Description & Reviews

Social Forestry

Advanced Permaculture Course
Social Forestry
6 days with Tom Ward

January 23-28, 2016
At Wolf Gulch in Southern Oregon
Course Price: TBA (last time was $550)
Early registration: TBA (last time was $475)

For more information or registration contact

Social Forestry and Community Forestry are academic and developmental fields of eco-sociology that connect villages and communities to their forested water catchment basin.  If a local culture has a relationship with their forest, and has the management rights protected, that community is able to supply itself with a variety of products and a reliable source of clean water.  

The course supports our vision of a cottagers’ co-op, stewardship contracts with ecological covenants, semi-nomadic seasonal work patterns and cultural support for a new/old way of being in relationship with our forests and landscapes.  We believe that only through building new relationships now can we look forward to a more appropriate and sustainable culture of cities, farms and forests that inspires us all and especially the children to look forward to a future that makes sense and promises a good and glorious life many generations hence.

Here in a developed industrial empire, the forests are lonely.  We have lost our sense of living with forests as friends.  Our forests have become sources for industrial materials and gold rush like gathering of minerals, game, mushrooms, herbs and specialty woods.  We no longer have cultures of forest dwellers and keepers of the game.  

With climate weirding and excessive fuel loads, our abandonment of forest care is catastrophic.  Our cities have forgotten that they were built with materials and vernacular flavors that came down river.  We fly in our exotic foodstuffs and pretend that country dwellers are sub-cultural and pitiful.  We eliminated the indigenous peoples through genocide that included destroying and failing to appreciate knowledge of landscape scale management and celebration.  

Now we are largely clueless as to how to build persistent inhabitation and ecological integration that serves multiple values and connects us to wonder and appreciation.  Luckily we have remnants of knowledge from both Native American and traditional European forest cultures to help us rebuild our lives.  We can learn to be social in the forest together and to bring into our homes ways of living that connect us to place.  

This Social Forestry course will explore reconnecting through ecological knowledge, the use of hand tools and woodcrafts, seasonal festivals and work cycles, children' stories, pilgrimages and stewardship covenants.

We will learn ecological assessment, carbon sequestration methods, restoration forestry and the crafts and products that can be enjoyed while we are re-establishing our heart space and wonder in the woods.  We discuss medicinal products, charcoal, basketry, decorative jewelry, wood products, pole building, adobe plasters, cooperating with wildlife, storytelling, seasonal festivals and inclusive family activities.  Hands-on activities may include basketry, can stoves, rod mats, small diameter wood working, loading and firing charcoal kiln, coppicing, species assessment, forest mark-up and stand examination, tree felling, pole stripping, under burning, fuel hazard reduction with pile burning.  Activity choice based on weather conditions and interest.

Playing with Fire, an extensive report by Peter Michael Bauer following the 2016 Social Forestry Course.


- Stand evaluation,Small tree selection, selecting for good lumber, fuel hazard reduction, thinning, high pruning 
- small-medium tree felling, log carrying, pole preparation, bark peeling, 
- charcoal making (with the right equipment), biochar production
- broadscale burning, assist in cool burn, safe fire reduction thru pile burning, open burning with guidance, graze/mow/burn dynamic 
- coppicing, Coppice hedge caretaking, pollarding, layering for propagation, identifying bodging materials
- maple tapping,  pipe making, some basketry, some medicinals, furniture craft 
- I can make a simple bench and a charcoal stove!
- use of some tools including broad knife, Sharpening tools, two person sawing
- Observing, listen to what the forest might want, plant id'ing
- I learned many skills for forest evaluation and applying learned practices with right intention and relationship.
- knot tying, making a loom for a hurdle
- woven rod mat, hazel may basket, some qualities of wood and what they can be used for
- linking heritage of land people; how to belong to a place


5 stars: Getting deep into social forestry is an inspiration for how I steward the land I live on.  The teachers complement each other and Hazel's deep vision and understanding of the big picture truly inspired me.

4.5 stars: I took this course to learn how to better read and interact responsibly with the forested landscape.  How to integrate and become a person of place.  This was expected and received by Hazel's loving, witty, holistic teaching from experience and story.  A new challenging way to learn but I walked away feeling that I had been spoken to be a great elder.  A fulfilling course.  I hope they spend more time on crafts in the years to come.

5 stars: for the course and for the generous giving of self, each unique of Peter, Hazel, Karen & Melanie.  You give me breadcrumb trails back into the world of the wild and my own heart.

5 stars: there could not be a better introduction to social forestry.

4 stars: Permaculture students will leave this course with a nourished mind, body and spirit.  Weather dependent, you will spend time outside working in the fields and forest, but the true value of this course lies in the daily story-telling sessions with Hazel where one remembers and connects with our shared ability to be humans living a life embedded in nature.

5 stars: A socially dynamic, material and content dense, weeklong course of study and action.  A necessity for any long term permaculture involving forestry and people.  A beautiful social learning experience which I look forward to attending again.

5 stars: Hazel offers a well-rounded course in ultimate permaculture.  Instead of a zone 5 within which humans have no influence, Hazel's opinion is that the forest misses our presence and needs us to maintain its health.

5 stars: The social forestry class is a full-on immersion into reciprocal land-tending practices.  The gift Hazel and Siskiyou Permaculture have to offer is invaluable and greatly needed.  This course builds culture.

4.5 stars: 5 stars would be a bit much don't you think?  It's not the ritz.

5 stars: and 10 hearts.  Learn forestry hands on ,w tie grounded academic basis and incubating the culture needed for resilient forestry practices.

5 stars: Course is substantialized by Hazel's collective wisdom, macrocosmic perspective and tangible lessons from contextual management of this gorgeous desert land.  If you want details, read three or four books on the subject before you arrive and then enjoy Hazel, the staff and your counterparts in study.

5 stars: I am leaving this course feeling inspired and little overwhelmed by all I've learned.  Hazel is a brilliant mad scientist of the woods and its always a pleasure to soak up some of her wisdom.

5 stars: The social forestry course from Siskiyou Permaculture includes lots of hands-on forestry work and learning to read the landscape with a healthy dose of engaging classroom time.  Lots of fun in a beautiful environment.  Hazel's deep connection to the land provides endless opportunity for demonstration sites, story and experimentation.


5 stars: Prepare to radicalize/re-indigenize your worldview.  In addition to practicing hard forestry and crafting skills, so much of what this course has to offer is conceptual: how do you read a landscape intuitively and scientifically?  How do you interact with it?  How do we as humans work and live mutualistically with each other and other forest beings?  How do we tune in with our evolutionary roots and value our place in the universe again?  This is not your standard structured academic course.  So prepare to listen carefully, read between the lines of the stories, ask questions and allow the experience to unfold in its organic way.  I had a bunch of fun and enjoyed the unconventional learning environment.

4.5 stars: This course provided a broad array of ideas and practices for collectively interacting with a land base.  There was thorough first hand, scientific and mythic exploration of materials, processes and culture.  The demonstrations were hands on and there was a good amount of space for questions.  Facilitators were flexible and open to change based on class desire.

4.5 Stars: This course is excellent for anyone seeking to gain knowledge into new ways to live more traditionally, more i harmony with nature.  It has helped me learn new skills, hone some existing skills and deepen my ability to observe my surroundings.  Thanks friends, I appreciate the knowledge you're spreading.

3 Stars: Recommend some sort of prerequisite.  I found myself lost in some of the terminology, but found that most of my questions were answered when I just waited and listened more.  The class did fit my learning style yet I got overwhelmed with the note taking.  After 3 days, I just stopped taking notes.

3 Stars: Even though I was hoping for more, it was an incredible experience; more social than anything.  I really valued the space for developing community around these topics.  How can we work and be a part of wild nature?  Keep it up! Really, really important edge of permaculture to be living into.


5 Stars: A balance of science and lore applied to pragmatic forestry for ecological resilience.  This work brings peace to my mind; thank you for generating sacred space.

5 Stars: I came into this course uncertain about what exactly was going to be the glue binding together the many proposed topics.  It turns out the title of the course actually does say it all! Hazel, Melanie and Karen guided us into a world  our world, in which the forest encompasses an entire structure already in place that we as humans are capable of waking up to, reintegrating into, and forming community within.

5 Stars: This is a great course to begin ones journey of reindigenation.  Introductions to topics and hands-on skills including biochar and charcoal production, ethnobotany, cool broadscale burning, symbolic and rithal connections to nature and lore, stand assessment and tree felling were broad and inspiring.  Best synergy in town.

5 Stars: This course was super fun and we learned a ton.  Hazel's stories give forestry work a new depth.  It is inspiring to co-create a new now with a whole new community of people.  You were fabulous to spend a week with.

5 Stars: I really appreciate the emphasis on hand-based skills and the inclusion of the multilayered relationsips/natures of ecosystems.  I also appreciate that things/people weren't overly micro-managed.  Thank you for singing, laughing and acknowledging truths.

5 Stars: I would repeat this course if I could burn the whole time! The three of you are amazing and inspiring.

4.5 Stars: Tom-thanks for your wisdom and energy and willingness to be and act each day what you believe; Melanie-thanks for your calm, subtle humor and on-trackness and many skills; Karen-thanks for your demeanor that just speaks "friend", for your gentleness.

3.5 Stars: The course is advertised as Advanced Permaculture.  The skills covered seemed pretty basic.  I think more could have been covered by better coordination.  More than anything else, the stories and discussion have inspired me to network with others to create and participate in seasonal work camps.

4 Stars: A great experience.  Don't know where else you could find it.

4.5 Stars: This was a totally awesome course/original offering.  Hazel's experience is very unqiue and provides an example for a way to live close to your environment with a keen symbiotic relationship.  Thank you for your dedication to growing a more healthy culture and stewardship of the Earth!


5 Stars: I learned so much that I can apply right away and feel that I am a more capable steward & designer from being here.  I liked the mix of practical hands-on activities and the more thought-oriented discussions.  Good to think about how we got here and where we can go.  Thank you for your transparency and the sense of wonder and fun that is behind all this.

4.8 Stars: This course is full of practical skills and tools for developing a beneficial relationship with the woods and creating valuable products in a human scale (and fun) way.  I have a renewed sense of the resiliency of nature, and a better understanding of how I can contribute to creating more diversity and complexity and health on our land.  

5 Stars: This course takes an integral look at some of the roots of our historical interaction with the woods.  The class was a wonderful balance of hands-on work with new and old tools, new and old cultural stories, and new and old design ideas and principles.  Y'all are a wonderfully effective trio with wonderful knowledge, wisdom and good humor.  I would love to take more courses and come intern when I have more experience under my belt.

5 Stars: The Social Forestry course has been truly transformative.  My expectations were blown away and I am leaving full of practical knowledge, inspiration and a deep respect for the forests.  The social aspect of forestry that Tom brings pulls all of the permaculture forestry practices together in an extremely critical way.  I wish I could more accurately express my gratitude for this opportunity.  This course has been critical for me in this time.

4.5 Stars: There were so many topics we didn't even begin to cover.  Also we didn't use the recommended books. Sorry can't think of a review right now.

5 Stars:  Thank you for this hands-on field study class.  It was wonderful to move from the classroom and lecture to the field study site where we could practice what we were learning and see the results of our activity.  With the broadscale burning--seeing how permaculture shapes the landscape makes a difference.  Thanks for being inspiring teachers and a great team.  It's an honor to watch you inform the next generation!

3-4 Stars: If the focus is social, we could have had much more social elements present--more song, ritual, story, community-building. Love the way your team works together, super inspiring.

5 Stars: Beyond all the facts and experience I gained during this course was the introduction to a different sense of time and community that I could not have imagined without the example of Tom Ward.  My life is richer for having taken this class.

5 Stars: The course will change your experience of being in the forest.  It is a deep introduction to a set of traditional ways of relating to a forest.  Great community of people and pool of knowledge and information.  Great course, great teamwork.  Really enjoyed the chemistry between you.

5 Stars: Seriously, this is the visioning and re-skilling that needs to be brought into the movement consciousness and discussion.  A great blend of theory and practice helps illumine the bio-regional scope of possible integration and abundance.

No rating: This is a wonderfully exciting, fast-paced course focused on a the way humans can relearn to participate in the forest community as a regenerative force of change.  I loved the mix of inspiring, revolutionary and visionary stores with hands-on projects.  The best thing about it was the offering of a change in perspective of how to manage the forest amongst the human and natural community.  This is vital information for all world-changers.  I'm sad we didn't make charcoal stoves or do focused basketry.