We often begin work with a new client by providing an on-site consultation. We can quickly assess the attributes of a piece of land, the opportunities for productive, beautiful systems, and identify any critical issues to be dealt with right away. This preliminary assessment provides information for a more in-depth design if needed.
We can also assess properties for suitability for purchase, development, farming, or renovation. We pay particular attention to topography, water, access and circulation, and regulatory issues, and can help you consider your choices from the standpoint of productive landscape potential and regenerative practices.
A more detailed picture of your land than the design consultation, a rapid assessment of a property provides written documentation of the initial observations and assessement. In the Rapid Site Assessment, we assess the site conditions, identify opportunities and challenges, and give specific recommendations. This can allow a more complex project to get moving with first steps or it might be the only design work needed for a more straightforward project.
The Rapid Site Assessment includes:
Written descriptions of the land, context, project, goals, site assessment, recommendations, and resources.
Sketches, diagrams, aerial photography, and analysis of existing conditions and opportunities.
Examples: Chris Allaire, Full Moon Farm
Sun and shade patterns around homes, pastures, and woodlands, can effect everything from passive energy, direct solar gain to energy systems, growing conditions and potential for various plants to thrive. We assess current conditions, identify potential changes or siting opportunities, and design energy or production systems based on the solar analysis.
Examples: Two Pond Farm
Few people would buy a new home without having the physical structure, its wiring, plumbing, and vital systems examined for soundness by a professional building inspector. However, few buyers practice the same due diligence with the land where the home is sited or on land considered for a home site, farm, or development. We are pleased to offer prospective buyers and homeowners this service so that they can have a clear idea of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges presented by the home site they are considering. We conduct background research and walk the site in order to identify basic opportunities and constraints to future building expansions, on-site green energy production, water recycling, and nutrient retrieval, as well as for gardening, farming, and forestry activities. We also inspect the land and the surrounding area for any signs of environmental conditions that may threaten the structural integrity of the home or health of its inhabitants. This may include identifying existing or potential drainage issues, soil testing for lead and other contaminants, or identifying point sources of pollution in the area. Finally, we will examine the local zoning ordinances and help the potential buyer understand the changes that may occur in their neighborhood over time. The findings of the home site inspection will be provided in a written report within one week of the site visit if no soil test is performed, and within three weeks if we test the soils.
Through a comprehensive design process, we work closely with clients whether at the home scale or community/institutional scale, to develop practical design recommendations that weave the land’s elements into an integrated system. The master plan might include recommendations for home improvements as well as orchards, annual & perennial food gardens, pasture, on-site energy systems, stream and wetland elements, efficient access patterns, community connections, carbon sequestration, and demonstrations of cutting-edge techniques from around the world. This holistic approach is works to create environments that function seamlessly as a living organism, demonstrating permaculture principles and design integration.
Our design process is both established and fluid. We begin with your goals and weave them together with the land's opportunities and limitations to develop ecological solutions that are unique to the site.
The planning process focuses on the long and broad view of a landscape and sets the stage for future projects. This is especially important with larger and undeveloped sites but even small sites can benefit from this approach. There are often two elements that emerge from the planning process: 1. The conceptual site plan which locates the major land-use patterns on the site at the broadly-defined and conceptual level. These uses might include ‘intensive annual crops’, ‘forestry’, ‘productive conservation’, or ‘parking’. The conceptual site plan serves as a typology for the opportunities and restrictions that are major drivers of any subsequent planning. And 2. Design guidelines/program that outline the vision, goals, and intentions that will serve to focus and fuel subsequent action.
We work with contractors, builders, architects, and engineers to manage the workflow and coordinate efforts for maximum efficiency on larger projects. In some cases a larger project may have many facets and overlapping or divergent timelines, needs, and goals. Our work includes keeping track of what needs to happen when and how best to approach key tasks.
Management and care for the landscape, woodlands, wetlands, and other areas where we live is a complex and exciting task. Our relationship to the land we live on can be active and participatory. We guide landowners to use regenerative and restorative methods of stewardship and help them create a stronger bond with and understanding of their land. Management can take a number of forms including written management plans, site assessment, grant writing, trail establishment, and tree crop planting.
Our team can build, plant, and install many facets of a landscape. We have talented and knowledgeable crews that do a variety of tasks, including building soil, planting, mulching, pruning, digging ponds, building stone walls or greenhouses, and tree thinning. For much of the design, restoration, and land management work that we do there are not qualified people to do the installation and care work. Often the techniques we use are specialized and not commonly understood (such as sheet mulching). We often work with a landowner, over the short term or long term, to install systems and provide guidance in managing their landscape. This co-creative approach allows for direct learning as a landscape matures.
Example: Sue’s greenhouse, arbor, forest garden/swales, stone wall at Rocky Hill
We teach courses in many settings on a variety of design, landscape planning, and permaculture topics. We offer public lectures, short courses, guest lecturing, and permaculture design instruction. Our focus is ecological design, permaculture, and productive landscapes. Some of the courses we have taught are "Regenerative Hillside Agriculture", "Windbreak and Hedgerows", "Productive Conservation", and "Sustainable Water Systems".
Examples: Summer Institute of Sustainable Living, Living Routes/Sirius course, NOFA courses, Smith College