Monday, 18 May 2015

Preparing a property base map - Part 2

"They depend utterly on vastly complex organizations, on fantastic machinery, on larger money incomes. What if there is a hold-up, a breakdown, a strike, or unemployment? Does the state provide all that is needed? In some cases, yes; in other cases, noMany people fall through the meshes of the safety net; and what then? They suffer; they become dispirited, even despondent. Why can't they help themselves? Generally the answer is only too obvious: they would not know how to; they have never done it before and would not even know where to begin." 
~Dr E.F. Schumacher





The above quote and the quote from part one both come from the forward of the 1976 edition of John Seymour's Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency. I bought a copy of this book many years ago and I cannot count the hours I have spent over the years staring at the illustrations of the one acre holding and the five acre holding. 

Dr Schumacher could have been writing about me in reference to me preparing a base map of my property. I did not know how to, had never done it before, and did not know where to begin.

In the end  drawing up the base map was not too complicated, but did take a lot of time. In permaculture design before getting to the point of creating a design, a base map is completed. The base map shows everything on the property as it is currently before any designing is started. Essentially the base map is a proportional, visual representation of your landscape.  The base map is where you note all the information gathered in the analysis phase, for example soil types and pH, slope of the land, and the different sectors - fire, predominant wind directions etc. And the base map is the launching pad for the design you want to create.

I have had a bit of a set back though - in the photography department. I was intending to post a photo or two of my base map. Even though my base map looks very clear on paper when I take photos of it they turn out very faint and indistinct. However as I promised last month here is an account about how I prepared my base map.



My supplies were graph paper - mine had five mm squares, pencil, rubber, ruler, calculator, and a tape measure.

The first step is to measure the lengths of the boundaries of the property. If you have a property or title map the boundary lengths should be shown on the map. If you don't have a property or title map you can use Google Earth to obtain the measurements if you know how to use that application. Failing that you could use a tape measure to determine the length of your boundaries.

Now you have the measurements you can draw an outline of your property on the graph paper. My property is a long thin perfect rectangle  - by perfect I mean the two longest boundaries are the same length and the two shortest boundaries are the same length. This made it nice and easy to draw, using my ruler to give me a straight line.




First draw a line to represent the longest boundary of your property.  My longest boundary is 281 metres. Once you have drawn that line measure how long it is on your plan in centimetres. Mine was 39 centimetres. Then divide the length of the actual boundary by the length of the drawn boundary and that is your scale. In my example I first multiplied the 281 x 100 to convert the metres to centimetres - 28 100 centimetres. So 28 100 centimetres divided by 39 centimetres = 720.5 centimetres. And that is my scale 1 cm: 720.5 cm. 

Of course you could choose to use a basic scale of 1:10 or 1:50, depending on the size of the area you are working on. If you used a scale of 1:10 it would mean every centimetre on your map would equal 10 centimetres in your garden. 

 So once you have your scale you can draw the other boundaries by dividing their measurements by the scale of your map. For example my short boundaries measure 80 metres or 8 000cm. By dividing 8 000 cm by 720.5 cm I get 11.1 cm. This will be the length of the short boundary drawn on the map.



Using your scale you can measure and plot on your base map everything that currently exists on your property, trees, gardens, clotheslines, house, pathways shed etc. 

So for an example if you wanted to put your garden shed on the base map you would measure the shed to get its dimensions. Then measure in from two of your property boundaries to plot the shed's location. Then using your scale you would plot that location on your map. 

Of course I had to put a lot more into the site map including direction of prevailing winds, soil pH, the direction the water flows across the property and so on. So as I indicated earlier it is very time consuming to produce but well worth the time spent in my opinion. 



8 comments:

  1. Oh, I hope you can publish your map, it will be interesting to see what you came up with, you could try scanning it.... I did a similar exercise and found that a hand-held GPS unit made it easier to check the distances (we have 250 acres, so it would have taken a long time with a tape measure!). Great explanation for drawing to scale :)

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    1. Thanks Liz. A hand held GPS unit is a great way to check the distances. Measuring by tape sure took a long time but it made me slow down and notice things I hadn't before. I think for me the best part was the soil profiling and the mapping the changes in elevation. Our property only has slight changes in elevation but it certainly helped reveal to me why the water flows across the property and pools where it does.

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  2. Sherri, that is very interesting but a lot of work but I guess it does pay off in the end. I could see my hubby tearing his hair out trying to do that. :-) I must admit I have never heard of making a base map of one's property.

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    1. Chel I have been reading permaculture books for years and I don't think I would ever have been motivated to get in and put pencil to paper to prepare a documented plan by myself. It is the TAFE course I am doing that is motivating me to get the work done.

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  3. Heck - this is a major undertaking. The finished draw-up would make a fascinating post.

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    1. It is a real process and it is interesting how everything I have studied in the last 12 months is slowly being pulled together.
      The trouble I am having with the base map images is that all the really interesting components are on the overlays which I drew on tracing paper. When I take a photo or scan the base map with the overlays it makes the base map appear somewhat indistinct. When I have some spare time (!) I might try darkening all the objects I drew on the base map and see if that makes a difference.

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  4. I also love John Seymour's work Sherri. I have his 'concise guide to self sufficiency'. I especially like the drawings of his plots through the seasons. There is such a lot more to permaculture than gardening though I think many see it as mainly this. Glad you found the TAFE course and are enjoying it so much.

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    1. Hutchy regarding your comment about there being a lot more to permaculture than gardening; I wrote pretty much the same in my first post on permaculture back in November last year.

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