learning pathway

Designing my journey through the Applied Diploma in Permaculture Design

Design 1 – Learning pathway

Client: Steven Golemboski-Byrne  – Date: August 2018


The Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design is a course of self directed learning, and the impetus from having completed my PDC seems to have come at the right time to begin the diploma and move ahead with new projects here at Lackan Cottage Farm. I’ve chosen the independent route rather than the supported one, on the basis that I’m going to work with tutor Hannah Mole on an occasional basis to help me if I feel I need it, and also through a peer support network. Having been an open university student for ten years, I feel very

I am going to begin with a Life Review as part of my survey stage, and I’ll also be looking at the potential for designs as part of a more detailed survey, as well as the resources available to me at this point.

I have a range of skills available to me, and at this stage in my life I am confident that I know where my interests and strengths lie. I have already completed a lot of designs for physical systems that have been implemented, and I enjoy the processes greatly. What I discovered during my PDC was that applying permaculture to systems and people can be just as rewarding. Here I am exploring my edge, and moving if not outside, am certainly stretching my comfort zone somewhat.  I’ll be analysing the various options open to me in terms of potential designs.

I have far more ideas than will be included, and although my initial feeling is that I would like to complete the Diploma in two years, the quantity of material may well see that lengthen. I am still at the stage where I am getting a feel for which design processes will suit particular designs, and I will begin with something familiar to build my confidence.

Design tools, application of permaculture principles

As this is really the first design that I have undertaken alone, it will certainly be a learning experience, especially as it is likely to be fairly fluid. I am using the SADIMET design process, as I am more familiar with it than others, and have conducted my analysis in terms of relevance to the permaculture principles of earth care, people care and fair shares. I’ve then evaluated my potential designs using the SMART criteria. My processes have included mind mapping ideas. and also using mind maps to identify relationships between the various designs that I have currently chosen.

In terms of getting started, I’ve set up this website to document everything, and begun to transfer my paper notes into it before they become scattered. I’ve also talked to Hannah Thorogood who has agreed to be my interim assessor on the Diploma. Another Hannah, Hannah Mole, is based here in Ireland, and can act as tutor, but can’t do assesments at this point. Because I’ve chosen the independent route, there’s no included tutorials but I think we’ll be able to organise something to keep me right.

Key points are set out through this web page, and additional information has been added as sections that can be opened up for more information – these usually have a ‘+’ sign on them denoting that there is more detail inside.


Survey – life path & review

My design choices and pathway are informed greatly by the path by which I arrived at this point in my life, and help to explain why I am making certain decisions. I do have a very broad range of skills, and for years I was dogged by doubt, and the saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, until I realised that actually my real skill is in practical problem solving, and I just apply it to a broad range of areas. The reason permaculture design has struck such a chord with me is because it offers a way to structure that problem solving, and to make it more effective than it would otherwise have been. I’ve included my life review as a roll-down section because it does occupy a fair bit of space. Click it to open and read.

Life path - click to open

Childhood influences

Coming to the Diploma aged nearly 50, there are a wide range of influences on my current thinking, but looking back at my childhood it seems no surprise that I have an interest in building and self reliance. My parents are an artist and architect, and I grew up seeing design processes unfold, interspersed with being taken to building sites. Architectural plans were still entirely hand drawn (indeed up until the late 1980’s when CAD systems began to arrive). An absence of computers or screens during my formative years let to a lot of creativity and den building. My earliest memories are of living in our old house which was being refurbished, and the smells of what I now know are plumbers using gas torches on copper pipes.

Another huge influence was that my grandparents built their own house on a two acre plot in Hampshire and had extensive vegetable gardens, orchards and fruit cages. Our visits there  were spent making campfires in the orchards and building tree houses. Three decades later I came to realise that I was in search of a very similar lifestyle. They would have seen theirs as simple necessity, whereas I had the luxury of choice.

Part of the great machine

For some reason I came to understand before the age of 16 that I was about to become part of what Mark Boyle referred to as ‘The Great Machine’, receiving my National Insurance number in order to make me part of that machine and thus set me on a path of work and taxes. I had no idea how I might find an alternative to that path – the internet had not been invented, but I carried with me the distinct feeling that something was not entirely right in the world.

My school years were characterised by the phrase ‘could try harder’. I applied myself in areas that interested me, and was fortunate that my state comprehensive school had extremely well equipped workshops, where I learned to weld, to use a metal lathe, work with wood, plastics, and later electronics. At home I had a keen interest in electronic kit building, and a desperate urge to dismantle household goods – something that I am eternally grateful to my parents for encouraging.

Succeeding in spite of the system

Overall, my attitude was one of succeeding in spite of the education system not because of it, and I undertook a number of O levels in my own time, where the school timetable hadn’t be able to accommodate them. At this point I had discovered horses, and was determined to attend agricultural college to undertake the very first HND in Horse Management and Science. This required me to have a couple of A levels, and a year’s practical experience. I applied at 16 – three years before I needed to attend, and convinced the college to give me a place, conditional on my A levels and experience. Not having the pressure of the university application system certainly made my sixth form years more relaxing, and I enjoyed my Art, Design & Technology and (to a lesser extent) Physics A levels. I’m sure I spent more time riding horses.

Developing a work ethic

My need for work experience led me to attract a job at a nearby yard owned by a famous veteran showjumper and two time Olympic medal winner, Peter Robeson. I spent one of the hardest and most rewarding twelve months of my life there. It instilled a work ethic in me as well as an attention to detail, driven by the terrifying Renee Robeson (nee Rothschild), wife of Peter.

Warwickshire College of Agriculture was at that time a small institution, far less formal than it is today, and then more flexible in its approach to student learning. There I enjoyed an unusual mix of practical and academic, and could be learning how to sew leatherwork in the morning, and sitting in a laboratory in a biochemistry lecture in the afternoon (smelling slightly of horses).

Self employment

We had to undertake another period of practical work in the middle year, and I had decided to set up my own business buying, training and selling horses. I did this in partnership with an old friend, and part of the process involved having to build my own stables. Her husband, a builder, equipped me with the basic skills that I would come to rely on later. Another key event in my time at college was a study trip to Ireland, where we toured the country, and I fell in love with the Irish countryside. At that time I said I would come to live there some day.

On leaving college I returned to self employment, buying,training and selling horses, without the partner, and came to build a second stable yard nearer to home. The next few years were incredibly challenging as I basically worked through an array of mistakes in the process of running a business, culminating in what would probably be best described as a total mental breakdown.  Following a couple of hard years I realised that I would need something to supplement my income, and an interest in home computers came to the fore. I hired a part time assistant to help me in the stables, and began to expand my work in computers, mainly building, fixing and selling them.

A second career

This in turn led me to work for a company providing print and design services, where at some point while installing a computer, I was asked if I had any knowledge of layout software? I presumably answered yes, as I managed to find a copy of Quark Xpress, and spent several weeks learning how to use it, before becoming their resident designer. Another career had begun.  At this time, the internet became more easily available and for a while I was the only person I knew connected to the world ‘out there’.

In the late 1990’s I met someone from Northern Ireland and decided that it would be a great idea to sell the piece of valuable Buckinghamshire pasture that I called home at the bottom of a housing crash, and move to NI. For the next decade I worked as a newspaper designer and production manager, until a combination of exhaustion and a realisation that this was a deeply unhappy situation led me to make some radical changes.

I had begun to grow some veg, developed an interest in green woodworking, and had just seen an article on the internet about someone called Simon Dale, who had built his own hobbity looking home for only £3000. At this point I was working to pay the usual credit card bills, mortgage, etc and it was truly my ‘light bulb’ moment. I knew something had to change but had no real idea how.

Salvation and a new life

Salvation came in the form of Joan and Tina. I was making my first gas bottle stoves, and having put a request out on freecycle, they responded by bringing me a bottle. They also mentioned a community project they were working on that I might be interested in – Growing Connections. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was but was called to go along and join in.

My then partner wasn’t happy with my new found interests, and so at some point I walked away entirely from my old life and found myself sleeping on an attic floor at the Quarries Farm. This was an exciting yet traumatic period, but I knew very profoundly that it was the right path to choose.


It was here at the Quarries social farming project that I first encountered permaculture in the form of a 2 day introduction course led by Philip Allen, a veteran of permaculture design. I then had the opportunity to put theory into practice on the farm as we designed growing spaces, and together with volunteers and clients referred by the health services, we built compost loos, polytunnels, a roundhouse, planted woodlands, and many more amazing projects.

Off grid marriage

It was during this time that I met a fellow volunteer, Claire, and we were married on the farm, where we lived in a converted horsebox, as we experimented with off grid life, living in our tiny home, making solar and wind power, harvesting rainwater, and growing our own food. Our time on the farm was an opportunity to envision what kind of life we wanted to live, and how we might live it. At that stage we didn’t know where, and looked as far afield as Wales, where I volunteered at Lammas Ecovillage on their community hub building, and Tipperary, here in Ireland. After 18 months of searching we came across the farm here in Co.Down quite by chance, and were fortunate enough to be able to afford to buy it.

Lackan Cottage Farm

In May 2012 we became owners of Lackan Cottage Farm, and moved onto the land in our horsebox as we began the task of restoring the existing cottage in order to be able to move in before the birth of our child. Four frantic months later we moved in and Lyra was born on September 15th.

To some extent our design was driven by the need to establish a home, and to make use of existing structures, but we were able to observe the land through a full cycle before having created an initial plan for the land. Over the next six years we established vegetable gardens, an orchard and forest garden; planted edible hedgerows; planted over 1200 native trees; put up 2 polytunnels; built 2 compost loos; installed 4.5kw of (mostly reclaimed and free) solar pv; put up a (reclaimed) 3.5kw wind turbine; installed systems and battery storage; crowdfunded and built a timber frame, strawbale insulated classroom; rebuilt a guest cottage that is super insulated and heated using only the sun and a small woodstove; planted a basket willow plantation; refurbished the truck for guests; dug ponds; created gardens for the cottages; built a barn and workshop; established a woodland work area; built greywater reedbeds; built a load bearing strawbale roundhouse; added 6000 litres of rainwater harvesting and storage.

Over this period we have also been host to many, many volunteers, some local, some worldwide, mainly from the WWOOF scheme. We have also run over 50 courses on site in subjects such as permaculture, off grid living, woodwork, basket making, wine making and NVC (non violent communication). Additionally Steve has led an external course in building a rocket mass heater, and taught renewable energy on a PDC course. Over the last two years we have also been able to earn an income from letting the second refurbished cottage (Birch Cottage) and the truck to self catering guests.

We also keep horses, and over the last year have learned about and trained our horse Rain to work in draft, pulling implements around the farm. We also keep a small flock of hens for eggs, and each year raise a number of chickens for meat. Our horses and hens are all rescues, though our meat birds are not.

We introduce the public to our work here in a variety of ways. On a local level we have a good relationship with our local newspaper, and we also use social media very widely, having a following of nearly 3500. We can reach some 40,000 people in a week if necessary. In addition we maintain a website and blog which has a regular following, and have appeared in a number of related blogs, and in publications such as Permaculture Magazine. To date we have made four television appearances, on BBC1, Channel 4 and RTE, covering topics such as low impact living, food and lifestyle.

Having established our own smallholding, where I have completed literally everything, up to and including plumbing, heating and electrical systems, as well as traditional building, crafts and horticultural skills, I have a very broad range of skills and knowledge to offer.

Reflecting on the PDC

I knew that spending two weeks on the PDC course would be fascinating and challenging, but it had a more profound effect than I had anticipated. After six years working continuously at Lackan, I was feeling a bit jaded, cynical even, and the PDC gave me the push I needed to move on from that. The learning opportunity was wonderful, but I found the social aspect incredibly challenging.

“If you feel like you need to leave, you’re the person that needs to stay, because you’re feeling things that are out of balance…you’re the one who’ll be the change-maker.”
Warren Brush

By day ten I had settled in more, and thoroughly enjoyed the final design project. I have recorded my immediate thoughts in this blog post.

The PDC has provided a point at which to take stock of the work completed so far, to survey and analyse what we have available here at Lackan, and produce an overall design for the Lackan Cottage Farm project, as well as a range of small designs that form part of that whole. There are a number of specific land based designs that I would like to address, as well as several non land based. One of the great discoveries I made during my PDC was that in fact non land based design was something I find incredibly rewarding, and my PDC design is one that I will maybe draw upon and expand in the diploma. So now I wish to move on to talk about my learning pathway….


If I am largely speaking a very practical person then Affirmations are one are where I indulge something else completely. I have always had a strong sense that if I really knew that I wanted to do something, it happened, and that the feeling that sometimes a particular path is easier to follow. All the pieces fall into place. In 1997 I came across the idea of Affirmations quite by chance, through author Scott Adams (of Dilbert cartoon fame). Scott put forward the idea that at a very basic, quantum level, there is no distinction between what we visualise in our minds and what happens at the level of our day to day lives. Chaos theory says that a very small change can cause a ripple effect, and feedback loops that ultimately lead to enormous effects, the classic example being the air movement displaced by a butterfly’s wings leading to a hurricane somewhere else on earth.

Anyhow the idea of affirmations is that of writing down, or focusing on a ‘thing’. One makes a very specific, clearly identified goal, framed in terms of it being a fact, not a ‘want’. For instance ‘ I Steven Byrne will do this thing’. This could be a small thing or a large thing – only our imaginations limit the results. Scott’s experience was that eventually the process became part of his everyday life, and that it made him appear ‘lucky’. Certainly like any other behaviour, the more he practised, the more ‘lucky’ he became.

I’ve been doing this now for over 20 years and I’m still surprised at the results. From little things to really quite significant ones. Sure, believing firmly that something will happen is likely to lead you to behave in ways that make that thing more likely, but there have been numerous occasions where my own influence has been less likely to have this happen.

My living in Ireland, being able to work at home doing what I love with no fixed hours from the age of 40, sharing my life with someone who holds the same values – all of these I attribute to this process, often at times when they seemed utterly unlikely.  On a more immediate material level, I needed solar panels – I was offered them used and free. Wind turbine? Sure. Car broken down? Here you go. Learning to turn wooden bowls? Here, meet the only professional pole lathe bowl turner in Europe. I have literally hundreds of stories of luck, or coincidence that go far beyond what I see generally. I am also conscious to ‘pay it forward’, and gift materials, advice or my own assistance to others that need it.

As Bill Mollison said “The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited”. Bill really knew what he was talking about.

I include this information because affirmation forms a real part of the way I approach any project. 

Survey – potential designs

Completing a PDC at this point has been a very useful exercise, and provides a point at which to take stock of the work completed so far, to survey and analyse what we have available here at Lackan, and produce an overall design for the Lackan Cottage Farm project, as well as a range of small designs that form part of that whole. There are a number of specific land based designs that I would like to address, as well as several non land based. One of the great discoveries I made during my PDC was that in fact non land based design was something I find incredibly rewarding, and my PDC design is one that I will maybe draw upon and expand in the diploma. So now I wish to move on to talk about my learning pathway….

There are many opportunities here at Lackan for potential designs. I am fortunate to have existing designs for a number of projects completed here on the farm, and I may use some of those, but there are plenty of new elements that I will be designing and they will likely form the bulk of those that I submit.  I am broadly using the SADIM process as I begin to design my learning pathway, and so I’ll begin with surveying what opportunities are available to me here.

Project: Lackan Cottage Farm

Designs – Land based

  • Overall farm design
  • New forest garden development
  • Horses on the farm
  • Roundhouse
  • Rainwater harvesting system
  • Composting toilets
  • Greywater reedbeds
  • Woodland management

Non land based:

  • Succession planning
  • Forming a social enterprise
  • Course design
  • Learning pathway

Project 2: Classroom build


  • Building design
  • Green roof – build and planting
  • Rocket Mass heater

Project 3: Permaculture education & tourism


  • Accommodation spaces
  • Visitor experience
  • Activities & experiences

Project 4: Growing spaces


  • Polytunnel designs
  • Forest garden
  • Outside growing spaces
  • Waste management in the garden

So a total of 22 potential designs.

Time is also a resource that I must consider. I have existing business commitments, family time, and the running of a smallholding to factor into any decisions regarding project planning.

Finance  – several of the possible designs are for projects that will be implemented during the course of my diploma over the next 2 years, and so the decision to undertake and include them will be in part determined by the funds that I have available as a co-client (with my wife Claire). I also have to factor in time spent not earning money into the overall cost implications of any project.

Seasonal factors – A number of the possible land based projects will be heavily influenced by the weather, but this has a greated impact on when they might happen than if they will happen.

External influences – Advice from third parties, external contractors, and the impact of any design on the community around me  will all be considerations when deciding which designs to implement and/or include.


My analysis needs to consider how my pathway and thus the chosen designs will reflect permaculture ethics, how they will meet the brief I set, and whether they will be achievable in terms of skills, time and money. Here’s how I propose to do that:

In order to create a balanced portfolio that reflects earth care, people care and fair shares, I’m going to filter the possible designs using that assessment as one criteria:

Earth Care – The chosen designs need to have a positive net effect on the environment – not just within the immediate area of the project but through adoption of ideas by others into their own plans.

People Care – I’d like them to benefit everyone involved, and to have a positive effect more widely, for example to visitors to the project, people who read about it later. I also need to consider creating a design that doesn’t require more of my energy than I can spare.

Fair Shares – Something I try to bear in mind when designing any project is what others can take away from it. Can the information be shared for the benefit of many? I am also increasingly conscious that fair shares extends to the billions of organisms that I share my life and environment with. Will the pathway I choose, and the designs on it, have a net positive effect? If I decide to dig that pond, how will my decision affect the existing ecosystem? Is taking that action a fair thing to do?

I then need to assess the likelihood of each design measuring up against SMART criteria –

Specific – target a specific area
Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
Assignable – specify who will do it.
Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

There are a number of designs for which I have a preference as they are for projects that are going ahead here on the farm and proper planning is needed for them. They are:

  • Horses in permaculture 
  • Forest garden 
  • Social enterprise 
  • Succession planning
  • Overall plan 

And I would like to create an overall plan for the farm to link all the work together and because I feel it would be prudent to consider it as a whole rather than a collection of disparate elements. Of these designs, Forest Garden and Overall Plan are definitely larger in scale, as possibly is Horses in PermacultureSocial Enterprise and Succession planning could work as medium size designs.

This still leaves me with a considerable number of remaining potential designs. Of those, Learning Pathway will be included, leaving me four. Because I am conscious of time pressure, and I have existing design material for some others, I am going to include the following other smaller designs at this point.  I am picking from a range of projects, and want to include a mix of land based and non land based, so here are my intial choices, which leaves me with a shortlist of 12 designs for now. Once I have completed them all I will make a final choice as to which 10 to include for the diploma.

  • Learning pathway 
  • Roundhouse – earth care (which I am combining with rainwater harvesting as they are so closely related)
  • Greywater reedbeds  earth care – have been and continue to be an excellent learning opportunity to share
  • Compost toilets – earth care– A small project that has plenty of documentation
  • Rocket Mass heater – earth care/ people care – A smallish project that is well documented.
  • Visitor Experience – people care – This would be very useful for the farm
  • Woodland Management – earth care


Analysis of the various proposed designs. The estimated scale of each design; my own preference on a scale of 1 -5; how the design meets the permaculture ethics, and a comparison with SMART criteria. This can also be downloaded as a PDF file here.


Having surveyed the available resources and analysed them, my next job is to identify what my unmet needs are and thus the functions of this design. At this point my top level functions are:


  • To create a realistic schedule for the completion of all my proposed designs.
  • To present the schedule in a visual way (not just a list) that is easy to comprehend
  • To work out when and how best to evaluate my progress.
Functions - additional notes

The functions of this design don’t set any specific timescales or budget because I felt that those are all dealt with in the individual designs, and those are all fluid in their own ways. For instance the timescale for the Forest Garden design is being set most immediately by the weather, which dictates our use of machinery, then by seasons, which control when we can plant trees, and so on.

So the functions of this learning pathway design really are to set a framework within which the individual designs can sit. Some designs have seasonally dictated deadlines, some are previously implemented but documented designs such as greywater reedbeds, which I have added as buffers between the designs that have to be completed at certain times. This should give me some much needed flexibility.

Design inter-relationships

I thought it would be interesting to visualise how the various designs interrelate, and to some extent this will be reflected in feedback from one design to another as my pathway unfolds.

Design for the pathway

During my PDC I designed a model for displaying a succession plan over time, and I have developed the idea further within this design to use the visual metaphor of the growth rings of a tree, with my journey starting now in the centre, and moving outwards as time progresses.

It also allows me to demonstrate the time I may spend on diploma work at any given time of year, by varying the width of rings. The wider the ring the larger and thus more time spent on a design. It is both linear, in that time is represented by outward travel, and circular, as the seasons are represented as happening around the design. We can also think of the map in terms of zones, with Zone 0 being my immediate state, and the outer rim (and completion of the diploma) being out there at zone 5.

Pathway design

My learning pathway – I liken the organisation of my diploma to the rings of a tree, which grows with each design. My personal journey takes the form of a spiral as I progress through the years. Larger rings denote larger designs, and each  design is always ‘live’ to some extent, reflecting the continuous process of evaluation and tweaking that will happen. As Aranya says “No design is ever completely finished”, and my pathway reflects this.

Within the first diagram, purple colours represent assessments, preparation and preparations. Green colours represent periods of design. The boundary between year 1 and 2 is marked, as is the end of year 2. Months are marked for reference. I am basing the times allocated to each design on previous experience.

As you can see there is relatively little activity from late spring to the end of summer, which reflects the busy period that we have both in the garden and accommodation. The exception to this is the ‘Visitor Experience’ design which will take advantage of the large number of summer visitors to enable testing and feedback.

In figure 2, you can see how my path forms a spiral, a pattern that appeals to my reflection of natural patterns in my own working pattern, and which of course occurs widely in natural systems.

First digital interation of my pathway design. As soon as I had it drawn I realised that I was compressing too much into autumn, and that winter and early spring were nearly empty, so I went back and spread the work out more evenly. Only once I had the visual reference was I able to really see this, which further emphasises my need for a visual guide rather than a linear list.

Permaculture principles

I am continually undertaking a process of evaluation to ensure that my design process relates firmly back to permaculture principles, and for my initial design I’m bearing in mind David Holmgren’s 12 principles. It is also a good way to revisit and reinforce them in my own mind.

Observe and interact – I’m scrutinising my available resources in terms of life experience, opportunity for development, and physical resources in order to design a pathway that will support my learning as well as act as a framework for implementing the projects that I am undertaking.

Catch and store energy – Here I am at the outset of my diploma, my enthusiasm and energy are high, I have many ideas, and as I am documenting all of this, it is leading to new ideas and fuelling the momentum. I am making the most of it.

Obtain a yield – This isn’t just a paper exercise, it is an opportunity to develop my skills and shape my physical environment, and that of my child, as well as putting in place systems that will hopefully sustain her in the future.

Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – I am fortunate to have my family, peers and visitors to scrutinise my plans and give me feedback. I am aware that my instinct is to rush to the solution, and I am constantly reminding myself that this process will be 80% planning, and that I have to trust in the process itself to deliver a great solution. Reflection is something that I find hard, so I am consciously regulating my desire to rush.

Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – On the one hand I am able to write this on a computer because the sun is providing sufficient energy to me through my solar PV panels. On the other I am first making reams of notes on paper that I trust to be recycled and renewed. I’m conscious of using considerably more of that resource than I have in a long time.

Produce No Waste – See above. I’m now actively ensuring that if I need to make notes or mindmaps that will ultimately not be needed for presentation, I’ll use scrap paper or gaps in existing drawings. There really is no need to produce reams of notes on clean paper even if it is cheap and relatively abundant. I will actively seek out a source of recycled paper. I also have to consider that my time is an incredibly precious resource, and that undertaking this diploma means that it has to be managed even more carefully. I cannot afford to waste any.

Design From Patterns to Details – At this stage I am considering the journey as a whole, and within that only the designs that I may undertake. The detail of how those individual designs work out will come much later, and within my pathway design, details of specific timings and ideas for further training or visits will evolve over time.

Integrate Rather Than Segregate – During my PDC I was surprised to find that I could work as part of a team. Here I am looking at ways in which all the designs that I am considering can integrate to form a cohesive whole and work with all our existing infrastructure and solutions.

Use Small and Slow Solutions – I also find this very challenging. Slow solutions are perhaps my greatest challenge. Maybe perception is everything.

Use and Value Diversity – On one level my survey of the land here has already shown me just how diverse a piece of pasture can be, and my research in the Horses in permaculture design has revealed to me that I have all these incredibly useful plants growing out in the paddock that only a short time ago I was considering as not relevant to my need for horse grazing.  On another level I am discovering that reading as widely as I can around the subject of permaculture is revealing approaches to me that I would never otherwise have considered.

Use Edges and Value the Marginal – I am making a conscious effort to choose designs that I don’t necessarily think of as easy, specifically those in the non land based category such as the succession planning.

Creatively Use and Respond to Change – This will be a rapidly evolving process, and even in the early stages of design I am finding ways to alter my thinking in response to issues raised by continuing to read more, and absorb my time spent in the PDC.

Figure 1 – My learning pathway design

Figure 2 – The spiral pattern of my path through the diploma schedule


August 2018 – This design marks the start of my implementation phase.

My first step in implementing this design has been to schedule and talk via video link to Hannah (Mole) – really to get some oversight on how the design is progressing and ensure that I’m heading in the right direction. That meeting was very useful in helping me think about reviewing my design and making that review a significant part of the process. Also reminding myself that it is important to explain to the reader why I have come to certain conclusions or made decisions. So the refining process has already begun.


At this early stage I feel that using SADIMET as a design tool has given me a familiar framework to begin with. I’ve set myself visual cues around my workspace to remind myself to continually bear permaculture principles in mind as I write up designs, and already I feel I’m starting to assimilate these into my work without the conscious reminders. When I looked at previous diploma students portfolios I was struck that although an online website format gives one great scope for linking away to many resources, it is far easier to digest a body of information in a fairly linear one page form, and so that is why my designs are largely laid out this way, with detail initially minimised and available to the reader if they need it.

I’ve really enjoyed evolving the ring type design for my journey, and I find it easy to navigate, something that I’ve been doing recently as I am working on three designs concurrently and need to bear in mind my schedules.


Their 'hobbit house' was the thing that got me started on my journey over a decade ago, and I was fortunate enough to meet and work with this amazing couple at Lammas Eco village in Pembrokeshire.

Simon & Jasmine Dale

Builders and permaculture designers, Beingsomewhere.net

Suzie has taught me a great deal, not only through the PDC that I completed at Dulra, but through following her journey as she set up and established Carraig Dulra Permaculture Farm.

Suzie Cahn

Permaculture teacher, Carraig Dulra

Charles' no nonsense approach to no dig growing has transformed the way I look at producing food, and his deep understanding of permaculture has been an inspiration. He was also kind enough to support our crowdfunding back in 2013.

Charles Dowding

Organic no dig grower, Homeacres

Contact Me

Lackan Road, 79 Lackan Road, Ballyroney. BT32 5HR

+44(0)28 4065 0273