Designing for the inside

There is something about the winter that pulls you inside. Not just indoors, but inside yourself as the short cold days and the dark nights take over…

A permaculture way of designing the landscape to reduce time and energy is through ‘zoning’. For example, the high-maintenance elements of your garden, such as the vegetable patch or kitchen herbs, are closer to your house, in zone zero. An orchard or woodland can be much further away, in zone five.

In permaculture, the self has been called ‘zone 00’. It is the inner world, and it has been this design that has taken precedence in my learning recently.

I’ve not always been one for giving this area time or attention; I’m often busy working on campaigns, going from project to project, always at the edge of burning out… However, having Looby Macnamara’s book land on my desk just before the winter solstice, I started to connect the dots between self care and Earth care.

If we cannot look after ourselves, keep our bodies nourished and our mental health supported, how can we make effective world-changers? How can we create the regenerative cultures this planet needs to return to ecological balance and social peace?

With the garden all wrapped up for winter, I decided to try some of the design activities she suggested. I looked at my ‘spirals of erosion’ – where I was wasting time, energy and money. Why was it that I was getting exhausted? Why was finding balance so challenging? By applying design strategies – something I would do for a garden without even thinking – I actually really began to see the patterns, from sleeping habits to savings.

After a few weeks of conscious attention, my new design for zone 00 began to take shape. My goals were clear and my dreams articulated. This design work is now uploaded on to my website so I can share it with other designers completing their Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design and those interested in re-designing their lives for the better.

Two of my main advisors from Gaia University are also coming to the UK this summer to run a course on Life Designing, where without a doubt even more tools will be brought to light about how we can really be who we are born to be.

Another key part of my recent learning has involved completing a permaculture teacher training course in Brighton. It felt like the empowering next steps for creating a livelihood embedded in permaculture. I had never expected when enrolled for the diploma that design really would become part of everything I did. I’m even starting to move things around the kitchen so they are better placed to save work.

I’ve also been applying permaculture design in my part time job with local charity, Somerset Community Food. I realised the organisation is a major hub for energy exchange; for areas where there is an energy sink, such as a large waiting list for allotments or few skilled gardeners, we can send energy from abundant areas, by providing training or support.

In seeking to understand nature and apply the principles of ecology, I hope I can improve everything I do, from being a better friend to being a more effective gardener. Nature has already perfected design; we just have to learn it.