Optical Surveying


Optical Surveying
Advanced Permaculture Certificate Course
Held at Wolf Gulch Farm

Course starts the first day at 10:00 AM, and the week will end the last day at 5:00 PM. Meet at the first parking lot just up the drive of Wolf Gulch Farm, 7000 Little Applegate Road, Jacksonville, Oregon at milepost 8. Driving time from Ashland is about 1 hour. Students are welcome and encouraged to arrive the previous evening, especially if you’re coming from far away.

Do not expect to have cell phone reception at Wolf Gulch. If someone needs to contact you in an emergency, best is to email tomward@mind.net. This email is checked daily.

Directions: Use maps to locate your best route to Hwy 238 and/or Jacksonville (west of Medford). Take 238 from Jacksonville to Ruch (first business area). Turn left (south) onto Applegate Rd. Come a couple of miles to Little Applegate Rd., turn left (east). Continue up Little Applegate past the end of the pavement about 2 miles (Mile 6 at Yale Creek Road junction).  You should go wide on two blind hairpins. The second has the driveway tucked in just around the corner. Watch for the driveway for 7000 Little Applegate on your left, just next to milepost 8. Come about 300 ft. up the driveway and turn right into the parking area.

There will be a maximum of 15 students. We really appreciate carpooling as parking is limited.  We will help arrange this.


1/4 inch graph paper pad
Clip board with rain protection (plastic bag will work)
Work gloves
Whistle for signaling when out of sight

Strongly recommended:
Pocket Transit/Sighting compass (see details below)
Hand Sight Level (see details below)

If you have it, please bring:
Small binoculars, small pruners (Felco or equivalent), Jacob’s staff or tripod, engineer’s scale or wooden ruler, 100 foot (30 meter)+ measuring tape, walking wheel, transit, surveying vest with pockets galore, pocket rod (see details below)

We will have tools for students to use, but if you have your own tools, you will have more time to practice with them. Below is a list of the recommended tools with links to the best prices we could find at the moment. Please note that prices and availability changes frequently, so you may need to shop around. Order tools in plenty of time to receive them before the course.

Pocket Transit
You need a pocket transit for this course. A pocket transit combines a compass and clinometer. We have been trying out different transits and recommend either of these.

Silva Ranger 515 (360 degrees not the Quad) is available from Amazon for $40 plus shipping. Folks on Amazon like this better than the Brunton. Despite our long term affection for the Brunton’s, this probably the better choice now.

Brunton TruArc 15: As of September 2017, the only Brunton available on Amazon that appears to be equivalent to the ones we have gotten in the past is the TruArc 15, which currently costs $40.14. We have yet to test this model. The TruArc 20 is also available.
Brunton Eclipse F-8099. As of August 25, 2016, the Brunton Eclipse F-8099 (do not get the Pro model) which we used to use is no longer available unless you can find a used one on eBay.

Hand Level

If you expect to be doing surveying on jobs, we recommend you get a magnifying level of 5x or better.

The best deal still seems to be the CST/berger 8”-5x Hand Level with Stadia 17-630 at Amazon for $84.88.
Johnson Hand Sight Level from Amazon for $15 plus shipping. Students have been frustrated with the limited distance they can see with the non-magnifying sight levels, and we now recommend getting a magnifying level if you can afford it. When considering levels, we strongly recommend finding one with split screen stadia.

You might also consider the Kuker-Ranken 572S Hand Level. It is only a 2x magnification and is more expensive (retail $128), but is handmade in Seattle, WA and is of superior quality to the CST and SECO hand levels. KR is offering our students a discounted price of $89.60 for a new level. To get this discount call 800-454-1310 to order. Let them know you are taking Optical Surveying with Siskiyou Permaculture. You can try our KR 572S hand level at the course. If you decide you want to buy this level, you can still get the discount after the course.

We are finding the quality and precision of the pocket transits and sight levels to be inconsistent, so we will spend some time in class making sure everyone’s tools are working properly.

Pocket Rod

We don’t need everyone to have one, but it’s recommended if you expect to be doing some surveying in the near future.

We recommend the Keson PR-610 6-1/2 ft. Builder’s Engineers Pocket Rod (make sure you get the PR610 which is 10ths instead of the PR612 which is in inches). This is about the size of a builder’s tape measure so you can carry it easily.


Bring your own food; no food is provided through your course fee. We will create dinner from your food contributions. Everyone usually makes their own breakfast and lunch, but we may decide to cook warm food together at lunch as well. There will be a camp kitchen with stove and wash-up area. Additional cook stoves could be useful. We encourage participants to show up the evening before class starts to set up camp.

This is a campground with composting toilets. Solar shower available if the sun is shining (wouldn’t count on it in November). Some indoor sleep spaces will be available in the event of very inclement weather.

Please pay attention to the Checklist of What to bring.  You will want these items with you!

 Daypack suggested as we will be roaming far from camp. There may be ticks this time of year. Poison oak will require constant awareness (ours is not super potent to most folks). A hot cup can be helpful in staying warm throughout the day. Hot water will be available for tea most of the time. Limited water is available on-site. Each person should bring at least 3 gallons of drinking/cleaning water. Exceptions made for people coming by public transit. See below for more info and checklist.



* = an item you must bring. Others are somewhat optional as we can share. Perhaps check with the people with whom you are carpooling to make sure you have provided from amongst your group.

* 3-5 gallons per person to drink and contribute to cooking and washing, (or more)
* water bottle

Camping Gear:
* Tent (sharing is good), tent footprint,
* warm sleeping bag
* sleeping pad
* flashlight
lantern (it will be getting dark early and lanterns will be quite useful)
headlamp for doing tasks and walking in the dark

Daytime/Class Comfort:
* Rain-protected clipboard/notebook. This can be rain resistant notebook, field notebook or a plastic bag over your notebook.
* Daypack or bag for carrying clothing, tools, while roaming far from camp
* Camp chair (hopefully 2) It’s great to have one in the classroom and another at the eating area.

Tarp to sit on or hang for rain protection
Small thermos and/or insulated cup for tea
Solar shower bag
Bring only biodegradable soaps/shampoo. Soap will be provided. Shower priority will be given to those who are sensitive to poison oak.
Sun screen


Temperatures at Wolf Gulch tend to the extremes. Be prepared for very hot or very cold temperatures. This time of year is very unpredictable and could be in the 70’s or down to the 20’s. Layers are necessary with warm things for sitting in semi-heated conditions.

* Raingear. Rain repellant but breathable work jacket. We will be walking and working outside regardless of weather conditions.
* Long sleeve shirts and long pants for moving through brush including poison oak.  Burr-proof clothes such as tight nylon (quick dry) work well
* Warm gloves/mittens, fingerless gloves are useful
* Sun hat (brimmed hat for strong horizontal sun)
Wool cap and scarf

Food and cooking:

* At breakfast and lunch. Bring what you want for yourself. You can use our camp kitchen for preparation. 3 days during the course we will be away from camp at lunch, so you will need food you can carry in your backpack.
* Dinner: Bring food to contribute, especially vegies. We will be providing a big pot of grain (rice or quinoa) each evening and making a stew or stir-fry and salad from whatever people bring. Dairy and meats will be kept separate from the rest of the food, but are appreciated by many. We will have pots for boiling water and some pans for frying/toasting.
* Snacks are nice for tea time and after dinner. Shared tea snacks are greatly appreciated.
* Ice chest (sharing is good). We need to keep food contained and out of reach to critters.
* Dishes and utensils.
Small pot if needed for breakfast or other personal cooking.
Small stove, optional


Optical Surveying for Earthworks and Water
Oct. 21-26, Wolf Gulch

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Dec. 2

Winter Camp Forestry Internship
Dec 2-12, Wolf Gulch

Social Forestry
Jan 20-25, 2024