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A permaculture Course Glossary

General terms and other information on permaculture.


                Permaculture Ethics

  • Permaculture is an ethical approach design system.

  • The ethics are at the core of permaculture and thus everything else follows on such. These three ethics define how one should behave toward the earth, each other and other beings.


The three ethics of permaculture


1. Care of the earth giving priority to taking utmost care of the earth, making sure we don't damage its natural systems.

2. Care of the people through the establishment of systems that meet people's needs in order that people's lives can be sustained with a good quality of life without damaging the earth.

3. Accepting limits to population and consumption is realizing that as a human species, we cannot grow beyond a sustainable portion of the planet. We need to recognize that nature has a balance and putting limits on our own growth and on our own consumption is the only way to ensure the evolution of our species. This ethic is sometimes phrased as "Return of surplus, invest all of your means in the first two ethics". Thus limiting our consumption so that we can invest our resources in caring for the earth and caring for the people.


Care of the earth.

No matter how advanced our technology becomes, we are still dependant on a living ecosystem to give us life. We as human beings need to understand that we are the stewards of our planet and need to act responsibly.


Care of the people.

Our civilizations have evolved and changed form many times, however, the need to care for each other is fundamental to our survival. Following the first ethic, we need to build on symbiotic relationships to care for each other and sustain life.


Fair share, return of surplus.


There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. We need to understand that taking more than our fair share is like stealing from others their opportunity to share what also belongs to them.


Holmgrem’s Permaculture Principles

1. Observe and interact - By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.


2. Catch and store energy - By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.


3.Obtain a yield - Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.


4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback – We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.


5. Use and value renewable resources and services

- Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.


6. Produce no waste - By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.


7. Design from patterns to details - By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.


8. Integrate rather than segregate - By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.


9. Use small and slow solutions - Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.


10. Use and value diversity - Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.


11. Use edges and value the marginal - The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.


12. Creatively use and respond to change -

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time. In permaculture all elements are seen as part of the

whole which they constitute. Nothing is segregated and studied in isolation, as in reality, there is no isolation of anything in life.


Permaculture and our Natural Resources



Air is the medium for all living things. It needs to be clear, clean and in sufficient quantities to sustain the exchanges of gases between living organisms. Without

air, no life will exist as we know it, and in permaculture designs, it is given the importance it merits. Among many functions; living vegetation, such as trees and

grasses act as filters of the air and exchange a supply of oxygen with an intake of carbon dioxide. Thus trees and grasses are needed in abundance to filter the air of our environment.



Water is the blood of our planet. Just like the blood in our veins, it needs to be in balance, circulated and purified by other components while delivering life to the whole being. Water is an integral part of our ecosystem. We need to observe and promote the health of water in order to replenish life. All our systems, especially agriculture and forestry are directly dependant on an abundance of healthy water.



Earth is our mother planet which sustains us and all other living beings. We also refer to soil as earth. Soil is the living medium which supports the growth of vegetation and other life forms. There are many different types of soils, and they host different bacteria

and micro-organisms which are all necessary to sustain soil life. In return, when soil is healthy, the trees, crops and plants are also healthy. Thus in sustainable agriculture, soil life is given a great attention.



The sun can be simply described as the Earth’s power station. No life as we know it would exist on the Earth if the sun was missing. All energy systems including fossil fuels and others used on earth are simply a product of or energized by the sun. In permaculture, we recognize this fact by giving priority to observing the path, the cycle and angles of the sun for our designs in order to maximize the efficiency of light and shadows, both in the natural and the built environment.


What does it mean to have a Permaculture Design Certificate?

A Permaculture Design Certificate means that one has completed a 72 hour design course in the principles and methods of Permaculture. The holder of the certificate is the holder of a complex toolbox of solutions and visions. Many people think they understand permaculture as a gardening system or as alternative agriculture. Someone who has attended proper training and has received a certificate understands the full scope of what permaculture design has to offer. It also means they have an understanding of the systemic and integrated quality that good "sustainable" or "regenerative" design reflects. It doesn't mean the person has the necessary skills to implement these solutions. They carry what is possible. 


How does one become a permaculture designer?

Students who have completed a Permaculture Design Certification course (PDC) can advertise that they are a certified permaculturist and can use the word permaculture in their work. The curriculum is a minimum of 72 hours and should follow the Permaculture Designers Manual. We suggest further training, internships and volunteering on existing permaculture sites so one can cover other pertinent topics and do hands-on activities which are of utmost importance to develop skills and rigorous understanding of permaculture.

We recommend that a graduate spends 2 years applying what they learn in the permaculture course before they work professionally, especially if they did not have much prior experience.

Some people have already been doing a lot of this work and feel confident that they can serve the permaculture community by doing quality work, and they can put out the sign as soon as they graduate. 


Permaculture terms used to describe design work


Permaculture Swales

In Permaculture, a swale is a method used to harvest rain water passively.  They are long shallow man made trenches that run along the contour of the land.  This means that swales are perfectly level.  Swales do not direct water flow, but they collect water.  The soil removed from the swale is piled on the downhill side to make a slightly raised bank or berm.  When rain falls, the water runs along the surface of the topsoil, and it will collect in the depression of a swale.  The water will slowly seep into the soil and collect in underground pockets that will supply the roots of plants through weeks and even months without rain.


If rainfall is heavy or fast enough, the water will also slowly seep into, through, and maybe overflow the berm.  Since the swale and berm are levels, the water gently slips over the edge, and no erosion takes place.  The water then travels downhill to the next swale.


Permaculture Edges

As noted in the principles above, ‘Use edges & value the marginal’, edge is the interface between two different systems or microclimates. This interface is extremely important to observe and work with in order to maximise the use of natural forces such as wind, evaporation, growth, biodiversity interaction etc. The list is endless, and every design has its functions and potential relationships which can be improved upon.

Edge could also be used to situations beyond the physical levels such as in descriptions and studies of social structures, relationships, and evolution of cults, etc.


Forest Gardens and Agroforestry

In ecological farming one moves away from the unnatural practice of mono-crop cultivation to follow on nature’s examples of growth based on poly-cultures ie; varieties of shapes, patterns, colours, genres, structures, etc.

These varieties are rich in complex relationships which take many forms including plants, fungi, soil organisms, micro-organisms, insects, birds and also larger animals.


In permaculture we are particularly interested in beneficial relationships between organisms in order to replicate and use their principles productively thus using nature to aid our diversity and productivity.


Forest gardens thus use these relationships (also known as guilds) to create productive gardens that can easily support the needs of the system (garden) within the system itself. These gardens can be as small or large as one likes and vary on their designs and functions from place to place, especially when one compares between the tropics to temperate or the southern

Mediterranean climate.

On the other hand, Agro-forestry is the combination of agricultural practice with that of forestry. It is a better form of land use than conventional agriculture and ties in perennial with annual crops. Projects under this description can also vary substantially depending on various factors.

How I found clarity for my future with an Introduction to Permaculture Course


Earlier this year, I participated in Peppi’s Permaculture Immersion Course at Zeebarn in Portugal, after I had joined him online for his Introduction to Permaculture course in the Spring. In this article, I would like to share some of the characteristics of permaculture with you, and why permaculture and my time at Zeebarn have made a huge impact on how I can approach a future full of abundance for myself and everyone around me.

About Me

My name is Anne. I landed in Portugal like so many others I have been meeting here. Abandoned my career temporarily during the pandemic, while I was headed to Portugal for a week vacation and was forced to grow some roots and stay put. It was maybe the best place to face lockdown, I was living in a beautiful valley surrounded by native Portuguese flora and fauna, close to one of the world’s most famous surf spots and in a community of people that were looking for a slower
way to live life. I had spent the last decade jet setting around the globe; a passion for exploring the outdoors, new places and cultures combined with working in the travel industry made for an exciting nomadic life. It was a blast, but also tiring, stressful and a way of life that I knew had to give way to more sustainable ways at some point. When I landed in Portugal, I decided this was my opportunity to feel into this, observe myself and my surroundings and start exploring what regenerative living means.


How I found Permaculture in Portugal

I started growing my own food, which, except for having had a few pot tomatoes and peppers during a summer in Melbourne, I had zero experience with. Growing food from seed? Companion plants and planting by the moon? Nitrogen-rich soil? None of these things had ever been part of my reality before and a whole new universe started unfolding itself right in front of me. It was exciting, confusing, and overwhelming. At the same time, I experienced incredible calmness when I was caring for my tomatoes. Connectedness when I was mulching the beds barefoot. Contentedness and achievement with no need for external recognition, when I harvested my first ever beetroot and prepared delicious salads with it. When I visit the place that I no longer live at now, I look at my herb garden with motherly pride – because this is something the plants and I created together to feed us; because the herbs are thriving in their environments, having re-grown after a harsh and cold winter. I started creating a connection with nature that I did not know to exist. I was hungry for more, so I started reading about Permaculture and met Peppi.



How Permaculture works

‘Permaculture can be the language of what nature is trying to tell us, to make life easier for ourselves.’ Over the course of 6 days, Peppi taught us how to hear, feel, smell, and read this ancient language of nature. He opened the door to understanding that everything is connected: We must care for the earth, because without it, there can be no place to live for us; we must care for ourselves to become our best version, so we can share and care for the people and things around us; we must always work towards creating balance, just like every other living thing around us is doing, in collaboration rather than competition and with simple yet incredibly complex elements in every little detail. In following the 3 ethics of Permaculture (earth care, people care, fair share), we can re-discover our ability to observe and value things properly, and as a result we will create abundance, resilience, and diversity for ourselves and everyone, like nature does it over and over again. It may sound like a utopic dream, but these 3 ethics and its 12 permaculture principles can equip us with all the theoretical and practical knowledge to make this way of thinking a reality. They are so simple yet complex, that they can even be applied when managing any multinational corporation. Because Permaculture is for everyone because everything and everyone is connected, because we are all part of nature.
‘It is the language of what nature is trying to tell us, to make life easier for ourselves.’

About Peppi’s Permaculture Course

With an abundance of patience, hands-on examples, and lots of fun, Peppi showed us that we can apply the Permaculture methods in growing our own food as well as in managing relationships with others and ourselves. We mulched, built swales and compost, we created guild charts for the trees and plants at Zeebarn, we designed urine-distribution systems and learnt about soil and the history of permaculture. We went for meditation walks in nature, philosophised, laughed, cried, and celebrated together. Our diverse group of eight students from all walks of life grew together, connected by the wish to learn, to create solutions, give back, and find new ways.

To top it off, Peppi’s partner Melania gifted us every day with delicious and wholesome vegan feasts, created with much love and following the way of macrobiotic cooking. We were learning in the beautiful hand-built barn surrounded by nature, were nourished with wonderful food, rested well in the comfortable dormitory or our own tents and applied our new knowledge in Peppi’s backyard. It was the perfect combination of sharing and learning, giving, and taking, surrounded by supporting and like-minded people. The perfect recipe to see the abundance and experience love and open our eyes to a way of living that seeks solutions rather than problems, take responsibility for our own actions and be kind to ourselves and those around us.






Can Permaculture be the right choice for you?

If I can give you one advice – learn how you can apply Permaculture to your life: if you do not want to read the complete book ‘Permaculture One’ by Bill Mollisson, you can read articles, or connect with people like Peppi. If you decide to make Zeebarn the place where you study permaculture, he can teach you the how’s and what’s to this philosophy during his next course in October. You do not have to be a permaculture farmer yet, already grow food in raised or wicking beds in your own backyard, or on your balcony to apply Permaculture to your life. During these uncertain times that meant huge changes to every part of my life, this week gave me the clarity and direction I was looking for to trust in the process and be positive about the future, and I am confident that with an open mindset, you can experience this too!

You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook & on my website.

Planting some seed
Eating together
Healthy Food
Community circle

Greetings .


Wow it's been a while (since my last blog here) and so much has happened at Zee Barn.


We are just  in the middle of our Yoga retreat and enjoying the group energy and space together.  We also had a great permaculture course not long ago and it's been a blast seeing  great people achieving positive changes in their lives.

Really looking forward to the continue this journey as it unfolds  and connects us together.



Cosy room

Welcome  Lovely Human

It's the middle of January, it's cold outside and it's also the first new moon of 2021. Nature asks for us to hibernate for a bit, slow down, and enjoy the womb, the cave, the cosy skins we build around us in order to feel comfortable.

And so I listened to Mother Nature and slowed down from the heavy physical work I was doing at ZEE and came inside. I lit up a   fire, a candle and incense while made the space nice and cosy. I brewed up a nice herbal tea and I'm now inspired to write up the first blog of ZEE. WOW! 


So much has been done since just a few months. There has been a lot of sacrifices already, but there has also been a lot of growth, a lot of exchanges and many great experiences have been shared by all those who have visited and those who have been helping us out manifest ZEE's vision.


The sound of the rustling leaves in the wind outside has caught my attention...yes its slightly windy today, which brings a different song of natural sounds from the last frosty still days that we had.

Winter! One of the four seasons that can be enjoyed and cherished is not sought after by many people I know, however, I'm actually really enjoying it, and as I remember someone telling me once: there is no such thing as bad weather, there is just bad or insufficient equipment. And yes, I can say I completely agree with that.


When I look at nature and  I use my natural instincts and sharpened intuition, I can experience the perfection of design all around me. It's really quite simple, but in our modern world, we have complicated our ways of thinking and behaving, and so many times we find it difficult to adapt to the changing seasons, even though they are a natural repeating pattern.


So my focus for today's message is about embodying simplicity and slowing down. Yes, I need this reminder to myself, especially when many things are happening around me and the world seems to be going at a crazy speed. I know I can ask Nature and check-in, while I ground myself and stay connected.


I would like to share this with you!
I would like to invite you to do the same. Stay grounded lovely human, stay grounded...turn to Nature and invite her in your heart. 
Let's help each other in these turbulent times and inspire each other to stand in times of need and rest in times of need also.


And so on that note, I shall conclude this first piece  of writing and have a little rest before I write my webinar notes and share my little sharing.

Sending you love from ZEE BARN. PEACE 🙏🏾​


Camp Fire
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