Permaculture Guilds

My takeaway from the Online Permaculture Design Course this week is the use of guilds. Guilds are groups of plants and/or animals that work together. Often, a guild contains a central element such as a specific tree and then other elements are gathered around it to assist the central plant or animal. The goal is to assemble components that help each other in some way. The more ways components help each other, the more likely the guild will work out. Look for large numbers of connections between elements.

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Page Ranch Lessons

As promised, here is a little more information on Joseph Timothy Page, famous for his restoration work at Page Ranch between 1923 and 1941. With the help of a shovel and a spading fork, he managed to restore dryland grasses to his ranch that was surrounded by ecologically devastated rangeland. He did all this all at an older age, after retiring and purchasing 160 acres of devastated rangeland to do some farming.

Initially, JT Page intended to dig wells and use well water, but despite digging multiple wells up to 30 feet deep, he never found any water he could use. He and his wife had to bring all their own drinking water in from the local town.

JT and Sarah Page, 1923
JT and Sarah Page at about the time they purchased the now famous Page Ranch.

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JT Page Method

I’ve finished the second week of the Permaculture Design Course, and came across mention of Page Ranch in Arizona. Back in 1923, Mr Page and his wife bought a piece of overgrazed ranch land in hopes of doing some dryland farming. Nothing grew, and he couldn’t find any water on his land despite digging many wells as deep as 30 feet.

Finally, he got sick of it and tried something else. What he did sounds an awful lot like permaculture, to be honest. The result was staggering, as you can see in this photo. His ranch is on the right, and the neighbor’s ranch is on the left. He did this with 17 years of back breaking work, and a shovel–literally only a shovel!

Page Ranch
The ranch that JT Page fixed is on the right.

I’ll post some of my insights into how I can apply JT Page’s pioneering restoration efforts at Dove Ranch.


Week One of the PDC

I’ve been through the first week of course work for the Online Permaculture Design Course taught by Geoff Lawton. I found it was a good thing that I’ve been studying permaculture on my own for so long. My previous permaculture studies helped me understand a lot of the more abstract theory that the course starts out with.

Since this is a pretty big investment for myself and my family, financially speaking, I decided to make the most of it and study Bill Mollison’s Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual along with the course. Also, I decided to take it up a notch and also listen to Bill Mollison’s original 1983 permaculture design course on MP3 while driving to and from the day job.

Bill Mollison
Bill Mollison, the father of permaculture.
(Photo by Nicolas Boullosa –, CC BY 2.0,

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