Permaculture Practicum Course Outline

Week 1 : Reading the Forested Landscape

Participants will utilize site assessment tools and observation methods to read the past, present, and future of the forested landscape.  We will discuss forest management practices that are both regenerative and provide useful and marketable woodland products.  We will also look at forest dynamics of fire, mixed hardwood and conifer forest ecosystems, restoration forestry practices, and managed old growth systems. We will use observation techniques to assess the history of the forest ecosystem and understand the environmental and cultural processes that inform the current forest context. Using stand survey methods, optical survey tools, and monitoring techniques, we will assess the present plant and animal communities amid diverse forest types and cruise the forest to determine the historic and future timber volume and growth.  Students will use this data to establish timber harvest prescriptions that do not compromise the future productivity of the forest.  The week will culminate in a collectively developed harvest plan for a section of Aprovecho’s forest.  This plan will be based on the information collected during the week and include future board foot growth projections, prescriptions for sustainable timber harvest by tree species, and opportunities to utilize non-timber forest products.

Week 2 : Sustainable Timber Management

This week will cover the principles and techniques that guide sustainable timber management in Cascadia in the context of carrying out a selective timber harvest in Aprovecho’s forest.  Building off of the management prescriptions developed in the prior week, students will work with local forestry experts to carry out a selective timber harvest in a section of Aprovecho’s forest.  Students will learn the ecological principles behind selecting trees for harvest and learn tree falling (hand and power tools), yarding (rigging systems, wheeled arches, and horses), and milling techniques.

Week 3 : Agroforestry and Forest Gardening

Agroforestry’s holistic approach to agriculture helps us diversify our yields and increases the overall ecological health of our forest and farm landscapes.  This week’s content builds on the techniques learned in the prior two weeks by moving out of the forest and into the woodland edge between closed canopy conifer forest and the open field. We will explore the applications of windbreaks, hedgerows, streamside woodland buffers, woodland grazing, and perennial forage systems to forest and farm systems.  Students will design and install a forest garden and learn ongoing maintenance techniques while working in both young and mature forest gardens on Aprovecho’s site.  Students will also explore animal integrations into forestry and participate in the planting of a sheep-grazed nut orchard surrounding the Aprovecho residential zone.

Week 4 and 5 : Planning and Installing Permaculture Earthworks

These two weeks will leave students with the competency to plan, install, and manage water harvesting earthworks in the Pacific Northwest.  The schedules is designed to follow through the complete process of earthwork establishment.  Students will use observation methods and survey tools to determine the best placement and layout of earthworks, work with hand tools and excavation equipment to install and upkeep systems, and followup installation with plant establishment and aquaculture strategies.

Week 6 : Habitat Restoration

This week will cover the principles of habitat restoration in streams, oak woodlands, and riparian forests from holistic perspectives rooted in the most current ecological best practices. We will tour on-going restoration projects in Aprovecho’s waterways and oak woodlands and restoration practices including check dam installation, oak woodland stewardship, and riparian revegetation will be applied in each of these systems. We will also discuss current funding sources and regional organizations that can assist landowners with their restoration projects.

Week 7 : Synthesis, Wrap up, and Complete Forest Plan