It was an attempt at something new, a new course format, a different time of year. It turned into an unusual PDC experience for us at Terra Alta but enriching nonetheless for all who were involved. Thus a small group of six students and a small crew of teachers took on the task of facilitating a 3 week PDC in spring 2015 at the small scale intensive, off the grid educational center Terra Alta. This coastal Portugal site has the ability to educate subconsciously through our wonderful examples on the land and a space to transform. And that is exactly what happened during this special three weeks: growth and expansion.
Even though the group was small our network indeed did expand. 3 from western European countries and three from the middle eastern country of Lebanon, khalil, Karim, and Maria. That adds to students of other middle eastern countries such as Jordan, Israel, and Turkey. Furthermore, one of our students, Filipa, has land in Arribida, Portugal just across the river from Lisbon thus adding to our local network. Alessandro from Italy has a special project in Milan and we were glad to educate him as we know the spreading affect of this course. And finally Marie from France had been volunteering with the project and our sister project Escola da Terra so it was also special to have her with us further developing her ability to educate and interact with land holistically.
With that it was indeed a cultural experience, east meets west and with our crew of our international teachers, it was a dynamic experience. Unlike most pdc’s all of these students had projects to develop so the design project was facilitated differently. that is the brilliance of a pattern like the design process, it can be tailored to all groups needs, tweaked to fit all. With the longer course format the group had extra time to finish their projects since they were accomplished individually. In the end the students learned the pattern of design process and also made great strides to realizing their goals with their projects that they were working on. Its nice to see how each individual finds their niche within the design project itself; patterns to details.
With the extra time we of course also had lots of time for hands-on which was nice as terra alta was likely better taken care of during this course in comparison to our normal pdc. Plants were watered diligently, fertilized appropriately, new spaces created and planted, beds and tree guilds mulched, compost pile built, cob social spaces reworked, solar dehydrator built, plants propagated, and aquaculture tank developed further. It is always fun working in teams to progress the site and with this small group we did gentle pushes to learn through the body. When concentrated pushes occur regularly, the site is able to accelerate succession and evolution with very little effort. One such thing was a surprise lunch time hands on that shows the nature of a working farm and how things come up. the bees swarmed and all who were available helped to bring it down from its 7 meter height and secure it and move it to a location where they are still thriving weeks later.
The course also gave a unique chance for students to indulge in all organic food and contribute with the cooking. with the small group size we did a rotation of teams cooking and learning to work with vegetarian menus. for many they hadn’t had a chance to cook much before so the course also gave this unique learning opportunity. As always we also did our fermentation hands on further connecting our work in the field with work in the kitchen. Both are arts and deserve attention in our creation of a new culture.
The extra time also gave the opportunity for Pedro and Henrik a chance to teach more and further refine their facilitation skills. They both focused on social permaculture, design process, and involvement with hands on. Treeyo was a trio again and the course was a fun venture in facilitating holistically and getting people to interact creatively with nature. Environmental literacy was increased for sure and projects were inspired and dreamed of further. We all had fun and big thanks to all who were there and helped along the way.