Dude I need more mulch!

Permaculture Design Course September 2017

By Bethany Diesbecq

Those of us who had played an internal game of 'guess who else is on the course' at the backpackers' bar the night before were shocked to see relatively few dreadlocks, bangles and harem pants enter the classroom on day one of our 12 day PDC course. Some people were even wearing shoes. What was this? Some sort of hippy-disguise conspiracy? Fool the public into thinking we're normal and then 'bam', hit them with some global warming statistic? Clandestine climate action? But ah, our reserved facades did not last long past the inevitable 'oh no you go ahead' battle for the last mandazi.

The Permaculture Course Participants

The Permaculture Course Participants

So, day one, and we met our main man- Tichafa- our potentate of permaculture who was also to became our dynast of digging, gaffer of grafting, zen-master of zoning, majesty of mulching, and his High Emperor Sovereign of swales. Little did we know on that balmy first day as we sat, bemused by the tsunami of information washing over (and hopefully leaching into) our gloriously green little brains, that one man's tidal wave is Tichafa's puddle- for this was not even a drop in the constructed wetland of information we were to receive over the coming weeks. 

Indeed, the info over next few days merged together like a perfect zone boundary: principles and patterns; water-harvesting and windbreaks, all contoured beautifully around Anthony-the-tree-whisperer's grafting workshop and a throw back to GCSE physics building our own A-frames. 


And then before we knew it, we were already at day 7: The School Trip (minus soggy sandwiches). But instead of renditions of 'hail to the bus driver', the journey was spent criticising the endless sea of sisal monoculture flashing past the window. 'They need to be using the contours.' 'Outrageous. Look at all that bare soil'. 'Not a marigold in sight'. Oh how far we had come- now a bunch of Horticulture Holier than thous! (Barefoot phone lines open- collective noun suggestions for multiple permaculturists).

I think we all took a huge amount from that day, whether at Haller Park's innovative demo site, exploring Bamburi cement's regenerative destruction (oxymoron: ten points) or stealing stacking ideas from Ivan's garden- seeing concepts and principles in action across many different scales was the start of fitting together the pieces of our own design puzzles. 

And then there was the glorious 'digging day'. Finally unleashed like angry (stingless) bees into a real life garden to disturb some unsuspecting top soil and make higgledy raised beds (sorry Ivan). Garden tool techniques became an impromptu lesson and my other half was certainly baffled by my message home requesting we coat my spade with tennis racquet grip-tape because I had concluded I couldn't use a jembe properly.

So, as the days passed and the rains arrived to bless our endeavours (and water our wonky banana circles), we started to understand what it was all about. We'd certainly had to answer enough inquiries from baffled on-lookers to at least be able to give (be them intimidatingly enthusiastic) explanations of what we were doing that didn't over use the word 'sustainable'. 

And so all was going so well. We knew the lingo. We were making farming puns in our spare time. We had this permaculture malarkey covered.

And then they got out the crayons. 

I don't really remember what happened after that. I don't think any of us do. For what felt like days (mild hangovers do that to you) we entered a place in our own heads only five year olds and Geography undergrads will understand: when things need colouring in, things need colouring in, man. And so we coloured. Oh how we coloured. Companion planting keys became more complicated than the Fibonacci sequence. Lovingly sketched grey water recycling pipes zig zagged down slopes and across colour coded guilds of indigenous trees and ground cover herbs. People swapped gold for half a chewed pencil eraser. Everything (EVERYTHING) was edged in yellow (passionfruit, of course). And god forbid, if you hadn't drawn enough moringa... I shudder at the thought. But finally, with stubs for pencils and brains, we emerged from our design psychosis to present pieces of paper covered in plant names, concepts, ideas and layouts we hadn't even heard of 12 days previously. And with a total tally of the word 'compost' 37.5 times, we presented our final plans. 

To conclude, I look to the last message on our team's whats app group, which I think sums up where we're all at now and where we will probably be in our lives forever more:

'Dude, I need more mulch'. 

Do you want to join the movement and get your internationally recognised Permaculture certificate? Sign up! The next course is a Practical Permaculture Workshop (PPW). The course will start on November 25th and finish on the 1st of December 2017. The course will be hosted at Brackenhurst, Limuru. Join us, open your mind and get ready to have fun!