Learning journal

Some extracts from my learning journal.

Induction event

26 November 2011

This was the official start of the diploma, although a multitude of happenings preceded it:

  • took part in a Permaculture Design Course – Urban Edge Permaculture Design Course – organised by Naturewise at Hackney Community Tree Nursery, London, 28 April–2 May and 23–27th May, headed by Tomas Remiarz and Mark Warner with Adrian Leaman, Graham Burnett and Nicole Freris
  • actively engaged in Transition Town Lewes in its inception and first year, gaining experience of the development of small organisations from the initial core group to establishing working groups of about one hundred volunteers, putting on a programme of events, documenting the process on a wiki website, involved in the Energy Descent Action Plan group
  • digesting the permaculture experiences and travelling green
  • decision to join a community and take up the diploma path
  • registering for the diploma and asking Pippa Johns (who I worked with in TTL) to be my diploma tutor

The Induction Event took place at the Diploma Gathering with Pippa and Hedvig Murray observing.

What went well?

It was a great opportunity to combine the gathering with the induction for myself, for Pippa and Hedvig. It was relaxed, informative and helpful.

What was challenging?

Getting together an action learning pathway without really knowing how to do it, having only some loose guidelines and seen examples of very different pathways. This did however offer the opportunity to be creative and develop something new. For me, I am an incessant questioner, so to develop a pathway will take some time.

What is my long term vision?

To become a skilled practitioner of permaculture.

What are my next steps?

Develop the learning pathway. Produce action plans for the projects. Contact Pippa for a first tutorial.

Permaculture ethics and principles

  • the diploma itself!
  • putting permaculture into practice
  • participating in permaculture in the UK
  • beneficial connections

Beneficial connections within my learning pathway

  • being informed about the diploma
  • connecting with my tutor
  • the observer

What resources do I have and what do I need to develop?

I have experience of transition towns and, having moved to a community, a rich community life. I also have experience of teaching English and qigong as well as homeschooling. I also have study and writing skills.

I aim to develop skills in herb gardening, edible gardening, forest gardening, community meetings.

I hope to receive support from my tutor, Pippa, in developing the diploma and guidance on permaculture design. I need support from my family and community to develop projects.


Diploma Gathering

26-27 November 2011

The first Diploma Gathering and very well attended. Arrival on Friday for registration, settling in, dinner, networking, informal design-share and social time. Saturday started with breakfast together, then the opening circle. I attended ‘People-based designs using the design web’ with Looby Macnamara, ‘Research within the diploma’ with Tomas Remiarz; had my induction event with Pippa after lunch, ‘Case study: Regenag design’ with Hannah Thorogood and ‘Case study: Tir Penrhos Isaf’ with Chris Dixon; then it was dinner and social time in the evening. On Sunday, it was breakfast and the morning circle, then I attended ‘Design process’ with Aranya, the ‘Accreditation’ event with Justin Marsh, then ‘Zone 00′ wih Jo Barker. Then it was lunch, design share, peer groups or tutorials and home.

What went well?

It was at a great time for me at the start of the diploma. The event was well organised. I was able to stay in a single room rather than in a dormitory and that way have some quiet time in the intense event. The food was great. The timetable was rich and especially the case studies were good, as well as the accreditation, and also the design process workshops. I reconnected with permaculture people and design, made connections. It was good value for money. It was a great opportunity for learning and getting things done.

What was challenging?

There were some events I missed, which would have been useful. It was a long way from home. The question of how the Permaculture Association in the UK is developing and keeping it an inspiring, pioneering, nurturing, non-hierarchical, open organisation.

What are my long term aims?

To go to the next diploma gathering and look into working with the Permaculture Assocation on a project.

What are my next steps?

  • Begin work on the diploma.
  • Permaculture ethics and principles
  • The challenge of the development of the diploma is to gain some recognition of its value and retain the ethics and principles in the process. The tendency to take on business and formal education models is worrying in terms of their foundation in those areas rather than in nature or community life. Also the development of the Permaculture Association in terms of how organisational structures are created as the organisation grows must also be rooted in permaculture and natural systems, allowing all people to participate in a real, creative and active learning environment.

Beneficial connections within my learning pathway

  • meeting other diploma students
  • meeting up with my tutor and having induction event
  • reconnecting to permaculture and permaculture people


Action learning reflection: Just starting

5 December 2011

Feeling overwhelmed by design tools and conscious of a reluctance to ‘design’ and ‘implement’ my life with design and learning cycles that have been developed in the business world. My tendency to question and analysis is preventing progress, but very concerned that this is a necessary stage.

What’s going well?

I’ve registered, have Pippa as a tutor, and had my induction event. I’m reconnecting with permaculture people and design. Going to the Diploma Gathering was a great place for the induction and (re)connection. I’m making progress on the community forest garden, my teaching path and community life. Having moved into a well-established community, I am very grateful to have much opportunity to engage in community life. Also there is land available for projects.

What is challenging?

The amount of work in designing the learning pathway, eg refamiliarising myself with the design process as well as the question of how to present the work. It is also challenging to develop the the forest garden design in a small group of three people with experience of permaculture and two without in respect of personal differences in ways of working and coordinating times to work together. This however is the great opportunity to work with people passionate about forest gardens.

What is my long term vision?

To realise projects with sound ecological and social principles and make permaculture my work.

What are my next steps?

Review the ethics and principles. Review the design process. Look at other diploma pathways. Observe and analysis my biography and learning style. Prepare for the Training of Teachers. Work in the forest garden group. Work on the community meeting review process.



Action learning reflection: four months in

February 2012

What’s going well?

The forest garden project is great in that we have a great group of people and some land. We are inspired by the project and it is a positive project in the community. We have a vision and plan and work well together.

The community meeting review is progressing and there has been much opportunity for myself and others to experience different ways of meeting. There has been much support and recognition of the review process.

My teaching path received a great boost from the ToT. Also working with Nir and possibly Steve are great opportunities. I am gaining confidence to teach permaculture.

Our garden has been transformed! I am learning a great deal about design and plants. My partner has been carving out terraces and my son has been making trellises, while I have been designing. We are all enjoying planting trees and bushes and soon herbs and vegetables.

I am understanding more about the design process and enjoying working on the projects. The quality of the learning experience in action learning and in working in groups is great. Real knowledge comes through experience and real sharing comes through working with others. I am receiving a lot of support in the groups and much informal skills sharing, such as chairing meetings, review processes, gardening and teaching.

What’s challenging?

I see great benefits in any challenges and aim to find and develop the positive in any situation.

The community review process is very challenging when despite much support from many people, there are some people who feel threatened in the dominant roles and insist on sabotaging many aspects of community life. This is challenging for me as I do not wish to lose my faith in human nature. I observe that many people living in this community seem to have lost their faith in and respect for their fellow community members. In addition, it is all too easy to be swallowed up by community life and live in a bubble, where Hoathly Hill seems to be the beginning and end of the world.

One real challenge for me at the moment is spending a lot of energy on maintaining positive momentum in groups and in the community. I am spending a lot of time on these projects and not finding the time to practice qigong as much as I would like to.

Another real challenge to read up on permaculture and find my own position within this field. I studied philosophy, history, politics and sociology and was very interested in political opposition movements and dissent. I have a background in critical thinking and do still believe in thorough research. This is a challenge in terms of the time needed to do this satisfactorily.

My lack of experience in designing and both a challenge and the very reason why I am doing the diploma!

What is my long term vision?

To carry out long-term projects that will benefit the earth and community life that will be self-sustaining and empower people to live in harmony with nature.

What are my next steps?

Forest garden:

  • to finish mulching the hedge
  • to design the community design sessions
  • to apply for funding
  • to foster connections to other forest garden groups
  • to have a sacred opening fire

Community life:

  • to support the mandate holder, working groups and the community in implementing the changes
  • to write help sheets on meeting processes
  • to gain experience in chairing meetings
  • to participate and support the celebration of festivals


  • to finish my PTLLS work
  • to work with Nir on two intro courses
  • to work with Steve on organising a PDC
  • to find other opportunities to observe, shadow, assist or teach

Our garden:

  • to plant the herbs and vegetables
  • to practise plant care

Learning pathway:

  • to get feedback from Pippa
  • to design the pathway
  • to write up the design elements
  • to continue painting plants
  • to walk regularly
  • to practise qigong more often
  • to observe the stars


Personal Tutorial

with Pippa, 28th March

How did it go?

It was good to visit Pippa at her house again after many years and to be inspired by her garden. It was also great to have a constructive meeting. We covered my learning pathway, the back garden project, the forest garden project and the community meeting review. Pippa was able to get an overview quickly of the projects I’m engaged with and the way I’ve been working and give me advice on things I was missing as well as a perspective on the work I’ve been doing in terms of requirements for the diploma and encouragement on the progress I’ve made. Perhaps next time, it would be beneficial to go into depth with one thing, but perhaps more depth should be in a different setting, for example a design tutorial.

the pathway

  • I have spent a lot of time reviewing the design process and working out how to design the pathway
  • next steps are to use the templates I’ve worked on and do the design
  • design process – initiatives, design in community, design in the good and out the bad, design sustainability/your demise

the back garden

  • do the base map, including aspect
  • do a larger map showing garden in community and wider landscape
  • use overlays to show sun/shade, slope, wind
  • people: add information on skills, resources and limiting factors (time, money)
  • section explaining design decisions
  • note composting options
  • build in maintenance plan
  • build in harvesting plan
  • practical advice: water for three years while establishing; ash once a year; more layers building up the soil, use plants to break up compacted ground and combat the problem of a layer of compacted ground under the mulch, select plants that like clay

the forest garden

  • community design session
  • aims: to offer information about forest gardens and their design, to facilitate community input on the design, to encourage participation in the process
  • content: on site observation, silent, then directed with respect to soil, sun, wind; vision for the forest garden; model exercise; capture in photos
  • forest garden group: invite someone with anthroposophical background to join in an advisory role
  • get design support: Bryn
  • do a proper survey and base map with overlays

the community meeting review

  • capture the design process in detail including explanation of design decisions
  • implementation could serve as separate diploma projects: chairing, visioning event, mandate system review


Design support tutorial with Hedvig

7 June 2012

What went well?

  • It was great Hedvig came to walk around Hoathly Hill to experience the where I live and gain a better idea of the context for most of my permaculture work.
  • We spent a lot of time making observations of Hoathly Hill, which was great at this stage of the design process.
  • Hedvig noticed patterns in the way I am working and the recurring stumbling blocks and focussed on looking at ways to work with those.
  • We got a lot done with a tour of Hoathly Hill, a tutorial and lunch together – with the support of my partner, who cooked lunch, and the children, who gave us space.
  • To focus on the design process and see Hedvig’s materials on the diploma pathway and her permaculture tool box.
  • Hedvig’s general comments on the diploma pathway and the design process was good to gain more clarity for myself in these regards.
  • To have a tutorial from different teachers is great to see the diversity in permaculture teaching.

What was challenging?

  • I wanted to get through a lot more things, but was restricted by having another appointment although Hedvig said she would have continued.
  • More time on the design process and particular designs would have been great.
  • To realise again I have a lot of work to do!

My long term aim

  • yes, indeed, review and clarify my aim with the diploma

My next steps

  • diploma pathway
  • analyse the diploma projects – zones – to make a selection of projects
  • timeline for diploma as a whole
  • review and clarify my vision for the diploma and capture artistically
  • functions analysis for the diploma and diploma projects

forest garden

  • separate the forest garden project into two designs – people and land
  • land – more surveying, soil depth and soil composition, indicator plants
  • land – do we need to build up the soil in places?
  • land – what plants like these conditions?
  • land – placement
  • people – survey the people in zones, circles of concern/influence, analyse (potential) connection between people, analyse people’s needs, who is not there yet?
  • review what has happened
  • clarify roles in the forest garden group
  • circle of influence in the community
  • group remaining open and transparent as a model to the rest of the community
  • explore the integration of the two designs – creation of a social space, educational space
  • explore the bees

design process

  • gain more clarity over the design process – the stages and functions
  • make a tool box

Notes from the meeting

  • Hedvig noticed a pattern in my work that I stumble on the design process
  • there is a general pattern for the diploma: to show that there is progress from one design to another through action learning
  • the design for the action learning pathway is a big one – it is an example of 80:20 – the work put in here can inform the whole two years and facilitate each design
  • the analysis phase is like deciding what to cook for dinner – do you use a recipe? Do you just create something from what you have? Is it intuitive? Habitual? Explicit? – the analysis phase, applying the ethics and the principles, is not to drag out this process unnecessarily or to tick boxes, but to make the quality of the design better, conscious design
  • survey stage – what is and what you would like
  • what, when, who, how, why as a tool
  • design work to be more creative, lighter, imagination is the only limit, design needs visions, principles, patterns


Review and analysis of learning

13 June 2012

I read through my learning journal looking for patterns and themes, turning points and next steps for the diploma pathway. I am keen to focus on the diploma pathway to go through a design process and make some progress, feeling like I am floundering with the design process and knowing how best to continue with my projects.


  • lingering in the questioning phase
  • hesitancy to proceed through the design phases
  • going ahead on projects without going through the design process – often due to necessity and time constraints
  • learning is greatest/most inspiring with people or implementing projects
  • I enjoy working with people in pairs and groups
  • hesitancy and desire to be more creative with the designs
  • now in the observation and information gathering stage in terms of permaculture, also exploring and observing zone 00
  • limited knowledge of the principles
  • recognising I need support at this stage
  • aiming to develop practical skills
  • working in groups can slow down progress if group dynamics are not functioning well
  • need time for practice, ie qigong and yoga
  • striving for clarity and simplicity
  • lacking confidence
  • finding time for design process, analysis and evaluation while projects require action


  • reviewing learning regularly will help discover patterns and next steps
  • spending some time on clarifying the design process I should be able to make use of it more efficiently
  • analysing my projects in terms of the ethics and principles will aid learning of these core elements of permaculture
  • systematically going through a design process and using design tools will enable evaluation of them and facilitate developing and being more creative with them
  • using the action learning questions facilitates the exploration of aims and next steps as well as evaluation of the process
  • at this beginning stage I recognise I need to gain certain skills, ie in permaculture design, gardening, community life
  • spending time observing, reviewing and possibly changing group dynamics facilitates a project

Next steps

  • make a schedule to review the action learning pathway regularly
  • clarify the design process
  • make materials to facilitate putting design processes and tools into practice
  • go through design processes and use design tools for the diploma and current projects
  • organise design and skills tutorials
  • review groups I am working with


Year one review and reflection

November 2012

What is going well?

I have several projects underway and have learn a great deal.

What is challenging?

Getting down to designing.

Key learnings

  • treat the first few weeks, months of the diploma as an observation phase, reviewing permaculture knowledge and experience
  • design the diploma pathway
  • set up a guild and exchange experiences
  • get straight into designing – try out different design processes and design tools and review them as well as your learning

Next steps

  • use different design processes and design tools on the current projects with a view to completing them
  • explore new avenues which are opening up: community structures, social enterprise
  • review the ongoing projects


Design support tutorial with Hedvig

December 2012

A great tutorial with Hedvig and here is the feedback form Hedvig asked me to complete afterwards.

What went well about the conversation/tutorial?
What did you get out of the conversation? What was most useful?
My aims for the tutorial were met. Agenda points I had were covered fully and your assessment of what could be prioritised as well as checking in with me if that was meeting my aims all worked well for me. I needed to gain clarity on a number of points and that was very successful.

What was challenging about the conversation/tutorial?
Did you hope to get something out of the tutorial that you didn’t? What wasn’t useful?
I was missing a couple of important pieces of paper. Timekeeping could have been better. Both weren’t too much of a problem, although timekeeping is something I am working on in terms of self-care.

How did the session change the way you felt about your diploma and your projects?
I gained a lot of clarity on the design process and presentation of the diploma work, which I had been exploring for a year. I was reassured I was on the right track, given guidance on my queries, felt inspired about the diploma and was confident about my next steps.

How many of the next actions did you go away and do?
Will be working on them in the next two weeks.

Anything I could have done differently to improve the tutorial?
I was really happy with it.
How would you rate the tutorial? 0- shocking 10- brilliant
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9√ 10


Personal tutorial with Pippa

20th May 2013

I had been getting together the work I had done for the diploma and putting it on my website. There were still many finishing touches to be done, but a lot of work was complete. I wanted to know if I was ready for the interim assessment. I prepared for the tutorial by doing the four questions, which I sent to Pippa.

What’s going well?

  • documentation for five of the projects is up on the website
  • gaining experience of using basic design process and tools
  • each pathway is progressing
  • am inspired about the next projects
  • working with others in the permaculture community, supporting on courses and in guilds: inspired by people’s vision and enthusiasm, ways of working together
  • working with others at Hoathly Hill: finding common ground, working efficiently together, getting to know each other, sharing dinners

What’s challenging?

  • the amount of documentation
  • working on the computer for extended periods of time
  • keeping the projects boundaried
  • going from details to patterns to details
  • unclarity around the design process
  • explicitly/demonstrably applying the ethics and principles
  • maintaining momentum in groups
  • maintaining purpose in groups
  • being efficient in groups
  • maintaining personal space and making time to for my personal practice

What’s my vision?

  • continue learning in permaculture and community

What are the next steps?

  • have a tutorial with Pippa
  • support on the PDC
  • teach a session on the Intro
  • tie up loose ends on website
  • design and implement back garden 2
  • a time plan for the next five projects
  • explore applying the ethics and principles further