Permaculture Teachers Training: Six Day Advanced Permaculture Course: Europe, Terra Alta

Permaculture Teachers Training: Six Day Advanced Permaculture Course: Europe, Terra Alta.

getting ready to start our three week pdc on monday and announcing an exciting teachers training with one of my most important mentors along the way in my Permaculture Journey; Robina McCurdy of New Zealand. It will be in July at Terra Alta in coastal Portugal, where i am living these days, teaching and farming! Join us to gain knowledge from one of the most experienced teachers in the Permaculture world. 

Creation and Evolution through Patterns: Classification

Creation and Evolution through Patterns: Classification.

Patterns Chapter TreeYo EDU release: and i quote, “No matter the pattern, no matter the crossover between them, it’s not so much the physicality of it all, rather the energetic exchange that is facilitated that frames how we utilize this understanding for our design work.” New understanding of patterns came to by writing this article. simple but a small tick forward in my head. I love writing!


Diversity (Guilds)

Diversity (Guilds).

Guilds, an art within permaculture that allows the true expression.  its fulfilling of functions with multifunctional elements in a pallet of great diversity depending on your context and climate.  these little mini ecosystems merge overtime to form guilds within guilds within guilds.  A fractal food forest!


A network Connection/ travels east to Slovakia for a consult and PDC setup

A network is an interesting pattern in nature.  Nodes that lay dormant can become ignited at anytime and spark a revival and reunion. This just happened to me as a recent email from an old friend back in New

Map of central/eastern Europe, notice the mountains!
Map of central/eastern Europe, notice the mountains!

Zealand in 2008 propelled me to the beautiful and  mountainous country of Slovakia in Eastern Europe.  A cook on a course that i assisted on at the intentional community on the northern reaches of the south island, Tui, Hanna recently wrote about teaching a PDC at the land she stewards of 18 HA within a larger project. Its an interesting landscape so to speak, a community within a mountain village in Central Slovakia.  Hanna is from the Czech Republic and has been living at this community shortly after she left New Zealand.  In need of a PDC teacher, she reached out to me and voila i did a prep trip there to do consulting and organize the course.

Summer festival picture on the land Sekier
Summer festival picture on the land Sekier

The land, Sekier, is an extension of the communities educational endeavors with her and her partner running a program where four people from the European Voluntary Service (EVS) come and become immersed in rural Slovakian life on a farm.  The site has a beautiful physical landscape as it is at the very top of the watershed with the dividing ridge being the property line.  The site is a mix of forest and meadow with the meadow landscape being cherished by the government so much that it puts subsidies towards leaving it at this level of succession.  Whether its hay or grazing animals, if you keep the fast growing and encroaching forest at bay the government sees this as an asset.  It’s interesting when doing a permaculture design because of invisible structures such as these meadow subsidies as you push more towards forest gardens and orchards, tree belts and windbreaks and also developing a savanna like landscape to bring the diversity to the landscape to make it more resilient.

hanna's horses, one of the shapers of the meadow
hanna’s horses, one of the shapers of the meadow

The landscape is fairly gentle for its tall hill look with the site being over 800 m (2700ft) . The hills rarely drop with a steepness making it unworkable and the land feels fairly open.  At first look the soils seem extremely productive but the black color is deciving, the silts of the base rock andesite rather than from hummus. Moreover, the whole 18 HA seems to roll and fold in a gentle way that makes water harvesting, tree planting, and grazing all doable.  These are some of the goals sites and it is what i was there to help with; land design. The climate and overall landscape is similar to back in the states where I grew up (Southern Ohio) but with gentler summers since this site is so elevated.  Winters are harsh and long and I even got to touch snow again this winter which i didn’t think was going to happen until Hanna called me.  It was melting which is why it was a quick decision to come so that the observation of this stored precipitation and its subsequent late winter melting could be seen to help with decisions on water harvesting.  It was nice to be back in the dirty brown, grey landscape during March as it is what i am used to from my Ohio heritage.  Portugal is green as can be right now but a bit of the edge of wanting to visit my stateside life was alleviated.

Along the way i got to know the rhythm of the place which was nice.  I was well hosted by Hanna and her partner Arvid in their lovely strawbale tiny house.  It was always warm and the insulation was definitely working as the wood stove was on but mostly for only cooking purposes.  Furthermore, we ate lots of good eastern european local and fusion healthy food along the way.  i even had sauerkraut soup for the first time which was absolutely delicious!  They both are big fermenters and the kitchen was very alive with things soaking, sourdough bread working and baking, and kefir drinking being copious.  My favorite breakfast was the oats dish with a fresh geese egg that was fried sunny side up to perfection and showed its double yoke.  What a treat and in tradition I had beer with it for breakfast!

Strawbale plastered walls close up.
Strawbale plastered walls close up.
Hannas straw bale house, so cozy!
Hannas straw bale house, so cozy!
geese egg and beer breakfast, with a gourmet look
geese egg and beer breakfast, with a gourmet look
the stove that brought so many good eats alive
the stove that brought so many good eats alive
fun and simple mosaic in the bathroom!
fun and simple mosaic in the bathroom!


We also had the chance to plan our 2 week PDC that will be run in late August early September.  I really feel like this a good destination for the course and we will enjoy plenty of local foods and the like.  we have some nice excursions planned and i look forward to exploring more the area.  Most importantly i can see that with more education the local ecovillage can benefit for sure.  I did some sprout up consulting at another location in the village and those few permaculture tricks that are needed were quite obvious.  I hope to impart them on this community and the larger community that will form for those two weeks.  It was nice being back in the east, a different language, a different culture, and well a different rhythm.  For now its back to work in the west, West Coast of Europe- Sintra, Portugal, Terra Alta.


possible Field Excursions pictures below and click here for the course page!

Perma-Aquaculture at Terra Alta, Sintra, Portugal, May 2015

Perma-Aquaculture at Terra Alta, Sintra, Portugal, May 2015.

Within the three week PDC that I am heading up at Terra Alta at the end of next month, me and Karsten Hinrichs will be teaching a focused weekend course on aquaculture. Its how i started in Permaculture and excited to teach more on this topic in depth and advance our aquaculture mission at Terra Alta. hands on will be focusing on tank improvement and stream restoration that is aided by plant propagation. Karsten will also be sharing on swimming pool conversion, from conventional to natural. Biodiversity is growing! 


On the Road Consulting in Ourique, Alentejo, Portugal

While searching for fruit trees in Portugal, the algorithms behind search engines delivered the TreeYo website to a new client of mine.  He found the work I was doing interesting and contacted me not even knowing what permaculture was some months ago. His original interest was in fruit trees but the messages were tinted with bigger goals and plans. He sent me satellite images and professional topographic maps, descriptions and even self made videos, all which helped me to get to know the land in advance.  We exchanged numerous emails and we worked out finally a time to meet at his land as he is currently living out of country.

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 6.51.37 PM

That was in mid February 2015, in the warming spring air of Alentejo.  The land is just outside of Ourique, a small agricultural region that boasts to be capital of the black pig.  This pig is famous for its meat and is a vital link in the montado, which is the savanna like landscape of Iberia with the overstory of Cork and Holm Oak.  Unfortunately due to many interlinking connections of social, environmental and economic reasons the montado is dying out. Furthermore, having worked at a similar size project last year in Alentejo only about 50 Kilometers away near Odmeira, I was quite happy to return and explore another region of this beautiful and often forgotten part of Western Europe.

Looking downhill on the property
Looking downhill on the property- a sparse landscape of trees


The land was quite stunning upon my entry, 132 HA of rolling hills, very gentle in their nature with soft curves and ancient oak trees.  Mainly they are the Holm Oak which is the best oak for feeding pigs and even IMG_5734humans with its large acorn and only slightly bitter taste.  On this land they were spaced quite far but the large dams that had already been built were incredible sites to see how the contour of water snaked around the landscape.  You could see moist valleys and beat up landscapes that simply screamed help!  The help was obvious even before i arrived from this pictures and maps: integrated land regeneration techniques that follows the Permaculture Development model seen below:

permaculture development model

The most obvious need was to take care of the water resource.  With no running springs on the land, the size dams that were built were an obvious decision to the amount of water that was screaming down the valleys due to the poor land management done by the conventional farmer leasing the land as well as other past land use history.  However starting further up the watershed with keyline and other regenerative earthworks was written all over this landscape during my extensive walks alone and with the client.  Also the land was green but nowhere near the green it should be at this time of year which says how poor the soils have become, devoid of organic matter all but under the Oak trees.  The green ring around the tree tells of the power of trees and their energy transactions.  So the obvious pattern recognition is that the soils need a stimulation of their food web, mainly getting the fungus out there so the full food web could develop.


Of course biodiverse plantings would ensue but the client quickly understood that the building of the large valley dams near the bottoms of the watersheds was simply not enough to regenerate the land.  Much more work was needed and the planting of trees should’t be rushed.  It was a delightful dialogue with no struggle as he really did his research about things like Keyline once i mentioned it to him by email.  Thus this planting part of the development model will be extensive but water, access, structures for now.  He totally got it with his farming background from his youth, as he kept saying lets wait and set up more infrastructure and make a big push once the framework is in place.

He also mentioned the building of tourism and commune infrastructure on the site despite his older age.  His focus was to bring a similar demographic in, those who want to retire early, are still sprite and want to bask in the southern European sun and garden and enjoy large lakes so they can stay active and healthy.  These buildings would have to be of natural materials using integrated appropriate technology and a local municipality administrator reinforced this point saying how the governments were becoming more strict on this facet of development.  We also met with a solar pump installer during my time there as we are looking for ways to move the valley dam water around the site as their volumes are quite astounding.

Another aspect that will have to be worked on is the relationship with the farmer who is leasing the land and has nearly 90 head of cattle on the properties (it’s actually a 132 HA and 133 HA project, split by a street and about a half a kilometer).  They lands are ranched conventional and adhere not to pattern thinking thus the land continues to degrade as no beneficial animal system was created.  Holistic management and its use of pattern recognition and its subsequent application is needed and the client understand this again from his agricultural background and his original intention many years ago to open a safari park.  In the end we were joking that maybe it was bison that should be roaming this land, a blend of the past idea of a safari and the current use as a ranch.

Well its obvious that creative, not degenerative, human interaction must take place on this land to regenerate it.  Its obvious that some of the oaks are dying or are dead, its obvious the life blood of the land, water, is simply gushing from its veins,  and its simple that the land doesn’t breathe as its compaction from machines and poor management of cattle is unrelenting.  Combining ecological design with creative human interaction, well the land is sure to bounce back, for pastures to be green longer, for feed costs to go down, for biodiversity to flourish, for water to infiltrate, for microbes to return, for nutrient cycling to bring resilience to the plants and animals.  It’s a simple pattern at the end of the day and i am quite excited to take next steps on land regeneration- well lets keyline it and get some compost tea and a cover crop out.  But first the ecological design must make a plan.  Without a plan, there is no commitment, hence no accountability.



February 2015: Food Forest Course, Colares, Portugal: Quinta dos 7 Nomes

February 2015: Food Forest Course, Colares, Portugal: Quinta dos 7 Nomes.

Here is the blog from our food forest course in early Feb at Quinta dos 7 Nomes in Colares, Portugal.  Fantastic experience to have, a seed germinated for sure, and the place was infused with lots of new and positive energy.  Now the trees grow and one day a forest emerges, a forest of food.

Patterns and Indigenous Culture

Patterns and Indigenous Culture.

Another EDU release based on the patterns chapter and the powerpoint i deliver in class.  This page is still in the introduction and looks at ancient pattern application as Bill was of course very inspired from indigenous cultures use of this balanced form of intelligence.  Matter and Patterns!

Trees and Their Uses

Trees are such sacred creatures on planet earth that is tough to quantify all that they do.  In the Introduction to Permaculture book, Mollison presented the three ethics but quietly tied in the life ethic as well.  It is vastly important to remember this as we work within systems that are beyond this material (matter), dualistic world rather a universe that is interlaced with patterns and mandalas of space and time of extreme complexity.  Therefore, trees themselves will always be fantastic representatives of the life ethic, they are above alive, and co-creators in nature.

Read More via Trees and Their Uses.

Three Week PDC, Permaculture Design Course, Europe, Terra Alta, Sintra, Portugal

Three Week PDC, Permaculture Design Course, Europe, Terra Alta, Sintra, Portugal.

THE COURSE: Format and Content

The course will be an 72 PLUS Hour Permaculture Design Certificate Course spread out over 21 days. The extra week will allow to us to develop a furthered rhythm of increased hands on including almost dailyIMG_3128

 organic gardening and associated lessons, exploring the inner and outer social landscape, and seeing the stunning local beaches and mountain forest of Sintra.  It’s a great format for allowing students to digest the material fully with the hands on learnings integrating the knowledge through the body, and work thoroughly on our unique final design project and presentation at Terra Alta. The course will be certified through TreeYo Permaculture as we are guided by Bill Mollison’s curriculum that comprises the 14 chapters of his book “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”. It also guides our TreeYo EDU project which is an Online handbook for the PDC which reflects these chapters plus the other material covered in the course like natural building and fermentation.  This online resource is an invaluable tool to reference after our courses and helps with joining in on our extended mentoring process and the TreeYo network itself.