Design Arno's life

Posted on wo 30 mei 2018 in designs • Gewijzigd op 29 september 2019

This is a permaculture design design for my life. This page documents the process and the design. I used CEAP as the design process.

Collect information

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.


Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom and the end of most illusions.

—Gerd de Ley, Flemish writer

Consciousness is what systems complexity looks like from the inside.

—Ervin Laszlo, systems theorist

See survey of Arno's life.

Evaluate the information

Key words in my vision:

  • elder
  • community of people
  • content life
  • simple life
  • in harmony with nature

Additional key words in my mission:

  • study
  • knowledge of natural world
  • teach by example
  • ask questions
  • encourage thinking
  • demonstrate (i.e. show how it can be done)

Apply Permaculture Ethics and Principles

This is where we take all the information from above and try to work out a set of actions to reach the stated goal.


  • Earth care
    • Reduce
      • identified a problem? instead of buying a solution, can you do without? If not, create the solution yourself
      • shift from being a consumer to being a producer
      • short, low temperature showers, max twice or thrice per week
      • lower thermostat, only heat living room (2016: 16°C, 2017: 14°C, 2018-2019: 10°C)
      • buy fewer products and services (expenses 2016: 24300€, 2017: 16700€, 2018: 12300€, 2019: 11300€, 2020: 11700€)
      • buy only products with little or no packaging, prefer bulk
      • buy fewer items from the supermarket, use backyard, community garden and allotment
      • buy food grown close by
      • make driving the car a special occasion
      • divest from industrial society
      • reduce use of computers and internet
    • Reuse
      • reuse plastic containers, bags, bottles, jars
      • reuse glass bottles, jars
      • reuse rope and rubber bands
      • go to clothes swaps for new (to me) outfits
    • Repair
      • enhance soil with hugels, compost and biochar
      • ensure year round ground cover with mulch and/or plants
      • create niches and habitat for plants and animals
      • repair bicycles, clothes, computers and other tools and wearables
    • Recycle
      • food scraps in the compost bin
      • plastic and glass to recycle bin
      • paper and cardboard for mulch, compost bin or recycling
      • bring working items to collection points of second-hand shops
      • water garden with grey water from kitchen
      • ! human waste in compost bin
    • Simplify
      • for writing prefer pen and paper over computer
      • for kneading prefer hands over mixer
      • for traveling prefer bicycle or foot over car or plane
      • for entertainment prefer a walk in nature, reading books or live performances over watching television or surfing the internet
  • People care
    • create loving environment
    • build and nurture a community
    • grow good food and share it with others
    • make time to visit friends, neighbors, family
    • invite people over for coffee / lunch / dinner
    • approach random people and listen to them
    • celebrate successes and failures
    • practice compassion and loving-care
  • Fair share / Future care
    • share knowledge
    • save and distribute seeds
    • multiply and distribute plants
    • throw seeds in common areas (guerilla gardening)

Note: The item(s) marked with an exclamation mark (!) I am considering, I have not done them.

Attitudinal principles

  • Multiple elements x multiple functions
    • livelihood / money
      • reduce expenses further to need less money
      • IT work
      • parents
      • partner
      • return on investments
      • sell stuff (books, computers, ...)
      • barter / give away / sell food (jam, chutney, kimchi, ...)
      • ! offer repair services (bicycles, clothes, ...)
    • food / nutrients
      • buying in super market
      • harvesting in allotment
      • harvesting in community garden
      • harvesting in backyard
      • foraging
      • harvesting in front yard
      • harvesting in food forest
    • drinking water
      • from mains
      • ! rain water from catchment - needs filters and/or chemicals
      • ! ground water via hand pump
    • heating energy
      • gas and electricity from mains
      • body heat
      • passive heating by sun
      • use hay box to better utilize heat
      • ! solar heater
      • ! wood for burning
    • moving energy
      • electricity from mains
      • petrol for car
      • legs for walking and cycling
      • ! wind - still fuzzy on how and where to use
      • ! solar cells - needs supporting equipment and functioning supply chains for spare parts
    • tools
      • reduce specialized tools, use generic tools
      • learn how to make tools
  • Everything gardens (everything has an effect on its environment)
    • Maximum Power Principle applies everywhere
    • plants in backyard grow
    • things happen where I direct my attention
    • I influence others, others influence me
    • my actions influence other people, the world around me
  • The problem is the solution
    • land is expensive → use property already in possession → urban homestead
    • creating community is difficult → organize small events → connect people / celebrate small successes
  • Yield is theoretically unlimited
    • the work I do hopefully inspires and educates people
    • living a good and simple life
    • finding my Ikigai
  • Work with nature
    • take into account how people instinctively react
    • practice meditation, mindfulness
    • learning is best done when combining learning styles: seeing, hearing, feeling, doing
  • Minimum effort, maximum effect
    • make the iron triangle (shelter - transportation - livelihood) as tight as possible or break it altogether
    • enjoy the little things / be grateful: cost little to nothing and have a large impact on feelings of wellbeing
    • celebrate life: life is nature, nature is us, we are all in this together

Note: The item(s) marked with an exclamation mark (!) I am considering, I have not done them.

Holmgren principles

  • Observe and interact
    • happiness comes...
    • dominant culture of consumption and debt seems more alien to me as time goes by
    • openly going against the grain leads to resistance with parents. They are concerned about me losing connection with society and failing to fit in. I see this as a solution, not a problem. This needs more communication to straighten out.
  • Catch and store energy
    • save 80% of income, after 5 years working for money becomes optional (see ERE and The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement)
    • have a pantry with at least a month of supplies
    • design stores of water and energy in garden and house
    • conserve harvest from backyard, community garden and forage
  • Obtain a yield
    • working for money
    • working on interesting projects
    • working with interesting people
    • learn about the natural world
    • eat good food from local sources
    • appreciate the time we have
    • enjoy life
  • Apply self regulation and accept feedback
    • observe a regular schedule
    • take naps when necessary
    • exercise / work regularly outdoors
    • measure energy / water usage and act on the data
    • know own limits of knowledge and influence
    • no need to do everything at once
    • ask for help
  • Use and value renewable resources and services
    • use collected water from shed to water the garden
    • trade plants and seeds with friends, family and permaculture projects
    • move plants from living room to attic in winter to take advantage of warmer microclimate there
    • use solar heat in the attic to start seedlings in spring
  • Produce no waste
    • prefer getting food from own or community garden
    • kitchen vegetable cuttings go in compost bin
    • grey water from kitchen waters the back yard
    • buy products with little packaging
    • reuse packaging otherwise
      • plastic yoghurt containers as planters and for storage
      • glass jam jars for jam and chutney
      • glass vegetable jars for kimchi, soup
      • bottles for homemade wine
    • use discarded pallets / wood for constructions
    • use cardboard packaging as weed barrier
    • fly only when absolutely necessary, consider less energy intensive modes of transportation first
  • Design from patterns to details
    • Web of Goals
      • work from or close to home
      • get food close to home (backyard, front yard, community garden, allotment, supermarket at walking distance, forage)
      • walk, cycle, use public transport (reduce need for car)
      • increase serendipity for opportunities
    • scatter
      • trying similar things at the same time
        • gardening / growing food in backyard, allotment and community garden
        • work on permaculture designs for backyard, life, food forest Weverkeshof
      • sow interest: try to get people interested and involved in doing the same
    • Seneca curve
      • idealized shape of the background process of humanity
      • actual shape will look more like a downward step pyramid: alternating periods of relative stability followed by rapid deterioration, each time ending in a lower level of complexity
  • Integrate rather than segregate
    • our household = mini homestead with food growing, food preservation, food storage, workshop, storage for construction materials and tools
    • stack functions for machines and spaces
  • Use small and slow solutions
    • walk to supermarket
    • cycle to most projects
    • think before buying: try to find an alternative to spending money
    • turn thermostat down in winter (winter 2018-2019 most times at 14°C)
    • hang thick curtains for windows and doors
    • caulk seams against air leaking
    • water garden with gray water from kitchen
      • dishwashing tub holds 5 liter max per watering
      • output from laundry machine is 90 liters of grey water, collected in a tub
  • Use and value diversity
    • make friends from different walks of life
    • make friends in different age groups
    • learn from many different areas of knowledge
    • learn many different skills
  • Use edges and value the marginal
    • look in skips and second hand stores for usable materials
    • make friends from different walks of life
    • forage food from the side of the road: blackberry, hazelnut, ...
    • throw apple seeds, plum seeds and other seeds into wild patches
  • Creatively use and respond to change
    • "When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." - Alexander Graham Bell

Web of Goals

Web of Goals is a technique proposed by Jacob Lund Fisker. For every goal we choose, there are consequences - positive and negative. Everything gardens.

A module groups and names a set of goals. Another name for module could be a mission. Goals include primary objective and first order effects. Take a look at the fish bone diagram for the module Job. Every left turn starting from horizontal is a positive effect, every right turn is a negative effect.

Fish bone diagram for mission Job

For example, my primary (0 order) goal for a job is to create savings. A (1st order) positive side effect is that when I ride my bicycle to work, I get a workout. Riding the bicycle more leads to more maintenance, which is a negative (2nd order) effect. Doing the maintenance myself leads to hands-on knowledge and learning about repairing bicycles, which is a positive (3rd order) effect.

The table below summarizes the current modules with their primary goal and 1st order effects. This was a version of my web of goals in 2018.

Module Goals (0 and 1st order)
Simple living less clutter / frugality / savings
Exercise health / less clutter / healthy cooking
Financial independence frugality / savings
Job savings / networking
Gardening networking / health / healthy cooking

In my latest iteration of my design in 2019, I have selected a number of different modules for my web of goals. The graph below embodies the following modules and effects.

Homesteading and gardening (green) supports:

  • good food
  • good friends (friendship / social connections)
  • good finances (frugality / savings)
  • good body (physical fitness / health)
  • good mind (relaxation / connection with nature)

Job (orange) supports:

  • good finances (savings)
  • good friends (socializing)
  • good mind (fascination)
  • good body (physical fitness / health)

Dancing and Meditation (purple) supports:

  • good mind
  • good body
  • good friends (compassion)

Financial independence (black) supports:

  • good finances (frugality / savings)
  • good shelter
  • good mind (fascination)

Simple living (blue) supports:

  • good finances (frugality)
  • good food
  • good shelter
Web of Goals

Web of Goals in 2019

For me, living a content life comes from having all these elements fulfilled:

  • good food
  • good shelter
  • good friends (friendship / socializing)
  • good mind (fascination)
  • good body (physical fitness / health)
  • good finances (peace of mind)

As you can see, every goal is supported by at least two different modules: simply count the number of distinct colors for each label in the graph.

6 Core Human Needs

From: 6 Core Human Needs, Anthony Robbins

  • Certainty
    • I trust myself
    • regular activities to do
    • money flows in and out are predictable, they provide a yield that go into savings, savings function as a buffer
    • the house and related infrastructure provide safety and physical comfort
  • Uncertainty
    • taking an alternative route and observe
    • trying out new permaculture designs
    • preparing, cooking and eating different recipes
    • setting new goals
  • Significance
    • volunteer work
    • mastery of my crafts
  • Connection
    • spending time with Ina
    • connecting through nature
    • spending time with friends
    • spending time with family
  • Growth
    • learning about permaculture
    • learning about plants
    • learning to build communities
  • Contribution
    • teaching others what I know
    • documenting my designs for myself and others to benefit from
    • sharing homegrown food
    • creating habitat in my garden for creatures living there

Plan for Action

Sow a thought, reap a word; Sow a word, reap an action; Sow an action, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny.

—John Michael Greer (and others)

And also:

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do

—C.G. Jung

Since starting this design in May 2018 I have published a number of designs on this website. You are most welcome to look through them and hopefully find inspiration from them.

This design has taken about 22 hours of time over the course of one year to get from conception to a published design. I have made occasional additions to it over time.