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Course versus design

 
Tyler Ludens
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The PDC is meant to enable a person to teach permaculture; it is not necessary to take a PDC in order to learn permaculture. What I'm interested in is the cost of a PDC compared to hiring a permaculture designer to present a complete design for a property. That is, from a purely $$ standpoint, is it more cost-effective to take a PDC and generate the design oneself? Or is it less $$ to hire a permaculture designer who has taken the course?

Interested in your opinions!
 
brad millar
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Wait for it...................................... it depends.

Who are you hiring to do the design? geoff lawton? Ben Faulk? Some person that just took their PDC last year and has two designs under their belt?
Also, which PDC are you taking. The free one online, or are you flying to PRI Australia to take one with Geoff?

Personally I wouldn't hire anyone to do a design. I enjoy building and creating/designing stuff, so I wanted to take a PDC. Took one in 2014. It was worth every penny.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I didn't know about the free one, or I forgot about it.... The Geoff one costs about $7000, I think!

I'm hoping folks will chime in about how much they charge for a PDC versus how much they charge for a design, so I can get a sense of the different prices. If folks have taken a PDC, mentioning how much it cost would be helpful, or if they have purchased design services, how much that cost.

Thanks!
 
Levente Andras
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Tyler Ludens wrote:The PDC is meant to enable a person to teach permaculture; it is not necessary to take a PDC in order to learn permaculture. What I'm interested in is the cost of a PDC compared to hiring a permaculture designer to present a complete design for a property. That is, from a purely $$ standpoint, is it more cost-effective to take a PDC and generate the design oneself? Or is it less $$ to hire a permaculture designer who has taken the course?

Interested in your opinions!



Sorry but I'll start answering your question by asking more questions:

Supposing you take the PDC hoping that it will give you the confidence to design your own project, will you really feel confident enough after the PDC ? And prefer to design it yourself rather than commissioning an experienced practitioner?

... My own experience: I did GL's online PDC two years ago, it was great and money well spent (about 800 British Pounds if I remember correctly), though not in the 'cost-effectiveness' sense that you mention above. After the PDC I had a better theoretical grasp of design principles, tools, etc. and I was able to articulate what I needed and how I wanted it. I was feeling confident in designing my growing systems - no issue with that. However, I felt that I still needed (and still need now) specialist hand-holding in the design & implementation of the more 'technical' / 'technological' elements such as water systems (pond, water cistern, grey water treatment...), off-grid energy systems, etc. etc.

So one may be tempted to think that resorting to the help of an experienced permaculture designer is the answer. That may be true especially if you have just purchased a property and want to develop it asap. But if you have spent time (=years) on the property already, and know every nook and corner, and have been thinking about solutions for all that time, then perhaps you are in a better position to act as the designer. That's what I'm doing. For more complex sub-systems as the ones mentioned above, including the design of the house, I resort to specialists - earth movers, architects, plumbers, landscape specialists. But the big overall design is mine.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for your nuanced reply, Levente. I'm taking the long term approach to design. I don't know if I will ever take a PDC, since I don't plan on teaching permaculture. I have considered hiring someone to give me design suggestions at my place, but I don't know the costs.

 
Cameron Dalton
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I would do the design yourself. My PDC cost around USD 1500 with Warren Brush. It was great but honestly if you just go full bore on your on research on permaculture and have the land to test out the things you learn. You will learn a lot more then you would at a PDC. A PDC just skims the surface and is pretty limited on details for individual systems. Honestly if you read Gaias garden by Toby Hemmingway and watch geoff lawton videos you will have a good foundation to start doing small projects for you to start learning from. I was disappointed by how quickly my PDC went and how varied the topics were in the same day. In one day they will pack in all the info you will learn about swales, food forest, composting and bee keeping. It was kinda funny actually. There was a good size food forest at the site but because we talked so little about them, only about 2 hours, almost the entire class didn't know that the massive group of closely packed trees and shrubs was a food forest.... Also we talked soon much about how important compost and composting is but we never learned how to make compost....

I would personally not pay for a PDC after my experience. What i would recommend is trying to volunteer at a permaculture learning site and live there for a few months. That way you get the hands on experience that you will not get at a PDC. Hands on experience is the best way to learn. I guess my answer to is is I would not take a PDC, I would read books/info online and I would slowly do the design myself while learning along the way.

Cheers
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, cameron. It's interesting to read of people's different experiences with the PDC.
 
Rose Pinder
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I had someone do a design on my then 1/4 acre many years ago. I knew what permaculture was and was excited about it but at that stage didn't really get what the design aspect was. The design was interesting and certainly followed lots of permaculture principles but it was a bad fit for me personally and what I was wanting. So if I were to get a design done again, I'd want someone to work with me over time who understood where I was at as much as where the land was at, and who was willing to take the time to get on board with my needs and ideas beyond the more perfunctory what do you want to grow kind of things. I think because I know what pc design is now and have my own skills, that that would work better.

So for me, that's the 'depends' is whether I could find the right designer.

I'd love to do a PDC, but would choose an online one so I could pace myself and what was happening with my projects over time. I would see this fitting in well with getting a design done.

Ludi, you've got a lot of experience with your land already, so getting a designer in makes sense in terms of value for money (you can already tell them much and they don't have to spend time explaining things to you).

Ultimately whether you do the design yourself I think comes down to whether you have a design brain. Some people can learn those skills, but I don't think it's for everyone (which is why so many people don't get what permaculture is at the design level). Do you have a sense of whether it's something you would enjoy?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm a very slow learner. I'm gradually arriving at a design, but I don't know - and can't know - if it is the one IDEAL design. Or if there is such a thing. I'm guessing there might be a bunch of different designs that are all just as good. Certainly I've curtailed a lot of my ambitious goals over the years. I just don't have the energy or $$ to implement them. And no amount of design will probably fix my brown thumb or this challenging climate, though a good design (the IDEAL design?) might help.
 
Levente Andras
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm a very slow learner. I'm gradually arriving at a design, but I don't know - and can't know - if it is the one IDEAL design. Or if there is such a thing. I'm guessing there might be a bunch of different designs that are all just as good. Certainly I've curtailed a lot of my ambitious goals over the years. I just don't have the energy or $$ to implement them. And no amount of design will probably fix my brown thumb or this challenging climate, though a good design (the IDEAL design?) might help.


Geoff Lawton says that (especially when you start with a blank canvass) the design possibilities / options are almost infinite. As you wrote, there may be lots of design options that are equally valid (on paper at least). However, the ideal design exists only from your own point of view - it's ideal because it meets your own needs. What's ideal for you may be less than ideal for me. Because our needs may differ.

The challenging climate is a limiting factor for which one could be almost grateful - because it sets limits to those infinite options.
 
Zach Muller
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I agree with what rose said. I think being a designer, or a design minded person is a trait that doesn't always come from learning more about the subject. I know people who are not good at or do not enjoy comprehending systems and it seems like they always stay in their comfort zone even as they learn more and more about the various topics. Where there is also the kind of designer who doesn't know enough so they are just creating things as they go because they have a need for it in their design idea.

I am designing and implementing my first .5 acre system and i wouldn't want to hire a designer at this point. Nor do i feel the need to take a pdc. I have been working on designs for years and i know i want to have my own experience and creativity wrapped up into it. I Have also been able to observe this land for many years. I want to have this design under my belt so to speak. I know i want ponds, trails, elevation changes, paddocks for ducks and chickens, water tanks, food forests, intensive food gardens, trellis over house etc. but i have spent a lot of time learning about everything and noticing what will work and what i desire. Some people just don't have the time for that, so hiring a designer would be ideal.

I am sure things will be way different from the perspective of looking out over 300 acres that involve unfamiliar biomes, for that i would want to consult with people who saw that stuff all the time.

 
Angelika Maier
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I think you are overthinking the whole thing. Permaculture partly tries to replace experience with a design process. This is partly a good thing, but on the other hand you need the experience and the experience is local, very local.
What I would do is to simply start a kitchen garden in a favourable spot, you might move it later, no worries, you have improved your soil at this spot. I would maybe throw some chicken in fenced with electric netting, so you can move them later. While you work in your land you see were it's wet dry, were there are frost hollows, wind etc. Then in the evening you sit down and work on your plan. It won't be perfect but no plan is. Someone who come in from outside must have a ton of experience to read the land to tell you something. There are those people who know about weeds and soil and water who lived and farmed for half a century in your region. Ask them. They wont design your land but paying them an afternoon might give you enough information. Or still better pay someone for two hours in the beginning and thereafter every three months or so.
Developing a land is a process which changes over time and your plans should change with it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you, Angelika. I did end up moving my kitchen garden - closer to the kitchen!

 
Levente Andras
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Angelika Maier wrote: There are those people who know about weeds and soil and water who lived and farmed for half a century in your region. Ask them. They wont design your land but paying them an afternoon might give you enough information. Or still better pay someone for two hours in the beginning and thereafter every three months or so.


You'll be surprised how useless local people (I mean collectively, not just selected individuals) and their knowledge can sometimes be. If you want to do what they do / what they have been doing traditionally, then maybe they can teach you a trick or two. But if you, the outsider, want to do something different from what they do ... well ... I have interesting stories to tell about this !

For example: People who have "lived and farmed for half a century" in my region have survived on this land for generations, so they do possess important skills, but it's amazing how ignorant and uninterested they are in "non-traditional" / "foreign" things that they could otherwise easily adopt and which could potentially help them live better.

- They know about the forests that surround us, as 90% of the local population are loggers and make a living from the forest. That said, they are horribly ignorant about important aspects of the botany of the forests - e.g., most of them don't know that Boletes edulis are edible fungi, they think they are poisonous, so whenever they come across them in the forest, they kick them and stamp on them. They are knowledgeable about conifers and beech, but they (especially the younger people) cannot recognise or name native non-timber species such as Hawthorn

- Every family keeps horses, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep. A great deal of their farming work has to do with making hay, and growing potatoes on large acreage (most of the potatoes are used cooked as feed for pigs). And they are quite good at these things. But gardening / horticulture / vegetable growing hasn't got a tradition here and so it's very marginal, there is little interest in it among the locals, they keep saying that "nothing grows here except potatoes, carrots and onions". Which is bollocks of course. A few of them have started growing 'tender plants' like tomatoes and cucumbers in polytunnels because they are convinced that the plants would die or the fruit would not ripen out in the open. Bollocks again. When I tell them that tomatoes WILL ripen nicely in the open, their eyes glaze over. I had them taste some of my "exotic vegetables" such as broad beans, broccoli, chard, zucchini, etc.; some people liked them, some didn't; at any rate, no-one asked me how to grow them, whether I had spare seed, etc. We live in parallel universes, basically.

- The design of local farmsteads is definitely one that I would NOT try to emulate. Traditionally, locals have been building their houses close to the main road. This made sense 100 years ago - I guess the farmer felt closer to the community that way. But nowadays the road is used by motor vehicles including heavy trucks (transporting logs) and tractors. Result: noise and dust from the road enters the house... The outbuildings (stable, pig-sty, barn, poultry coop) are built towards the back of the yard, but often too close to the house. This is definitely not because of lack of space, because behind the yard, each house has a fairly large plot of land, typically 1-2 hectares. Result: courtyards often feel cramped; and the manure heap (and the effluent from it) can really "get in the way".

...I could go on forever. Conclusion: local farmers may be a resource if you want to live like them and do what they do. But if you want something different, leave them be.

By the way, have you seen the French movie Jean de la Florette ? It's a great illustration of the lack of wisdom of the local farmer.



 
Angelika Maier
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Usding local knowledge doen't say that you stop thinking. These people often know as well others who have great gardens and others and even those who do permaculture.
They often know were you get things.
The thing about the design is that you would make it different once finnished. But you need to put in fences and the orchard. That means you must do a bit of desogn work anyway.
You can scatter trees around but as soon as you have to net you h ave to keep them together.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you for these thoughts. Local knowledge in my area seems to consist of set-stocking cattle, goats, or sheep, and burning huge piles of brush and other trash, even manure.

 
Levente Andras
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Thank you for these thoughts. Local knowledge in my area seems to consist of set-stocking cattle, goats, or sheep, and burning huge piles of brush and other trash, even manure.



QED
 
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