Pictures from our July 2012 PDC Completion Course

You can see and read more about our PDC Completion Course in an awesome blog post by one of the students in the course: These Light Footsteps – Permaculture Design Course Completion.

Wayne & Bev’s rocket stove mass heater

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Pictures from our July 2012 Hands-on Permaculture Course

You can see and read more about this course in an awesome blog post by one of the students in this course: These Light Footsteps – Hands-on Permaculture.


Classroom Panorama

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Picture Summary of UWRF PDC Course

Pictures and Text by Bill Wilson and Milton Dixon

Thank you to our hosts Dr. Kelly Cain and Cynthia Wells-O’Mally of the University of Wisconsin, for hosting us for a second year.  The bulk of the training was held on campus.  Although we had some university students, most of the people taking this training came from the general public and from 5 different states.   We had a fantastic time.

PDC Course Graduates – University of Wisconsin, River Falls – June 2012


Panoramic View of Dr. Cain’s Permaculture Oriented Residence

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Building a Jean Pain Style Compost Pile

This past Sunday the Chicagoland Permaculture Meetup and Living Off The Grid Meetup joined forces to build a compost pile that would provide heat for the grow beds of a greenhouse.  

Some of the last loads of compost to go on the pile
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Design Tools – Calculating The Sun’s Path

The sun is an important influence on any permaculture design and has a huge effect when it interacts with a building, our gardens or solar PV. I thought it would be good to highlight some tools that are available to help us assess where the sun will be at any given point in time.

A Solar Pathfinder for Google Maps

SunCalc allows you to drag the tool to different points google maps. It shows you where the sun will rise, set, or be at a given moment on a specific day of the year. The shaded area shows the highest and lowest point for the sun over the year. 

Sun Path Chart Program
University of Oregon Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory

If you enter your latitude and longitude or just your zip code you can make a chart with this online tool. I find this chart very useful to print out and take to a site to help me estimate where the sun is in the sky at different times of the year.



The Solar Pathfinder

While expensive, the solar pathfinder is a neat tool that allows you to to see where the sun will be at a particular spot, at different times of the year. This gives a very accurate picture of where the sun and shade will be and is a useful tool that is often used by PV installers.



The Relationship Between Yoga & Permaculture

This video came out a a couple of years ago and we think Vidya (now Swami Omkara)  really speaks to why we’ve been working to organize courses with the Sivananda Yoga Farm in Grass Valley, CA. The registration for our course at the Yoga Farm this year is officially closed, but we’re holding a 6-Day Hands-On Permaculture Intensive immediately following it. The Hands-On training is a great way to not only get a deep introduction to permaculture, but also to anchor your Permaculture Design Course training. 

Graduates in the News

It’s always exciting when we hear about the mainstream media picking up on permaculture and even more so when they’re talking about graduates of Midwest Permaculture. Here are a couple of these recent appearances in the news:

Kate Heiber-Cobb 

Wisconsin State Journal

Kate Heiber-Cobb, A graduate of our Fall of 2007 PDC course, was mentioned recently in The Wisconsin State Journal. The article highlights several Madison residents for whom “…being green is an everyday commitment”.  Also, be sure to check out her upcoming event with Brad Lancaster, author of the book Water Harvesting in Drylands and Beyond

Chicago Tribune

Even I, Milton, (a graduate of the Summer 2009 PDC), was recently quoted in an article in the Chicago Tribune about a Gary, IN man, Marshall Willoughby, who has gone to the extreme to create a sustainable lifestyle. They didn’t quite capture my full thought, though. It went something like: “You can spend energy working against nature and fit in with society or you can spend energy working against society and fit in with nature.” In the end, though, nature is going to win.

Marshall Willoughby 

Wind & Sun Farm – A Permaculture Design (Part 2)

 Part 2 of 2

Click Here for Part 1


Initial drawing of a keylined hillside with swales and linear food forest overlaid. 


Current Conditions

  • The field is east facing with a substantial slope (approximately 20%) that is presently planted with alfalfa and a host of other prairie and pasture plants. The land sustained many years of agricultural practices including tilling and chemical use which has caused two significant areas of erosion indicated on the map with tan, squiggly line in the sketch below.
  • The excess water running off the hill (during rain events and snow-melt) flows northward at the bottom of the hill where a substantial wet spot, located mostly on the neighbor’s property, has sprouted up many moisture loving trees and shrubs, most notably, black willow.
  • Some aged maple trees boarder the north/south highway, providing substantial shade on the lowest part of the property in the mornings.
  • Area 2 comes right up to the work and living area of the farm (Area 1) and picks up again just south of said area for 200 feet where the ridge meets the southeast corner of the property.

Permaculture Design Recommendations

Keylining and Swales

In order to deal effectively with the two distinct areas of erosion, (cream colored squiggles in aerial photo below) while simultaneously preparing the soils for an abundance of food production, we recommend keyline plowing in years 1 through 3.  Keylining is done until dramatic improvement to soil quality is achieved.  

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The Chicagoland Permaculture Meetup Builds a Rocket Stove

This Labor Day weekend the Chicagoland Permaculture Meetup traveled to Woodstock, IL to build a rocket stove. Here’s a time lapse video I made of what went on the first day. 

In case you it went by too fast for you in the video or you, I’ve pulled out some of the pictures from the video and posted them below.

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Hugelkultur Video

Check out this time lapse video we made of the construction of a hugelkultur bed…

Hugelkultur is a raised bed filled with wood. As the wood decomposes it slowly releases nutrients to the plants in the bed. It also acts like a sponge, holding more water for the plants to access in between rains. We built this bed in Bill & Becky Wilson’s yard as a part of our Hands-On Permaculture Training this past August.