Permaculture Journey

Follow our Permaculture JourneyThis page is the portal to my journey in earning a Permaculture Design Certificate.

Some people think I am insane to take this on at over the age of 60 – but I think it is in such close alignment with what I already think and do, it is a real pleasure.

My project is on using our own backyard for a test site for building backyard diversity, with a particular focus on creating habitat supportive of honeybees and other pollinators. Essentially, it is converting a conventional backyard garden to a pollinator sanctuary that also provides for many of our own needs.

The project components are as follows:

  • What is Barbolian Fields? Who are we? What do we do? Our “About” page provides a mindmap of just how we build resiliency and sustainability through backyard diversity.
  • Project Vision: An introduction to our project, including the issue(s) addressed and description of stakeholders, why I chose this topic/project, and our identified goals.
  • Site Analysis: The project site, stakeholders, practical aspects, resources, and constraints:
  • Ethics and Principles: what are they – and how were they applied to this project? A honeycomb graphic to illustrate these concepts.
  • Implementation Plan: This project is unique in that it is an extenuation of something we began in 2009. We have divided the Implementation Plan into four phases, each spanning three years, each representing advancements in learning, skills, and investment, and in the evolution of the system. This section delineates the activities for each phase through the year 2020 along with a timeframe for accomplishment, as well as a budget for each year, a budget summary for each phase, and a budget summary for the overall project.
    • Overall Plan Summary: A graphic illustrating Phases, Inputs, Outcomes
    • Yearly Activity Summary: A graphic illustrating key activities 2009-2020
    • The Evolution: Phases 1-4 A graphical display that gives historical perspective of the property and a quick overview of the primary activities of the different phases.
    • Phases 1-4 – The Specifics:  The links below take you to tables that provide a detailed listing of what went (or will go in future phases) into Operations & Infrastructure, Plants & Gardens, Amenities & Fun Stuff, Education & Outreach, and Marketing Expenses & Income Streams. A theme evolved with each phase:
      • Phase 1 – Permaculture Awareness; Initial Investment in a Food Forest
      • Phase-2 – Building the Systems – Bees, Polyculture Gardens, Education
      • Phase-3 – Reducing the Footprint; Capturing energy; Optimizing Zones; Building Self-Sufficiency
      • Phase-4 – Reaching Out; Adding Small Livestock; Evolving with Succession
    • Budgets: The sticker shock by year, phase, and a summary for the overall project – another reality check and motivation to upcycle & DIY!
      • Budget-Phase-1 – Permaculture Awareness; Investing in a Food Forest
      • Budget-Phase-2 – Bees, Scythes, Building Backyard Diversity, Education, Outreach
      • Budget-Phase-3 – Optimizing Zones; Capturing Energy; Building Self-Sufficiency
      • Budget-Phase-4 – Amenities, Outreach, Evolution
  • The Design Process – a cool graphic on how we pull this together – in our backyards, in our communities, and on the planet
    • What questions did we ask?
    • SurprisesChallenges; Lessons Learned
    • Perspectives: How we tested our solutions; our feedback loops; self regulation and accepting feedback; what we learned from the experience; hindsights – what worked – or not, and what we would change; and lastly, or rather, the new beginning: our path forward.
  • The Grand Tour – A map and description of the gardens, a table of what blooms when, and the beginnings of a photo gallery.  (These pages are under construction. Definitely a work forever in progress!)

Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual” by Bill Mollison: Written in 1988, this is THE definitive manual on permaculture, a design system that works with, rather than against, nature to create sustainable ecosystems that support all manner of life. It is 559 pages jam-packed with information and is the primary textbook for the Permaculture Design Course. The following are chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Concepts and Themes in Design
  • Methods of Design
  • Pattern of Understanding
  • Climatic Factors
  • Trees and Their Energy Transactions
  • Water
  • Soils
  • Earthworking and Earth Resources
  • The Humid Tropics
  • Dryland Strategies
  • Humid Cool to Cold Climates
  • Aquaculture
  • The Strategies of an Alternative Global Nation

My overall thoughts: A lot of the PDM at first did not appear relevant to me (for example, humid tropics and deserts), but in each chapter, I found ways to apply the basic concepts to my own situation. There is so much detail in this book – it is, indeed, a manual, one that cannot be digested in one sitting (in fact, it took me 10 months to complete it), but one that I am sure I will refer to time and time again. Yes, Mr. Mollison does a certain amount of ranting on the establishment and the follies of any society that values personal greed over nature; it is his book after all – he can say what he wants (and I happen to agree with him).

Completing this volume did several things for me, other than give me a feeling of accomplishment: 1) it greatly widened my appreciation for the depth and breadth of permaculture and increased my understanding of how everything is connected on many different levels; 2) it made me realize I really just want to spend more time in my garden; I am not much of a social activist, but I am glad there are those that are; 3) it made me feel humbled in the presence of someone who could pull together such a huge amount of information.

Bill Mollison set out to change the world, and I think in many ways, he has been successful in creating a movement of change that could very well save our species. Of course, it is up to us to carry it forward.

I encourage anyone who is serious about permaculture to read this life-changing book. I will be taking time to reflect on and reread much of the PDM, along with other books on permaculture. And in the meantime, I will go back out in my backyard and tend to our bees, create interconnected habitats, reduce our footprint in whatever ways I can, conserve our resources, minimize our waste, share our bumper crops, appreciate what we have, live simply, and be a part of that change. I guess by default I am a social activist after all.

A note of gratitude: Although I am the one applying for this Permaculture Design Certificate, I am uncomfortable using the personal pronoun “I” in my write-ups. I most certainly could not have done this project without the encouragement and help of my husband and family. Thank you, everyone, for your loving support.


3 thoughts on “Permaculture Journey”

  1. Hello Blythe!
    My name is David Emery. I found your site via the Open Permaculture School forum. I love your project and the way you shared it with everyone!
    I am considering taking the paid PDC course with Open Permaculture School as well. I am a director of a community development nonprofit in Cambodia and I will use what I learn to raise the capacity of my org to bring sustainable agricultural practices to the communities we work with.
    I was wondering if you felt the course was well done? Will someone living in the tropics be able to appropriate the learning for this social/cultural/environmental contexts? In short, as someone who has completed the course, would you encourage others to use the same school as you?
    They have a 45 percent discount that ends for me tomorrow (Wednesday, April 29). I would really appreciate any thoughts or advice you might have!
    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!

  2. From your name, Barbolian Fields, to your passion, to your detailed design, I am in awe. Thank you so much for sharing. This is going to help me with my own design, as I am taking the same course. I know everyone is different, but I would appreciate knowing how long it took you to create this design. Warmly, Amber

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! That is EXACTLY why I put the whole thing up here on the web – to help others who might be struggling with their own projects or who just might want to see what someone else did. (I am still in the process of uploading some of the information on plant guilds and have to make a few corrections to some of the pages that lost formatting with the website changes I’ve been making). The project is basically an extension of what we have been doing since 2009 (and earlier, really) – but the actual *project* – as written up under the requirements of the PDC course – took a little over a year. I had to request a short extension. I could have done it in less, but you know how life has a way of creating diversions – plus, sketching out an idea from scratch is one thing – putting together a plan while you are in the middle of implementing it is quite another. I also confess to taking a huge amount of time in trying to figure out the best way to draw things out and upload them to the website and perhaps going a bit overboard on some of the details because I didn’t have a clear idea on what was required. After awhile, I realized it didn’t matter — the design was really for me, not for a certificate – and so then I was free to make it how I wanted it (even though some ideas were a bit optimistic). It will never be finished! Always evolving, as it should be. Thanks again for your comment. It made my evening!


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