Category Archives: Teaching Permaculture

Crawling to the finish

I think I haven’t done much on my diploma, or this website, for pretty much a whole year. I’m not going to beat myself up about that. I was busy bringing a human being into the world. But now she’s here, and we’ve got our routines, I need to just finish this thing. Why is finishing something so hard? I have done more or less all the work, I just need to present it in a compelling way.

 I have never been much of a ‘finisher-completer.’ I am far better at having ideas and getting them going than I am at seeing them to completion. It’s probably one thing doing this diploma has driven home. It’s now a matter of pride to take bite-sized chunks and see them through to completion. I am doing well in other areas of my life, but finishing the diploma seems to elude me. I know why though. I haven’t given it full headlights-on focus. I need to think about it, and just it, for a period of time. And that’s the issue… I am doing plenty of other things (not least looking after a baby) and they seem (and frankly are) more important than what my brain now regards to be ‘admin.’ But, but… I have to finish this darn thing so I need to make time and space to do so. 

So, here’s what I am going to do… I am going to set myself two simple tasks… 

1. Read the diploma guidance manual in detail and check how I should be presenting my designs (and whether I have missed any steps). 

2. Contact a diploma tutor and ask them to look over my designs (I jettisoned mine a number of years ago). 

That shouldn’t be too hard! 

Now, where am I up to with my designs? I’m afraid not a lot has progressed but a few things have. 

Action Learning Pathway

Not redesigned. I need to be honest with this one. It’s less of a redesign and more of a historical document. I just need to write down what I did. I’m happy to be honest about this. Were I to do another diploma, I would be able to plan it in detail from the start, but when I started this one, I had not yet developed the skills to have that overview. So, it developed piecemeal, and designs chopped and changed though my focus was always on developing designs for livelihood. So, I think this design needs to be a sort of ‘how my diploma panned out’ précis to the whole thing. Suddenly it’s seeming more achievable 

Action: find my original ALP and work out how I got from there to here.  

Career Design

Written up! 

Scythe Teaching

Written up! 

Permaculture Teaching

Written up!


Yet to be written up. 

Action: write it up

The Seed Blog

In all honesty, I can’t remember where I am up to with this. Implementation of this has all but ground to a halt, because of the baby and because of the need to focus on other projects. I think it’s written up in draft form though. 

The Garden

As I am currently implementing this design, I have written up what I can. I need to revisit this and finish this write up. 

Action: finish this write up

The Larder Project

Yet to be written up

Action: write it up

Fat Hens

Designed and written up!


Designed and written up! 


Am I finished? How I know when a design is done.

At the beginning of my diploma, when I was looking at my big, sprawling, open-ended designs, I wondered how on earth I would know when they were finished.  It was a good question, and the lack of clarity was definitely a flaw in my design process.  Two years in, I find that the constant process of thinking about what I want to achieve has really developed my skills in defining project  boundaries and knowing when I am done.  I find that I can come up with an idea and not only know whether or not it is feasible (through experience of biting off more than I can chew), but also know how I will know when I have finished that particular design.  I have italicised the I, because I think that markers of success are very person-specific.  For example, in a design for a business, one person’s goal might be to earn a certain amount of money, but financial goals just don’t work for me, I am not motivated by them.  I would prefer to set goals along the lines of ‘run x amount of courses,’ or ‘raise prices to x amount’.  What I have realised is that being able to clearly define what you want out of a project means knowing yourself, your priorities and what is feasible for you really really well.  So, for me, the first step to knowing when a design is done is to know yourself well and set project boundaries that fit in with that.

The second way I have discovered of knowing when a design is done it to understand the lifecycle of how things are achieved.  I wrote about this idea in this post.  It’s the Hero’s Journey, the idea which suggests that all of the stories in the world are based on one story – the monomyth.  My friend Erica has just written a book on how you can use this idea in your own life.  The hero’s journey goes (a little) like this:

The call to adventure – “wouldn’t building a garden on this roof be cool?”

The refusal of the call – “nah, it would be too difficult and I couldn’t do it.”

The acceptance of the call (this is when you get cool stuff and people want to help you) – “ok, sod it, let’s have a go!  Wow, thanks for all of the plants, mum.  Yep, it’d be really great if you helped me out.”

The belly of the whale – “Aggh, it’s really hard to get stuff to grow up here because of the wind.  This isn’t as exciting as when I started out.”

The Supreme Ordeal  – “All my plants have died.  Ok, I’ll plant the whole lot again.”

Triumphant return – “I’ve done it!  I’ve grown all these plants through a whole season on this less than easy roof. Want me to teach you?”

When I think about all of my designs, I can plot them along a point on this journey.  I have come to realise though, that a greater ‘journey’ (e.g. making a living from scything) might be made up of several smaller journeys.  You might not get your big success all at once.  In fact you probably wont.  I think that every success (for example, I feel like I have done really well with scything courses this year), heralds a rethink and a new journey.  I have discovered that it is impossible to create a design that is too big, because each big design with naturally break itself down into several smaller ones.  A garden design will do this – e.g. a smaller design for a pizza oven, for planting for beneficial insects, for year-round produce.  This ‘breaking down’ is a pretty good example of designing from patterns to details – a principle that baffled me when I first started, but which I really really value now.





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End of winter round up: Part 2

The Cutting Edge – developing an income stream in scythe teaching and mowing

This was last year’s angst-ridden project.  This year, thanks to observing the fact that I was crap at marketing, getting some training and implementing some changes, I am rushed off my feet.   I feel like I have the beginnings of a vibrant business.

Some successes:

–  Half of my courses were sold out a month before the first one started

–  I am on course to reach my goal of making £5000 from scything this year

–  I am getting regular enquiries from people asking me to teach, mow or demonstrate for them.

There are some things I would like to work on though:

– Courses for individuals are hard work in terms of admin.  At the end of this year I’ll need to work out how many of them it is feasible to do.

– I’ll also need to work out ways of reducing this admin, e.g. better FAQs and automated responses

I think this design is probably ready to be written up, so that’s my next step.

Action:  Write up Cutting Edge


Pen to Paper – developing an income stream in ‘green journalism’

This project is providing the angst this year.  As you can see from my Christmas evaluation (I seem to be evaluating rather a lot, don’t I), I had some successes last year but I had come to a point where I didn’t know how to progress.  I took my own advice and, using the heroes journey as a model for life, found myself more collaborators and a mentor.  I’ve been running a very successful writing buddy relationship with Jo of A Girl and Her Thumb for the past year and a bit, but I decided I wanted more, so I started meeting up with my friend Loo who is doing a journalism course, and asked my friend Fliss to be my mentor.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this income stream and, frankly am still thinking, and that’s ok.  I suspect that this design might change out of all recognition very soon, but I haven’t wholly decided yet.  I realise that’s a refrain you’re hearing about a lot of the designs but that’s because I’m in a state of massive flux at the moment.  Will and I are buying a house, moving out of Brighton, thinking about the future and all that means.  Everything is up in the air, including decisions about projects and that’s kind of ok.  Right now I am just going to deal with moving house and keeping up with my hectic schedule of scythe courses.

Action: Redesign pen to paper when ready


Permaculture teaching – developing an income stream in teaching permaculture

I think this may be the first of my designs that I declare finished.  I have taken the BPT teacher training scheme as far as I can go with it and the next stage would be to strike out on my own and find opportunities to teach.  However, I find myself curiously unenthusiastic about doing that.  Part of it is having done a realistic observation of my time.  I already feel like I don’t have enough time, so fitting in a meaningful amount of permaculture teaching (and all the prep) would be quite difficult.  The other issue is that I just don’t think I want to teach permaculture.  I want to do permaculture, but I don’t think I want to teach it explicitly.  I consider deciding not to pursue this income stream a valid outcome of this design and I am glad that I did the design, but I think it’s time to put this one to bed for now.   Time to write up!

Action:  Write up Permaculture teaching design

Part three coming soon.  Hope you’re looking forward to it! 😉


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End of winter round up: Part 1

Welcome to my six-monthly round up of how my projects are going.  Please overlook the fact that it’s nearly the end of May and cannot really be described as the end of winter any more.  On the surface of things I have hardly done anything for my diploma this winter – no blog posts for four months etc – but actually I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my designs, about my motivations for doing them, about how to make them work individually and all together as a group.  What follows is fairly dense, apologies for that now.


I am using my diploma to effect major change in my life.  I have chosen to do it over four years to give myself the time to make these changes happen.  This long period of time has also meant that I can observe and redesign the more complex designs.  I’ve also used it as an opportunity to do ‘practice‘ designs in some cases.  I’m working on a redesign of my Action Learning Pathway as I have refined my ideas a lot since I used Hedvig’s as a jump off point.

One of the ways in which I have refined my ideas is working out just how big or small a project should be.  In my head, the optimum size for a single design is the size of Hedvig’s clean air plant design (which I can’t seem to find a link to right now, but I am sure Hedvig will supply in the comments).  I’ll admit that when I first saw it I thought that it was quite unambitious in its scope, but that’s before I learnt how much observation and analysis it takes to actually make a design work properly.  Now I think it’s just about the right size to be interesting without being so big that it needs to be broken down into smaller designs.  This realisation has actually made a big difference to my designs as it as given me a scale at which I feel comfortable doing observation and analysis.  I feel like I have ‘got real.’

I have also realised that there is a different between a project which is large in ‘area’ (i.e. happens over a large piece of land) and a project which is large in complexity (i.e. has lots of different facets and therefore requires lots of different mini-designs).  A design could be large in size but not complex (i.e. the coppicing design I am working on – more soon), or be complex but not obviously large and important (such as the marketing designs I have been doing).  What I realised is that it’s really hard to work out the size and scope of a project without either quite deep analysis or without doing it.

As I know that I naturally tend towards massive overblown projects that will change the whole world (and which I haven’t got a hope in hell’s chance of pulling off), this has been the biggest win of the diploma so far.  Using the design cycle has made me slow down, observe, analyse and really think about how a design will fit into my life because for me (and I suspect for most people), it’s self observation rather than external observation that makes the difference between the success and failure of a project.

So, in redesigning my ALP I have decided to include a ‘non land based design starter kit’ which can function as my jumping off place for all non-land-based designs, as well as the basic roadmap towards my goals.  I’ll include the checklist in this starter kit obviously as I am already finding it immensely useful.  I’m so glad that I managed to write those ideas down because where the hell you start a non-land based design has always baffled me completely.  There’s so much help with land based design and almost none at all with non-land-based design.

ACTION: Write up redesigned ALP and ‘design starter kit.’  



The design is a basic overview of the ways in which I make/hope to make my livelihood, how much each strand will contribute to my finances and how much time it will take.  With this design as with a few of the others, I hit the issue that it was impossible to do real observation and analysis without actually implementing it.  I found that without actually launching my scythe teaching business I could not estimate how much time it would take up nor how much money I would make from it.  My first design was based on a series of guesses.  This is because almost no one (with a few exceptions) are teaching scything at the scale that I want to do it.  Even if I could have done, I think I would have struggled to estimate how much time it would take me to get up to speed with running a micro-business (a long time).  I really feel like I had to learn by doing in this case.

Despite ostensibly being about ‘time and money,’ this design is really about me – what motivates me, what I want to spend my precious time doing.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this recently and when I have finally come to some conclusions (I’m 90% of the way there), I’ll need to do a redesign of this.  One of the biggest changes I’ll need to make is to take account of how many different income streams one person can really deal with.  I am still in favour of the poly-income (a portfolio career) – spreading out your income over a number of different streams so that it is resilient to crisis – but I have come to realise that the number of different subject areas that one person can keep in their head at the same time is limited.  Changing gears, e.g. from thinking about marketing scythe courses to writing, is an activity that takes time in itself.  Working out which strands to keep and which to drop is hard though and I have not quite come to the end of that process so I don’t feel like I am in the right place quite yet to do a redesign of this project quite yet.

Action: Time and Money redesign when ready

Two projects down… more coming up in the next posts!

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Designing information: Organising my RSS reader

bloggery pokery crop


I spent a few hours today reorganising my RSS reader.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and an RSS reader, like Google Reader (which I use) means that you are informed when blogs are updated and don’t have to visit them individually to find out.

I follow a lot of blogs  (yes, including interior design blogs, I am entering into ‘that’ stage of my life…)  I’m unapologetic about the number of blogs that I follow.  I do spend a reasonable amount of time looking at them which used to set up a frisson of guilt in me (Am I wasting time?  Should I be doing something ‘more useful?’).  In the end I just concluded that I was interested in certain subjects which other people wrote about so why feel guilty about garnering inspiration, information, advice and ideas.  Actually, why feel guilty about being interested in someone’s life?

I am a ruthless culler of blogs too.  I only keep the blogs that I look forward to reading, otherwise looking at my RSS reader turns into work.  I also cull blogs that I enjoy, but which give me the feeling that my life is rubbish.  These tend to be American blogs written by women whose children are perfect, husbands are perfect, houses are perfect, Christmases and birthdays were perfect…  Likewise blogs that rejig the same tired ideas.

I signed up for a few more gardening blogs today because I am looking for places to write guest posts about scything for and by the time I had added them, the list of blogs that I follow was enough to give you a migraine.  No more!  I decided to put them into really simple folders according to their subject.  Previously my folder titles had been things like ‘Inspiration’ and ‘Green Thinkers.’  They date from a time when I had many few blogs to follow, but even then they were a bit vague.  Inspiration for what?  Thinking about what?

Putting these blogs into categories was really interesting because when I was done I looked at it and thought, yep, those are my life interests.  I thought through my diploma projects and considered whether I followed blogs about all of those subjects.  The answer was, almost all of them – coppicing, preserving and scything didn’t get a folder of their own but they fit in under rural skills and food.  One area that I did notice was missing was general life design, livelihood design and blogs about money.  These are all things that I am working on very hard in my diploma and yet they weren’t represented in my blog-roll.  I think this is because I still find the idea of talking about, thinking about or designing for financial rewards a bit gross – the way I felt about marketing before I discover Marketing for Hippies.  I’ve signed up for finance/entrepreneurial blogs in the past and always unsubscribed because I didn’t read them because it made me feel icky.  I need to find someone who is talking about these things in a way that I am willing to listen to.  Any ideas?  They need to be funny and directed towards money-phobes.  I’m also looking for some life-coaching/life-organisation blogs that don’t make me want to be sick.  Help gratefully received…

After I had taken the picture above, I went and looked at these folders and put the ones with some connection to each other next to each other.  Really, they all have connections to each other in my head, but I wanted to draw out the most important ones.   Gardening, foraging and permaculture went next t each other and also next to food.  Photography and graphic design went next to each other and were also linked to lifestyle.

I have decided to read them in a different way too.  Instead of clicking on the feed for the individual blog and seeing a stream of posts just from that blog, I have decided to click on the category – e.g.  Food.  This will show me posts from all of the blogs in that category in the order that they were updated.  Doing it this way means that it’s much harder to discern immediately which blog you are reading.  This is useful because it means that I can see which blogs broadcast their individuality immediately.   For example, I predict that in the ‘food’ category I will be able to recognise Smitten Kitchen immediately because while the pictures are good but not amazing, the writing is hilarious (which is, I have to say, unusual for a lot of the blogs that I read).  I also predict that I will be able to recognise What Katie Ate immediately because of her distinctive photographic style.  This sort of observation is really useful for developing my writing and photographic style.


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My second teach on the BPT introduction to Permaculture

At the weekend I did my second teach on the Brighton Permaculture Trust ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course.  It was the second time I had taught, but I covered the same material – Holmgren’s principles.  This was largely due to running out of time.  I got some scything work in the weeks preceeding the teach and didn’t have time to sit down and plan another session, so I did the first one again.

Going over the same material again was really interesting.  I realised how well I had planned the session last time.  I really put a lot of work into it and that totally paid me back when I came to look at it again.  80:20 principle in action!  I made a few tweaks, the most major of which was deciding to put slides up behind students when they were standing in front of the class presenting about the principle that their group had just been discussing.  The last time I did it, I relied on the students speaking to teach the rest of the group about the principle and this didn’t always work.  Some of them mumbled, some of them hadn’t quite understood.  This time I put the slides up so everyone could read all of the information and, though it was a little bit distracting, I think it worked better.

What next for teaching permaculture?  That’s a good question…  Getting paid?

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End of the summer round up: part four

Nearly there, people, stay with me.  This is the last post…

Project eight: Wild food (foraging)

This is a project that has been on the cusp of being clear in my mind for about a year, but has never quite made it.  What’s been going well is that I have been doing a reasonable job at educating myself in botany and mycology and have been taking opportunities to learn where I can.  What’s challenging is that I am still not clear on the ‘project’.  I have several very good ideas for this project but haven’t yet committed to any of them.  If I am honest what’s holding me back with this one is that I want to include other people in this project but I have been badly burnt by working with community groups in the past (don’t ask…) and the thought of actually working with other people and having to make decisions with them gives me the mad fear.  However, I have pledged to myself not to make decisions based on fear, so this is no excuse.

What I want to use this project to do (my vision) is to teach me and others about about forageables – and botany and mycology in general.  Whilst I want the main yield of this project to be knowledge, I also want it to be fun, and I want it to not be a whole load of hard work that I am in charge of.

Next step:  I’ve actually done quite a lot of work on this project that I haven’t written up, so I need to sit down with that and firm up what my objectives for this project are and then analyse whether the ideas that I have come up with hit all of those objectives.


Project nine:  Wild wood (coppicing)

This project is still in the surveying stage and the surveying is going pretty well.  Last winter I spent a week and a half in the woods with Blackbark, my friends’ coppicing business.  I learnt a lot from it and one thing I am glad to have learnt is that I don’t really want to make coppicing into a business.  To do this I would have to invest in a lot of expensive equipment that I am not too happy about using (chainsaws, pick-ups).  I have decided that the coppicing project will be a way of providing for my own household needs (firewood and building materials) and I can therefore stick to handtools which would be completely impractical in a business context.  As this project is chugging away so slowly (there is not much I can do during the summer) there isn’t really anything that I have found too challenging yet.

Next step:  My next step is to start volunteering reasonably regularly for Tottington Woodlanders in order to skill up.  I’ve already volunteered for another Blackbark workweek next year.  I’m happy with that for now.


Project ten:  Teaching Permaculture

I have been progressing slowly but surely through the Brighton Permaculture Trust teacher training scheme.  I observed the course twice, then taught a section of it which went very well.  I developed some materials for that mini-teach which I’ll be able to use again and develop.  My teacher training and years of experience as a teacher kicked in again for this project and I was glad to  feel that that part of my life was useful to this part.

What’s challenging is that I am letting this project drift along.  Because it’s very structured, I am letting that structure dictate the speed at which I progress and I think, actually, I could be a little more proactive about this.  I need to give this project a bit of a kick up the ass.

Next step: Find out what the ‘next step’ in the teacher training scheme is.


Some overall conclusions and priorities for next year

One thing that I am noticing with all of my projects is that whilst I have tried to design a livelihood/lifestyle that means I am outside as much as I am inside, that’s just not happening at the moment.  I feel like I have had a very ‘inside’ year.  A large part of this is not having a garden.  Also, after having done all the inside admin and marketing for scythe courses, I then didn’t really get to do much of the teaching outside.  Arranging things so that I am outside more is an issue that needs to be fixed for 2013.

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Going solo: My first permaculture mini-teach

Many moons ago (actually only one moon ago) saw me go solo as a permaculture teacher as part of the Brighton Permaculture Trust training scheme.  After doing two observations of the ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course, we were asked to choose one section of it that we would like to teach and prepare that. I chose to teach Permaculture principles because I wanted to bring more of a focus to non-land-based design in Permaculture, and that seemed like a good place to do it.

I chose to teach Holmgren’s principles which are subtly different to Mollison’s principles which are usually taught on the course.  [If I were to do this lesson again, I would try to develop some learning resources which made the comparison between the two sets of principles easy to see, so it wouldn’t have to be taught twice].  I had spent quite a long time before the lesson researching and compiling ‘real life’ examples of the principles in action.  For each principle I used a land-based example and a non-land-based example.

My lesson plan went as follows:

I introduced the principles by explaining that they were a set of design ‘rules’ which had been learned from nature and which could be applied in any natural  setting, as well as being useful for non-land-based design.  I then introduced the first two principles, giving the students a land-based example and a non-land-based example and then asking them to come up with some of their own.  After this short intro, I then put the students into pairs and handed out some resource cards which had the principle on one side, and the examples on the other.  The students had to read this card and then come up with an example of their own.

The obligatory PMI (plus, minus, interesting) analysis…

Pluses:  I thought that on the whole the lesson went well.  The students were engaged and came up with lots of really great examples, lots more than I expected them to come up with.  Using non-land-based examples seemed to go down pretty well and broadened students understanding if what permaculture can be.  I kept to time (hurrah!) and my instructions were largely good.  I used a stopwatch on my computer desktop so that students could see how long they had left for the task and when it went off it brought the students attention back to the front of the class without me having to do anything.

Minuses:  I sounded nervous at the beginning (I wasn’t nervous until Hedvig asked me repeatedly whether I was feeling nervous) and I also slightly fluffed the instructions for the main task – I gave out the resources before I had explained what people should do.  When the students came to present their principle to the group, they didn’t always introduce their principle clearly and on a couple of occasions I had to repeat it.  Next time I would put the name of the principle on the screen behind the students together with the pictures that I used to illustrate my examples (but not the written examples themselves) as I realised that only one group would get to see the pictures on the card clearly – the group that were working on it.  I also used a couple of words like guild and didn’t explain them.

Interesting: My ‘recap’ was to get the students to put their cards out of sight and try and remember as many principles as possible.  I was going to do this as a whole group, but then I realised they would have just read out the principle they had been working on, so I kept them in pairs for this activity.

So to change for next time…  I would adapt my resources to include a comparison of Holmgren’s Principles and Mollison’s principles.  Whether this would be too complicated, I don’t know!  I would use slides which had the name of the principle and the pictures of the examples on them so that all of the students could see what was on the card, but not be distracted by lots of writing which can be read out.

Roll on the next permie-teaching challenge!

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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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Building an action learning guild

One thing that has come, unexpectedly, out of the Brighton Permaculture Trust trainee teacher scheme is a fully formed diploma ‘action learning guild.’  Many of us on the scheme are in the beginning stages of our diploma and trying to find other people in a similar position with whom we can share the pain (and joy, of course) of doing the diploma.  Hedvig and Bryn looked on jealously at a recent trainee teacher’s meeting as our guild formed in about 30 seconds.  “It took me months to find people to form a guild with, ” said Hedvig.

So, what’s a guild for?  Well, it’s about making beneficial connections with other people.  It’s about sharing ideas and challenges, finding out where projects overlap and you can help each other (maximising your edge).  It’s about deadlines, organisation and structure.  It’s about pot luck lunches and maybe a beer afterwards…

My new ALG group and I have been discussing how we would like the ALG to work via our new google group.  I realised that it was the structure aspect of the ALG that was the most important to me.  I want regular meetings and I want them in the diary at least three months ahead and I want to know what we are going to be talking about when we get there.  Five years of working in administration has finally taken its toll.  I’m getting excited by the phrase ‘strategic planning.’  I need the ALG to (benevolently) ‘police’ my diploma.  I need goals set at the end of every meeting and an expectation that I will have met those goals by the next meeting or have a bloody good reason why I haven’t…

My suggestion was that we run the ALG meet ups along the same lines every time:

  1. A catch up – where are people up to with the goals they set last meeting, successes and challenges in the last month.
  2. A short exploration of a ‘theme’ – something not directly connected to anyone’s project that will push our boundaries and help us think about things we might not have ordinarily thought about.
  3. Goal setting – what do we want to achieve by next time.

I really think that the ALG will have a very positive effect on the efficacy of my projects and, as many of my projects are about building a sustainable livelihood, will have a positive effect on my life in general.  Let’s see what happens…

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