Spring/Summer 2013: Ohio Permaculture Courses and Permablitz’s

After returning from the intense teaching and development time in the winter of 2012/13 in the Dominican Republic, I went on to teach in two spring PDC’s and one summer intro to Permaculture in Ohio, USA.  One mainstay location was in my hometown of Cincinnati continuing to work with this-land.org, our educational non-profit of the Cincinnati Permaculture Guild.  The other was in a new locale but in an old neck of the woods in Southeast Ohio where I embarked in ecology through an Associates degree in Fish and Wildlife Management all the way back in 2001.  It was really great fun to be back in those lush rolling hills and make a great connection with Weston Lombard and Solid Ground Farm. The students were a fantastic bunch and collaborative talks still remain all these months later.

solid ground farm- looking towards a terraced orchard in spring 2013
Solid Ground Farm- looking towards a terraced orchard in spring 2013

The two spring PDC’s were weekend courses allowing a myriad of people to join in.  Students, professionals, farmers and urban market gardeners and all were really stoked to gain environmental literacy.  These courses were unique for me because I got to debut a new set of design cards allowing for idea generation to move more rapidly during the conceptual planning phase. It was an extension of a past way to facilitate the schematic design and also an interactive exercise that reviews the first four principles of design.  I felt like I wanted to take the cards to the next level and paid a past student to do the artwork on the 60 something cards.  We are currently evolving them further and it felt really great to redistribute the surplus and reinvest in the larger permaculture education system.

an evolving set of cards that facilitates design
an evolving set of cards that facilitates design

The PDC in Cincinnati continued my work there and grew the network bigger. The networking landed gigs for Urban agriculture and rural consulting.  The PDC has become quite an instrumental tool for uniting people in this very conservative city and giving people some direction of how to engage in this urban/suburban landscape.  I always love teaching here in this city because its my hometown and I get to know different facets of the city since I was and am still when in the city a surban-nite.  Going into the city allows me to see the blend of old neighborhoods that sprang out of the varying waves of immigration with the new waves of urban development.

Another great thing that stemmed from this weekend PDC and networking was a series of permablitz’s to get varying groups together for the continued practice of permaculture. It’s really important in our Urban context as we can only do barebones PDC’s there, 72 hours exactly and have to do them in the non growing season so we can engage growers.  We do however organize events so people can come back out and dig a swale, do organic gardening, or build with mud.  But at the end of the day, Permacutlure is about people, so we are getting together as a community and giving back to sites who need.  It’s a great exchange with the food, smiles and standing back at the end and seeing accomplished work.  All three events were well attended and the following is a quick summary of location and the work we did:

  • Urban Greens Bond Hill Garden: Swale Digging: a 50 foot swale was put in by a group of about 20 to adress runoff issues.
  • Crouch’s Treasure Lake: At my personal family project in the hills of Kentucky, a group of 25 or so worked on cobbing a bench that is the extension of the outdoor cooking social space.
  • FabFerments Farm: Giving back to Jordan and Jen who contribute so much through their health enhancing ferments.  Pulled weeds, composted, and planted to help them with the farm duties.
swale at urban greens
swale at urban greens

The summer Intro course also highlighted my ongoing relationship with this-land.org super star Matt Gillespie.  He worked hard on bringing a great group of house site design on paperreally keen people together.  The course was a nice blend of theory learning inside the classroom and out.  Being the middle of the summer and a heat wave, it was hard to get any deep practical stuff in on this short weekend workshop. However the base was laid and it was easy for students to conceptualize permaculture design on many levels because of the maturing site and some interactive techniques.  To get people to put what they were learning into practice immediately, we did an exercise called the homesite design.  It entails an initial drawing of the property to understand the spatial relationship concept of landscape design through creation of a base map (what is there now).  As the principles of permaculture are discussed as well as common strategies and techniques of permaculture, students are asked to go back and do the design work they seek to develop the land.  That way the weekend is like a little PDC.

Furthermore,  Parkwalk Permaculture Project was the host site and with its edible landscaping and regenerative earthworks the students explored and interacted with their surroundings.  Some lessons may have been on a subconscious level, only realized at a later date, but nonetheless they were there. We did get a chance to plant some seeds, fertilize with worm casts/compost, and demonstrate plant propagation making the course more holistic.

teaching at Parkwalk Permaculture- looking at microclimate and using vines to alter
teaching at Parkwalk Permaculture- looking at microclimate and using vines to alter

Overall it was a great beginning of the year in combination with development at the family project land of Crouch’s Treasure Lake.  The project took great strides and am appreciative of all the help and collaboration on this and the courses. Look for more on this as I continue to recount 2013 and look forward to a regenerative 2014 in upcoming blogs.

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