Design Project: Tools for Analysis


Here is the final documentation in the C for Collect Site Information phase of the design project. I put together a PASTE analysis for the property, which was a useful exercise in identifying all the plants and having a sense of the ecology in context.

PASTE Analysis

As you’ll see, PASTE stands for Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools and Events.

I found Nicole Vosper’s example on her blog very useful for creating my own PASTE analysis.

I was thrilled to be able to put names to some of the plants at the property that there already there before we moved in, as their labels were either not kept or disappeared and most of them have thrived on neglect. I did have one surprise from researching the fragrant daphne shrub on Wikipedia:

“All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and a range of domestic animals[4] and some people experience dermatitis from contact with the sap”.

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

Does this fit into the child-friendly aim of the permaculture design? I’d have to say no. I shared that revelation with my husband and we’ve decided that this daphne will have to go. I already battle eczema on my right hand and it sounds like that plant is a known agent with skin conditions.

What about climate risks?

As a side note, I was feeling after all this that the process was missing things and that a risk assessment would be valuable. I started putting together a spreadsheet based on weather extreme types eg. Heat/cold, hailstorms, lightning, wind, earthquakes, drought and flooding. With this, I was able to consider whether that was likely at the property, and what the impact would be. From that, it shows whether any action would be needed to mitigate those risks, which then could be either designed for with that in mind, and items budgeted.  I didn’t complete the spreadsheet as it was taking time I wanted to spend on the next stage of the project, but it was helpful to brainstorm on this issues.

The main take aways from that for me are:

  • the benefits of wind breaks to provide shelter from wind and reduce evaporation, which is critical in a drought-prone climate, and
  • to consider shelter such as hoops for the raised garden beds to protect them from our 40 degrees Celsius+ heat waves and hailstorms.

We’ve seen the impact of wind, heat, drought and hail over the years, and it is a shame to nurture growth and then have our climate show no mercy and wipe out what we’re trying to do.  We’ve had instances of wind gusts blowing off laserlite from our carport roof, and the poor avocado tree has had its leaves blown off. Our extreme heat has killed a few potted plants and burnt the daphne and camelias.  And we’ve been lucky that our tomato plants survived hail, but we wouldn’t be able to rely on that every time.  We had big hailstones on Christmas Day 2012 that put dents in the car bonnet, roller shutters and an air conditioning unit, and it’s not hard to imagine what that would do to plants in a raised garden bed.  Since we are aware of these things, I need to design around it or otherwise mitigate the risk.

It also occurred to me that a quick risk assessment of these climate factors would be useful to include in the client interview rather than as a separate step later.

So next I will be able to share the next phase of the project, which is E for Evaluate Information.

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview