After my diploma presentation in 2021 I designed some upgrades for Beyond Buckthorns, first of all the poop palace – yes that is its name, and then started to look into the Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) from a designers perspective – designing a PDC.
The basis for the content of a PDC is the designers manual. The designers manual was written some 40 years back and since that never got a bigger upgrade. A lot of things change in 40 years, the internet happened and science found a lot about microorganisms and soil life. Yet the PDCs around the world are only slowly showing signs of change. Another aspect that has not been updated regarding the PDC: social permaculture. It is still missing in a lot of curriculums.
During a visit in Denmark in 2020 I learned that the Danish Permaculture association only certifies PDCs where at least 2 teachers were permanently present. I generally second the idea but for Finland this would be already a lot to ask. With currently only 2 diploma holders in the country, requiring two diploma holders for a PDC would make it close to impossible to hold a PDC in Finland.
Many teachers take on an apprentice or started as an apprentice. But since nearly no teachers other than George Sobol come to teach in Finland it would require travelling – in a time where countries are at war, natural gas is rare, and we are on the brink of extinction.
I also noticed that more and more PDCs emphasise the titles of the teachers, especially if there are co-teachers with a master or a PhD. That’s another topic I come to in another article – about weaponizing the PDC and the influx and overtake of universities of the PDC.
Because there was no PDC in Finland since 2018 I checked in 2019 with different institutes in order to get a teacher to Finland on a teaching assignment. It means a teacher gets paid by the sending association, in this case the Danish permaculture association. I evaluated different possible locations. At the end I thought of a very low cost PDC and decided to go with Tärkkilä – but then COVID happened and the plans got set aside.
The demand on infrastructure onto a PDC is constantly raising. In a talk with some teachers it was clear afterwards that they prefer not to teach in a barn or garage. The principles go like this: The fancier the better. I always thought we should deliver permaculture education to everyone and not just the privileged rich white. But let’s spare that for another time.
Putting the PDC together
I started with reading the core requirements from the UK permaculture association. I actually read them when I started with the diploma in order to learn all the topics that are needed to teach a PDC.
Then I started reading a lot of other PDC curriculums, from Rosemary Marrow’s to people I have never heard of before. In total about 10. They differed in details, from schedule to detailed teaching instructions.
Next were the UK core requirements again. I marked those I could blindly teach. Then I marked those lectures which could be taught by other teachers. I found that with a total of 3 teachers everything could be covered easily without running into problems. There would have been even overlaps between topics.
It was time to confirm a date. We chose the week that included the 21st of June, the summer solstice, and ended before the Finnish midsummer weekend.
Once we had all teachers confirmed and the date set I started working on the actual teaching schedule and the session details. It took me about 9 iterations before I had a, from my perspective, perfect flow within the schedule.
In order to modernize the PDC a little I included a lecture on on microorganisms and design reverse engineering.
Setting up infrastructure
A person uses up a lot of water, and produces faeces and urine. More people use and produce of course more.
We have 3 composting toilets on site, one newly build. The others got refurbished. I iterated the biogas shed design. When I designed the shed I had a missing information about chicken. I removed the winter chicken coop and put a modular class room & research laboratory up – yet still undocumented.
Parts of our large barn were transferred into a dining room.
At our camping area a friend of mine built a tipi including a fire place and then also a shower tipi. The shower was powered using solar heat and electricity.
During the PDC
We had 7 participants of which 5 were camping on sites. Actually it should have been 9 but our friend from Pakistan couldn’t get the visa in time and our friend from Nigeria couldn’t get the visa at all.
The first 3 days were the most stressful. It is the time of settling in and get to know each other – and of course the core topics of permaculture: ethics, principles, design tools, soil, water and air. On the 3rd day Kalle joined and then one day later Anton Nordqvist for his lecture and workshop about food forests.
After the lectures on forests, food forests and agroforestry Dan McTiernan joined us for a complete day. He explained several topics, especially how to build and use an a-frame. At the end of his lectures we went for charcoal making in our new KonTiki kiln.
We placed a free day in the middle of the course, giving our participants some time to socialise and explore Laitikkala.
Back from the short break we jumped into the design part, and of course all my favourite topics, like energy autonomy, off-grid solar systems, wind energy, biogas, fermentation, microorganisms, etc. - basically too many to name them all.
Lumia taught on social permaculture, wiser money and other of her favourite topics. Our students were very impressed with Lumias knowledge and her teaching skills.
For the design challenge we went to Luomuakin, an organic strawberry farm close to Laitikkala. He explained the challenge and then the observation started. And from there our students where on their own – no fully – I was still available to answer questions and comment on design partials.
On the last day our 4 teams had to present their designs. How marvellous they were! Each one of them a nice permaculture design with astonishing depth of details and thoughtfulness.
Kalle, Lumia and I were very proud of our students. We ended with a small concert and then dropped back into our quite life.
Not to say: We miss our students!