Lessons of a PDC

It was difficult to decide what to write for this blog post as there was so much I wanted to say. After studying Permaculture for several years and having some insight to the majority of what was delivered on the course I chose the things that made the most impact on me and were, I felt, the most important;  communication and facing my own fears…

From the moment I left home I began to change, my fears of being out of my comfort zone and a desire to succeed were uppermost in my mind.  I was leaving my husband and everything familiar to me to do my Permaculture Design Course (PDC). I was on the edge of my comfort zone.  I was going to spend 2 weeks with people I had never met before. I was also looking to reconnect with a part of myself that I’d lost somewhere in this displaced society or…..discover something new.

I’d heard how life-changing a PDC can be. This was definitely the case for me, both from now being recognised as a permaculturist, and spiritually. I’m not sure I would have found my Permaculture eyes if I hadn’t done a residential course, not to say online courses aren’t worthwhile but the essence of community can’t be captured through a keypad  or computer screen, at least that’s what I believe. You can’t capture people’s feelings and nurture relationships effectively this way.

Globally we have become unconsciously dependant on an economy run on built-in obsolescence and an age where technology has become the new pacifier for our children. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/2013/06/06/parenting-in-the-age-of-digital-technology/

How long could you go without your iphone?
Do you panic if your computer crashes?
How much time do you really spend playing outside with your children?

Yes it is possible to pick up the phone to call your friend or skype to the distorted image of your child at university but there is nothing like the look in someone’s eye when you know they love you, or the touch of their fingers on your face to confirm it. Technology doesn’t do that, it never has done and it never will. It has no nerve endings, no ability to feel. You can’t make these sensory things virtual.

In any setting where people are involved, group dynamics can either gel people together or become dysfunctional. A large majority of us feel so stressed with social or work related pressures that we forget the most important things around us are people. We need people. We can’t do without them. So…..communicating is an integral part of any group dynamic whether it’s family, business, globally or a PDC.

Take away our dependence on technology, which plays a very big part in how we communicate, and how do we get along? iphones and laptops make it easier to communicate with people 24/7 it’s true. People can be bought together from across the ocean or across the street if you’re feeling lazy but they can’t tell us what someone is feeling.

We have emoticons that can give a suggestion of being happy or laughing or a few xxxs at the end of a text message, a gesture of some kind of sentiment, I’m not sure what but they didn’t teach us how to smile, or frown or use our bodies the way that for millennia man has come to recognise as the simplest and most effective form of communication.

http://www.uefap.com/writing/exercise/report/nonverb.htm                         http://www.study-body-language.com/body-language-communication.html

Silence activity
Non verbal activity.

We have lost the true art of communication or at least we are in jeopardy of doing so.

Our ability to connect with the online world was reduced thankfully at Ourganics by our host encouraging us to only use the bare minimum to contact loved ones, solar power being all too precious. Ironically there was even an element of Gaian intervention as signal strength was weak making it harder to connect to the outside world regardless.

There was no TV. Instead our entertainment was governed by watching our fellow graduands as they engaged in frolics with Sam, the Ourganics pet dog. We shared our own skills on our days off building cob ovens, giving Reiki or enjoying a swim in the sea or playing croquet: I think I won?


I come back for a short moment to my fears of meeting new people. I wondered how they would perceive me or whether I would live up to their expectations, or even they to mine. In fact I was in awe of all of them, each one relaying experiences that I wished my fractured family life had not prevented me from doing.

I felt inferior and that my lack of shared knowledge or experience would in some way prevent me from getting the most of the 2 weeks.  This only reinforced my longing for familiarity making leaving early a desirable option in the first few days. But……. as time went on and we shared these activities, the magic of Ourganics gave me a new comfort zone and wisdom and the outside world slowly dissolved away as each one of us became more connected.

I’m pleased to say that for some of us our ability to communicate with each other was difficult. Why was I pleased? If it had been easy we would have not learnt the importance of communicating our concerns to each other and at the same time recognising our differences. We wouldn’t have felt comfortable holding someone’s hand when apologising for an action or word we said or did, which we later regretted.  I’m not sure if this is how all PDC environments are, I can only tell you my experience.

As the days went on we shared our lives with each other, we learnt, we cried, we laughed, we learnt a bit more, we made a few puns and we occasionally got irritated but never angry. We hugged and comforted through voice, hand gestures and facial expressions, none of which you can experience the sincerity of through online interaction.  These are all patterns we recognise and interact with as human beings whichever belief system or culture we are part of.

So did we actually learn anything besides how to communicate with each other? Yes we did.  Our end designs were excellent ones, even with their spelling mistakes. [I admit to spelling Sloe worm as a species instead of Slow worm and this was before the party. ] We had shown that through all our differences, there can be a positive end result.  We learnt that all said and done, the collective, the integration rather than segregation, is important.

“the connections between elements are as important as elements themselves”           People in Permaculture, Looby Mcnamara.

How did we get there? By changing our own patterns of expectation. By reaching out beyond our edges. I can’t speak for my fellow graduates but my edge increased. I found existing elements within a bigger system that fed my need to obtain more of a yield from my life.

If you are thinking of doing your PDC then I recommend you do it as a residential. I believe

your experience will be more rewarding with the continuity it will bring. By no means do I judge online courses, in fact I can’t comment. People such as Patrick Whitefield and Geoff Lawton have given people an opportunity that they might not have had, if they had not put their PDC online.

Nonetheless my instinct tells me that to physically interact with people is to continue the infinite evolving pattern that is Permaculture, [to change the pattern so it becomes even greater.]

My PDC was the university experience I never had.  I loved every minute at Ourganics. Pat for her ability to let people be themselves and Aranya for drawing us into his web allowing us all to find our way knowing that we would.  My fellow peers without whom I wouldn’t have belonged, but most of all my husband for being the only constant in my life and for allowing me to be me.

Certificates v3
Permagrads Ourganics 2013


“I am an amateur writer. I write from the heart. Don’t judge me.