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Buy land or take PDC first?

Enrique Ramirez

Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 6
My wife and I are currently both working busy jobs while saving up to buy land. If I did the PDC thing now, I'd have to do an online, part time course. Most of these that I've looked at suggest you have a property already that you are working with (we don't yet). My question is this; would it be better to wait until we have land before taking the course, or should we try to take the course first and then use the info we learned in the selection process?
Travis Philp

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
Hi Enrique,

Some questions for you, to help get a context behind your question:

-What is yours and your wifes level of knowledge and experience with gardening in general, and with permaculture?

-How close are you to affording/finding access to land?

-What are your end goals for the land and your livelihood?

Having the course under your belt before buying land would be beneficial in helping you determine what type of land would best suit your needs but the course is not necessary to do this of course. If you ask yourself what you want to do with the land, what you want to grow, and how close you want to be to civilization, then you can look your choices of land and see which one is the best fit. Moderately sloping is generally better than flat land because slopes drain cold air and are adept at spreading water across land (both above and below ground).

The course will tell you to look at the elements of the property (the wind, soil, sun exposure, precipitation and above and below ground waterways, as well as the ether or space). Take note of these, and how each element interacts with the space. Are there strong winds from the north, sandy or clay soil, cloudy or hot and sunny tendencies, high or low rainfall/snowfall, good or bad water drainage, streams, rivers, lakes or ponds, is it all open fields, all forest, wetland, or a mix?

In a visualization exercise, take stock of all the things you think you desire to do and have on your land and then, say to yourself:

"We have this and that growing, our house is this, we're doing this thing and that thing etc." This makes it a little more real to your brains, and gives a better perspective on your goals and desires, and helps to make a more informed decision. You may realize you don't really want, or couldn't handle certain things, or you may realize you're missing something.

Then ask yourself, which property that I have in mind best facilitates these things?
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Enrique Ramirez

Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 6
I have no experience with Permaculture, but plenty with farming and gardening. I've been doing both since I was a kid. My first job was on a 5000 acre wheat farm with cattle, and my family always had a vegetable and herb garden, as well as fruit trees and rabbits.
We are still a good 2 years from being able to afford land. We have decided we don't want any more debt, so we plan on buying land outright and building a house as we can afford it. (We have talked about living in a yurt for a while until we can afford to build if there is no house already on the land).
Our end goal is self sufficiency. I'd like to be able to grow most of our food and be totally off-grid.
Based on your answer, I'm thinking I should take the course now. Is there a thread here that recommends one online course over the others? I haven't been able to find one.
Thanks for your help.
George Lee

Joined: Mar 15, 2011
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
If it's two years time, I'd say during the summer (if possible) take a course.

Depending on the land dynamic, and your gardening experience, I have no doubt you'd be able to get enough herbaceous matter going to sustain yourselves while living in the tent/yurt.

I try not to buy into terminologies too heavy.. I think we humans have the ability to figure out the methodologies that are inherent with what the land presents to us. We're able to 'make it work' in other words...

South Carolina Hemp | Seed Swap via Letter | | sustainable seed co
Saybian Morgan

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
Why take an online course that's meant to spread permaculture rather than teach you how to be a designer, when you could be learning at home at your leisure from the masters themselves.

If you don't plan on teaching anytime soon why take a pdc just for the sake of ticking a things to do box. It's one thing to take a local pdc because of how it leverages your education with your bio region, but you want to be able to see the land with a designers eyes when choosing property. I don't know if your planning on changing your living to fulltime farming or just living out in the stix as off grid as you can while still working. A heavy pdc by some international wrecking balls like Bill Mollison himself and geoff lawton is on a completely different level than digesting a "permaculture principles" course.
ronan Watters

Joined: Oct 24, 2011
Posts: 15
Location: Ireland
did my pdc 7 months ago and been studying loads since then. Just gone sale agreed on some land now. For me that was the right order. could have made big mistakes if i went looking at land first.

I would suggest a pdc first for structure and then loads more reading and learning on top of that utill you are ready moneywise to buy the land.
Ernie Wisner

Joined: Oct 16, 2009
Posts: 789
Location: Tonasket washington
Land if you need to have a permi that has some experience in your area go look over the land with you. probably wont cost you more than a good meal. use the farmer skills to asses the soils and read up on how to fix the soil so it grows what you need.

try to get rid of the need Vs want thing in the modern brain. need is shelter, water, food, clothing, Tools, with your needs met your wants can be manufactured in due time. so pick the land that meets the needs rather than the wants.

Need more info?
Ernie and Erica
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Stove plans, Boat plans, General permiculture information, Arts and crafts, Fire science, Find it at


Joined: May 29, 2010
Posts: 126
Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
Will you be changing jobs when you move, or are you looking to buy close to where you are now?

I'm usually a big advocate for being debt-free, but there are times when debt makes sense. Never borrow money to finance a lifestyle you can't otherwise afford, but if the dividend on an investment will pay more than the cost of borrowing, it makes sense to borrow. If you're staying in the same area, it might make sense to borrow and buy as soon as you can, even if you live where you are for now, buying the land and moving to it after it is paid for has a number of advantages. One, you can use the time to clear land, build soil and get the perennials started and grow some of your own food. Two, frequent visits will let you get to know the land better. This will yield a better design. Three, it gives you a chance to see what you're getting into and how realistic your plans are before it gets too hard to back out of.

I know number three above is a double-edged sword and may let you give up sooner than you would if your food depended on your working more, but it's something to consider.

If you are only a couple of years away from buying land, you probably have enough of a downpayment that you should qualify for a decent interest rate and have a low payment.

When I took my PDC, I was forced to pay attention to things I had overlooked because I thought I didn't need them. Some of those things are what made things click to where I could see the bigger picture and not just a lot of pieces. To take a PDC, you have to do a design. My understanding is if you do a 2-week intensive, you do a design for where the class is. Most or all of the DIY courses expect you to do a design for where you are. If you do an on-line class and don't have access to a place to work with, I'm not sure what you'd do. Make sure you ask the teacher before you start. Other than that, I think you're be able to judge land better after taking th class, but that depends on how thoroughly you've studied on your own.

Enrique Ramirez

Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 6
Part of our problem is that we are currently in Alaska and planning on moving back to the Northwest US to be closer to family (about 2000 miles away). I don't think a local PDC would do me much good down there. If we did get land now, we wouldn't be able to do anything with it until we moved. Also, the job situation isn't great down there, and I would like to keep working for a few years to make sure we can afford our house before becoming full-time homesteaders. Because of that, we can't move until I have a job lined up, which could be a year or two.
Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
if you have the time and $ and access do the PDC as soon as you can, but I never did one. I have read every possible P book I can find, and I'm a quick reader. Many are very good and very extensive..but I would go with gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway or any Bill Mollison book you can get your hands on first..libraries are helpful.

but if you have your eyes on a piece of land ..get it now !!

It takes tons of years for trees to grow and trees are the basis of a good food forest garden, which is what I would suggest.

If there is non polluted land in your range, and esp if it has fresh clean water avail for you..and has good access..get it now..

Where do you live..if you live in a place that has some serious problems like wind or drought then you have to do some good prep study


Bloom where you are planted.
subject: Buy land or take PDC first?