Friday, February 01, 2013

Online Permaculture Design Course

Ragmans Lane Farm
Patrick Whitefield
I did my PDC with Patrick Whitefield at Ragmans Lane Farm  back in 2004. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ragmans is in a lovely part of the Gloucestershire countryside and makes a great setting to the lessons, the organic, vegetarian food was delicious, accommodation comfortable, I like learning in a group and Patrick and Cathy are great instructors. However, there’s a lot of information to absorb in just under a fortnight and, good value though it is, you’re paying for full board and lodging, so it is quite a chunk of money and taking two weeks off work could be difficult. Patrick’s new online permaculture design course might be just what you’re looking for.

A surveying exercise on my PDC at Ragmans
Gabrielle has wanted to do a PDC for quite a while: she wanted the theoretical grounding to the practical work we’re doing here in Brittany, to be encouraged to delve a little deeper into the elements of permaculture and, lastly, to have the formal recognition of having done the standard 72-hour permaculture course. We investigated various options but kept coming up against the obstacles of having to take a considerable time away from our own smallholding, woodlands and holiday cottage business and the cost. Then we heard that Patrick was putting together an online course, which seemed the perfect solution.

Me learning online
He began by putting his Sustainable Land Use course (now called The Land Course) online and we both signed up for that. It’s allowed us to work through the four modules of Soil, Ecology, Organic Horticulture and Sustainable Forestry in the order of our choosing and at our own pace. Patrick has effectively added in some aspects that would otherwise have been missing in the translation from a real course to a virtual one, for example, monthly Skype conferences have allowed us to have some direct instruction from Patrick, followed by a discussion amongst fellow students. The online forums have allowed us to communicate with each other, asking questions and sharing ideas and, of course, we were always free to email Patrick.

We’ve come to the end of the Land Course, perfect timing as Patrick has only just put the permaculture design course online. You can see the prices here, there are discounts if you take more than one module. Even if you don’t fancy doing the whole Land Course, I recommend that you consider taking the Ecology module as it serves as the perfect foundation course for the PDC, i.e., I think you’d get more out of the PDC having done the Ecology module first. Why? As observing natural ecosystems (to understand how they work and copy them) is central to permaculture, the Ecology module's explanation of observing and interpreting what you see is invaluable: it certainly increased my own observation skills hugely. If you don’t do that, then at least get hold of a copy of Patrick’s latest book, TheLiving Landscape - How To Read It & Understand It.

As I’ve done my PDC, it’ll be Gabrielle that takes this online course but I shall be looking over her shoulder and it should be a useful revision of the elements that make up permaculture; we’re looking forward to it.