The First Week
The PDC I’m running here in Tagaytay has finished its first week. Students are leaving the farm today to explore Tagaytay as it’s their mid-course rest day. I’ve now got some time to write this blog. The course kicked off a week ago with an interesting mix of students. Half the course is from Taiwan. We have a couple from Hong Kong and the rest are Filipinos from all across this country. The combined personalities of each class make up a kind of unique entity. Each course is different and this one is very interesting.
The course always kicks off with the students introducing themselves and telling the group why they want to learn permaculture. Some have land, some want to help the earth and some just want to expand their mind and skills. Whatever reason they have for coming they have chosen Green Warrior Permaculture because they want the hands-on skills as well as the information.
The second day is tool day. We bring out a wide range of tools and I give the group a safety lesson on tool use and the best way to use the tool so you conserve energy and get the job done. Many students have never handled a simple hoe or shovel. I show them how to lay the steel rakes teeth down in the “safety position” not upwards in the “attack position”. For the next 2 weeks these guys are going to be using these tools so I start them out with the right handling skills.
The next step is making A-frames. I divide the class into 3 groups with an interpreter in each. I show them how to make and test an A-frame which we will use to mark level contours for swale making. Using saws and hammers for the first time, I see some crazy styles and some potentially injurious methods of cutting and hammering. Without causing a fuss I give them a personal demo until they have the skill. It’s good to be patient and mentor the students that need help on this tool training day. It will pay off during the rest of the course.
With their new found skills I lead them down to the demo site to dig their first swale. Using the A-frame, each group learns to peg out the contour and mark out the level line where the swale will be dug. I dig the first half of the swale to give them a template to copy. As soon as I step back they rush in, hoes swinging and dirt flying. It’s pretty funny to watch people so enthusiastic about digging! I keep well back as these guys are just beginners and their tool skills are pretty amature at this stage. In a short time a swale appears on the slope and another group begins to dig theirs. Some students are detailed to collect mulch and others remove grass and roots from the newly dug soil. Once the swales are complete, its photo time. In this age of electronic media and everyone carrying a camera, photo time is mandatory. Green Warriors are about action so at least they have the proof now they have completed their first swale!
Day 3 and we start work prepping raised garden beds on the organic production farm site. Students are shown how we grow organic vegetables in typhoon resistant mini shade tunnels. They reshape the beds and ensure the beds are fertilized and mulched before planting the seedlings for each batch of vegetables. As the sun rises in the sky, so does the temperature. I see some of the Taiwanese beginning to show signs of overheating so it’s down tools and into the shade for a debrief. They are tired but they are loving it! I hear lots of laughing and excitement from the group as we carry the tools back to our classroom. My local Filipino farm manager is amazed that people can enjoy digging so much.
The afternoons are spent in our indoor/outdoor classroom. You need patience and the ability to break a concept down into bite sized chunks for the interpreter when you are teaching in 2 languages. Some concepts are difficult to translate into Mandarin so I have to rephrase some information if Koala, my Taiwanese interpreter gets stuck. Drawing a picture on the board helps most of the time.
Rhonda Hammer, our nutrition specialist from Australia gives the class a lesson on the hidden dangers in the so called foods available from the industrial food chain. I’m sure none of the students will ever eat in a fast food restaurant again after this. Our own food is mostly organic produce grown on the farm here.
By the end of the first week the students are swinging their tools like professional farmers. Their confidence is growing and the cultural and language barriers are melting away. I see Taiwanese and Filipino students working on a task together using hand signals to communicate. A spirit of camaraderie prevails as they co-create together.
I hear we might get a typhoon in 2 days. We might get a chance to see how our mini shade tunnels stand up against the storm. This is a climate change resistance strategy. If the typhoon gets us it will certainly make this a course to remember! There’s nothing like a bit of real life training to drive the message home. One week more and this batch of Green Warriors will be ready to tackle the solutions to the world’s problems. Go Green Warriors!