6-Day Family Friendly Training

6-day “Hands-on” Training – August 2011
Held at Midwest Permaculture in our Sustainably Oriented Community of Stelle, IL
We expect to be offering a ‘family friendly’ training every summer.  See Here for Details

 This Training is also Stage 2 or our 3-Stage PDC Certificate Course 
6 Students stayed on for the 5-day PDC Completion Training and earned their permaculture certificate.

This was our first training that fully welcomed families with children. Four families joined us along with 12 other individuals. Bottom-line... it worked out really well!


 “I so appreciated having families and their children in the course. 
It really added to the wonderful dynamic.” 
Kate – College Student 


Because this was a summer training, we were able to take some of our classroom work outdoors.
Teachers, children and students all participated in co-creating a learning environment that was productive, fun and flexible.

 “I really appreciated the atmosphere that the teachers
and students created together. “

Grant – Foreign Aid Worker from Africa



Even some of our local pets became part of the fun.



Everyone headed toward our first hands-on project with wheelbarrows and stroller in hand.

 “This training had a relaxed and informal approach
yet we learned so much.
My husband and son loved it. So did I.” 
Carlyn – Mom and School Teacher for 16 years



We do not see overgrown ditches as a 'problem' but rather as a good source of excess biomass for garden mulch and for compost making. Before these students started, the vegetation was over their heads in many places.
There is nothing like a garden cart to move large volumes of material.
Students built a compost pile seeking to obtain the ideal carbon/nitrogen (or brown/green) ratio of 30/1 so that this pile would heat up thus creating usable compost within a few weeks and with fewer weed seeds.
For some moist, and high nitrogen material, we turned to our community pond.
Students gathered up some of the summer algae bloom along with cattail that was growing in an access area.
It was wet and full of nitrogen.
We layered in about 2 inches of woody and grassy material with 2 inches of wet material.
The pile eventually got about chest high. This turned out to be a good learning experience for us as the pile never did heat up much. Because we have had some experience and success making hot compost (getting other piles up to 175 degrees in one day) we are surmizing that that materials in this pile were too coarse and bulky with not enough contact to each other to be able to interact properly. Over time, the pile did break down nicely, only it took months instead of weeks. A good learning experience for us all.
Our community garden coordinator, Peg, met with us to share of the many successes and even the challenges from this year's growing activities. No question about it, community gardening is as much about the people as it is about what, where and how to grow things.
The next day, up in the community (in our yard to be exact) we all dug a below-grade hugelkultur bed so that water will soak fully into the base of the wood pile for maximum and lengthy moisture retention when it rains.
The pit was dug, wood stacked in, child removed, and soil put back on top.
BTW... soil was worked in and around the pieces of wood as it was being stacked in. This insures good contact between soil and wood right off the bat and minimizes 'mound slumping' during the first year.
The bed was top-dressed with finished compost to give our first plantings a good start. Once the roots from these plants get down to the wood however, they will then have everything they need.

 Click Here to view a fun Time-Lapse Video of the Making of this Bed.


While parents were working on this and other projects during the week, some excellent childcare activities were provided.
Meghan, our son Hayden's girlfriend, was a great help as the two of them made up our support staff for the week.
This is our rolling chicken coop that our previous students helped to build back in May. This time everyone helped us move the coop and the portable chicken fencing which allow us to move the chickens around the orchard. This way we are using the chickens to helps us keep grass and insects under control.
It usually takes Hayden and me 20-25 minutes to move the fencing and chicken coop by ourselves (we move it once every 7-10 days). But with all of the students helping we got it done in 5 minutes.
While in the community orchard (2 acres - 120 trees) we took time to talk about what it takes to care for this property. Later in the week students learned about grafting and had a chance to try it themselves.
Some parents were fully enrolled in the training while their spouse (or friend) cared for the little ones. The person caring for the child/ren could come and go as they wished so as to meet the needs of the children while still having access to the training. Because of this they only paid half the regular registration price.

 “Stelle is a wonderful and welcoming place to hold this training.
Great for kids and grown-ups.” 
Catherine – Mom and Non-profit Business Administrator 

Mother and Daughter Having Quality Time


Our single students were incredibly supportive of the family environment while also making some great friendships themselves, some if which might last for a lifetime.
As part of the standard permaculture design certification course, all students gain experience with use of an A-frame. With this simple tool we can accurately mark level contours on the land where we wish to dig a swale that will hold excess rainwater.
Students also hand the opportunity to learn how to use a sight level or what is known as a transit to make the contours as well.

 “Doing this hands-on training really allowed me to fully understand
the permaculture concepts. “

Gina – (45) College Professor

Everyone who wanted, had the chance to learn to use it.
Up the field from the transit, I show students how to use a measuring pole, called a stadia rod, to mark the exact location of the next contour flag.
Once the contour was marked we got right in to learning how to dig a swale. A swale is a water harvesting ditch that is cut on contour. It slows rainwater down allowing to soak into the ground thus doing a better job supporting plant growth near it.

Click Here for Three Short Videos on the Benefits of
Holding Water on the Landscape.



Milton demonstrating how to build and fire a 'rocket stove'.
Camping is made available right inside our community, just 100 feet from the classroom and kitchen area. Showers and bathrooms are this close as well.
Another great use of the sun's energy is for cooking food. With the use of cardboard, aluminum foil, and a template off the internet, students fabricated a solar over.
A manufactured oven is seen on the right with part of our lunch in it. The hand-made unit sitting before our students did not reach as high of temperatures as the manufactured unit (165 vs. 210 degrees F) but it still cooked the food we put into it.
As part of the plant guild exercise, students gathered up surplus specimens that we have around the community. No plants were purchased for assembling a plant guild around one of the young cherry trees near our orchard.

 “I really enjoyed the content of the training, the hospitality,
and the sense of community we created.” 
Talia – College Graduate and First Year Medical School Student 

One evening we talked about food preservation. As a treat, Milton broke out a few bottles of some homemade mead (wine made from honey) he brewed up and everyone had the opportunity to sample it.
Even young Theo wanted a taste.
All of our trainings have full days so to maximize the learning experience, but we do take some nice breaks for meals and relaxing. This piano sits in our community center where the kitchen is and meals are served.
We provide three meals a day, much of the food coming from the local area, and almost all of it organic. For some students, it is the first time they have eaten whole, nutritious food for an entire week.
During some of the meals, student have the opportunity to mingle with many of our friends and community residents. Our students tend to come away from our Stelle trainings with a deeper understanding and appreciation for community.
For us, having children at a training in Stelle is like rolling out of bed. There are quite a few other children in town so our community is already child friendly.
Besides the pond, orchard and creek to play around, we have a small playground...
...and a swimming pool for those caring for children while the parent is in class.
Group photo taken following the building of the hugelkultur bed.

We really enjoyed delivering this family oriented training.
Please consider joining us next summer.

Click Here for full details and/or to register…  or call Becky at 815-216-4124‬, message or text us at 815-782-2216 to discuss in person.

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