Zones For Everyday Spaces With Cecilia

Get Creative Quickly with Minimal Waste

Permaculture designer, Cecilia Macaulay helps people make space and time for creativity through the use of zones. Using Zones has always been a strong part of Permaculture design. Typically, we zone a garden into areas. Starting with spaces that require the most attention through to a wilderness out in Zone 5. But Zoning isn’t exclusive to Permaculture. It is a universal strategy. Having seen Zoning applied to large factories such as Toyota, Cecilia applies zones to all workspaces. Including the kitchen sink!

Traditional Permaculture Property Zoning. Image by Cecilia Macaulay

How Cecilia Applies Zoning at Home

Cecilia explains Zone 1 may contain library books to return, supplements, lunchbox, water bottle, hat, sunglasses, phone, keys. They sit in the high-motivation zone and easy to see. You want Zone 1 items to tell you what to do next. When you put these things in your Zone 1 [your current zone], they will communicate with you. As a result, they sit at the top of your mind. Like a freshwater current.

the multitasked ganesha keeps everything for the current task ready at hand
artwork by April
Zone 1 is the ‘current zone’ only tools for the current task are kept here

Zone 2 has things you use often but you don’t need them reminding you. Having storage within view dilutes your ability to see those items that need to talk to you. Cecilia reminds us to limit what demands attention because our attention is precious.

Only tools needed for the current task are sitting in Zone 1 - stuff I don't want to forget
Zone 2 has stuff ready for when I want it
Zone 3 things are there when I reach for it
Zone 4 - there when I stroll for it
Zone 5 - there because I don't intrude on it
A Quick Guide to Zones. Text by Cecilia, image by April

Although Zone 3 is similar to zone 2, it is a little harder to get to. Zone 3 lies in the back of the cupboard, up high or underneath. These are things you use only every few weeks. Note, this is a spectrum of choices, not a hard and fast rule. As a result, you are the best person to decide what is useful. So, it is you who decides with honesty.

“Zone 4 has the things you may use only use once a year. Maybe that is stuff for making holiday cakes. So, she gave her cake making equipment to your sister so they could enjoy making cakes together. But, if you truly love something, then keep it. It’s yours. Just remember that anywhere can be your Zone 4.” says Cecilia.

Similarly, your local hire shop is also great alternative storage space for Zone 4. The hire shop will store, mend, sharpen and clean the equipment you use only seasonally. As a result, you get more creative time.

forest of tranquility, NSW image by April
Some spaces need us only to appreciate them

Further afield, Zone 5 doesn’t need to be closeby. “Your absence may be all that is required for a pre-existing Zone 5. When you live in a share house you are protecting the wilderness by removing pressure from the outskirts of the city on the wilderness. Furthermore, when you can’t see something – it escapes into a ‘twilight’ zone.”

confused rooster can't find anything, feels overwhelmed and hopes it all be different tomorrow
Zoning saves decision making, builds motivation and durability

Key Advantages of Zoning

Decisions are easier

Zoning facilitates creative energy because clutter and misplaced or lost tools don’t block the creative energy flow. “Zone 1 is where you create things – it should always be flowing. There is no storage in Zone 1. Everything in the zone is being processed. Stuff may only be there because it is in use. Eg, the cloth and spray at hand, the vase holding a flower, the compost bin waiting. This is a zone of beauty and love and always pristine.”
By everything having a home, we save decision-making time. “Decision-making is a finite resource. Don’t spend decision making power on low-value things like ‘where does this cup go?’

Motivation Triggered by Zones

Both motivation and demotivation are triggered by Zoning. People may argue: ‘I want to put this nearby so I can reach it easily’. Do you really want to use more of that? I put things away from the convenient zone to discourage undesirable actions. For example, I put the toaster away so I eat less toast.
What you should do becomes what you want to do. Permaculture is a design system. It is a way to facilitate what you really want to do. Have all the healthy food ready to use. Using zoning motivates and liberates us. Because it frees from petty decision making and provides a canvas for creativity.” 

Good Systems Pay Off

“Durability is the ultimate test,” says Cecilia. “If my house isn’t good enough for someone else to run, then it isn’t good enough for me. You can be blind in my kitchen to set up and cook. I need that because I’m very distractable”.

How to Start Zoning to Your Space

Cecilia has a couple of tricks to get the Zoning done. She uses fractal thinking, grouping things into families and a 2/3rds full rule.

Fractal Zoning

Simply put, fractal zoning is like boxes inside boxes. Inside each compartment are more zones. “Zoning helps us and anyone who wants to help us. Eg, the kitchen has its own zones and the bathroom has its own zones”. Your office desk can have zones.

Happy Families

By bundling resources into groups or families, we compare their usefulness. In addition, we will see if we have too much. “Put all the cups in one place,” says Cecilia. And keep only what you need. Keep only the best tool for the task. Defective tools are immediately tagged, then sent to a repair shop or recycling bay. This way, we are not tricked into using shoddy tools.

recycled jars of screws and nails
jars used to store and display screws and nails

The 2/3rds Full Rule

Keep the spaces only 2/3rds full. This ensures less distraction. Growth and focus accelerate in open spaces.

Cecilia tackles overcrowding of spaces through hoarding because “hoarding can cause isolation. We have less room for people and then fewer people to share the stuff with – it creates a downward spiral. We need to find a healthy environment for creative play.” Would you prefer a house full of stuff or a house full of friends?

which do you desire? a home for stuff or a home for people?

Where Can I Learn More?

Design Theory Into The Zones

Zones for a house on a hilltop

Where is it?

confused roosterDo you ever get frustrated because you can’t find something? How many times have you wished there was a better system? Have you struggled to complete a task because the tools or resources are not at hand?  Ever wished to add a little something but it is too far away? Are you always feeling for your keys in the bottom of your bag only to find forgotten debris instead? Is there sometimes a touch-of-confusion at work making it hard to get stuff done?

If only everything was in its place. But wait… how do we know where the right place is? This is where it pays to do a little bit of designing.  Permaculture Zoning gives you the design tools to make life more comfortable and work more efficiently. We have a tool that can sort things into zones according to how much we need them, and in return, how much they need our care.

Tea herbs from the gardenSome things need to be close-by because we use them often. For example: tea herbs near the cups, kindling next to the fire, or pens on the desk. Some things need a watchful eye but need some space in order to thrive (like a children’s play area, or the berry patch).  Other things may prefer not to be bumped or tampered with so they do well in an area that is typically neglected, like wine in a cellar. These also include a nesting robin, or the soft yoga mat in your sports bag.

Zones for Efficiency

There are a few basic factors to help us determine which is the right zone for something. Firstly, ask how much observation does the item need? Secondly, ask how frequently am I going to it? If the answer is often, put it nearby. If the answers are rarely, put it far away.

This design tool is super flexible. You can apply the zoning tool to your design for a farm, a home, a community garden or a work station. You can even use it to pack your luggage.

When Bill Mollison was introducing the concept of Zoning as a design tool, he talked about having food plants that were needed regularly near the kitchen door.

These include herbs and plants like lettuces and kale that we can clip each day rather than rip it out of the ground.  Zone thinking can also be applied to the design of your bag. Those items that are needed regularly need a pocket up high to keep them accessible. Whereas, things that are rarely used but handy in emergencies can dwell in the outer zones.

Applying Permaculture Zone Theory To Design Of A Bag

Get Your Nest of Zones

Zones don’t have to be separated. But compartments, pockets, or fences are often useful. In zone 1 we keep regularly used and valuable items. In a bag these items might be your keys, phone, medicine or photo of your favourite chicken.  On the farm, Zone 1 might hold your dog’s box, your pick-up truck, your trusty tools and your favourite wet weather coat. In Zone 2 you will find intensively grown food-plants and the smaller species of fruiting shrubs. The hen-house might sit in this zone to help manage weeds in the orchard and provide regular eggs. Bigger trees, pumpkin vines and corn patches site well in Zone 3 and larger farm animals go well in the Zone 3 or 4 area. Zone 5 is a great space to dedicate to wildlife which thrives on careful management and minimal disturbance.

Zones according to use and micro-climates. Our design for yoga retreat in Otford

What about Zone 0 you may ask?

Self reliant eldersZone 0 is traditionally indoors or in your head where all those secret recipes dwell and where you hone your powerful ethics and motivation. But In a house design or on a farm, zone 0 can also contain ferments, indoor production and work stations, the office and first aid.

As you can see, there are a lot of design tools taught through Permaculture. Learn more design tools with a Permaculture Design Course. We offer courses online and on-site.

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Big Permaculture Design

One of our latest projects has been to produce a large-scale design for a yoga retreat.

Our Design Process

  1. Conduct diagnosis of existing site features (including risks).
  2. Prepare guiding policy. The permaculture design offers a detailed plan to build wealth and empowerment to the residents and visitors.
  3. Set an action plan based on the fundamental ethics and ideals. These actions are driven by passion and feelings of the residents and result in self-reliance, abundance and greater harmony within the local community.yoga retreat permaculture design for GOVINDA in Otford

Diagnosis

watershed for permaulture design

Firstly, we examined the current land use and drew up a sector analysis. One of the aspects of the sector analysis was the narrow solar window. The yoga retreat sits in a narrow valley. This means the morning sun is late and the afternoon sun falls away early in the afternoon.

We looked at all the natural energies on the site. The analysis included the surface watershed to and from the property. We identified which risks were threatening property.  The risk diagnosis alone will save the client in substantial costs far greater than the cost of the design. There were expensive threats to key structures. One of the threats to the foundations of a building was by local deer.  Another structure was suffering erosion by surface water from a poorly directed drain.view of solar window to yoga retreat - permaculture design tool

Permaculture Zoning

deerAlthough the current practices on the site by staff and residents were fairly sensible, there were plenty of opportunities to increase efficiency.

Zoning enables the design to put groups of elements into an area based on their needs and products.  Put elements that require high levels of observation and attention close to the staff and resources.  When an element requires less attention, it is positioned further away.

Delicate sprouts and seedlings require daily observation and attention to keep them watered and pest-free.  Simply position needy elements near to the care-givers. Zone 0 contains the elements that demand the highest level of attention.

In contrast to the sprouts and seedlings, vegetable greens are harvested as they become ready.  These elements are slightly less needy. They belong in Zone 1.

A tree that bears fruit only once a year goes further away in Zone 2 or 3.  Crops that need lots of space include pumpkin vines, corn or choko. So these go in Zone 3.  Crops that are harvested only as required (e.g. tinder for winter fires) are positioned far away. But they sit along a track to make the harvest, storage and transportation easy.  Deer and other large animals are directed to outer zones only.

permaculture design large property zoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun Trap Gardens

The sun-trap garden faces the morning sun. Plant deciduous trees on the north-east boundary. The winter sun will penetrate through the bare branches.  Whereas, evergreen trees sit on the southern and western boundaries to shelter the sun-trap from hot afternoon suns rays.

sun trap permaculture design

Water Management

Slow the water to consolidate your resources.  One can never argue with water.  Water knows gravity and follows. Slowing the water increases the chances for plants to absorb it.  Water falls gently to the plants below.

redress water flow permaculture design

Easy Tea Gardens

before and after improvements tea garden permaculture design

There were areas where expensive and thirsty lawns had died off to expose the dusty soil below. The design adds wicking beds of tea herbs. These structures are multi-functional. They include relaxing garden seats.

Making A Sacred Space

April under boulder at Wave rock WA

A Sacred space is positioned beside the riverbank. The focal point could be a very large rock or platform. Large rocks are abstract but majestic. Abstract creations are not easily damaged by passing travelers. Sculptures, one the other hand, are at higher risk.

An alternative focal point is a defined space. A space can hold reverence. Often a sunken area formed by mounds, a glade of trees or walled garden feels inviting and embracing.

Social Strategies

Residents will learn to eat what grows easily in their environment. This is easier than forcing the landscape to grow foods that we are in the habit of demanding. The notion of re-educating our palette helps us to adapt to climate uncertainty.

Connections with the broader local community are enriched by the allocation of space for a community garden. This design element is a win-win. The community garden would help maintain the neglected corner of the property whilst benefiting from ideas and better connections to the local community.

Key Activities in Staging Plan

  1.  Redress the risks
  2.  Build diversity and intensity within the existing gardens before building any new garden areas
  3. Use natural attrition plan to replace evergreen trees on northern side of structures with deciduous trees
  4. Start at Zone 0 and work outwards. For example: grow sprouts, seedlings and tea herbs. These provide a good yield for minimum cost and effort. Then add companion plants to the orchard.

Start small and build on the successes.

Build your own permaculture design skills. Study with us at Permaculture Visions.

Set limits and redistribute surplus

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Solar Energy – The Oldest Power On Earth

Years of Power In Just One Day

There is more solar energy striking the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) than worldwide energy consumption in the year from all sources combined (430 EJ).solar-power-cut

“The question I ask myself is: what do I want to achieve? and what are all my options to get the task done? For example: when I buy a drill I am really wanting something to make a hole. Essentially, we need to
Keep the endpoint in focus and the options wide
Green Technology Engineer – Paul Kelly, Research Support at Permaculture Visions.

Wide Spectrum of Solar Opportunities

solar-rays

Solar power is abundant, free and the oldest power source known to humanity. The Sun beams a broad variety of energy waves to us.  For thousands of years humanity has used the heat, light and UV for our daily tasks.  We are enjoying an explosion of research and development as we near peak pollution and warming targets.  Along with the rise in Solar technology a number of female engineers are leading research and many mature women are able to contribute to installation and maintenance.

Boston Herald 1948 re: Dover Sun House invented by female engineer Maria Telkes.

Developing Technologies Include:

www.oorja.in

diagram: www.oorja.in

Different Solar hot water systems – bathroom water and room heating

What is the Environmental Cost of Solar Panels?

To calculate the full cost of any gadget we can do a whole of life analysis. This works out the energy cost from the time we dig the materials up to the time we dispose or recycle the materials. Research shows that a solar panels generate more energy that it took to create and many panels are lasting much longer than originally expected.

With recent developments including organic solar cells, the environmental cost is coming down. Durability and effeciency is constantly rising.

Can I Use Solar Energy Without Buying More Stuff?

Some great passive solar options include:

sustainability workshop
  • attach a conservatory or Greenhouse (made with recycled windows) to the sun-side of your home to create warm air. the trick is to keep it small to reduce the cooling air movement.
  • place mirrors in the garden to reflect light into the home. You can make sculptures out of recycled stainless steel instead of glass.
  • create a solar oven made out of reclaimed picture frames and a thickwalled box.
  • make your own light-shelves, install a waterbottle light in a dark shed
  • experiment with drying food
  • incorporate simple heat banks [like Trombe walls] into your home and office
  • hang herbs to dry in your kitchen or a simple solar dryer
  • hang your clothes to dry
  • if you live in a cold climate – build a cozy outdoor nook in the sunny corner of a tiny greenhouse. Incorporate lots of thermal mass (ie. mud-brick benches and pillars) and you can sunbathe in it on sunny days in winter.  Install a shower with a rocketstove water heater in another corner and you could spend most of your winters daytime happily in there as do many on Carraig Dulra permaculture farm in Ireland!

Here is a great list of DIY projects – Enjoy!

Learn how to integrate Solar into a Permaculture Lifestyle in a Permaculture Design Course with us Online.

Or immerse yourself in a full time two-week Permaculture design class this June at Permaculture Sydney with world-class teachers.