This morning I have been ‘Catching and storing energy’ by sitting in my garden in the sunshine and drinking coffee. That may sound like procrastination, but under my rules I am fulfilling my brief for the month! The weather has been so beautiful over the weekend, we have been very productive, tidying up the garden, stacking and chopping wood, fixing the raised beds and taking advantage of the sunshine to dry our washing outdoors.
So, my Permaculture Principle for March is Catch and store energy. I intend to address this in the following ways.
1. Continue moving, chopping and stacking the wood that we have collected over the last few months. Our front garden had become a dumping ground for timber. All of this has been acquired for free from family and friends or tip-off from our tree-surgeon friends. WE need to move the wood into the wood stores in the back garden. This energy will be stored up and used next winter to warm our house via the log burner.
2. I want to look into ways of using renewable energy to power our cabin in the woods. We are off grid there, which is lovely. We use candles for light and have a gas bottle powered stove. I’d like to get some solar power up there this year to add additional lighting. I was there yesterday, taking the opportunity for some peace and quiet away from the kids. I was working on my diploma designs in preparation for a design tutorial with my lovely tutor later in the week. I spotted that a few cabins have small wind turbines, so I’d like to investigate the cost and usage of these too.
3. I also intend to look at energy use in my life. I am up at least twice most nights, breast-feeding my son and looking after my daughters, so I am pretty exhausted most of the time. I’d like to find ways to give myself more energy and look at where I waste energy in my day-to-day activities. I think it would be interesting to look at energy and activities in terms of zoning.
4. I will be fixing up guttering on the shed where our chickens live. I want the guttering to feed into a water storage tank and overflow into the pond to keep it healthy and topped up. I also hope to fix a drip pipe to the water tank and loop this around the adjacent vegetable bed so this is one less bed to water come high summer.
We 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!
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.