When I first heard the term “permaculture” about twelve years ago, I was excited about getting plants and establishing a garden. But the wonderful flora found in books like Plants for a Future were hard to find. I began to satisfy my urge to propagate while making young samples from every interesting grape and edible green I could find, while I increased my gene pool by looting the fabulous seed bank that is Chilterns seeds. After a visit to Richters in Ontario, I had to toss all those silly clothes out of my luggage to make room for the new sorrels and herbs and little trees. Almost immediately, my casual little plant business became Edible Landscapes, and I began the serious work of breeding out trays of unusual plants.

But the obvious problem followed – switching a population used to pretty and showy plants to those that might be awfully dull looking, but packed an intriguing multi-use punch. While plowing away at that task, I wrote the book, Gardening for the Faint of Heart, and began to be invited to speak at events. And from the questions I was asked at these events, it was obvious that some new gardening lessons needed to be created … and thus the first formal lessons like Gardening for the Faint of Heart, and others, which I operated through the Sunshine Coast Regional District, began. And meanwhile, I had moved onto 2.5 acres of raw land – and ran into the acid test – can someone with few financial resources and little time create a viable edible garden in the bush, using, yes, sticks and leaves and straw? And it seems to be working – healthy, vibrant gardens are springing out of the dry grit, self seeders are forming colonies, bamboo is taking hold and young fruit trees are laden each summer. I finally had some usable samples of what I was trying to learn and teach.

So I began to do some tours of Permaculture edibles … and this led to other classes. And then I began to realize there were far too many questions out there, and no formal way to pass information on. I invited knowledgeable friends to share their gleanings in my Practical Permie Weekends. It still didn’t seem enough. So the concept of the Sustainable Living Arts School was born. And like the garden outside, I am sure this will evolve as well…


Many people look at our range of topics and wish they could invent their own weekends to suit their own needs. Well, they can! Scan our list of topics, choose a weekend worth of classes (maximum is four per day) and find four other friends or family who would like to join you. With a minimum of five people, I will find instructors, organize your time and you can enter the greater depth of meaning and need that you desire. Average price will be $180 – $200 per person for the weekend.You have added exposure to your facilitators by sharing meals and living on site.

Here are some ideas for themes that people have wanted to follow up on –

Herb Medicine weekend –  we will make tinctures, salves, infused oils and possibly even essential oils and hydrosols. We will study solvents and learn about the supplies we will need.

Wild Containers – learn to make a range of basketry from our local instructor Annette Clark. Go home with finished products and a higher awareness of the materials you are surrounded by.

Wild Weekend – Wild foods, building a fire, Into the Woods with Peter Light, quick structures and more.

Sprouts Camp – Classes for littles and tried and true.  We will learn to smell and taste new plants, study their defenses, learn all the items that can be made from them and learn the names for all their parts. We will make herb teas and snacks for the grown ups! $125 per child includes camping for the family.

Please see this blog post for Ivannia’s sweet story of arriving here with her whole family (including elderly granny) for her hand-chosen weekend here! (For your reading pleasure, here are Part II and Part III of Ivannia’s story.)

Interview With Robin Wheeler

Timely Tips

Get a free chapter from Robin’s book Food Security for the Faint of Heart!  ‘I’m Too Busy Watching Survivor to Live Through a Food Crisis’ is yours when you sign up for Robin’s ezine, where she shares her years of knowledge via email, twice a month.  Rural living tips, food security projects, musings on the politics of food – you’ll get it all, and you’ll learn something every time.

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