Planning my next steps – REFINE


Sage phase – Days 22-29

Design tools that focus in on details, make decisions and solve problems

These tend to be the days when I get into the details of an issue, find the best solutions, refine the details, plan how to make progress and make solid decisions.

Permaculture tools that suit this stage include making implementation and maintenance plans, setting smart goals, doing detailed careful work like drawing base maps or recording finances. I also found this stage the best for writing up my designs as I was happy to spend whole days alone, quiet, focussed and deeply engaged in my work.


So, previously in this design, I’d made the decision to continue working on my Muddy Boots business 3-4 days per week and refine the activities I offered in order to maximise my enjoyment and profits. I’d also decided to seek employment in arts education with another company for 1 day per week. This felt like real progress, so I was able to begin to focus in on my business in detail and plan how to make it more effective for the coming year.

I have done lots of work on my 2017 and 2018 finances. This content is in another blog post here and is password protected. Message me to get the password and see this content.



I created a business tasks list and asked myself three questions; am I good at this task? Do I enjoy it, is this task vital? I then thought about what I could change in reflection of this.



I considered what I could change in reflection on my business tasks list and set about trying to make the suggested changes.

So all of the work done to date can be summarised as 7 main suggested changes to make to my Muddy Boots business and career path. This is the core of my design.

  1. Look into buying or renting my own site.
  2. Create more efficient admin and marketing systems or buy in help from a person or service.
  3. Ensure I am paid for all hours that I work.
  4. Reduce expenses and increase profits
  5. Reduce time spent on kit management and moving kit around
  6. Ensure I am earning from poly-income sources
  7. Schedule in CPD time.

I decided to write my implementation plan and use this activity to break down each of the seven actions into the activities that I needed to do to create positive changes towards making each action happen.


Look into buying or renting my own site I will sign up to woodland buying websites and aim to visit any woodland that comes up for sale within 25 miles of my home. I visited woodland 25 miles away from me in early Jan 2018 but it sold to someone else almost immediately. It was really interesting and I shall continue to ponder this option for the future and look at other woodland that appears for sale locally.  Kirby wood


I will consider the finances of buying a site and find out if I could get a loan for this purpose. I looked into the logistics of borrowing £30,000 from my mortgage lender. We considered using our savings and pensions to invest into a woodland On-going
I will join the small woodland owners FB group and do a few intro posts Yes I’ve done this and made some interesting new links Feb. Yes. Continue using the forum regularly
I will speak to people locally who may be able to help me, local councillors, land owners, farmers etc. I need to follow up a possible lead on a woodland in s. Leicestershire that belongs to the council Asap
Create more efficient admin and marketing systems or buy in help from a person or service Research possible admin systems to use Not really done this Asap
I will look again at all my current admin systems and make changes to make systems more efficient to manage. I’ve re-done some of my more cumbersome admin systems to make them quicker to action Before march Done
I will aim to keep admin time to less than 4 hours per week after the initial planning weeks are over. Still in the initial set up weeks at time of writing so lots of admin time is happening March onwards
I will consider what marketing is most effective for me and draw up a strategy for 2018 spring/summer marketing of events.


Decided to have longer block bookings and incentives for booking multiple blocks. I identified that I was likely to be able to fill most of my spaces via my mailing list. So extra marketing outside of my normal FB and Instagram marketing was probably not required. I will however produce some flyers and posters for my local library to raise the profile and awareness of MB locally. Jan-Feb. Done
I will use an email-marketing tool to make my spring mail out as attractive and effective as possible. I chose to use ‘campaign monitor’ and did a lovely spring-summer mail out. It was really effective and helped to fill well over 50% of my spaces within 48 hours! Design the email in Jan


Goes live Feb. 1st

Look into raising the profile of MB in local press or online link ups. I was the featured blogger on ‘The crop club’ website with an article I wrote about the importance of outdoor play and links to all my social media sites. First week in Feb. Done
Ensure I am paid for all hours that I work


I will do a financial review of 2017 I looked back at all figures for 2017 and drew conclusions about which activities worked best. Jan Done
I will do a financial projection for 2018. I did lots of work on my finances so that I had realistic and achievable aims for 2018


Jan Done
I will assign myself a weekly wage and set up a direct debit monthly from my business to personal accounts to pay my wages.


I have decided on an hourly wage for admin work and face-to-face work. I have paid myself for the marketing and admin time done in Jan and early Feb. I will set up a monthly DD for March onwards. March Done
Reduce expenses and increase profits I will aim to use more found, donated and recycled items in my sessions and reduce the need for buying materials. On-going On-going
I will set and abide by a maximum per session expenses cost. I don’t think this is realistic due to differing sessions but will keep careful records instead and record the average. N/A N/A
I will increase each session cost by 15%. Decided to put prices up by 15% for most sessions and factored this into the pricing. Jan Done
I will adjust the forest parties pricing to make it more profitable Reviewed and adjusted my Forest party packages to give more options to cater to a variety of price points and to make them more sustainable and profitable for me


Jan Done
I will aim to keep the overall expenses at less than 1/3 of the income for 2018.


Keep careful records and all receipts. On-going
Reduce time spent on kit management and moving kit around


I will put more shelves up in my kit storage area I managed to find some shelves to re-purpose and set these up in my storage area.


Jan Done
I will ensure all kit if tidy, labelled and re-stocked before sessions re-start in 2018. I will tidy my kit storage area and re-stock with what I need for the 2018 season Before end Feb.
I will spend no more than 1 hour before each session preparing and packing kit. I will plan what kit to take to each session more effectively. March onwards
I will record this time in a log. Need to set up a log book March onwards
I will plan double sessions whenever possible into my diary.


Planned in full days rather than half days, i.e. double sessions or a session and a party, so that I minimise kit movement and set up/pack up time. Jan Done
Ensure I am earning from poly-income sources


I will plan to have five different MB income streams in 2018 (forest pre-school, allotment playgroup, forest family days, forest parties and women’s retreat days) 2018 planning winter 2017 onwards On-going
I will aim to work for other people at 2 festivals or events in 2018. I spoke to my Forest school colleagues and expressed an interest in doing some assisting work Dec 2017 onwards
I will seek employment with another company for 1 day per week.


I approached Soft Touch arts about taking up my 1-1 arts and photography teaching again. They offered me 2 hours per week starting in mid January, contracted initially for 6 months. I have now started this work every Wednesday morning.


Dec 2017 Done
Schedule in CPD time


I will attend a minimum of six CPD day courses.


I have been in touch with the local FS network and have expressed my interest in attending their CPD days.


Jan onwards
I will attend three networking sessions during 2018 As above Jan onwards
I will renew my first aid certificate in spring 2018 I have booked onto a course in late Feb Feb
I will look into adding children’s yoga into my morning circles and gain the necessary training for this I have been watching online kids yoga for teachers course. I have been attending yoga classes myself at least twice a week Feb.
I will learn more about foraging and herbal medicine I have booked onto a spring foraging workshop. On-going
I will gain more skills and confidence in tool use I need to book onto a tool workshop On-going
I will gain more confidence and skills in campfire cookery techniques I need to book onto a campfire cookery workshop and try out some new skills in my garden before sharing them at sessions On-going

Maintainance plan

I decided the most useful way to write a maintenance plan would be to divide it into timely tasks. I looked at the tasks that I need to perform at various timescales that made sense to me; daily, before each session, after each session, weekly,  per season and annually.

Daily tasks

  • Check emails
  • Check Facebook and Instagram for messages that need a response
  • Update to FB / Insta for marketing as required
  • Check and update all diaries
  • Write task lists and complete each days tasks

Before each session 

  • check the session plan and kit list
  • Pack all kit required
  • Pack all food and drink required
  • Complete any outstanding admin tasks
  • Arrive on site early to set up

After each session

  • Wash all food and cooking kit in cool box
  • wash all cloths and washing up boxes
  • unpack and restock the shelves
  • Note any observations about the session activities and the group
  • Edit photographs taken and download onto computer
  • Financial records and totals as required

Additional weekly tasks

  • Check and update finances and paid lists
  • Chase people for payments as required
  • Order materials as required
  • Purchase food and drink items for sessions
  • Social media updates to advertise upcoming sessions and document events
  • Working for Soft Touch every Wednesday – planning and face to face work.

Per season tasks

  • Plan my sessions
  • Book assistant/ volunteers as required
  • Major email out for next season bookings
  • Marketing for next season bookings
  • Major kit check and wash
  • Order new kit
  • Check and update first aid boxes
  • Create and distribute end of season feedback forms and make changes as appropriate.

Annual tasks

  • Plan the years dates
  • Consider my aims for the year
  • Creative review/ forward plan for the year
  • Financial review
  • Financial forward planning
  • Review feedback forms and make changes as appropriate
  • Tax return
  • Ensure all certification is up to date, first aid, DBS, etc
  • Renew PL Insurance and send copies to all parish council





Planning my next steps – CREATE


Mother phase – days 14-21

Design tools that are playful, fun, collaborative and social.

In these weeks of my cycle I focussed on the following design tools, client interviews, boundaries and resources and random assembly

I actually found it really difficult to work on this design in this stage of my cycle. At this point I wanted to be out there in the world making things happen and being active. As most design tools are about planning and reflecting, I found they didn’t suit me well in this stage. So not a lot of planning happened in this stage but lots of action occurred, I followed up on my plans, visited sites, talked to people and put ideas into action.


This whole design was one big client interview. It seeks to identify and clarify what I want from my career and how I can get it. With this in mind I looked at my boundaries and resources in terms of; time, money, skills and my wishes.


I’d previously thought about other career options for me to add to my working week. I decided to use the permaculture design tool of ‘random assembly’ to play around with possible ideas for what I could type of work I could add to my career. I picked my top 12 ‘other job’ ideas and pitted them each against a permaculture principle at random. I’d written the 12 work ideas and 12 principles onto sticky notes, paired them up randomly and reflected upon the connections that the pairings suggested to me.




This activity was fun and quick to do. It worked relatively well and quickly helped me to disregard some possible job choices, I don’t really want to go back to child-minding, waitressing or shop work. Although these jobs would likely be able to fit in well with my other commitments and be low-stress, they’d also be low pay and without the career advancing opportunities that I am seeking.

I decided I really wanted to utilise my existing skills in arts teaching and workshop/event leading. I’d love to gain further qualification at some point, however my current focus is on Muddy Boots, so really what I am seeking is a job option that fits with this and enhances my transferable skill set. So these activities clarified for me that I am probably looking at taking on a short-term event management job, or an arts teaching role.


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?


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.