Erkki’s DPA Diary

[Erkki’s DPA main page][The Portfolio]

I am keeping this diary – which I started on 12.1.2020 – as a web-site page instead of a blog posting. It is open for anyone to read if interested in my Permaculture Diploma path. As such it is an appendix to my DPA Mainpage and quite ”deep” in the web-site. No need for it to jump up on social media. I am writing it backwards so if you want to read in chronological order you should start from the bottom.


17.8.2020: Thinking about the design process. The most commonly used in permaculture design are CEAP, SADIM(ET) and OBREDIM(ET). The basic idea is always the same: first you collect information and observe; then you evaluate; then design; then plan and implement. After that maintain and possibly tweak. Before any of that – or at least before design – there should be an idea or vision of what you are up to. If you are designing for a customer you need to interview her/him, but if you are designing for yourself you need to figure it out yourself – interview yourself. If you are doing something together with your partner you can interview each other (we did that).

Graph 1.

My plan is to use the (V)OBREDIM(ET) design process because I like that it is divided in several steps. However I would like to underline the iterative nature of the process – especially when it is your own project that will not have a clear end and maybe not even a clear starting point. Also I think a vision needs to be defined.

What I am trying to express in graph 1.:

  • When observing you should be as objective as possible. Don’t evaluate yet and especially the vision has nothing to do with observation.
  • You have a vision: try to define what it is.
  • Evaluate the observations in relation to what you want – your vision.
  • 1st iteration: The evaluation will affect your vision (what is possible).
  • Design (apply Permaculture principles and design).
  • 2nd iteration: Evaluate your design and tweak if necessary and repeat iteration (credit to Dominik Jais Obr3dim).
  • After 3 evaluation cycles, plan and implement the design.
  • 3rd iteration: While planning and implementing observe, evaluate and design/tweak if necessary. Be sure to evaluate the tweaks before implementing (maybe you did get it right originally).
  • 4th iteration: While maintaining observe, evaluate and design/tweak if necessary. Be sure to evaluate the tweaks before implementing (maybe you did get it right originally).

I think this model that includes several iteration cycles reflects better how the design process actually is realised in a big, long term and complex land based project like Iso-orvokkiniitty. It also allows for the fact that the design I am doing now has started several iteration cycles earlier even though those have not been properly documented. It would be artificial to say that the starting point of the design process is Iso-orvokkiniitty in 2014 (when we bought the site and nothing had been done) when actually today the site looks quite different. Likewise it would be artificial to say that the starting point is now, which would imply that what has been done so far wasn’t based on our permaculture design. Let’s see how we can manage that.

8.8.2020: Today we had the first Diploma Guild at Iso-orvokkiniitty with Dominik Jais and Marja. Each introduced some part of their ongoing Diploma work. I started by presenting the work I had done until now (until writing the Sectors and Zones article). Dominik presented the Permacafè method that he has developed combining Worldcafé and Permaculture design principles. Marja presented on the other hand her 00-zone ”tree of life” and also a permaculture garden design she had recently made for a customer in Fiskars which is now being implemented by the customer.

Overall it was very interesting to see the quite different approaches of each and to have a discussion about the design processes. So far Dominik had much more experience in the different processes and also he had already submitted some designs to his tutor and had also received feedback. 

For my part the most interesting part of our discussions was about design loops, tweaks and iterations. In our case we have started our permaculture design at Iso-orvokkiniitty in 2014-15 but it hasn’t been formally finalised while we have already been implementing it. The first year we were here largely observing but then we started acting/implementing and then observing the results of our actions. So we have done already several design loops, implemented and observed and tweaked and sometimes completely changing the design. Sometimes designing helps you realise that something is not doable at least for the time being. 

Some other scattered remarks from our discussions: 

  • Zones are time based (Geoff Lawton)
  • Evaluation => SWOC
  • Social zones
  • VOBREDIM – V = vision 
  • Future of the project – how will it run for the next 20-30 years (i.e. after us)? 
  • In observations don’t evaluate
  • The design principles should always be in place: what principles are you using?
  • Set a goal in the beginning based on ethics
  • Design process: read Cathrine’s designs (again) 
  • Philipp Weiss: two seasons
  • Input – output analysis
  • Create a design questionnaire for people creating permaculture design for themselves (little different from a customer questionnaire) 

31.7.2020: Ok, it’s over half a year since my last notes in this diary so you could ask what is going on if anything… Of course everyone knows what happened in the spring of 2020 with covid19 taking in its grip the whole world. Fortunately in Finland the situation didn’t get too bad but it did get our attention. For my part my last business trip was in mid February until a small trip to Latvia in mid July. I don’t even remember when was the last time I haven’t travelled anywhere for half a year. Apart from not doing business travel we missed the ”International Forest Garden / Food Forest Symposium” that has now been rescheduled to June 2021. So hopefully we’ll go then.

So you would think there was a lot of time for the PDA. But somehow it wasn’t so. Business kept me busy – maybe because people need to eat anyway – and we started a few new building projects on our site. Already in the winter we started to build a storage house for all kind of ”stuff” (ok, there is a more detailed design), we built a dome greenhouse and we started the earth cellar we need because we want to develop self sufficiency in food and a little bit unplanned due to corona we started to build our sauna. Actually I worked quite intensively on a plan for a ”climate battery solar greenhouse – sauna combination à la Osentowski” inn the winter but I concluded the project was too big for us and if we continue to dream about it we will end up without a greenhouse coming summer and without a sauna.

On the north side of the house (left in photo) we are building our earth cellar. The black roof on the west side of the house is the new storage house. On the south-west from the house in the garden is the dome greenhouse. All projects of the winter – spring – summer 2020. Photo 31.7.2020
Building our log sauna. Photo 31.7.2020

All the time the DPA was in my mind but I couldn’t find the time and energy to proceed. Once in a while I looked at the article about the Iso-orvokkinniitty site but I couldn’t finish it. What finally helped me was some sources of inspiration and that I decided to split the article in smaller pieces. The one I published today is supposed to be a description of what the site looked like originally when we bought it and what development has happened since. In the next articles I will do a sector analysis and then plan the zones.

The sources of inspiration was the trip to Latvia and the Finnish Permaculture Association summer get-together. Those are mentioned in the ”ERKKI: COURSES, WORKSHOPS AND STUDY TRIPS RELEVANT TO PERMACULTURE” – page. Next week we will have a diploma guild meeting here at Iso-orvokkiniitty. More about that after the meeting.

The next thing to think about here in the diary is the permaculture design tools I plan to use.


12.1.2020: This and last weekend I and Marja have discussed the Iso-orvokkiniitty permaculture design process – mainly how to get it started again and how to avoid problems we have had with collaborating on it earlier. We are in a stage where we both have worked on the design quite extensively and the design exists in bits and pieces on our computers, pieces of paper and in our minds. Over these years we have obviously implemented a lot of stuff but often there has been no real plan to fall back to or even no agreement about what the plan was. So it has not always been easy. Our problem is that we don’t really know how to work together. Instead of permaculture design we need NVC. But we also need the design because we can’t avoid doing things.

Iso-orvokkiniitty in the middle. In 2014 all that was field and forest.
The house was built in the young birch woods.

In 2019 the design work or Diploma did not progress a lot. On my side I had an extremely busy year in my business life (organic food exports) (but still managed to plant quite a few trees) and on Marja’s she was finalising her studies in landscape hortonomy and doing her apprenticeship and then in the summer she was diagnosed with a serious illness which has taken her attention most of the autumn and winter. Now we want to get back on track.

We have changed the landscape quite dramatically. On the right side of the photo our willow sewage system caused a huge mess and headache in terms of what to do with the extra soil from the excavation.

Last week we had to look at the garden design. We wanted to understand where to put a 4 meter geodesic greenhouse and the composting station in case the winter continues like this (warm and wet – no snow) and we could actually do something about putting them up. In order to do that we also had to decide where to put the solar climate-battery greenhouse sauna combination which will be a 10 x 7 meters structure. I took aerial photos with my drone, we sat down and analysed and discussed and we reached a common understanding about those elements. I was quite happy about that.

Our garden on 5th January 2020.

Yesterday we tried to get a grip on the permaculture design process. We are using Aranya’s ”Permaculture Design” book as our reference. From there we chose OBREDIMET as our framework. Maybe we should tweak it as Dominik Jais proposes to OBR3DIM.

In the meantime I have also started to design the solar climate-battery greenhouse sauna combination and for that purpose I have practised using SketchUp. Basically that started because we should change our building rights application to reflect what we are planning to do. This 10x7m construction was not in our application.

Today our discussions were not so successful. Our willow sewage system has caused a huge mess and headache in terms of what to do with the extra soil from the excavation. Now the area has been more or less formed by our excavator contractor. Trying to do what Marja wished but Marja is not happy with it. NVC needed.

Tonight I have been reading what I have done so far about my Diploma here on the blog. Doing that – reading things I have written in 2018 – I realised that I should have a diary. So here it starts – better late than never.

[Erkki’s DPA main page][The Portfolio]