Permaculture Design Course #4

On the weekend of 20-21st May 2017 I jumped into the fourth instalment of the Permaculture Design Certificate course at Garden Cottage, Coldstream.


Exhibit plants
Some plants for our exhibit at Scotland’s Garden Festival

The day began with the usual ride-sharing from Edinburgh and after mirthful greetings at Garden Cottage, and a look at some of the plants we’re using for our exhibit at Scotland’s Garden Festival (see photo opposite), we settled down in Graham and Nancy’s cosy living room.

Discussions kicked off about perennial Nine Star Broccoli and the sea-kale origins of brassicas, and then we mused the extended honey production time facilitated by rapeseed planting.

We then talked about Unilever and Lord Leverhulme, before moving on to Hutting and the ability of permaculture to make any land fertile – for example – the greening the desert in Jordan project.

Fellow attendees are starting to consider their designs: we have interest in education about food forests and edibles, designing maintenance, guerrilla gardening London parks, smokers and beehives, companions, guilds, soil and nutrients, repurposing the edges of golf courses, edible hedges, transition projects, harvesting groups and preserving.

Thinking about design
Thinking about design

We then talked about money, listing proverbs about it, e.g. money talks, the best things in life are free, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. We settled on the observation that it’s what you do with money that makes the difference.

We discussed the church being the original large landowner in the UK and the UK’s wealth based on sheep and minerals such as tin. We conversed about wood, stone, iron, bronze, alloys and Cornwall’s own parliament due to its rich tin industry. We went onto the Gold Standard (banks lending eight times the value of their gold). But money is of course a total fiction and it only works because we believe in it. There was talk of LETS Systems, and we did an exercise on what each of us would do if we had unlimited money, mine involved: a small holding, travel, re-aligning the economy to renewables, increasing free time, pubs, merriment, wilderness. There was a brief chat about Grounds for Learning.

We then moved onto assets: health, energy, friends, family, colleagues, transport, gratitude, music, skills, potential, ideas/creativity, tools, language, numeracy, empathy, adaptability, community, spontaneity, experience, food, determination, access to knowledge/resources. Someone mentioned Street Bank and repair shops.


Graham touched upon the greatest number of forks in a river being seven. This part of the talk ended with looking at no win scenarios, no lose scenarios, coping, designing what you can maintain and consciously designing for the most resilient way to live.

After lunch we looked at design considerations, observation, who or what are we designing for, what is missing?, landscape, access, markets, energy, local knowledge, surveying, frost, mapping, research, and the value of structured design. Our own designs can be delivered however we want.

In the evening a group of us camped-out – and what fun it was – our group close and positive.

Sunset at Kelso
Sunset at Kelso


The morning talk began on the return to natural philosophy.

We then moved onto Tombreck, James Chapman, the Lost Garden of Penicuik, and the Penicuik Storehouse.

Garden cottage flower
Garden cottage flower

Most of todays talk was on buildings. Christopher Alexander played a big part in this. Things to consider about buildings:

  1. Longevity
  2. Location / climate / microsite / blending
  3. Warmth
  4. Budget
  5. Functionality / adaptability
  6. Regulations
  7. Purpose
  8. Materials
  9. Environmental cost
  10. Energy efficiency

We looked at passive solar, retrofit, air quality, ventilation, pattern languages, geomancy and dowsing.

Garden cottage flower
Garden cottage flower

We discussed the tidal earth – the moon’s energy moving the oceans twice a day, that Tahiti has the smallest tide. We surfed Maria Thun, the lunar calendar and biodynamics.

Next was planning permission – putting things in the application that authorities can put a line through. We mused how to store potential energy? Biomass – wood-chip, pellet, hemp, borage, energy crops, animal waste, waste from distilleries.

The day ended with us splitting into groups and designing a conceptual permaculture island with £50 000. Amusing, enlightening and useful – all groups had pretty similar ideas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *