Learning Pathway

I began my Learning Pathway in spring 2013, after my first diploma tutorial. My aim was to plan my learning journey, including my overall goals and my plans for my designs. I also aimed to wind the permaculture ethics into my planning, making sure that my learning process and my designs supported People Care (for example, looking after myself and not expecting unrealistic things of myself), Earth Care (improving the sustainability of the projects I was involved with), and Fair Shares (increasing equality and considering others throughout the projects and the process).

I used a SADIM process:

Survey (June 2013)

Base Map:

  • Limited time.
  • Family responsibilities.
  • Work responsibilities (though flexible because freelance).
  • Firmly based in London, and travelling is difficult/impossible now and for at least the next couple of years.
  • Garden and house.
  • Important aspects of my life:
    • craft and making things
    • writing fiction
    • garden / food growing
  • Other commitments: FGNR.

Sectors (energy flows):

  • Gain energy from working alone. Group work / time with others is draining even when/if it's fun.
  • Making things creates energy for me.
  • New stuff and new things to engage with are inspiring and interesting.
  • Tension between minimalism and packrattery!
  • Find community stuff very difficult, especially in communities that I don't feel comfortable in. Outreach is hard, and outreach in person is harder!
  • I hate formal planning of learning!

Client needs:

  • Working with (within) my existing time and commitments (People care).
  • Lots of existing / planned projects! (Integrate rather than segregate)
  • Keen to get a permaculture approach to overall work / life / etc. Currently often feels very bitty. (Integrate rather than segregate)
  • Challenge: more outreach? especially within local community? (Fair shares).
  • Happy to take my time over it.

Resources:

  • Existing blog.
  • Permaculture in Pots book.
  • Guest posts / etc on other blogs.
  • Parenting community links?
  • Galleywall Nature Reserve.
  • Local resources: Surrey Docks Farm, Passing Clouds, Southwark Park?
  • Existing experience: hands-on gardening experience, writing, PDC.

Drives/motivations/passions:

  • Ongoing interest in permaculture and sustainability (People Care, Earth Care, Fair Shares).
  • Activism in various forms (Fair Shares).
  • Growing food.
  • Learning more about sustainable design.

Objectives

  • 'Complete' various projects (Obtain a Yield).
  • Learn more practical food gardening.
  • Get better at outreach.
  • Restructure life a bit more coherently and sustainably (Catch and Store Energy).
  • Increased household / personal practical self-sufficiency and sustainability (Value renewable resources).

Analysis

Mapping and considering projects at start of Learning Pathway
Mapping and considering projects at start of Learning Pathway

Considering/planning the timing of the various projects I was initially interested in.
Considering/planning the timing of the various projects I was initially interested in.

Mind-mapping desired outcomes and goals
Mind-mapping desired outcomes and goals

Design

(August 2013)

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
2013
  • Induction Event
  • Back Garden (also ongoing)
  • Learning Pathway (also ongoing)
  • Katie and Paul allotment (start summer)
  • Mini Greenhouse
  • National Diploma Gathering in Nov

  • Balcony
  • Tutorial 1 Jan 2014
2014
  • Balcony
  • Wigwam
  • Interim Portfolio Apr 2014?
  • Nature Reserve (start spring, continue into autumn)
  • Writing / writing as activism
  • Tutorial 3
  • Porch
2015
  • Life Stuff
  • Tutorial 4
  • Patio? Shoe cupboard?
  • Portfolio Assessment

Assessment Autumn/Winter 2013-14

November 2013:

  • Further objective: to find out more about
    1. my own working practices and how I operate (People Care; Observe and interact).
    2. how I want to engage with permaculture and to make it part of my life (Design from patterns to details).
  • Current reflections on projects so far (Creatively use and respond to change):
    • I am not all that much of a practical gardener by inclination (Observe and Interact).
    • I am finding the design process quite clunky.
      • ? need to percolate inspiration earlier in the process to motivate myself?
      • initial measuring/survey stage particularly difficult if starting from clean mental slate (boring!).
      • perhaps I prefer a more fundamentally iterative process?
  • Suggested alternative design process (Use and value diversity):
    1. Very basic overview of site and goals/expectations.
    2. Pondering, brainstorming, generating ideas.
    3. Full detailed survey.
    4. Adapt/review/discard/etc idea.
    5. Finalise analysis and design
  • Try non-land-based projects to see if they are a better fit?

December 2013:

Considering next projects in Nov 2013
Considering next projects in Nov 2013

  • Learning objective:
    • Find a way to slow myself down a bit when designing without losing enthusiasm/momentum (Apply self-regulation and accept feedback).
    • Try out different design processes (Use and value diversity).
    • Generate my own design process and a template for it?
  • Where do I want to be in 2 years' time?
    • Fully utilised/enjoyed back garden (food and leisure) (People Care; Earth Care).
    • Have found my way of engaging in permaculture and the spreading of permaculture long-term.
      • Comfortable running workshops etc?
    • Have a functional design process that suits me.
    • More sustainable lifestyle (Earth Care).
  • Integrate rather than segregate! Use workshop opportunities to...
    • Increase comfort levels.
    • Explore options for sharing / working in permaculture.
    • Obtain a yield.
    • Integrate! Make them part of other projects.
    • Experiment with design process.
  • Value diversity: try different types of project.
  • Observe and interact: back garden tweak/redesign to see if it improves use this summer.

Updated timetable (Jan 2014):

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
2013
  • Induction Event
  • Back Garden (also ongoing)
  • Learning Pathway (also ongoing)
  • Katie and Paul allotment (start summer)
  • Mini Greenhouse
  • National Diploma Gathering in Nov
  • Balcony
  • Tutorial 1 Jan 2014
2014
  • Balcony
  • Wigwam
  • Interim Portfolio Apr 2014?
  • Nature Reserve (start spring, continue into autumn)
  • Workshop
  • Writing / writing as activism
  • Tutorial 3
  • Porch
2015
  • Life Stuff
  • Tutorial 4
  • Patio? Shoe cupboard?

  • Portfolio Assessment

Assessment January 2015

I've finished 6 designs, am working on two (the 'life'/zone 00 design, and the learning pathway), so have two to do.

Observations and changes (Observe and interact):

  • Looking at my base map, I would add "writing" to my passions/driving forces.
  • I have concluded I am more interested in applying permaculture to my existing life (interests, habits, projects) and in using permaculture tools and ideas there, than I am in moving my life more towards permaculture as its own environment. (Integrate rather than segregate)

Looking back at December 2013 aims:

December 2013 Progress, January 2015
Learning objective:

  • Find a way to slow myself down a bit when designing without losing enthusiasm/momentum.
  • Try out different design processes.
  • Generate my own design process and a template for it?
I've tried various processes and have one that works for me. Having an idea or ideas in mind before researching them further helps me to keep my momentum whilst allowing time to fully assess the project.
Where do I want to be in 2 years' time?

  • Fully utilised/enjoyed back garden (food and leisure).
  • Have found my way of engaging in permaculture and the spreading of permaculture long-term. Comfortable running workshops etc?
  • Have a functional design process that suits me.
  • More sustainable lifestyle.
  • Working on back garden; it's improved in the last year.
  • Still thinking about engagement in permaculture.
  • Now have my own functional design process.
  • What I've done on sustainability has been about personal sustainability (self-care) rather than ecological sustainability (People Care).
Integrate rather than segregate! Use workshop opportunities to...

  • Increase comfort levels.
  • Explore options for sharing / working in permaculture.
  • Obtain a yield.
  • Integrate! Make them part of other projects.
  • Experiment with design process.
Achieved; I've run several workshops and learnt from them in various ways. One of the things I've learnt is that I don't much like running workshops!
Value diversity: try different types of project. The 'life' project is quite different from others I've done, as is the 'workshop' project (Use and value diversity).
Observe and interact: back garden tweak/redesign to see if it improves use this summer. Further tweaks needed; mostly to improve privacy which is the major limiting factor now.

Aims for the next 9 months:

  • Finish final two projects (and tidy others) by summer 2015, to be able to do my diploma presentation at the International Convergence in Sept 2015 (Integrate rather than segregate).
  • Two planned projects:
    1. Activism/writing design.
    2. Solar panel assessment for the house -- this will help with my own personal sustainability (Earth Care).
  • Projects to finish:
    1. 'Life' (zone 00) design (nearly done).
    2. Learning Pathway (nearly done).
    3. Some further notes on the Workshop design.
    4. Final additions to back garden design.
  • Further changes to back garden: replace unpleasant patio with one that is more usable, incorporating a pergola for the grape vine to provide shade; replace fence with higher one to increase privacy as this is the major thing that prevents the garden being used regularly (observe and interact; People Care).
  • Experiment further with sustainability by downsizing (owning fewer things), which I have been finding very positive for my state of mind (Apply self-regulation and accept feedback).

Evaluate (May 2015)

Looking back at January 2015 aims:

January 2015 Progress, May 2015
Finish final two projects (and tidy others) by summer 2015, to be able to do my diploma presentation at the International Convergence in Sept 2015. Finished and submitted in May 2015, to present at the London Permaculture Festival in July 2015 (Creatively use and respond to change).
Two planned projects:

  1. Activism/writing design.
  2. Solar panel assessment for the house.
Both finished (Solar Panels, Writing, Activism, & Right Livelihood).
Projects to finish:

  1. Zone 00 design.
  2. Learning Pathway.
  3. Some further notes on the Workshop design.
  4. Final additions to back garden design.
All done (Zone 00, Workshop Design, Back Garden).
Further changes to back garden: replace unpleasant patio with one that is more usable, incorporating a pergola for the grape vine to provide shade; replace fence with higher one to increase privacy as this is the major thing that prevents the garden being used regularly (observe and interact). All done and highly successful.

Looking at initial objectives:

Objectives, June 2013 Progress, May 2015
‘Complete’ various projects. All 10 projects completed!
Learn more practical food gardening. I have learnt some more about food gardening as my own projects have progressed. I have however also learnt that in fact I'm not that keen on gardening; my focus has changed to minimal-maintenance food gardening, and forest gardens (Creatively use and respond to change; People Care; Earth Care).
Get better at outreach. My Workshop Design has helped with this; it's still not a strength of mine but I am happy with that.
Restructure life a bit more coherently and sustainably. My Zone 00 and Writing, Activism, & Right Livelihood projects have helped significantly with this, although it is of course an ongoing project (People Care).
Increased household / personal practical self-sufficiency and sustainability. The biggest household improvements have been from the Back Garden and Solar Panels projects (Earth Care). From a slightly different perspective, the Shoe Cupboard project has also improved our lives a surprising amount (People Care; Use small and slow solutions)!

This is my original timetable, updated for what actually happened:

Spring Summer Autumn Winter
2013
  • Induction Event
  • Back Garden (also ongoing)
  • Learning Pathway (also ongoing)
  • Katie and Paul allotment (start summer)
  • Mini Greenhouse
  • National Diploma Gathering in Nov
  • Balcony
  • Tutorial 1: Jan 2014
2014
  • Balcony
  • Wigwam
  • Interim Portfolio Apr 2014?
  • Nature Reserve (start spring, continue into autumn)
  • Workshop Design
  • Shoe Cupboard
  • Tutorial 2 & Interim Portfolio: July 2014
    • Writing / writing as activism
    • Tutorial 3
    • Porch
    • Zone 00 (Life Stuff)
    2015
    • Zone 00 (Life Stuff)
    • Solar Panels
    • Writing, Activism, & Right Livelihood
    • Tutorial 3 (Looby): Mar 2015
    • Tutorial 4: Apr 2015
    • Patio? Shoe cupboard?
    • Portfolio Assessment (First and Final): May-June 2015
    • Presentation: July 2015
    • Portfolio Assessment

    Tutorials etc
    Design done as planned
    Design done at different time
    New design
    Design not done

    Four of my planned designs I never did. The 'wigwam' design (a living willow structure) I looked at briefly and decided it wasn't actually practical for our garden; and the patio became a tweak of the Back Garden design (2015). I would still like to create a design for both the porch and the balcony, so that's something to move on with after my diploma.

    The two designs I added, Solar Panels and Workshop Design, I am happy with, particularly the Solar Panels. The Workshop Design was useful during a summer when I gave several workshops, and will continue to be useful if I do further workshops.

    The eight designs that I planned and did have also worked out well.

    Over the course of the designs, I used four different design processes:

    Initially I felt most comfortable with SADIM and thus used that for several designs; after attending a talk by Deano Martin at the Diploma Gathering I wanted to try that out. This inspired me to add a learning aim to find out more about my own process and what works best for me. I did generate a process that works well for me, fitting with my instinctive approach whilst also slowing me down enough to apply permaculture thinking (I have a tendency to dive into things without enough thought!). I also observed that 'my' process is a close cousin to SADIM and to OBREDIMET. In retrospect, I would prefer to have used OBREDIMET in one of my designs, to see how it works, and may do so in a future design after my diploma. I think unconsciously the sheer number of letters put me off a little! I found Looby's design web to be a really good fit for an exploratory design like my Zone 00 design, where my goals were initially quite broad. For a more focussed design it seems not to fit as well. For example, I tried it out on my Writing, Activism, and Right Livelihood design, and whilst it was useful in gathering my initial thoughts, it didn't lend itself to the design process as a whole in that case. I switched to a more focussed process when it came to the analysis stage and to making specific decisions and plans.

    Reflection

    I chose to reflect on this design using the Action Learning Questions:

    1. What went well?
      • The Back Garden design has been really satisfying as a long-term learning and tweaking project. Four years after starting this design I feel that it is really working well for us, and that the permaculture design process has been a major factor in achieving that success.
      • I am really thrilled with our Solar Panels and Shoe Cupboard, as are the others in the household.
      • I finished on time! It has taken me just over two years to complete the Diploma.
      • The Zone 00 was a useful way of looking at some issues in my life. I also feel that I've learnt a lot about myself and what I want to do over the two years (for example, learning that I am not actually that keen on practical gardening, or on leading workshops!).
    2. What has been challenging?
      • The Galleywall Summer Events were very hard work. Running those sort of public events isn't a strength of mine, and I expected too much of myself. This year I've made sure to spread the work over more people.
      • Katie and Paul's allotment was a big project to take on so early in my diploma journey. I think I'd do a better job of it if I did it now (sorry guys!).
    3. What are your long term visions and goals?
      • I would like to sort out the porch and balcony on our house.
      • I would like to spend more of my time writing (see my Writing, Activism, & Right Livelihood design).
      • I would also like to look at installing a compost toilet in my own en-suite bathroom, and possibly if that works well in the ground floor loo.
    4. What is your next achievable step?
      • Set some fiction writing goals for the rest of the year now I have finished up my Diploma work.
      • Buy a water butt for the balcony and sort out a hose to it. (The lack of water on the 1st floor is one of the big problems with maintaining plants on the balcony; we can't save rainwater there, filling a water butt weekly from an upstairs tap will make this much easier to manage.)
      • Begin gathering information for the compost toilet: toilet options and measuring up the space available.

    I have also written a longer reflection on my diploma as a whole.

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