Bloom to Bones - Summer/Autumn 2021

Ecological Design Course with Optional Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) Track

Sundays Summer and Fall: July 25th to October 24th, 2021*

Solutions-oriented curriculum for creating regenerative landscapes, thinking in systems, and building healthy communities in an era of uncertainty

Facilitated by Robyn Mello, Benjamin Weiss, Wilson Alvarez, and several specialized guest teachers

*3 week break September 12-26th. Full PDC is 11 days. See schedule details below.

Our bodies are natural ecosystems nested within many local ecosystems, and our local ecosystems are nested within ever-expanding larger ecosystems. Each one is infinitely complex and interconnected. As a species, humans are designers and manipulators of our surroundings, building systems of control and organization on top of these ecosystems in order to make sense of our world. However, much of the time, we are working without regard or understanding of the vast number of elements that will be affected by our human designs. We aim to be part of the shift in human design in the direction of consistently working in reciprocity with Earth and community.

This survey course embodies the permaculture principle to “design from patterns to details.” You will begin at the foundation of regenerative design, learning to understand ecological concepts and principles through deep observation of natural patterns applicable across the human and more-than-human world. As the course continues, you will be led on a journey through ever more detailed aspects of ecological design, developing a toolkit of land-based techniques and socioecological critiques for building a new paradigm of community and economy. This approach will empower you to lay a foundation of knowledge and understanding of the core principles shared by permaculture, regenerative design, intersectional environmentalism, and similar modalities. We will demonstrate these concepts and skillsets in the classroom as well as in wild spaces, backyards, rural farmscapes, and urban farms.

Classes will take place at different locations in South-central and Eastern Pennsylvania**:

Urban Edge Farm: Lancaster, PA

Horn Farm Center: York, PA

Rising Locust Farm: Manheim, PA

Green Light Plants: West Chester, PA

**Covid-19 contingent. See Covid-specific contingency plan below.


July 25, August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, September 5, October 3, 10, 17, and 24

Arrive by 9:30am, Class runs 10am-5pm* with 30 minutes for lunch (Students must provide their own lunch.) 

Bold and Underlined dates August 1, August 29, and October 24 are only required for students who are pursuing Permaculture Design Certification. Class runs 10am-6pm on PDC Only days.

Topics to be covered during the course include and are not limited to:

Introductory and instrumental concepts of permaculture design

Deep ecology

Systems analysis

Species identification

Reading the landscape

Social and spiritual ecology

Intersectional environmentalism

Sensory awareness and observation techniques

Climate patterns

Home-scale sustainability

Ecological entrepreneurship

Regenerative art and culture

Optional Permaculture Design Certification 

Additional Classes: This encompasses three extra classes of a permaculture design practicum and student design presentations to fulfill and surpass the 72-hour requirement to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate. This track covers the essential concepts of the permaculture design system, demonstrated through techniques for sustainable living in densely-populated areas. Students will acquire a tool-kit for living in the urban and suburban environment in a way that is both self-reliant and supportive of their community and nature. The curriculum will emphasize skills that contribute to local, community-based resilience and abundance.

What to Expect: Our PDC is a rigorous academic course with standards that exceed those of many college-level classes. Students will be expected to participate regularly in class and complete homework assignments, including readings, observation and design exercises, as well as a design project presented at the final class meeting demonstrating their understanding of fundamentals. Students are allowed no more than one missed class and absolutely must be present for the final design presentations (10/24). Students who complete the course in a satisfactory manner will receive an internationally-recognized certification in Permaculture Design. 


Robyn Mello is an earth-worshipping designer, writer, organizer, forest gardener, herbalist, builder, musician, and mother. She received her Permaculture Design Certification from Melissa Miles in 2014, Advanced Permaculture Design Certification from Peter Bane, Karryn Olson, and Jono Neiger in 2015, and Permaculture Teacher Certification from Pandora Thomas and Lisa DePiano in 2015. Much of Robyn’s permaculture and social justice background has been self-taught and through direct experience, beginning as a teenager but diving into these worlds most deeply upon graduating from The University of Delaware in 2009. She worked with The Philadelphia Orchard Project to design and train others in biodiverse community orcharding from 2010 through 2017, started a dozen community gardens with a grassroots vacant lot gardening organization she founded called Philly Food Forests from 2010 to 2013, worked as Gardens Manager and Nature Educator for Historic Fair Hill in North Philadelphia from 2011 to 2013, organized the Occupy Vacant Lots campaign with Occupy Philly activists interested in gardening and community organizing from 2011 to 2013, started a small organic farm in Upper Bucks County while living off-the-grid in a tiny house in 2013, worked as an Environmental Justice Researcher with The Delaware Environmental Institute from 2013 to 2015, redesigned and rehabilitated two neglected homes from 2014 through 2018, and she is just now pursuing a lifelong dream of exploration and conservation with a large plot of land in Upstate New York. She has been fully self-employed through her multifaceted life project and business, Edenspore Design, since late 2017.

Benjamin Weiss is a certified permaculture designer and teacher, activist, herbalist, farmer, musician, and writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Ben studied natural building and permaculture at The Farm Ecovillage Training Center, received a permaculture teacher certification from CRMPI, studied urban agriculture at Growing Power, and has studied herbalism with Sarah Preston of Radiance, shamanic dreaming techniques with Adhi Moonien Two-Owls, and forest garden design with Dave Jacke. Ben was also the administrator and a long-time volunteer for the Lancaster Coalition for Peace and Justice, and has helped to organize many other initiatives and actions related to racial and environmental justice. Ben has facilitated PDCs and many other classes and workshops, has designed and managed four organic farms, and forages professionally. He owns and manages Susquehanna Apothecary and Urban Edge Farm.

Wilson Alvarez is a certified permaculture designer, an inventor, gardener, skilled tracker, bowyer, nature-awareness instructor, and poet from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has studied and taught classes and workshops on biointensive agriculture, regenerative technology, foraging, hunting, trapping and tracking, and wilderness survival. Wilson has created “Rebel Garden Tools,” a line of incredibly innovative hand tools for small farms, as well as other inventions such as the "Folk Mug," a handle that turns a mason jar into a travel mug, and "The Multi," a multi-tool wallet. He also founded Folklore Ferments, a small company specializing in the brewing of kombucha. Wilson has a Kamana II certification through Jon Young's Wilderness Awareness School, received his PDC online via Permaculture Visions, and studied applied archaeology at Prescott College with Steve Watts. Wilson manages the woodland rehabilitation at the Horn Farm Center.

Guest Teachers:

Lindsey Sloat , Ecology Researcher with Colorado State University

Dale Hendricks and Zach Elfers, Green Light Plants

Douglas Smith, Chief planner of Lancaster City

William Padilla-Brown, MycoSymbiotics

Meg Lemieur and Bri Barton, Water Ways Project

Jon Darby, The Horn Farm Center

Harrison Rhodes, Rising Locust Farm

More TBA


Ecological Design (ED): $750 per person

ED Early Bird: $650 if paid in full by 4/1/21

ED Group Rate (5 or more people): $600 per person

Permaculture Certification Track (PDC): $1,000 per person

PDC Early Bird: $900 if paid in full by 4/1/21

PDC Group Rate (5 or more people): $850 per person

Registration Details: This course will sell out! To receive the early bird rate, you must pay IN FULL by December 31st, 2020. All other students must pay in full by July 1st, 2021. If there is still space available at that time, we may extend registration until the date of the first class. Nonetheless, pre-registered students must pay in full by July 1st. A registration deposit of $300 may be submitted at any time in order to hold a place in the class. Once any tuition money is received, it is non-refundable, except in the event of personal medical emergencies or government-mandated lockdowns.

To register: Email Robyn Mello at with your name, email address, phone number, and mailing address and submit registration deposit of at least $300 to hold your space in the course.

Payment options are as follows:

  • Venmo to @edenspore
  • PayPal to via “Friends and Family” option
  • Cash App to $robynmello
  • Direct Deposit via invoice from Edenspore LLC Bank Account (e-mail to be sent an invoice)
  • Check or Money order made out to “Edenspore LLC” and mailed (e-mail to request mailing address)
  • Cash hand-delivered to Robyn Mello or Benjamin Weiss (e-mail to arrange)

Covid-19 Notes: As herbalists and community leaders, we strive to be up-to-date on recommendations that are in the best interest of the group. This course will be taught entirely outdoors, under cover of a large open-air tent when necessary. Unless conditions in the region drastically change, students will continue to be required to wear masks and keep 6-foot minimum social distancing. All facilitators and guest teachers are committed to their part, though meeting locations are subject to change depending on the risks involved each week and will all be held at Urban Edge Farm as a worst case scenario. In the event that local, state, or national mandates require all in-person outdoor gatherings to be canceled, a $50 per student administrative fee will be kept by facilitators. All other tuition will be refunded.

Group Rate Details: Five or more students who sign up as a group may each receive the group rate ($600 per person for the ecological design course, or $850 per person for permaculture certification) through July 1st, 2021. To receive this group rate, all registration deposits ($300 per student) must be submitted either as one payment or as separate payments all received on the same day, and full tuition must be paid by all group members by July 1st, 2021. If any group members drop out and the group number drops below five students, the group rate is void and regular course tuition must be paid in full by all remaining group members.

Scholarships: We have some partial scholarships available. Contact us directly to inquire. We expect to see scholarship recipients find ways to fundraise some of their own tuition, and they must be full, active participants in the class.

Preparedness for Class: Students should come fully prepared to be outdoors for extended periods in varying weather and to participate in hands-on activities, including walks through rough terrain. Not all of the classrooms we’ll be in are ADA accessible, but we will happily make any accommodations that we are able in order for students with specific needs to participate. Please notify us of any pertinent allergies or physical limitations before the class begins. Roughly 30 minutes will be provided during each class session for lunch, as well as periodic short breaks between sessions throughout the day to stretch, make necessary phone calls, use the bathroom, etc. Necessary self-care for personal health and ability to focus throughout classes is encouraged, so long as your self-care is not impeding the learning of others or resulting in excessive missed class time.

Students should bring their own food and water. Prior to the start of the course, each student will be asked to sign “Media Sharing” and “Code of Conduct” forms to ensure that everyone who participates is legally allowed to utilize media captured during the class for further educational or promotional purposes. Please notify the instructors if you plan to miss class, and take responsibility for catching up with any missed course content by reaching out to other students. It is not the responsibility of course facilitators to go over any materials missed in class. 

Other things to bring could include:


sketch pad

writing/drawing utensils



any preferred field guides

pocket knife or multi-tool

work gloves

hand sanitizer

lap-top/ tablet/smartphone

bug spray


sturdy shoes/boots

rain gear

camp chair or seat cushion/pillow

sun hat

Students will be notified of any other required materials as the course progresses.

Required Reading:

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Essence of Permaculture by David Holmgren (Free PDF Download)

[We encourage checking these books out from a local library, purchasing directly from authors or publishers, or listening via Scribd App rather than using]


Below is a simplified syllabus. A more detailed syllabus will be sent to students on the first day of class or shortly prior.

July 25 at Urban Edge Farm: Intro to Ecological Design

Gathering of Group Agreements

Student and Teacher Introduction

Indigenous History of Susquehanna Valley and Land Acknowledgment

Intro to Ecology

Using & Exploring with Field Guides

August 1st* at Urban Edge Farm: Intro to Permaculture (10am-6pm)

Defining Permaculture

Permaculture Ethics

Permaculture Principles

Zone Mapping

Niche Analysis

Sectors and Vectors

Intro to PDC Project Requirements

August 8th at Horn Farm Center: Intro to Wild Ecosystems

Ecological Guided Tour of the Woods

Reading the Landscape

Intro to Primitive Skills - Shelter & Fire

Sensory Awareness Games

Sit Spots

August 15th at Urban Edge Farm: Ecological Systems

Patterns & Pattern Language

Intro to Systems Analysis

Systems Games Demo

Gaia Theory

Weather patterns

Wetlands and beavers in the landscape

Sectors and Vectors

August 22nd at Urban Edge Farm: Self-care, Social Justice, & Environmental Advocacy as Ecological Design

The Inner Landscape

Spiritual Ecology & Conscious Observation

Systems of communication

History of Environmental Movement

Land access for people of color

Considerations for working in low-resource communities

More-than-human personhood

August 29th* at Urban Edge Farm: Intro to Permaculture Design Practicum (10am-6pm)

Analyzing ecological niches


Base-mapping by hand and with design software

Introduction of rubric and assignment for final design project

September 5th at Rising Locust Farm: Rural/Broadacre Ecological Farming

Soils, soil health, and soil-building

Silvopasture: livestock and agroforestry

Water conservation, the hydrologic cycle, riparian ecosystems

Community governance 

Broadacre ecological farm design

October 3rd at Green Light Plants Nursery & Homestead: Ecological Micro-Enterprise

Ecologically-minded homesteading

Forest gardening


Plant propagation

Integrative ecological design

Local economies and small-scale industry

October 10th at Urban Edge Farm: Ecological Design for Suburban Landscapes

Business planning using permaculture

Twelve forms of capital

Beekeeping intro

Water harvesting, designing landscapes for water retention, berms and swales

Intensive micro-farm design

Mycoremediation and mushroom farming

October 17th at Urban Edge Farm: Urban Sustainability

Urban agroforestry

Urban farming

Soil remediation

Financial, legislative, and organizational support for urban agriculture

Community-building around regenerative ecological systems

October 24th* at Urban Edge Farm: Permaculture Design Presentations (10am-6pm)

*Classes only required for Students seeking Permaculture Design Certification.

To register: Email Robyn Mello at with your name, email address, phone number, and mailing address and submit registration deposit of at least $300 to hold your space in the course.

Payment options are as follows:

  • Venmo to @edenspore
  • PayPal to via “Friends and Family” option
  • Cash App to $robynmello
  • Direct Deposit via invoice from Edenspore LLC Bank Account (e-mail Robyn to be sent an invoice)
  • Check or Money order made out to “Edenspore LLC” and mailed (e-mail Robyn to request mailing address)
  • Cash hand-delivered to Robyn Mello or Benjamin Weiss (e-mail Robyn to arrange)

We can't wait to be together with you in late summer autumn!

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