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From trauma to restoration

On Halloween night in 1995 I found myself in the emergency room with a high fever for the third time in three nights. The previous two nights, using IVs, they had rehydrated me and sent me home. I don't remember what happened the third time but was told I was uncooperative and delirious. Eight days and twenty-five pounds lighter I left the hospital under my own power and headed home. My hair falling out, skin shedding of the top of my mouth, and feeling I had dodged a bullet. I was never diagnosed, though the doctor had given me a heavy dose of ciprofloxacin to basically kill off all the bacteria wherever it may be in my body. While getting ready to leave, one of the nurses suggested I go see a doctor she knew that specialized in gut health. Doctor Kevin Wand, who is now in private practice in Bloomington, Minnesota never prescribed me any drugs. He did, however, say that I needed to learn what real food was. Soon after I started buying unpackaged and then unprocessed food at a local co-op, I began to realize how expensive real food actually is. The next year I reinvented my diet and shopping habits. By the next winter I was back skiing, coaching downhill racers, winter camping, and backpacking (with my own food). 


In summer I began growing peppers and tomatoes in my backyard and it was then that I realized the flavor of home grown vegetables was much greater compared to anything bought at the store. Ironically, I had been a food photographer and packaged designer for about 20 years. I was also the cook in the house. 


In 1999 I learned about permaculture and sustainable farming practices. In 2004 we had an opportunity to buy a small farm in Prior Lake, MN. Encouraged by permaculture learning circles in Minneapolis I began to develop my small farm in earnest. Reading, watching videos (then on DVDs).  In 2006 I received my certification in Permaculture design and later decided to finish my old bachelor’s degree and then get a master’s degree in horticulture to fill in some of the gaps from previous Permaculture studies. 


As an adult student I had the run of the UMN campus and took only classes that filled my needs for understanding the topics we learned in the PDC and to move in developing the design process. Here is a link to my old blog with college course recommendations.  My Masters program focus was to develop a design system using ecological functions of soil and plants as the foundation for my design process. In a sense taking all the landscape design skills I had learned in college and transferring them to ecological logic rather than aesthetics.  This started my ecological design journey before I even got my degrees in 2010 and 2012. After designing a dozen community gardens with a new Mandala layout and small residential projects, it didn’t take long to get noticed. I started to travel the USA hired by well-known designers that liked my design style. 


The design process I use and teach is based on a progressive assessment and design program for gathering the needed data and building the design from patterns to details. It is a disciplined focus to be well informed and make decisions in a defined order of importance. Basically following Yeoman’s Scale of Permanence, combined with David Holmgren’s 12 Permaculture Principles, and my own progressive design process.  


Using my design process I have been fortunate and was hired to work multiple times in Western Africa, South Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Northern Europe, Hawaii, Canada, the Caribbean islands, and Nepal.  From cucumbers to Coffee and Cacao, subsistence farming is what feeds 80% of the world’s people. My calling is to help farmers and homesteaders grow as much as they can while building their soils and ecology to its best potential and reducing the stress on the land and the steward. For that to be successful I am building a team of seasoned designers and specialists with the expertise to deliver well supported design strategies. It is my next phase in the progression of global design solutions. United Designers the source of expertise. 


United Designers is founded by teams of designers working locally and internationally to develop the best ecological strategies while constantly building their own expertise in the process. We work together, share the experience, share the revenue, and build our teams.

Part of building that team is training more designers in the design process, inviting them to assist in project tasks and bring them on as full project partners. This is done with on-site trainings and on-line courses.. 


My hope is to continually build the design teams on all continents to accelerate our influence on improved restorative and regenerative practices. Join us with building your expertise, training for professional skills, and begin your journey in an amazing lifestyle and career through ecological design on a global scale.

Thank you and listen to your nurse.

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Academic Track for Ecological Design

In the past, I have advised current and prospective students about their coursework and permaculture.  Below is the self directed track for my BS program in permaculture design. It was called Temperat


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