Looking forward to the Permaculture Fundamentals course this month we'd like to share with you the following except for Toby Hemenway's A Zone of One's Own.
How many times have you seen a vegetable garden tucked away in the back of a yard, choked with weeds and lurking with unharvested zucchini the size of baseball bats? Instead of being outside the kitchen window where those weeds and past-due vegetables would alert someone washing dishes, the garden has been hidden. And since it’s not on the way to anywhere, visiting the garden means a dedicated journey, not a casual stopping by. It’s in the wrong place.
Here’s an indoor example of the same problem. You get a craving for a steaming café latte. But the cappuccino machine is in a cupboard high above the fridge, stashed behind the turkey roaster and fondue pot. Excavating it is a little too much work, so you abandon your decadent impulse and just grind some beans for the Krups on the counter.
Those small energetic hurdles are just enough to keep us from fully enjoying the things around us. Proper placement is integral to good design. Even if we’re not professional designers, we’re constantly arranging our living environment, from furniture to desk drawers to flower beds. Knowing a few simple principles to guide what goes where can save time, resources, and energy, and help us do more with our day.
Architects and designers have long known the importance of proper placement. Well-designed buildings cluster their plumbing in a “wet wall,” so
that kitchen and baths often share walls or are stacked over each other. This saves material by trimming pipe runs, and conserves time, water, and energy: We’ve all dawdled next to a blasting faucet as hot water makes its snail-paced traverse from a distant water-heater.
However, you don’t need an architecture degree to learn how to put things in the best place. From permaculture comes a simple method of proper placement called the Zone System. It works at almost any scale: in landscape layout, in the home or office, even for arranging a desktop or kitchen cupboard. The cardinal rule of the Zone System is to place the items you use the most, or that need the most frequent care, closest to you. The gourmet will want a mesclun bed and herbs by the kitchen door, and baby carrots not much farther away. The “Come on over after work” type will give the patio pride of place. Whether it’s a salad bed, favorite ornamental shrub, cozy porch swing, or your personal miniature golf course, what you enjoy most goes right outside the door. If it’s farther, you simply won’t use it as often.
The key to using zones is: Rather than thinking of objects in static classes—pots, chairs, trees—think of how you interact with them: at every meal, when you sort the mail, on sunny weekends. Then, the right location will become clear.