I love ideas. I love experiments. I love reading. I love learning new stuff. I love sharing what I learn. But I'm not very good at pulling everything together into any semblance of order.
About five years ago, I took an online permaculture design course, but when it came to drawing up the final design, I ground to a halt. I told myself it was because I hadn't done enough experiments to determine exactly what could be persuaded to grow where, so I'd need to spend a few more years trying stuff out. A final design, after all, is final. Isn't it? So it needs to be exactly right.
Perhaps if Aranya's book had been available five years ago things would have been a little different. In his book, Aranya gives you all the tools you need to assess a property, the needs of the people living there, the resources available and any fellow workers on a project, and then leads you step by step through the whole design process of taking each element and weaving them together into an intricate and self sustaining web.
Where the book scores is that it does exactly what it says on the cover - it walks you through the whole process. You never get left asking yourself 'I wonder what I should I do next?' because he's right there taking you by the hand and leading you through it. On the way he gives you a collection of tools to use to help keep you on track.
The book is divided into three main parts - preparations, the design process, and beyond land based design.
In part one, preparations, he introduces patterns, system thinking, spirals of erosion, and principles and directives that will help guide your design, followed by advice on what constitutes effective design and how to organise your team of helpers to get the best out of them.
Part two, the design process, is the real nitty-gritty of the book. This covers surveying the site, drawing your base map, recording site information, interviewing clients, analysis, placement, design proposal, implementation, maintainence and evaluation and presenting to a client.
Part three, beyond land based design, shows how permaculture design can be applied to other aspects, like course timetables, social structures or even your own life.
The whole book is designed to be small enough and well enough laid out to be useful out in the field. Each section has a useful summary of key points to keep you on track, and there is a great mix of high-tec and low-tec tools so you can select the most appropriate for your needs. He understands that when working for a client with a team of helpers that you will need to be very professional and organised, but appreciates that a lot of people are working on a budget and for themselves, so he's laid the book out with instructions on which bits to skip in different circumstances - you don't need to spend much time organising a team of one or writing a proposal to yourself!
This book fills a huge void in permaculture literature. Anyone thinking of designing properties for other people will find it indispensable, and I can't imagine there are many people who only want to design for themselves who wouldn't benefit from having this book by their side as they plan out their dreams and their gardens. It's not a complete introduction to permaculture, it is a toolbox and how-to guide for pulling everything together into a coherent, self-supporting whole. The book itself is laid out so it's very easy to dip into, with plenty of relevant diagrams and lots of sub-headings so you can quickly locate the info you are looking for. My advice is to read it right through once, then keep it in your pocket as you are out and about.
Aranya recently made this video which introduces some of the ideas in the book.