Permaculture Explained (Vol III Issue 7): Designing from patterns to details

"Can’t see the forest for the trees"

By Looby Macnamara

This principle is perhaps one of the least obvious, but also one of the most helpful in terms of design. We intuitively design like this all the time. When we cook a meal we work from a pattern – meat and two veg or for us vegetarians, carbohydrate, veggies and sauce – and determine the details from our preferences and available ingredients.

Every piece of land is as unique as each person and there isn’t one permaculture design that can fit all. What we learn is patterns of what works and doesn’t, that can then be adapted to individual circumstances. One of these patterns is called ‘zoning’. With zones we place the elements that require more attention closest to home, and those that need visiting less frequently further away.

Our lives are full of patterns; patterns of thinking, behaving, interacting. Some of these are helpful and some are not. We can choose to repattern our language, relationships and actions to be more caring, positive and sustainable. We can create new patterns in our lives through observation, visioning the new, thinking outside of the box, trying different things and living in the present moment. From these new patterns we will have different outcomes and be able to adapt to varied circumstances.

We can adapt patterns from different areas of our lives or from other places to new design areas. For example we can look at the patterns of success in our work lives and translate that to our fitness programme.