Practicum in Can Coll

After the PDC, we were invited by the Collserola Park Authority to Can Coll Environmental Education Centre, an old 15th-century farmhouse.

Can Coll fosters links between the park and schools, covering infant (3-6 years), primary (6-12) and secondary (12-16) education. The centre also organises programmes aimed at education science students and working teachers. Special schools also receive preferential treatment, with programmes designed specifically for them.


There we were welcomed by Joan Vilamú, and some new students joined the group for three days of design and implementation.

The first day Joan introduced us to the site and the educational aims of the centre. After a walk we split in 5 different groups to work on our site analysis. We tried to identify the major problems affecting Can Coll, such as erosion, lack of shade and soil degradation.


The second day Rosemary showed us different examples of Permacultural Educational Centres around the world to inspire us. After that she went on explaining various techniques to manage water in dry climates and prevent erosion. Then each group put together a design proposal trying to solve the problems detected the day before and enhance the learning experience of the kids.


The last day we discussed the implementation of the design proposals, trying to prioritize the most important points. After that, we took another walk with Rosemary around Can Coll to see how to do the different techniques on site. To finish, we took some group pictures and received wonderful gifts from Joan: a bottle of wine bottled in Can Coll and a book containing all the walking paths in Collserola Park.

Thanks to all the students, to Rosemary, Alfred and the Collserola Park and all the IaaC staff that has made this PDC & Practicum possible!




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PDC Day 9

The topic of the day was social permaculture.

Bioregionalism is the unit of self-sufficiency. We cannot be self-sufficient at the household level. In a bioregion, people have different skills (dentist, construction, farmers,…) The size is 100-10000 people. A city has several bioregions: the association of residents as informal networks.

Our aim is:

  • a stable bioregion
  • reduce import/export, which is impoverishing (e.g. migration of labor)
  • need political, financial and communication units
  • network all organisations (the important ones should have more links. If a node is cut (e.g. by government) the system keeps working)

Setting up of bioregions:

  • make an inventory of local resources
  • create an ethical directory
  • start a local economy (LETS,…)

The next topic was land access. The land access should be granted. Some land access strategies are: the oxfam model, community supported agriculture, city as farm, farm and garden clubs, WWWOOF, tourism as land access, plan for climate change, lease not shorter than 5 years.

The final topic of the day was how to make income from our land. There are endless possibilities, but some principles are:

  • be ruthlessly realistic about your strategies
  • work on short and long term strategies (set goals, develop indicators), fill market niches, produce quality goods, start small
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PDC Day 8

We started the day speaking about disasters, which are extreme negative events that affect a whole community. Following the ethics, we should:

  • save lives first, then property
  • make full disaster plans
  • use precautionary principle: if there may be a risk, it will certainly happen

Our design aims are:

  • to reduce extent or intensity
  • to endure or avoid
  • to prepare for several disasters (2 most likely than one)
  • to apply zones and sector planning

Any disaster can have natural or cultural causes, and is the trigger for a secondary disaster. Floods are a natural disaster, that can lead to epidemics. Hunger is a cultural disaster, that can lead to migration. Other disaster may be: fire, earthquake, nuclear, oil spill, economic,…


On our site, we should be prepared to face disasters. For this, we can select the 2 main ones likely to occur, and make a disaster profile:

  • cause
  • frequency (how often)
  • predictability
  • intensity
  • time to onset (what kind of warnings)
  • duration (how long it lasts)
  • primary and secondary consequences
  • scope of impact (range)
  • destructive potential
  • controllability (planning, how prepared we are)

Before any disaster, we should:

  • decide who stays, who leaves (children, elderly people,…)
  • emergency supply
  • safe place
  • escape routes
  • hygiene
  • teams (define tasks: who takes care of who)

During the disaster we should consider:

  • food (dry food, nuts, carbohydrates)
  • health (stay active, play)
  • water
  • warmth and light
  • communication

After the disaster, we should be aware of:

  • water filtering (boil during 10 minutes)
  • children
  • wash buildings before occupying them again
  • house the most needy first
  • total visibility of received aid
  • rebuild to better withstand

We then had a session an aquaculture. The reasons to raise fish are proteins, biodiversity, biomass, water storage. Our aim is to restore and increase the fish stocks wherever possible.

It’s important to create good conditions before putting the fishes, therefore our pond should:

  • be 2m deep in the middle
  • have a pH 7-9
  • have productive/edible water plants
  • have refuges
  • 1/3 of the pond should be covered by water cleaning plants

Captura de pantalla 2013-07-08 a les 14.42.07

In the afternoon each group works in their design project for Valldaura Labs.

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PDC Day 7

Today we talked about the Zone 4. it’s the zone where we put the restorative forest. The products of this forest can be summarized with the seven F’s: food, fuel, fodder, fruits, flowers, fibers, and fertilizers.

In permaculture, 40% of the site should be under forest cover, either productive forest, or untouched forest (zone 5). Each tree’s harvested product should last as long as it took to grow, which means that we don’t want to burn a 200 old oak, but rather use it for furniture. For firewood we can use trees that have the ability to coppice (resprout), like Casuarina, Eucalyptus, willow,…


A slope greater than 20 degree should be forested, and if we have a good access we can put a restorative forest there. If the slope is greater than 45 degrees, we should have an untouched forest because it’s too steep to work in.

A food forest has 7 layers:

  • canopy trees
  • fruit trees
  • bushes
  • herbs
  • ground cover
  • roots
  • vines

also in the tropics we have an extra palm layer.

Captura de pantalla 2013-07-08 a les 13.44.26

When we start with a new forest, to accelerate succession we should plant N-fixing trees and pioneers. Fencing the area, or at least the best trees, is important in the early stage, otherwise wild animals may damage it. If the soil is bare, cover it with living mulch. Once there is enough shade, we can add few animals.

We got useful information on how to start designing.

First, we start we zone 5: in all boundaries, along all rivers, in tops of mountain, on slope greater than 45 degrees and along roads.


Then we continue with the other zones for example in zone 4 on slopes greater than 20 degrees, then zones 1 and 2 and finally at the end we do zone 3, which will get greater yields and stability of production (farming in clearings)

Finally we came to zone 5, which has several important functions:

it’s a model we can observe and imitate

  • climate moderation
  • erosion control
  • biodiversity
  • slow long release of water
  • wildlife corridor: allow genetic evolution/adaptation in times of climate change. Also it’s a species refuge.

When we want to start a forest on a site invaded by weeds, we need to take action, especially minimum disturbance techniques:

  • start on the outside, remove weeds and replace them immediately with good species.
  • Throw seed pellets from top
  • use branch cover: branches with seeds are placed on ground. The seeds will eventually germinate
  • hydromulch

Finally we had a client interview with  Nuria to know about what they want from the site.


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PDC Day 6


Today we began with a mid-course evaluation where everyone had the opportunity to express their own opinions about  the course and the organization, like transport, accommodation, length of day, teacher’s presentation…

After that we moved on to Zone 3.

In this zone is where we find the orchard where we only plant fruit and nut trees. Also, it is the area where we can establish the food forest: an integrative forest that mimics a natural forest and its seven layers, where we grow more edible species.

This Zone have 5 principles:

  • maximize organic matter production
  • keep the soil covered
  • no till
  • maintain biodiversity (no kill)
  • replace more than we extract

A Food forest is:

  • Based on guilds (interrelationship of fixed and mobile species).
  • More successful when there is thoughtful observation and local knowledge.
  • More resistant to pests than a normal orchard.
  • built with mostly perennial and multifunctional plants.

Inputs (needs): water, OM, pollinators, legumes/nutrients, protection (wild animals, pests, fire).

Afterwards, we split in groups and we did a list of species according to climate (drylands, temperate and tropical), and calendar.

Rosemary told us about the management of the animals in zone 2-3.

what do they eat/need? Which are their functions? Which are they products? How much land does they need? Who will take care of them?


We took the bees as an example and we looked for:

- Needs: home, pollen, clean water, wind protection, sun, no horse, no rododendron, protection from parasites (mice…)

- Yields: honey, propolis, wax, pollen, royal jelly, divide often.

- Siting of the beehive: facing east, not in a windy place, entrance door must be 1m high for protection…

- Flowering calendar of fruit trees (major source of pollen), herbs, bulbs (early food for bees)

To do some practice Rosemary teach us how to plant in a dryland areas:

  1. dig big hole (a bit more than tree)
  2. fill hole with water
  3. let some water in bottom
  4. put compost
  5. layer of straw (holds water)
  6. moist it
  7. thin layer of soil
  8. spread bottom of tree roots: teasing them gently
  9. no compost on top.
  10. Vertical mulch of hay in direction of prevailing winds
  11. watering in circle shape, where roots are trying to grow
  12. make a boomerang shape to harvest water
  13. create a guild around (pumpkin, N-fixing)
  14. heavily mulch, without touching bark (breathing)





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