Permaculture PDC training at Sieben Linden Eco-village

In may 2012, we participated for a two weeks Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Sieben Linden eco-village with Patrick Whitefield, Sandra Campe and Beate Walsdorff as tutors and facilitators.

The Sieben Linden Eco-village 

The Sieben Linden ecovillage is a social and ecological settlement. Initiated in 1993/96 for self-sufficiency and knowledge exchange, it’s also a housing cooperative of 140 people in which inhabitants buy shares instead of owning.  Every house is a neigborhood: to build a house at least 3 people are needed but more often it’s between 5 to 15 people.

Neighborhoods can have a concept like the ‘experiment club 99‘, an extreme ecology neighborhood of Sieben Linden. This house-neighborhood is a strawbale house with 97% less ecological footprint than a normal house. Initially, it functioned with shared economy and mandatory farming but haven’t succeed to take in consideration all human needs and comfort. It has been built with an extreme recycling way in 3 1/2 years with many people participating to the construction, for a total cost of about 800euros producing 3 bags of waste during building phase.

The ecovillage residents do not have a shared economy but they share the seminar house and kitchen. The 3 hectars garden consist of organic farming and agroforestry and is owned by a farming cooperative. Hourses and ponies help with agriculture activities. To farm, people must buy shares quiet cheaply and then sell products. Most people work outside the village and few live at the nearby village.

Decision making process used are assemblies and small group councils. Initially to make decisions all needed to agree, but the voting system changed often. Current system works with yes-no-block votes and 2/3 of yes without block for a solution to be accepted. The person who blocks is responsible to find a better solution.

See also another similar ecovillage in germany called Lebensgarten steyerberg.

Atmosphere and teaching methods during the PDC training

Sessions and presentations took place in an informal atmosphere with participants placed in a circle, and interactions between the participants were encouraged by group exercises and outdoor practicals.  In the beginning, the participants made person to person exchanges and brief presentations to the group about their activities, motivation and aims in participating to the training. The teaching method and personal needs of the participants were discussed in a group brainstorming.

Discussion of what to leave out of the seminar and a listening exercise took place between participants, two by two.  Few days later, participants shared the reasons to shifting to sustainability through drawings, and have been introduced and practiced the open space method, a method for sharing knowledge that take place in 1/2 to 2 days sessions and in which all people, ways, moments and places are considered to be the right ones.

Games took also place during the training: participants world map, birthdays clock, balls with names, a chaotic game, a permaculture game of chicken and shades. At the end, we participated to an informal certificate ceremony, small surprises events, goodbye hugs and songs.

Permaculture training content

PDC program (clickable)

1. General

  • chickens life: input and output exercise of an industrial and a permaculture chicken
  • introduction to ethics and principles

2. Ecology and Agriculture

  • Permaculture original idea: no till-diversity-multidimensional design (space, time)
  • Stacking with trees, bushes and perennials or woody and non woody plants, as in agro-forestry systems, agroecology reference: Miguel altieri (videosite)
  • Succession, edge, disturbance, feedback
  • Micro-climate: windbreaks, frost pockets
  • Ecosystems criteria: cooperation, boundaries, flexibility, diversity, positive/negative feedback, permeability, momentum, network, reciprocity, self-organisation
  • Culture methods: bi-cropping, perennial vegetables, self seeding plants
  • Forest management: continuous cover forestry, non intervention, coppice, high forest
  • Seed saving: vegetative and generative/sexual propagation, self and open pollinators
  • Edible wild plants: list of species
  • Forest garden brainstorming and discussion

3. Analysis

  • Listening to the landscape in four stages
    • intuitive observation
    • rational/objective observation
    • imaginative observation
    • subjective observation
  • Blind walk in the landscape
  • Soil: tilling, texture test (videos)
  • Tree identification

4. Infrastructure

  • Appropriate technology: Global footprint(needs for living and biocapacity), wind energy, solar (panels, heater shower), very efficient wood stove with gazifier.
    • Energy: need, entropy, efficiency, quality, scale,
    • EROEI unit (energy return on energy invested),
    • Sustainable energy by Devid Macay (site)
  • Water management: Well water treatement with filters, greywater system  (roting tank with straw and 2,5m²/person reed bed), weeping holes, rainwater, windbreaks, xeriscaping, swales, compost toilets, aquaculture (chinampas) (video)
  • Building: Renovation, location, materials, passive solar, slow response, strawbale

5. Practicals

  • A-Frame


    Topography tools: A frame (contour line), step pacing (distance), transparent graded water pipe (slope)

  • Gardening: start small, accept failure, start easy, find your style
  • Compost: cold, hot, worms, AACT actively aerated compost tea

6. Design

  • Design in permaculture-design, the process: base map, site survey, design questionaire, evaluation, design proposals, re-evaluation
  • Pattern language: C. Alexander
  • Design exercises: small gardens, windbreaks in orchards, applying pattern language
  • Design methods: basemap, design map from concept (thematic, spacial) to details, implementation plan
    • Key planning tools:  zone, sector (microclimate, views..), network, elevation
    • Input/Output analysis: linked elements
    • Strength Wickeneses Opportunities Constaints
    • Card outcuts
    • Mccard exclusion
    • Attention: Sizing and Site Left Over after Planning (SLOP)
  • Design project
  • Consultancy session on dryland:


  • Application of ecosystem criteria to social area
  • Zoning our lives exercise
  • Food links: be producer, veggies box, Community Supported Agriculture, local market
  • Transition Mouvement: starting (finding people), deepening, connecting, building (Ex. Wandelbar site)
  • Economy by Margaret Kennedy and money game, Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein

Parallel activities

  • Earth Oven workshop (Book: Earth oven by Kiko Denzer)
  • Film projection: A farm for the future, The power of community, Keyline design by Darren Dorethy
  • Dragon dreaming
  • Participants Map
  • Permaculture dictionary

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