Twelve Principles for twelve months – August – Catch and store energy

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My garden is filled with tasty Organic fruit and vegetables at the moment. I am trying to keep pace with harvesting, cooking and eating it!

I have decided that for August I will be kind to myself, honour these lazy summer days with my children and give myself simple goals. For the Permaculture Principle of ‘Catch and store energy’ I will look only at two things.

1. Catching and storing the energy produced in my garden by making jams and pickles, freezing fruits, drying tomatoes and harvesting/eating everything that I can manage to!  I have always been quite good at planning and maintaining my garden but for some reason, I often fall down on the harvesting and using of my produce. I have put a lot of effort into producing an abundant plot this year, so I am determined that nothing will go to waste. I am keeping up with my ‘what I ate from the garden today’ diary and this has been a good tool for focusing my mind on harvesting little and often.

2. My second goal is to catch and store my own energy. My life is super busy. I have three children, a husband, family nearby, friends to keep up with, my diploma to work on, Muddy Boots to run, volunteering jobs to maintain, various animals to care for, a rambling garden to tend to and a household to set the agenda for. Phew! Some weeks it feels like I am juggling far too many plates and sometimes I do come crashing to the ground. So, this month I will focus on relaxing, letting things go, having fun and getting some rest.  With that in mind my blog will probably be a little quiet this month too. I hope to keep up with my monthly garden update but not stress myself by doing a lot more. Normal service will resume in September!

Twelve Principles for twelve months – March – Catch and store energy

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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.

‘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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Calendula

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.

Apple day

All week we had been hearing the occasional sudden thud as apples came crashing down onto the shed roof. It must be apple harvesting time again.

 spilt applesEarly on a sunny Saturday morning, we gathered ladders, bags, apple press, willing helpers and got to work. The tree has done well and produced a good crop of apples. I think it is a Discovery variety, a good-sized apple, red and yellow skin, sweet tasting with a pinkish flesh. We plan to use most of them to make juice and cider, as well freezing apple puree and trying out dried apple rings. My daughters are champion apple eaters, so they will definitely be eating as many fresh apples as possible over the next few weeks too.

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It seems relevant somehow to start my blog with an apple tree, some people believe everything started with an apple. But this is just a happy coincidence. Rather than deliberating over how and when to begin this blog, I thought I should just start today and this is truly what I spent my day doing. So an auspicious start I hope!

drinkingI am embarking on a Permaculture Diploma and intend this blog to be the record of my work. I completed the PDC in 2012 and since then have tried to weave Permaculture ideas and principles into my everyday life as much as possible.

Finding this term ‘Permaculture’ and the amazing tribe of people actively working within it, was a revelation for us. It was a really exciting moment to find something that pulled together lots of ideas we has vaguely been discussing for years. There is so much more to learn and I am excited to be making a start.