Permaculture Design (c) Rianne Mason

Permaculture Design at Daruma, Thailand

It’s not every day you get to hang out at an eco village with people from all over the world, but that’s exactly how I kicked off 2020 when I completed a Permaculture Design Course at Daruma Eco Village.

It was one of the best experiences of my life and I want to share as much of the journey as I can.

I’ll start with the details of the course…
Cost: £536 (this price includes your accomodation and all of your meals + snacks for two weeks)
Duration: 2 weeks (84 hours)
Venue: Daruma Eco Village, Bang Phra, Si Racha, Thailand
Tutor: Neil Willmann, Darren Roberts, Kyle Holzhueter
Website: permaculture.asia/about/daruma-eco-village/

Now for the interesting stuff…

What do you learn?

A Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is pretty flexible in how it’s taught, but from what I can gather there are certain topics that need to be covered. It definitely felt like we learnt A LOT. Here’s a summary of the ‘curriculum’:

  • History and ethics of permaculture
  • Bill Mollison’s an David Holmgren’s permaculture principles
  • Organic gardening
  • Soil microbiology
  • The Soil food web
  • Food forests
  • Perennial vegetables
  • Natural building techniques
  • Alternative energy
  • Animals in permaculture
  • Compost
  • Edge effect
  • Water
  • Urban permaculture
  • Zones
  • Your own Permaculture Design Project (we did it in teams)

Phew! And that doesn’t even cover the heart and soul of the course – the bits that were unique to Daruma…

Learning alongside school children

One of the greatest things about learning at Daruma Eco Village is that you’re actually attending Mosaic School as well. Here there are students that learn through ‘themes’ each semester rather than follow the standard government curriculum.

The pupils learn to think of themselves as teachers too and everyone is on the same level. I can honestly say I’ve never met a group of young children so confident and wise. Sometimes our Permaculture lessons were in the same room as the pupils and this created a very open and honest learning environment.

It also meant that our physical space changed quite a lot throughout the day. We could easily move from one room to another, or outdoors in the courtyard and garden. It never felt dull.

Making stuff for the farm

  • Making straw bale wall (c) Rianne Mason
  • Sheep (c) Rianne Mason
  • Making clay (c) Rianne Mason
  • Making charcoal (c) Rianne Mason
  • Ducklings (c) Rianne Mason
  • Neil Willmann (c) Rianne Mason

Being on a working farm gave us the opportunity to get hands on with loads of cool stuff.

Neil has built his own charcoal kiln to make biochar for the soil. We burnt the surplus of dried bamboo and it was a real treat to see it transform from one product to another. The skill needed here was understanding fire and how to manage it – something I can only hope to aspire to.

He also has a mixer to brew Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) and Effective Microorganisms (EMO) by mixing them from a packet with molasses.

Those of us who stayed on a few days after the course to volunteer learnt how to build using straw bales. It seemed pretty easy if you know how to tie knots! We used local red clay mulched using our feet for the base layer and this was a lot of fun.

Bonding as a team

  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason

When over ten strangers are living and working together in a foreign country for two weeks, it’s important that they get on. No two people were from the same country so we were a beautifully diverse bunch.

Luckily we had loads of opportunities to work together and understand each other, including daily communal cleaning, volunteering on the farm and team activities such as our ultimate Permaculture mind map.

On our last night we all gathered in the ‘big room’ and Neil randomly started playing a didgeridoo. One by one we picked up an instrument and played our own beat until a communal rhythm emerged. It was an emotional evening and one I’ll never forget.

Road trip!

  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Permaculture course (c) Rianne Mason
  • Daruma eco village (c) Rianne Mason
  • Wild pig (c) Rianne Mason

During the course we were lucky enough to have quite a few field trips, local and further away.

I’ve never been to Thailand before so I really appreciated the opportunity to see a bit of the landscape. We visited a nearby water lily and lotus research centre on a university campus, hopped on a ferry to Koh Sichang, walked up to Buddha’s footprint, cycled to observe water management systems and ate at a local restaurant on our last night.

All in all I would highly recommend taking your PDC at Daruma if you ever get the opportunity. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, the food was delicious every day and the farm animals provided great joy and surprises!

Visit Permaculture.asia for more details.

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