PDC’s – Free Online vs. Paid For Location Courses?


PDC’s – Free Online vs. Paid For Location Courses?

Ever wondered why on-location Permaculture Certification Courses (PDC’s) charge the big bucks, while their kissing’ cousins, online PDC courses, are free, or practically nothing to “attend”?

The following is an excellent general primer on PDC’s, and explains clearly and fully why live PDC’s are well worth spending your hard earned pesos on: (click link)


January PDC (Permaculture Certification Course) in Mexico!

January PDC (Permaculture Certification Course) in Mexico!

view of beach and lower hamlet

Join us for this transformative experience in a welcoming, traditional village

 – just steps from one of Mexico’s most pristine, swimmable beaches! Jan. 10-24, 2016

Come Grow Your World!

Learn regenerative food growing, energy production, natural building,

and water systems, adaptable to any climate.

This is the Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) course laid out by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and refined since it’s inception in the late 1980’s. Participants receive 72-hours of theory and hands-on practical training not possible with online courses.

Camping, all meals, and ground transport provided. Lodging upgrades, early bird discounts, & limited scholarships available.


Andrew Jones: Founding Member of BajaBioSana, and PDC Instructor on 5 continents.

Shenaqua Jones: Permaculture Instructor, Yoga, Health & Raw Foods Educator.

Axel Gutierrez: Master’s Degree in sustainability. Trained with Bill Mollison & David Holmgren.

Daniel Gair: Natural Building & Solar Instructor

Holly Hunter: Artisan Cheese Maker and Animal Care Instructor.

For Further Info/Registration: www.PDC2016.com

Natural Finishes Workshop at Proyecto San Isidro



 Top Above: One of several new building projects underway at Proyecto San Isidro featuring a wonderfully crafted “mashup” of Cob, Straw Bale, Traditional Adobe, and Pajareque (including bottles) construction techniques. Natural building has it all: minimal environmental impact, lowered construction cost, long lasting durability, beauty, and comfort (earthen buildings are well known by Mexicans as being “fresco” (cooler in hot weather than contemporary cement based construction). So what’s not to love???

Bottom Above: Agave and fields of Rancho El Pardo, home of the inspired San Isidro project.


I’m happy to report that the movement to pursue sustainable living practices is gaining ground in Mexico. This last week (October 2014) I attended a natural finishes workshop at the inspired Proyecto San Isidro at Rancho El Pardo  in Central Mexico, along with more than twenty others from all around the country and representing a terrific variety of Mexican social strata. The workshop itself was extremely well organized and covered topics from natural plasters ( primarily variations on mixes of builder’s lime, earth, sand, straw, and cow poo) to the making of paint, applying frescos (natural pigments painted directly into fresh lime plaster), waterproof tadelakt (a burnished lime surface used for showers, sinks, and other applications where waterproof finish is needed), and earthen floors.

One thing quite amazing to experience and be part of is the growing web of connections in the Canadian, U.S., and Mexican natural building movements. Much of it originated with Llanto Evans, who single handedly saved cob construction techniques which had been a standard of construction in the British Isles for centuries, but which had gone virtually extinct during the 1900’s. Lanto, and his wife Linda breathed new life into this wonderful building art when they transported the knowledge back to their home in Oregon in the 1980’s, and began experimenting with more sculptural use of the materials than had been used previously in the U.K. It was the combination of practicality and the new artistic expression that Lanto & Linda brought to it, that captured imaginations, and propelled the medium to new life. Lanto later introduced Cob to the Las Cañadas sustainable community in Vera Cruz state of Mexico, as well as builder Pat Hennebery of British Columbia and many others in the Pacific Northwest, and a cross pollination of builders migrating between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico has been evolving ever since.

Like much of the other explosion in cross cultural mashups happening in recent years, the new generation of natural builders are combining cob with other techniques such as straw bale, super adobe, compressed earth block, rammed earth, traditional adobe and others. This all seems to fit the new generation of Mexicans well as they push to cast off their machismo heritage and find identity more relevant to new global realities we’re all grappling with. And no where I know of can this cross pollination of cultural and generational building styles be found in more beautiful expression than at Proyecto San Isidro.

Following are photo’s and descriptions of the various techniques and material mixes taught at the workshop:


above: Proyecto San Isidro Director & Natural building Architect Alejandra Caballo demonstrating a sample of hardened cob mixes.




above: Guest instructor and fresco muralist Pedro at pigment making demonstration (pigments later used in a separate paint making class).

above: Various naturally occurring mineral elements used for making paint pigments.




above: Participants examining earthen floor samples.




above: Cob, Straw Bale, & Pajareque composting toilet room under construction.




above Resident Maestro (master builder & teacher) Guero demonstrating the application of fermented cow dung exterior finish coat.  



above: Cob serpent atop Pajareque wall

Unusual  example of a vaulted boveda ceiling constrcuted with traditional adobe blocks rather than fired brick.



Urban Permaculture in the Mexican Highlands

I’d like to share an inspired project friends of ours Seth & Cris Phillips and their daughter Katia, have going in Guanajuato, a jewel of a city in Mexico’s central highlands. 
Several years ago Seth & Cris purchased their large, rundown city lot in the heart of bustling Guanajuato and set to work. The first couple of years were spent tearing down numerous, decrepit, old adobe structures, and creating a comfortable house and guest cottage in their stead. Where most “normal” people would have done away with the old adobe, Seth, a committed recycler, painstakingly stacked and saved the adobe blocks which have since been repurposed into a beautiful expansion of the living space. Over the years the family has also created wonderful Permaculture gardens and other systems (although I don’t think I’ve ever heard Seth or Cris call it that exactly).
Seth, Cris, Katya, & Pecos
Seth, Cris, Katya & Pecos at home in their urban garden…
Every time Holly & I visit there are fun new additions to take in, and we always find the project inspiring in its modestly. In particular, and unlike me, Seth is a minimalist who always searches out low tech solutions to energy & water usage challenges. While swapping ideas, we often share a friendly partier about his ultra basic approach vs. the more costly and complicated solutions I am usually prone to. “Why go to the time and expense of building an elaborate solar cooker”, Seth will chide me, “when a simple foil reflector blanket and black, cast iron pot can cook almost anything”? Hmmm, perhaps he has a point!
During the early renovations Seth created grey water storage and a network of direct irrigation channels and tubing to help sustain the various plantings during Guanajuato’s dry stretches which can last for months on end. Gradually, shade from the 30+ fruit trees is replacing the harsh noontime glare, and the walled, interior garden space is now a profusion of vegetable gardens, pathways, and chicken coops. Every day Seth feeds the chickens buckets of fruits and vegetables discarded from the neighborhood fruteria.  Once a week the resulting organic material is shoveled out of the chicken run and into a compost that is used to improve the soil.
The Gardens…
Along the way Seth has also puttered around with various low tech energy saving add-ons including a home-made solar food dehydrator, solar water heater, solar distiller, a rocket oven, a “humanure” style composting toilet, and a hay box cooker.
The most recent addition is a 20,000 litre water collection cistern capable of spanning the ever longer water outages the city suffers. 
As the oasis grows greener, Seth and Cris remain committed to simplicity and a pragmatic yet seemingly joyful exploration a the good life, right there, in the heart of the city!  

Searching Sustainably!

ecoasia logo

This is a very cool search engine we’ve started using and want to pass along! Super easy to install as your primary browser, Clear, concise search results with fewer ads, and in exchange for forgoing Google’s goofy grafix, you’ll get to watch the number of trees your search clics help plant! Now that’s what we call a worthwhile trade off!


Here’s the link to get started: http://www.ecosia.org then select “more” in the lower left corner.

And here’s a link to their blog showing how our clicks get turned into planted trees! http://blog.ecosia.org/post/91850071905/the-trees-for-the-forest-more-than-700-000

A few factoids from the ECOSIA website

* 80% of the ECOSIA ad revenue goes to the rainforest tree planting program

* The funds from ECOSIA have resulted in over 670 thousand trees planted to date.

* Proof of ECOSIA donations audit is reported to The Nature Conservancy

So what’s not to love???? Give it a try…

Sustainable Travel, Volunteering, & Living in Mexico

Thoughts on the pursuit of living sustainably SOB (south of the border), plus a vetted listing of cultural, environmental, and educational programs where you can actively give back to the environment and local communities that you visit while in Mexico! 


Do you want to make your trip to Mexico truly memorable and one of meaning? Do you want to contribute to real sustainability while having fun and seeing the country? If so, then this post is for you!

The following is a listing of places where your touring dollar or volunteering efforts can really make a difference. These listings are not typical eco-tourist destinations operating loosely under the guise of being “green” or culturally beneficial. Rather, these sites all have proactive environmental sustainability, education, or relief services as core aspects of their operating mission. These organizations have been individually selected and vetted as places where you can enhance your experience of mexico by actively participating in legitimate projects that really do provide a benefit to the planet.

Please note that many of these locations are working organic farms, ranches, research field stations, schools, etc. and, as such, take volunteers or other visitors on an advanced approval basis only. Unless noted, please be sure to contact the site ahead to make any necessary arrangements for your visit.

I hope that you’ll comment on your experiences, and suggest your own secret spots for helping to have (our) touring dollars & volunteering efforts make a positive difference! This list will be updated frequently and your suggestions will be added. Please provide links, or any other contact info in the comments section (click on comments bubble above).

Bien Viaje! Enjoy the tour!

Pacific Coast

Nearest City: Tepic / Sayulita

Type of Visit: school + center for preservation of indigenous peoples (Huichol) / volunteer work exchange (2 month min. + spanish). Advance arrangements suggested

Name: The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival

website/ http://www.thehuicholcenter.org/about-us/

contact info: Susana Valadez  huicholcenter@juno.com


State: Jalisco (El Tuito)

Nearest City: Puerto Vallarta

Type of Visit: eco tourism + education / extensive tropical gardens & organic restaurant. No advance booking required.

Name: Vallarta Botanical Gardens

website: http://www.vbgardens.org

contact info: info@vbgardens.org 

From within Mexico: 322-223-6182  From outside of Mexico: 011-52-322-223-6182


State: Jalisco (Mayto)

Nearest City: Puerto Vallarta / El Tuito

Type of Visit: working organic ranch + campground / guided horse, botanical and educational tours / volunteer work exchange programs (10 day min. – by application) + longer internships & homesteading options

Name: Rancho Sol y Mar

website/ www.ranchosolymar.com

contact info: ranchosolymar@gmail.com


State:  Jalisco (Mayto)

Nearest City: Puerto Vallarta / El Tuito

Type of Visit: Turtle Research Camp / nightly turtle releases in season (no advance booking required). Volunteer work exchange programs (contact for further info)

Name: Campamento de Tortugas

website: http://www.facebook.com/campamentomayto

contact info: israel_llamas@hotmail.com


State/Region: Jalisco / Lake Chapala

Nearest City: Chapala

Type of Visit: eco farm + education + community development / volunteer work exchange

Name: Acá Centro Ecológico

Website: www.greatgreens.org
Contact Info: Mari Prudent marimexico@gmail.com


Baja Peninsula (California Sur)

State: Baja (Cal Sur)

Nearest City: Cabo San Lucas

Type of Visit: eco tourism / working organic farm / eco visit or volunteer work exchange

Name: Rancho La Venta

Website: http://www.rancholaventa.com/RanchoLaVenta/Home.html

Contact info: rancholaventa1@me.com


State: Baja

Nearest City: San Jose Del Cabo

Type of Visit: wellness / creative arts center + organic farm + CSA / volunteer work exchange

Name: La Semilla / Raices y Brasos

Website: http://raicesybrazos.com/la-semilla/

Contact: local #: (624) 142-3794  US #: (802) 734-9808


State/Region: Baja

Nearest City: Tiajuana

Type of Visit: Cattle Ranch being converted to organic farm / volunteer work exchange

Name: El Papalote

Contact Info: 52+661-100-0000 (land) 52-1-664-194-7514 (cell)


State/Region: Baja California Sur

Nearest City: La Ribera

Type of Visit: botanical gardens / teaching center / volunteer work exchange

Name: Buena Fortuna Jardin Botanico

Website (blog) http://buenafortunapermaculture.wordpress.com

Contact Info: seeds.forever@gmail.com

Central + South Central Highlands

State: Guanajuato

Nearest City: San Miquel de Allende

Type of Visit: center for sustainability & appropriate technology workshops (contact for workshop schedules)

Name: iCATIS Mexico / Instituto Tierra y Cal

Website: http://www.icatis.org/catis-mexico

Contact info: Dylan Terrell  dylan@icatis.org


State: Oaxaca

Nearest City: Oaxaca

Type of Visit: off grid living / volunteer in exchange for learning about solar, chickens bee keeping, and grey water

Name: Sn Fco Lachigoló

Contact info: Daniel Ellsworth 52-1-951-142-1849


State/Region: Oaxaca

Nearest City: Oaxaca

Type of Visit: urban / relief work with children, primarily education. No advance necessary.

Name: Oaxaca Streetchildren Grassroots

Website/Contact Info: http://www.oaxacastreetchildrengrassroots.org yjimenez@oaxacastreetchildrengrassroots.org


State/Region: Oaxaca

Nearest City(Guevea de Humboldt)

Type of Visit: organic coffee plantation / volunteer work exchange

Name: Linda Vista / ConDoy Coffee Farm

Website (blog): http://condoycafe.wordpress.com


State/Region: Michoacan (Lake Pátzcuaro)

Nearest City: Pátzcuaro

Type of Visit: organic permaculture farm / retreat center / volunteer work exchange (2 wk. min.

Name: Bosque Village

Website/Contact info: bosquevillage@gmail.com


State: Mexico

Nearest City:  Malinalco / Tenancingo / Mexico City (D.F.)

Type of Visit: organic farm, school & retreat center / volunteer work exchange

Name: Rancho Cazahuate

website: www.centronierika.net

Contact Info: Anya Loizaga Velder www.ecomundi.info or


State: Chiapas (Teopisca)

Nearest City: San Cristóbal de Las Casas

Type of Visit: non-profit farm & community development / volunteer work exchange (1 month min.)

Name: El Porvenir

Website/Contact info: 52+9671107386 (w) / 52+1+ 9671149914(cell)


State/Region: Morelos

Nearest City: Amatlan

Type of Visit: Yoga/Healing Center

Name: Garden of Eden Healing Community

Website/Contact Info: http://www.moving-overseas-guide.com/2012-awakening.html

Yucatan Peninsula + Chiapas

State: Quintana Roo (Tulum)

Nearest City: Cancun / Playa Del Carmen

Type of Visit: Eco tourism, biological reserve park & lodging. Nature Tours. Reservations suggested.

Name: Sian Ka’an Bio Reserva

Website/Contact info: (http://www.visitsiankaan.com)


State: Quintanaroo

Nearest City: Playa Del Carmen

Type of Visit: Working organic farm / volunteer work exchange, 2 wk min.

Name: Tumbem Ha

Website: http://www.tumbenha.com(http://www.facebook.com/TumbenHa)

Contact info: alexis@tumbenha.com


State/Region: Yucatan

Nearest City: Vallodolid / Merida / Cancun

Type of Visit: Sustainability courses / volunteer work exchange (3 wk. min.)

Name: Lodgecol

Website: lodgecol.com


State: Qintana Roo

Nearest City: Cancun

Type of Visit: Environmental & cultural educational tours offered (fee).

Name: Project Mayan Encounter

website: (http://accessecotours.com/tours_7.html)


State/Region: Chiapas

Nearest City: San Cristóbal de Las Casas

Type of Visit: After school student center in indigenous Mayan Community.

Name: La Chozita / Chiapas Children’s Project

Website: http://www.lachozita.org/ourwork.html


Contact Info: info@lachozita.org

State/Region: Chiapas

Nearest City: Teopisca

Type of Visit: Education, community development, environmental protection

Name: El Porvenir

Contact Info: 52+9671107386


Nearest City: Playa Del Carmen

Type of Visit: rustic organic farm / volunteer work exchange

Name: Tumben Kuxtal

contact info: 52-1-998-133-4486

Gulf Coast

State: Veracruz

Nearest City: Xalapa

Type of Visit:  aquaponics classes / urban organic farm / volunteer work exchange

Name: Semilla Verde

website/contact info: http://www.facebook.com/semilla.huertoshidroponicos

Northern States

State: Chihuahua

Nearest City: Juarez

Type of Visit: orphanage / volunteer work exchange

Name: Rancho Los Amigos

contact info: Patti Kidd  ph: 407-232-3009


State/Region: Nuevo Leon

Nearest City: Monterey

Type of Visit: Relief Work (distribution of food & clothing)

Name: Ammac

Website: http://www.ammac.com.mx/#!inicio/mainPage

Contact Info: Info@ammac.com.mx


State/Region: Sonora

Nearest City: Puerto Penasco

Type of Visit: medical clinic staffing

Name: Manos de Ayuda

Website/Contact Info: webmaster@manosdeayuda.org U.S. (520) 760-8645

Pay-For Volunteer Programs

State: Various

Nearest City: N/A

Type of Visit:  Pay-for volunteer programs (teaching, medical, schools, etc. – $270 U.S. per week to participate)

Name: International Volunteer HQ

website/contact info: International Volunteer Head Quarters (volunteerhq.org)


S State: Various

Nearest City: N/A

Type of Visit:  Pay-for volunteer programs (promote peace & justice, work with children – $2,295 U.S. per week to participate)

Name: Global Volunteers

website/contact info: (www.globalvolunteers.org)


State: Nayarit & Jalisco

Nearest City: Puerto vallarta

Type of Visit: Pay-for conservation, cultural, and ecology-oriented “expeditions”.

Name: EcoTeach

website/contact info: http:



State: Various

Nearest City: N/A

Type of Visit: 72 listings for (mostly) pay-for volunteer service organizations operating in Mexico!

Name: GoAbroad

website/contact info: http://www.goabroad.com


State/Region: Various

Nearest City: N/A

Type of Visit: Eco tours + some coordination with local NGO’s for more extensive volunteer / service options.

Name: Glocal Travel

Website/Contact Info: info@glocaltravel.net http://www.glocaltravel.net

Passive Eco Tourism Destinations

In researching this post I came across numerous quasi eco tourist establishments that adorn themselves with green labeling but have little if anything to offer in the way of active environmental or cultural payback. Following is a link to tourist resort properties that appear to be offering truly low impact, mostly sustainable amenities, even if they don’t offer opportunities for active service.


Sustainable Mexico, an overview…

Sustainable Mexico? Is there such a thing? You bet! And as environmental protections, governmental programs, and NGO’s  are coming online at a rapid pace, I thought I’d create a blog that explores the various ways that we can all participate.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s buzz out to 80,000 feet for an overview.

First of all, let me ask if you are any of the following:

Are you a volunteer, looking for the right spot to make use of your fine energies. Do you want to meet others operating at the same frequency; working hard, having fun, doing right by the planet.

Are you an experienced Wwoofer, looking to take it to the next level. Maybe you’ve got a bit of money saved. Maybe not. Either way, Are you looking for some good soil and, hopefully, some good community, where you can sink your teeth in deeper? Plant some roots?

Are you a seasoned farm hand or CSA worker, looking to homestead or start your own business?

Are you looking for intentional community to join, or thinking of banding together with friends to buy some land and forming one?

Are you a farm family, facing yet another harsh northern winter; stacking wood, canning veggies, worrying about heating oil contracts, thinking that there must be another, better way…

Well, if you’re any of the above, or anything like it, then this blog is a place to share ideas, options, and stories of what you think about, struggle with, and strive for.

My disclosure: I’m not an expert with pat answers to the above. I have enough experience with setting up solar photovoltaics systems to give specific advice and recommendations on that. My wife and I have an off grid working ranch, campground, and sustainability education center in mexico (www.ranchosolymar.com) and have enough knowledge of animal care (specifically goats & chickens), food production, managing water resources, and running businesses, to have some good, solid, practical advice to offer on those fronts as well. But really, there are plenty of other informational sites where one can find advanced farming and off-grid living knowledge. Instead, with this blog, we’ll be exploring topics that we considered vital to our basic decision making process, but which we’ve been unable to find to be well considered elsewhere. We’ll also be getting postings from time to time from some of the volunteers that have helped us at our ranch, to get their perspective, to find out what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully we will  be drilling down more deeply into specific sustainability topics as the blog it evolves, hopefully offering some fresh perspectives and some useful advice!

General Topics This Blog Will be Covering:

  1. Consider Moving toward the tropics! One theme we’ll be revisiting frequently is the role of LATITUDE in the pursuit of sustainable living. One of my growing pet obsessions is the idea that living north or south of 35 degrees latitude presents inherent physical challenges, that, in many ways, simply don’t make good , common, practical sense. It’s all a matter of energy, really. The energy is takes to prepare for and survive winters (heat energy, and also “life” energy) can be put to much better use if one is living closer to the equator. By moving south (although this could be “north”, of course, if you’re located in the southern hemisphere. For simplicity here, I’ll be using “south” as the general catch all direction for considering a move) you can automatically liberate much of your life energy for other pursuits – pleasure and/or leisure time being not insignificant! There’s also a very basic baseline of security to be had by leaving winter behind.
  1. The costs and benefits of having animal “partners”. On this topic we’ll bounce around a bit; from the responsibility and expense of animal husbandry, to the practical benefits and shear joy of life with animals, we’ll explore many of the considerations that having animals “brings to the table”.
  1. “Farming Photons”: A general discussion of the use of renewables, particularly solar, as well as the practical considerations; costs, benefits, off-grid vs grid tie, siting, general equipment recommendations, and other specific information. (see “Our Solar Story” below for the first post on this…)
  1. Defining your goals and figuring out how to make them profitable: Having both run & sold successful businesses, Holly and I have spent a lifetime developing tools & strategies for defining and promoting one’s own niche market. Whether you are growing veggies, raising animals, or producing a value added product, we’ll explore some simple techniques for figuring out what “makes you sing” and how to turn it into a profitable business.
  1. Crossing Borders: We’ll look at both the literal implications of seeking out a sustainable life across the border, (in our case Mexico, but much of this discussion can apply to any cross border situation) but also the more metaphysical aspect of re-mapping one’s own life. What are the possible challenges and benefits of breaking out of your old, often worn out, geographical paradigms??? (see “Secret Sustainability South of the Border” for more on this…)
  1. Stories of sustainability: Stories can entertain as well as instruct. We’ve got a growing collection and would love to hear yours!

So, there you have it. It is my intention, above all, to make this blog a useful sounding board for your own pursuit of sustainability. Working toward true sustainability can and should be a joyful, fulfilling, lifelong experience. The hours will be long, and we’ll each have our own path to follow, but we’ll also have much commonality to share and helpful wisdom to impart. I hope that you’ll participate and make this blog part of your own virtual homesteading community – a place to cultivate, share and learn from!