Brook End

A comprehensive design for 6-acre smallholding

Brook End is the 6-acre smallholding where I live in Somerset. This design report was produced while I was completing the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design from 2011-2014.

Design Process

This design report is structured using the SADIE model – Survey, Analysis, Design, Implement, Evaluate. However in undertaking this very-long term design I have developed my own design process which better describes the work I have been undertaken.

There are many tools in the permaculture toolkit that aim to assist in structuring design work, however the linear processes may not translate to intensive family designing. I have aimed to summarise my design processes below:

  • Move into Brook End (Mum and Ian have lived there one year previous)
    – Intensive observation for a full cycle
    – Some gardening and general tasks undertaken but no major interventions
    – Worked on house and got ‘own house in order’
  • Surveyed the site and ourselves on multiple levels
  • Identified designs within designs to make approach manageable e.g. herb garden, kitchen garden – but maintained awareness of interconnecting elements
  • Collated information on the above systems e.g. what characteristics do permaculture kitchen gardens have? Why? Who has already done research in this area so I am not reinventing the wheel. Looked at examples in action. Asked, how are permaculture principles applied?
  • Identified unique factors of our systems and analysed the research and information gathered in order to make design decisions
  • Made design decisions and present to Mum and Ian for feedback loops
  • Look at how these design decisions practically manifest e.g. draw on base map
  • Identify next actions to implement the design
  • Implement and continuously accept feedback for re-design!

Survey

Observation process

The first permaculture principle promoted by David Holmgren is observe and interact, “Good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship between nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration.”

Practicing skilful observation is therefore a skillflex needed by all ecosocial designers. At Brook End I completed a full cycle analysis, a dedicated year of observations following all the seasons. When completing designs for others we may not have this option but we can still imagine landforms over the changing seasons, using tools such as sun diagrams.

Skillful observation also link to social pattern reading, the social and emotional patterns of our lives are key indicators of interventions needed e.g. Is the garden too overwhelming to manage? How much psychological space is needed, do boundaries need to be designed in?

Tools for Surveying the Land

To successfully survey a site, you need to gather information not just from the land itself through observations and physical surveying but through background research and mapping.

Information can be harvested and made useful by:

  • Creating field maps through measuring & surveying
  • Collating information from maps e.g. historical maps, OS/promap data
  • Collating information from background research

Holistic Surveying

I have labelled this section ‘holistic surveying’ to define it for surveying that takes us beyond the reductionist measuring to the rich complexity of exploring an ecosystem and its elements.

Tools & methods for holistic surveying

  • Multi-sensory – Using all of the senses to record information e.g. Do any soils smell anaerobic? Do fruit tree branches feel healthy and strong?
  • Multi-weather – Being outside in all weathers; feeling the rain, exploring the snow, facing the wind, can all highlight microclimates and flows through the space.
  • Spiritual practice outside – Talking to the spirits & elementals of the land for their design support & feedback (the day after I requested permission to design for Brook End a rabbit’s tail was left outside my front door)
  • Multi-observations – Using multiple sets of eyes: Having 6 other permaculture designers stay for a weekend workshop gifted me with insights & observations I could not see on my own
  • Working with ‘non-expert’ eyes – Gardeners & pemaculture designers see land in a certain way, no matter how much we try to stop, attempting to not design is a challenge. People not trained in these crafts can make fantastic, common-sense judgements (like that space is too small for a lawnmower) because they have different mental processes & priorities
  • Experiment with using the space – How does it feel when there are 30 people there for a weekend gathering? Or 60 for a camp? How do the paths change? What risk of erosion is there? How does it feel with just a partner, how does it feel to make love on this grass?
  • Get off the beaten track – Sometimes going to places you don’t usually e.g. under hedges or in nettle patches can reveal useful observations & different perspectives.

Design Questionnaire

The design questionnaire or client interview is probably one of, if not the, most important aspects of design. Effectively capturing the wants, needs, fears and worries of a client enhances the leverage of acceptance and implementation.

Listening

Patrick whitefield in his Earth Care manual describes how beneficial it is to keep in the receptive role of listening and to not start making recommendations immediately. At Brook End this was part of my full cycle of observation and listening and I’ve detailed the advantages of different client interview techniques below:

Style Advantages Disadvantages Comments
A formally recorded session People think carefully about what they are saying. Ideas can be well articulated & clear. May not capture inner feelings. People can say what they think the recorder wants to hear. These interviews were done confidentially between Mum & Ian so they would not influence each other & instead express their own needs.
Informal, ongoing conversations Real fears & desires can surface. Comments are are responses to genuine life flow e.g. activities making you stressed Some ideas & feedback are lost. May be a reflection of moods & emotional reactions unbalanced with logical thought I have tried to make mental notes of these & write down things as much as possible.

Structuring Research

The first page in my design report is Site Information, which details background information for the reader about Brook End.

I ensured my research had the following elements:

  • Location – local towns and villages, bioregion, local wildlife sites, sites of special interest
  • History – previous residents, social history, history of land use
  • Boundaries – marked on map, overview of neighbours & interactions
  • Local Land Uses – working patterns, agriculture, animal use
  • Utilities – water, electric, broadband, gas – utility maps are available for large sites
  • Access – by vehicle and foot
  • Soils – overview from National Soil Resources Institute, observations
  • Views – in and out
  • Water – overview, flood risk, access
  • Landform – slope & geology
  • Structures – houses, out buildings, roads, car parks
  • Hazards – local industry, nuclear, pollution

I have also completed a climate profile detailing with data and observations profiling:

  • Rainfall & moisture
  • Wind
  • Snow
  • Temperatures
  • Sunshine & light
  • Frost
  • My own weather observations
  • Microclimate analysis

I then completed a PASTE analysis 1 & 2:

  • Plants – trees, shrubs, self-willed plants, cultivated species
  • Animals – birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians & fish, butterflies & moths, other insects
  • Structures – house, outbuildings, greenhouses, gates
  • Tools
  • Events – how the land has been used by people so far

You can also see how I structured my initial research plan here.

Site Survey

My first step was completing a comprehensive site survey. See the ‘site information’ pdf. I also undertook a PASTE analysis to help process my observations:

Design questionnaire

I then interviewed my family as part of the survey processs.

Analysis

I then completed key aspects of my design analysis process, these include:

  • Zone Analysis
  • Sector Analysis (Within smaller detailed designs)
  • Applying Permaculture Principles

These are contained within the pdf design report.

Design

Below you can see more detailed documentation about the design of various aspects of Brook End. As detailed in my cover sheet, not every area of Brook End has been ‘designed’ – this is a long term process and we are focusing on working from ‘getting our house in order’ and ‘small and slow solutions’. Therefore the below demonstrates my design work from January 2011 – September 2013.

You can click on the individual links below to go to the pdf of this detailed design element viewable on scribd, google docs or xmind:

Whole-site designs

  • Water Management – existing sources of supply, watershed boundaries & flow patterns, flooding, puddling & ponding areas, potential pollution sources, erosion & other observations
  • Water Management 2 – possible sources of supply, storage, permaculture approaches, WET systems, design decisions for Brook End
  • Sewage Management – Overview, design questions, compost toilets, urine harvesting, design decisions
  • Biodiversity Plan – Overview, biodiversity goals, species lists, recommended practices
  • Harvesting, processing & storage – Preserving methods, equipment needed, applying permaculture, design decisions
  • Community Outreach – Food & medicine, camps & gatherings, earth-based spirituality, permaculture demonstration, growers cooperative, learning & education

I also brainstormed livelihood options for the site:

  • Polylivelihood Design – Earth Dragon ltd, Brook End Edibles, Wild Heart Herbals & Wild Heart Permaculture – all different business design ideas for Brook End

Kitchen garden design

Greenhouses

Medicine garden

Orchard Design

  • Permaculture Orchards – Overview, forest gardens, examples of orchard re-designs, aims for the Brook End orchard

The Orchard re-design at Brook End was undertaken by a group of Permaculture Diploma Apprentices in May 2011 as part of a support weekend led by Aranya. As the host I participated in this design through acting as the client – answering group questions, supporting with surveying and so forth – however I can not take credit for the design decisions made or suggested. You can see a picture of the final design here.

Witchhazel Wildwood, one of the participants of the weekend wrote up the design to use towards her Diploma, and she has kindly let me provide a link to this work here for anyone more interested in the Brook End Orchard. See the design here.

Field Design

Aranya also returned in 2012 for a second design supportive intensive that took place at Brook End. Once again as a host I participated in the design process as a client and also supported the surveying process. Below are links to other elements of the design process:

Implementation

They say a picture says a thousand words. Please find some galleries that evidence the implementation of the designs above and all the site development undertaken at Brook End.

XXXXXXX

Evaluation

Please see the evaluation of this design in the design cover sheet that was completed for the Diploma. XXXX

You may also like to see my columns and articles which are reflective pieces about Brook End’s development:

Resources

This section is to illustrate and credit the diverse resources used in this design process:

Permaculture Principles & Design

Books & Materials:
Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden
David Holmgren’s Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability
Patrick Whitefield, The Earth Care Manual
Natural Abundance Design Questionnaire Handout
Frey, Darrel, 2011, Bioshelter Marken Garden, 2Hemmingway, Toby, 2009, Gaia’s Garden

Online:
www.permacultureprinciples.com
www.permaculture.org.uk

Medicinal Resilience

Books & Materials:

Linda Gray, Grow Your Own Pharmacy
Steve Charter, Eat More Raw
Susan Weed, Herbal Wise
Laurel Luddite, This is Anarcho-Herbal ism: Thoughts on Health and Healing for the Revolution David E Allen and Gabrielle Hatfield, Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition, An Ethnobotany of Britain & Ireland
Stephen Harrod Buhner, Herbal Antibiotics
Nancy & Michael Phillips, The Herbalist’s Way Andrew Chevallier, Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants

Online:

The Herbalists Path http://herbalistpath.blogspot.com/
MHRA – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency http://www.mhra.gov.uk/
www.rhizomeclinic.org.uk

Nutritional Resilience

Books & Materials:

Rosemary Morrow, Earth Users Guide to Permaculture
Bill Mollison, Permaculture: The Designer’s Manual, 1988
Permaculture Magazine, various editions
Toby Hemmenway, Gaia’s Garden
Linda Gray, Grow Your Own Pharmacy
Steve Charter, Eat More Raw
Susan Weed, Herbal Wise
David Kennedy, 21st Century Greens
World Food Programme, Low Input Food & Nutrition Security: Growing & Eating More using Less

Online:

http://www.tcpermaculture.com/2011/05/perma culture-zones.html
http://www.neverendingfood.org

Permaculture Orchards & Forest Gardening

Case studies:

Michel Postma & Max Vittrup Jensen, Proposal for permaculture design on the PermaLot apple orchard
Ethan Appleseed & Interns, Permaculture Orchard Renovation, www.appleseedpermaculture.com

Courses: 2006 Design Support Tutorial with Stephen Pritchard, http://ediblelandscape.co.uk
Diploma Support Intensive with Aranya, May 2011

Books & Materials:

Andy Goldring, 2011, Presentation at Annual Meeting of Farm Woodland Forum, Eco-functional intensification of orchards
Sepp Holzer, Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture, 2011

Online:

Plants for A Future http://www.pfaf.org
Permaculture Principles in a Polyculture Orchard
http://permaculture.tv/permaculture-principles-in-a-polyculture-orchard/

Fruit ID http://www.fruitid.com/

www.edibleforestgardens.com

Indoor Ecosystems

Books & Materials:

Bioshelter Market Garden, A Permaculture Farm, Darrell Frey
Horticultural Correspondence College, RHS level 3 Certificate in the principles of plant growth, health and applied propagation, notes, Lesson Two – Plant taxonomy, structure and function

Online:

http://www.lalomaviva.com/projects/page.php?id=35 5.
Wikipedia 2011 ‘Bioshelter’
http://midwestpermaculture.com

Water Management

Books:

Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway
Permaculture: A designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

Courses: Centre for Alternative Technology, Eco rainwater supplies & ecological sewage treatment course, April 11
Darren Doherty, RegenAG design course, Oct 11
Jay Abrahams, WET systems talk at RegenAG

Online:

http://www.wrt.org.uk/projects_map.html
PA Yeomans Scale of Permanence Checklist edited by David Jacke
Wessex Water
Flooding research – http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31650.aspx
South West River basin information:
http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/planning/40227.aspx

River Map
http://www.somersetrivers.org/index.php?module=MyMap&func=display&mid=19

Sewage Management

Books:

The Earth Care Manual, Patrick Whitefield, 2004
Permaculture: A designer’s Manual, Bill Mollison

Courses: Centre for Alternative Technology, Eco rainwater supplies & ecological sewage treatment course, April 11

Online:

http://www.waldeneffect.org/blog/Using_urine_as_fertilizer_in_the_gard en/
http://humanurehandbook.com/
http://www.newdirectionsfoundation.org/ecological-sanitation.php

Harvesting, Storage & Processing

Books:

Agricultural & Food Research Council, 1989, Home Preservation of Fruits & Vegetables
Lynda Brown, The Preserving Book
Sepp Holzer, Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture
David Kennedy, Leaf concentrate: A field guide for small scale programs

Online:

How to Make Your Own Homemade Nut Milk http://www.antonhealth.com
Article comparing freezers http://www.allotment.org.uk/frugal/Chest-Upright-Freezer.php

Biodiversity

Soil & Fertility Management

Books & Materials:

Resource Book for Permaculture, published by the IDEP foundation
Christine Jones, Regenerative Land Management
Bioshelter Market Garden, A Permaculture Farm, Darrell Frey (Including fertility calculation tool)
Toby Hemenway, Gaia’s Garden
Vegan Organic Network, Stock Free Organic Standards 2007
Horticultural Correspondence College, RHS level 3 Certificate in the principles of plant growth, health and applied propagation
Bullseye Soil Tool

Online:

National Soil Resources Institute – Cranfield University
http://www.landis.org.uk/soilscapes/

Soil Food Web
http://www.soilfoodweb.com/

Soil & Health Library
http://soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/01aglibwelcome.html