2017 Permaculture Design Course (PDC) for Homesteaders

Permaculture Design Course (PDC) Overview

UPDATE! We videoed all of the permaculture design course and the appropriate technology course. All 177 hours of video is now available HERE!

While this web page will be out of date for a few more weeks, we are selling super earlybird ticket for the 2018 PDC.

Sunday, May 28th through Saturday June 10th, 2017 near Missoula, Montana

This PDC will have a strong focus on DESIGN. Students attending this PDC will probably walk away with four times more experience with designing than students attending other PDCs. Most PDCs give equal time to urban, homestead and broadacre designs. This PDC will cover all three, but urban and broadacre design will be minimized so a stronger focus can be put on homesteading.


Permaculture and Holistic Management map (source)

The cost: $1850

Note that the workshop was full, but we found a way to allow six more students at a higher price.

The PDC and ATC Combo

The Permaculture Design Course will be immediately followed by the Appropriate Technology course. Most of the PDC students also attend the ATC. The price to attend both is $3050

Purchase tickets below.

Our Permaculture Design Course

A well run PDC can be a life changing event. For many people it can be the most intense learning experience of their lives, and great fun to boot.

You will be surrounded by like-minded people, and together you will not only learn the framework to survive in a rapidly changing world, but to thrive. You will also develop the skills to heal damaged landscapes while providing for your own needs.

In this course you are designing from the get go. Every new piece of information, every new concept, is delivered in sequence so that it is immediately relevant and applicable. Your design unfolds in step with the days subjects. This helps the learning to really take root in your mind.

Learn how to make really good effective decisions. We incorporate a lot of Allan Savory's Holistic management decision making process. We can't emphasise how important this is if you want to make effective long-lasting change in your life.

Immediately after the PDC, most students will be attending the Appropriate Technology Course (June 12th - 23rd, 2017).


Questions about this course and the atc can be asked in this thread on permies.com

Register Now!

Permaculture Design Course Instructors

Tim Barker - 2017 PDC Instructor

tim barker 2017 pdc

Tim has come a long way since his days as a diesel fitter mechanic, and now spends his time between Australia and New Zealand (and sometimes the US) as a semi professional pyromaniac and mad scientist teaching people how to burn stuff and make really cool machines and devices for low carbon living. He currently teaches Appropriate Technology for the Koanga Institute in New Zealand and Very Edible Gardens (VEG) in Melbourne, to name a few.

He has previously been farm manager for the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia, power station operator/mechanic, adventure guide and professional turtle wrestler. His rocket stove and char making powered hot water systems, ovens and cookers reflect his passion for elegant simple and durable combustion technologies. Other projects include gravity powered water pumps, solar thermal cookers and dryers, pedal powered washing machines, cargo bikes, hovercraft, wooden boats and aquaponics, to name a few. When he is not tinkering he can be found on Macleay Island off the coast of Queensland Australia, where he and his family live and are currently in the process of building a rammed earth house (with maybe a little sailing thrown in).

He is particularly well known for his safe and effective rocket hot water heating system.He brings practical, hands on experience with some truly fascinating projects to the table - this from the Koanga institute:

"He has the practical knowledge and skills to construct almost any project with limited resources."

We're thrilled to have him instructing at our facilities!

  • The Rocket Powered Oven
  • Better Wood Heat: DIY Rocket Mass Heater Videos pdc site
  • Triple threat RMH oven getting first use
  • Tim Barker talks through a rocket stove hotplate/oven unit
  • Rocket Stove Combustion defined by Tim Barker
  • permaculture and managing holistically
  • rocket stove - hot water!
  • The solar dryer

Paul Wheaton - 2017 PDC Instructor

paul wheaton 2017 PDC

Paul Wheaton, the bad boy of Permaculture, was proclaimed by Geoff Lawton in 2012 the Duke of Permaculture. He is the creator of two on-line communities. One is about Permaculture, permies.com, and one is about software engineering, CodeRanch.com.

He is a powerful advocate of Sepp Holzer’s techniques, which a recent study showed to have the ability to feed 21 billion people without the use of petroleum or irrigation. He also promotes the use of hugelkultur, which sequesters carbon and eliminates the need for irrigation, and polycultures, which reduces the need for pest control and improves the health of plants. He wrote several articles about lawn care, raising chickens, cast iron, and diatomaceous earth. Paul regularly uploads permaculture videos and permaculture podcasts.

  • Better Wood Heat: DIY Rocket Mass Heater Videos pdc site
  • Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 permaculture
  • World Domination Gardening PDC fodder
  • Permaculture Keynote - S. California Permaculture Convergence
  • Permaculture Playing Cards for evenings at PDC
  • Permaculture videos permaculture people Toby Hemenway teaches permaculture design courses
  • energy conservation PDC
  • Sepp Holzer permaculture technique homesteaders pdc
  • hugelkultur design PDC
  • Sepp Holzer Paul Wheaton permaculture
  • paul wheaton ted talk permaculture heat designs
  • Paul Wheaton Permaculture Voices - Building a Better World One Permaculture Brick at a Time

Thomas J. Elpel - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Thomas Elpel 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Thomas J. Elpel is an author, natural builder, educator, and conservationist. He has authored multiple books: Foraging the Mountain West, Botany in a Day, Shanleya's Quest and numerous others about plant identification, wilderness survival, and sustainable living. He has multiple videos: Building a Slipform Stone House from the Bottom Up, How to Make a Grass Rope, Build Your own Masonry Fireplace - Masonry Heater - Masonry Stove, and many more. Thomas regularly teaches classes on plant identification, primitive skills and natural building. He is founder/director of Green University, LLC in Pony, Montana.

  • Thomas Elpel Botany in a Day PDCs
  • Shanleya's Quest
  • Foraging the Mountain West PDC
  • Living Homes, natural building, PDC
  • Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills: a Field Guide to Primitive Living Skills
  • Slipform Stone Masonry: Building a Slipform Stone House from the Bottom Up
  • Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification with Thomas J. Elpel
  • Botany in a Day Tutorial (46 mins) The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
  • How to Make a Grass Rope - with Thomas J. Elpel
  • Buffalo (Bison) Hide Tanning: Braintanning a Buffalo Robe

Helen Atthowe - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Helen has an MS in Horticulture and Agricultural Ecology from Rutgers University; worked at Rutgers in tree fruit IPM; studied natural farming with Masanobu Fukoka; interned at The Land Institute in Kansas; taught a Master Gardener course in Montana for 15 years while she was Missoula County extension agent; owned and operated Biodesign organic vegetable farm in Montana (1993-2010); consulted for a 2000 acre organic vegetable farm (2011); helped run her husband's Woodleaf Farm organic orchard in northern California 2012-2015; worked for Oregon State University Horticulture Department; and is now farming a 211 acre farm in eastern Oregon with her husband, where they have a mixed fruit and hazelnut orchard, small grain and dry bean production, vegetable gardens, high tunnels, and greenhouse.

  • Growing Fruits and Vegetables Organically
  • Seeded Crops and Living Mulch near Missoula, Montana
  • green manure is a sustainable organic fertilizer
  • winter annuals as a living mulch - pennycress
  • profit: organic farming vs. permaculture farmings
  • sustainable food - people per acre of food
  • Veganic Farming and Gardening - Helen Atthowe
  • Food System Revolution from the Ground Up
  • Conservation Farming and Sustainability, Missoula, Montana

Ernie Wisner - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Ernie Wisner 2017 Permaculture Design Course Guest Instructor

Ernie is a botanist, educator, writer, researcher, rocket mass heater innovator, natural builder, and boat aficionado. He served in the merchant marine, Navy, and fisheries, and has tremendous experience with hydraulic and hot water systems. His family's sea time stretches back "since Noah was a babe," all over the 2/3 of our planet from which quitters can't walk home. Ernie is semi-retired due to a disabling injury, but still makes time for the occasional workshop or fascinating prototype project. He co-authored multiple books with his wife, Erica, and he is featured in many videos, documentaries and podcasts. Ernie is a wealth of knowledge; there are not many topics on which he does not have an opinion.

  • The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide
  • Better Wood Heat: DIY Rocket Mass Heater Videos
  • Wood Burning Stoves 2.0
  • cob oven - double chamber cob oven
  • wood stove vs. rocket mass heater
  • wood burning stoves - super efficient rocket mass heater
  • greenhouse construction + rocket mass heater how to tutorial

Erica Wisner - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Erica Wisner - 2017 Permaculture Design Course Guest Instructor

Erica is a science and art educator, curriculum developer, writer, illustrator, researcher, and rocket mass heater innovator. She loves making things from scratch - anything from blueberry scones to the oven itself. Erica is a skilled educator and project coordinator, with over 20 years of experience building teamwork and leading hands-on learning. Her and Ernie have taught numerous workshops on natural building and rocket mass heaters. Erica has written multiple books on rocket mass heaters, fire making, and survival shelters. She is featured in many videos, documentaries, and podcasts on rocket mass heaters.

  • The Rocket Mass Heater Builder's Guide
  • The Art of Fire
  • The Ultimate Girls' Guide to Science
  • Cabin 8 in Rocket Mass Heater Plans
  • Better Wood Heat: DIY Rocket Mass Heater Videos
  • Wood Burning Stoves 2.0
  • Bonny 8 Inch Rocket Mass Heater Plans
  • Rocket Mass Heater Operation and Maintenance Manual
  • Daybed with Bypass
  • 6 Inch Rocket Mass Heater Plans

Jacqueline Freeman - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Jacqueline Freeman 2017 Permaculture Design Course Guest Instructor

Jacqueline is a biodynamic farmer, author, and natural beekeeper. She is known for her gentle and understanding ways with bees. She appears in the honeybee documentary, Queen of the Sun and was hired by the USDA to work with rural farmers and beekeepers in the Dominican Republic, using historic methods of respectful beekeeping. She lives on a farm in Washington state with her husband, Joseph, where they have orchards, gardens, two big greenhouses, a small forest, rich pastures and plenty of flowering bee forage. Jacqueline also has lots of experience raising livestock: cows, goats, chickens for laying and broilers, turkeys, and horses. She has two websites: SpiritBee.com and friendlyhaven.com.

  • The Song of Increase: Returning to Our Sacred Partnership with Honeybees
  • Colony Collapse Disorder = Bee Stress
  • Bee Hut - Reverence for Bees
  • organic slug control with snakes - permaculture!
  • advice to farmers about interns/wwoofers
  • Jacqueline walking in a Bee Swarm
  • Moving Bee Swarm at Friendly Haven Rise Farm
  • Yellow Jacket Traps to protect Honeybees
  • The magic of a bee swarm in slow motion.

Zachary Weiss - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Zachary Weiss

Protégé of legendary Austrian farmer, Sepp Holzer, Zach is the first person to earn Holzer Practitioner Certification outside of the Krameterhof training program. Blending a unique combination of systems thinking, empathy, and awareness, Zach uses an action-oriented process to improve human relationships with earth. Enhancing ecosystems and harvesting natural productivity over time is the ultimate goal - with high initial input, high yield systems that will last until the next ice age.

Zach currently has projects in 11 nations on 4 continents, spanning a wide range of climates, contexts, land-forms and ecosystems. Having experience with a wide range of techniques and systems (from natural building, to greenhouses, to carpentry, to watershed restoration), Zach also graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Ecology. He has two websites elementalecosystems.com and holzerpermaculture.us

  • Elemental Ecosystems - drone flight - Ecuador
  • The Krater Garden - Part 1
  • The Krater Garden - Part 2
  • The Natural Swimming Pool
  • The Hugelkultur Garden

Davin Hoyt - 2017 PDC Guest Instructor

Davin Hoyt

Davin is an architect, artist, and entrepreneur. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Architecture and has 16 years of drafting experience. Davin has established two community gardens in Georgetown, Texas and he is the first to map Wheaton Labs. Davin practices architecture as a one-man firm and will soon be a small restaurant chain partner. He is the future illustrator of Paul's book on "Wofatis".

  • Davin's design of a wofati
  • Davin's re-design of a residence in Texas
  • Davin's design of a restaurant expansion
  • Davin's design of a community garden
  • Davin's other design of a community garden

Byron Joel

Byron Joel

Byron Joel is based in Margaret River, Western Australia, from where he runs Oak Tree Designs, providing environmentally aware Human Settlement Systems design and education. Discovering Permaculture in the early 2000s, Byron devoured all the information he could find and set to work connecting with like minds and putting ideas to practice, taking his first Permaculture Design Course in 2004 and second in 2009. After taking the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia's 10 week internship in 2010, Byron returned to the positions of both Nursery and WWOOFer Coordinator at Zaytuna Farm. After relocating to New Zealand, he held the position of Nursery Manager at Kotare Farm, home of the Koanga Institute and the Permaculture Research Institute of New Zealand. Armed with the invaluable tool of hands-on field time and a Diploma in Horticulture, Byron’s embryonic affinity with plants has developed and evolved into a broader, impassioned drive to the broad scale regeneration and restoration of not only the planet’s much degraded ecology, but also the human communities that inhabit her. Byron has studied and integrated design and implementation techniques from numerous related systems including Holistic Management, Natural Sequence Farming, Bio-dynamics, Natural Farming, the Regrarian Platform and more…

Byron has worked internationally as both educator and consultant.

Permaculture Design Course Content

Daily Schedule

7:00am: Breakfast

8:00am: Review previous day, Q&A, go over schedule for the day

9:00am: Session one

10:30am: Break

11:00am: Session two

12:30pm: Lunch

1:30pm: Session three

3:00pm: Break

3:30pm: Session four

5:00pm: buffer (sometimes a break, sometimes session 4 is extended)

6:00pm: Dinner

7:00pm: Optional Evening Presentation

By about day three or four, session four will be student design time each afternoon. Teaching staff will be available for questions and to check progress.

Course Schedule

This is the official schedule. It is possible that a few details might change.

Day 1: Introduction to permaculture

Session 1: Tim Barker - welcome and introduction to course
Session 2: Tim Barker - introduction to permaculture
Session 3: Tim Barker - history & context of permaculture
Session 4: Tim Barker - design framework; ethics
Evening Session: student and instructor mixer

Day 2: Design concepts and themes

Session 1: Tim Barker - permaculture design process
Session 2: Tim Barker - design process: ecosystems; holistic perspective
Session 3: Tim Barker - design principles: connections, diversity
Session 4: Tim Barker - design principes: nutrients, energy
Evening Session: Ernie & Erica - Fire

Day 3: Methods of design

Session 1: Tim Barker - design principes: succession, resources
Session 2: Tim Barker - design principes: small-scale, edges
Session 3: Tim Barker - design principes: overview
Session 4: Tim Barker - design principes: summary
Evening Session: Byron Joel - introduction to keyline design

Day 4: Managing holistically

Session 1: Tim Barker - history & context of holistic management
Session 2: Tim Barker - decision-making process
Session 3: Tim Barker - triple bottom line
Session 4: Tim Barker - forming holistic context
Evening Session: holistic management videos

Day 5: Climate and land form

Session 1: Tim Barker - climate zones, brittleness scale
Session 2: Tim Barker - land shape & brittleness; landscapes
Session 3: Tim Barker - patterns; reading landscape; design teams formed
Session 4: Davin Hoyt - architectural & landscape drawing
Evening Session: Davin

Day 6: Water and access

Session 1: Zach Weiss - ecology; water retention landscapes
Session 2: Zach Weiss - earthworks: model building
Session 3: Tim Barker - zones & strategies
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Zach - elemental ecology

Day 7: All Day Break

Evening Session: movie night

Day 8: Trees & soils

Session 1: Byron Joel - tree ecology; succession
Session 2: Byron Joel - strategies & techniques; zones; summary
Session 3: Helen Atthowe - soils: ecology, structure, chemistry, biology
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Helen Atthowe - creating a commercial forest garden

Day 9: Soils & crops

Session 1: Helen Atthowe - soil strategies & techniques zones 1-4
Session 2: Helen Atthowe - crops; grass, herb & forb ecology
Session 3: Helen Atthowe - strategies & techniques, zones 1-4
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Jacqueline Freeman - building relationships with farm animals

Day 10: Animals

Session 1: Jacqueline & Joseph - beekeeping
Session 2: Jacqueline & Joseph - animal ecology, ethics, zones 1 & 2
Session 3: Jacqueline & Joseph - animals: zones 1-4
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Paul Wheaton - animals in the landscape

Day 11: Appropriate technology

Session 1: Ernie & Erica - appropriate technology
Session 2: Ernie & Erica - strategies & techniques for differen climates
Session 3: Ernie & Erica - strategies & techniques for different climates
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Paul Wheaton - animals in the landscape

Day 12: Bioregions & Communities

Session 1: Tim & Byron - community vs self-sufficiency; bioregions & communities
Session 2: Tim & Byron - eco villages; intentional communities
Session 3: Paul Wheaton - making a living using permaculture
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: Jocelyn Campbell - money & finance

Day 13: Botany in a day

Session 1: Thomas Elpel: simple plant botany
Session 2: Thomas Elpel: plant walk; try out new identification skills
Session 3: Thomas Elpel: homesteading experiences
Session 4: student designs
Evening Session: design time

Day 14: Design time; presentations

Sessions 1-3: Design time
Session 4: presentations
Evening Session: talent show


There will be a tour of Wheaton Labs on Saturday May 27th, the day before the Permaculture Design Course starts. The tour starts promptly at 9:30 am, to tour the lab first. Then there is a break for lunch, and the base camp tour starts promptly at 1:30 pm .. The tours will include:

wheaton labs


For questions about the tour, look at this thread

The Appropriate Technology Course

June 12th - 23rd, 2017

The Appropriate Technology course takes the permaculture principles to the next level by applying some crafty science and engineering to basic life essentials like hot water and water catchment. With this course, you'll cover a wide range of topics and get real life experience building the systems you'll need to live comfortably and sustainably

Find out more about this course here

Permaculture Design Course Registration

The 2017 PDC is sold out. Now selling super early bird tickets to the 2018 PDC (july 1-14, 2018) and the 2018 ATC (july 16-27, 2018)

2018 super early bird ticket prices through October 31, 2017

    (maximum of 10 tickets will be sold at this price)

    PDC: $1400
    ATC: $1400
    Both: $2450

2018 early bird ticket prices through January 31, 2018

    PDC: $1650
    ATC: $1650
    Both: $2950

2018 prices through October 31, 2018

    PDC: $1850
    ATC: $1850
    Both: $3400

Note: 80% refunds up to two weeks before the event starts. If you are not comfortable with being recorded, please do not attend. Tobacco free and drug free site.

2018 Permaculture Design Course only is $1400 per student

2018 Appropriate Technology Course only is $1400 per student

both 2018 courses are $2450 per student

Or via bitcoin: 177pNU2a9iCpUXQwXX9EbtA2UwZpgeqcMT

Lots more details, FAQ, discussion, etc. on this thread at permies.com

Permaculture Design Course Location

These courses will be taught at Wheaton Labs, a learning facility located west of the Rocky Mountains, in the Missoula area of Montana.

Established in 2013 by the founder of permies.com and richsoil.com, Paul Wheaton, the expansive property features a spectacular sampling of natural buildings, eleven rocket mass heaters, eight rocket cook stoves, hugelkultur garden beds, earth berms, showers heated by compost, a variety of solar power systems, sustainable horticultural practices, and a broad collection of projects and experiments intended to shape the future of permaculture.

Wheaton labs is actually two pieces of land: “base camp” which has a few buildings on it already, and “the laboratory,” which started as bare timber land. It is surrounded by beautiful mountain views and expansive coniferous forests, and nearly a thousand acres of federal Bureau of Land Management land. Wheaton labs is truly surrounded by beauty!

This “farmer laboratory” fosters innovations and experiments such as wofatis, poopers, hugelkultur, polyculture food systems integrated with holistic management-style animal systems, a different style of community, aquaculture, and earthworks for privacy, water retention and frost protection. The ultimate goal is the least toxins possible.

Note: For the security of our residents and staff, the exact location of Wheaton Labs is only revealed to paying customers. You will receive detailed location information and directions upon receipt of payment.

For Those That Fly to the Event

If you need a ride from the airport, we can arrange for somebody to pick you up.

  • Between 8 am and 9 pm: $15 per ride
  • Outside of those hours: $35 per ride
  • Please be ready to pay driver in cash

For those that may not be able to fly with sleeping bags and tents, there are a limited quantity available to rent for a small fee; and of course, you can always rent the Tipi, Wofati, or other structures for your stay to lighten your luggage.

A few people have shipped a box of this sort of thing here. And a couple of those have left tents and sleeping bags for future people attending these events.


Everybody must be okay with being photographed or filmed; and people are encouraged to take video and photos of the course. Details here.

Permaculture Design Course Accommodation

Tent camping is included with the courses.

We have a few formal tent pads with a sand bottom, to give you a soft, level surface for setup. First come, first served. Some people last year came a week early.

Once you are registered, we will give you information on local hotels, lodges, campgrounds, etc. - we have had several people that prefer that sort of thing.

We have had some people arrive with a van or truck to stay in - that's fine. Some people want to bring a camper - please coordinate with the registrar about that - there is no fee, but we need to put you in an appropriate spot. We don't allow plugins or the use of a generator. Solar panels are okay.

You are welcome to harvest some of the food we have growing here, just be respectful, and leave some foods behind to reproduce.

Slumber Party at Cooper Cabin!

Cooper Cabin is also known as "Wofati 0.8". The structure is not quite done yet, but people have been living in it since August of 2014. This spacious structure has plenty of room for large groups.

We will be allowing up to twelve people to throw a sleeping bag down on the floor of Cooper Cabin for a small fee. This requires a seperate registration.

A step up from camping - rent one of these

Course instructors will be occupying most of the structures we have, but there are a few structures with bunks still available. (We will try to update this page to reflect availability)

The Tipi with Rocket Mass Heater

You probably won't need to fire up the rocket mass heater, but you could if you wanted to. This is the tipi and rocket mass heater that was part of the great rocket mass heater experiment in the winter of 2013/2014. Most people want to stay in it during the winter to fully appreciate the function of a rocket mass heater.

You can learn more about the tipi with the rocket mass heater here.

Permaculture Design Course Food

Meals are not included. But attendees will be invited to join Paul at his table. Food will probably be an omnivore diet and might have paleo, gluten-free, dairy/casein-free, and/or vegan or vegetarian options at many/some meals. If you have any special dietary needs/desires, you might want to bring your own food and make use of our rocket cook stoves, ovens, solar ovens and other interesting contraptions for cooking.

Paul's Cook during this event, Stewart Hung

Stewart has been learning about permaculture principles during the recent three years since he discovered that living a consumerist lifestyle is not fulfilling, and that there must be something more. As a scientist and an individual who enjoys learning, he quickly latched onto permaculture as a different and more natural method of system design. He grew up in a family of chefs and some of that has rubbed off on him. His goals include contributing to and being part of the homesteading community in central Pennsylvania (where he teaches Forensic Science at Penn State), building RMHs, and developing new technologies for homesteading. Stewart is looking forward to returning to Wheaton Labs and be a part of the group to help to make this PDC another great one.