People and Permaculture: Terra Alta, Portugal, 2014

After having been so long since I last took a course in person for my own learning, the last week of August in 2014 was a really profound experience on many levels. In the last years since last taking a course on Permaculture, I have been quite focused on my personal online education to finish my degree in Small Business Management. I also have been doing self-directed studies which included the People and Permaculture book that the course was modeled after. I learned a lot from the book but this course gave me more and as always the group experience was quite special. Thus 16 of us came together for a nice, gentle journey of mainly learning to utilize the design web that was presented in the aforementioned book. The unique thing was that 11 of the 15 others were past students of TreeYo Permaculture, ranging almost all the years that we have been working in Portugal. Consequently it was a great reason to reunite with them and form an even tighter network within that group and beyond.


Our class Photo, Photo credit Alice Smeets:
Our class Photo, Photo credit Alice Smeets:

Beyond the group part, the material was well presented with a nice dynamic between the teachers. Peter Cow’s gentle style of facilitation was quite welcomed while Damian weaved his lighter side with his passion for the social side of permaculture. Mierkah also added a dimension of fun and very poignant comments thus allowing us students to find which teacher resonated within ourselves to seek higher council with. For me it was Damian, and I really cherish his coaching on helping me see some key insights into patterns within the vision process and also sharing space on the reflection anchor point of my design.

The anchor points refer to twelve steps integrated within four phases to form the design web brought into the Permaculture world by Looby Macnamara in her first book, People and Permaculture. If you are reading this blog and never read the book, I do highly recommend the book and delving deeper into the design web tool, which is just one of many tools within the book itself. Furthermore, the anchor points can lead us in a step-by-step process in a circular motion or zig zag between the anchor points. The pattern is set in the web but the tool facilitates how one chooses to interact within that pattern nicely.


The Design Web from People and Permaculture, credit Looby Macnamara
The Design Web from People and Permaculture, credit Looby Macnamara


My design focused on the family land back in Kentucky, USA as it is a complex design with many layers. At first glance I had much of the design of the development plan already done because for years I have been conceptualizing the small businesses that I would like to start there to capitalize on the natural resources of the land all the while adhering to the ethics of permaculture. It’s a project of accelerating succession really and look forward to the opportunity to present it to my family through the design web. The design web allowed me to integrate more of the social side of the project including how to approach my family for the financial investment and more importantly if it even fits within my overall vision for life. This is where Damian’s coaching really came into play and helped to form a balance between “mind Doug” and “spirit Doug.”


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thus with that as the course went on I found that the logical first step was to actually ask for permission to create an investment/ development plan for my family. If there is no space for receiving such a plan only disappointment can come so I decided to slow down and take this necessary step. This allowed me to do extra reflection and I share with you what I wrote in our reflection anchor point towards the end of the course:

“Through creating a web of design, I have a more holistic perspective of the project. New ideas have been inspired and core/ soul connection has been formed. Through the web, a deeper understanding of the social dynamic has occurred and is a balancing force now. Action is teetered, while inspiration for momentum is sought. Patterns need broken, principles reflected, and appreciation conjured. “

Thus with coming to the understanding of needing to ask for permission first, I found myself coaching and teaching in our design time as the need to mentor was present for myself. It felt good and I got lots of ideas and stronger connections with some of the others from the group. I really appreciate the space that the course created in my life as turning the attention back on oneself is important especially after the intense summer of two PDC’s. I also got to be in the perspective of a student again which makes me rethink a few things as a teacher for sure. It is also important to learn new things and I can see how the design web will influence the design process that we teach in the PDC’s. It also validates some things inside myself and gives me more confidence to integrate more and more social technologies into our PDC’s, which is quite needed to grow this movement.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: