The first step we took in the permaculture design course was to identify our project sites. My project site is my home, a .22 acre corner lot near a bike route in Lebanon, Oregon. I then drew a base map of my home and property boundaries. The base map is the foundation of your entire design and is simply the current state of your site. This includes homes, driveways, sidewalks, bushes, trees, fences, ect. The base map also allows you to envision the entire site as you consider the bigger picture influences.
To get the measurements of the house and yard, I used a combination of the GoogleEarth ruler tool and an ordinary tape measure. The scale of my map is 1in = 10ft. On my map, the 25ft front yard is 2.5 inches long. By drawing everything to scale, I can better plan for quantities of materials and the space needed for all the different plants.
Some other things to include or consider are orientation and things influencing your site outside of your boundaries. Which direction is north? This is a must have so you can estimate the movement of the sun and seasonal wind patterns. Are there roads, huge trees, or power lines just outside of your site? These things may influence how you have to plan your plantings. Also, don’t forget to include all the windows and doors or gates in a fence.
I used a thick vellum for the base map because it is sturdy, handles erasing well, and displays well through drafting paper. My strategy was to make two base maps, one for my current yard, and one for the final design. By using drafting or tracing paper, I can make overlays that allow me to display different layers of information over the existing base map. The benefit of this is the ability to view multiple maps at once or to freely sketch without erasing. It also means that I only have to do the tedious measuring for the house and yard once on the base map.
Some good overlays to make right off the bat are the views and routes and labels for existing features. These overlays make good references throughout the design process
as they can help you utilize the natural flow, views, and functions of your structures and vegetation.