It’s a while now since I last posted on this blog. There’s been a lot going on in my personal life to account for that – and at the same time there’s been a lot going on in Patrick Whitefield Associates to make up for it.
Back at the end of April I fell ill with a chronic bone marrow condition. It stayed with me until suddenly, in early June, it took a turn for the worse. Immediately it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to teach on the permaculture design course that we had starting one week from then. What could we do? Cancel the course and disappoint 18 people who had already taken time off work, arranged child care, bought travel tickets and so on? The only alternative was for Cathy and me to ask the younger generation if they could step into our roles and put on the course without us.
Cari unveils the mysteries of soil on one of our courses.
The two key people were Caroline Aitken and Morwenna Lewis. Cari was at that point my co-teacher. For a number of years she’d been learning permaculture teaching with me and gradually taking on more and more sessions. But she’d never taken on the full responsibility of running a course. Morwenna’s main job was course cook but she’s a woman with many strings to her bow, skilled in peoplecare, energy training and the pastoral aspect of running a course. Could she take on some of the teaching and still keep the food flowing? Within 24 hours they both decided to go for it and Doug, Cari’s husband, took on the extra child care which made it all possible.
Sarah Pugh, who also studied the art of teaching permaculture with us, offered to do whatever sessions we wanted her to, though she was only just back from her tumultuous permaculture tour of the USA and must have needed a rest. And we had our usual range of inspiring guest teachers, this time reinforced by Aranya.
The course was a great success and the end-of-course feedback was glowing. I felt a wonderful sense of achievement at having created a team and a format which are so good that they can produce a first class course without me even being there.
It has taken years to build up the team we have now, and I must say luck plays some part in it. Morwenna and Cari are exceptional people, highly skilled, experienced, willing to learn and lovely characters. We just had the luck that they decided first to study with us and then to come back and work with us.
The format of our courses also plays a part. We’ve been putting them on for nearly 25 years now and over that time we’ve deliberately set out to create a course which gives people the best possible grounding in practical permaculture, both in terms of the course contents and of the teaching methods we use to deliver them. The venue also contributes to the package. Ragmans Farm is an innovative permaculture site and we’ve been working with them for so long now that things flow seamlessly every time.
All this is, of course, a huge turnaround for me personally. Before I fell ill I was thinking about retirement and vaguely trying to cut down on the work I do. But this illness has imposed a more urgent timetable on me. I will be keeping on the Land Course Online myself but the time has come to hand the residential courses on to the next generation.
Cathy and Patrick, with Rico.
In September we have a permaculture design course and Cari will be the leading teacher on it. Since my health is much improved now I will be teaching too, at least one session each day, focussing in on key subjects, and Cathy will complement what I do, as ever, with her peoplecare sessions. Beyond September I can’t say for certain whether we personally will be there. But one thing I can say for certain: the course we have created, taught by our own team, most certainly will.