In Permaculture Design Certificate

Fun of summer camp meets four year course on healing degraded landscapes… this is the Gull Lake Permaculture Design Course, and here are photos from our 2010 course.

Week One

We covered a great deal of interesting topics and learnt so many new things: methods of creating connected designs, pattern understanding, bringing pattern into practical design applications, climatic factors & creating microclimate, trees and their importance, urban and rural water harvesting strategies, and surveying!

Val (our chef) did an amazing job on the food, which was all made by hand with as much as possible, fresh, local and/or organic ingredients: homemade bison burgers, roma tomato soup, roast potato salad, yellow pea dahl, vegetable frittata, homemade pesto, tuscan bread salad, peach & berry cobbler, wild salmon with smoked paprika, homemade bread and homemade yogurt to name a few of our favorite things.

Hands on stuff included building a giant compost pile (nicknamed Jabba the Hutt), some choppin’ and droppin’ of the the food forest and we built a mini swale to watch how water moves through the landscape. Good fun!

A big thank-you especially to our evening guest speakers: Tad Hargrave who talked about green economy and green business, Patty Milligan who filled our heads with info on bees, Kevin Phillips who took us on a medicinal and edible herb walk & Dustin Bajer who shared with us the successes of the Jasper Place High School Permaculture Project.

Here are some photos from the first week:

Field Trip

For our Field Trip we drove out to Sundre to meet Bob & Sandy – a lovely couple who moved from Saskatoon to Sundre three years ago. They bought some land, built a strawbale home, started growing much of their own food and are now in the process of starting up a small farm dairy which will specialize in sheep’s cheese. They are also building a strawbale greenhouse combined with a chicken house – a fantastic permaculture analogy for matching needs & yields.

Next we visited Barb Hazenveld, a permaculture educator living in Olds. She & her husband Hendrik have a great urban permaculture site. She gave us a tour of her beautifully designed yard which was abundant with ripe fruit (saskatoons, cherries, seabuckthorns) and soooo much food. Amazing.

Lastly we visited our friends Cody & Kristin, also in Olds, and had our students complete and present their first urban permaculture design and make suggestions to transform this typical urban lot into a market garden, minimizing water use and maximizing space efficiency. The students produced impressive designs. 

After a long day we returned to Birch Bay, lit up a campfire and entertained each other with campfire banter, songs, fiddle playing, mandolin, guitar and drumming. Great fun!

Week Two

Week two sure flew by! Back after a well deserved day-off, Sunday started with a lecture on soil science.

The students then split into teams and were introduced to their final design project: to re-design an adjacent farmer’s field into an ecologically-based residential development. We asked them to prove that development could be done while simultaneously enhancing the surrounding ecology.

Rene Michalak, a graduate of our course from 2009, came out on Sunday evening to talk to our class about the great initiatives that he is involved with: the Center for Urban Agriculture, the upcoming Pathways 2 Sustainability Conference and the Transition Town movement. 

Monday we got our hands dirty and spent the day designing and implementing a food forest install using a sheet mulching technique. Our students got very creative and designed out the forest using little 3D paper trees!

We continued to feast every day with excellent food and yummy treats: curried chickpeas, millet & yam soup, roasted cauliflower salad, homemade cinnamon buns, ribs marinated in port…

Meanwhile, Rob continued to cover the remaining course material: earthworks, strategies for different climatic zones, renewable energy systems, community initiatives, alternative economies and more.

Heads full of information and spinning with ideas the student groups set out to present their final project on Friday. The three teams each presented a design approach that left us utterly impressed with the depth, detail and consideration of their project. From managing water on-site, dealing with waste, ideas for generating community income, building plans & designs for low energy homes, wildlife corridors – who would not want to live there?

And lastly, it is not a PDC without the famous talent show! And talented this group sure was. We had singers, guitarists, song writers, poets, drummers, story tellers, comedians, mandolin entertainment and a fiddling duet. Several students re-wrote lyrics to popular songs such as “Permaculture Scene” sung to the tune of “Yellow Submarine”. See the lyrics below. This was quite possibly one of the most entertaining evenings we’ve ever attended.

And so here are the photos from week two:

We can’t thank our students enough for joining us and cherish the two weeks we spent together. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know all of you and can’t wait to hear about your future projects and endeavors!


Comments From Our Students

“how to make real and significant changes in your community and your own life”

“Rob’s course will transform you into someone ready to make the changes you want to make but are unsure are even possible. The revealing of permaculture design and knowledge at this PDC is so powerful because it equips you with the knowledge of how to make real and significant changes in your community and your own life”

Joel Ashworth, Calgary, AB

“strongly encourage you to sign up for this positive and empowering course”

“If you think about, wonder about or yearn for sustainability yet are unsure of how people or what you yourself can do to help the world achieve it, I strongly encourage you to sign up for this positive and empowering course”

Jason Stuka, Lac La Biche, AB


“improve life for humans and nature”

“Permaculture connects ideas and processes in a new way that will improve life for humans and nature. I really appreciated this opportunity to learn about permaculture”

Joanne Havelock, Regina, SK



“Life Changing!”

“If you ever thought that there had to be a better way of looking at the world, this course will not only offer one to you, but also give you the details on how to make it work. Life Changing!”

Mark Cogswell, Calgary, AB



“Well worth the tuition fee”

“Well worth the tuition fee. Learned so many options to use my life energy in a more sustainable way. Can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned!”

David Fournier, Edmonton, AB




“many ideas on how to make a right livelihood”

“The money I put into this course is so tiny compared to what I’ve spent on material possessions that have no significance to me whatsoever. This is a drastic life changer. Rob gives many ideas on how to make a right livelihood. Now, I’m going to focus all my time towards bettering my environment and I’m leaving with many ideas on how to accomplish that.”

Kira Sawatzky, Calgary, AB

“will be making some major changes in my life and career”

“I am so glad I negotiated the time off work to take this course. It has really been life altering. The concepts and ethics of permaculture should be something everyone is exposed to, and Rob’s teaching and enthusiasm were infectious. My mind will be spinning for months to come and I will be making some major changes in my life and career because of what I learned in [this course].”

Jessica Roder, Edmonton, AB

“this course is valuable for everyone”

“Permaculture is a key body of knowledge and ethics that is missing in our society. What I received for value goes way beyond what I paid. Thank-you. I think that this course is valuable for everyone; in particular, generalists and people searching for something that is missing in their lives.”

Anaya Lea, Calgary, AB


“a vocal, sincere, passionate advocate”

“Thank-you for being such a vocal, sincere, passionate advocate for the ability of ethics to restore the possibility of trust in family and community relationships”

Connie Barritt, Alix, AB




The Permaculture Scene

Mark Cogswell

(Adapted from Yellow Submarine)


There’s concern across the land,

the end of carbon is at hand.

But Mother Nature will provide.

Just remember, she’s on our side


So we’ll start to fix our soil,

growing food without much toil.

We’ll grow trees instead of grass

and tell the neighbours of thermal mass


We all live in the permaculture scene,

the permaculture scene, the permaculture scene,

We all live in the permaculture scene,

the permaculture scene, oh yeah!


Yes we’ll learn to eat the weeds

that volunteer to meet our needs

and we’ll stack, in time and space

yields and needs in every place


We all live in the permaculture scene…



-We need more mulch here, Buckley, more mulch!

– More mulch over here, Rob!

– Work together! Work together!)


As we live a life of ease (life of ease!)

Every one of us has all we need.

Berries blue and gardens green,

in our permaculture scene


We all live in the permaculture scene…



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