Ever since I can remember, I have enjoyed interacting with nature, and working with nature to help her along. With a long background in computing, including designing intricate fault tolerant systems, it is second nature for me to also enjoy the challenge of using technology as a tool for solving problems. So when it comes to applying permaculture to my designs, I couldn't help wonder if I could find some IT tools to help me with my designs.

Now it has to be said, that my drawing and artistic skills are somewhat lacking, so what better place to start than looking for a drawing program.  It is clear however that 3-dimentional representation can give a better picture and helps to spot design flaws more easily than a 2-dimention drawing. So I set out on a challenge – to see if something in cyberspace could help me and others in a similar position.

2D Comfrey

Sketchup is a powerful tool to add to our permaculture design arsenal, however many of the components which are freely available (e.g. plants) are too elaborate, which makes them memory heavy and slows down your computer. There is also a dearth of plant components available which are appropriate for permaculture designs in temperate climates. I therefore find myself making new components or more often wishing I had time to make new components. Having spoken to several other permaculture designers, I know I am not the only person who uses sketchup and not the only one who has the same problem, so I would like to utilise the power of community to help each other make more appropriate components which we can all share.

Having bought the book and started using the Plants For A Future website, I quickly realised what an invaluable resource the data they have collected is to a permaculture designer in a temperate climate. However I quickly realised that in its current format, it is very difficult to get it to do what I want and fit it in with my systematic way of working. So I bought the database to see if I can redesign it to make it work for me.

To my utter horror I found the database is written in MS Access, and is full of bad database programming practice. For those who are technical, it has very poor level of normalisation, totally inappropriate use of foreign and primary keys, and a bizarre table naming convention (most tables contained spaces). So I set about trying to unravel the database to make it more usable.

A few months later and here we have it. I now have a database converted to an open source relational database (MySQL), working under my native Linux platform. Now I appreciate this may look totally geeky,... er, well okay, so it is totally geeky, sorry!!! But I wont apologise for my geekyness, its what I am good at, and sometimes it comes in very handy!!! So this is how I tailored the database to fit in with my needs and my way of working.