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 me 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.


So if you are getting the wrong answer while solving for problems on your property it might not be because you are using the wrong techniques or that you don’t have the right skills. It’s likely because you aren’t implementing them 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 does not roll off the tongue quite so nice 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 should take the context of the situation into account. Every property is different and every manager has different values and visions. Finding the intersection between them is not something you can always solve with a keyline, swale, earthship or chicken tractor. It is far more nuanced.


A good process should be front end loaded with a robust diagnosis. Good doctors will not prescribe anything until they have thoroughly thought about 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 problem like this is a process that is sophisticated enough to guide you to the next step.

As such, we have devoutly been following this process in our land design projects with incredible results.


One of the earliest things you must do is take some time to understand / define what we call the formative system. These are the factors that are non negotiable that have a strong influence on you and your land.  

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 work that is done in this early analysis narrows down and defines many of the other decisions that must be made, 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 like in solving algebra equations, there is a correct order of operation in land design, and if you try to jump straight into to designing or implementation without first doing the clarification or diagnosis you are likely to fail, end up wasting money and time, becoming completely overwhelmed and sometimes burning out completely and just quitting.

After consulting closely together for the past three years (and independently for much longer), working with multiple dozens of clients and meeting hundreds of landowners, we’ve seen first hand how following a process results in an absolute transformation in one’s ability to cut through complexity and have the confidence to approach property design with newfound ease and clarity.

Land stewards everywhere are feeling paralyzed by the complexity of designing and managing land in a way that is ecologically regenerative, financially sustainable, functionally resilient ​& actually enjoyable.

We are excited to share our unique process, distilled after years of consulting on projects, to help you dissolve any paralysis and empower you to design the sustainable property of your dreams.



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).

  • This was the most impactful course I have ever taken!

    Ian Grebal
    Ian Grebal Red Tail Farms

Sessions start in the Spring and the Fall!

Information is just facts without context. ~Wendall Berry


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