Winter Courses Canceled, New Courses Mapped

All winter permaculture courses have been canceled.

The Gallup course, to be run through UNM, has been 86’d entirely.  I am still very much committed to doing something urban-dryland-permaculture-related in Gallup, as there seems to be both a desire and a need for such information here, but the form of that, whether a stand-alone workshop or an off-season class or something completely different, has yet to be determined.

The Ramah course, ‘Beyond Ecological Gardening,’ is transforming into something strange, new, only proximally associated with permaculture, and entirely outside of the frozen season.  Concerns voiced by potential attendees over the timing of the course during prime mud season, the time commitment for the full eight weeks, and the cost, which would exclude most of the people the course was designed to serve, made an awful lot of sense.  In truth, the logistics of the course were formulated to suit my needs for gainful employment between the conclusion of my work for UNM and the initiation of whatever it was I was going to be doing in March, rather than the needs of the community for intelligible and accessible permaculture information, and the needs of the land for willing, unsullen human participants in its regeneration from the hell of logging and ranching.  As it is, my need for a roof over my head during the snow season and a money-stick to keep the financial pirates from the door was ably met from an unexpected quarter.

If my hire survives vetting by Navajo national, I’ll be working as a field tech for a joint study between the Navajo, Hopi, and U.S. governments of golden eagle population trends.  Effectively, from February through September or so, I’ll be living out in the desert, counting eagle prey (rabbits and prairie dogs) in endless transects across the western reaches of the Navajo Nation.  If this works out, and it seems likely that it will, I won’t need to charge outlandish sums of money, or drag out my Ramah workshop into a pseudo-permaculture design course.

Instead, a new direction has presented itself through a series of spectacular conversations with some of the affiliates of the greater Ramah area:  Reinhabiting the landscape.  I’ll be writing more about the implications of this particular phrase in future posts, but basically it boils down to three components, to be presented in three workshop events throughout the summer:

Reading the landscape:  Training our senses to take in what the land and its denizens have to say, and training our minds to understand those messages.  Tracking, bird language, geology, plant identification, wilderness survival skills, silviculture, and some elements of wildcrafting will all be a part of this unit.

Working the landscape:  Permaculture, in all its many forms, with a particular emphasis on water harvesting and local agricultural knowledge, will constitute the second workshop.

Living the landscape: What attitudes and intentions, philosophies and spiritual outlooks, cultural practices and worldviews aid and enhance the practices introduced in the first two units?  Perspectives from multiple land-oriented cultures, especially those extant in this area, will make up a large part of this last section.  Most of us have some idea of what we’re moving away from in adopting an organic, permacultural, or ecological outlook, but what are we moving towards?

The goal of this new format is not to dump a load of  information- keyline mapping, recipes for wapato, and other permacultural arcana- so much as to get a bunch of people interested in living right by the land together in one place to bounce ideas off of each other, and create an environment in which very new and very old ideas can be (re)generated, enabled by a reclamation of basic human skills for place-based living.  The intention is for this to be a starting point for conversations that will continue for the next several generations.  Perhaps we might even learn something from the place in which we gather…

If the eagle thing pans out, I won’t need to charge a penny for these workshops, greatly increasing potential attendance.  Local experts in various fields will be invited to teach within each workshop, guaranteeing a diversity of presented perspectives.  More information will be available as the season turns.

That’s the plan as it currently stands.  I feel pretty good about the new turn in the Ramah Permaculture Saga.  It was a bit rough hearing consistently negative feedback about the winter course, but it was a necessary learning process.  I think many of the issues have been addressed with this more land-oriented direction.  I expect to be surprised many more times, pleasantly and un-, before this is all over.

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One Response to “Winter Courses Canceled, New Courses Mapped”

  1. Well it just gets more interesting, Ben. I think that the seminars that you will be offering will be worthwhile to many. Obviously others think that as well.

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