This online land-based living course invites you to cultivate a deeper connection with what nourishes you for greater sustainable living.


What is this course?

In this 8-month self-directed course, Quail Springs offers practical information and activities that will catalyze a deepening relationship with what sustains you. A land-based life isn't something that is done solely in rural areas; urban dwellers can take simple steps towards sustainable living. In this course you’ll be introduced to permaculture principles and explore how to work with climate characteristics, water, soil, gardening, animal husbandry, cheesemaking & fermentation, herbalism and much more!

There are so many different roads you can take while exploring a land-based life, and the path you take is totally up to you. This course offers practical and achievable steps to incorporate land-based living into your life and community! Leading a more sustainable lifestyle is never completed in one course, but rather a lifelong process. This course is your guide to starting the journey.

Land-Based Living Course

Why this course?

This Land-Based Living Course is for you if you are interested in following a way of life that brings you closer to nature or if you would simply like to expand your skills set.

A land-based life doesn’t have to be an all or nothing choice, but rather cultivated over time. You may have a goal of residing on a few acres, or living vibrantly in your apartment complex or in the suburbs. This online Land-Based Living Course supports the many pathways to more skillful & sustainable living no matter where you live.

" There aren’t words for how this course has impacted me… I know that this has altered the trajectory of my life, both personally and professionally. "
Ciara Butterfield
Former PDC Participant

Why Quail Springs?

Quail Springs has been teaching courses for almost 2 decades! Thousands of students from around the world have gained land-based and community building skills with us and have gone on to do change-making work in their communities and in their own lives.

Our teaching staff are farmers, activists, builders, and thinkers who not only teach, but also advocate regionally and internationally for policy change. Our activism is currently focused on regional groundwater advocacy & preservation, and the legalization of climate appropriate earthen building. Quail Springs’ teaching staff includes both instructors who are residents at Quail Springs’ site, and instructors who live elsewhere and have contributed their expertise to this virtual course.

“The course content and community that was created exceeded my expectations and I’m sad it’s come to an end, but I’m excited for what the future brings.”
Online PDC Participant


Swipe or drag to learn more about each lesson in the course.

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a fully integrated and holistic design methodology that is used to establish mutually beneficial and regenerative social and ecological human settlements.


Why Permaculture?

Permaculture is a multi-disciplinary approach that can be anywhere. It is a movement based in practical resilience that integrates to create a dynamic and living concept that can affect foundational change.


Introduction to Climate

In this lesson we will go over many of the common types of earthen building methods, including cob, light straw clay, wattle and daub, adobe, and more.

Text Lesson

Water in the Landscape

In land stewardship, one of our core goals in relation to water is to slow it, sink it, and spread it. We believe in the land's miraculous ability to act as a sponge and know that the soil is one of the best places to store water.

Text Lesson

Water Ethics

Because water is the fundamental element within the public trust, then it may be one of the best tools for tackling the uncharted terrain of atmospheric regulation. Water Ethics explores how we can equitably regulate our water sources.

1h 30m

Rainwater Harvesting

In a time of unstable climate with prolonged drought and less and less rainfall, rainwater harvesting is a critical focus for anyone living in arid or semi-arid climates. It should also be a core focus in any climate where there are long breaks in between rainfall.


Greywater Site Tour

Follow along while we visit renowned drylands designer and long-time friend of Quail Springs, Brad Lancaster's site in Tucson, AZ. In this video, Brad shows us his rainwater and greywater systems.

1h 30m

Small Scale Earthworks

Well-designed water harvesting earthworks are the most effective way to channel water into productive use. This demonstration is an example of how you can create small scale experiments before committing to larger earthworks designs.


Planting the Rain

In this lesson Warren approaches earthworks from an ethical framework and gives examples of how good assessment of the land and its people are critical components of designing for planting the rain for more resilient landscapes.

2h 10m

Living Soils

Soil is a major resource - it supports plants, which sustain life. It is a fragile resource that takes hundreds and thousands to millions of years to form and cannot be replaced.


Long Row Compost

Compost is not only a soil building process; it is also an important waste management tactic. We can also interpret composting as an opportunity to create more life out of the resources we consume.



When food waste is composted, microbes convert the organic material into nutrient rich soil, keeping the carbon and methane out of the atmosphere and producing valuable soil.


Gardening 101

Growing plants and being in relationship with the process of cultivating ecologies is a core part of our ability to create sustainable human settlements with regenerative culture. In this lesson, we share the techniques that move us towards being in relationship with what sustains us, no matter where we are.

1h 20m

In the Quail Springs Garden

Quail Springs is located in the high desert at about 3800'. This means we have extreme temperature fluctuations, very little rainfall, and periods of flood and drought. Our growing systems have been completely impacted by these realities and have been designed and redesigned over the years to become more resilient and productive.


The Basics of Seed Saving

In beginning or developing your seed saving practice, it’s important to understand what makes seeds viable and “true to type.” In other words, to ensure that the seed you are saving has the same genetic traits of the original plant from which you collected the seed.

1h 26m

Growing Your Own Mushrooms

Fungi have played a critical part in the evolution of our planet and in the functioning of almost all of our biological systems on earth. Of particular note is the incredible potential fungi have to reverse degradation on the landscape.


Integrated Animal Systems

When introducing animal systems, it is recommended that you use the below loose guidelines to follow per zone. “Zone” is a term used in permaculture; for example, Zone I is typically closest to the home and is interacted with daily, while Zone IV would be visited only occasionally.

1h 19m


The queen is more of a reproductive organ than a reigning royalty. She is the only one-of-a-kind bee in the colony and a crucial member of the community, but she is as responsive to, and interdependent with the whole body as any other member of the hive.


Chicken Systems

Chickens can help close the nutrient cycle and encourage an understanding of integrated waste management. The objective here is to sequester as much Carbon and Nitrogen in stable Organic Matter as possible, the outcome is effective waste management.

1h 36m

Goat Systems

Never make big changes in the way you feed a goat all at once, or feed large quantities of a new food that the goat has never had before. If you do this, you can throw off the bacteria in the goat's rumen, which can cause the goat to bloat, or the rumen to shut down.

1h 30m

Cheesemaking and Dairy Fermentation

Milk is inoculated with a diverse variety of microbes as it comes out of the teat of a healthy animal where the bacterial community thrives indigenously. An important group within this community are Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) which convert lactose, the main milk sugar, into lactic acid.

1h 10m

Preparing Maiz

The nixtamalization process not only transforms corn structurally, but also nutritionally. Nixtamalizing maiz makes the nutrients more readily available, increasing protein and diverse minerals.


Vegetable Fermentation

Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria that converts sugar into lactic acid. The lactic acid that is produced creates an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria and other organisms we don’t want.


Bone Broth Basics

I recommend starting off making bone broth during the day and always while someone is home. You really need to get the hang of it and understand the evaporation rate for your size pot before you even consider simmering overnight.


Creating a Home Herbal Apothecary

Eighty percent of today’s human population relies on traditional plant-based medicine. Many herbal traditions have developed worldwide. Each herbal tradition is informed by that particular culture’s traditions, history, ecology, and cosmology.

1h 55m

Waste and Bioremediation

A goal in permaculture is to create closed loop systems. This goal is applied to every system, including waste. There are some easy ones to start with - compost is a great example. But what about unavoidable, seemingly non-biodegradable trash?

1h 20m

Greywater Systems

When we implement greywater systems in our homes, we are taking responsibility for a precious resource (freshwater) in our own systems. Greywater systems are one tactic that we can employ while knowing water justice is much bigger than just employing greywater.

2h 43m

Bonus Lesson:
Making Sourdough Bread

The natural fermentation process of water, wheat flour, airborne wild yeast, and beneficial bacteria creates sourdough. Fermentation unlocks the nutritional value in grains as well as makes it easier for our bodies to digest.




16 hours of video lessons

8 months of Access to all content

Companion text to all 25 video lessons

Companion Permaculture Glossary
List of Resources and Books
Additional Bonus Lesson!

Course tuition



Scholarships and self-determined sliding scale cost options available on a case by case basis. BIPOC and historically underrepresented students will be prioritized. Chumash individuals can take this course at no cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Meet Your Instructors

Alexandra Valleau
Teaching: The Basics of Seed Saving
Meet Alex (she/they), former QS Plant Systems Director. Alex delights in living out dreams of alternative realities. She moved to Quail Springs in 2020 in search of kindred spirits challenging the dominant culture and is grateful to live in a community of tender hearts and mischief makers. When they’re not marveling at the mysteries of how so much can sprout from a single seed, Alex is playing in the kitchen, nesting at home, plucking the guitar, nuzzling their cat, reading and stumbling along the paths of learning and unlearning.
Aris Romero
Teaching: Creating a Home Herbal Apothecary
Meet Aris, former QS Program Director. Aris grew up in Santa Barbara County on the traditional homelands of the Chumash people where she spent the majority of her career in the wellness space. A Mexico City native, immigrant, and DREAMER her upbringing continues to be a source of inspiration and passion for healing justice that centers marginalized and immigrant communities in Southern California. Becoming deeply aware of the mind-body connection, intergenerational trauma and, moreover, the holistic imbalances created by the disconnection from land, Aris decided to leave her 8-year tenure in wellness to pursue a Biodynamic Agriculture apprenticeship in Mendocino County. Working mostly outside and caregiving to land, people, and animals gave Aris a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of human health and the environment. In 2018, Aris graduated from the Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine in Fort Jones, CA, where she gained skills as a Clinical Energetic Herbalist. Aris' private herbalism practice is rooted in an anti-oppression framework and a source of great joy and understanding.
Brad Lancaster - Online Permaculture Design Course
Brad Lancaster
Site Tour: Greywater and Rainwater Systems
Brad Lancaster is the author of the award-winning Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond and co-founder of Since 1993 Brad has run a successful permaculture education, design, and consultation business focused on integrated regenerative approaches to landscape design, planning, and living. In the Sonoran Desert, with just 11 inches of annual rainfall, he and his brother harvest about 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year on an eighth-acre urban lot and adjoining right-of-way. This harvested water is then turned into living air conditioners of food-bearing shade trees, abundant gardens, and a thriving landscape incorporating wildlife habitat, beauty, medicinal plants, and more. The goal of his book series and overall work is to empower his clients and community to make positive change in their own lives and neighborhoods—by harvesting and enhancing free on-site resources such as water, sun, wind, shade, community, and more. It’s catching on, as evidenced by tens of thousands of practitioners and demand for Brad’s work around the world.
Brenton Kelly
Water in the Landscape, Water Ethics, Small Scale Earthworks Demonstration, Living Soils, Compost, Vermicompost, Beekeeping, Chickens
Brenton Kelly was born in Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia. By his first birthday he saw the peaceful liberation and birth of the nation of Zambia. By his tenth year he had witnessed a variety of civil & revolutionary conflicts across Africa. His father was a Voice of America radio corespondent who then took his family over to Southeast Asia to cover the communist insurgency in Vietnam. The world was as big as domesticated elephants and was filled with sustainable handcrafts like the banana leaf to-go wrappers around the fresh roasted squid being sold from the bicycle powered street vendor in our neighborhood. These were some of the last truly functional subsistence economies and culturally intact communities seen by the open eyes of youth. The world population has more than doubled since then but Brenton still seeks inspiration from those impressionable experiences in Africa and Asia. In 1980, Brenton came to Southern California to attend UCSB. With a BA in Environmental Studies & Studio Art, he went forth to make beauty of the world. The Isla Vista Recreation & Park District proved a great place to practice the art of land stewardship. For ten years he managed the IVRPD grounds crew and 30+ acres of organic public open space; including a public events theater, community gardens, beach bluff top play grounds & passive use conservation lands with a State funded vernal pool restoration project. In 1998 Brenton, with old friend Matt Buckmaster, bought Island Seed & Feed from founder (and their good friend) Phil Boise. Island Seed and Feed is the south coast organic (read: Permaculture) headquarters for the farm & garden. For the next ten years it served well as an outlet for Brenton’s desire to share the knowledge behind least toxic low impact human activities. He became a self proclaimed compost evangelist. “Let there be a worm box for every kitchen & classroom”. Island always had the best customers; all looking for healthy solutions, not toxic chemistry for their homes & landscapes. Then Warren Brush & Paul Swensen came in with the news that they had closed on 450 acres in the Cuyama Valley. A Store account was opened in the name of Quail Springs and very good things have come of the relationship. In 2008 Brenton and his wife, Jan Smith, moved to Quail Spring to help advance the food production systems and program offerings, by farming and teaching. Brenton has served on the Board of Directors of Quail Springs as Treasurer and is the bookkeeper for the farm. He brings to his teachings over 30 years of experience in soil building, gardening, non-toxic land management and animal husbandry. His passion for land regeneration has led him toward the work of Bill Zeedyk and Craig Sponholtz, and in 2011 he studied with Craig, and began to implement this work through projects and course offerings at Quail Springs Permaculture, and the Quivira Coalition. “It’s our responsibility to understand and mimic the patterns and the processes of the natural world and to integrate this into our ethics and behavior.” –Brenton Kelly