Working with the garage owner to design a process to enable him to move towards retirement with the garage set up for a sustainable future.
Design period: July 2013 – May 2014
Client: Bill, the garage owner and fellow designer
Design period: July 2013 – May 2014
Client: Bill, the garage owner and fellow designer
On one of the PDCs that I helped out on I met Bill who was passionate about Permaculture and worked not far away from me. He subsequently became part of our ALG.
He owns a successful independent garage near to where I live, he had already integrated a fair amount of permaculture thinking into the way it worked, but he was looking to move towards retirement and reduced work hours and so he wanted to use permaculture design to enable this. As he was not experienced in people-based permcaulture designing he asked for my help in designing it. And as it was part of the business development he kindly offered to pay me for my time.
I think the design web worked well for this design. With hindsight and more experience, as normal, I would probably choose to use it slightly differently. I used it quite linearly for this design, moving around the anchor points. This was partly as it was an easy way to introduce Bill to it.
I did however, build in regular reflections, as well as appreciation and pauses, which helped to keep up the momentum and for me to keep a handle on how it was progressing and tweak my approaches.
What went well?
What was challenging?
What would I do differently next time?
This was the first design I actually started after my halfway assessment. I already had 3 designs more on the go and so I knew that I needed a couple more. In the spirit of my Action Learning Pathway design, following my energy and motivation, this design felt very appropriate as I had just decided to move and so I would be designing this anyway. Although I had not done an indoor spatial design before, in itself it did not feel like a big learning edge. I had been interested in trying a different design framework for a while, but had not found the right opportunity. This seemed like a great chance. It took me a while to choose which design framework to use. Appreciative enquiry felt too vague and CEAP also felt very basic and like I would just end up doing the design web, but tied to the ‘order’. REAP MORE and the Australian design cycle were the two I ended up with and REAP MORE was the most different and also had ‘instructions’ with it, so I decided to give it a go.
Below is a slideshow of the design, you can pause it on any of the images and you can see all of the handwritten items in bigger here. I have then gone on to documenting and reflecting on the design process as that was my key learning area for this design.
I definitely felt a bit of frustration going back to the ‘beginning’ and the awkward conscious incompetence of using a new framework. I found it challenging to come up with a ‘reason’ I felt satisfied with as they were all very general and therefore I felt not very useful! I did try and generate more specifics by producing a mind map of what my needs are. It was interesting, as well as challenging to decide what was a need and to not just write down everything I already had on my ideas list! I felt it was a bit early on for me to easily identify the functions of the design, but I focused on the ‘why’ of the golden circle as that is often very similar to my functions anyway. I liked bringing in the ethics right at the beginning as a spoken element. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was including in the reality check (plus I had resistance to ‘limiting’ my vision) so I just put the time and money limits like the mind map mentioned.
I found the concept of ‘exclude’ interesting and challenging to try and apply to this design beyond the obvious physical boundary of the room itself. I kept writing what I would include rather than exclude. Excluding feels a bit unlimited! I also feel that I don’t know what needs will arise during the design so I kind of want to let it be more organic and not rule things out. It was good to consider what I was actually designing though. I had also already unconsciously excluded aspects, such as the packing up before moving from the design. I was feeling frustrated at the this point as I felt there were lots of important things I hadn’t considered yet, before moving on to the more analysis stage. I then had the realisation that I was letting myself be limited by the framework and as the step was ‘explore’ I could bring in any tools and learnings I wanted that I felt might be applicable to this stage. I was not ‘starting from scratch’ in learning to design again! So I explored the resources that I had available, the limits that I needed to be aware of and also reflected on some of my past patterns of success and erosion in bedrooms. I also drew up the basemap of the room, so I can see what I am working with. I was pleased to find that everything pretty much matched up and my assumption that everything was square was close enough! For the ‘vertical’ aspects I annotated a photograph. I also realised that it was important to include the context on the map and also as a few notes. I then felt satisfied with my ‘observing’ and ‘exploring’ and ready to move on to the next step.
Which tools did I want to use? I looked at the tools mindmap I had in my resources, specifically at the analysis, stage and decided on a few tools which felt applicable, although I subsequently realised one of them is more for ‘designing’ than assessing. I liked being reminded not to do too much analysis! But I felt that now was the time to really get the essential functions pinned down as it suggested. At this stage I went back to my vision as I am used to doing, but I got a bit stuck with what ‘level’ of function to include. As part of this I realised that I am kind of doing two linked designs, one for the layout of the room and the other for the decorating of it and moving process. So I started by focussing on the layout aspect. Wanting more specifics than ‘I want to design a room that meets my needs’ (!) I went down the route of looking at the needs I had already come up with, some of these were more general needs, like warmth and light, and then I had also identified the ‘functions’ that I wanted the room to fulfill. Writing it now and looking through it at the time it felt suddenly obvious that these were the functions. So next I decided to look at the ‘characteristics’ of each function. This was useful and interesting. It took me a little more consideration to work out how warmth, light, nature etc fitted in until I realised that they were part of the function of ‘sanctuary’. It took me a while for the realisation that there were two linked designs, with quite distinct designing needs to settle in and for me to feel comfortable with identifying the functions of each. Reflecting in my weekly check-in and working through it helped. Earlier on, before I had started the Assess stage I had felt the need to write down my priority decisions, that needed to be made soon. I had also written a list right at the beginning about tasks that needed to be done/ decisions made. I was feeling like the design was heading more towards the layout and it wasn’t helping me make the decisions on schedule quickly. So having reviewed and written the elements down I did some research (Explore) into different flooring options, including whether I could get secondhand carpet. I then had three conversations in the evening, clarifying limits on timings of various things, getting feedback and inspiration on ideas. I wasn’t sure at this point though whether I was or could actually permaculture design this aspect. In light of realising there were two distinct sections I decided to go back and colour code what I had already done – purple for layout and blue for decorating and moving. Interestingly a lot of the thinking through was for the layout where as the limits were predominantly for the decorating & moving! Resources is half and half. This explained why I was feeling uneasy! So I went back and revisited the stages for the decorating and moving aspect.
This was one of the original functions I identified in the design, which I later clarified to decorating and moving. I had also identified some of the ‘reality checks’ around it. I went back though and elaborated on it, thinking through the yields I wanted from it and also a few more realities, which on reflection are actually the ‘limits’ of the design as I think of them.
I had already ‘explored’ a lot of this when I went through the process originally. A lot of the resources and limits relate to this. I also wrote a list of the priority decisions, therefore elements, which I then started to explore in more detail. The decorating and moving aspect of the design is more iterative as I need to make one decision before I can properly ‘explore’ the subsequent ones. The exploring so far has involved phone calls and discussions as well as some online research. It does also tie into the other layout aspect, particularly around the platform and whether to do anything to it.
As part of this I assessed which order the decisions needed to be made in. I pulled the information together to make placing decisions, such as the moving in date, which was decided after talking to my Mum and my Dad, finding out when they were available and how they could help, as well as my gut feeling on wanting to move in sooner. I did an input-output analysis of each of the elements that I need to consider/place, so that I could see how they fit together. I also created a timetable with movable pieces ready for the next stage and so I could see the lie of the land. I also clarified the functions of this aspect of the design, they were fairly similar to the ‘vision’ ones. At the time I was not completely happy with them as ‘functions’ but they definitely captured what I was trying to achieve.
Having bought both of the two aspects of the design up to the same place I moved on to the next stage. It says that this is the main time when the principles are applied, so I decided to go with my interpretation on this. I wanted to more consciously consider the ethics in my designing so I did a mind map for each aspect of the design around the permaculture ethics (inspired by Jan), this was interesting, and the main thing it drew out for me was to highlight the need for peoplecare during people coming to help, as I realised that could be easily sidelined. I then looked at the principles and choose 4 to consider for each aspect, I also considered one of Looby Macnamara’s ways of thinking – thinking like nature – as I had decided I wanted to in my previous tutorial. I did a mind map for each of these and discovered I had already planned a lot of it using them, the principles are becoming more integrated into how I think so I consider them automatically. Thinking like nature was interesting, though I found it challenging to know where to start. I began with animal homes, then I did a wonder wander to see what called out to me and what metaphors it could offer, then I remembered the idea I had had of making it multi-sensory and the idea of using all the 5 elements sprung from that. I really enjoyed considering these completely different aspects and how they could be woven into the design. I have noticed a lack of space for collecting ideas in this framework, I seem to have captured them in my head and lots of them came out when considering the ethics and principles. Decorating and Moving – I looked at the timetable again in light of further analysis and developments and came up with a provisional timeline. I realised from thoughts that arose in the ethics, principles and ways of thinking that I needed to have plans for the weekends that I was visiting Crabapple to ensure that peoplecare was included as well as the rest of the 8 directions after doing the hard work! I enjoyed being reminded not to wait for perfection! Layout – I started playing around with placings in the room. I identified some potential areas for things, but felt a need to take the ideas to the room the following weekend to see how they ‘felt’ in the different spaces. So whilst visiting briefly I ‘tried out’ some of my ideas to see what the different spaces felt like. This was very valuable as some areas really did not feel right and there are certain things that are very obvious when you are in a room that you forget on a design, like the door being in the way of a hammock. It was useful to talk a few ideas through with my visitors and they had a really useful suggestion of possible bed position. It was also useful to assess what equipment was available for using for painting the following weekend. I took the opportunity during this weekend of buying some ‘treats’ for enjoying during the following ‘working weekends’ as part of my peoplecare plans.
I used this first weekend as a chance to pause from designing and to relax and there was a certain celebratory atmosphere although I didn’t specifically spend time on celebrating this design. I didn’t really reflect on the process, but I did discuss some of my room ideas which was useful. It took over a week to find the time to distill my learnings. I think possibly don’t rush it or try and fit too much in is a good one and definitely physically walking through the ideas on site was really useful as was bouncing ideas off of others. Another conversation helped me realise that I can sleep on the sofabed for a while, before I need to decide on getting a bed, which removed a potential limit from the system.
Decorating and moving – I now definitely shifted into the ‘action’ stage of this aspect, but I found myself cycling round the different steps rather than just following them linearly as it was an evolving process! I spent a weekend painting the room and it was interesting how different it looked and felt once painted. We did not quite finish the painting this weekend, but we planned it so that the bits that were left were fine to do once I had moved in by myself. It was a great opportunity to stack in lots of observations and discussions and it helped me make decisions on the plan for the following moving weekend. The peoplecare planning worked well. Having one night in each home worked well as did the food plans, particularly the tasty snacks I bought went down very well for keeping up morale and energy! The pause to go to the cinema on Friday night, several walks, lunches and a morning shopping in Shrewsbury gave us a good rest, as well as chats with others popping in to see what we were doing. Taking the music player was great as it wasn’t actually so easy to talk and paint as we had thought it would be. I also made some thank you gifts. We celebrated as we went along, appreciating our progress and how lovely it looked and then reflecting on it as we came towards the end which helped me to let go of it. So lots of good peoplecare and yields, many actions I may well not have thought to do if I hadn’t designed it. I then reviewed my plan for the moving weekend to integrate my learnings. Not following the MORE stages linearly made it much more intuitive and when I reviewed them afterwards I had covered most of it anyway.
Layout – I played around with the cut outs on the basemap, trying out the new ideas with the information gained from visiting. I then decided to go through the areas to see which functions I could stack into them and what elements that involved, this looked similar to the functions table Looby made, but in a slightly different order. Because of the functions that I have chosen for this design it feels a bit different, I cannot merely put it on a map or in a mind map so I have done both. I have also interpreted in this situation the functions maxim as ‘having several spaces where each function can be met and various elements in place to support each function’. I had a bit of resistance to producing this as a drawn design as I knew that I would start tweaking it straight away, but once I recognised this thought pattern, I reframed it as capturing my ideas now and creating a plan I can work to for the initial layout. It doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ as it says in the mindmap. Because there is not very much guidance in the mindmap I have brought in techniques and learnings from previous designs.
Maintenance doesn’t feel particularly applicable for this design, but if it was I feel like there would be a lack of ‘maintenance plan’ as it just talks about maintaining it. Similarly for most of the steps the guidance seems to be primarily on doing and I feel like they almost need two iterations for each, a thinking through, followed by a doing.
Decorating and moving – The final moving weekend went pretty well according to plan. It was a good job I had decided to come over the night before. It did make extra stress for me getting things packed before then, but it gave me time to find my feet, finish painting and cleaning and to get some elements of peoplecare sorted ready for the weekend. My appreciations did not go quite to plan, we did have a little of the food I had bought, but not so much and they bought me champagne and wine as a moving in present so I did not use the wine I had bought. I made a point of trying to thank them through out, but I actually think reflecting now that I should write them a thank you card as they have been wonderful about it all. The schedule also evolved slightly, but one of the best things about having a plan is being able to change it when things evolve! We did not manage so much pausing either, various cups of tea, but they were actually quite keen to keep going and that worked fine. We did kind of have a celebration on the sat eve with the champagne and wine and I took a little time on Sunday evening to reflect and release, but it took me over a fortnight to find the time to do the reflection. Something around a belief that it was going to be hard work/ lot of thinking. Layout – We laid out the furniture as close as possible to my plan and they had also bought lots of other bits and bobs and ideas so quite a few extra things were incorporated in and also there were a few things I do not have yet, such as a proper bed and a wardrobe so those weren’t placed. A wardrobe was created, however, by putting up a rail across the platform beams so I had somewhere to store my clothes, which changed the layout under the platform quite considerably, but was easy to remove if I had changed my mind. A few months after moving in I made the most of my observations so far and did a PMI of my room layout, which was very interesting to reflect on. I definitely identified with the guidance on the framework mind map. Generally it was going well, but I realised that working out where I was going to store everything was my next priority.
So I made a storage plan. I started by writing a list of the main things I needed to store, identified their characteristics and all the potential place they could be stored. There were lots of different options now that I had moved in and various other furniture items or ideas had turned up. From this I looked at the different storage areas and decided what seemed the most sensible arrangement. It felt great to have a plan, although a lot of it still depended on getting further furniture or putting up shelves, so I couldn’t do much placing at this stage. I appreciate the recognition in the framework that a design is inevitably evolving and that this is to be expected.
As the framework mindmap says ‘End? Of course not!’. My room continues to evolve and will as long as I stay here. I definitely enjoyed this design both in the theoretical and practical stages and I am enjoying the yields now. There does not seem to be a specific evaluative stage in this framework, more scattered throughout MORE. I finished this design cycle by reflecting on the systems within systems questions above and looking at whether I felt I had fulfilled the functions.
It has been really very interesting using the REAP MORE design framework. It has challenged me to stretch my edges and to integrate my learnings from using SADIMET and the design web. I did not have very comprehensive guidance, so I have fairly inevitably taken it my own way and bought in my own ideas and tools. It was interesting to use a framework with a different pattern as the design web evolved from SADIMET so they both have the same underlying structure. It has taken quite a lot of processing to get my head around this different pattern and to see where some of it corresponds with what I am familiar with. I have enjoyed the words of advice on the mind map as they have often been good reminders of lessons I have already learnt during my designing. I would definitely use this design framework again. I would like to try it out for a land-based design as that is what it originated for and I am still not hugely keen on SADIMET. REAP MORE feels much more organic and evolving, in line with the permaculture ethics. What has gone well?
What was challenging?
What have I learnt? What would I do differently next time?
This is on top of the design framework evaluation already done. What went well?
What was challenging?
What would I do differently next time?
Design period: September 2014 – April 2015
In early June 2013 I moved house and was given free rein on a large and weedy vegetable patch. Living further out from town I did not have the access to fresh, local, organic food that I was used to and wanted. Growing my own seemed a good solution.
I have dabbled in food growing in the past, but I would not say I am very experienced. I did however, have a lot of enthusiasm and had read a fair few books and articles that had inspired me in different methods I could try. I also wanted to build on my learnings from the allotment design that I did for my mum.
As it was already well into the growing season when I started, I decided to use 2013 primarily as observation time and aim for a design for the 2014 growing season. To this end I took some photos and recorded the success of my small scale growing that year.
It was pretty rampant, but my housemate James did a grand job of clearing it all. I did, however, have lots of Earthcare guilt about the exposed and disrupted soil ecosystems.
In the meantime I was reading through Aranya’s book Permaculture Design – a step by step guide and reflecting on my previous land-based design. This gave me lots of ideas for taking forwards. So I started by taking measurements to put together a basemap and discovered string and a short tape measure is no substitute for a proper surveying tape measure! Nevertheless I did my best using my smart phone to take bearings too. When it came to drawing it up there was definitely a bit of inaccuracy, but I concluded that for what I was doing that level of inaccuracy wasn’t a big problem.
I also surveyed the plants already there and rated their frequency with the DAFOR scale. It was really interesting to actually identify all of the ‘weeds’ that were growing. I could not deduce a clear pattern from them though in terms of where they like to grow, apart from disturbed ground! It would have been interesting to have done this before it was cleared too, when the plant communities were more established.
I also did an inventory of all of the seeds that I had gathered from various sources – some donated from my mum, some hanging around in the house and some spare ones of Bills. I sorted them into what time of year they needed planting so it was easy to find. I was introduced to James Wong’s book James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution and I got inspired so I bought some seeds for people for Christmas and to save on postage I bought some for myself as well, but as I did not have a plan by that point it was a little bit random which I chose.
I did a small amount of growing in 2013, mostly with spare plants that my mum bought up for me. I kept it all in a small patch and tried out a few techniques like mulching with the weeds I had just pulled up. I kept a record of everything that I did in a notebook, my housemate James also created a blog for recording our experiments, but I never got round to writing on it. I had mixed success, but I learnt things such as that mulching can increase the numbers of slugs and also did quite a lot of unrecorded observation.
This is as far as I had got by the time the year turned and I was starting to get a bit anxious about getting a design together as I knew that I needed to start planting seeds soon.
So I continued with my information gathering by doing some soil tests in a few sites and discovered there was more clay than I had expected, however trying to do a more thorough jam jar soil test just confused me, because there was still so much suspended sediment when I was supposed to mark the boundary between sand and silt that I couldn’t see where the surface of the sediment was and then as the sediment settled over the next few days it ‘sunk’ and so the levels for clay were also inaccurate, although you could quite clearly see the clay layer.
With this information I drew up my basemap and an overlay of existing plants and soils.
I then came to sectors… I had a go at spotting frost patterns, where it lingered and where it melted; I went out in the pouring rain to see if water pooled anywhere or drained in any particular pattern; I chose a windy day and put out a load of plastic bags on sticks to try and discern patterns in the winds flow. I could not discern much variation across the patch from any of them, but there were a few site wide discoveries – the hedge provided a little shelter from frost underneath it; there was no pooling of water even during heavy rain, in fact the whole patch was raised up from the road where water did pool; and there was not enough wind at a metre height to blow the bags even when it was quite windy.
Now the sector where there was variation across the patch was in shading, but having not thought about it in advance I did not have observations from other times of year to use. So I decided to try out the sun compass. The instructions on it were not that clear, so although I had a go I was not sure whether I had done it right. When I tried to turn it into a sun sector overlay I was skeptical of the results, so I referred back to some photographs I had taken in the summer as well as an aerial photo taken around the autumn equinox and observations at the time which was the spring equinox to try and corroborate it. I concluded that I had too much shadow using the sun compass so I ended up using the accurate information from the photos and observations and then extrapolating and using my recordings to guesstimate the rest.
I also found the long term weather data for the area.
The remainder of the Survey stage was looking at what was wanted. So I did a consultation with everyone else in the house and then a much more detailed Client Interview with myself.
The process of putting together the basemap and looking through the results of all of the surveying started off the analysis in my head. I then considered all of this information and used it to identify the key functions of the design. I also set myself some SMART goals around these functions.
From these I attempted to start thinking about the systems that I would need to meet the functions, but I found this quite challenging as the space was quite simple and therefore did not need lots of systems in it beyond growing plants. So I ended up starting with a different tack of writing a list of the plants that I wanted to grow. As I did not already have the knowledge of the growing preferences of these plants I decided that I would create a database which I could then use to help me plan which plants I would grow where. So I created a comprehensive database which you can see a sample of below.
This helped me to see which seeds or plants I did not have and would like. Through this and discussing emerging ideas with other people, I got donations of more seeds as well as a gifts of lots of native wild flower seeds for my birthday.
I also did a wider sketch map of the location of the veg patch marking on the zones and the flows of people.
This where it started to get a bit mixed up, because the season was progressing and I was aware that I needed to start planting seeds and clearing ground now, but I did not have a design finished and so I tried to split my time between the two! For the ease of understanding I will still write about them as separate stages though.
I then went back to the functions and set about identifying elements that could meet them.
These ended up quite process orientated as the key features of water and composting etc were already fixed in location. So although they clarified the approach I would like to take they did not contribute too much to the physical layout, apart from the access side. That is therefore where I focused next, planning the network of paths. With not a great deal of variation across the patch to affect things I designed a network of paths which were visually appealing but gave good access to all beds. I divided the plot into areas so that I could work in small achievable steps. I then used my spreadsheet as well as further internet and book research to put together some polycultures to try out, aiming for a mix of heights and similar planting timings. I then assigned these to each of the areas, depending on how high they grew to minimise shading.
By the time I had finished my design I had already got so far with actions and into the season that it was too late to put together an implementation plan, let alone a maintenance plan. I was essentially winging it trying to use my emerging design to inform my actions.
From necessity I created myself an indoor seed growing area with a giant bit of cardboard covered in foil to try and improve the amount of light there. My landlord had thrown away all of the plastic plant pots so I got inventive with recycled containers with mixed success! I did successive sowing of seeds and managed to keep on top of watering and weeding out the unwanted extras from the homemade compost.
I did intend to start small and keep it achievable. I decided to try and think ahead a bit, so I cleared away some vegetation from one area & covered it in cardboard, compost and black plastic. I covered another area with carpet I found in part of the plot without clearing the vegetation. I realised that I had nothing to make paths out of! I found a few wooden planks, which I put to use as some rather more angular paths.
I then slowly started clearing areas, only removing surface growth though, not digging. My intention was to sow and plant the areas as I cleared them so that it would supress the weeds. Unfortunately I don’t think any of the seeds I planted straight into the soil grew! The weeds however, did!
I got a delivery of partially rotted cow poo from the farm which I spread over an area and it definitely stopped any weeds growing as it was quite acidic still. I planted tomatoes though it and they were fine.
I planted some of the plants out and nearly all of them slowly succumbed to slugs…
By mid June I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and disheartened. I sat and did a bit of a review and decided to just focus on tending and improving the areas that I had already cleared, giving myself a much more manageable focus. This immediately gave me a much more positive outlook and so I went back to some of the areas in progress and weeded them and attempted to rake over the soil to make more of a seedbed and planted a salad polyculture. I also planted out all of the mint plants my mum had given me and James cleared all of the vegetation from around the blackcurrants. Collectively this had a big positive psychological impact.
Then at the end of June the context changed as I decided that I would be probably moving house before the next growing season. This vastly reduced my motivation for thinking longterm as I doubted that anyone else would care for any of it when I had left. So I set to encouraging the wildlife and supporting the plants that were already doing well (minimum input for maximum output), foraging from outside of the plot and harvesting my learnings from the process.
I never got to this point in either the designing or the doing.
I evaluated this design as an integral part of writing it up, going back through all of the documentation, reminding myself and reliving the process, capturing reflections and learnings as I went. In this section I will focus on the content of the design.
What went well?
What was challenging?
What I would do differently next time? And have learnt.
Did I meet my SMART goals?
I am surprised that I don’t have a SMART goal around my learning and experimenting as that was definitely one of my main reasons for doing the design and it had a big influence on the way I did things. I definitely got a substantial yield of learnings.
I am not sure that I fully did this design framework justice as I did not really get to the Implementation and maintenance plans, which I can see on reflection would have been very valuable. However, with the much more comprehensive guidance from Aranya’s book I felt that the SAD parts worked well for this land-based design and I feel like I have got much more of a feel for and understanding of it as a framework. The really comprehensive surveying was very useful, although I underestimated how long it would take!
A minor frustration I have come across before was the lack of capturing of ideas as you go along. I did in fact make myself an ideas sheet, but I still do not see a space for this in the framework before the Decisions stage and as I find that the process of Surveying and Analysis generates lots of ideas this is an energy leak in the framework.
I also did not follow the process very linearly, mainly this was due to time pressures meaning I needed to make decisions before I had finished surveying. However, there are also some aspects which I felt contributed to several of the stages, such as the plant planning database which although I have included it in Decisions it contributed to surveying, analysis and decisions. Having used the design web quite a lot I am used to a less fixed process and I am happy that as my confidence as a permaculture designer grows I am happy to make frameworks suit my designing style, by tweaking and adapting them. I also constantly tweaked the design as I was implementing it and doing further observation of the current context.
What went well?
What was challenging?
What would I do differently next time?
Since moving house I have had a few opportunities to move forwards from this design. I am lucky now to be in a situation where I live with lots of people growing food, which allows me to join in and learn without having overall responsibility for making it work.
We also have Anni Kelsey, author of Edible Perennial Gardening, who is going to be doing a couple of experimental beds on our land, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to get involved and learn about polycultures and perennials in a practical situation. I was also able to bring a bit of my experience to the situation in terms of suggesting that we put a ground cover over the whole beds to begin with so that we can put in the polycultures at our own pace. Also I am going to design the pathways for one of the beds using the same principles and ideas I used in this design, but this time we will properly wood chip them and be able to test them out properly. I also shared my plant database with Anni and others involved and as a result of this it has been used as a resource in an Intro to Permaculture course.
Finally I have done a mini design for the window box outside my bedroom window, really making use of my learning to keep it small and manageable! You can see the design in the mindmap below.
Design period: June 2013 – October 2014
I did my first PDC at a point when I was considering a new direction in my livelihood. Permaculture captured my imagination, particularly around people-based designing, partly as a way of deducing and designing this new direction. Facilitation and teaching has always been something I have had an aptitude and enthusiasm for and I have been involved in numerous alternative learning situations, although never as a full-time job.
When the People and Permaculture Facilitators Training Course came up I was thrilled as it perfectly met the two functions I was after in one go – namely increasing my People and Permaculture and my facilitation knowledge, experience and skills, as well as being a gateway to this as a right livelihood. Enthusiastic as I was, I still went into the course without the self-confidence that I was anywhere near this becoming a reality. The journey of the course and this design have taken me a long way towards realising my dream and building my confidence.
This design was a ‘requirement’ of the course, but it is one I would have almost certainly started anyway.
I decided to follow the pattern of the anchor point sessions that we were having on the course so that I could harvest and use the inspiration that came from each of these. As I had used the design web several times myself already I wanted to try out some different techniques too.
So I started with reflecting on my current situation. I wasn’t sure what to reflect on, but in the end reflected on my experience so far. I also reflected on a question suggested by Pauline looking back on where I was exactly one year ago.
I took quite a lot of pause time at the beginning of my design as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the course and was concerned about finding time to do this design. It felt good to be able to count this pausing as part of my designing, so I could still consider myself as making progress!
I was struggling to clarify the vision for my design, feeling like what I was coming up with was really vague and therefore not very motivating. I shared my frustrations with Demian and he introduced me to the idea of the Golden Circle, where the why of your vision is the most important followed by the how and then the what.
I had been very much focussing on the what so I took some time to digest this advice and have a think about my why. I found it a really useful approach and came up with lots of different whys, but getting them into one succinct sentence was challenging! So I decided to let it go for a while and whilst I was out on a walk the perfect sentence came to me, encapsulating my inspiring vision. I have still kept the details around the edge.
For the helps anchor point I wanted to try something different from just brainstorming with a mindmap, so I used one of the session suggestions and tried drawing things which represented each help. I found this a bit broad though, so I also annotated the drawings with how they could help. All this drawing also inspired me to present all of my other anchor points beautifully too. This helped increase my creativity and my positivity towards the design.
I found doing the helps really beneficial as at that point in the course I was feeling a bit at a loss as to how I was going to carry this on when I got home, but I found it really easy to come up with lots of helps, so realised that I did have a lot of resources I could draw on.
I started capturing my limits quite early on as the course was stretching a lot of my edges, making them pretty clear! So I noted down all the ones that came up. The context also meant that the focus of my limits is very personal, rather than physical.
I was interested to find that one of the limits linked back to my reflection on where I was a year ago and I wonder whether it might have been that start of that pattern.
I had been noting down any inspiration and ideas I had as I went along, but I also sat down and spent time blue sky thinking too, trying really hard as Peter suggested to think outside the box and explore the marginal, using the anchor points I had already done as inspiration. I had a revelation during one of these sessions when I realised the design was not just about me delivering courses, but also my pathway of growing and developing as a facilitator (which seems obvious now!).
A lot of the patterns were captured during the sessions on this anchor point, I came to writing them up after a session on the shadow side and handling emotions. We had had a discussion that it is not helpful to label emotions positive or negative, as they are all valid reactions to experiences and situations. So similarly I realised that I did not want to label my patterns spirals of abundance or erosion, but merely considered them in two different directions.
My approach to the principles anchor point was inspired by Angela sharing that she always put all of her ideas through all of the principles and ethics and if they didn’t meet them then she discarded them. So I gave this a go with all of the ideas that I had come up with so far. I found it a very interesting process, I wasn’t always sure if an idea did meet a principle, but I was pleased at how many of the principles they did meet. It was also great for inspiring me on ways I could take ideas forward using certain principles as guidance.
I found that on the ethics Earthcare and Peoplecare came naturally, but I hadn’t always considered Fair Shares and so I drew circles where I wanted to explore the implications of this ethic further.
I noticed a pattern as I was doing this that with this design I really wanted to integrate it into my life, taking advantage of the opportunities that arise rather than having to start completely new things. This shows in the fact that nearly every idea meets Integrate rather than Segregate.
This was as far as I got on the FiT course with the designing. Although I did have a reflection session by presenting my progress so far to the rest of the course.
After I presented my design everyone reflected back phrases that had landed with them. I found this really powerful so wanted to include them here.
After the course I took one of my actions, which was to give myself time to reflect on, digest and write up all of my learnings into a form I could easily use in the future. I am very glad I did this and it has been so useful already.
After I had organised and digested all of my notes I went back through my design so far. I was so excited about the possibility of actually making part of my right livelihood from being a permaculture designer and teacher that it rather overshadowed all of my other diploma designs for a while!
I reflected on the design as I went through it and added a few more things onto the Helps anchor point, but then I was at a bit of a loss of what to do next. I decided to brainstorm possible next steps, which really helped me see the way forwards.
I decided to start with counting up the principles and ethics score of each of my ideas, but I discovered a certain resistance to the results that emerged. I realised that some of the ideas were important for other reasons, or if they didn’t contribute to all three ethics they definitely didn’t contravene them! For example, setting up a local permaculture facilitators group did not actively support Earthcare, but it didn’t cause environmental harm either!
As I still wasn’t any clearer on which ideas I should take forwards I decided to try and adapt the action chart that Diego and Demian had shared in their design presentation. So I ranked all of my ideas against time (when they should happen) and the amount of effort they required. It was an interesting exercise, mostly to discover that I had already mentally ranked them and put those that would take more effort further into the future!
I still wasn’t that clear on my way forwards, but I thought things might become a bit clearer if I worked out what the main functions of my design were. This turned out to be a lot more straight forward than I was expecting, due to Demian’s golden circle of vision, the purpose of my vision was more or less my key functions too, plus a couple of other things which had emerged as important.
I wasn’t completely sure whether ‘Further integrating my life’ was a function or just something that was an overall aim of permaculture designs, but I decided to leave it in anyway.
As I had got a bit fixated on the challenge of working out which were the key ideas to take forward I decided to try some colour coding. So with a different colour for each function I went through all of my ideas adding the colours of the functions they met (see previous ideas photo). When I finished doing this I still wasn’t sure what it had shown me, but it came in useful later.
Next I decided to write some SMART or WISE goals for each of my functions to help to ground them and make them measurable. I made a really good start on this and it helped make it feel more real. I didn’t manage to complete all of them because I didn’t have the explanation of WISE goals with me and I was having a day off of computers. I was recommended WISE goals when I started a discussion on the diploma facebook group about the challenge of writing SMART goals for people-based designs.
This was the end of my first major session on the design after which I went away and did other things, but it was always there in my mind. One of the key things which I realised over this time was how much I needed to visit the momentum anchor point! And how I needed to build myself a support system around this design, like I had around my whole diploma.
I took the initiative before my next focussed designing session and asked if people wanted to have a regular contact group, which I was hoping to use to check in with others on how my design was progressing. A few people said yes, but even I didn’t get round to emailing the group my update, although the half finished draft of it has been very useful for this write up!
I started my second big session on this design with the momentum anchor point, as I felt this was really important. I found it really useful to think about and to go through the momentum questions in People and Permaculture.
Next I went back to Integrate and worked out that there were three main systems I needed one for delivering courses, one to support me and one to continue developing myself as a facilitator. Then the colour coding of ideas came in useful by letting me see which ideas met 3+ functions. I used a combination of this, the results of running the ideas past the principles and ethics and also my intuition and common sense on what would make a successful system to select which ideas to take forwards. This still felt relatively random, but I had to make some decisions and I tried to take as much into account as I could.
I mapped them out with how they interlinked (green) and which functions they met to try and ensure that each function was met by multiple elements and each element supported multiple functions. The functions were definitely all supported by multiple elements, but not all of the elements supported multiple functions, such as putting aside a pot of money for training courses, but I felt they were very important elements to the success of the system and therefore I included them anyway.
I then moved on to implementing the design for a while, although not in a particularly structured way. So rather than trying to plot all their progression chronologically I will explain the remainder of the design process I have gone through and then explain some of the outcomes individually.
In January I reviewed the actions I had written on my action plan for that month and aimed to complete them.
After a while of actions I used the opportunity of a train journey to have another review session. I was pleased to discover that despite feeling like I had been ignoring it, quite a few things had actually happened and quite a lot of progress was being made! I discovered that there were quite a few things that had changed in my situation, making some of the ideas not relevant any more. For example, I had given up writing for the Transition Social Reporters blog and we had decided to give the Nearly Wild Explore days a break until the Summer. And other ideas and opportunities had also arisen.
After reflecting I wrote myself a rather large list of next steps! But I made a start on them straight away by doing do a Reflection and Appreciation on my progress. This was lovely because I had discovered I was doing much better than I thought!
A few weeks later I set aside a whole day for focussing on this design. It was great to spend some time focussing on it and I managed to complete a lot of actions. I also did a reflection on the limits I was experiencing and my subsequent needs on my People and Permaculture Facilitator pathway. This was requested by Looby, but was really useful for me to reflect on personally too. I would really like to work on these limits for the next design cycle to help build more momentum. I also updated my timeline and reviewed and updated my list of actions.
I then went back to my goals and filled in the more intangible ones that I had left for using WISE goals. However, on looking at the WISE goals again, I found that they were actually more outlining essentially a permaculture approach and wouldn’t serve the same function as SMART goals. So I attempted to devise SMART goals for all of my functions. I still haven’t manage to properly record my baseline for some of these goals, which means they are not very useful for evaluating progress at the moment!
An idea arose from a discussion on facebook around the possibility of running a course in Norway. A group of interested people had a Skype call, which was quite nebulous and broad and a second skype just seemed to raise more questions. One of the challenges being the large number of people interested in being involved. After this there was a long pause until I reinitiated the discussions a few months later. This resulted in a meeting of just three of us who took the decision that we would be the core organisers of a two week course running in Norway next Summer 2015 and other people would be welcome as guest facilitators. Since then we have been having regular meetings and are following the design web to make this course a reality.
Over Christmas I took the momentum action of sharing the design so far with my mum to help her understand the process and my plans and I also shared it with a couple of friends who were interested in it. It was really useful to talk through my plans with others, but hasn’t actually led to me checking in with them on it.
The email support group also never got off of the ground, but I do now have a support buddy following her request for one and my enthusiastic response. We just have a chat when we feel the need for support and so far it is working well, although the unstructured approach is not necessarily encouraging me to get on with things.
I started with some research into the different training courses I was interested in attending. One of them clashed with another plan I already had, and the other two combined still came within my annual budget, so I decided to go for them both. So I have now arranged to shadow Aranya on a PDC he is running in October and following a lot of research and organising I am attending a one day Non-violent Communication course with my friends in July.
Since then Looby has also extended the invitation to get involved with a course she is running before the UK Permaculture Convergence in September. So I am still exploring how I can be involved with that.
One of my main ideas for integrating this design into the rest of my life was to run sessions at Underhill Farm and as part of Nearly Wild. There was a school group of Korean WWOOFers visiting Underhill Farm and I planned a session for them, but it never came about as the way they needed to work was so different from what I had anticipated.
I have also made progress on developing ideas for Nearly Wild courses. I had a stroke of inspiration in March as to how it could all work together and I have talked to Steve about it. I now just need to find the time to work up the Exploration Courses as an ‘approach’ to market and then get people to choose what topic they would like to have within that! There is also the potential for running an Introduction to (People) Permaculture course of some kind at Underhill, but I also need to find the time to work this idea up.
As a linked idea I am also going to look at running Nearly Wild experiences based on People and Permaculture at the Nearly Wild Camping location I am going to be running where I live.
I had already offered to host the Shropshire Permaculture Network at my house in March and so I offered to do a workshop for anyone who was interested. I sent a list of possible topics for people to choose from and the answer came back as a ‘Wild Edges’ workshop. I based a lot of the ideas on Glennie Kindred’s Wild Edges book and it went down very well, with 13 participants wandering around barefoot, observing nature, foraging and thinking about the rhythms of nature. I managed to capture some feedback from a few participants too, which was very useful.
From this I have also met other permaculture facilitators in the Shropshire network and have an avenue for promoting courses through.
One of my ideas which I wanted to explore further was offering some kind of mentoring for people pre- or early diploma, particularly with people-based designs. This was in response to a leak I had experienced. I decided to moot my idea on the diploma facebook group and I got a varied and interesting response and discussion. It helped me to clarify that the two areas I could offer mentoring in would be support after a PDC on which pathway to follow next and also people-based designing guidance. I still need to investigate the potential for these further.
On my People and Permaculture Facilitators course we also did a big group design on our collective future as People and Permaculture Facilitators. I was part of a group of participants who at the end of the course volunteered to carry on this process and make it happen.
To begin with this felt very broad and not easy to use or link to this design, but in the last few months it has clarified itself into a collective of People and Permaculture facilitators with methods of collaborative promotion and support, called Thriving Ways. So suddenly it is very relevant and useful to this design and will definitely be incorporated into future action plans.
One of my other diploma designs is around helping to manage the change of ownership of a local garage. The pathway forwards has not been decided yet, but if they do follow the employee owned route then I might potentially have paid work giving them some training around People and Permaculture topics.
I really enjoyed using and exploring the Design Web as part of this design, especially as I started it on a course where it was being taught.
I felt it worked really well and I often found that moving on to a different anchor point helped to overcome any challenges or obstacles I was experiencing.
I did however once again get a bit bogged down in the Integrate anchor point and making it into an action plan. I think this is partly because I feel this a pivotal point in the design where you make decisions and shape the onward path, therefore I really want to get it right and master it and I am not happy with uncertainties.
What went well?
What was challenging?
What would I do differently next time?
Quite a lot has moved on with this design since I wrote it up. I would like to revisit it maybe as part of a wider livelihoods design after I have handed in my portfolio.
The course in Norway was postponed for a year, as the host would have had a few month old baby so it wasn’t very practical. I have, however, apprenticed on the 7 ways to think differently course with Looby and Peter and then co-facilitated it with Looby this March, which went really well and has really motivated me to continue down this livelihood path. I hope to run more 7 ways courses in the future. I have also been approached by a couple of other people about running courses with them and will be apprenticing on the Social Permaculture course this year, so hopefully this design will continue to evolve and grow. I am also still an active part of Thriving Ways and I hope that we will start seeing lots of yields from it soon.
As well as apprenticing I have continued my training with a course in compassionate communication, a year long programme in nature connection and cultural repair and lots more experience through my diploma!
I have discovered that once I have completed my diploma I can become a diploma tutor and that is definitely an option that appeals to me, so I will be looking into that option as well as considering other forms of mentoring that I might be able to offer.
Design period: November 2013 – May 2014
In Autumn 2012 there was a gathering for the people who were on my PDC. Three of us made it along to Sanna and Ali’s house and we (and the 5 dogs!) had such a wonderful time that we decided the five of us should repeat it regularly!
At the next gathering Jess asked us all whether we would be interested in helping her to do a permaculture design for an organisation she was involved with and they would pay our travel expenses. She had already done a successful design for her own business, but wanted some help and support with this one. I was definitely up for it because I was trying to get all of the permaculture experience that I could. As we did it during our next gathering our designing was a mixture of a social weekend with a few hours focussed designing time and more informal discussion.
Design period: December 2012 to September 2013
Client: UK Association of Humanistic Psychology Practioners – UKAHPP (represented by Jessica Smith). They covered our travel expenses for the design weekend.