Learn from Your Existing Conditions-Future Lands
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Learn from Your Existing Conditions

Let’s dig a little deeper into unraveling our landscape, let’s learn from your existing conditions. You will discover that layering of two or more site analysis uncovers many opportunities and constraints. These previously hidden patterns along with the Principles of Resilient Design will inspire more refined goals and the design considerations. By now you have probably pick up on the site analysis icons at the bottom of each map as indicators for how the information was developed

infrastructureAccess and Infrastructure


Identifying how we create access and choose to locate infrastructure is an essential ingredient in managing natural resources and local opportunities wisely.

Where are the best places to locate tools and materials you use everyday? Close by, of course! Frequently, owners overlook key elements of design. This can become a problem.


Sound design in planning can save you time and money. Please read to see how I overlooked a key design feature before Future Lands Design.

Locating tools in Zone 1 saves a lot of running around.

We look at access on landscapes through “use zones.”



Where we live, the home, and where we center our lives. This is the best place to locate tools, water, salad gardens, comfortable sitting areas.



Places we visit and use everyday, perhaps several times a day. This is the best place to locate tools, the barn, and salad gardens.



Lesser-used areas, typically frequented once or twice a day, including annual and perennial gardens.



Places visited only a few times per week, typically within simple walking distance



Areas outside our routines, such as the local managed forest



Unmanaged areas, usually left for observation and casual exploring.

This sample Use Zone Map for a complex, heavily sloped location revealed prime growing areas, and locations for tool area / barn, a greenhouse and a solar heated home.

It is wise to consider how you and your family will use your yard. For example, when planning where to locate a garden, placing walkways, compost and mulch piles and water sources consider how many times you will need to visit each during a growing season.

waterWater’s Movement


An essential ingredient in whole system design involves understanding water patterns – how it enters, moves across your landscape and exits.

Water’s role on your home’s landscape is an important resource to understand. It’s key in energy efficient gardening, improving and supporting diversity and wintertime snow management.


Experience is the best teacher and did we learn fast! We had lawn everywhere, so during extreme events our hilly landscape became a giant waterway. Walkways and roads eroded to their low points, needing constant care. Here’s what water runoff looks like without efforts to slow it down and encourage infiltration into the soil.


In most cases, capturing and retaining water by creating “speed traps,” not only improves local life-support-system service, but reaches beyond into the community. Impervious surfaces, runoff areas that allow little or no water movement downward into the soil, pose serious consequences. One simple and beautiful way to impede water run off is with a rain garden.

Runoff from our steep terrain in Bernardston, MA has taught us much. Here water from several storms destroyed a wall, making for arduous work during our busiest time of year.
Here’s a map showing the runoff pattern on our steep landscape. After lots of backbreaking shoveling, we replaced lawns with meadows which drastically slowed erosion.

Meadows capture and retain water, allowing infiltration and recharge of stored water. This water discharges slowly into streams over longer periods, stabilizing water levels of life-system supporting services offered by wetlands.

Strategically placed native plant areas are designed to capture the first inch of rainfall – that portion that carries the greatest amount of physical pollutants (gill clogging silt) and chemical runoff from human activities (oil, antifreeze, petroleum residue from pavement and rooftops, etc.). Lawns fail at this essential function.

Rain gardens create high interest areas for native insect and birds, and break up the monotony of lawns.

soilsSoil’s Health


Soil provides us with many life-supporting system services, yet have become weakened by modern petroleum-based agricultural practices.


Soil plays a major role in our health. Nutrient depletion from erosion and “mining of the soil for food,” has led to many academic discussions about increases in degenerative diseases (various cancers, arthritis, etc. ) and infectious ones as well. Managing the soil is essential to the future of food security.
Here are a few practices to consider:

Instead of table scraps going to the landfill, especially during the long winter months, consider worm farming:

This practice is new to us, but it is well worth the time and effort involved. Last winter, I discovered how to use my wood stove for making this incredible soil amendment. Now we have lots for the gardens this year. It’s pretty exciting material with many benefits. Check it out.

We have been three season composers for many years. The benefits are enormous!
The Benefits of Using Compost in Your Garden

sunSolar Paths


Light constantly changes across your landscape, so understanding solar paths greatly adds to whole system design.



Daily and seasonal patterns of the sun across your landscape reveal beneficial ways to approach site design. For example, south facing slopes can extend your growing season. Strategically planted shade trees during intolerable heat can improve air movement through your home during hot

Seasonal patterns are essential for optimizing building for solar gain. This solar path analysis examines the whole site and is valuable in looking at the big picture.
Sun/shade analysis using various methods optimizes free use of the sun! The Solar Pathfinder optimizes details for a specific location, such as siting a photovoltaic system
Spinach grows well through the winter months for March harvest on a south facing slope.

 legalAdditional Considerations

Being well-informed about sound planning and design makes life easier and more enjoyable. Your home’s needs are unique, since each landscape is different. Here are a few other factors to consider.


Legal- knowing town ordinance “legal setbacks” and related details are essential to planning, especially when considering wells, septic system and buildings.

Building permits require a clear, concise understanding of where limits are located.

Some of the elements involved in creating a sustainable home require local considerations such as laws governing boundary “setbacks” for building construction, wetland regulations, width and design of driveways, etc.


When it comes to wetlands, many folks find themselves in costly situations because they do not know the laws. We can help with this.

Home owners have a legal responsibility to help protect wetlands. A obtaining permit is required through a town’s Conservation Commission before any work can be performed within 100 - 200 feet of an existing wetland. Identification of a wetland requires input of certified wetland scientist.


Wildlife corridors are frequently overlooked by the landowner. These paths have likely been used for many years and even centuries before humans arrived and settled. Attempting to alter these can have negative results. Fortunately, the corridor to the north of our home has given frequently seen bears enough room to travel around our major use zones without conflict. We were lucky, since this was not by design.

Vegetative Cover

Tree type, understory and ground cover influence water movement, light and usage. As conditions change, so will vegetation. For example, most people think of their surrounding vegetation as a static component of the landscape, but it’s actually pretty dynamic. Even one tree’s being blown over by a storm can drastically alter light conditions on the ground, creating entirely new conditions for alternative native and non-native, perhaps invasive species. Vegetative cover influences our feelings about aesthetics, too. Some trees covered with vines as unsightly, but these vines could be serving an invaluable life-supporting system service to birds for cover and food.

Vegetative Cover influences the types and movement of wildlife.
Having large trees near the home may be problematic when extreme events occur.


Future Lands Designs, LLC., offers the unique Resilient Landscape Planning and Design (RLP&D) approach to recognize the role of Natural Capital (NC) in order to plan for changing conditions as you establish goals on your property.


Natural Capital (NC) includes the interaction of all life as well as climate, weather and natural resources that affect human survival and economic activity.