Permaculture Diploma

The Pathway

Primary permaculture design certification achieved in February 2012 with teacher Christian Shearer and Geoffroy Godeau.  During the following internship at Rak Tamachat Permaculture, a peer review and support group was formed between myself, Theron Beaudreau, and Chowgene Koay. The goal was to receive a permaculture diploma through the British Permaculture Association by completing 10 projects over 10 weeks. In the four years since that initial goal, Theron has entered a program with Gaia University as a Diploma Mentor. Chow has shifted his attention to managing the family business.

Through many conversations with students, friends, and colleagues, the most resonant path was an independent study and self-validation. The pathway came to completion in January 2016.

+Summary of field work 2012-2016

+Video thesis 2016

+Picture Gallery

+Budget Summary

Projects: One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten

My goal is to complete a two year study of Applied Permaculture Design using the standards of the British Permaculture Association, in association with materials designed by Richard Perkins,in order to become an accredited permaculture practitioner.

After taking my PDC, I realized that I had just grazed the surface of sustainable systems, and I was eager to put these new concepts and strategies into practice… we realized there are limited options for higher level permaculture education in the United States. We decided to break some new ground…

-Bright Sky, Page 1, Project 1


A New Era of Writing

Greeting, space travellers.

We are delving into a different passage of time – blog writing!

Edible History of Humanity

January 2017

I recently read a volume called “An Edible History of Humanity,” by Tom Standage. This fascinating volume tracks the essential role of food in shaping the culture, migration, and conflicts that have changed the course of human history. From our earliest days as foragers, to the major shifts in agriculture and industrialization, we have surprised ourselves with our abilities to overcome limitations and grow to an unprecedented population.
I appreciate the viewpoint this volume takes. It takes a different angle on the tales we already knew: the overwhelming power of mystery that drove the spice trade in the early part of last millennium, the unexpected and often backward consequences of settled life, and the degree to which domestication shaped the fate of many species. I was surprised to learn that chiles found their way from their South American homeland to the China within a few decades – in the 1500s! Who knew global travel was this prolific centuries ago? I also absolutely enjoyed the scientific story of corn – tracing its physical evolution from a nearly inedible grain to the giant sized and utterly dependable cereal grain that reshaped whole continental populations. I was enlightened to learn the near idyllic three-day work week of early foragers, compared to the harsh physical every day toiling of farmers.
In the later part of the volume, as the industrialization of Britain leaps past Malthus’ predictions of land limiting food production and therefore growth, we get detailed accounts of the civil war and Napolean’s nearly undefeatable sweep of Europe, and of the catastrophic failure of Stalin and Mao’s agricultural policies. What I miss is a contemporary view of how ecology has shaped South American culture, what the current state of African production is (though there is a single sentence alluding to guilt-ridden Westerners preventing the green revolution from reaching the continent for political reasons), or how sustainability practices in Australia are commonplace, in part thanks to their utterly limited water situation.
In conclusion, a worthwhile read for contextual history in the arena that unites us all as humans: our love of, and need for food.

Project 10 Process Reflection

Project report title: Project Ten: The Arizona Trail

Summarize how and why you organized this Project Output as presented (Reflect on your design, process, method and purpose):  This project output is probably my favorite of all the projects. One of the reasons I like it is that I get to include a full spectrum from my journals. These really are the core of my practice, the skill of 10,000 hours, and usually I just include bits and pieces from whiteboards, etc, but for this output report I chose to include every page from the entire time we were actually on the trail. This was paired with the complete photo album. The second half of the project report is the information I actually sent to the Arizona Trail Association in their request for information on the trail conditions.

How did this process go? It was thankfully easy. The documents for the ATA were on google and just needed importing. Lucky, because they were probably the last documents I created on my computer before it volunteered for a permanently secret mission to an unknown part of the world. Scanning the journal notes took about two hours, and an additional two hours to get them to the right orientation and file type. Saving the pictures from the harddrive, onto Flickr was also a process with many steps.

What did you learn? I learn that I do a lot of work and then often forget about it. The work of disseminating the information is often equal to the amount of work it took to assemble the information, is often equal to the amount of work it took to do the project in the first place.

What tools did you use (An explanation of the technical side of creating this project report.  What software did you use? What digital literacy was required to put this together)? I used a scanner for the journal notes, and Flickr for the photo album. I used VUE for one of the mind maps, Pages for the financial analysis and miles per day. I uploaded them through WordPress, and wha-la!

Did you find any people or tutorials particularly useful in creating this project report? I looked at Theron’s work to be inspired by the VUE, and followed basic tutorials for the accounting bit.

How much time did you spend in creating this project report? The project report for the AZT took about 10 hours, scanning, uploading, and transferring files an additional 10. Around 20 hours total.

How well have did you showcase your learnings in this project report? Would you consider this project report satisfactory if it was prepared by another person? The learnings here are the experiential capital of finding & carrying my own water, navigating through unknown terrain, and observing nature. I would say this is a great showcase for the experience.

Any final reflections on your pathway integration and development? I’m so glad this came up as it did. Project Ten was an incredible journey, and was such an essential piece of learning. Going directly to the beauty and rhythms of our natural world is a more complete education that anything you can learn on YouTube University.

Budget Summary

This is a general summary of expenses over the four years. It includes the first half of 2012 in Thailand during the permaculture internship, through Pennsylvania at the end of 2015.

According to this summary, the total hard (cash) expenditures for this education over four years was $25,600. This includes all personal basic needs, as well as tuition, and the contextual costs for gaining +experiential capital.

+Interestingly, when a rough presentation of this information was given to the /r/financialindependence community on Reddit, their reaction was to proclaim this the system of a “bum.” If we truly desire a society that consumes consciously, we need to start looking at the edge between what you need to survive, and what you need to root, prosper, and return a surplus.

For me, the financial aspect is the baseline for being able to operate effectively. Diane Leafe Christian calls it good governance.

Most of the chart is self-explanitory – rent, books, etc. I did make a distinction between “food” – which means prepared food, or going out to eat, and “grocery,” which is food I bought from markets or grocery stores to prepare myself.

2012: $4300
2012 Expense Chart
2013: $71002013 Expense Chart
2014: $8700 2014 Expense Chart
2015: $5800 2015 Expense Chart

PINA’s Standards

This is the first report published since the standards released by +PINA proposing diploma accreditation.

As part of gathering feedback and integration, I’m adapting the evaluation criteria down a scale to a specific project report.

Evaluation Criteria


Self Reflection:

  1. [50/50] points for completion of project.
  2. [20/30] because the organizing principle of the report is a holistic context, and though I work on holistic goal setting, I have yet to read the Allan Savory source material.
  3. [10/10 ]Theory in action – though this is marginal in the rubric, this composes the bulk of my implementation
  4. [3/5] Publishing – though I am publishing through my own webpage, outreach is limited to personal emails. Facebook is a great social media tool, and I definitely could have more diversity and legitimacy in publishing organizations
  5. [5/5] Full score on empowering communities to take charge of their own resources.

Final score: 88/100

Journal Excerpts Project 8

20140914_194059_Richtone(HDR)Intentions for the Internship


Schedule Proposal

20140914_194218_Richtone(HDR)Sample of weekly meal plan20140914_194240_Richtone(HDR)Taking note of moon position and ripeness of the garden20140914_194255_Richtone(HDR)Organizing responsibilities20140914_194304_Richtone(HDR)

Organizing overall weekly schedule20140914_194318_Richtone(HDR)

Content we wanted to cover in 6 weeks

More details20140914_194420

Reflection from meetings

20140914_194439Reflection from meetings20140914_194504

Organizing responsibilities20140914_194523

Defining intentions around the kitchen20140914_194547

Meeting reflections20140914_194602

Skills share20140914_194619

Permaculture lesson plan20140914_194726


Capital Lesson Plan20140914_194920

Crowdfunding Lesson Plan20140914_195004

Daily temperature cycle July


Daily temperature cycle August20140914_195103

Project 8 Reflections

20140914_195110Starting branding for Theron’s ranch (unrelated to HEP)
20140914_195124Branding for Theron’s ranch (unrelated to HEP)

Holistic Context


Holistic Context

The project 8 geographical & metaphysical coordinates were set for Driggs, ID. It is in the volcanic region of Yellowstone, a place known for its active hydro-geothermal activity and constant, though incredibly minor, earthquakes. It’s surrounded by many national forests and wilderness, including Grand Tetons National Park, donated by the Rockefellers in 1943. Jackson Hole, the largest town across the pass, is an increasingly popular ski town, and its residents & tourists also enjoy the climbing, hiking, biking, and wildlife in summer.

Driggs, ID

Taiga and her husband Christian are building a home and educational center in the Teton Valley. Gaining insight from their time with the +Panya Project in Thailand and inspiration from the +Possibility Alliance in MO, they are becoming a hub in the Teton region. Through permaculture design, the personal connections, and their commitment to uplifted living, several experiments took place this summer. Awareness was focused largely in the following three areas.


The first was the building of an earthship home.


This is the main focus and motivator for the context of the summer, namely, getting a house built to the point where they could stay in it during the winter. This included carpenter friends, early-arrival interns, and other volunteers. Even though there were lists of activities to get through, the importance of order of process in building a house is specific, and about 50% unknown until faced with the next step.

The house is actually an “earthship-inspired” building as a few points from the original +Biotecture classics; as an example, they put their front door through their back tire berm, and included a double door system to balance the thermal stock from the surrounding tires. Driggs is about the same altitude as the New Mexican desert where this style was pioneered – in the 6000s. The sun angle and seasons are relatively similar.

Another point of interest is a strict and focused adherence to county code. At certain stages in the building, there was coordination with officials to inspect electrical (for example, they came to make sure there was an outlet every 6 feet in every habited room), plumbing, and wood work, all according to an engineer-approved plan that was approved for certain earthquake measures. This was what set most of the work tasks. One of our most productive streaks with the interns was laying several layers of leveled gravel, plastic, insulation, PEX pipe, and grating in preparation for a concrete crew to come pour the floor (which actually ended up being delayed by wet conditions).

In the end, the build was a playground of creative problem-solving, in wood and earth and metal. A problem, and a solution. We managed with the interns to build a living roof, start the in-fill for the inside tire wall, level & prepare the floor, and insulate the roof. The roof was built, tar papered, and crimped, and the concrete was poured and stained. Most of the south wall is enclosed by windows.

Gift Economy Education

The second was an educational model of a gift economy internship.

Permaculture is a 72 hour educational model that equips you with the basic patterns needed to sustain a garden (water, soil, seeds), and the most basic patterns of +green-meme ethics (earth care, people care, fair share), as well as providing the starting points to skill paths such as building, herbalism, primitive skills, consulting, and all manner of regenerative offerings & service.

One of the major conversations within the teaching movement is the ability to make this type of education, which many working within believe is one of the most efficient ways to rebalance human systems at many scales, as accessible as possible.

In the effort of offering this experience at a live build, set to the background of regenerative soil, plant, and people systems, they offered three meals a day & a spot to camp, access to composting toilets and occassionally hot showers, a fully equipped kitchen with a full spread garden, community gathering space, and even cubbies for each guest.

Idaho Garden2

Lessons were integrated after a full work-day, often out on the work site.

We had three facilitators. Christian, also acting as the project manager at the work site, had the most teaching experience. Geoffery had been teaching with Christian among the past 5 years. Bright Sky took the PDC certification with both of them in February 2012. We met before the course to set a daily schedule, weekly schedule, expected responsibilities, and intentions for the 6 weeks.

The final difference between cash invested into the course (CI) minus cash received in kind (CK) = ~$2500.

In total I facilitated approximately 4.5 hours of classroom time, and supported approximately 10 hours of others facilitating classroom time. The rest of the time was spent on the site, processing food, garden tending, and designing systems and to-do lists.

+See More Garden Pictures

+See Journal Exerpts

The lesson I designed specifically for the course detailed many of the course expenses, the expected wage of a permaculture livelihood, and questions about different forms of capital, as well as a pop quiz on systems, inspired by the +EcoRise EcoSystem.

+HEP Permaculture & Pizza

Planting Trees

Traditional Business

The third is a traditional business model – selling a product for money. We sold a 10″ pizza for $11-15.

+Fired Earth Pizza

This was the most fun mode. My job was a cashier at the farmer’s market. Three of us ran the stand – Taiga topping pizzas, Becky running the oven & fire, and myself as Bright Sky taking orders and money. Most times after the market I would feel lighter and ready for more social interaction – it was a very pleasant experience to provide people with nutritious food. And nutritious interaction! During the clown camp we brought a whole comedic performance to the market.

Pizza Oven

Each ingredient was sourced from either a local, organic, or biodynamic source. There are at least three biodynamic farms in Teton Valley, one of which has a stand across from ours at the market (handy when we start to run low on certain ingredients). This means they use certain biological/geological additives, awareness of astrological positioning, mostly the moon, and encourage the most internal biomass recycling possible. Ingredients that are difficult to find well-produced in the bioregion, such as wheat flour and salt for the dough, were sourced from organic producers in other parts of the country.

Each step of the process, from the dough mixing, to the sauce prep, to frying sausage, was intentionally fresh and delicious, done in small batches each week.

Each pizza is made to order on a hearth fired with lodge pole pine.

Needless to say, it’s pretty damn good pizza.

Pizza Party


To set yourself up for success, surround yourself with good people, do your best to eat food that will nourish you, and pay attention to your inputs and outputs. Honesty is not always the easiest thing. Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Many pictures in this report are borrowed from the +Higher Elevation Permaculture Instagram for educational purposes.



Garden Pictures


One Side



Second Side


Cabbage & Sage20140822_181630_Richtone(HDR)Kale & Dandelion20140822_181639_Richtone(HDR)Mesclun Mix from seed20140822_181653_Richtone(HDR)

Kale transplant from seed20140822_181700_Richtone(HDR)

Kale transplant from seed20140822_181718_Richtone(HDR)

Cress & Chinese Celery20140822_181725_Richtone(HDR)

One tomato plant didn’t fare as well, even with the same conditions, moisture, and soil20140822_181740_Richtone(HDR)

Tomatoes have a hard time ripening with the short warm season
20140822_181750_Richtone(HDR)Cress & Kale from seed20140822_181802_Richtone(HDR)

A dwarf cherry tree planted in the ground didn’t quite make it


Looks like a different color bee balm?20140822_181837_Richtone(HDR)Bee balm herb20140822_181855_Richtone(HDR)The chinese cabbage bolted very quickly – fortunately the flowers were also pretty tasty20140822_181916_Richtone(HDR)

Little zucchini plants

20140822_181927_Richtone(HDR)Cabbage, comfrey, zucchini20140822_181943_Richtone(HDR)

Well – used copper tool

20140822_181959_Richtone(HDR)Onions & Basil20140822_182017_Richtone(HDR)



Carrots & Greens, from seed20140822_182048_Richtone(HDR)

Flowers are pretty

Borage is also edible20140822_182144_Richtone(HDR)

In small amounts




Beans from seed that never bloomed20140822_182227_Richtone(HDR)

The extended tree plot that received the kitchen greywater20140822_182247_Richtone(HDR)

Community area

20140822_182306_Richtone(HDR)Community area

20140822_182329_Richtone(HDR) 20140822_182349_Richtone(HDR)

Arbor into camping area20140822_182359_Richtone(HDR)

Aspen, wood pile, greens20140822_182412_Richtone(HDR)

The other end of the propane tank

Ain’t it purty20140822_182440_Richtone(HDR)

Herb View

20140822_182449_Richtone(HDR)Inviting mindfulness


One harvest round from the garden, used to make kimchi

20140905_161048_Richtone(HDR)green and purple


Second batch of kimchi from the garden, made in Chico

Garden of the Ancients

Elders invited us to do a soil workshop. Covered 18-day hot composting, mycopropagation, sheet mulching, compost brews; co-taught with Ryan Capistrant. Building soil feels like SACRED ACTIVISM