This week I had an Induction into my Diploma in applied Permaculture design. It took place at my tutor’s house, Hannah Thorogood. She is a senior tutor and a very lovely lady. I met two of my fellow apprentices, Heidi and John. they seemed great too and I will be meeting with them every six weeks or so throughout the process to discuss our designs, our progress and help each other out. We call this a ‘guild’ in Permaculture lingo. IMG_7100Part of Hannah’s garden.

We discussed the structure of the course and looked at ideas for the sort of designs we would like to work on. We have to complete ten designs and document the processes we go through with reference to Permaculture ethics, principles and design tools. I am excited to be making a start and feel like I have a clear view now of what is expected of me.

I am hoping to start four designs during 2014 and complete 1 or 2 of them. Then I’d like to start a further 2 designs each year and aim to complete my diploma in 2017. That seems such a long way off! I don’t want to rush this process as I feel I am going to really enjoy it. Also, fitting in the time to study, design and implement my ideas will be a struggle with three young kids to wrangle too, so I’d rather take my time with the process, enjoy the journey and be able to take advantage of opportunities that may arise along the way.

We were encouraged to start by considering our journey to Permaculture and where we would like it to take us. I came home and drew the mind map below. I have depicted my journey as a river and noted the significant related events that led me to where I am now. I have also added a rough plan of where I’d like to go with the diploma over the next four years or so. I am sure this will change dramatically once I actually start the diploma. Who knows what their life will look like four years down the line? Exciting times ahead!


My Permaculture journey river.

My garden in November


Harvesting There is not much left to harvest in the garden other than a little bit of salad and of course apples. The later eating apples are ready, we had a few bags, then the storm tumbled the rest of them to the floor. The chickens are enjoying them. The same happened with the eating apples. We have had some but I just don’t have the freezer space to make lots of apple puree like I usually do. I don’t have the time either to be honest.

Planting Daffodil bulbs to line the paths in the spring

Thinking I am struggling to get everything done at the moment. The kids are demanding, I am preparing for doing my first few days work since S was born and I want to get going on my Permaculture diploma too. It all feels a bit too much and I feel over stretched. I think this time of year often feels a little like this. The dark evenings are not my most productive time.

Feeling Tired and ill. The hibernation instinct has set in slightly this week. We all have coughs and colds so are staying close to home and bundled up warm. Feeling worried about my camera. It has broken and looks like it will be too expensive to fix, hence the hipstamatic i phone pictures this week. Feeling pleased that I managed to get my raised beds sorted, one thing to tick off the to-do-list!

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Weather stats Tuesday 19th November 2013

Cold and clear sunny day. First real frost was this morning.

Sunrise 07.33    Sunset 16.06

Max temp 5        Min temp -1

Maximising edge – My garden raised beds

In my posts of last week I talked about edges and got slightly pre-occupied with photographing beautiful edges where one material met another. In the woods I noticed this tree stump with fungi all around the edge, 360 degree edge action! IMG_6944

I decided to run with this obsession and this week I have been working hard in the garden adding another level of boarding to my raised beds to maximise the edges and allow me to add a layer of mulch to these beds over the winter.

We made these beds early this year in the centre of our garden after taking down our dilapidated poly tunnel. The beds get lots of sunshine and were very productive this summer. However, due to a lack of funds, they were not really very ‘raised’ They were one decking board high and now they are two! I am pleased to have done all the work myself and i loved a little uninterrupted garden time creating something, it is so satisfying.


I used decking boards for the edges, pieces of old timber we had knocking around for the stakes, screws, a lump hammer, a drill, a saw, a tape measure and a ruler.


Before I started, the edges looked like this. I have added a paved path between each bed since they were made, so the level in between the beds has risen, leaving just a small lip between bed and edge. This was fine for year 1 but now I wanted to add material to the beds to increase fertility so more space was required. The decking boards were on sale in my local hardware shop so it seemed like a good time to tackle this little project.


The beds now look like this, much more like raised beds should!


I have gone on to do the same to the other five beds, so now all six beds are looking pretty smart. I have added various materials as a mulch. I used materials that I had available, I would be interested to hear what other people use to mulch their beds and what works best for increasing yields, reducing weeds and retaining water.  I have used old compost from pots of summer crops, fallen leaves, straw from the chicken housing, newspaper and the contents of the compost bins.

Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool ZONES


Zone 00 – The person or people involved. – My family, the other family and visitors. The cabin sleeps up to 7 or 8 people at a squash in 2 double beds and a large sleeping platform for numerous children to squeeze into together. We usually use the cabin as 2 families of 5 people each. We can fit 5 people around the table and on the sofas.

Zone 0 – The centre of activity – The cabinIMG_6821Part of the inside of the cabin, zone 0 (More photos of the inside are below)

The cabin has basic facilities for sitting, eating, cooking, washing and sleeping. The toilet and showering facilities are a short walk away. The cabin sits on a pot approximately       46 X 30 ft and the cabin itself measures  26 X 11 ft. It faces south-west.

Zone 1 – Close to the house and intensively used – Deck and sheds.     IMG_6815The cabin, zone 0 and the deck, zone 1

We store all manner of useful things in the sheds, bikes, BBQ, building materials we are hording that will come in useful one day. The deck is used for sitting in the sunshine, watching the children playing, reading the paper etc. There is a bench (rotten and falling to pieces) and a table and chairs where we eat meals if the weather is kind to us. The deck is made of wood, it is slightly too narrow to seat us all comfortably and it is un-edged, leaving us anxious that baby S will crawl over and fall down the 4 foot drop to the front garden. The deck is open to the sky providing no protection from the rain or sun. We store our boots and shoes here in a huge plastic box with a lid.

Zone 2 – Close to house, managed and used regularly – Front garden.                 The view from the deck looks out to a tiny front garden where we have a fire-pit. The area has scruffy grass, numerous trees on the boundary (See map) and some rambling roses. We have a paved path up one side of the garden leading from the gate to the steps up to the deck and further along the side of the cabin to the sheds and back door. There is a dry stone wall that requires attention along one side with the neighbours. We have put up a washing line alongside the path.

Zone 3 – Semi-managed and used less often – Immediately outside our boundary. IMG_6819Zone 3 looking towards zone 4

There is a space to park our car and a few trees where we have made a swing for the kids. There are neighbouring cabins on either side, one is well used, the other is well-kept but I have never seen anyone there.

Zone 4 – Semi-managed/ semi-wild area. The grassy area and young woodland. Then an open aspect sloping grassed area, a line of trees then a larger sloping field that has recently been planted with lots of native trees. This slopes down gently for maybe 500 metres to a stream, then gardens and one row of house then the road.

Zone 5 – Wilderness. – The woods.                                                                                The woods are a 1 minute walk away from our front door. It is a mixed woodland surrounding an old slate quarry. the quarry pit is filled up with water and fenced off from visitors. The woodland consists of lots of oak trees, brambles, honeysuckle, some holly, silver birch and hawthorn trees. The woods are carpeted by bluebells in May. The woods are open to the public and well used by dog walkers, mountain bikers, horse riders and walkers.

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Our cabin in the woods. Observations using design tool PASTE

This is our cabin, our tiny home-from-home in the woods. We have recently started sharing it with another family and are we are more than a little bit in love with it. It is on a site with maybe 60 other cabins dotted around the border of a wood. It is a 20 minute drive from our house but feels like another world to escape into.


We have used it quite a lot recently. We had a lovely day there at the weekend wandering around the golden woods and admiring the autumn colours. We had four nights there over half term. The little kids and I are going up there once every week for lunch after our Forest school session which is nearby. And my husband and his friends used it for their ‘Man camp’ They meet up every year for a boys weekend of camping, walking, talking and beer drinking. They were due to go further afield and sleep under canvas but the forecast was grim so they opted for real beds, cooking facilities and a wood burner instead of muddy fields and damp tents – a good decision.


We have been visiting the cabin for about five years. We have borrowed it from our friends for the occasional weekend as detailed in my previous post called a cabin in the woods (Sept 2013)

I have started the observation stage of my design for the cabin. I have used PASTE

PASTE (Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools, Events)

PLANTS Native woodland, largely Oak trees, also Beech, Silver Birch, Holly, Bracken, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Bluebells and Rambling Roses.  Some open grassed areas.

ANIMALS Squirrels, foxes, mice, people, dogs, horses, birds, insects.

STRUCTURES Wooden cabin build largely from recycled materials. No insulation, scavenged windows, some rotten wood. Space for sleeping, eating, cooking, playing, sitting etc. Water tank, gas cooker, wood-burner. Two sheds and a wooden deck with wood storage underneath. Paved paths.

TOOLS Various materials for future building projects, windows, paving slabs, breeze-blocks, wood. Some tools for basic carpentry jobs. No electricity/ mains water or mains gas. My husband, J and the other owners, V and S have good DIY skills and are keen to work on the cabin. Not much money available.

EVENTS We use the cabin for a retreat from our normal lives. We are aiming to come up here for regular weekends away, half term holidays and a longer break during the summer. The aim is to switch off from the busy outside world and relax and enjoy a simpler life. That is sometimes a struggle with three children to contend with. If it was just J and I, we would happily just eat, sleep read and walk but the kids do seem to need more than that! We have found that if we invite friends or family up to the cabin too, the children are happier and more content. The space is small, so that can get rather squashed.

Photos from this week


Mushrooms in the woods, Alice in Wonderland style. So pretty but so dangerous!


An after school snack of greek yogurt and strawberry puree served with love.


I am grateful to have a husband who likes collecting and chopping wood! We have a big stack ready to warm us through the winter. We have managed not to put on the central heating until November. Our house faces south with a wall of glass on the south side, so a little bit on sunshine helps to heat our house for free with the fabulous solar gain.


Searching for colour in the autumn garden I came across the rainbow chard shining in the afternoon sunshine. I love the way the ribs look like the branches of a tree. A great example of the branching pattern in nature.


Two new chickens joined the flock. They are a breed called Rangers and they have been called Margo and Edith. They are laying us large brown eggs every day. We needed the boost in egg production as most of our birds are either too old, too young or pretty but unproductive breeds. I love them anyway. I put down a layer of bark in their run this week as they had churned up the mud and looked rather sorry for themselves.


Trying to fit everything in before the sun goes down is getting increasingly difficult. We are heading rapidly towards the shortest day. The winter solstice is often a significant day for me, I got engaged on that date and I am pretty sure my eldest was conceived on the winter solstice!  I don’t expect anything of significance will happen this year?


Blue sky and autumn leaves, always a winning combination.


A crown of leaves at Forest school.


Have a good weekend everyone.


I love Bonfire Night. The smell of wood fires, hot soup and jacket potatoes, excited kids with sparklers and the oohh’s and aarrr’s as the rockets are set off. This year we decided to for-go the big organised event and instead met up yesterday in a friends garden with The Woodcraft Folk. We had a blazing fire, hot chocolate, a cheesy sing-song and sparklers.

Last weekend we invited the neighbours over for dinner and a little homespun celebration. We laid out the food in the greenhouse and lit a bonfire at the bottom of our garden. We use an old washing machine drum as a fire pit. It is ideal for this and a great way of re-purposing something which otherwise would be thrown away.

We all sat around on tree stumps eating our tasty autumnal food then had sparklers and a few fireworks. The kids had a great time and enjoyed staying up late and dashing around in the dark. There is something quite primal and powerful about bonfires and fireworks. I find it important to celebrate the heat and light that we get from a fire as we are heading into the dark times of winter. 2013-10-26 19.00.492013-10-26 19.14.06 2013-10-26 19.10.292013-10-26 19.50.41 2013-10-26 19.50.53


This week started with me spilling a cup of tea onto my computer keyboard. Despite my desperate attempt to revive it, it appears to have given up the ghost. I have a real aversion to buying things brand new and a new mac keyboard would be around £60! So I have borrowed an iPad while I hunt online for a secondhand keyboard.
Despite this bad start to the week, I have had a productive few days and made a lot of connections that I feel will be useful to me in the futureDSC_0061

Forest school I have been interested in Forest schools for quite a while and have finally found one locally that does a pre-school session on a day that suits us. The kids enjoyed the session and I met some like-minded mums. I think we will make it a regular thing, especially now that my outdoor play group, Muddy Boots, has come to an end for the winter season

The Woodcraft Folk -A new colleague of my husband is setting up a Woodcraft Folk group for 3 -10 year olds. We had a bad experience with the Beavers (a story for another time) so we thought we would try out the Woodcraft Folk. I like their ethos and the group were very welcoming. They are having a firework party next week that we are looking forward to attending. Eldest daughter in particular loved the session and it will be fun having something that we can all attend together. It is just slightly too far away from our house and slightly too late for the kids to be ideal, but we will see how it goes.
The Primary school garden – I spent a fun afternoon volunteering at my daughter’s school garden helping to build a poly tunnel. we used to have a poly tunnel in our garden that we had made ourselves out of scaffolding poles, water pipes and wood. that was significantly easier to put together than the flat packed logistical nightmare that the school had ordered! I have volunteered to help out once a week with the gardening club next spring, eldest daughter is very excited about that and actually, so am I! <
Returning to work– before I had baby boy, I did some work for a local secondary school, teaching traditional photography and darkroom skills to teenagers. I have been asked to do a few 2 day workshops over the coming months, so i am very pleased about that.
Facebook and Permaculture Diploma group – as long-term Facebook avoider. i find the idea of sharing my life with lots of people very odd. I am struggling with this with my blog too and trying to stay at least slightly under the radar. I have set up a Nurture Green Facebook page and have joined the permaculture diploma group, hello everyone! I think this will be a useful source of advice and inspiration. So a very productive week all in all, despite the expensive tea spillage incident