2018 Peasant Permaculture Design Course

Permaculture Design Course (PDC) Overview

We have two PDC's and an ATC happening this year.

In 2018, near Missoula, Montana, Wheaton Labs will be hosting a new Permaculture Design course! The course is designed for hands-on learning for people low on funds but with plenty of time. We are calling it the Peasant Permaculture Design Course. It will run from Tuesday, May 22 through Thursday, June 21, 2018. Each day of this course involves four hours in the classroom and another four hours of hands-on project work at Wheaton Labs, an experimental permaculture space in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

The Peasant PDC will have a strong focus on projects and building hands-on experience at Wheaton Labs. The course will be taught by Erica Wisner alongside numerous guest instructors from around the region. You will learn a plethora of different skills such as the identification of useful plants, how to cultivate and harvest naturally abundant forests and gardens, hands-on homestead building and cooking skills, and how to apply Permaculture to everyday life. You will also learn and practice essential subjects such as soils, water, community living, forestry, building, and appropriate technologies.

This is a project-based course. Each project will relate to class material, and teach you hands-on skills for creating your very own Resilient lifestyle.

That's a full month of adventure education for $580! Some people think we’re crazy, but it is very important to us here at Wheaton Labs to provide opportunities for our community, and a safe affordable place for education and sustainability.

Tuesday, May 22 through Thursday, June 21, 2018 near Missoula, Montana

PDC Students

Register Now

We filmed all of the previous 2017 permaculture design course and the appropriate technology course. All 177 hours of video is now available HERE!

The students and staff took a lot of photos and video of the 2017 PDC. Take a look HERE!

This Peasant Permaculture Design Course

A PDC is a life changing event for both students and instructors. It can be one of the most intense learning and networking experience of your life. Surrounded by like-minded people, you will learn the framework to thrive in a rapidly changing world. You will also develop the skills to heal damaged landscapes while providing for your own needs.

The Peasant PDC will be roughly 300 hours of total immersion into permaculture and communal living over the course of 33 days.

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 day's subjects. This helps the learning to really take root in your mind.

The Peasant PDC is a training ground for new PDC instructors, and for those who want an in-depth, hands-on experience. Days will be full. Plan for 10 to 12 hour days, split between Class time, Project site work, and Self-care activities at the individual and group level.


4 hours per day (100 hours total): includes hands-on site improvements, including appropriate tech infrastructure, permaculture gardening, and other high-priority tasks for our host’s forest/mountain permaculture projects and event facilities.

Course Time

4 hours of class time per day for 25 days (100 hours total): includes indoor and outdoor activities, reading and research, small-group design time, and in-class presentations.


Site conditions are primitive, with tent camping, log and pole structures, and hauled water. We will cook and cleanup in camp conditions. Plan on hauling water, chopping wood, and practicing your cool-weather camping and self sufficiency. Individuals or the group may spend spare time improving campsites, going off site for household chores (such as laundry), and arranging treats and luxuries to suit ourselves.

Why "Peasant" PDC?

It's become sort of an inside joke among urban professionals escaping the rat race, that your PDC is "peasant training." You may know how to run a business, or have a college degree in some specialized subject, but you still want the fundamental skills and place-based awareness to grow food, reduce waste, and design yourself a lifestyle that's compatible with life on Earth.

A few weeks as a 'peasant' may teach you more than all the Internet research you could fit into decades of modern living. And in this format, you don't need a high-status job or inherited wealth to afford the course. It's specifically designed for folks with more time than money, like college students, retirees, and those between jobs.

If you like the deal but not the name, don't worry. Your course certificate will simply say "Permaculture Design Certificate," with all the appropriate flourishes and signatures to serve as a status symbol for years to come.


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

Register Now!

Permaculture Design Course Instructors

Erica Wisner - 2018 PPDC 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

Paul Wheaton - Guest Instructor

paul wheaton 2018 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

Ernie Wisner - 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 where 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

Permaculture Design Course Content

Sample Daily Schedule

This schedule is subject to adjustment for weather, safety, or other reasons at the instructors' discretion.

7:00am: Breakfast (self-serve & clean up)

7:45am: Announcements / Session Assignments

8:00am: Project Teams Session 1

9:45am: Morning Break

10:15am: Project Teams Session 2

11:30am: Lunch Prep breaks away from project teams

12:00pm: Lunch (self-serve & clean up)

1:15pm: Class Session 1

2:45pm: Break

3:00pm: Class Session 2

4:30pm: Extended Session, Closing Announcements (optional early release if course is ahead of schedule)

5:30pm: Dinner prep and Nest Labor (self care / group chores)

6:00pm: Dinner (self-serve / pot luck & clean up)

7:00pm: Optional Evening Session - may include Nest Labor; Design Team time

Special Days: Weekends and Wednesdays

Wednesday Half Day:

Morning sessions will run as above, with Classroom or Project Labor, or a combined session. Afternoons will be free time for nest-building, town/grocery runs, or self-guided optional activities like hikes, wild food walks, restock personal supplies, etc.

Saturday Field Day:

This is our chance to get out in the "real world:" meet productive permaculture people, explore the area, restock our larder, and tackle team projects that don't fit in a 2-hour format. Most Saturdays will include a trip to the Missoula Farmers' Market, local permaculture/sustainable businesses, and other activities that may count toward your course completion requirements.

Sunday R & R:

Sunday will be a full day off, with time to prep for class, work on homework, or 'nest-building' and self care. Participants may self-organize: rides to local hot springs, cultural events, break away for family time, or just tidy your tent and take a well-deserved nap.

All participants, please plan to be on site for all scheduled sessions.

In order to get your PDC course completion certificate, you will need to attend all the project team and classroom sessions (7:45-12:00 Weds, 7:45-5:30 MT-TF, Saturday special sessions by announcement). Please schedule any personal business for Wednesday afternoons or Sundays.

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 still in development, it is possible that some details will change.

Prep Week

5/15/18 Arrivals
5/16/18 Campsites
5/17/18 Kitchen Setup
5/18/18 Transport

Week 1

5/19/18 Greetings
5/21/18 Introduction - Setup
5/22/18 Design Process - Exercise: Kitchen Zones
5/23/18 Half-Day - Supply Runs, Laundry, etc
5/24/18 Climate/land Intro - Plant Walk
5/25/18 Landforms - Exercise: Contour Maps in 3-D

Week 2

5/28/18 Water/Access - Exercise: Water Plots
5/29/18 Trees & E T C - Site Survey
5/30/18 Half-Day - Supply Runs, Laundry, etc
5/31/18 Soils
6/01/18 Crops

Week 3

6/04/18 Strategies for Different Climates (humid, arid, island, fire, ice)
6/05/18 Animals
6/06/18 Appropriate Technology
6/07/18 Half-Day - Supply Runs, Laundry, etc
6/08/18 Bioregions and Communities
6/09/18 Ecovillages

Week 4

06/12/18 Trusts, Financing, Money - Permies Thread and Premium Thread Walkthrough
6/13/18 Design Process Guide - Mini-design exercise
6/14/18 Half-Day - Supply Runs, Laundry, etc
6/15/18 Design Practicum: Analysis
6/16/18 Research and Concept Map

Week 5

6/19/18 Details and Design
6/20/18 Final Prep
6/21/18 Design Presentation / Talent Night


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

Peasant Permaculture Design Course Registration

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 Peasant Permaculture Design Course only is $580 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 Missoula, 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 Love Shack

The Red Cabin

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.

What To Bring

Prepare yourself for a month of cool to cold weather. Be sure to bring work gloves, head lamp, long underwear, hat, gloves, camp cooking equipment, sleeping bag, and toiletries. Consider bringing personal gear for spring fishing, hunting, wild food harvest and processing. Feel free to bring gear with solar or thermal chargers if you have them. You will also want to bring study gear, such as a notepad, pencil and your favorite plant identification books.

The best, private camping spots and rental structures may be up to 2 miles from the course location, and town time is 25-50 miles by highway. Consider bringing a bicycle, backpacking gear, and/or a vehicle for your convenience.

Recommended books: Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison; Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel; your own favorite field guides and homesteading resources.

Novels, light reading, journals, and other off-grid entertainments are encouraged.

Bring your own solar/thermal charger, and data plan, if you need access to your personal digital library during the course days.

Peasant Permaculture Design Course Food

Participants will be responsible for their own food throughout the course. We hope you share our preference for all-organic foods, and encourage you to bring along your favorite staples or your own local produce if you can. Past groups have organized potlucks and communal meals, kitchen rotations, and treats. Sometimes individuals opt out for reasons of diet or budget. Those with special diets, please bring what you need.