Sunday, October 07, 2012

Site Mapping for Permaculture Design – November 2012

Date: Saturday, November 3, from 1-3:30pm
Rain date:  Sunday, Nov. 4th, from 1-3:30pm
Location: meet at Just Food Ottawa’s office,
2389 Pepin Court, Ottawa, ON, (in Blackburn Hamlet)
Suggested donation: $10-30 (no-one turned away for lack of funds).  Any extra money raised will go towards Permaculture Ottawa’s Community Urban Food Forest project.
Transportation: OC Transpo bus #94 Millenium, some ride-sharing will be available.

Join us for a hands-on workshop that will introduce you to the basic site mapping skills used in permaculture design. Participants will learn how to measure and map a site’s features, including elevation.  The workshop will be led by Douglas Barnes, an experienced permaculturist who is the president of EcoEdge Design Ltd. Douglas studied with permaculture founder Bill Mollison, and has worked on projects in Canada, Japan, India, and Australia.
This workshop will take place outdoors, so participants should take the weather into account and dress appropriately. Participants please bring your own paper, pens or pencils- and if you have one, a 100′ tape measure will come in handy!  The workshop organizers will provide a set of workshop notes for the students, a surveyor’s level, A-frame level, bunyip level, farmer’s level, GPS, twine, stakes, a measuring wheel, and two 100′ tape measures.

* Limited space available- to reserve a spot email
Sarah Lévesque-Walker at
and write “Mapping workshop” in the subject heading.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Water, Water, Nowhere

What a summer! Hot and dry, followed by hot and dry periods, interspersed with the promise of thunderstorms that bring furious, desiccating winds, and nothing else.

For a few reasons, there has been little activity on this site until this month. A large part of the reason for this is that I have been building a passive solar home by myself (big hat tip to my wife who helped hoist heavy things and who passed me tools at many critical moments).

Last summer we had a trench dug to hook us up with electrical power. While the backhoe was here, I got my earthmover to get a chinampa started. At that time, the water table was much higher, and when we dug deep enough, it was like a water main was burst. Water gushed into the chinampa.

But then we had a relatively dry winter with next to no spring run off. This turned into a rather dry May, which became a dry June, which became a parched July, followed by an arid August. Just a couple minutes walk from my door there are poplar trees in the ditch (those wet channels that run alongside roads) that are dead and dying from lack of water.

I had planned an earthworks seminar at our farm for July, but an inability to track down the equipment needed in time (namely a subsoiler) led me to cancel it for this year (sorry to all the folks who inquired). This is very unfortunate because we really could have used all the help we could get this summer.

The back end is the bottom of a ditch that
holds water during wetter years. This year
The water dried right to the bottom of the
chinampa, about 130 cm down below the
bottom of the ditch.
The water level in the chinampa grew lower and lower until all the water in one dried up, taking all the fish with it. Another one was down to a little wallow with a few surviving minnows and tadpoles. I dug a water hole in that one and gave the minnows and tadpoles a second chance, but without rain soon, that little hole will dry up, too.

Clearly, I will have to start putting into action some of the techniques I used in the more arid India. I am shocked at how bad things have gotten in one year. Mature trees are turning colours (some as early as July) because of the lack of rain, while temperatures remain about 3 to 5C higher than normal. If there has been one upside, it is that the lack of water has meant a lack of mosquitoes. But there is a lack of more other things, too. Dragon flies and damsel flies are missing in action, as are most of the other insects you would expect to see.

Happily, our garden has done rather well. Our beds are either hugelkultur beds, or heavily mulched beds, so when we water them, they stay moist for a long time. But the pasture looks rather disastrous. Lots of farmers in the area have had to cull herds due to a lack of hay, and the large round bales are selling as much as $45 higher than normal.

Doom and gloom. But what about answers?

Answers there are! There are subsoilers around, or so goes the rumour. Hitting our pasture with an intelligently applied subsoiler will allow more infiltration. It will also capture more of the snow melt that otherwise runs off the land. We can place swales across the pastures to allow more water to sink in, too. Planting up some pioneering trees will help with soil building, which will help with water retention, as well.

It seems the devastating droughts that climate modellers have been warning might have slipped over from future possibility to present reality. It's time to start getting greedy with the water that hits this site.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2nd Annual Ottawa PDC

The Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario is pleased to present its second permaculture design course in Ottawa, beginning September 21st.

Who is this course for?

If you want to learn how to design human environments in a way that benefits the Earth rather than degrading it, this course is for you. If you believe that there is a way for humans to repair the damage done to the Earth, and you want to know how to do that, this course is for you. If you want to get out and start building a sustainable future for yourself and others, this course is for you.

What will you learn in this course?

You will learn how to design sustainable systems to meet material needs in any region of the world where there is permanent settlement. We will cover regions from tropical to arid to temperate. And as a side benefit of this knowledge, you will learn how to save a lot of money along the way.

Our team

Bonita Ford has a Permaculture Diploma with l'Université Populaire de Permaculturein France, an M.A. in Holistic Health Education from JFK University in California, and a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from Queen's University in Ontario.  Bonita took an Introduction to Permaculture with Brock Dolman in 2002, and took her first Permaculture Design Course through Urban Permaculture Guild and Oakland Permaculture Institute in California from 2005 to 2006.  Shortly thereafter, she directed and co-facilitated one of the first Urban Permaculture Design Courses in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She did work exchange with permaculture teachers Steve Read, Andy Darlington and Jessie Darlington in France.  In 2011, she was a teaching assistant in a Permaculture Design Course in Haiti, taught by Larry Santoyo and Hunter Heaivilin.  In Haiti, she also created a training program and trained a group of over 40 teachers, community facilitators and agronomists in basic concepts from permaculture and Nonviolent Communication. Bonita has led workshops and groups worldwide for over eight years, including in Port-au-Prince, Budapest, Soweto, San Francisco, Seattle, New Mexico, Vermont, Toronto, Ottawa and Perth. She is a co-founder of Transition Perth and the Permaculture Institute of Eastern Ontario.

Sébastien Bacharach, originally from France, is an Eco-logical Educator, Community Builder and Web Architect. He is the former Education Director of the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners (SLUG) and co-founder of the San Francisco Permaculture Guild. Sébastien became certified as a permaculture designer in the spring of 2001, at the Permaculture Research Institute, New South Wales, Australia, by internationally renowned PRI Director Geoff Lawton. He trained as a Permaculture Teacher in 2004 at Ocean Song, California. He has applied his knowledge in many different settings, in France and especially in San Francisco, California.

Douglas Barnes has been an educator for 20 years, and part of the permaculture movement for 8 years. He has taken two permaculture design courses, one in Brisbane with Geoff and Danial Lawton in 2004, and the other in Melbourne with Geoff Lawton and permaculture founder Bill Mollison in 2005. Using what he learned in his courses, Douglas has designed a passive solar home in Tweed where he is in the process of setting up a permaculture farm. He has taught permaculture in Canada and Japan, and has consulted on projects in Japan, Australia, Canada, Uganda, and India. In 2006, he established EcoEdge Design Ltd., a permaculture design and consultation company. In 2009, he worked with the Green Tree Foundation in Talupula, AP, India on a local agroforesty project, regreening an arid 7-acre hillscape, turning it into a productive polyculture mango orchard. 

What our students say

When I first learned about permaculture, I thought it had to do with the garden. I was amazed when I attended the permaculture course with Bonita, Sebastien, and Doug at how much permaculture can be applied to everything in your life. This course taught me so much, and completely inspired me in other areas of my life that I didn't think had anything to do with permaculture. I met so many great people, and we've started lots of initiatives within the city using the permaculture principles. This course expands your mind and encourages you to get out there and be part of the solution. I would take this course again in a heart-beat! - Nathalie P.

Taking the Permaculture Design Course was an eye-opening experience. It taught me how communities can design cooperative livings spaces in ways that contributes to the vitality of the planet. - Chris B.

This is one of the best courses I've ever taken. The teachers were great, the course itself was life changing, and some of the relationships I made will probably last a lifetime. - Brittany Boychuk


The course runs September 21 (evening), 22, and 23, September 29 and 30, October 13 and 14, October 27, and 28.


$750 CAD, HST included. For more infomation, please see the PIEO site.