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"SustainAbility your way" by Beth Weick , as published in North Country News, January 2011

I think there was mention of a zip line…from our back porch to a pond-side landing beside our lower hoop house. Modifications for a cannonball dismount may have been pondered. Yes, indeed. And this was in fact an academic situation.

Granted, not quite your average school-desks-in-a-row, raise-your-hand, and memorize-the-answer sort of academics. No, I'm referring to a planning & design activity integrated into D Acres' Permaculture Design Course offered last year.

You see, permaculture can be many things. This includes verbose definitions the length of this column and beyond….but here at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Sustainability Center we've narrowed it down to the following:

Holistic, integrative, design & implementation for a sustainable future.

Bingo, bango, sounds pretty good, eh? What I'm getting at, though, is the ability to stack functions while designing gardens, buildings, landscapes, and beyond with a multiplicity of functions in mind. The zip line plan from above got some laughs, and may sit a step or two down the priority list, but it's a fun example of thinking outside the box. Sure, it provides travel. With the ease of architect paper, it was designed as a power source as well, had a clothesline component, and a bucket carrying function.

Granted, I prefer to get down to something more practical. Let's talk of an apple tree as food, as shade, as windbreak, as artisan wood, as smokehouse flavor, and its leaves as natural mulch come autumn. Or how about pigs as stump-removers, brush-clearers, ground-turners, soil-fertilizers, compost-builders, and, thank goodness, as bacon-providers.

The understanding and application of permaculture is refined over the course of a lifetime. But you can begin here and now with D Acres 2nd Permaculture Through the Seasons certification course. It's a unique opportunity, offered one weekend a month from April to November (excepting June). A range of topics are covered: permaculture ethics & principles, the design process, food & energy security, natural systems & biodiversity, site analysis & assessment, backyard gardening & sustainable agriculture, natural building & appropriate technology, sustainable forestry & creating food forests, animals in a permaculture system, solar greenhouse design, village design & local economies. Students then apply the principles and praxis studied to a design project of their own.

Taking place on the D Acres grounds over the course of spring, summer, and fall, participants are exposed to the seasonal farm perspective and the variety of monthly considerations therein. With fourteen years of permaculture in practice, the trials, errors and successes inherent to the property are abundant. In addition, students enjoy D Acres lodging accommodations and farm-fresh meals each weekend the course meets. While D Acres staff, workshops, and community events are integrated into the course, it is instructors Steve Whitman and Keith Morris who lead participants through the seven weekends of studies while including guest presenters, off-site tours, and attendance at the 2011 Permaculture Convergence.

More information can be found on the D Acres website at www.dacres.org or by giving us a ring at 603-786-2366. Still looking for something more? We've also created a D Acres permaculture film - check it out via our website, or join us on tour: Feb 11 @ Red River Theater in Concord, NH; Feb 15 @ Plymouth's Flying Monkey Theater; March 3 @ Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences in Quechee, VT.

This is your chance. Don't wait: early bird registration due Feb.15, registrations close March 15. In the words of one 2010 graduate, "I could not have hoped for a better permaculture education. Thanks a million!!"

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