The Permaculture Toolbox

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I understand/use Permaculture after observing my second intro course this weekend.  Permaculture is challenging to teach because it’s so nebulous.  There are so many different parts of it to get your head around – SADIM, the three ethics, the X many principles, zoning, sector analysis, inputs and outputs.  I’m still overwhelmed by this despite having thought about it for four years, no wonder it’s challenging for the students.

I’ve been giving some thought to how this could be made to fit into people’s brains and that led me to think about something Hedvig was talking about at the weekend – the idea of a ‘Permaculture toolbox.’  This is a fabulous visual metaphor which I think could be really useful for both teaching and designing.

I came up with the idea of SADIM as the toolbox itself which all of the other tools fit inside of.  Yep, the picture  in that top post it is supposed to be a tool box.  Just use your imagination…  As you’ll see in my wonderful diagram below (scribbled hastily on post-its at work) survey, analyse, design and implement all get their own section whilst maintain incorporates the whole toolbox.  In each of the sections, there is a picture representing one of the tools.  Sadly my drawing skills are seven kinds of rubbish, but if I hurry you along now to the lower post-it, I’ll explain what each of those black blotches means…

I chose a pair of glasses to represent observation and a microphone (yes, that’s a microphone) to represent the client interview.  If you scroll back up to the ‘toolbox,’ you might just about be able to see that those two pictures are in survey.

Input/output analysis is represented by scales.  SWOT analysis by a stick man with one amazingly strong arm which is able to lift ten tons, and one weak arm which can’t lift a feather.  This is the most, err, creative representation that I came up with, but I am quite proud of it…  Chemical/numerical analysis is represented by a box with 123 in it.  This might include soil analysis for a plot design or looking at your bank statements if you’re designing your own finances.

My mind went blank when I thought about coming up with pictures to represent the ethics and the principles, so I have just used an E and a P to represent these things.  I envisage the tools being separate to the tool box so that they can be moved around.  You’ll see that I’ve put the E and the P in the design section too because they can both be used to analyse what’s already there and also to design what could be there.

The target (concentric circles) represents zoning whilst the man with the flower on his head represents random assembly.

The way I imagine this working is starting off with an empty SADIM toolbox and then sticking on the picture representing each of the tools as they are introduced.  This might seem a bit primary school but it’s actually a really good way to show students how their knowledge is building up in the same way that gold stars on a chart are a way for four year olds to monitor how well they have been behaving.  It also visually demonstrates how each of these tools fits inside a greater tool box.

I’ve missed a lot out of here.  Succession, for example – though maybe this fits into the principles.  Another ‘tool’ that I think I have missed out of this is ‘specific knowledge‘  – of plants, of business.  I’m still thinking about how this fits in.  One thing I think that people misunderstand regularly about Permaculture is that a Permaculture course won’t teach you how to create a forest garden, for example.  It isn’t there to tell you which plants have beneficial relationships with which other plants.  I’m using Permaculture to design my business/work life but it won’t teach me about how to market my services.  I need to get that knowledge from elsewhere and then design a marketing strategy which uses Permaculture as its basis.

My next steps with this are to try and use it in my own projects.  I’d like to try and find someone who is good at drawing and work with them to design some proper resources.  And then laminate them!  That’s the part that I am most excited about…

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4 thoughts on “The Permaculture Toolbox

  1. Well how about this, on the PDC I taught I got all the participants to make an origami box, which was their permaculture tool box. When I introduced a new tool, topic etc I reminded them to write it down and put into their toolbox. When we were doing group design work, I encouraged them to use the toolbox and take out the tools at different stages.

    • betheatslocal says:

      Marvellous! It was your idea, after all… I’m not sure we need to go as far as origami… I think some really well designed resources would be enough (and we could keep hold of them and we wouldn’t need to clear up loads of paper at the end…)

  2. […] post about a reference I made to permacultre and a permaculture toolbox.  She has gone off to developed her own permaculture toolbox, and I thought it was worth sharing […]

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