Monday, 27 April 2015

Preparing a property base map - Part one

"In the modern world, during the last hundred or so years, there has been an enormous and historically unique shift: away from self-reliance and towards organization. As a result people are becoming less self-reliant and more dependent than has ever been seen in history. They may claim to be more highly educated than any generation before them; but the fact remains that they cannot really do anything for themselves." 
~Dr E.E. Schumacher

Wallum wildflowers

Right now in my permaculture studies I have reached the point whether the rubber hits the road. I am preparing my site assessment base map. To reach this point I have had to do quite a bit of preparatory work. The course requires participants have access to a client site, so assessments and plans can be carried out. For this course my husband and I are the clients.

So to reach this point I had to:

  • Develop an understanding of permaculture ethics and principles and how they can be applied to a given situation
  • Understand the client's needs - so looking at what we need and want from our property - our wish list as it were.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of: -
    • Food miles - including what food can be sourced locally
    • Ecological footprint
    • What is really in the food we buy at the supermarket; this included looking at :
      • The extrusion process used to make packet cereals 
      • What happens to the nutrients in raw milk when it is processed
  • Develop a client brief
  • Develop a plant database of plants that will grow in the area
  • Create a list of the plants that the "client" wants to grow on the property
  • Plant profiles
    • Fifteen full length plant profiles
    • Mini plant profiles for the rest of the plants from the list of what the "client" wants to grow on the property. Why oh why did I list so many plants? This assignment took me forever to complete. But will prove to be a great resource in moving forward.

Old tobacco shed

And because permaculture is applied ecological design, I also had to:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of
    • Climate change
    • Peak oil
  • Prepare an in-depth study of my bio-region
  • Examine and reflect on the eco-systems present on my property. This included considering energy flows, food chains and webs.
  • Study habitat, plant successions, plant stacking and disruptions to eco-systems
  • Make compost using the hot composting method

And in a repeat performance presenting the very popular Cyril the snake

In part 2 I will outline the steps I used to create my base map.


  1. Wow, did not realise how intensive this was. Good luck with assessment. Love (not) Cyril.

    1. Yes it is really intensive and I am not yet half way through the course. Whereas in the past I enjoyed reading about permaculture, the course is forcing me to look deeply at things and develop skills. I am learning so much useful and practical information.

  2. How fascinating - can't wait for the next installment. Friend did nothing on their property for a full 12 months as they wanted to observe the seasons first before they made their base map.

    1. That was smart of them Phil. I think it takes a lot of discipline to observe for 12 months but definitely worthwhile.

  3. Hi Sherri, Your course sounds challenging, but what a sense of achievement when you complete it! It also sounds like it will have huge practical benefits for you too. Good luck! Stephanie. Xx

    1. Thanks Stephanie, I find it challenging as other than reading some permaculture books I didn't really have any experience or skills in this area. I find the course is forcing me to slow down, take it step by step and really absorb the many aspects of permaculture. The main practical benefit or outcome that I am hoping for is integrated systems on my property that will save me time and money.

  4. Not a fan of Cyril either, Sherri :-) I can't cope with snakes at all. Your course does indeed sound challenging and a lot of work but I can tell that you are really enjoying it. You will have learned so much by the time you have completed it.

    1. I am scared of snakes Chel, and I kept quite a distance from the tree snake when I took the photos. I am learning a lot from the course and it is just so interesting and useful.

  5. Holy Moly! That sounds like a LOT of work! I fear I'm sort of "project averse" when it comes to this sort of thing - I'm a little too ADD to sit down and plan anything out like that. I applaud your thoroughness!

    1. Thanks, it hasn't been easy but I am finding it very worthwhile.

    2. Your post just makes me want to do it all over again Sherri. I finished my PDC in 2010. If we end up shifting from the suburbs, I would certainly consider it. I would love a site where I could really spread out and have all my zones in place. At the moment, I just do organic gardening using as many permaculture principles as I can manage. Good luck with your base map work.

    3. Thanks Hutchy. I haven't got to zones yet on the course, but I am looking forward to setting out the zones on my map when I get that far along.

  6. wow! i got quite dizzy reading all that you have to do! that is a lot of work & no doubt one you will be glad you stuck it out. am with everyone else here too
    i hope you keep us informed how you go, will be interesting to see how you use it all too
    good luck
    thanx for sharing

    1. Thanks Selina, in the course I am now up to 'appropriate technology'; and also what animals I want to include in my system, this can include bees and worm farms as well as animals; and looking a bit closer at the needs of the native wild life.