil and drudgery are none so grim when the fruits of your labor directly translate into livelihood of your family and your community.  I think, instead, I'll use my new PDC to do a living design of my property, and use the PDM as a jumping off point for research on studying anything I need to know in order to get going.  Then, learning mostly through experience as I go, I'll get deeper into my studies of a particular subject as needed or according to this plan.

What follows is a rough outline of the next phase in my permaculture education:

First, I'm still working through some excellent "beginner/theory books."  I'm concurrently reading "Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability" by David Holmgren and "Earth User's Guide to Permaculture" by Rosemary Morrow.  I recently finished other theory books like "One Straw Revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka, and "Thinking In Systems" by Donella Meadows.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on these books and others as I work through them.

Next, since we'll be starting our first very large garden in the spring (8000+ square feet!) I'm going to start working through quite a few gardening books, particularly books that focus on the Pacific Northwest.  Not all of these gardening books are permaculture garden focused, but I think I have enough knowledge to apply permaculture and systems thinking to those books.  I'll share my take on these books in this blog.  For a list of the books I'm going to be reading, click here.

After the garden is up and running, I'll start studying in depth and implementing some broader systems, such as the food forest and some livestock systems.  I'll be reading books like "Edible Forest Gardens" by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, and "The Small-Scale Poultry Flock" by Harvey Ussery.  I'll also be working on learning the best way to grow and improve healthy soils, and reading such books as "Teaming with Microbes" by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (as well as it's "sequel" book "Teaming with Nutrients" also by Jeff Lowenfels).

As you can see, there is a tremendous depth of knowledge that can be explored in the systems of permaculture.  Every person is going to have different interests that they'll like to explore in depth, and obviously mine are my own and not meant to be a recipe for you.  But, if you have questions or suggestions that you'd like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments.  Not only am I willing to explore areas of interest to you, I have many ideas I can share on what books or other resources might be of interest to particular areas, even if I'm not planning on going in depth in those areas myself.  If you need help or ideas, I'm here to help!  Thanks for reading!

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