On the Relation between Designing and Implementing in Permaculture – Part 15

Okay, continuing right on along from the previous post, here I share the three-phase unfolding of a concept design for the homestead garden area of Oakdene Forest farm. After that I’m going to be very naughty, ignore what the books about permaculture design say, and share how we went ahead and started implementing without any pre-formed clarity about the details.

In the last post we clarified the shared intention for the space…

Our house garden is a colourful private sanctuary that wraps around us, is a child magnet, and produces massive amounts of food

…along with organising the key desired areas both into a nested hierarchy (otherwise known as a holarchy) and a sensible provisional design & implementation sequence:

Here’s the area to be developed in a photo.

Here’s the area to be developed in a diagram.

Our next task was to unfold a provisional location for each of the above-specified areas in this space in a way that honoured the earlier site analysis work, (culminating in this diagram)…

…and took the space where mum and dad wanted it to go, which one more time was:

Our house garden is a colourful private sanctuary that wraps around us, is a child magnet, and produces massive amounts of food

Concept Design Phase One

Here’s the diagram showing the first draft concept design we came up with:

Now let’s zoom in and get a feel for the unfolding sequence, an essential part of any design process that is too often simply not mentioned. Even though we’d previously identified the water tank as the place to start, that idea was quickly dumped, given we could easily put that wherever later. So we started with foot access, as shown in orange. This was a no-brainer, just showing the essential places one needed to be able to walk:

Now a rough attempt at shelter trees encircling the space:

Moving on to some provisional spots for structures:

And that is as far as we got before going outside, mocking up these lines, and kicking them as in finding out what was wrong with them. Finding out which tensions they didn’t resolve or that they inadvertently created.

The major thing that arose at this point was mum realising she didn’t want people to enter the house through the only door visible in this photo:

Which I at first balked at given that it is not only the only door you can see as you approach from this angle, but it looks like the main door and a perfectly appropriate place to enter!

So at first I sort of scoffed and said that if they didn’t want people entering through this door then they ought to have built their house differently!

But mum persisted until I had a realisation. She was one of the clients. She was being clear about what she wanted. Once I accepted that this was what was wanted, the process flowed again. Rather than arguing with reality, the process now was all about accepting it yet at the same time finding a way of dealing with the fact the door currently had “enter here!” written all over it. We needed some way of smoothly diverting people around the side to the newly designated main entrance door.

Concept Design Phase Two

So began, on our next session, round two, resulting in this updated version:

Which, in sequence, started with access. You’ll note here another development fro last round – the extra parking area in the driveway, giving first-time car-borne visitors a parking place a comfortable distance from the house. Also the little footpath than shunts them into the same funnel as other arrivers.

Trees and shrubs changing their layout accordingly…

A few loose thoughts on structures:

Now for the first time thinking about lawn and veggie patch areas:

And even locating some patches for ornamental flowers and such like:

Concept Design Phase Three

Again, we sat with the outcome of round two, walked it, critiqued it, before commenced round three, which ended up like this:

Or in an after-the-fact prettied up version, like this:


In our design process so far we’ve gone from this…

…to this…

…to this…

…to this…

Or in the actual diagram we arrived and used to guide next steps, this:

I wonder, is anyone feeling it? Feeling what? Feeling the feeling of the different parts of the concept design arising and unfolding and evolving as if organs within a greater organism? Getting stretched and pulled and nudged until it all fits real nice. If so, isn’t it a lovely feeling, hey?

Time to Get a Wee Bit Radical

In the next post I’ll share how we went from this concept design (which no one could call any kind of detailed design) straight into implementation. Ye gods! How dare we ignore the advice in all the books!

I say a wee bit radical because after the dust has settled on this example1, I’ll share a completely different example, that, by the established standards of our discipline, is simply off the charts – some serious permaculture contraband!

Anyways catch you next time when we’ll be pushing some dirt around. For at this stage, as far as this Oakdene Forest Farm homestead example goes, the earthmoving machinery has been booked and is on its way…


  1. or after it has sunk like a stone – either way ;-)

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