Earlier this spring, someone in my local urban farming group on Facebook shared about a free online permaculture course that was going to take place over four weeks in May. Like a… typical student enrolled in an online course, I waited until week two-ish to even start on anything, and did not finish the course because the last few days of it coincided with Memorial Day weekend/my birthday. Good thing it was free! And that it didn’t actually count for college credit any kind. Because I would not have passed since I missed the last several ‘assignments’ because I was too busy cleaning house for my birthday party.
The course I took was the Intro to Permaculture Design class by Oregon State University. It will be available to take again at the end of October. If you’re interested in signing up, you can go ahead and enroll through Canvas Network. (They also offer a lot of other really cool looking courses. Some of them are free, some not, so check carefully!)
So, what is Permaculture?
“Permaculture” is a compound word, derived from ‘permanent agriculture’. The concept of permanent agriculture is, in essence, setting up a food system that will still be there for your children, grandchildren, great-grand-children, and so on. It also relies on sustainability practices, and an effort to live creating as little waste as possible.
I’m not going to go into too much more detail than that, because I’m not teaching the course, so let’s get to my impressions and experience.
I’m not going to give a poor review based on this, because I know the instructor and OSU had little control over the UI. While Canvas is infinitely more user-friendly and pretty than the online Blackboard system that was used when I took college classes 10+ years ago, it was still a little clunky in spots and some of the navigation was not intuitive. Maybe they’ll smooth some of that out before October!
I came into this knowing very little about permaculture, other than that I’ve heard the term a lot lately in the several gardening/homesteading/self-sustainability places I follow. The course was great for explaining quickly and concisely what permaculture is, and how it works.
Then came the fun part – learning the principles of permaculture, seeing real works-in-progress and successful project examples from several places around the world, and we began to apply what we were learning.
What I wish I could get my hands on is the mapping tool they had for marking the zones and sectors. I’ve been poking around on ye ol’ google, and haven’t found anything similar to it that fits my budget (IE: free).
My Sector & Zone Maps
(I had to split the sector map into two because it became too busy to comprehend.)
See, aren’t those so pretty? I never made to the point of doing the ‘final design map’, though, and I wasn’t able to go through the last week or so of the course, so I’ll definitely be taking it again this fall.
If you’re remotely interested in sustainable alternatives to commercial agriculture, and self-sustainability, I definitely recommend this course!