Twelve Principles for twelve months – April – Accelerate succession and evolution

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles.           I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the Principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. April – Accelerate succession and evolution 


This image show wild garlic appearing this month in my garden. I have tried to use ideas I have learnt about Forest gardens and use edible plants that have similar traits to ‘pioneer plants’ or weeds. These plants are happy to grow in poor soil or neglected areas of my garden, they look after themselves and still provide me with a yield. Weeds are often the first plants to appear in the evolution of a garden. They enrich the soil and eventually make it more inhabitable for other more desirable plants.

This Principle is quite a difficult one, and one that does not really appear in any form in the 12 Holmgren principles. So I thought I would begin by defining the terms and under the ‘application’ heading I will considering what they could mean for my Permaculture journey.

Accelerate – To speed up

Succession –  The act or process of following in order or sequence.

Evolution – The gradual development of something.

So basically this principle is saying that we should seek to find ways in which to speed up the changes which naturally occur in a system and ensure that these changes are positive.


Accelerate Succession and Evolution: direct plants, animals, and soil life towards complexity and diversity to build our own climax species in a shorter time, forward your agriculture systems to more permanence, whether it is a grassland or a food forest. Utilize invasive species to your advantage; substitute your own pioneers and climax species that have multiple functions.                             Bill Mollison ‘Introduction to Permaculture’

Bill Mollison offered four objectives for fulfilling this principles in our design and management work

  • Using what is already growing
  • Introduce plants that will easily survive
  • Raising organic levels artificially
  • Substituting our own herb, pioneer, and climax species


I use this principle in my garden by observing which weeds grow well in which areas, then substituting them for similar plants that I have a use for. This speeds up the process of experimentation by ensuring the right plant ends up in the right place by following natures blueprint.

I am also using this principle in my career. I am trying to speed up the evolution of my career by a number of related processes;

1. Linking disparate areas that I am working on and stacking their functions. For example, my Forest schools training course requires me to plan, run and reflect on six practical sessions. This process can be written up as part of my Permaculture diploma as well for my FS training. These six sessions may be used as my Muddy Boots autumn season.

2. Seeking volunteering opportunities for Permaculture teaching and Forest school leadership. This helps me to network effectively, furthers my knowledge and practical experiences as well as being worthwhile activity that counts towards my courses.

3. Using Permaculture principles and techniques in the planning of Muddy Boots allotment playgroup. Also using new skills and ideas learnt in FS training in these session. This improves my environmental education practice and gives me a chance to test out idea for my FS assessment.


I can see this principle at work in the way my tutor Hannah Thorogood manages the PDC that I help out on. Year 1- people attend the PDC. Year 2 -people are encouraged to attend the course for a second time and help out around the edges, making tea, talking with participants etc. Year 3 – people are encouraged to take a more active role n the publicity and facilitation of the course and lead some aspects of the morning circle. Year 4- people are encouraged to facilitate the course or take a Permaculture teacher training course and lead some sessions. Year 5 – Hannah steps away to lead PDC’s elsewhere and the local course is self-sustainable and led by previous participants. We are in year 4 here and this example of evolution seems to be working quite well. We have a planning meeting next month to discuss how the PDC will work in years to come and to decide who wants to teach which areas of the course.

So my challenge this month is to really think about what I want my involvement in the local PDC to be. Do I want to do the TOT and train to teach PDC’s in the future? Do I want to write my own PDC aimed at children/teenagers/family groups? Do I want to investigate accreditation for PDC courses with a view to including them in school curriculums? Lots to think about here.


And finally this image shows how I ‘Accelerate succession and evolution’ in my flock of chickens, by buying in fertile eggs from breeds I am interested in and choosing the best broody hens to sit on the eggs and care for the chicks. This is one of last years chicks, in another 10 days we should be hearing the ‘Peep’ of new little chicks hatching out!

Happy Easter!  


The four questions- Reflections on 2014 and looking ahead to 2015

As we approach the turning of the year, I thought it would be the right time to reflect on how 2014 has been for me and set myself some intentions for 2015.

In January 2014, I spent some time planning my diploma journey and considering new years resolutions and things I wanted to achieve. I divided these into eight categories; home, family, friends, health, work, diploma, leisure and other. My planning is detailed in the  image below, the ticks indicate what was achieved. I did manage quite a lot of the things on the list, but various tasks were left unstarted or uncompleted due to lack of time, money or energy. These tasks will be carried forward into 2015 and are listed under ‘next achievable steps’ at the bottom of this post.


What is going well?

2014 was a great year overall, we had lots of happiness, three close friends had new babies, as did my sister and her partner. My brother’s jobs went well, my mum enjoyed her retirement. Joe got on well at work and his company will be moving to a larger premises early in the new year. My eldest is getting on well at school and is enjoying her hobbies, especially cross county running. My middle daughter started full-time school, which caused us lots of anxiety but she settled quickly and loves it now. She has a ‘Frozen’ obsession which has been fun! Little S is becoming a real rough, tough boy now, obsessed with trains and tractors. He is very loving and fun to spend time with.

I have been surprised by my new-found love of running this year. I have just completed 100 miles since I began recording my runs back in August. I am proud of myself and have seen my fitness improve dramatically. I took part in a Muddy Run and enjoyed it immensely, so have signed up for another in March. It’s lovely to have this hobby in common with my marathon running husband. I have taken part in a 6 month on-line course in health and nutrition. I have learnt loads about whole-foods and have made some positive changes in our diets. My diploma continues to be a big part of my life. I work on it almost every thursday and enjoy writing up my thoughts and activities on my blog. I have helped out on the local PDC and intend to take an even more active role in 2015. I looked at one permaculture Principle each month, which was great and taught me a lot.


What are you finding difficult?

As always, the difficulty come in allocating my time and finding the balance between managing family life and finding opportunities to pursue my own interests and diploma work. Walking out the door is difficult, the parent guilt is a killer. however, I do feel I have found a slightly better balance this year. I almost always have one day a week 10-2.30 free, without my children to work. I have also fitted in a regular exercise class one a week and frequent runs either early morning or afternoon when was OH is around. As my children grow up, I think this balance will settle more and more. As I am still breast-feeding little S, nights out or sleep-overs are not possible, but by this time next year I expect this will have changed again.

I find not having any money OK most of the time but occasionally stressful. I would quite like to take on a little more work in this coming year, either photography teaching, making Muddy Boots into a business or something else that has not yet presented itself to me as a opportuniy. I am open-minded and would quite like to try something new.

The constant clutter and housework gets me down. I don’t enjoy it and resent how much of my time is taken up with moving things from place to place. I did a lot of de-cluttering in 2014 and plan to do even more in 2015. I want the children to use and value what they have rather than being over-whelmed by stuff and not realising how lucky they are.

What are your long-term goals and visions?

This brainstorm shows my plans for 2015, lots of the themes from 2014 arise again!


I decided to use the permaculture tool of Zones and try laying out my aims for 2015 in terms of Zones.

Zone 1  Daily activity – Self, home, health

Zone 2  Weekly activity – as above plus immediate family, close friends, diploma, blog

Zone 3  Monthly activity – as above plus wider family, wider circle of friends, training, work

Zone 4  Annual activity – Once only activities, yearly overview, outlines and aims

Zone 5 Long term plans and visions and steps taken towards these.


What are your next achievable steps?

* Arrange more one-to-one time with each of my children and my husband.

*More sunday lunches and meet ups with old and new friends

* Find a yoga class and attend regularly

*Get down to my ‘happy weight’

* Drink more water

* Organise my photography teaching notes/ resources so workshops are easier to plan.

* Attend workshops to learn new skills in areas that interest me.

*Be an active member of the local PDC planning group

* Look into Forest schools training and TOT training.

* Spend less time using screens! Reduce Facebook/ internet/ I-player/ Netflix usage and encourage my OH and children to do likewise.

* Further de-cluttering of the house.

*Get better at planning meals and shopping according to my ethics and budget

*Work on my diploma and aim to complete three additional designs during 2015.



Ten designs – Planning my Diploma Pathway


I have been thinking about my diploma pathway and the ten designs that I need to  produce. Recently, while looking at the principle of ‘Design from pattern to detail’ I have looked at the whole of 2014 and tried to map out what I would like to achieve each month. I decided to see where I could apply one Permaculture principle each month in my learning, thinking, reading and activity. The wheel of the year diagram below shows the principle and the planned activities for each month. I have planned quite thoroughly for January to June and more vaguely for the second half of the year. I will keep adding to this sheet as new ideas occur to me.


I have considered what type of designs I would like to be involved in. I have had a rough plan in my head for a while now and have done a lot of brainstorming on this subject. I have designed the image below to resemble a bee hive cell. Bees are amazingly productive creatures who work together to secure a future for the whole of their community. So I thought this shape was rather apt for Permaculture planning!  As a result of using this shape, I have ended up with 12 planned designs rather than 10. This is fine for now, as I will either have a few designs in reserve that I work on but don’t use towards my diploma, or as is more likely, my ideas will change dramatically before the end of the diploma and this design will be superceded by another.


I have divided the diploma into 6 sections, these are general areas that I am interested in working within. They are; personal development, growing food, designing for a client, building skills, community projects and career possibilities. I have planned a two stage approach, one small design and one larger design within each of the 6 areas.

For example, ‘Building skills’ Stage one – The cabin. I will create a design that improves the space within and immediately outside the cabin. This will probably involve some basic DIY that I will have lots of help with from experienced home DIYers. Stage two – Garden building. I will design and (hopefully) make a small studio that serves a multitude of uses from a spare bedroom for guests to a space to run a home business from.

I am aiming for my stage one projects to start small and equip me with skills that I can then take forward to bigger more ambitious projects and designs in stage two. I feel that this is a good diploma design for me for the time being. It feels like it has structure but has also evolved naturally around my ambitions and interests. I am open to this completely changing as I progress through the diploma, we will see where life takes me!