South Leicester Food Group. Diploma design write up 2

Our second order from Suma was delivered last week. I took delivery at my house this time and hosted a lovely get together last Wednesday. We ate good food, enjoyed good company and wonderful weather. The system was easier to manage this time around but still needs some work.

This post brings me up to date on developments with this design and looks at the E for Evaluations and D for Design and I for Implementation of OBREDIMET.


After the first delivery we discussed the key functions that we wanted the group to fulfil.

1. For the ordering of items to be straightforward, manageable and time efficient.

2. Delivery to be easy to receive and to be able to to divide up people’s orders with ease.

3. For the group to meet up regularly to discuss and place orders and share meals.

4. To expand the remit of the group to include recipe sharing and group cooking days.

5. To share useful tools, such as meal planners around the group.

I looked at each key function in turn and considered multiple ways or systems of achieving that function. I then reflected on that possible system using the PNI tool. See the two photographs below.


As a group we decided that we would trial various elements of the systems detailed above and reflect on how we get on. I have begun a table to evaluate each design and will continue this for each design we trial until we come up with something that works well for everyone. The evaluation looks at how well or badly each design worked in term of the 5 key function, a PNI and against Earth care/ People care/ Fair shares (the 3 ethics of Permaculture)


As well as dividing up the order, we had a lovely ‘bring and share’ dinne with all the kids included as it was half term. We have 12 kids between us, 10 of which were present. IMG_6666IMG_6668IMG_6667

The children played together happily, dressing up, putting on a play, jumping on the trampoline and running around in the sunshine. That was very helpful in allowing us adults to divide up the food order and do our reflections. IMG_6671


I will post about this design again in late summer or autumn when we have had time to try out a few more designs and reflect on them. I will aim to complete the OBREDIMET design system and look at the M for Maintainance, E for Evaluation and T for Tweaks. I will also do a personal reflection on this design.

South Leicester food group. Diploma design write up 1



I have been wanting to do a design around how I plan, buy, prepare and share foods with my family and friends. This carries on from the my health and wellbeing design that I have been working on for the past year. I have learnt so much from the previous design and met some great people along the way. I have been speaking with some of these people about setting up a food group concerned with making bulk food orders and coming together regularly to share meals, recipes and ideas around healthy eating.

I have set up a group with six other women, all parents of young children like myself. The diets eaten by this group of women are quite diverse, encompassing vegans, veggies, meat eaters, wholefoodists, grow-you-own gardeners and keen cooks. What we all have in common is a great love of fresh healthy wholefoods and an interest in feeding our families the best possible diets from an ethical source and at a price that we can afford.

So this design aims to look at how to create a sustainable design for our group to order food in a co-operative manner and to meet up regularly to plan this and share meals. Most of my designs to date have been long, drawn out processes in the planning and writing up stages. I wanted this design to be different so have set myself a limit of ten hours writing up and ten hours meeting with the group to plan. I used the design process OBREDIMET as I am comfortable with it already and plan on using design tools that I am familiar with to use my time efficiently.


Via our Facebook group and over informal discussions at meet ups we discussed our current shopping habits, the changes we wanted to make and why we had wanted to be involved in this group. I pulled this info together in the brainstorms shown below.



The group was formed with the intention of ordering from Suma We decided to jump straight in and place our first order deliberately without applying a design to how we ordered. People were in a hurry to order and I thought it would be interesting to be able to see the difference in ease of ordering with and without a consciously applied design process. The first order was placed in early April and we met up again late April to reflect on how we had found the process so far and plan for the future. I used the fact-finding tool ‘Gives, gains, grins and groans’ ( which I had used before in a Muddy Boots design after originally adapting it from a tool suggested by Looby Macnamara in her fab book, People and Permaculture) to find out lots of info in a quick and easy manner about how people had found the process of ordering. This info was then reformatted as boundaries and resources.




I then carried out a brief evaluation of what we/I had done so far and made a plan for what to do next.

A brief evaulation of how the first order had gone was also carried out with the group and is reflected upon in boundaries and resources. To summarise, the food is great, but the ordering took hours and dividing up individual orders on delivery day was a nightmare.



We decided that the design should have five key functions; the details of how to make each goal SMART is still a work in progress at this point.

1. For the ordering of food from Suma to be straightforward to manage and for responsibility to be shared out amongst group members.

2. For the delivery be easy to receive and manageable to divide up on delivery day.

3. For us to meet up regularly (once a month?) to place orders/ collect items/ discuss ideas and have socials with shared meals. (I wonder about also introducing the idea of guilding with this group of wonderful women?)

4. To expand the potential of the group to include shared group cooking days, apple juicing, jam making etc

5. To share useful resources around the group (such as meal planners, recipes, book recommendations etc)


The next thing I will do is look at functions and elements and PNI possible ways of achieving the key functions.


Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Patterns

“What are the current patterns of thinking, behaving and interacting? What spirals of erosion can I identify? What would a spiral of abundance look like? What patterns from nature, other people or different activities could help with my design? What patterns of success from other areas of my life could I translate into my design? ” L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012


Looby says that the Patterns phase represents the edge between what was and what we would like to be. It is where we reflect on the good and the bad from previous learning and begin looking to the future. So I shall start by briefly outlining how the group worked in previous years and the patterns of workload, attendance and session structure that I have noticed.

* Vicky had around one paid day every two weeks to dedicate to the planning and running of Muddy Boots. I helped out as a volunteer, running some of the sessions and helping advertise but I left the paperwork, budgeting and most of the site maintenance to Vicky. Lots of planning happened in April and May, prior to the group starting to meet. Week by week session planned tended to take around half a day for each session.

* For the first year we ran all the sessions, the second year we asked participants to get involved in running sessions but people did not seem keen to do this and only two sessions were run by people other than ourselves. I don’t think people had the confidence to volunteer to run sessions and it was a hassle for people so they found it easier to leave it up to Vicky and myself, we didn’t really push this but did feel rather disappointed.

* We advertised mainly through word of mouth, friends and friends of friends came along. This meant some sessions were rather quiet but we did have a core group of participants who attended regularly. Our largest ever group was 37 people, 20 was about average.

* The sessions generally ran along these lines. Arrive, introductions, story, activity, snack, songs, tidy up, go home.

I looked back to the 4 G’s group brainstorms to see what participants want to see kept/changes/improved for the group.

I have thought hard about patterns in nature and decided that Muddy Boots should follow the patterns of the changing seasons. I intend to reflect this in two ways. Firstly in the session structure as shown in the photo below. With a few tweaks the structure of the sessions can reflect the ebbs and flows of the seasons and give a pleasing natural flow to our activity.


So our new session structure will run as follows; (SPRING) arrivals, exploring materials in free play, coming together, welcome, introduction to the theme and activity, (SUMMER) story, songs, activities, (AUTUMN) snack, chat (WINTER) forward planning and tidy up.

Secondly, what we focus on during the sessions should be related to the current season, spring, summer and autumn (no meetings during winter)


I am pondering the idea of keeping on meeting up over the winter too, maybe in other locations as well as at the allotment? That would solve the problems of having to draw together a new group every spring, but it would cause other issue too – more thought needed on this one!

Another pattern that I have implemented is the use of a theme to each session. The story, songs, activity and sometimes even food will reflect a theme. A welcome board showing the theme will be placed in a flowerbed to be seen by all participants as they enter the site.



Diploma design for ‘Muddy Boots’ – Limits

Identify the things that might block your path or keep it slow and small… an opportunity to recognise energy leaks, concerns, emotional ties and individual and cultural beliefs… Acknowledge these influences to design around them… Voice concerns and highlight potential problems…Begin putting strategies in place… what do I need to say no to? Recognise that limits will change over time.”                                                                       L. Macnamara in People and Permaculture  2012


I have considered ‘limits’ for Muddy Boots in terms of four specific areas; myself, others, space and resources. I asked lots of questions of myself without really feeling I had to strive to find the answers at this stage. It seems like a big long list of anxieties and questions, however it is useful to put them out here and get them out of my head!

MYSELF – Do I have sufficient time, energy, confidence and skills to steer this project on my own? Can I keep up the momentum for the group? Will my own children enjoy it or will they find it difficult with their mummy being so busy during the group sessions? Have I got enough support from other group members, other allotment users, my husband, my friends, the Permaculture community etc? Can I come up with fun ideas to keep everyone engaged? Are my ideas age appropriate? What about the safety aspect of using the allotment? Are we covered for insurance/ first aid/ theft etc? Is this too much pressure to place onto myself? What paperwork will I need to complete?

OTHERS – Will people want to come along at all? What would people consider a suitable donation to pay? Will people be willing to contribute in other ways, such as donating plants, seeds, compost, time? Will people want to participate in the running of the group? Should i set up a steering group? Will the people be nice and understand what we are trying to achieve with Muddy Boots? Will they expect too much? What if no one/ too many people come? How would I cope with that? Where and how should I advertise the group?

SPACE – Are the other users of the community allotment happy for us to be there, using the plot and making changes within the education space? Will there be an anti-youth feeling? Will Sue and the other major users feel that I am stepping on their toes? How will I manage these relationships? Will I be able to get the space ready on time for the first session? Will I be able to keep everything weeded and watered when I have very little time to actually spend down at the allotment? Can I ask the Tuesday group for help with this? Is the space safe and suitable for the group to use? Have we got the scope to develop as I would like? What about use of the sheds? Can I get keys’ cut? Am I happy to be the key holder? Do we need to contribute to the site insurance costs? Is there anything we can’t do on the site? Are there restrictions on the hours I can gain access?

RESOURCES – Do we have enough tools, plants, seeds, compost, toys, books, art materials etc? If not can I really expect them to be donated? Or should I try to fund raise? Can I get help with this? If other people are leading sessions can I ask them to be responsible for their own resources? Can I let go of the control and trust them to do this? Would it stress me out too much? Have I got space to store things at home? Or should I try to keep everything at the allotment in one of the sheds? Where can I find interesting resources and ideas for workshops?

How will I find the answers to these questions?……………………………………………..

This has felt like rather a negative exercise so I will end by looking at some of the positive outcomes of having, or conversely, getting rid of limits.

1. We only have a limited number of sessions, probably around 14 spaced every two weeks from May till October. So the project has a limited lifespan, although I’d hope to repeat it in years to come. This time limit should keep up energy levels and keep focus on achieving good results within a restricted time frame.

2. Each session is only 90 minutes long and the target audience is pre-schoolers. I need to keep both these facts in mind to ensure I am not overly ambitious in trying to achieve unrealistic results.

3. Muddy Boots is no longer managed by a company, it is managed by myself and the participants. So we are free to take the group in whatever direction feels appropriate. To be unrestricted and unlimited like this is great, unusual, liberating and should be enjoyed.

4. The garden space is limited with lots of uses required from it, so the parts we can actively ‘garden’ are limited. This should hopefully make it less of a daunting task if I do end up doing a lot of the maintenance work on my own.

5. Young kid’s imaginations and ambitions are unlimited by the constrains of society. I’d like some sessions to be very loose and take the lead from what the children express an interest in. This has already began to happen in one of the first sessions as explained below!


We try not to limit how the children interact with the planned activities. The idea was for a barefoot walk. The children were to hear the story ‘We are going on a bear hunt’ then walk barefooted around a path with different materials underfoot. When it came to walking through the water trough and feeling the cold water on their feet, a few children much preferred to sit in the water, it was a hot day, so who could blame them!

Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool ZONES


Zone 00 – The person or people involved. – My family, the other family and visitors. The cabin sleeps up to 7 or 8 people at a squash in 2 double beds and a large sleeping platform for numerous children to squeeze into together. We usually use the cabin as 2 families of 5 people each. We can fit 5 people around the table and on the sofas.

Zone 0 – The centre of activity – The cabinIMG_6821Part of the inside of the cabin, zone 0 (More photos of the inside are below)

The cabin has basic facilities for sitting, eating, cooking, washing and sleeping. The toilet and showering facilities are a short walk away. The cabin sits on a pot approximately       46 X 30 ft and the cabin itself measures  26 X 11 ft. It faces south-west.

Zone 1 – Close to the house and intensively used – Deck and sheds.     IMG_6815The cabin, zone 0 and the deck, zone 1

We store all manner of useful things in the sheds, bikes, BBQ, building materials we are hording that will come in useful one day. The deck is used for sitting in the sunshine, watching the children playing, reading the paper etc. There is a bench (rotten and falling to pieces) and a table and chairs where we eat meals if the weather is kind to us. The deck is made of wood, it is slightly too narrow to seat us all comfortably and it is un-edged, leaving us anxious that baby S will crawl over and fall down the 4 foot drop to the front garden. The deck is open to the sky providing no protection from the rain or sun. We store our boots and shoes here in a huge plastic box with a lid.

Zone 2 – Close to house, managed and used regularly – Front garden.                 The view from the deck looks out to a tiny front garden where we have a fire-pit. The area has scruffy grass, numerous trees on the boundary (See map) and some rambling roses. We have a paved path up one side of the garden leading from the gate to the steps up to the deck and further along the side of the cabin to the sheds and back door. There is a dry stone wall that requires attention along one side with the neighbours. We have put up a washing line alongside the path.

Zone 3 – Semi-managed and used less often – Immediately outside our boundary. IMG_6819Zone 3 looking towards zone 4

There is a space to park our car and a few trees where we have made a swing for the kids. There are neighbouring cabins on either side, one is well used, the other is well-kept but I have never seen anyone there.

Zone 4 – Semi-managed/ semi-wild area. The grassy area and young woodland. Then an open aspect sloping grassed area, a line of trees then a larger sloping field that has recently been planted with lots of native trees. This slopes down gently for maybe 500 metres to a stream, then gardens and one row of house then the road.

Zone 5 – Wilderness. – The woods.                                                                                The woods are a 1 minute walk away from our front door. It is a mixed woodland surrounding an old slate quarry. the quarry pit is filled up with water and fenced off from visitors. The woodland consists of lots of oak trees, brambles, honeysuckle, some holly, silver birch and hawthorn trees. The woods are carpeted by bluebells in May. The woods are open to the public and well used by dog walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders and walkers.

IMG_6830 IMG_6829 IMG_6825IMG_6823

Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool PASTE

This is our cabin, our tiny home-from-home in the woods. We have recently started sharing it with another family and are we are more than a little bit in love with it. It is on a site with maybe 60 other cabins dotted around the border of a wood. It is a 20 minute drive from our house but feels like another world to escape into.


We have used it quite a lot recently. We had a lovely day there at the weekend wandering around the golden woods and admiring the autumn colours. We had four nights there over half term. The little kids and I are going up there once every week for lunch after our Forest school session which is nearby. And my husband and his friends used it for their ‘Man camp’ They meet up every year for a boys weekend of camping, walking, talking and beer drinking. They were due to go further afield and sleep under canvas but the forecast was grim so they opted for real beds, cooking facilities and a wood burner instead of muddy fields and damp tents – a good decision.


We have been visiting the cabin for about five years. We have borrowed it from our friends for the occasional weekend as detailed in my previous post called a cabin in the woods (Sept 2013)

I have started the observation stage of my design for the cabin. I have used PASTE

PASTE (Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools, Events)

PLANTS Native woodland, largely Oak trees, also Beech, Silver Birch, Holly, Bracken, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Bluebells and Rambling Roses.  Some open grassed areas.

ANIMALS Squirrels, foxes, mice, people, dogs, horses, birds, insects.

STRUCTURES Wooden cabin build largely from recycled materials. No insulation, scavenged windows, some rotten wood. Space for sleeping, eating, cooking, playing, sitting etc. Water tank, gas cooker, wood-burner. Two sheds and a wooden deck with wood storage underneath. Paved paths.

TOOLS Various materials for future building projects, windows, paving slabs, breeze-blocks, wood. Some tools for basic carpentry jobs. No electricity/ mains water or mains gas. My husband, J and the other owners, V and S have good DIY skills and are keen to work on the cabin. Not much money available.

EVENTS We use the cabin for a retreat from our normal lives. We are aiming to come up here for regular weekends away, half term holidays and a longer break during the summer. The aim is to switch off from the busy outside world and relax and enjoy a simpler life. That is sometimes a struggle with three children to contend with. If it was just J and I, we would happily just eat, sleep read and walk but the kids do seem to need more than that! We have found that if we invite friends or family up to the cabin too, the children are happier and more content. The space is small, so that can get rather squashed.

Sewing nook – Design process continued.

2013-10-10 11.47.018. Base map

This is my working drawing of the dimensions of the wardrobe. The normal Permaculture tools of lines of desire, zones and sectors could be applied here, but the space is tiny so I am just using common sense about placements and scale.

2013-10-16 11.46.30

9. Apply Permaculture ethics and principles

Earth care – Use materials I already have whenever possible rather than purchasing new. People care – Zone 00, myself! I will mainly be making things for other people, so they will benefit from handmade presents and clothes repairs.                                                     Fair shares – I don’t really know, errm, let other people use the area too? Maybe I can teach my eldest daughter how to use the sewing machine in a couple of years.

Obtain a yield– Something for myself                                                                         Produce no waste– Make use of materials and objects we have already. Plan carefully and then only purchase what is absolutely necessary.                                                           Use small and slow solutions – A quick first project to ease me into the diploma.       Use edges and value the marginal – Using a marginal area of the house. Also using the edges of the space to the best potential.                                                                   Creatively use and respond to change– Our use of this house has changed a lot since we brought it. Two more children and loads of additional stuff has filled the house up a lot. So I have had to adapt and change how I practice my creative hobbies in the house. I expect this will continue to change in the future.

10. Working Design

This is the wardrobe I am using. The colour-coded book shelf on the left of the wardrobe is the result of nesting madness undertaken at 9 months pregnant. I do like it though, so it has stayed. The limited book shelf space is helping me curb my habit for secondhand paperbacks too!The second image shows the shoddy use of space in the wardrobe. The boxes, baskets and bags were moved elsewhere.

2013-10-07 15.29.292013-10-07 15.29.53

2013-10-16 11.45.4111. Implementation plan

Go and buy wood for the desk and shelving, get this cut to size in the shop. Re-use wood from previous projects to support the selves and the desk. Check that I have suitable screws, rawl-plugs etc. Make desk, make shelves. Find the folding chair. Find the storage for sewing equipment. Buy a desk lamp and light bulb. Put up Ikea spice rack as a book shelve on inside of door. Use the blackboard paint to paint the inside of the other door. Try it out and see how the space works.

12. Implementation

I have now made the space and tried it out, all went well. There are a few niggles which I can sort out pretty easily. I still need to paint the blackboard on the inside of the door.

13. Documentation and maintenance

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14. Tweak and 15. Evaluate.

I will come back to these stages after I have used the space for a few weeks.

Sewing nook – Design process

2013-10-10 11.46.16I thought I should attempt a first design at this stage to try out some design tools and remind myself of the processes involved. I have been considering for quite a while what this project should be. I wanted something quick and achievable but also for it to be something I genuinely needed to do. So after lots of ideas and various false starts I have settled on this, Designing and making a sewing nook.

I will be going through the stages listed below in this design. They are a bit of an amalgamation of various permaculture design processes. I hope this a suitable approach? It certainly makes sense to me, but I will have to see what my tutor thinks at our first meeting. I would imagine i will tweak this process lots during my permaculture journey, so I think it is good to lay out this starting point in quite a detailed way now.

The design process stages

1. Identify a project. What is the problem and what is the solution?

2. Observations, boundaries and resources

3. Client interview or personal brainstorm

4. Research

5. Functions, elements and systems

6. Integration of elements

7. Practical considerations

8. Base map

9. Apply Permaculture ethics and principles

10. Working design

11. Implementation plan

12. Implementation

13. Documentation and Maintenance

14. Tweak

15. Evaluation

Phew, that looks like a lot! Some of those stages will be very brief and others far more involved. Also a land based project would differ greatly from one which is non-land based (for want of a better description!) Also I think the timing of creating the base map would differ if this was a land based project.

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1. The problem and the solution.

The problem- I need a space in our house where I can store and use my sewing machine, materials, books and on-going projects.

The solution- Transform an underused build-in wardrobe into a sewing nook.

2. Observations/boundaries/ resources and                                                                  3. Client interview or personal brainstorm. I currently use my sewing machine on the kitchen table but this is not ideal. Each time I want to do anything I have to go through the following stages; go upstairs, carry the heavy machine and sewing boxes downstairs, find my material, pattern, scissors etc from wherever I stashed them the last time. Clear the kitchen table of breakfast debris, toys, school books and half drunk cups of tea. Find a suitable extension lead and unplug other gadgets to plug it in. Trail the lead across the kitchen floor, creating a trip hazard and fun-filled danger game for my children. A long and boring process, this takes at least ten minutes. Then I can work well in the kitchen for approximately 4 minutes before baby S wakes up/ E needs help with homework/ C needs a snack. I then have to reverse the process and pack up, getting more and more frustrated each time.

So, what I really need is somewhere I can leave the sewing machine and associated kit set up with current projects close at hand. Then when I do have a brief window of time to get creative, I can dive straight in and be productive. I would also like to have my pattern/ sewing/ embroidery/knitting books close at hand and space to stick up images, patterns and notes.

I need to keep all of this equipment away from the children and make sure that they can not access it unsupervised. There are lots of potentially dangerous items (pins, scissors, seam ripper, knives etc) plus it is rather annoying for me if the threads get tangled up, materials gets appropriated for dressing up and pattern pieces get mixed up.

We are short on space in our house, five people in a three bed semi. So it needs to be small space and something already in the house, ie, there is not space for a new desk to be dedicated for sewing.

I have £50 available for this project to cover everything. Other than that small amount of cash, I’d like to re-use items already in the house. I am happy to check out charity shops, car boot sales etc for storage solutions. I have some blackboard paint left over in the shed. We have a folding chair that could be of use. We have various pieces of timber knocking around.

I do not have much time available to devote to this project. The build needs to be simple. I would like to do the majority of it myself but my husband, J, is happy to lend his carpentry skills as and when they are needed! I would like the sewing nook to be up and running asap so that I have time to complete sewing projects for Christmas presents.

4. Research I have been introduced to Pinterest, yet another way of wasting precious time browsing the internet! But it is great! I searched for sewing stations and got lots of images for inspiration. Click the link to take a look at my board. My Pinterest page

5. Functions, Elements and Systems 2013-10-10 13.55.34

My research and consideration of elements and systems led me to decide upon using a built-in wardrobe in our bedroom and turning this into the sewing nook.

6. Integration of elements2013-10-10 13.55.29

7. Practical considerations SWOC

Strengths – The wardrobe is already there. The doors can close and secure the station from the children and keep it self-contained and tidy. The sewing machine can be stored there permanently.

Weaknesses – The wardrobe is full of clothes that i would need to re-locate. The room is north-facing and the wardrobe is located in the corner furthest away from the window, so it would be very dark. It would be very important to get the lighting right.

Opportunities- A space in the house that is just for me! I could use it as a desk for permaculture diploma work too. Provides a chance to leave projects out to return to when I have a chance. Keeps all my equipment and materials together and out of the way.

Challenges – Do I have the woodworking skills to make this or can I get help from J or others? Would it be possible to make a fold-out table? How do I get the lighting right? How do I get electricity into the cupboard for the sewing machine and lights?

More to follow as soon as I have the time……..

Starting the Diploma

Today I have had agreement from Hannah Thorogood that she is willing to be my tutor. I have paid my deposit and set up my direct debit to pay for the diploma. The next step is to have an induction meeting with Hannah and any other new diploma students she is taking on. It would be good to have some people to guild with locally. I am really excited to be making a proper start on my diploma at last!