Off I headed to Melbourne, ready to ‘learn’ permaculture in 2 weeks from the famous co-founder of permaculture Bill Mollison and the equally enigmatic Geoff Lawton.
I was a bit dubious that the course was at Melbourne University, but none-the-less it is a lovely walk each morning from the place I am staying, just enough to stretch the legs.
Why am I here?
I came across permaculture by accident when looking for sustainable farming techniques and ordered the permaculture ‘bible’ – Permaculture, a designer’s manual. I then looked for courses and happened upon this course in Melbourne. Seeing who was to teach it I did not blink for a second to make my booking – who would not want to learn from Bill Mollison himself?
I was ready for a life change and did not like what I saw and experienced in 20 years of the commercial world, even being ‘environmentally’ friendly, I found that most people and most businesses just use a ‘token’ approach to display to the outside that they are doing the right thing.
I was in the process of purchasing a farm near Bungendore in NSW and wanted the ability to design for myself a more sustainable way of farming.
What did I expect?
I expected a relatively small group, I expected intensive learning, deep explanations and quite a bit of outdoor work. What I came away with was much, much more, a rich, rewarding, community experience and the passion to help others learn.
What is it really like?
Mindblowing! My brain was sore and I was tired after the first day, yawning all the way home. I have heard comments and changes from the first few days where we all sat there and thought ‘why are they telling us this story, come on, let’s just get on with what we are here to learn’ and the time seemed to go slowly. By day three we were interacting and soaking up the information so fast that time flew by, and we learned more and more through the anecdotes.
Doing a permaculture design course requires you to attend 72 hours of learning. Most of this is sitting in a classroom 9-5 although I have to say the seats are rather comfortable. The amount of information for you to digest is unimaginable and infinite. The possibilities are infinite and the level of detail infinite. It is a challenge for the teachers to stay at the broader design level as there are so many people wanting intimate detail of each and every element of design.
There were over 80 people in our course and even now I cannot address each person by their name, but certainly, over a two week period we have formed a community of dedication to permaculture, enriching the earth, caring for people and the return of excess.
In addition, we were able to eat some of the yummiest, healthy, tasty food you will ever have and experience a part of Geoff and Nadia’s life through their daughter Latifa.
Who else is here?Permaculture attracts people from all walks of life, all ages and all nationalities, from architects to labourers, businesspeople to artists, there is nothing similar about permaculture people except their wish to make their lives more sustainable.
What am I learning?
About life, earth, people, the planet, sustainability, how to encourage others to learn. Mostly about the endless opportunities and possibilities that exist to regenerate and care for the world we inhabit, in a practical way. Climate, natural energies (solar, wind, water), animals and their interactions, with plants, food forest systems, soils, earthworks and aquaculture.
What will I do now?
When I first came to the course I was looking to learn permaculture to design sustainability into my own property. Now I see that the opportunities go beyond this, I need to embrace sustainability into my whole life and want to keep learning, apply and teach.
Can you do it too?
Yes, it takes commitment – 2 full weeks out of your life, 9-5 (there are some different courses run over a series of weekends in different parts of Australia). Yes it takes concentration. But most of all it takes an open mind! If you have ever had an inkling that something in the world is not quite right, that the excesses of our way of life cannot forever be sustained, then I encourage you to start questioning the way you yourself live and the practical changes you can make to improve your life and the life of our Earth. Permaculture is a great place to start! Check out www.permacultureexchange.org.au