Coming Back into it All | Life Post-Permaculture Design Course.


The aftermath. The post-partum strangeness that occurs after total immersion in something is really quite odd.

Like, say, after a fall, or a trip or a knock to the face…there’s that moment straight after when your senses are confused, you can’t quite tell if you’re ok, if you’re injured, if your face has come clean off or…you’re maybe a little dazed by what’s just happened.

Except, it hasn’t just been a moment straight after…it hasn’t just been a few days..or a week even.
It’s been nearly a month since I came down off that mountain in County Wicklow, said goodbye to the humans I’d called family for a fortnight; to the other humans, dogs, chickens, cats, trees, fruits, flowers, stones and air and ALL the rest that had been there at every step.

Nearly a month, and I’m only starting to catch my breath and start to move on and keep moving.

Almost at the last minute, I was able to enroll on a two-week residential Permaculture Design Certificate Course at Carraig Dúlra in rural County Wicklow.

I had long followed them on Facebook and in general been keeping an eye on what was happening in Ireland in terms of Food Sovereignty, Permaculture, Natural Building, Organics and such – while I was still living in Brighton in the UK.
So it was with much excitement that in the space of a week I secured funding to help pay for the course and was off to Wicklow, via a fellow PDC student’s Permaculture homestead in Mayo first!

What followed was the most intense (and in-tents!) week of study, immersion learning, experiential understanding and hands-on teaching – from making furniture from salvaged and recycled materials, to testing pH levels in soil; from Natural Building with Cob, Straw Bales, Wattle & Daub and Cordwood to puddling and developing ponds…

We made greenwood furniture from sustainably coppiced native Irish trees, we learned about Hedgerow foraging, we took long nature walks through forests and fields observing biodiversity, patterns and systems in nature…

More than anything I was struck by how readily we saw evidence of abundance and thriving systems owing to the slow, simple permaculture solutions applied by the designers in the many gardens we visited in between study days.

In case you’re not sure, Permaculture is a system of design, inspired by and using natural patterns and progressions which can be applied to agriculture, sheltermaking/building and social design.
The term “Permaculture” is originally derived from the words “Permanent” and “Agriculture”…however as time passed this was progressed to simply “Permanent” and “Culture”.
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren are noted to be the fore-runners of the modern Permaculture movement, though it can also be said that the origins of Permaculture reach as far back as our indigenous cultures do.

Permaculture is founded on a few sets of principles:

First and foremost; “EARTH CARE / PEOPLE CARE / FAIR SHARE”.

The twelve Permaculture design principles compiled and annotated by Holmgren are as follows:

  1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

The depth of the information we received, and the quality of the immersive learn-as-you-do teaching meant that these principles, along with the other key teachings of the “Permaculture Way” were absorbed into our minds and gave us a whole, new and visceral experience apart, and one that I haven’t had in a long time.
Perhaps it is just that – a harkened-back sensation; that slight “Déjà vu” of feeling something deeply that is oh-so-strong and reminiscent of something long forgotten..whatever it is, it worked!

What follows is a mere smattering of images from the course…such was the level of knowledge and inspiration that it was quite a task to document everything as well as drink it all in.

Of course, on top of the beautiful location, the laid back, honest and human approach to tutoring, the AMAZING food and the enthralling daily sessions it was the diversity within the group of 26 fellow students made for an excellently textured and vibrant experience.
PDC attendees hailed from Japan, Canada, the USA, Europe and the British isles as well and the length end breadth of Ireland.

I went into this course hoping to both evaluate and stretch my knowledge of Permaculture, its principles, build on it and fashion an understanding of how it can be applied in a North-Western Irish situation; and came away feeling like I had certainly achieved this in spades, but had also been through somewhat of an awakening, too.
Perhaps its the group-mentality; where it worked so well that we all fell into a high-functioning machine; self-organising and regulating around things that were needing to be done such as cooking, cleaning, lighting fires, washing  dishes, attending to the, erm – rather *busy* composting loos (!) – but to function as well in a large group such as this and be constantly fed with enriching, positive and fortifying ideas and practices made for an altogether more holistic experience.

Were it just me who came away feeling like this after the course I would put it all down to serendipity and good fortune that I had such a wholly great experience…but I know that I am not alone in feeling that way.

Oh, and here’s the salvaged/recycled bench I worked on doggedly until it was finished!


HUGE Thanks to Suzie, Mike, Hannah, Barry, John, James, Lily, Orlaith, Wendy, Grainne, Courtney, Gary, Davie, Gareth and Richard…and to each and every one of my fellow PDC classmates of 2016.




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