Exploring Permaculture from Principles to Practices:
Learn to Design and Create Sustainable Permaculture Systems
in Your Yard and Home

New Life Retreat Centre for Wellness and Eco-Living
Lanark, Ontario

May 21-23, 2005

The Victoria Day Long Weekend (Saturday, May 21st to Monday, May 23rd, 2005) saw an exciting event at the New Life Retreat Centre for Wellness and Eco-Living in Lanark, Ontario: a permaculture workshop.

The workshop was called : "Exploring Permaculture from Principles to Practice: Learn to Design and Create Sustainable Permaculture Systems in Your Yard and Home". 25 people from the local area, Ottawa, and Toronto spent three days learning permaculture from international permaculture teacher, Jillian Hovey.

Participants learned the fundamentals of permaculture and put the information into practice by creating designs for client Chas Dietriech, owner and operator of the 100-acre organic farm that is home to the New Life Retreat Centre. A smaller group of participants stayed until Thursday May 26 to do hands-on projects and implement some of the designs created by the group.

The curriculum featured an introduction to permaculture, with a focus on how to bring it to life in our own spaces- whether they be rural lands, backyards, urban lots, or window boxes. We learned how to:

• Develop skills of observation, plant identification, and landscape reading
• Perform a zone & sector analysis, and a needs & yields assessment
• Create synergistic designs through a fun and engaging wild design exercise
• Perform a site assessment, and learn to map an area
• Build soils, create no-dig beds, and compost properly
• Explore vertical growing, including multi-story forest gardening
• Get an edible landscape started from scratch by planting fruiting trees & bushes,
and other cultivable annuals and perennials
• Explore the integration of grey water systems, and ponds into the landscape
• Examine plans to add structure to the property:
solar shower, composting toilet, and a greenhouse
• Develop real-life designs for the New Life Retreat
Centre yard and for our own yards back home

Those that stayed on to build what the group began to
design over the long weekend workshop focused on:
Sheet Mulch Bed
Living Fence
Solar shower

• Garden beds featuring nursery stock from WindMill Point Farms

All participants were treated to healthy, revitalizing meals of raw and living, organic vegetarian foods. Our talented and creative raw foods chef, Yesim Gumus, created the menus and oversaw food preparation. The New Life Retreat Centre focuses on living foods preparation and education year-round. Chas has a greenhouse and sprout room for growing his own sprouts, and he makes his own dehydrated crackers for sale at the organic market in Ottawa. He believes that since all 80 million of species on earth but us are eating their food raw, there must be something to it. Simply put, eating enzyme rich and nutritionally dense, tasty, living foods is nature's way. The meals were light, easy to digest and energizing without being insubstantial- since we weren't wasting energy processing heavy meals we found concentrating on what we were learning much easier. They also happened to be light on environmental degradation, and absolutely delicious.

When we weren't busy working, we were busy having fun. We enjoyed taking dips in the spring-fed pond, soaking in the hot tub, going for walks, or singing and playing songs in the main room. Jillian, who sells books as part of the Sustainable Living Books project, brought a wide selection for us to browse or buy during our down time. The books were carefully selected to complement and supplement the workshop. Final features of the New Life Retreat Centre were the bee hives. Tended by Chas' sister, Madelaine, the bees produce an exceptionally delicious variety of wild-flower honey in the late summer/early autumn.

Written by Anna Przychodzki (workshop participant, volunteer at the Sustainable Living Network)

Read more about the workshop:

Site Assessment
Design groups and presentations

Work projects

Original workshop information: webpage describing the workshop
Poster advertising the workshop (for Toronto area)
Poster advertising the workshop (for Ottawa area)

Pictures Copyright © 2005 Jillian Hovey.
Copyright © 2005 Sustainable Living Network.