As I mentioned briefly in an earlier post, one of my assignments for my Permaculture Design Course this month is to make a series of maps of a small design project.  I got started on it this past week, visiting the house of a friend who wants a little urban-farm-style food plot in her yard.  And it’s pretty challenging so far.

The first phase of the assignment is to make what’s called a “base map” of the property.  I was excited for this at first; I love maps – I’ve got a couple of vintage ones framed in my house, and I’ll sometimes just look at my atlases for fun.  But looking at them and reading them are much easier than making them.  I suppose this is true for most things – consuming is easier than producing.  Still, I’m being challenged by this.

The challenge comes from the technicality of the assignment, and of the process.  I’ve drawn maps of farm fields before in my crop-planning work, but this one needs to be precise and to scale.  And the entire property, with all relevant features, has to be on it and also to scale.  So I spent a good chunk of an afternoon last week going around with my tape measure and my friend, measuring the property boundaries, length of the driveway, dimensions of the house, length of the fences, areas of the pre-existing landscaping, and so on.  Now I have to put these measurements on a larger format map (which I also have to draw!  Good lord…).

It’s important, though, in the design process.  In order to make changes, and before that even to understand the place at which one’s making changes, one needs to see the whole perspective.  This base map will help me, in later phases of the project, to understand the zones of use for the property, as well as the sectors of influence that will and do affect it.  And, of course, it will be key in designing and communicating the changes we want to make to the property.  In the meantime, I have to slog my way through tedious line-measuring and -drawing this week.  I’ll post some pictures once I’m done, no matter how bad it looks.