Twelve Principles for twelve months – June -Relative location

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. June – Relative location

IMG_2167This image shows the importance of relative location in gardening terms. By placing my seedlings close to the chicken pen, I walk past them twice at day at least and can easily see which need watering, potting on or rescuing from a snail!

QUOTATIONS

The core of permaculture is design, and design is a connection between things             Bill Mollison

Relative Location dictates the need for elements to be arranged so they can create functional interconnections.  It is wonderful for a landscape to contain numerous elements such as pond, chickens, and trees, but if these elements do not interrelate in a beneficial way then we have not designed properly.                 treeyopermacultureedu.wordpress.com

In Permaculture our primary concern is with the relationship between things, and how they interact, rather than with the things themselves. So, in Permaculture design, we focus on the connection between things, and by understanding the nature of the elements, and how they benefit each other, we can determine the optimum location for them. http://deepgreenpermaculture.com

APPLICATION

Putting the right thing in the right place should be applied in all areas of people’s lives. Placing the tea bags and the mugs close to the kettle is one obvious application, as it having your herb pot just outside the backdoor. Relative location is a very important part of Permaculture design. Once you have decided on the elements you want to use, then consider the ways in which they connect together and how you could place them to make the greatest number of positive connections. I like to make a ‘web of connections’ as shown in the photo below. This example ended up begin rather too complicated, but you can get the general idea of how it works.

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CHALLENGE

My challenge this month is to continue planting up my summer garden, considering where I place the plants and trying to make useful connections between them. For example. I have just one raised bed left to plant up now. Until yesterday it had the chicken run over it, I designed this to fit perfectly over the raised beds. Our broody hen, Aggie and her chicks have spent the last 6 weeks on this bed, turning over the soil and adding their manure to it. The chicks are now big enough to join their cousins in the main run and the bed is ready for planting into! Lots of useful connections made there in the placement of elements of my garden design. IMG_6246Here they are at about 1 week old. They are much bigger and beautifully feathered now.

My second challenge is to spend some time thinking about where in the house I work. We don’t have a spare room, so I work from home at the family computer in the living room. This works well if everyone else is out of the house, but more often than not I am trying to squeeze in moments to work while wrangling three kids. As I am sure you can imaging, interruptions are many and varied! My piles of papers get knocked over and used for paper aeroplanes or drawing of cats. The computer is pressed into action to watch Ceebies or Netflix and I am generally very frustrated with the situation.

Something needs to change and fast! I need a cheap ( ideally free) solution that still allows me to make useful connections with family life, but have a little more peace and quiet to work. Ideally I’d love to buy/build a summer-house and pop it into the garden to work in. But for the time-being it’s probably going to be a solution more like shifting the furniture around. I will keep on pondering on this problems this month and post again if I find a good solution.

 

 

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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Twelve Principles for twelve months – April – Accelerate succession and evolution

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. April – Accelerate succession and evolution 

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This image show wild garlic appearing this month in my garden. I have tried to use ideas I have learnt about Forest gardens and use edible plants that have similar traits to ‘pioneer plants’ or weeds. These plants are happy to grow in poor soil or neglected areas of my garden, they look after themselves and still provide me with a yield. Weeds are often the first plants to appear in the evolution of a garden. They enrich the soil and eventually make it more inhabitable for other more desirable plants.

This Principle is quite a difficult one, and one that does not really appear in any form in the 12 Holmgren principles. So I thought I would begin by defining the terms and under the ‘application’ heading I will considering what they could mean for my Permaculture journey.

Accelerate – To speed up

Succession –  The act or process of following in order or sequence.

Evolution – The gradual development of something.

So basically this principle is saying that we should seek to find ways in which to speed up the changes which naturally occur in a system and ensure that these changes are positive.

QUOTATIONS

Accelerate Succession and Evolution: direct plants, animals, and soil life towards complexity and diversity to build our own climax species in a shorter time, forward your agriculture systems to more permanence, whether it is a grassland or a food forest. Utilize invasive species to your advantage; substitute your own pioneers and climax species that have multiple functions.                             Bill Mollison ‘Introduction to Permaculture’

Bill Mollison offered four objectives for fulfilling this principles in our design and management work

  • Using what is already growing
  • Introduce plants that will easily survive
  • Raising organic levels artificially
  • Substituting our own herb, pioneer, and climax species

APPLICATION

I use this principle in my garden by observing which weeds grow well in which areas, then substituting them for similar plants that I have a use for. This speeds up the process of experimentation by ensuring the right plant ends up in the right place by following natures blueprint.

I am also using this principle in my career. I am trying to speed up the evolution of my career by a number of related processes;

1. Linking disparate areas that I am working on and stacking their functions. For example, my Forest schools training course requires me to plan, run and reflect on six practical sessions. This process can be written up as part of my Permaculture diploma as well for my FS training. These six sessions may be used as my Muddy Boots autumn season.

2. Seeking volunteering opportunities for Permaculture teaching and Forest school leadership. This helps me to network effectively, furthers my knowledge and practical experiences as well as being worthwhile activity that counts towards my courses.

3. Using Permaculture principles and techniques in the planning of Muddy Boots allotment playgroup. Also using new skills and ideas learnt in FS training in these session. This improves my environmental education practice and gives me a chance to test out idea for my FS assessment.

CHALLENGE

I can see this principle at work in the way my tutor Hannah Thorogood manages the PDC that I help out on. Year 1- people attend the PDC. Year 2 -people are encouraged to attend the course for a second time and help out around the edges, making tea, talking with participants etc. Year 3 – people are encouraged to take a more active role n the publicity and facilitation of the course and lead some aspects of the morning circle. Year 4- people are encouraged to facilitate the course or take a Permaculture teacher training course and lead some sessions. Year 5 – Hannah steps away to lead PDC’s elsewhere and the local course is self-sustainable and led by previous participants. We are in year 4 here and this example of evolution seems to be working quite well. We have a planning meeting next month to discuss how the PDC will work in years to come and to decide who wants to teach which areas of the course.

So my challenge this month is to really think about what I want my involvement in the local PDC to be. Do I want to do the TOT and train to teach PDC’s in the future? Do I want to write my own PDC aimed at children/teenagers/family groups? Do I want to investigate accreditation for PDC courses with a view to including them in school curriculums? Lots to think about here.

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And finally this image shows how I ‘Accelerate succession and evolution’ in my flock of chickens, by buying in fertile eggs from breeds I am interested in and choosing the best broody hens to sit on the eggs and care for the chicks. This is one of last years chicks, in another 10 days we should be hearing the ‘Peep’ of new little chicks hatching out!

Happy Easter!  

 

Spring Equinox

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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 March 20th, Spring Equinox, the point in the year when hours of darkness and light are balanced. The midpoint between the longest day (summer solstice) and shortest day (winter solstice) This year the Spring Equinox co-insides with two other special celestial events, a supermoon and a solar eclipse.

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Noticing more bird-song everywhere

Feeling over-whelmed by my to-do list but grateful to have such interesting things to do!

Wishing there were more hours in the day

Eating the first wild garlic shoots as they appear

Wondering when I will get around to planting seeds this spring

Wearing thermal leggings, thermal t-shirts and thermal socks

Watching Orange is the new black (again)

Listening To my neighbour’s music, son’s DVD, my kids rowing and wishing for silence

Drinking Not enough water and too many cups of tea

Planning My Outdoor playgroup activities

IMG_5815Yellow flowers on the Forsythia. Primroses and Daffodils are opening to splashes yellow around my garden too.

IMG_5829  The ornamental cherry tree is speckled with pink today. A few brave buds have opened their baby pink flowers and the rest are sure to follow suit as soon as we get a bit of sunshine. I cut some branches from this tree a week ago and brought them inside to hurry spring along a little. They opened within days and brightened up my kitchen just in time for mother’s day.

IMG_5823The first wild spring greens are appearing, nettles and wild garlic pop up around the margins of my garden. I love to eat both of these plants, yesterday I nibbled on a few garlic shoots straight from the earth, delicious, strong and a real sign that spring has arrived.

IMG_5822I have finally finished the new chicken run and the chucks are happy with their new spaces. I can now clear the paths and begin planting. I went mad with pruning last weekend and tidied up ready for spring. I love this time of year so much.

 

 

My garden design – Tweaks

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I have started this post with an image of a sunflower head as I think it fits well with my current activity of bringing all my ideas together in a harmonious way and looking to nature for inspiration.

To approach the ‘Tweak’ stage of my garden design, I revisited OBREDIMET.

Observations – I looked back at my notes for 2014. I walked around the garden and checked what needed immediate attention. I looked back over the monthly photographs I had taken of my garden.  See post here. I used my in-depth knowledge of my garden, its eco-systems and microclimates built up over the seven years I have lived here.  I looked back at my records of what I harvested from the garden and graded each crop and garden feature to access the effectiveness of my design. See more about this on this post

Boundaries– I looked at what did not work last year and needed changing. I looked at my available time, energy, assistance, resources and money to make changes. I considered the changing needs of my family, how they use the garden and what they like to eat.

Resources– I again looked at my blog posts planning the garden and read over my notes from last year. I looked at the flip-side boundaries and focussed on the positives of time, energy, assistance, resources and money I had available to devote to the design. I looked at the seeds I had left over from previous years. I looked at the garden vouchers I was given for Christmas. I looked at what I could propagate from existing plants in my garden.

 

Evaluation – I brought all of the above together and considered what my priorities were. I set myself aims for my garden in 2015. These are detailed at the bottom of this post.

Design – I looked back at my original design and created an overlay. I used a temporary pen to play around with fitting crops into spaces on the plan, using the tool ‘planning for real’ When I was happy with these I wrote them in with permanent pen. I used the Permaculture principles of ‘Least change for greatest effect’ ‘Creatively use and respond to change’ ‘ Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’ and ‘Observe and interact’

Implement – I will create an implementation plan over the next few weeks

Maintain – I will create a maintenance plan.

Evaluation – I will keep notes on the effectiveness of the design like I did during 2014 in order to evaluate it against my aims at the end of the growing season.

Tweak – I will tweak the garden again next year and continue this cycle year after year.

IMG_5497The original design

IMG_5495 The tweaked overlay

The overlay shows new planting plans for the annual vegetable beds and more focus put onto Forest garden areas. I looked back to my notes about which crops were best for the needs of my family and the environment of my garden. I have excluded lots of crops that don’t do well in my garden and plan to focus on a more limited range of crops this year. I have chosen crops we like to eat a lot of and those that taste better fresh from the garden. I also plan to use varieties that are not easily to purchase in the shops. I also plan to develop the forest garden areas.

IMG_5496This image shows the original design and overlay combined to show how the new and old designs work together.

 

Aims for my garden design during 2015

1. To develop the forest garden areas. I plan to re-read my books on Forest gardening and plan these areas carefully to be as self-sustaining as possible.

2. To focus more on perennial crops I have a lot of demands on my time this coming year which will take me away from the garden, so one aim for this year is to plant less annuals and focus more on perennials that will need less input from me to do well.

3. To ensure the chickens are safe and well cared for. To develop a new enclosed run area using the space behind the greenhouse that is currently neglected. A fox has moved into the area and took two of my chickens recently, so I am being far more wary about allowing them to free-range.

4. To experiment with new varieties of crops that I know do well in my garden.

5. To grow more edible flowers and salad crops.

6. To maintain and develop the good work I have started in the garden, especially with composting, mulching and water capture.

 

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My garden in December

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Harvesting My garden is currently brown, muddy, messy and rather abandoned. But that is OK, as my attention is focussed on the inside at this time of year. I have been gathering pretty branches, holly, ivy and dried seed heads from the garden to decorate the house for the festivities to come. We are still getting 3 eggs per day from the chucks, not bad for this time of year. The cockeral has still yet to crow so he is still around ruling the roost, the girls like him a lot!

Planting I finally got around to planting the spring bulbs yesterday. In the end it was an easy task as I decided to use large plant-pots rather than dig holes in the cold wet ground. The pots are lining the steps to the deck where they can sit quietly all winter, waiting for their chance to shine come the spring. I like having bulbs in pots because you can easily move them to where they will best be seen when they are in full bloom, then stash them out-of-the-way to die back.

Thinking An old Willow tree has crashed to the ground this week, it amazingly fell directly into the only clear space available, narrowly avoiding our greenhouse, next doors shed, the trampoline and the compost bays. I am grateful for that at least and I am pretty sure the tree will spring into life again from the trunk. The kids are enjoying the fallen tree, it brings a new aspect to the garden and provides exciting places to play and hide. We will get around to cutting up the tree soon and storing it for next years firewood, but currently there is just too much to do.

Feeling I am finally feeling well again after two weeks of suffering with the dreaded, full-family pre-Christmas cold. We have all been laid low and suffering for weeks. I have been dosing myself up with vitamins, manuka honey, whisky toddys and lots of fresh greens and garlic. I am almost ready for Christmas, the kids break up from school tomorrow and we have a few surprises up our sleeves for them. They have really enjoyed putting a bauble everyday on the ‘tree’ (pretty branches in a vase) We have also had fun making Christmas cards together and lighting candles and the logburner to cosy up in front of to light up the long dark evenings of December. We are almost at the Winter Solstice now, so it always feels good once the light levels begin tipping back the other way.

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Note the fallen Willow tree filling the left-hand side of the back portion of the garden. This was where I had proposed to build a poly-tunnel, I am so glad I didn’t!

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The chickens love coming right up to the house and sitting on the deck, seeking out the last rays of evening sun.

Weather stats

Thursday 18th December 2014

Cloudy and mild with a little drizzle

High 13 Low 5

Sunrise 08:12 Sunset 15:50

 

My garden in November

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Harvesting The harvest is now over in my garden. This week I have gathered in the last few bits, a few cooking apples, some Oka, Jerusalem artichokes and chilis from the green house. The oka were an experiment, it is the first year I have grown them. From 4 tiny tubers, I harvested about 20 small and a handful of larger tubers. I am yet to try eating them and may save them and replant next year to get a bigger harvest, I am assuming this would work? Can anyone enlighten me?

Planting I have still not got around to planting out my spring bulbs, so need to crack on this very soon before the ground gets too hard. We had our first frost last week. But generally the weather has been rather mild so far.

Thinking I am loving looking out of the window onto the tree with star-shaped bright red autumnal leaves (Is it called an Acer?)  The sun catches this throughout a lot of the day and makes the leaves glow brightly. It is currently holding onto its leaves well and cheering up a dark, muddy garden! I am planning on shifting a new load of woodchip into the chickens run and putting their old stuff onto the raised beds. The chucks always look rather fed up at this time of year. Cold and damp weather doesn’t really suit them. I need to spend a few days in the garden doing a general tidy up. Shifting leaves off paths to where they can be useful as soil improver, moving summer sandpits, pushchairs and kids bikes into the shed and having a good old clear out. The wood is now chopped and stacked, so that feels good with a promise of many cosy nights in front of the log burner to come.

Feeling  I am finding the dark evenings hard. I am making a real effort to spend an hour on the park, in the garden or trudging through the woods after school with the kids. Without that bit of outdoor time we all go rather stir-crazy. By the time we arrive home at 4pm, it’s very nearly time to close the curtains and out the lights on. To help make these dull, drawn-out evenings more enjoyable and productive, I have enforced a cebeebies/ DVD ban. My kids were previously allowed an hour of screen time each evening, but this makes them restless, argumentative and difficult. There were a few objections to this ban, but generally my household is calmer and happier for it. We have discovered more time in which to chat, do homework, cook a meal together and play games. The lego, jigsaws and colouring book have been rediscovered!

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I struggled to find things to take photographs of in the garden this month. Everywhere is looking spent, muddy and dull. The richness of autumn has passed and the stark, frozen beauty of winter has not yet arrived. We are waiting in limbo for the hard frosts and real winter to begin. I am looking forward to a quiet, simple christmas period. I am planning ahead for advent, more on this in another post. My thoughts and activities are heading back indoors and leaving the garden to its own devised for a few months.

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Weather stats

Thursday 20th November 2014

After a foggy morning the sky is now a bright clear blue. It feels cold but still and dry

High 9, Low 6

Sunrise 07:35 Sunset 16:05