tomas's blog

Why and how I teach

Submitted by tomas on Tue, 03/26/2019 - 18:20
Seeing as I advertise all these courses on my website I thought it would be good to share share how I came into teaching and how I approach it these days. I started teaching in 1996, just a year after my permacultrue design course (PDC), with all the zeal of a fresh convert. Luckily I began small (if not slow) with short workshops at gatherings and events. Through this I quickly realised that enthusiasm alone is not enough, and that I needed to think about how I teach as well as what I am trying to get across. I was fortunate to hear about a teacher training offer during a PDC at Keveral Farm that summer, and I joined the course run by Chris Evans, Mike Feingold and Bryn Thomas. All three of them were deeply inspiring, and I learned a lot from their different approaches. The main lesson I took away from the sessions I taught myself was that less is more when it comes to “talking at” people. Some people are naturally good at lecturing, but I realised that’s not me. Over the years this has led me to seeing learning as a shared adventure, where my role became to create spaces where people can explore a theme or subject together. This way, learning becomes a conversation rather than a trasnsmission of knowledge. In the words of Paolo Freire, the great Brazilian educator, “the teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is him/herself taught in dialogue

Hazel guild - forest garden underplanting

Submitted by tomas on Thu, 02/21/2019 - 16:47
One reason I started researching for Forest Gardening in Practice was to work out how to retrofit an existing patch of land with trees and shrubs and turn it into an edible polyculture. Seven years later I think I am beginning to get somewhere. So here is an account of my first experiment, literally on my back doorstep. Two years ago this part of our kitchen garden was overrun with nettles and other volunteers. I am optimistic that this summer we will have turned it into a productive and pretty patch near the garden gate. The hazel is well established and produces a wealth of nuts most years on the spreading branches. The side effect is a lot of shade underneath, which was mostly colonised by nettles, yellow archangel and a form of chicory. The chicory is rampant in this garden if left to itself and I found it completely inedible when I tried. I decided to rein it in and create a shade guild underneath the hazel, as part of my retrofitting experiment. Last pring, in preparation I forked out the nettles and a profusion of chicory roots. I decided to leave the yellow archangel in the corner it had made for itself, as I quite like its yellow flowers and variegated leaves. It's not particularly tasty, but it has its uses in keeping the nettles out of this area. Next I moved four rhubarb plants from a different part of the land, where comfrey and nettle always seemed
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