Permaculture Design Certificate: yes, course news!

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A whole winter has passed here while I have kept you in suspense, and I thank those of you who are still with me on my journey. I started this blog because it was a way to deliver the design project to the Regenerative Leadership Institute, and a way to connect with the permaculture community and I think it’s only fair to share with you my study progress.

About the exam

In my last update, I submitted my hand drawn design and it had been conditionally accepted. From there, it was time for the exam. You know what exams mean… Revision, reading, and wondering whether you know and understand enough to pass. The exam is based on the key text for the course: Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison. If you’ve seen this book in person, you know that it’s a heavy book, and it’s 559 pages long. It’s incredibly dense material, and I came away from it feeling amazed by Bill Mollison’s depth and breadth of wisdom. *Mentally tips hat to Bill Mollison*

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The exam itself is multiple-choice and you access it online. The good thing is you can sit the exam more than once (though they change the questions), and because of that, I decided to take the risk and test my knowledge. It took me close to 2 hours to finish, and then was watching my email to find out the results! And the email came and I passed! I scored 85.7% and the email told me the questions I missed and gave the correct answers too, which is handy. How good is online study now that you find out results so quickly instead of waiting weeks?

While that was exciting, I was left wondering what that meant in terms of the course. Had I finished? Was I going to be asked to resubmit anything? My gut was telling me to expect a resubmission.

Wouldn’t you know, my supervisor emailed me the next day and asked for the zones map to be updated, showing more than 2 zones. Clearly, I needed to rethink what I’d done.

Zones map rethink

I reviewed examples of Zones maps, see some on my Pinterest board.

You’ll note that these are largely based on concentric circles growing larger from the house. I checked Rosemary Morrow’s Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, and her zones are more fluid in size and location. I revisited Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual and noted that those zones maps are farm-based rather than urban, and logically the perimeters align with fence/tree/road lines and are therefore more rectangular or triangular. Using this last approach, I reviewed my map again.

Here’s the before

My hand-drawn design with zones and sectors

My hand-drawn design with zones and sectors

And after

My revised zones map

My revised zones map

I used markers to clearly define the boundaries and wrote over the pencilled-in text. I defined 3 zones instead of 2 to indicate the frequency of visits.

I resubmitted the zones map, hoping that I had sufficiently addressed the feedback. If I hadn’t, I was going to have to start my drawing from scratch again, and I would have ruined my design drawing.

The results

After an oops email telling me my next step was to take the exam, I heard the magic words! I had completed the Online Permaculture Design Course, and my certificate was attached 🙂

I finished the course and here's my certificate in a frame and everything

I finished the course and here’s my certificate in a frame and everything

The tree patterns look lovely, don’t they?

Now what, you ask? In the short term, I will continue to implement my long-considered design. In the longer term, I would love to be able to apply the knowledge and skills in the work force in engineering or renewable energy. Permaculture offers solutions for climate change, and we will have to use it on small (eg. our own backyard) and large scales (eg. infrastructure) to pull back the damage done to Earth and start the healing. If you’re interested in permaculture and are thinking about learning more, I say do it!

As Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.”

Permaculture shows you how to do better, and the more people that know how to do better, the better off we’ll all be.

Learning from the Leaders

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As you can see, I have some reading ahead of me.  Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual is the bible for the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and part of the course assessment is a multiple choice exam based on this book.  If you are not aware, Bill Mollison coined the term “permaculture” and developed the concept with his student, David Holmgren, in the late 1970s in Tasmania.  It gives me a sense of pride that Australia can have such an influence on the world stage in such an overwhelmingly positive manner.

Another Australian, Rosemary Morrow is a leading authority in permaculture and has implemented permaculture in diverse and challenging environments internationally for nearly 40 years.  She is still teaching permaculture and contributing to the community, as you can see from her profiles on Retrofitting Your Home and Milkwood Permaculture, and her book Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is frequently mentioned in the lectures as a highly-respected resource. 

From across the pond, American Toby Hemenway studied and worked across the US in biotechnology and then was inspired to change his career by permaculture, developing a permaculture site with his wife in southern Oregon.  His book Gaia’s Garden is the best-selling permaculture book in the world for the last 7 years, and his permaculture work is ongoing.

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Photo credit: http://www.patternliteracy.com/biography-for-toby-hemenway

I also have the following on my wishlist:

  • Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels,
  • Permaculture by David Holmgren,
  • The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka,
  • Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier,
  • Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke,
  • The Empowerment Manual by Starhawk,
  • Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield, and
  • Permaculture Design by Aranya

What about you?  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Are there any others that you would add as a must-read?