Taking Shape – ‘floor plan’ diagram

The highly technical drawing provided (!) below is intended to offer something of an overview of how our living and growing area (same thing) has taken shape.

First, it is worth mentioning that despite our best planning efforts prior to arrival on the plot, this slowly-developing permaculture space has really been a development guided by factors that the humans involved never always fully controlled. As time has passed and observations have been made, we’ve been able to have moments of realisation along the lines of, “Oh, that’s best suited there”, and “Why take those tress down? Let’s just use them in/around/supporting a structure”, or “By piling branches there we can create composting walls and differing microclimates”, etc.

That’s the difference between theory and practise. Being on site, observing, reflecting, speculating, meditating, making small adjustments here or there and watching what happens, moving between bedroom and kitchen and toilet area and gardens… these are the things that count when undertaking a permaculture creation.

So here’s the representation of how things are arranged so far:


What’s what is explained in the list below; for now, let’s draw attention to the fact that about half of the main shaping elements were not present as recently as February. Since then, the decision was made to bring the main growing area away from the mandala garden and nursery on the other side of the plot (kind of zone 2 or 3 in permaculture terms, a real waste of energy to get to, maintain, and water) and bring it instead into our zone 1.

So area 17 – a new garden – was started in February. As it came together, we realised that wind breaks will be needed if anything is to survive the crazed winds we get during mainly the summer months in Port Elizabeth. We had already stopped several lorries on the road when we saw them laden with branches, cut-down trees, grass etc. and they happily have been bringing such organic matter to the plot for some time. So we decided to create instant windbreaks by piling the branches as walls – all number 20s on the diagram, which will be the subject of a post at a later date (very useful and beneficial components of our system).

We now have dozens of metres of such wind-breaky walls, all of which take a long time to build considering that we simply wait for the materials to be brought to us. The garden (number 17 – we call it the maze) beds were completed in between part time work from February through to April, and now it is slowly being planted with winter veggies.

The month of May saw the take down of the old blue tarp that served as our kitchen when the tents were still up, after which it became our ‘shed’. The tarp has been replaced with a 6 by 4 metre roof (numbers 3 and 4). The number 4 section has become the shower and compost toilet area. This whole area has only just gone up and much work needs to be done on it, but it has been most rewarding to use our shower-bags under a cover (winter is upon us!) and begin harvesting our own manure – some vegetarian goodness to add to the earth’s nutrient recycling programme 😉

Finally for now (there is loads to be said, but this post is getting a bit too long), area 23 and 24 became available as the next areas of permaculture development (albeit long-term) simply by virtue of the windbreak-branch-piling-organic-wall-building process. The effort to which we could have gone to partition off these areas could have been immense, time-consuming and expensive, but patient observation and gradual, considered action has certainly been well worth it.

What’s what – the numbers explained:

  1. Hut / Cabin / Wooden Wendy / Shack – our home, call it what you will!
  2. Kitchen – semi enclosed
  3. 3 quarters of the new roofed area, earmarked to become a shed/under-cover nursery
  4. Shower and compost toilet area – 1 qarter of the new roofed area
  5. Rocket stove area
  6. Nursery – made out of tyres and shade cloth; plants grow from earth-filled tyres
  7. Keyhole bed – probably our most productive growing area at the moment
  8. Main entrance to the kraal
  9. Square foot garden – the other 2 yellow boxes are also square foot gardens
  10. Growing beds, behind which is a wattle weaved fence of sorts
  11. Ornamental garden
  12. Ornamental garden
  13. Water tanks
  14. Tall tress – invasive, but being kept for their usefulness; will gradually be replaced
  15. Medium trees – also invasive, but incredibly useful and also will be replaced… eventually
  16. Wattle windbreak flanked by garden beds slowly being planted with mainly windbreak trees
  17. New garden, slowly being planted out with winter crops. We call it the maze
  18. Two lines of wattle windbreak. Yes, invasive, but all we had at the time and will be replaced
  19. Big wooden crate boxes which provide privacy from the road behind, and storage space
  20. Massive piles of branches and logs; wind breaking, privacy providing, long term compost walls, provinding shelter to a variety of wildlife, etc.
  21. Wood piles, both acting as supporst to 22…
  22. Makeshift gates
  23. Area earmarked to be, partly, an orchard (nicely sheltered at the moment)
  24. Area earmarked to be another vegetable garden
  25. Towards composting area