Designing my next steps. REFLECT

As detailed in my previous blog post about this design here am aiming for this design to help me to re-access where I am with my career and find ways to move positively forward.

I am using my own design process rather than a traditional Permaculture design process to push the boundaries of my understanding and link in with other areas of planning that interest me.

I will be using the design I am calling ‘natural cycles’ which uses the four stages; REFLECT- PLAN – CREATE – REFINE

I thought that a logical way to break up the design write up would be to take each stage of my design process in turn, explain the tools I have used and how this moves my thinking on.

The design process is cyclical, with no start or finish so its been hard to know where to begin the write up. But I’ve chosen to start at the REFLECT stage.


Crone phase – Days 1-6
Design tools that require quiet reflection and deep thought. 

For the last three months, while I’ve been on days 1-6 of my cycle, I’ve undertaken some reflective work for this design. I’ve been reflecting on my Muddy Boots business, my career to date and considering my aspirations for the future. In this stage I used the following Permaculture design tools; observations, reflections, 6 thinking hats, evaluations and tweaks to a design.


My career background

My background is in arts education, I’ve worked in this field since leaving University 18 years ago where I did a degree in Fine Art. I’ve worked for arts centres, cinemas, art galleries, primary and secondary schools and arts organisations.

I’ve worked in environmental education for the past 8 years, mainly on a self employed basis. I started my business, Muddy Boots in 2010, this was the subject for design number 3 for my diploma. Muddy Boots is involved in environmental education, I run an allotment playgroup and a Forest school. You can read more about the beginnings and evolution of Muddy Boots here 

I have a PTLLS teaching qualification and a level 3 Forest school leader qualification. I have been teaching photography for the past 10 years on and off, mainly to teenage girls, specialising in traditional SLR cameras, film photography and creative dark room skills. I’ve taught NCFE, GSCE and Arts award sylabusses. I’ve taught class groups, small groups and 1-1. I’ve worked with teenagers on the autistic spectrum, both high achieving academic students and children no-longer attending school.

You can read more about my career history by viewing my CV here.

What are the aims of this design?

  1. To reflect on my current career situation
  2. To consider how to move my career forwards positively
  3. To act as a practical planning tool for my 2018 business planning for Muddy Boots.



I thought about my current career situation and posed lots of questions to myself about what I wanted and needed to change. I used these initial questions to trigger more brainstorms and reflective work

I felt really aware that to move forward I needed to spend time pondering and answering these questions. I decided to look at lots of possible career options and pit them against Permaculture ethics to see what came up for me. I used random assembly to help me with this. This activity is posted in the CREATE blog post.

I thought I should check in with the ethics of Permaculture and consider how does my career and specifically my Muddy Boots business fulfil the ethics of Permaculture currently and how can I make this even better?



EARTH CARE My work is based outdoors, connecting people to nature

Teaching about the changing seasons

Teaching about food growing, wild harvesting etc

I only use organic methods of growing

I teach a respect and a love for the earth

I mention various Pagan holidays

MB is a vegetarian business, promoting this as a healthy and earth centred diet.

I used more recycled materials in my arts activities

I encouraged recycling and composting not just 1 bag of general rubbish

If we could plant some tree or do more tree work in the woods, passing on practical skills.


PEOPLE CARE Caring, sharing, kindness etc mentioned in each morning circle

People’s individual preferences and learning styles are taken into account.

There is never any pressure to join in with activities. People can participate at a level that suits themselves, with no pressure or judgement.

I aim to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed regardless of their age, background etc.

I care well for my volunteers and assistants. Ensuring they are thanked and paid for their time.

Could I thank people more for their contributions? Maybe offer them the chance to share their skills with the group – i.e. music, arts, practical skills etc.

I’d love to be able to employ another person to help me run sessions, either as a volunteer post or to pay Jodie to work with me more often.

How can I improve people care for myself so that I don’t get so depleted?

FAIR SHARES Morning circle gives everyone a chance to speak

Regular feedback is requested, giving all participants an opportunity to air their views and influence the session planning

I offer reduced rates for families with multiple siblings to make it more affordable for them to come

I have a pot of money each year to be able to offer reduced rates or free sessions to families who otherwise would not be able to afford to join us.

I have various price points of the forest parties careering for a variety of needs.

We have a shared meal at almost every session

I offered more chances for the participants to influence my planning? More reflective circles at the end of sessions?

More options for people with non-dairy, gluten free diets.



I thought it would be interesting to look at the path of least resistance – i.e don’t change anything and plan another year just like the last one. I used the six thinking hats activity to really consider how that would make me feel.



This led me onto looking at what I actively needed to change and what would be changing naturally anyway. This really helped to underline lots of thoughts that had been floating around my head. It helped me to make key decisions about what events to continue, what to lose, scheduling in dates and helped me to feel less anxious about marketing and filling spaces.


Before I got too bogged down in the details of running my Muddy Boots business, I thought it would be good to step back and look at the bigger picture. I brainstormed more general ideas about what I wanted my 2018 to look like.

I like to give myself  five words to reflect my ‘core desired feelings’ each year. Last year’s words and links to their Pinterest boards are towards the end of this post

For 2018 I’ve chosen; Abundance, Goddess, Connection, Wild and Clarity. 



Designing my next steps – PLAN


Maiden phase – days 7-13

Design tools that are active, physical and creative

The PLAN stage of my design comes in on days 7-13 of my cycle. This is the point in the month where I have lots of energy, drive and enthusiasm. It’s a great time for putting plans into action, engaging in physical work and being actively creative.

Permaculture tools that suit this stage include; input/output analysis, wild design, zone and sectors, paste, designing and putting ideas into action.



I did some wild designing. I find this really hard and most of my ideas are very much based in reality? I’m not sure how ‘Wild’ they really are? I guess most ideas are achievable over time. This shows me that I’ve created the right career for myself! I’m not yearning for something else entirely, so this puts me into a really privileged position actually.


I looked briefly at zones, both in terms of where I worked and how frequently I held activity. I struggled to get my head around this tool for this purpose, but it did lead me to consider what I’d like to shift around the zones. Ie what I’d like to more of and what i’d like to do less of and how that could possibly be achieved. This fed into the table at the bottom of this blog post.


I looked at spirals of erosion that were at work in my life currently.


I looked at spirals of abundance that were happening for me.


I considered how I could intervene in my spirals of erosion to create positive change. I’ve added these thoughts into my less of/more table at the bottom of this page and will use these in my future planning.


I looked at my business needs (inputs) and yields, both positive and negative (outputs)


I looked more specifially at some of my business inputs and outputs; time, money, energy, space, creativity and kit.


I thought about the needs that my business fulfils for me


I thought about my needs that my business does not currently fulfil for me


I considered possible solutions that would help me with my unfulfilled needs

The tools that I’ve used in this stage clarified for me that I needed to maximise what worked and what I enjoyed and minimise what I didn’t.  Running my own business gives me the autonomy to do this, which is a really valuable point that I needed to exploit. I did some further thinking around this as detailed in the photos above and came up with various possible solutions.




Spend more time outdoors in the woods and on the allotment. Run more sessions

Arrive early for a leisurely set up and breakfast alone outdoors

Stay late and enjoy the outdoors after each session.

Work with women Run more retreat days

Mother and daughter days

Set up a red tent or moon circle group

Forging and cooking in the woodland Make this a regular part of my sessions

Set up foraging and feasting days

Do specific campfire cooking skills days

Attend some further training in these areas

Make my final Permaculture design on this subject?

Make more of the season celebrations in my work Read more about Pagan festivals

Schedule in sessions marking the major festivals

Start using the moon phases in my work

Natural crafting Attend more day courses and learn new skills to pass on

Have a natural craft at every session for people to do

Lead some adult crafting sessions




Chasing payments Set up a PayPal option on the website to take payments?

Pay for an online booking system?

Time in front of the computer and admin time Set up effective admin systems in Jan and fib so that admin and computer time is minimized once sessions start running.

Consider paying someone to help me with admin? Maybe as a one-off to help me find more efficient systems or on going as an admin worker.

Kit moving and managing Minimise the kit I take to each session

Always run double sessions so that each day I work is a full day and I am only setting up once for two sessions.

Time spent on marketing Have longer blocks that people book for

Give a financial incentive for booking multiple blocks in one go so that marketing and admin time is minimised.

Consider what marketing is more effective and only do those.

Take some marketing advise

Pay someone to help me set up a marketing strategy

Do I need more marketing? Can I fill all my sessions anyway from my mailing list and great word of mouth?