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PDC Blog Day 1


The following PDC blog article introduces how I'd come across this particular course, and introduces you to the rest of the course participants. Short on time? Jump to course participants or PDC schedule.

I’d been interested in doing a Permaculture Design Course when I happened across the Wild Olive Guest Farm in South Africa. Coincidentally, I was going to SA for a wedding, so as often happens, things just fell into place.

The enthusiasm (palpable even over email) of the course co-ordinator, Hazel, really helped take the decision out of my hands. Next thing I knew I’d emailed my mother, Anna, who lives on a smallholding just outside of East London, and she immediately decided to join the course.

I also decided, in an effort to increase awareness about permaculture, to create the very PDC blog you're now reading.

My mom and I drove the 10 hours to Still Bay in her little Ford Escort (without air con, which is wonderfully eco-friendly until you’re stuck in a tiny box in forty degree heat!).

Hazel had sent me easy-to-follow directions, which basically entailed following the Goukou river up to the Wild Olive Guest Farm.

We arrived at the farm hot and bothered, taking a moment to finally meet Hazel and be introduced to Avice, the Permaculture Design Course co-facilitator and Biodynamics expert. Hazel’s son Andrew showed us to our accommodation for the duration of the course.

Wild Olive Accommodation: Hoopoe Cottage

The wooden Hoopoe Cottage overlooks the river, with a wide balcony, self-catering kitchen and large garden. I gratefully dropped my bags down and declared it "Home, Sweet Home". After a short rest, we ventured out to meet the rest of the group.

By then, the glaring heat of the day had been replaced by a night so calm that every sound seemed magnified. The stars seemed to be warring with the sky for dominance and under such immensity, we sat outside for a light meal and the 11 course participants got to know each other.

Introducing our wonderfully talented PDC 2010 group

Ervert Kleinhans is the local (and most importantly, ethical) beekeeper. Hardworking, enthusiastic, and talented, Evart embodies “n Boer maak ‘n plan” (an Afrikaner makes a plan).

He lives on a farm in Stillbay with his family and grows organic potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries. He enthusiastically tells the group how he’s already getting started with permaculture.

Easygoing and friendly, Paul Rood is from Cape Town, working by day as a Rope Access Technician. He professes to having green fingers, growing veggies in his garden back home and is no newcomer to permaculture, having already completed one of Hazel’s short courses.

Sebastian Basler is a fellow Vipassana graduate, with a serene and calming energy. Hailing from Kommetjie, he works as a Graphic Designer in Cape Town. He relates how he discovered permaculture on the net and hasn’t looked back, trying out organic methods for growing veggies in his back yard.

Leon Potgieter also farms in Stillbay, but specialises in fungi. Throughout the course, Leon demonstrates an uncanny knack for finding truffles in the most unexpected of places. He’s also worked with permaculture before, but only on big farms, so wants to get to know the reasoning behind the systems he’s observed.

Nayomi Suzane is a Relationship Manager by profession. On meeting her, she tells us how she’s always had a special relationship with plants. As a child she’d instinctively know which ones needed light and which ones needed shade.

She proves this statement to be true during the course, as she clearly loves and is loved by plants. She’s also not a newcomer to permaculture, having done a short course with Hazel.

Fellow UAE veterans like myself, Nizreen and Irshaad Desai lived in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for six years, leaving the corporate world to grow food and help others to do the same. After attending a Biodynamics course in India they’re our group's BD experts and are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about farming.

Sharon Carr, the second Graphic Designer on the course, hails from Johannesburg. She recently purchased land so she could help address issues like food security and scarcity, and wants to show people how to produce.

Sharon is friendly and keen to learn everything so she can practice permaculture on her farm.

I have to thank the amazingly talented Sharon for some of the pictures on this permaculture blog, which supplement my often less impressive attempts!

Andrew Mugford, Hazel’s son, left the IT world to come back to the farm after realising the benefits of creating food forests. After only six months of working on the farm, he’s incredibly knowledgeable about permaculture and deeply passionate. His dream is to teach people both in SA throughout Africa to farm their own food.

My mother, Anna Andrews, lives on a smallholding just outside East London. The mother of five kids, she's always keen to embrace new things. She has the land to put permaculture immediately into practice (and is already doing so!). Her main goal at the start of the course is to learn how to deter pests and grow food sustainably.

Karen (Hazel’s sister) and John Harding, are owners of the farm, and Karen plays the role of chef for the duration of the course. Not a chef by profession, nevertheless she makes unbelievable food and somehow accommodates the diverse dietary requirements of the group (including glucose-intolerance, Halal, and frugivore).

She breathes a sigh of relief when her daughter, Lynden, (who actually is a chef) comes down from Cape Town to help out!

John and Karen currently live in Cape Town, but plan to move back to the farm and help run it with Andrew and Hazel as a family business. Their parents had bought the farm in 1983, when it was a sheep farm and tried to raise sheep.

Karen tells us how she became sad when she saw the sheep struggling to survive as the soil became inhospitable to growth, barren and eroded through overgrazing.

Hazel came to the farm in 2002, and since then has implemented permaculture, with dramatic results. Now the whole family is passionate about sustainable farming and teaching it to the rest of the world!

Lastly, I’d better introduce myself. I’m interested in learning everything I can so that one day I can create my own permaculture farm. I have zero experience in gardening or farming and seem to most closely fit the dreaded term ‘city-girl’.

My dream is to learn everything I can about permaculture so that I can help people grow food in the countries I pass during my upcoming trip through Africa. The knowledge of the group seems a bit daunting, and I wonder if I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew!

Permaculture Design Course Schedule

View the PDC schedule below to see what a typical day on the Wild Olive Guest Farm entails:


7:30 am - Breakfast
8:00 am - Games and light stretching
8:30-10:00 - Course theory
10:00 - Tea break
10:30 – 1:00 Discussions and practical
1:00 Lunch and Rest
2:30 – 3:30 – Art
4:00 – 5:00 Practical (show-and-tell)
5:00 Tea
5:30 – 7:00 Further discussion on practical work, a movie or rest
7:00 Dinner
8:00 Movie or rest


Find out more about a PDC by visiting my Permaculture Design Course Blog: Day 2.

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Hi, my name is Melissa and I created this site together with photographer Christopher List to help spread awareness about green lifestyles and travel, so everyone can learn how easy it is to live in a sustainable way. Enjoy!

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