Creating a “Final” Design

I wrote my Site Assessment with great zeal and motivation. It was relatively straight forward– gather information, of all kinds; write it down. Took awhile, but then I was done. Felt done.

Then I moved into the Analysis phase with considerably more hesitation. Didn’t ever really feel like I had a handle on what exactly I was supposed to do to make sense of all the information I had gathered. I felt fairly lost in the forest of trees. But I plugged away with little lists and exercises until eventually I did start to feel like I had gotten somewhere. I finally felt ready to approach my Final Design.

I was afraid of it, though. It loomed large, with scary music in the background. Such heavy expectation.

I cut out little paper squares of all my elements, then played around with them on my base map. Since our property is small, there really weren’t many different configurations. I made up three Design Options, drew them onto overlays, and then listed their pros and cons. I spent a few weeks cogitating, until the choice became clear. Until it felt like there really wasn’t a choice, only one option was really going to work.

Then suddenly, that was it. I had just made my Final Design. All that was left was to draw out a good map, and write some details down. After months of research and consideration, the last step seemed too easy. I had spent so long gathering all the pieces, and then they had more or less fallen into place. And now it was over.

What if I had chosen wrong? What if my final design was not the “right” design for our property. So much seemed to be riding on it.

And that’s when I realized, there is no such thing as a final permaculture design. If you do it “right” it’s never finished, but always evolving. Which I found both depressing and liberating.

Permaculture is about continual observation and response. I had read it many times, but it took a long time to sink in through my very goal-oriented brain. No matter how well you study your land and elements, there is no way you could foresee everything. Even if you could, living things change and grow.

The design is not an end point, but rather a beginning. The inception of an interactive relationship with the land and garden; and a creative yet very deliberate approach to that relationship.

It has become increasingly clear to me that if I follow my design to the letter over the coming years, it will be a sure sign that I have failed to create a real permaculture. Instead I must be receptive and flexible, continually observing this place in the world and the changing needs of my family, as well as the outcome of various projects, and continually tweaking my design for better effect.

As Mollison says, “I sometimes think that the only real purpose of an initial design is to evolve some sort of plan to get one started in an otherwise confusing and complex situation… as soon as we decide to start doing, we learn how to proceed.”

I have spent the winter researching, reading, thinking, planning, reading, and re- thinking. And now, as spring approaches, it is time to stop planning and start doing. I trust I will learn how to proceed.

I have posted my design, in all it’s many (many!) parts, on a separate page. It is really more of a very long ‘thinking aloud’ session than a design proper. But do let me know if you find it interesting!

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