Seeds

Choosing seed seems to have taken on a new significance for me this year. With the threat of the monsters of Monsanto looming over us, it feels more important than ever before to make carefully considered decisions about buying, nurturing, swopping and saving seeds.

I am realising that seed saving is not only about thrifty gardening, but also about saving species of plants from extinction and retaining some small element of control over the seeds available and therefor the foods available for future generations.

IMG_7651

IMG_7652

I have been thinking long and hard about what I want to grow this year. My list of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ increases year upon year. I often decide not to bother with certain crops, namely the cheap and cheerful space-stealers like potatoes and carrots. But then I spot an unusual variety and am tempted to give it a try. As usual I expect I shall try to squeeze everything in somewhere even is its carrots in a rusty bucket or a few spuds planted under the broad beans.

DSC_0224

 

I am hoping to get a few new perennial vegetables this year. In the Permaculture garden perennials are key, as they offer maximum output for minimal input. I already grow rhubarb, jerusalem artichokes, sorrel and comfrey but this year  I want to increase my knowledge and range of perennial veg. I have my eye on some perennial ‘walking’ onions and the Babbington’s leek.  Both these plants seem to offer lots of different ways of eating them as well as having all the advantages of being perennial.  I also want to increase my stock of perennial herbs and find a good book or a course to learn more about how to use them in the kitchen and medicinally.

I love self seeding annual flowers in the vegetable beds and sow more of my favourites each year including, Nigella, Calendula, Nasturtiums, Ammi and Cosmos. No garden of mine would be complete without Sweetpeas. We had an amazing show of these last year and saved a lot of seed. I also grow a variety of purple podded pea and have saved these seeds for the last three or four years. They have a lovely purple flower followed by a mange tout type pea. they look great mixed in with sweetpeas or are a good alternative If you want to concentrate purely on edibles.

DSC_0225

Lots of seed catalogues have been dropping through our post box over the last few weeks. It would be easy to spend a fortune. I have a long list, I just need to narrow it down significantly. Whichever seeds I do eventually choose, I shall try to support ethical producers and I will be saving, swapping and enjoying these seeds for many years to come. How could anyone ever dream of stopping us from doing that?

IMG_7662

1532127_801652046527972_56482581_n

Advertisements

Photos from this week

IMG_7526

IMG_7472

IMG_7470

IMG_7464

IMG_7528

IMG_7529

IMG_7527

IMG_7552

IMG_7471

Signs of life

Seagulls

Muddy puddles

Reflected sky

Frosty

Pruning

Little fluffy clouds

Evening on the park

Tree hugger

Ten designs – Planning my Diploma Pathway

IMG_7638

I have been thinking about my diploma pathway and the ten designs that I need to  produce. Recently, while looking at the principle of ‘Design from pattern to detail’ I have looked at the whole of 2014 and tried to map out what I would like to achieve each month. I decided to see where I could apply one Permaculture principle each month in my learning, thinking, reading and activity. The wheel of the year diagram below shows the principle and the planned activities for each month. I have planned quite thoroughly for January to June and more vaguely for the second half of the year. I will keep adding to this sheet as new ideas occur to me.

DSC_8554

I have considered what type of designs I would like to be involved in. I have had a rough plan in my head for a while now and have done a lot of brainstorming on this subject. I have designed the image below to resemble a bee hive cell. Bees are amazingly productive creatures who work together to secure a future for the whole of their community. So I thought this shape was rather apt for Permaculture planning!  As a result of using this shape, I have ended up with 12 planned designs rather than 10. This is fine for now, as I will either have a few designs in reserve that I work on but don’t use towards my diploma, or as is more likely, my ideas will change dramatically before the end of the diploma and this design will be superceded by another.

DSC_8559

I have divided the diploma into 6 sections, these are general areas that I am interested in working within. They are; personal development, growing food, designing for a client, building skills, community projects and career possibilities. I have planned a two stage approach, one small design and one larger design within each of the 6 areas.

For example, ‘Building skills’ Stage one – The cabin. I will create a design that improves the space within and immediately outside the cabin. This will probably involve some basic DIY that I will have lots of help with from experienced home DIYers. Stage two – Garden building. I will design and (hopefully) make a small studio that serves a multitude of uses from a spare bedroom for guests to a space to run a home business from.

I am aiming for my stage one projects to start small and equip me with skills that I can then take forward to bigger more ambitious projects and designs in stage two. I feel that this is a good diploma design for me for the time being. It feels like it has structure but has also evolved naturally around my ambitions and interests. I am open to this completely changing as I progress through the diploma, we will see where life takes me!

IMG_6290

A night in the woods

We decided yesterday afternoon to go to the cabin for the night. I grabbed a bag of clothes, packed some food and collected the girls from school. Rushing to beat the traffic, we dashed out of the city to spend a few precious hours amongst the trees. The sun was setting as we arrived. I had a brief, peaceful walk to take some photos. Then we lit candles, played scrabble and cards, ate a simple dinner and had an early night. Bliss.

IMG_7563 IMG_7568 IMG_7572 IMG_7569 IMG_7564

50

I have reached my 50th post. Wow, that came around quickly!IMG_7514

I thought this would be a good time to say thank you to all you lovely people who have visited and commented on my blog. There is not that many of you but the number is growing all the time, which is reassuring! I am quite a private person so I have found it weird to put my ideas and thoughts out into the wide world. I have however loved the challenge of blogging regularly and I have especially enjoyed the push blogging gives me to keep on moving forward with my Permaculture diploma. It is also great to have a forum in which to show my photographs.

The aim of this blog is to record progress for my Permaculture Diploma and show how the things that I am learning about Permaculture relate to my life. I will be producing ten designs over the next few years and will track my progress here. I also intend to keep on doing a garden update each month and regularly share my photographs.

Finally I wanted to mention a few blogs that have inspired me with their wonderful sustainable lifestyles, beautiful photographs, insite into organic gardening or Permaculture and great writing styles. Many thanks Em xx

Our ash grove

Soulemama 

Milkwood

Chris Condello

Lulastic

Beltaine cottage

Winter interest in the garden

My garden is looking very brown and boring this month. Not a lot is happening in January. I walk through the garden twice a day to take care of the chickens. The kids run around in the mud and I often drift out there with a cup of tea to get some fresh air and a moment of peace and quiet. So I would like it if there was more to look at. I have been considering ways to add interest to the garden during the winter months. The photos show some of my ideas. They were taken on a visit to a local park.

IMG_7515

Use plants with architectural stems that look stark and beautiful against the winter sky

DSC_8480

Include plants that flower in the winter

DSC_8479

Variegated leaves add colour

DSC_8478

Think about contrasting forms and textures

DSC_8477

Add splashes of bright colour

DSC_8475

Leave seed heads standing

DSC_8470

Use plants with coloured stems

DSC_8469

Use plants with berries, these are good for wildlife and great to look at

DSC_8461

Look for plants with interesting branch forms

DSC_8465

Plant winter flowering trees

DSC_8463

Get up close and enjoy the tiny details

Patterns I have noticed

My principle for this month is Design from pattern to detail. I have been trying to keep this in mind while I go about my daily business and I have been looking for patterns in nature when I am out and about. Here are some of the things that I noticed when I was walking yesterday.

DSC_8465

The branching pattern is everywhere. Tree trunks and branches, the ribs of leaves, streams and rivers, paths through the woods. It is even inside our own bodies. We can use this pattern to design paths through gardens that are functional and minimise space wastage.

We could also use this principle to plot our journeys through time or plan our projects. Start big and gradually fill in the details. For example if you were designing a new border in your garden you could use the branching pattern to structure your thinking.

1. Start with thinking why you wanted this new border and consider an overall picture of what you wanted to achieve (the base and trunk)                                                                2. Draw a base map of the space/study soil type/ consider orientation (the primary branches)                                                                                                                           3. Add some ideas for plant types/size/purpose/colour (The secondary branches)              4. Consider the actual plants you want (the smaller branches)                                             5. Finally think about placements of plants and companion planting. (the twigs)

DSC_8458

Nature always provides something interesting and beautiful to look at. Even in the depths of winter when the woods initially seem very brown and dull, if you look closely you can find something wonderful. I need to improve the winter interest in my garden and intend to do a post about this very soon.

DSC_8453

People and animals will often take the most direct route. In the woods near my house there are hard paths that create a triangle around a clearing. Most people cut straight across the clearing as it is the quickest route, even though it means having to veer off the path and get muddy. I need to remember this when designing paths. I read something about this too recently. In a building development, the designer didn’t make paths until the housing complex had been lived in for a while. He then went back and noted where people had walked by seeing the muddy paths their footfall had created. He then created paths that followed these lines. A great and simple solution I thought. In my garden I can definitely see a few places where there is a muddy trail through the grass, that is telling me we need a path putting in!

DSC_8450

There is no such thing as waste in nature. Everything is recycled into food or habitat for something else. A fallen tree becomes a home for insects and a host for moss and fungi. Ivy grows up it and a thousand tiny organisms work on it, slowly decomposing it and returning it to the soil.  I need to consider how I can use these patterns of cycling in my garden and make it more self-sufficient.

DSC_8448

In the woods there was practically no bare soil. The surface was covered with plant life or leaf litter. Mulching, ground cover and no-dig methods are following nature much more closely than the traditional autumn tidy-up and dig over. I have been mulching my vegetable beds for the last year or so and have abandoned digging. It is easier on the gardener’s back as well as being more effective. Mulching increases fertility, retains moisture and reduces weeds. By taking our lead from natures patterns we can make our gardens more fruitful and more beautiful.