I visited the Botanical Gardens near to where I live recently. There was a sculpture exhibition on. My background is in the arts, so I was interested to see it. Some of it was good, but what really caught my eye was the number of bees buzzing around. Almost every flower I looked at had a bee on it.

I have been reading a book by Steve Benbow called “The urban beekeeper’ It is a very interesting read and quite inspiring, although beekeeping does sound like a rather involved and time-consuming hobby. My husband would love a bee hive in our garden. His mother had one when he was a teenager.

We were lucky enough to briefly have bees living in a birdbox in our neighbour’s garden this summer. We watched them flying over the fence all day long. They have moved out now but they fulled our interest in these vital and amazing creatures. Maybe next year we will take the plunge and get a hive of our own.

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‘What’s for dinner mum?’

The kids always come home from school starving hungry. They love to help me in the garden and the kitchen, but it is not always that helpful. I need to be in the mood to deal with the mess, the arguments about who does what and the general slowing-down that comes with children. I do try my best as I think it is really important that they understand where their food comes from and the effort that goes into producing good ingredients and wholesome seasonal foods for us to eat as a family.

Yesterday I sent them off down the garden to pick blackberries. They came back with a bowl full of shiny black fruits and purple stained faces and hands.  We picked a few Bramley apples too and made a crumble for tea. This is always a popular choice, especially when served with lots of hot custard. It feels really good to be able to provide for my family in this way, I wish i could do it more. My garden is developing well year on year so I hope to be able to pick and eat more from the garden with each season that passes.

The crumble was delicious, we topped it with a granola mix containing lots of nuts and seeds, even little S loved it. He is seven months old and just starting out on solid foods. I think he will be a good eater. Next autumn I expect he will be tottering down the garden too, to graze on the tomatoes and berries, just like his sisters do.

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Winter wood


A huge pile of wood has been chopped, split and stacked ready for winter. It is a very comforting and beautiful thing to have outside of your back door. As sad as I am to be saying goodbye to summer, I am looking forward to cosy evening in front of the log burner.

My garden in September 2013



Apples and more apples, plums, runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes, lots of bright red tiny chilis, lettuces, herbs, beautiful cut flowers, 3 eggs a day (from 10 chickens, 6 in lay)


Spicy lettuce mix


Planting some garlic. I usually do this in January but never have very good results, so perhaps an earlier start would work better for me.

Cutting paths in the meadow (actually a rather scruffy ‘wilderness’ area at the back of my plot) As every time I venture down there, I get stung by nasty nettles.

Tidying up in the greenhouse, it is acting as a dumping area at the moment, as the photo shows! I would like to get sorted out before the end of the month.


Feeling chilly in the early mornings and evenings now. I have started putting on socks and trainers or boots rather than spending everyday in my old-faithful sandals. Some days are still very hot though.

We lit the log burner for the first time this season yesterday, it was so cosy and warmed us up a treat. I need to get a fire guard as S was rather interested and will soon be mobile.

I have packed away the kids sun hats and suntan cream. Blankets on beds now and cosytoes onto the pushchair again. Only a few weeks ago we were sleeping uncovered, September is such a month of changes.

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Monday 16th Sept 2013

Sunny, windy and cloudy

Max temp 12 min 8

Sunrise 06.40  Sunset 19.18

Design tools

I thought it would be useful to revisit a number of Permaculture design tools before thinking about any particular project. I can then reflect on these tools and consider which I find to be the most useful and the best fit for my way of working. This can inform my work in the future and help me with time-management. On my PDC I learnt a lot of design tools and put some of them to use when working my own designs. My sketchbook has an interesting page listing lots of design tools, see below.

designtools sketchbook

simple design processThe action learning cycle

Permaculture design process at its most simple. I find it a useful reminder of the stages. Observe, Think, Design, Do. This then cycles on and on, continuously informing your practice.

This is similar to CEAP which I like because it reminds of the importance of applying Permaculture principles.

Collect site information
Evaluate the information
Apply Permaculture principles
Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation and tweaking

OBREDIMET    obredimet


An alternative is SADIMET Survey, Assess, Design, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate,Tweak

You could also use PASTE: Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools, Events, when carrying out the ‘survey’ or ‘observe’ stages to break this down further and give reminders of specifics to look for.

SWOC Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Constraints (or Challenges) could be useful to give a fast overview of a site, issue or idea. I think this one is good at focussing the mind!

I find these design tools very useful and even more so when you break them down into real tasks as the following photo shows. design process stage


Obtain a yield


It is mid September and the garden is still very productive. For dinner today we have had pasta with a sauce made from the garden. Tomatoes, courgette, peppers and chili all grown with a few metres of where they were eaten. I am going to miss the summer!


A cabin in the woods

cabin 2We have been borrowing a friend’s cabin in the woods close to where we live, for a number of years now. These cabins are tiny homes with basic facilities, glorified sheds really, but we love them so much. They do not have their own running water or toilet facilities but these are communal and located a short walk away from the cabin. The cabins are usually pretty old, wooden and widely vary in condition from total disrepair to well-loved and beautifully maintained. Owner’s can build onto their cabins with permission from the land owner. You pay for the cabin and then an additional ground rent each year. We have always admired these cabins and had long discussions and day-dreams about one day owning one ourselves. We have loved visiting for short breaks.  We always take a walk around to look at the abandoned cabins and talk endlessly about what we would do if we owned one.

This summer (2013) we spent ten days at the woods during a heat wave, it was wonderful. The kids loved the freedom, the swings in the woods and the squirrels on the doorstep. We loved the immediate access to nature, the lack of contact with the outside world and the peace and quiet. We found a lovely old cabin up for sale and began pondering. Anyway, cutting a long story short, it proved to be too much of a financial commitment for us. However, on talking it over with our friends, it transpired that they were looking for someone to share their cabin as they were not making full use of it. This would involve paying half the ground rent and taking on various maintenance and improvement jobs. We jumped at the chance!

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I thought that the revamp of the cabin would be an ideal Permaculture design project for me to use towards my Diploma. Having spent lots of time up at the cabin, I have done a far bit of ‘Observe and interact’ already. Usually in the form of daydreaming with cup of tea in hand and child on knee. Following soon will be some of my initial thoughts, structured using Permaculture design tools.

Permaculture Principles


Observe and interact

Catch and store energy

Obtain a yield

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback

Use and value renewable resources and services

Produce no waste

Design from patterns to detail

Integrate rather than segregate

Use small and slow solutions

Use and value diversity

Use edges and value the marginal

Creatively use and respond to change

Some of these Principles are easier than others to abide by. Ones that particularly resonated with me when I started my Permacuture journey are;

Use small and slow solutions; I am a hugely impatient person. As soon as I have had an idea, I tend to jump straight into it without due consideration. This has caused me all sorts of trouble in the past, so permaculture is teaching me to stop, think, consider and then act. Intelligent thought processes followed by considered action!

Use edges and value the marginal; I had never noticed before the abundance of life at the edges. Consider the seashore, the forest edge, the shallows of a pond or even the verge at the side of the road. So much grows and lives in these spaces where two different eco-systems meet. Just have a look as you are walking around today. Permaculture teaches us how we can use the willingness to grow to our best advantage.

Integrate rather than segregate. Organic gardening taught me a bit about companion planting but Permaculture takes this even further with guilds and forest gardens. When we take our lead from nature by looking at how plants grow together, we can group plants carefully to make lots of beneficial connections. Then not only do our gardens look better, but they grow more abundantly and provide us with a greater variety of foods. I much prefer this approach to the old-school allotment style of endless rows of segregated carrots, cabbages and potatoes.

Permaculture Ethics


Earth care

The Earth is a living, breathing entity. Without ongoing care and nurturing there will be consequences too big to ignore.

People care

If people’s needs are met in compassionate and simple ways, the environment surrounding them will prosper.

Fair shares

We are provided with times of abundance which enables us to share with others.


calendula in gardenMy baby boy had trouble with his skin this summer. In the hot and sticky days he got a heat rash that made him itchy and miserable. My good friend Andrea is a Naturopath working in New Zealand and she recommended I try Calendula cream on him. It worked amazingly well and as a natural product, it gets a big tick in my book.

I have been growing Calendula in my garden for a number of years now, I tend to let it self seed in the vegetable beds as I think its such a pretty and cheerful looking flower. I do love a flash of orange in the early autumn days. So I thought I would have a try at making my own products with Calendula and if it works well, I will grow more of it next year for use on the kids and myself.

calendulaI picked lots of flowers on a hot, dry morning and laid them out to dry in a warm place out of direct sunlight. So far the flowers have been drying for a week and I feel they need longer to lose all their moisture. Damp flowers make for potentially mouldy oils, yuk. Soon I will put my flowers into a kilner jar, cover them with olive oil or coconut oil. This then needs to sit in a warm sunny spot for about a month for the properties of the flowers to infuse into the oil. The flowers then get strained out by passing the oil through a muslin. The oil is then ready to use. Calendula is a beautiful and useful plant that definitely earns a place in my garden.