Wild and healthy – Designing the design process.

This blog post aims to introduce the design process that I will be using for my 10th and final design for my Permaculture diploma. I’ve chosen to create a design that builds on two of my previous designs. So this design links my health (My health and well-being – design 4) and my garden (Food from my garden design – design 2 ) This design is  about growing, sourcing and using wild foods and herbal remedies to support a specific health issue, the prevention and care of the common cold.

I have chosen to select, magpie-like, from all the design processes and design tools that I’ve discovered along my Permaculture path. I will be choosing the methods and tools that I’ve found most enjoyable, useful and effective.

I’ve set myself the challenge of completing the designing for ‘Wild and healthy’ within six weeks. This design will be implemented after I submit my diploma for assessment, but I will lay the groundwork for it now and plan to put it into practice over the coming year.

I started this design with a personal review of all the Permaculture design methods and design tools that I’ve used throughout my diploma. (See tables below)

I had planned this exercise to act as a final evaluation for my diploma, but felt it would be most useful to do before starting my final design. I can now use my reflections to design a design process for ‘Wild and healthy’ that cherry picks the processes and tools that I found most useful. If I can stream-line the design process in a way that is enjoyable and efficient for me, then I’m more likely to continue using these methods to design my life post – diploma.

OBREDIMET Good intro to how to use permaculture at it breaks down all stages into clearly defined actions. Doesn’t include much reflection or onwards planning Yes for a land-based project I think this works really well.
Observe/ Think/ Design/Do (Action learning cycle) Quick to use


Doesn’t seem very specific to Permaculture. You need more knowledge about how to apply other tools within this. No, I’d rather use my tweaked version; Reflect, plan, create, refine (Natural cycles)
The design web (Looby) Makes for a very thoughtful and through designing process.

The inclusion of people care is great, especially self-care with the pause and momentum stage.

Took me a long time to work around the cycle.

I found it difficult to know where the actual design bit should be included

Yes for people based designs. But rather than going right around the web I’d just use the four stages that underpin the web, growth, exploration, production and reflection.
SADIMET Very clear and straight forward to use. I liked the inclusion of analysis in this one. No element of research included I think I’d use this in preference to OBREDIMET
CEAP Quick to use

I liked that this included a prompt to apply permaculture principles.

Not very clear when to apply other tools within this. No reflection, tweaks or onwards planning included No, but I’d use the prompt to apply principles and I’d add ‘apply ethics’ too.
Reflect, plan, create, refine (Natural cycles) I enjoyed designing my own design process.

Fun and effective to link in with your own personal cycles and apply tools where they worked best for you.

Probably best suited to women 15-50 years approx. as it is based on the menstrual cycle, but could be adapted to work for others by using the moon cycle or seasonal cycle instead. Yes I enjoyed experimenting with this and I shall use it again for planning and projects




Permaculture Ethics Fundamentally important, other wise it’s not a permaculture design. Good to check your ideas really are in line with your ethics. I find people care and fair shares are so intertwined that its hard to differentiate at times. Of course!
Permaculture principles As above, great to always pull back to the principles and review your ideas against them or use the principles to provoke ideas. Can be confusing with a number of different sets of principles being in existence.

Can feel overwhelming to try to be prefect and be create a design that works well in all areas.

Some designs are very general, i.e. Obtain a yield and others seem very specific, i.e. use edges. It can be hard to marry the two.

Yes – most of them
Research Great for generating ideas

Seeing what’s already out there

Educating yourself

Easy to get caught up in this stage and not get around to making any active steps yourself Yes
Photography A very enjoyable part of the process for me.

Good way of getting info across without the need for lots of words.

Creative outlet

Wonderful documentary tool

I can’t think of anything bad about photography really other than a note of caution about getting permissions if including people in photos and being mindful about where you share your images. Yes
Observations Taught me to slow down before diving into a project and making mistakes because I’d not thought or observed initially. Slowing down your action is a double-edged sword as sometimes speed is required. Yes
Client interviews Most of my designs had myself as the client, so this didn’t really apply to me and became mingled in with the observations and research phase. The needs to ensure you have honest exchanges initially so all expectations are realistic. Yes –dependant on the design.
Gives, gains, groans and grins Really useful exercise in getting feedback from a group in a fun but specific way In my experiences people are very reluctant to express any negative feedback so the groans bit was quite forced. Yes
Circle of life Nice way to reflect in a broad way on the areas of the life that are working and those that needs attention. Very general and non-specific. Hard to plan restorative actions as the areas are very broad. I feel this requires follow-on work. Maybe
Brainstorms I find this a very useful tool that I turn to time and again to get my ideas out of my head and onto paper You need to set yourself a sequence of brainstorms to narrow in on the point. One brainstorm is often too disjointed to be much use. Yes
Time limited design Very useful for me, when either I’ve only got a limited block of time and I need to make progress, or when I’ve got loads of time but don’t want to let something drift. Really focuses the mind and encourages quick but careful decision-making and productive action. Can encourage sloppy decision-making and sub-standard work.

Can add too much pressure, pushing you from productive, to stressed.

Input/ Output analysis Makes you look at the building blocks for your design in a new way. Helps to reduce wasted resources and energy Not sure how much use this was to me in non-land based designs? Probably not unless my design was land-based
Wild design Fun activity I didn’t like this, I found it really hard to be unrealistic in my designing, it felt like a waste of time to be honest No
Six thinking hats Useful to face your fears with the caution and emotion sections. The processes and information sections seem to repeat work done in other tools I’d probably use parts of this tool and to look at risks/benefits and emotions. I’d leave the rest.
SWOC I like the opportunities section here Strengths, weaknesses and challenges seem to repeat work done in boundaries/resources. No but I’d possibly use opportunities.
Base maps and overlays I love maps so I enjoyed this section. Overlays worked really well for me in land and non-land based projects. (Looking at time)

I enjoyed drawing out my base maps and final designs

Can be time consuming to work on.

Need a certain degree of artistic skill.

Zones and sectors I liked the theory

The basic ideas such as having your herbs by the back door seem good. I liked the inclusion of a wilderness zone.

It was useful to learn about where the wind/sun etc. affected my garden by looking at sectors.

Probably more useful for larger land based designs No
Desire lines Very sensible idea I felt this was common sense really Yes
PASTE Useful starting point for making observations. This came into the observations phase I felt, not sure the categories are entirely useful as each site and design are different and different things are likely to need noting. Maybe a tweaked version
McHargs exclusion Fun Seems quite a laboured way of making what is probably an instinctive and common sense decision. No
Patterns in nature Love this! I notice patterns all the time and try to apply them in my life as much as possible. I can’t see a downside to following natural patterns. Yes
Key functions Good way to focus in and make practical decisions Possibly excludes functions, which are not ‘key’ but add life, personality and vibrancy to your design. Yes
Functions/ systems/elements Good practical planning tool I found the three categories quite easy to confuse. A tweaked version
Integration Good for making connections and considering placement I found this quite forced. I think we instinctively know how things work best together. No
Guilds / companion planting I leant lots from looking at this Often the combinations work better in the books then in real life. Yes, I will use some tried and tested combinations.
Boundaries and resources Worked well together as positive and negative or two sides of the same coin. Made me realistic. Blocked my abundant thinking and wild design options. Yes
Random assembly Fun

Throws in some unexpected combinations of ideas.

Another tool that can feel quite forced or frivolous. Yes probably
Web of connections Makes you consider links between elements in your design I didn’t find this useful

I found random assembly and just using common sense more useful

Incremental design Makes taking that first step easier Can encourage a lack of planning No – I like to know where I’m heading
Considering options Permaculture has taught me not to just run with my first idea. So the tool of considering options was a real light-bulb moment for me Although, often I’ve found that the initial idea of still the best even after lots of alternatives have been considered! Again it is to do with trusting your instinctive inner voice. Yes
SMART goals Taught me to be specific in my goal setting Its taken me until the end of the permaculture diploma process to get really precise in my goal setting. I also like the idea of setting ‘feeling’ goals. How would abc make you feel, how do you want to feel Yes

And using feeling goals too

Implementation planning Very useful in turning your ideas into reality by spelling out the steps required. I don’t see a downside to this type of planning as long as you remain flexible about what unexpected opportunities and challenges may arise on the journey. Yes
Maintenance planning Vital in keeping your projects going after the initial energy has fizzled out. This can be the boring bit I guess, it’s hard to find the enthusiasm here, the desire to rush onto the next exciting project is strong! Yes
Reflections Vital in order to learn from your triumphs and mistakes No downside as far as I can see. Timely reflection is key I find in order to make them really useful. You then have to remember to action your reflections too otherwise it becomes a pointless exercise. Yes
PNI Useful way to focus your thoughts. I’m not sure how useful ‘interesting’ is Probably
Tweaks This takes you right back to the beginning of the design process and makes you reconsider your designing. I like that cyclical reminder. It encourages refinement and improvements, which I think is important in all designing. We learn so much by going through the process, in order to progress our lives, we need to take that onwards by improving what has gone before. No downside. Yes
Evaluations and reflections As above really, it’s so important to evaluate and reflect so that we can celebrate our successes and learn from our failings and avoid repeating old patterns and mistakes. No downside

Can be difficult to differentiate between evaluations and reflections.


After producing the table, I decided to play around with design processes and design tools to come up with the structure that i’d be using for this design. I  decided to loosly base the structure on a tweaked ‘action learning cycle’ type design process that I’d created for my 9th design. It uses 4 stages, reflect, plan, create and refine.


I used my ‘natural cycles’ design process as the starting point (used for design nine) I looked at which tools i’d found most useful and where in the design process they would be best suited.



I then went through the four stages, reflect, plan, create and refine and tried to set five design tools for each stage. I selected the design tools what I like the best as detailed in the table above and rejected those I found repetitive or did not find effective.



Next I simplified this further to between 3-5 activities each stage.


I thought about how these stages merged into one another how how the process as a whole was a spiral or circle that was always in motion.


Finally I moved onto create this design with three activities for each of the four stages. This was then further tweaked and fleshed out to create the design process and related tools for each stage as detailed below.



Define – Define the problem or issue what you are working with. What outcomes or goals are you aiming for?

Observe – List any initial observations of the problem or issues that may be useful. Consider what observations may be useful to you in the designing process. Observe your boundaries and resources.

Research – Do some initial research around your problem or issue that helps to increase your knowledge of the area and may bring to light potential ideas for solutions.


Emotions – Use an adapted version of the six thinking hats tool to explore your emotions about this design and some of its practicalities.

Patterns – Look at related patterns in your own life and natures patterns

Ideas – What initial ideas do you have for solutions?


Permaculture ethics and principles – Evaluate your ideas against ethic and principles. Use this to narrow down options and make decisions about what options to pursue.

Parts – You should now have a good ideas about what the ideas to take forward are. Consider what you will need to use to create this design.  Consider the functions required and what parts do you need to make your design work? How will these parts work together most effectively?

Smart goals – Set yourself smart goals about how this design will address your aims. Make your goals SMART so that you can see if they have been achieved.


Design – Produce your design. Revisit your boundaries and resources, are your plans realistic? It may be helpful to present your design in a visual format even if it is a non-land based design. How could you share your design with other people?

Practical tasks – How are you going to make your design happen? Make your implementation and maintenance plans. Do the work, make your design a reality and document the process.

Tweaks – Tweak the project as you progress.

Then return to the REFLECT stage and repeat the cycle again with the following emphasis.

Define – Did your design work? Evaluate and reflect on what you have learnt.

Observe – What changes/ tweaks need making to make your design even better? What have you observed about yourself and the processes you have used? Document and share your work so that others can benefit from it.

Research – What do you need to learn to take your design up the next stage? How will you learn? Can you share your research?

Designing my next steps using natural cycles – The design process

I am nearing the end of my time working on the permaculture diploma, so I thought it would be interesting to experiment with designing my own design process for one of my projects. I’m going to be using this design to re-access my skills and examine the next steps for my career.

My youngest child has just started school, so for the first time in eleven years, I am home alone without a preschool-aged child. It’s taking a bit of getting used to. I’m not planning on rushing into any changes, but it feels like a good time to take stock of where I am now in my career and try to see a way forward to where I’d like my career and life to be heading into the future. I’m going to be using my own design process to help me to achieve this. The remainder of this blog post will explain the design process that I’ve created, where the idea came from and how I propose to use this process to assist me in this design.

Nature is full of cycles, the changing of the seasons, the monthly cycle of the moon, the rhythm of the tides and the perpetual motion of time passing each day.

As a woman, I am also particularly aware of the major cycle within my own body, my menstrual period. In each of our monthly phases we change. We are different to how we were before. Our bodies and our minds work differently. We are cyclical, not linear. Feminine not masculine. If we use and embrace these cyclical differences, then we can find ways to use our cycles to our advantage.

I’ve been learning about this and tracking my cycle and how I feel in each phase for over a year now. I’ve tracked my cycle in a daily diary and via an app on my phone. I’ve discovered that how I show up in the world does change greatly, dependant on which phase I am in. So a next logical step is to try to tailor the work I do to best suit my phase. This design process hopes to explore that idea, help me plan for the future and consider how all this links in with the permaculture tools and processes I have been learning.

I will be creating and using my own design process which is a tweaked version of the Action learning cycle OBSERVE * THINK * DESIGN * DO

I have used a combination of the moon cycle, the season cycle and a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle as the basis for this design process.

So rather than, observe * think * design * do, My design process could be simplified to


I looked at each weekly phase and considered how I felt, what I felt were advantages and disadvantages of each phase. I specially considered how I felt about my owrking life in each phase of my cycle. This inforation was taken from notes made in my diary over the course of a year. I also took inspiration from an online ‘Goddess retreat’ course by Jessica Mckinskey Hood and from books i’ve read including Love your lady landscape, Code Red and Witch‘ by Lisa Lister.


I will now go through each phase in more detail.


Days 1-6 is when I am menstruating. The Crone/ winter/earth/new moon phase.

For these days my focus is inwards, I’m good at reflective work, thinking deeply, planning, dreaming, letting go of the past. I need to ensure I am resting, providing self-care and allowing lots of quiet time at home.


Days 7-13 is my pre-ovulation phase. The Maiden, waxing moon, spring, air phase.

This is a really active phase for me. I can action my ideas, cope with very physical days, think logically and feel full of enthusiasm. I have lots of energy and feel confident and social.


Days 14- 21 are my ovulation phase. The Mother, full moon, summer, fire phase.

I generally ovulate around day 15 and feel a difference before and after ovulation. I generally feel very social, outgoing, confident and resilient during these days.


Days 22 – 29 are pre-menstruation. The Sage, waning moon, autumn, water phase.

This phase gets a bad rep as women can feel moody, irritable and anti-social. But it does have lots of positives too, I find I am super organised, assertive, creative and good at solving problems during this phase. I need to allow myself some quiet days towards the end of this phase when my energy levels drop noticeably and I want to be alone.

So, how does all this relate to Permaculture?  I thought that the different skills in each phase could be well suited to different stages of a permaculture design process. I set myself a task to think of all the design tools I could remember, write them out on scraps of paper and decide where they would be best placed in the monthly cycle.


Crone phase – REFLECT
Design tools that require quiet reflection and deep thought. 
Observations, reflections, 6 thinking hats, evaluations and tweaks to a design.



Maiden phase -PLAN
Design tools that are active, physical and creative
Initial research, input/output analysis, wild design, zone and sectors, paste, designing and idea brainstorming and putting ideas into action.



Mother phase – CREATE
Design tools that are playful, fun, collaborative and social.
Client interviews, discussion groups, boundaries and resources, random assembly and web of connections.



Sage phase – REFINE
Design tools that focus in on details, make decisions and solve problems
Final decision-making, set smart goals, base maps, designing, create plans for implementation and maintenance, and financial planning and records.