Adventures in Permaculture: Day 17

There was a fair amount of excitement in the air this morning. We were all anxious to be going home but sad to be leaving each other. I woke up at my normal 6:00 a.m. but hit the snooze button so I could sleep in a bit. My night of sleep was not too bad as I’d gone to bed late. I had to fight the urge to start packing immediately because some folks were still sleeping, and I didn’t want to be too noisy. I decided I had to go downstairs early in order to force myself not to pack.

The girl’s “pee room” was smelling quite ripe, so I decided I would use the “nice” toilets today. I did use the “straw bale” toilets once, but it was so awkward, and I hit my head, so I decided not to do that again. The straw bale bathrooms are basically stacked hay bales with a platform over a 55 gallon drum and a toilet seat attached to the top. The ceiling is probably 6′, but with the platform, you can’t stand up after you do your business. So, you’re kind of hunched over trying to zip up your pants. I always have to jump down to finish buttoning up. Like I said, awkward.

I ate breakfast, but it did not seem to fill me up. Everyone was talking about the clean-up we had to do.

At the morning circle, we sang our names to each other one last time. I was sure hoping that a few of the folks who said their name the same way every day would change things up, but only one did. We were told to submit a piece of paper acknowledging that we had attended 90% of the class time. The group leader was not at all the sessions and did not keep track. He worked on the honor system. I was honest about the time I missed but indicated that a group of the hours I missed that put me over the limit were used to work on my group project. (I was just too tired to do the service project that day so I got on my computer instead.)


I went back upstairs and finished packing. I rolled up the pad that Shannon had lent me and returned it to her. What a blessing it was to have that – even though I still didn’t sleep all that well, it would’ve been a lot worse without it. Everyone took the sheets off their futon and piled them on one bed. Then we used what tools were available to clean the floors. It would’ve been much easier if we’d had a decent vacuum cleaner, but, at that point, we had learned to make do with what we had. I cleaned the sinks in the bathrooms and shower rooms. I also helped vacuum the dorms and pick things up in the cob building.

Then it was time for the first project presentation. Thankfully we only had two groups. A representative from each threw rock/paper/scissors to see who went first. Our scissors beat their paper.

I really enjoyed working with my group – we had great ideas and worked well together. Everyone really wanted to get it done and have it be professional, so we were able to come to consensus very quickly on everything. Adelle did a tremendous job of putting together the presentation in Power Point. Much better than I would’ve been able to do! Our project was a company called PermaProperties that provided an online network of permaculture properties and communities that could be used to buy/sell/rent/swap a house or just to find areas of the country/state/community that are rich in permaculture practitioners. I did a website mockup (to the best of my ability given that I was working with GIMP instead of Photoshop.) Each of us (5 in all) gave part of the presentation to the group, and I was just so proud of us! The course leader had actually already told a couple of our group members that he loved the idea, and after our presentation he said that ours was the clearest presentation he’d heard in all the courses he’d given. We were so thrilled!

All of my team members indicated that I should take this business idea and run with it, so I am going to do some serious thinking about it when I get home. If it seems viable, then I might just give it a shot.

We then broke for lunch, and Helen and I walked down the street so I could get my last coffee at Global Delights. Although I would’ve liked to share in the camaraderie of lunch, I just could not stomach another day of hummus and salad, so we stopped at Taco Time on the way back.

After lunch, it was the other group’s turn to give their presentation. Right before they started, the course leader walked by me and said that I was all set on getting my certificate since the over-the-limit hours I took off were spent working on my group project. I was so thrilled! My day was instantly made.

Permaculture project

The project the other group chose was converting a nearby lot into a sustainable cemetery. It was a fun presentation – they had lots of great, creative ideas for how to make it a peaceful, harmonious place that also provided food for local homeless and needed little maintenance once established.  (Of course, they also mentioned future plans could include building a giant solar oven to incinerate people because cremation is so resource-intensive!  Funeral pyres were also discussed!)

Once they were done, we “circled up” on the floor. The course leader called each of our names, and we went up and accepted our certificate and got a hug from him and his cohort. They were nice certificates, too, so perhaps I will frame mine. Then, we had our final circle and were asked to say one thing that was the highlight of the course for us. I said the highlight for me was the idea that permaculture was not just about plants but largely about people.

Then, one of our classmates, Brett, revealed that he’d drawn each of us a picture and written a little note on the back for each of us. It now made sense to all of us why he was up until 6:00 a.m. this morning!

I was truly touched by the image he made for me, and it means just as much to me (if not more) than the certificate I’m coming home with. I’m going to be framing it and adding it to my artwork collection.

I felt bad that we were all so anxious to leave, but we sure were! I gave hugs all around, and Helen and I drove off to our motel. I had planned to take the train to Portland tomorrow until I found out that you should never be going anywhere on a schedule if you’re taking the train. Apparently the commuter train has to yield at any time and for however long to any freight trains it encounters. As I had planned the ride to the airport on a precise schedule, I probably would’ve ended up missing my flight. So, since Helen had to drive to Washington anyway, she offered to drop me at the airport on her way the next day.

I must say that the beds at this motel (Courtesy Inn near 105) were really comfy. The pillows are very fluffy, too. I had a great night’s sleep and awoke to my alarm at 6:00 a.m. Helen woke up, too, and I told her I had had two dreams last night about being kidnapped. We were both in awe as she blurted out that she had, too! Apparently we had both felt like we were being held hostage at the program!!! It was quite a funny revelation!

I am now on a plane headed back to warm, sunny Florida as a Certified Permaculture Designer. I will cherish the memories I made and things I learned at the course and, most especially, the people I met.


  • Nice write-up, Elsie.

    I’m glad my favorite surly chick didn’t go all Danica and miss out on her cert (and Brett drawing.) It was great meeting you and spending time with you; I hope our paths cross again soon.

  • Hello Elsie,
    Thanks for all sharing your thoughts and experiences on the course. I very much enjoyed meeting and getting to know you. The last day of the course I gave out my e-mail address to the class. I messed up and wrote it wrong, so pass it along to the other classes mates for me, if you wouldn’t mind.
    I hope are doing well and warming back up down in Florida. Your final project was brilliant, I hope you run with it and build an indispensable resource for the perma-culture community. Sincerely, H.W

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