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Intuitive Design Process - How to Design in the Field in the Moment

 
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I think of the design process as a framework to follow and to hold you steady. Complexity can lead to overwhelm, which tends towards skipping steps or blocking out pertinent issues to make life easier. The beauty of a design process is that it frees us from this pressure through a step by step approach, giving our brains space to assimilate dense information. A design process reduces complexity into manageable chunks and our super computer brains do unseen work, effortlessly, leading us to sound choices. We know we’ve done our best given the resources available and space is created for deepened insight.
Consider all the complexities involved in a design that influence what will work and who will be affected. There are physical factors to consider of the land or place you are working with, such as topography, microclimates, sun, soil, water and wind patterns. There’s access and boundaries and much more, even in the smallest urban setting. In the people realm, whether considering the neighbours and your family, or legal constraints and local networks, the complexity increases. And of course there’s yourself, each of us with a myriad constellation of dreams, skills, weaknesses, ideas, backgrounds, resources and our unique life situation.
Can we ignore these factors? Perhaps. However, as permaculture designers we’re aiming to be conscious of as much of the whole system as possible, given the understanding that all factors are in relationship, influencing and impacting our design.


 
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Welcome to Permies, Jasmine. I will look forward to the threads your presence produces as I am converting my small farm from a Ruth Stout kind of approach to a more perennial agriculture kind of approach and trying to do something more like design as I do that. I have more or less just wandered out to the garden and decided on the spot what to do that day, rather than follow a "design" and that has worked well for me over many years of organic gardening. But trying to follow permaculture principals has made me feel like a complete beginner again. I'll look forward to ideas about how to tackle the design phase of making something more perennial here in New Hampshire.
 
Jasmine Dale
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Ellen Schwindt wrote: I have more or less just wandered out to the garden and decided on the spot what to do that day, rather than follow a "design" and that has worked well for me over many years of organic gardening. But trying to follow permaculture principals has made me feel like a complete beginner again. I'll look forward to ideas about how to tackle the design phase of making something more perennial here in New Hampshire.


Following our intuition and feeling, like you descibe above, is indeed a valid way to tackle tasks and projects. However, the complexity I mention in the post above, does benefit from following a step by step structure and protects us from jumping in too soon or wasting time and energy (to an extent!!). Giving plenty of time to the survey phase, using our bodies to map and understand the natural processes at work etc, is a sound way to set out, before we start applying permaculture principles. Merging intuitive impressions with objective data and body responses to wind, sun, shade, water and so forth, helps me sink deep into the natural processes at work and from their the more analytical decisions and design choices feel more grounded. More later...
 
Jasmine Dale
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Jasmine Dale wrote:

Ellen Schwindt wrote: I have more or less just wandered out to the garden and decided on the spot what to do that day, rather than follow a "design" and that has worked well for me over many years of organic gardening. But trying to follow permaculture principals has made me feel like a complete beginner again. I'll look forward to ideas about how to tackle the design phase of making something more perennial here in New Hampshire.



Another thought on the principles in relation to design process: we have our design process to keep us on track and various design tools along the way to glean appropriate information. The permaculture principles can be used at each stage of a design process, navigating our observations towards outcomes that model the processes of wild thriving ecosystems and cultures that live in balance with their resources and landscape. With these frameworks in place our work is coherent and steadily progressing, creating space to develop a deeper sense of ourselves as part of nature.

So you can survey your place as to how it meets any given principle eg how does my land/house/life catch and store energy.
With analysis you can weigh up a decision by thinking how might it meet a principle if I did x, y, z
With pulling a design together, I like to use the principles then as a check list, spot any gaps in my ideas and overall approach. If you trust the principles as true in any thriving, wild system, then it makes sense we can trust our decisions when we've had a good go at meeting them.

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