Influences Nov 2014- May 2015

Today sees me finally getting around to posting the third installment of my ‘Influences’ posts. This post covers what I have been up to over the past 7 months. During this time the Diploma designs that I have been working on are, My health and well-being and South Leicester food group. I have also been busy with running Muddy Boots allotment playgroup and training as a Forest School Leader. 

COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

The six month health and nutrition programme that I started last summer called ‘Eat smile live’ came to an end in December. I also did a 30 day Spring cleanse with the same company during April and May. I learnt loads and made lots of new meals and have sustainably changed my diet for the better.

I took part in the Vegan January challenge, attending various events locally and being part of the FB forum. I managed the transition from Veggie to Vegan pretty easily and I am still eating a diet that is around 90% vegan to date.

I am still involved in helping to facilitate the PDC in Leicester. I did some of the publicity for the event and designed this poster. perm flyer with logos jpeg

 

I attended the first three PDC sessions but have pulled back a little from helping out over the next few months due to being rather overwhelmed with other work and short on time. I hope to get more involved again after the summer holidays.

I began my Level 3 Forest School Leader training in March and am loving it. The course takes around a year to complete and involves practical taught sessions, practical assessments, lots of written assignments and the facilitation of 6 sessions of Forest school. It is taking up a lot of my time and head space, I plan on using Permaculture to help me to plan my 6 sessions and a taster session I have planned for June. I have wanted to do this course for many years so am thrilled to have made a start. The photo shows us all looking exhausted at the end of our tools, knots and den making assessment day.

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I attended a two day Outdoor first aid course in April. It was a requirement of my Forest School training course, but was actually very interesting and useful for lots of areas of my life. I spend a night away from home, staying in a tiny room in a youth hostel, which was a real change for me, I have hardly spent a night away from my children or husband in 9 years!

EVENTS

This week I went on a wild food walk in a local Arboretum organised as part of National Vegetarian week. It was a lovely day and I saw lots of familiar faces there including some people who I’d studied Permaculture with over the years. The event re-inspired me to make the most of wild greens and I discovered some new uses for edibles in my garden, some of which I had previously considered to be weeds.

I attended the Permaculture Diploma accreditation of Reevsie. I was on his peer accreditation panel. After watching his presentation we had to discuss his designs and provide him with feedback. It was an interesting experience and great to see Reevsie complete his Diploma.

I am meeting regularly with six other families as part of the South Leicester food group  (I really need to come up with a more catchy name for this!) We have a shared meal, the kids play together, we share recipes and we order from Suma. The ordering process needs more work as it is rather long-winded currently. I am working on a diploma write-up about this group. Its been lovely connecting with a group of people, some of who are new friends for me and my children. We had a lovely day together recently enjoying good food, good company, and good weather! IMG_6668

I have taken part in three muddy runs, The Wolf Run in November, The Reaper in March and The Iron Run in May. Each of these invlved a 10KM run, lake swims, obsticles, mud pits and loads of fun. It is like being a kid again and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to find motivation for inproving their health and fitness. I have another run scheduled in for two weeks time, this time taking along my sister, I can’t wait! 11206608_10152818719262045_7253652698380650693_o

GUILDS

I set up a guild group at then end of 2014, especially for people who wanted to guild on weekday daytimes. Lots of the other local guilds are evenings and weekends and these times are not possible for me. We met up three times and chatted and ran through the four questions. The group seems to have rather fizzled out currently. I was a little fed up of being the person pushing for it to happen, so decided to sit back and see if anyone else made the effort. They haven’t! I am so busy at the moment that I can’t take on the leadership of the group so will let it do dormant for a while and see what happens in the autumn when people typically have more time for reflection.

JOBS

I taught two three day Photography workshops in December and January to year 8 and year 7 students. That was good fun as always. I have recently started one-to-one teaching a teenager on the Autistic spectrum. I see her every monday and we take photographs, use the darkroom,visit the museum and galleries and are planning a photography exhibition together. She is fantastic and I really enjoying the calm pace and responsive way that I need to interact with her.

My Muddy Boots Outdoor playgroup is going from strength to strength. I put the price up this year and I finally take home a little money! This feels great after doing it totally voluntarily for 3 years. I am fully booked with a long waiting list so am exploring the idea of running a second weekly session. IMG_6620

BOOKS

My obsession with healthy cook books continues. I get a lot of enjoyment from a shiny new cookbook! I am cooking lots from the books below and feel I am finally beginning to master the art of meal planning! IMG_6678 IMG_6679 IMG_6680 IMG_6681 IMG_6682

I have not been able to continue helping out with the gardening club at my children’s school this year. I am too busy and I also felt rather under valued there. I have so many skills to offer the school but I am not willing to give these away for free forever! I enjoyed spending time there but have realised that if I spread myself too thinly, then all aspects of my life suffer. I can’t do everything all the time, so sadly I declined to help out this year. Maybe another year I can resume my work at school, hopefully in a respected and paid role next time around. I enjoyed reading this book below and would love to design a school garden one day. Maybe I will do this as a fantasy design?  IMG_6677

This book was on my Christmas list and I really enjoyed it. I loved the way the chapters were divided up like zones and the recipes look interesting. IMG_6676

I have had a quick flick through this but not read it cover to cover yet. I have pretty much decided that I don’t want to teach PDC’s, at least not to adults. I don’t feel I have the depth of knowledge. I am very interested in the idea of doing a PDC for teenagers, children or family groups, so will keep this idea bubbling away on the back-burner and see what comes of it in the future. IMG_6674

I have been going through a bit of a desert island phase lately. I re-read all three of Lucy Irvine’s books. Castaway is one of my all time favourites. I am learning about den making, knot tying, firelighting etc at FS training, so it was interesting to read about these skills in real life or death situations! I also watched The Island with Bear Grilles and enjoyed that a lot. I think I would cope on a desert island as long as I had a good supply of water, plenty of coconut trees and somewhere comfortable to sleep! IMG_6673

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South Leicester food group. Diploma design write up 1

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BACKGROUND TO THE DESIGN

I have been wanting to do a design around how I plan, buy, prepare and share foods with my family and friends. This carries on from the my health and wellbeing design that I have been working on for the past year. I have learnt so much from the previous design and met some great people along the way. I have been speaking with some of these people about setting up a food group concerned with making bulk food orders and coming together regularly to share meals, recipes and ideas around healthy eating.

I have set up a group with six other women, all parents of young children like myself. The diets eaten by this group of women are quite diverse, encompassing vegans, veggies, meat eaters, wholefoodists, grow-you-own gardeners and keen cooks. What we all have in common is a great love of fresh healthy wholefoods and an interest in feeding our families the best possible diets from an ethical source and at a price that we can afford.

So this design aims to look at how to create a sustainable design for our group to order food in a co-operative manner and to meet up regularly to plan this and share meals. Most of my designs to date have been long, drawn out processes in the planning and writing up stages. I wanted this design to be different so have set myself a limit of ten hours writing up and ten hours meeting with the group to plan. I used the design process OBREDIMET as I am comfortable with it already and plan on using design tools that I am familiar with to use my time efficiently.

OBSERVATIONS

Via our Facebook group and over informal discussions at meet ups we discussed our current shopping habits, the changes we wanted to make and why we had wanted to be involved in this group. I pulled this info together in the brainstorms shown below.

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BOUNDARIES 

The group was formed with the intention of ordering from Suma http://sumawholesale.com We decided to jump straight in and place our first order deliberately without applying a design to how we ordered. People were in a hurry to order and I thought it would be interesting to be able to see the difference in ease of ordering with and without a consciously applied design process. The first order was placed in early April and we met up again late April to reflect on how we had found the process so far and plan for the future. I used the fact-finding tool ‘Gives, gains, grins and groans’ ( which I had used before in a Muddy Boots design after originally adapting it from a tool suggested by Looby Macnamara in her fab book, People and Permaculture) to find out lots of info in a quick and easy manner about how people had found the process of ordering. This info was then reformatted as boundaries and resources.

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EVALUATION 

I then carried out a brief evaluation of what we/I had done so far and made a plan for what to do next.

A brief evaulation of how the first order had gone was also carried out with the group and is reflected upon in boundaries and resources. To summarise, the food is great, but the ordering took hours and dividing up individual orders on delivery day was a nightmare.

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DESIGN

We decided that the design should have five key functions; the details of how to make each goal SMART is still a work in progress at this point.

1. For the ordering of food from Suma to be straightforward to manage and for responsibility to be shared out amongst group members.

2. For the delivery be easy to receive and manageable to divide up on delivery day.

3. For us to meet up regularly (once a month?) to place orders/ collect items/ discuss ideas and have socials with shared meals. (I wonder about also introducing the idea of guilding with this group of wonderful women?)

4. To expand the potential of the group to include shared group cooking days, apple juicing, jam making etc

5. To share useful resources around the group (such as meal planners, recipes, book recommendations etc)

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The next thing I will do is look at functions and elements and PNI possible ways of achieving the key functions.

 

Twelve principles for twelve months – May – Diversity

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles.           I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the Principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. May – Diversity

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This photograph shows the diversity of berries that we are growing in our garden. We have lots of soft fruit; strawberries, wild strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, red currants, raspberries, white currants and blackberries. This provides us with many weeks worth of successional cropping when its possible to pick a handful of berries to decorate the morning cereal. This was an intentional part of my garden design, I didn’t need rows and rows of the same berry, but instead dotted lots of different berry plants around the garden, taking advantage of the different niches that were available.

QUOTATIONS

Today I have taken all of my quotations from websites. On googling ‘Diversity, Permaculture’ so much useful information came to light. If any of my readers want to learn more on this fascinating subject, then a quick google search or follow the links below should provide you with a wealth of information.

Permaculture designs should always try to incorporate a wide variety of plants, animals and approaches. This is not just for the sake of it, but because diversity can act like an insurance policy – if one crop fails, another may succeed. Even within an orchard there will be a diversity of different varieties. Take apples as an example. A healthy diverse orchard will contain early flowering, late flowering, eaters, and cookers. If an early frost gets some, others will be popping out flowers later on.                                                           Permaculture Association website https://www.permaculture.org.uk/

Permaculture design aims for as much diversity and variety as possible. It is the exact opposite to conventional agriculture, which relies on huge monocultures and struggles with all the associated problems.                                          http://www.tropicalpermaculture.com

…the design principle of Diversity shows us that, just like in Nature, when we combine many plant species together that have a beneficial relationship to one other, they in fact grow better, produce higher yields, resists pests and diseases and are overall much more resilient in such a system. When we include animals in our design and place them where they can work harmoniously with the rest of the system, we further gain many more benefits from the synergy created. The most important point to remember with the design principle of diversity is that what is important is the total number of functional relationships between elements in the design, not the total number of elements themselves                   deepgreenpermaculture.com

APPLICATIONS

The important of having a wide diversity of different types of plants in your garden is well documented in Permaculture. One way that I like to apply this thinking is through the creation of ‘Guilds’ Guilds are groupings of plants that are carefully considered and planted close together to support each other’s growth. I have various guilds set up in my garden and at the community allotment. I wrote about an apple tree guild I created a few years ago here https://nurturegreen.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/reflections-on-april/

CHALLENGE

A challenge that I am currently facing is how to manage the diversity in my working life. Permaculture has taught me that a diverse career is a stable one. I have developed a poly-income for myself, which is rewarding but can prove tricky. This spring as well as raising three children and running a household I am teaching photography, studying for a Permaculture diploma, shadowing a PDC, running an outdoor playgroup, writing a blog, raising chickens, helping my sister look after her tiny baby, training to be a Forest school teacher and growing food for my family. Phew. I am also trying to be a good wife, daughter, sister, friend, neighbour and mother. That huge list of roles can make for some difficult diary management and multiple epic to-do lists!

So my ongoing challenge is to work with the diversity in my life, work out what to prioritize, figure out the best way to juggle my roles and find a way to fulfill my voluntary obligations, hit my study targets and balance the books. I am just about keeping my head above water at the moment but I think I am far busier than I have ever been in my life. Each available moment is full to bursting but I feel grateful that it is all such interesting stuff and that lots of wonderful doors are opening for me all the time. Exciting times!

 

Beltane

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One of my aims for this year is to learn more about the special days of the year following the Pagan calendar. I have always been interested in the changing of the seasons and the solstice, but I want to learn more. I plan to post on each special day this year with a reflection on what is happening in my garden and what I am up to.

Today is May 1st, Beltane the half way point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.

Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were held at that time to protect them from harm, both natural and supernatural, and this mainly involved the “symbolic use of fire” There were also rituals to protect crops, dairy products and people, and to encourage growth. The (often described as “the spirits” or “the fairies”) were thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain) and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to protect humans from these beings, as well as from human witches who may try to cause harm. Beltane was a “spring time festival of optimism” during which “fertility ritual again was important, perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun”.  (Information from Wikipedia)IMG_6212

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Noticing how my garden is growing and changing almost before my eyes

Feeling full of plans and energy for all aspects of my life

Wishing I could clone myself to tick more items off my to-do list!

Eating Clean and green (and lots of dark chocolate when no one is looking)

Wondering if we can afford to book a little summer holiday

Wearing sandles one day, woolly socks and welly boots the next

Watching Poldark

Listening to the chicks we hatched out two weeks ago cheeping in the garden

Drinking green smoothies and tea

Planning to start teaching photography again

 

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