Permaculture Earthworks – The Clay Model

Permaculture Earthworks lay Model

Dripping water slowly on to the clay model clearly shows how rain water can be moved around a landscape and held to rehydrate the soil.

As permaculture teachers, we have landed on this simple clay-model demonstration as an excellent tool for explaining earthworks. We can cover how swales, ponds, key points and key lines all fit together. The appreciative response from our students continually confirms this.

We wanted to make this video available to more than just our own students so we videotaped this session at one of our summer PDC courses and are sharing it here. Continue reading “Permaculture Earthworks – The Clay Model”

Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade

3 Miles of Swales Cut in 5-Hours

We are making early progress on our 320-acre Missouri permaculture-farm project (Jordan Rubin’s Heal the Planet Farm).  Last fall, a local dozer operator was brought in to dig the first swales.  It was a small dozer but it did a respectable job and did the work in a relatively short period of time compared to an excavator. See the blog post with video here.

Before we brought the dozer back in this spring, Kevin, a long-time farmer in the area who is also Jordan’s lead farmer on this project, suggested that we simply try the 135hp farm tractor with it’s 9-foot tilting scraper blade (it’s just over 6′ wide when fully angled at 45 degrees) to see what kind of swales it would cut. It certainly seemed worth trying though I’d never seen it done before.

Adam and I headed out early one morning with the laser level and marked off about a mile of swales with white-wire flags.  When Kevin arrived later in the morning with the tractor all he had to do was adjust the angle of the blade, drop it down, and start running.  He ran three passes on every swale we had marked and did it all in about 60 minutes! Continue reading “Rapidly-Cut Swales with Tractor Blade”

Bulldozer Digging Swales

The Design

We have been invited by a family in Southern Missouri to assist with the design of a 320-acre farm.  They want to transition the land into a permaculture landscape capable of producing a wide range of perennial foods (nuts, vegetables, herbs, fruit, etc.) as well as livestock (beef and goats).

 

Over generations, rain has slowly degraded this sloping landscape with a loss of nutrients and topsoil. It is not uncommon for a million gallons of water to wash off this landscape with a 1-inch rain. Continue reading “Bulldozer Digging Swales”

Spring Rains Fill Our Earthworks Multiple Times

While the city of Chicago was shutting down due to too much rain last week just 60 miles north of us, the swales, ponds, berms and rain gardens we have put in around our home and in Stelle did their job of filling up and holding water back from the creeks.  Over several days they will slowly release that water into the water table rather than let it run down into our creeks and rivers all at once.  

In this hugelkultured swale, both the ditch and the wood in the berm are holding rain water.

In this hugelkultured swale, both the ditch and the wood in the berm are holding rain water.

The water we are holding back will eventually make it to our creeks and rivers anyway, but it will do so slowly… and over a long period of time… thus trickle-feeding our creeks and rivers all year round.  This is the way a normal hydrological cycle works. Continue reading “Spring Rains Fill Our Earthworks Multiple Times”

Pictures From our June 2012, Stelle PDC Course

 Pictures by Milton Dixon and Bill Wilson – Captions by Bill

Day 1 in the Classroom – The World Map on the Wall is a Nice Addition to any Learning space. – Becky Wilson Teaching

“Thank you Bill and Becky for such an incredible, life-altering week.”
Jody T. – Community Organizer

Continue reading “Pictures From our June 2012, Stelle PDC Course”

Linear Food Forests along Hugelkultured Swales

In this design we will be planting linear-food forests all along the downhill side of each of three hugelkultured swales.   What is a hugelkultured swale?

 

While the tress and shrubs are in the early stages of growing (small) we will use the open space to grow some of our annual vegetables. We will also plant some nitrogen fixing ground covers and dynamic accumulators to help build the soil.

Continue reading “Linear Food Forests along Hugelkultured Swales”

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

Continue reading “Picture Summary of UWRF PDC Course”

Photos of a Winter PDC at Midwest Permaculture

Special Note:
Wondering about missing some hands-on activities at our annual Winter PDC Courses?

Grafting Workshop at Winter PDC

Grafting Workshop at Winter PDC

You won’t!  Most all of the hands-on activities we undertake at our regular PDC courses we can also do at our winter courses.  These include:

  • Learning to use the A-frame and sight level.
  • Building a dry-brick rocket stove and firing it up.
  • Making a clay model of a landscape to learn about swales, keylining, and ponds.
  • Touring Midwest Permaculture’s yard and the CSC land
  • Doing fruit tree grafting
  • Making cob from clay, sand and straw
  • and touring the Malchow’s (our neighbors) permaculture home to fire-up their thermal mass rocket stove couch/bench.

The one thing we cannot do because of the frozen ground is continue to work on the hugel-swale we are constructing for CSC, but this basically consists of digging a section of a ditch, putting logs in, and then covering them up. We’ll show some pictures of the details related to this so you’ll get the information without the tactile experience.

 

Raising Profitable Heritage Breed Hogs at Spence Farm in a very Humane Way

Raising Profitable Heritage Breed Hogs at Spence Farm in a very Humane Way

The one thing we do extra for this course is focus a bit more on the growing of food and what it takes to create a successful farming/growing/permaculture operation.

Many people want to make part or even all of their annual income from growing food.  This is certainly possible but it requires quite a bit of knowledge and then real practical experience. Our objective through this training is to save you years of time and money by giving you some critical information and fresh insights. 

To help anchor this learning experience we’ll be taking an extra field-trip over to Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL, to meet Kris and Marty Travis who are doing pioneering work in these areas. 

If the timing works for you to attend this winter course, we are confident that you will not leave feeling like you missed any hands-on activities.  It’s an amazing and very-full 8 days like all of our other PDC Courses.

Here are Pictures from one of our Winter PDC Course (from 2012)
Narration by Hayden Wilson (Standing, far right, son of Bill and Becky)

Our Group Photo with Rocket Stove in Foreground and Midwest Permaculture Home-site (our house). Mom (Becky Wilson) is standing on far left. Dad (Bill Wilson) took most of these pictures.

  Continue reading “Photos of a Winter PDC at Midwest Permaculture”

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 

 

Continue reading “6-Day Family Friendly Training”

Cal-Earth – The PDC Portion of the Combined Earth Building and Permaculture Training

Week 2 – The Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course.
(Click here for Photos of Week 1)

 
We not only taught this course to 24 students from around the world (Europe, Middle East, Africa) but we also trained 7 of Cal-Earth’s staff. and 2 of their interns. Nader Khalili was just months away from hosting the first PDC course at Cal-Earth when he unexpectedly passed in 2008. To honor their father and the 20th anniversary of Cal-Earth, Dastan and Sheefteh Khalili, Nader’s children, invited us to deliver our PDC course.  As Ian Lodge (director at Cal-Earth) told us , “the hard work of proving the viability of superadobe structures is done.  It’s now time to look at the total environment, to see how much better the buildings and the land around them can function together to benefit the people living in them.”

Continue reading “Cal-Earth – The PDC Portion of the Combined Earth Building and Permaculture Training”