Back to our pop quiz. Do remember the first time your grade 8 teacher wrote something like this on the board and asked you to solve it?

Solve for y:

[20 + (6 × 3² – 14) x (5 – 3)² ] / 60 = y

If you’re like most people, you probably started on the left-hand side and performed each operator, carefully, from left to right. And when your teacher informed your answer was incorrect you were baffled.

As it turns out there is a specific order that the problem had to be solved in order to reach the correct answer. That order of operations is encapsulated in the acronym PEDMAS which represents the process: 1. Parentheses, 2. Exponents, 3. Division, 4. Multiplication, 5. Addition, 6. Subtraction.

Land design and management is no different.


Land design and management is no different. So if you are getting the wrong answer while trying to solve problems on your property, it might not be because  you don’t have the right skills or you are using the wrong techniques. It’s likely because you aren’t approaching the steps of the problem in the correct order.

So what is the order of operations for designing and managing land?


  • Step 1. Clarify

  • Step 2. Diagnose

  • Step 3. Design

  • Step 4. Implement

  • Step 5. Manage and Monitor

CDDIMM pronounced see-dom, it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so nicely, but it works every time.

Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there. ~Bruce Mau

Why is a process different than a technique, and how does it solve land design anxiety and analysis paralysis?


A good process takes the context of the situation into account. Every property is different; every landowner or manager has a different vision and set of values. Finding the intersection between your unique vision and the unique reality of the property is not something you can solve with techniques such as a keyline, swale, earthship or chicken tractor, any more than you could solve a company reorganization with a Powerpoint. It’s a far more nuanced process; you establish the vision and values first, then apply the techniques.


A good process begins with a comprehensive and accurate diagnosis: what does the property offer, what are its assets and liabilities? Like a good doctor, you should not prescribe anything until you have considered all aspects of the situation and performed the appropriate tests.


Designing and managing land is complex; doing it while trying to fulfill your values and vision is hyper complex. The only way through a challenge like this is a process that is sophisticated enough to integrate all the elements in each step you need to take.

Bottom line? This process has evolved and been tested and proven through hundreds of land design projects, uniformly achieving precisely the outcomes our clients sought.

Introducing Our Secret (cue drum roll…)

What’s our secret? We call it the formative system. It starts with defining the non-negotiable factors that will form the foundation of your land design.

They include:

  • Your vision and values

  • The strengths weakness, opportunities and weaknesses within your climate and geographic context*

  • The contour and shape of your land and subsequently how water naturally flows across the property

*This also includes things like the legal constraints and demographics of a region as well.

The more thoroughly you do these first steps, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel down the road. This early analysis narrows down and defines many of the other decisions that must be made later on, drastically simplifying the problem (and opportunities!).

This is why Step 3 Design, Step 4 Implement and Step 5 Manage and Monitor come after Step 1 Clarify and Step 2 Diagnose.  

Just as in solving algebra equations, there is a correct order of operations in land design. If you jump straight into design or implementation without first doing the clarification or diagnosis, you are likely to become completely overwhelmed, and possibly burn out completely and just quit. By contrast, following a proven process can enable you to minimize complexity and approach your property design with newfound confidence, ease, and clarity.

Believe us, we understand! it’s a challenging – even paralyzing! – proposition to design, create, and maintain an ecologically healthy, resilient property that provides you with financial freedom and the time to enjoy it all.

This e-course is the result of that understanding. We have never condensed our 20+ years of consulting into a free offering like this, outlining our unique, tested and proven process to help you break through the confusion to create the sustainable property of your dream.


  • If you haven’t already completed the four tasks from yesterday (download Google Earth Pro, download your contour map, download the Land Design tool, and add our email to your contacts list), be sure to do these things today!
  • If you are not yet familiar and comfortable with how to use, navigate and annotate your map with Google Earth Pro, be sure to spend some time looking through the tutorials found here. Particularly, you’ll want to know how to create folders, placemarks, polygons and paths.
  • Watch the two short videos below. One is about the importance of process in design, and the other is how to use the Adaptive Habitat Process Pyramid.





  • Download your copy of the Adaptive Habitat Process Pyramid by clicking on the image below!

If these high-level lessons leave you wanting more information, more tools, more guidance – they are just a snippet out of the in-depth, Guided & Guaranteed Option of the land design training we are offering. To learn more about our 100% success guarantee, click here.




Rob & Takota

p.s. Watch for the next email as we are going to walk you through the first (and perhaps most important) step of our five step process for land design, where you start with clarifying your vision and values.

p.p.s. [20 + (6 × 3² – 14) x (5 – 3)² ] / 60 = 3 …. If don’t follow the process you may not end up where you want to be (or get the correct answer).


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