Conscious Design and The Importance of The Nucleus

We find ourselves stepping back from the potentially overwhelming task of creating a new life at Djaning to visit our old friends and family on the other side of the planet. We’ve now been in the UK for a very eventful, packed full of learning 3 months. Here over a few posts I hope we can briefly surmise our findings, and perhaps offer some ponderings for future… pondering!

First off the bat is the all important nucleus; The core of everything and anything. As designers we constantly look at and implement zoning plans for landscapes and are enabling others to do the same, though it would appear we’re only just now seeing this as wholly applicable and even necessary to and for ourselves at a psychological and emotional level. And although we’ve read it, have been told it, and have instructed others to do the same, the importance of our Zoning is only now seeming to come home to roost.

encouraging our daughter to photograph our Zone 0 made for some fresh perspectives.

For those who aren’t in the know of permaculture nomenclature, Zoning refers to the sphere of influence of the designer, homsteader. For example Zone 1 refers to the immediate surrounds of our home and dwelling, Zone 0 being the home itself, whereas Zone 5 is the outermost area, often being a wilderness area rarely visited, and very rarely, if ever, altered. The importance of these zones and what you do with them will naturally radiate outward. As if throwing a stone into calm waters, the more concentrated the effort and the size of the ‘stone’, zone 0, the easier it is to create ripples in the outermost areas of our pond of influence.

The importance of Zone 0 illustrated.

For us, being on the other side of the world, with a bit more space and time to observe what we’ve created thus far, we’ve noted that we’ve been creating aspects of almost all our zones in an attempt to see the bigger picture of our design take shape. This in part has been necessary to enable the framework of the larger design (dams, swales, access), though have found ourselves overextended in our attempts to develop all zones at once.

Enjoying the rain in our Zone 4 Swale.

Although this is, in hindsight, painfully obvious, its taken us some time and space away to realise the importance of what it is that we’re creating for ourselves and our little family. Allowing the time to observe what we need to sustain our lifestyle in all its aspects has been of utmost importance.

A perfect use of Zone 5

It’s the marriage of theory and practice that hits you upside the head. This ‘praxis’ has for us manifested in witnessing our Zone 1 garden flourish because we’re there all the time (duh), while our plantings in our Zone 4, along our swale have seen some fairly drastic failures (close to 40% of trees planted died – this was however part of our larger strategy; applying S.T.U.N.). This is not only applicable for the health of our garden and food production but for ourselves mentally and physically through the creation of a ‘safe space’ for us to not only grow but to thrive in. With this safe space, or nucleus firmly grounded we’re better prepared and equipped to pulse out from this consciously designed space.

Zone 1 Lushness

More mental meanderings from our trip away to soon follow. Stay tuned. x

Trust Yourself

We’ve reached a seemingly large, and potentially daunting milestone recently; We’ve altered this beautiful patch of land we call Djaning permanently. We’ve dug enormous holes in her. Ripped a large line through her middle following her beautiful contours. Turned up the earth, removed a ton or seven of her grass, sand and soil, and are now faced with the task and duty of completing this vast cosmetic realignment of her features.

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Digging the ridge point dam

When we look at it like this it certainly keeps us up in our little caravan, hoping we’ve done the right thing. Remembering that the sins of our father are visited unto the seventh generation… Reassuring ourselves through reading all the manuals, noting all previous experience from our elders, that show this type of restructuring of the landscape works. A seemingly extreme, though proven measure in trapping water and slowing it, thereby hydrating the landscape.

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We know there’s other methods, and we will resort to these later. But this initial scarification is giving her a new skeleton. A new main frame. We now have two dams, one rather large, a valley dam, close to a million litres, and another, a ridge point, that’s around the two hundred thousand mark. Along with this a swale the length of two and half football fields reaches from the lowest point on the highest boundary through her newly acquired ridge point dam and out the other side. With our care and attention all will become bountiful habitats for micro and macro biology and everything in between, to grow, play and achieve their full potential.

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We know all this, and are comfortable with our choices, and have had close to two years to really think it over. Though that doesn’t mean we’re not slightly daunted, even if it does seem we’re taking this rather large step in our stride. We’ve been stepping and running since we landed on this wondrous little piece of land. By any measure we have been small and slow, though by others it can certainly feel rather large and fast. It’s in this feeling that we can get lost and doubts and troubles can seep in. And questions, demands and expectations that have no real purpose being in your head or on your lips, except perhaps to perturb you further, also creep in. Questions that can’t, or needn’t be answered, and expectations and demands that will surely – in good time- be met.

We’ve found that it is in this phase that, most importantly, we must stop and breathe. Look to each other for a hug and a pat on the back. Not that we’re short of it, but a few kind words and a loving embrace goes a very long way to planting feet firmly on the ground.

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We’ve recently heard on the wind that there should be an inclusion of a fourth principle to the three main ethical principles of permaculture, the central oft quoted three being, care of the earth, care of the people, and return of the surplus. The fourth to be considered is care of one’s self. This is hard not to agree with. It would appear it’s included in care of the people, but all too often we focus our energies on others and are left feeling drained without allocating sufficient time and energy for self soothing and reassurance.

It would seem in hindsight, if it weren’t so lovely and horrendously obvious, (and quite likely it is to many) that we must be gentle with ourselves, as we’re the only us we’ve got.

In the words of James Brown “Jump back, gonna kiss myself.”

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