Hands-On Permaculture Training

Our Hands-On Permaculture Training 
July 30 – Aug. 4, 2013

This is Stage 1 of our Optional 2-Stage PDC Certificate Training                       Register for Hands-on, 6 Days


Designed for Two Different Kinds of Students

1… A Great Training for less Time and Money than the PDC
This is a crash course in permaculture thinking and application with a strong hands-on component. This training is the guts of a full PDC Course with some very practical hands-on experience. It is a great stand-alone foundational permaculture training that will carry someone far.  

2… More Hands-on Training + Earn PDC Certificate
It will also earn the student credit towards receiving their PDC Certificate while gaining the benefit of extra hands-on experiences.  

Quick Links About this Training
– What You Will Learn Hands-on
– What You Will Learn in the Classroom
– What You Will Learn After the Training
– Earn Credit Towards PDC Certificate
– Pros & Cons of This Trainings vs. a PDC
(PDC = Permaculture Design Certificate Course)

Kevin and Emma with A-frame

What You Will Learn Hands-on

Students will:
1 – Install a Permaculture Plant Guild
2 – Build and learn to use an A-frame
3 – Learn to calibrate and use a transit or sight-level…
4 – Design, measure and dig a swale or a permaculture rain garden…
5 – Construct a ‘hugelkultur‘ bed…
6 – Make a 5-gallon ‘bucket garden‘…
7 – Build a ‘rocket stove‘…
8 – Make and use compost tea… (it’s for plants, not people)…
9 – Use vermicomposting to recycle kitchen scraps…
10 – Make a sheet-mulch bed on raw-weedy ground…
11 – Build a solar oven and cook a noon meal in it…
12 – Make a hot compost pile that is too hot to touch
13 – Use a watt meter to see and measure electrical consumption…
And if the Training is Held at Midwest Permaculture in Stelle
14. See, touch and operate our aquaponics system
15. Walk our permaculture yard and ask loads of questions
16. Help us with our daily chicken co-op chores

“The Hands-on Training was truly one of the most meaningful and important things I’ve done in (and for) my life.  It taught me that living in harmony with natural systems is not just an ideal, but a very real possibility – and that it’s not as hard as a lot of people think!

I’m looking forward to finishing my training to earn my PDC Certificate.”

Sarah J. – Teacher/Write


Install a permaculture plant guild…

Wet Meadow Permaculture Plant Guild

In permaculture, a plant guild is a grouping of plants that tend to live symbiotically with each other. By being together they all do better.

Click Here for a detailed description of the ‘Wet Meadow Guild’ above and a larger look at the diagram. You can download it for your own personal use if you like.

Beautiful Permaculture Plant Guild

Permaculture plant guilds can be beautiful while producing large amounts of food.

Digging Plant Guild


Build an A-frame (used by indigenous peoples for centuries) to find and mark level contours for the positioning of swales, rain-gardens, fence lines and more… 

Permaculture A-Frame
Dolly finding and marking ‘level’ with an A-frame (which is every bit as accurate as the modern-day transit).


 Learn to calibrate and use a transit or sight-level as well…  Sight Level to Determine Level Contours on Landscape
Sophia and Emma using the sight-level


Design, shoot and dig a swale and/or a permaculture rain garden…

Permaculture Swales holding water
Same swales as seen on right (different aspect) holding water after a good rain

Bill and Beck's front yard permaculture rain gardens
Midwest Permaculture’s Rain Gardens

Digging Permaculture Swales


Hugelkultur - wood in garden bed Construct a ‘hugelkultur’ bed… A what? ‘Hugel’ means ‘mound’ in German.  It is a simple process of burying wood under soil and creating a mound.It is a great way to utilize excess biomass (scrap wood and brush) that will soak up and hold water as it breaks down over time.  It will also add humus and long-term fertility.

Students in front of hugelkultur bed
Our students in front of a fresh hugelkultur bed on October 10, 2010 as our part of the 350.org celebration day.

At left: Wood chunks in freshly dug hugelkultur bed.

Click here for short picture summary of the making of a hugelkultur bed.


5-Gallon Bucket Garden
It really works…
Make a 5-gallon “bucket garden” that is easy to move, easy to water and easy to care for.

Drilling Overflow Hole into Becket


Build a “rocket stove” from miscellaneous bricks… and cook lunch on it…

Rocket Stove Bricks
This stove was built in 10 minutes and lunch was cooked in another 20.

Fire in Rocket Stove
Fire inside of stove

Also notice the small amount of wood being used (students used only half of what you see here) and the lack of smoke!  This very simple design dramatically reduces fuel use (wood) and burns much cleaner and hotter than an open fire.  There are several factors that allow this to occur.  We will learn the why”s and how” s.

Where”s the Smoke?
The stove is producing a tremendous amount of heat at the back of the burn chamber and ” rocketing” up to the pot.

 Rocket Stove in Operation


Make and use compost tea…(it” s for plants, not people)…Compost tea is an aerated solution of good compost put into water that eventually starts to teem with billions of beneficial microorganisms. This solution can then be applied directly to the leaf surface of a plant as a foliar spray or sprinkled directly on to garden soil to improve root systems. Compost tea in the making


Vermicomposting bin Use vermicomposting to recycle kitchen scraps and make some of the best fertilizer in the world…
Even Aristotle, Cleopatra and Darwin considered the lowly worm to be one of the most important creatures on earth.  Learn why and how to use vermicomposting at home.

Red Wiggler Worms used in vermicomposting
Red Wiggler Worms


Finished Sheet Mulch Bed Make a bed, on raw-weedy ground, with no rototilling or digging using the ultimate sheet-mulching method…

Sheet Mulch Bed
Maria starts the sheet-mulch bed with cardboard, manure & vegetative matter, making the first layers.


Sana (left) adds a top dressing of straw after 7 more layers were added.



Build a solar oven and cook a meal using sunlight only…Lunch from a Solar Oven
Sarah”s finished meal revealed.
(Panels removed from a purchased solar oven)

How many different types of solar overs are out there that one can build?  Check google and get ready for a long read. There are hundreds of them.

 Handmade Solar Oven

Above is a homemade solar oven.



 Hot Compost Pile
Maria Checking Temperature after just 24 hours.
With the proper ingredients, a pile can reach 140-160 degrees in just one day.
 Make a hot compost pile that is almost too hot to touch…


Use a watt meter to see exactly how much energy any electrical appliance is consuming…  Watt Meter

And if the training is held at Midwest Permaculture, in Stelle:

Learn how to build and use an aquaponics system…

 Midwest Permaculture Aquaponics System  Class learning about aquaponics
Bill Explaining how System Works

 Permaculture Goldfish

The goldfish in the lower tank provide nutrients for the plants.

– Walk Bill and Becky” s permaculture yard to see how the rain gardens, berms, hugelkultur bed, rain-water tank and more, all tie together…

Permaculture Yard

– Feed, water and collect eggs from our small chicken flock as we are part of a neighborhood chicken co-op.

Permaculture ChickensContact us if you would like to explore hosting one of these Hands-on trainings.

Part of a PDC Certificate
As a reminder, this training can be used as credit toward earning your Permaculture Design Course Certificate.  It is part 1 of our 2-stage PDC Certificate program.


What You Will Learn in the Classroom

Because this is intended to be mostly a ‘hands-on’ experience, we will be spending 50-60% of our time outdoors.  The rest of the time will be in the classroom covering what we consider to be ‘essential’ permaculture knowledge.

Classroom Subjects Covered
– Foundations of Permaculture & Abundance
– A Permaculture Way of Thinking
– Permaculture Gardens
– Plant Guilds
– Urban Permaculture
– Food, Fiber & Energy for the Future
– Heart of Permaculture Community & Transition Towns
– Essentials of Permaculture Design


What You Will Learn After the Training

In addition to a great learning experience and what we hope will be a wonderful time for you, many excellent resources will be shared.  We have sorted through mountains of information to bring to you the most essential and useful nuggets. These will include some of the PowerPoint presentations from your training, links to YouTube videos that we used, links to books and websites, and quite a few additional handouts.

We know that this week only represents a widening of the door to your permaculture education.  If you want more, these resources will provide a clear path for further study and learning.

Truthfully, the exploration of this fascinating subject never really ends as it is so connected to living life itself.


Additional Details About the Trainings

Training Preparation – You Can Begin Now

10 Handouts and a Great Handbook
Shortly after registering for this training, students receive a welcome email while they await the training handbook.  Included in the email are links to 10 handouts and further details about the training you are registering for.

Training Handbook
(Included with Registration)

Gaia’s Garden
The New Edition

by Toby Hemenway The book is mailed directly to students shortly after registering.
Gaia's Garden

Gaia’s Garden – The New Edition (2nd Edition)
When people ask us what book they should buy to get a good understanding of permaculture, we recommend this book by Toby Hemenway.  Even though this hands-on permaculture intensive is not just about gardening, Toby does a great job of explaining the basics of permaculture and in this new addition he has added more information about the urban landscape.

Gaia’s Garden goes into great detail on specific permaculture techniques, such as:  organizing your garden in to “zones”, creating and maintaining your fertile soil, and explanations about companion planting and permaculture plant guilds.  The book also contains many helpful charts and illustrations.

All students are encouraged to read the full text before the Hands-on training begins for it will likely ensure a greater learning experience, but it is not essential.  The training is complete and impactful in itself.

Lead Instructor – Bill Wilson
Bill holds two Permaculture Design Course Certificates and two Advanced Permaculture Training Certificates (one in design, the other in teaching).

He is cofounder of Midwest Permaculture with his wife Becky and has hosted and taught at 40 PDC courses.

Bill and Becky have lived the last 34 years in Stelle, which is a sustainably oriented community, and have been intimately involved in its evolution.

More on Bill

Additional Trainers
Bill is likely to be joined by one or more other teachers whom are graduates of a Midwest Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course and also a Permaculture Teachers Training. You can be sure that Becky, and most likely Milton Dixon, will join in at different times.

Milton Dixon of Midwest Permaculture
Milton Dixon

Milton Dixon holds a PDC and an Advanced Training in Teaching Permaculture from Dave Jacke.  Besides being Midwest Permaculture’s tech support he is an avid urban permaculturist.  If we’re lucky, he will share some of his homemade wine with us.   More on Milton…

Becky Wilson
is co-founder of Midwest Permaculture and will offer her insights throughout the week. She is the lead designer for the Midwest Permaculture’s property (our home), has her PDC certificate, and took her Advanced Permaculture Training in Teaching with Rosemary Morrow. Rosemary is an internationally revered permaculturist and author of our PDC Course textbook, The Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture. 

Becky was business manager of the Stelle Homeowner’s Association for 8 years and its Community Business Manager for 18.   More on Becky…

Becky Wilson of Midwest PermacultureBecky Wilson


“My mind has been working overtime thinking about permaculture! I have learned so much this week. I will use it the rest of my life.
Thank You Bill and Everyone!!!”

Ashleigh B. of Detroit


Daily Schedule
Most of these trainings will start on the first day at 1:00 p.m. and end at noon on the last day. This will allow for travel time.
The days in between look like this:
–   7:15   Breakfast
–   8:00   Morning Class
– 10:00  Morning Hands-on
– 12:00   Lunch Break
–   2:30   Afternoon Hands-on
–   5:00   Dinner Break
–   7:00    Evening Class
–   9:00   End

All meals, coffee, tea and water will be provided as part of the course tuition and will be served beginning with dinner on the first day through breakfast on the final day.  Meals will be prepared from mostly organic and locally raised foods and will include vegetarian and meat options.

As part of the price of tuition, camping spots will be made available with toilets and showers nearby in heated spaces.  

Remember, no matter the time of year, students will only be spending time in their tent to sleep, so this is not really camping-camping. There is no need for a fire or cooking.

Tents in Stelle

Optional Accommodations in Stelle
There are also indoor lodging options available in Stelle that run $150 for the entire week.  Some of our residents are delighted to rent out their guest rooms for this modest fee.  Please email Becky  (or call 815-256-2215, message or text us at 815-782-2216) if you have any questions, otherwise there is an option to add indoor lodging when you register on-line for the training.

What to Pack & Other Details
Several weeks before a training begins, students receive more information concerning what to expect, arrival details, what to pack, access to maps, etc.

Student’s Internet Networking Site
Students of this training are also provided a networking site where they can connect with fellow students to share reading and homework thoughts, arrange transportation, share a bit about themselves, etc.

Following the training, students may also use this site to stay connected with one another if they so chose.  The use of this networking site is totally optional.  It’s just a bonus of the training.  To check out the public forums of the Midwest Permaculture Networking Site, goto: www.MidwestPermaculture.ning.com.

– – – – – – – – –

When – Where – Prices – Register

Schedule of Hands-on Trainings

Registration Includes:

The Pre-training Materials, the Hands-on Training, Organically Prepared Meals, Camping,
Loads of Additional Resources, and the Networking Site

Registration Fee:

July 30 – Aug. 4, 2013
At Midwest Permaculture in Stelle, IL

This training is now Closed.  
Please Join us for our 
September 2013 PDC Course!

Or Call Becky 815-256-2215
Voice message or text us at 815-782-2216



Group Registrations
2 or more may register together and receive an additional $75 discount each.  Invite additional family, friends or club members and everyone receives the same $75 discount.  Call Becky for either more information or to set up a group (815-256-2215, message or text us at 815-782-2216).

Partial Payments
If making partial payments is an important factor in your ability to take the training we would be happy to explore that with you.  Please call Becky at 815-256-2215, message or text us at 815-782-2216.

Midwest Permaculture Logo

Cancellation and Refund Policy
Should a student have to cancel their enrollment in a training up to 30-days before it begins, there is a full refund less $75 to cover our book costs and processing fees.

If a student cancels in the 30-day period before the training there will be a full refund less $150.

In both cases, the student gets to keep the book and access to the 10 handouts.

There are no refunds for cancellations or withdrawals once the training begins.  However, in certain circumstances we may extend partial credit towards a future training.


Continuing Support Following Training
Following this training, students are invited to become part of our growing network of graduates.  On our Midwest Permaculture Networking site there will be a separate and private section for graduates of these Hands-on Permaculture Trainings.

Our objective is to support our students for as long as they need it or want it and to encourage them to support each other.


Pros & Cons of This Hands-on Training vs. a Full PDC

To be clear, the full PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate) Course is a more comprehensive curriculum and as such there is more classroom time. Graduating students of a PDC receive a ‘Certificate of Completion’ which in the permaculture tradition, entitles them to use the word ‘Permaculture’ in the promotion of their work, offering such services as permaculture design, installation, or teaching.  More on certification…

This Hands-On Training focuses on “How to Do”
The PDC Course gets more into the details of “How To Design”

More Hands-on:  There are about 3 times as many hands-on experiences in this Hands-on training than there is time for in a full PDC Course.  If you learn by doing…this Hands-on training was designed for you.  Sign up for the PDC completion training which follows immediately afterwards or take it anytime in the next 3 years to earn your full PDC Certificate.

Please feel free to call Becky for more information on these options.  Call 815-256-2215 —  You may also leave a voice message or text message at 815-782-2216.