My permaculture diploma pathway

I started my diploma back in mid October 2013 – three whole years ago! One of the first things that I was advised to do was to work on my ‘pathway‘ The aim of this was to really consider why I was doing the diploma and what I wanted to achieve from doing it. I did some work on this in various sketchbooks and notepads, but never wrote any of it up for my blog and never really set myself a solid pathway to map a route through the diploma.

After taking almost a whole year off the diploma while I concentrated on other things, I’ve been quite wobbly recently and wondered if I should continue my diploma at all. My life has gotten so full of other things that are constantly calling for my attention. My permaculture diploma had slid to the bottom of the pile and I was working hard on ignoring its calls for help! However, after some thought and discussions with my husband and my tutor, I’ve decided to continue. So this seemed like a good time to really get to grips with the pathway.

I’ve decided to use the design web to structure my pathway design. I worked through each stage as a brainstorm. The following photos of brainstorms show how I used the design web to PLAN how I would structure this design.

My planned vision for the pathway design is to create a design that both reflects on my learning achieved and designs completed so far and plots a path for the future, leading to achieving my diploma in 2017-18. 

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Other than in the initial planning stages, I intend to use the web in a random or web-like format, dotting around the stages as feels appropriate rather than working around the circle in a step by step manner. This will be a new way of using the web for me, so should throw up some interesting learning. I am using the design web in a flowing way, so when I see a direct link to one stage of the web being covered in this write-up I will highlight which stage in BOLD CAPITALS.

Now that I have worked once around the design web and have developed a clear plan for how to proceed with this design, I thought it would be useful to start with some REFLECTION. I’ve started by spending a morning going back through my many note books and photographing all the doodles, diagrams and scribbled notes that I’ve made over the years that relate directly to my pathway rather than to specific designs. This took me ages but I was pleased to find lots of suitable work, so it looks like I actually have done far more pathway work than I had initially thought. This is a reoccurring problem (theme?) for me, I forget that I’ve done the work, only to embark on it again and recall part way through how familiar this feels and that maybe I’ve already covered this!

I’ve collected lots of materials that show how I have approached pathway work. These are presented here in vaguely chronological order, the year is indicated.

2013

IDEAS for diploma designs were drawn up

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I brainstormed what was important in my life now ( late 2013) and what I wanted to achieve by 2017 – when I hoped to complete the diploma. img_4393img_4394As I write this post in October 2016- it’s really interesting to read what I had aspired for myself and to see that actually quite a lot of it has been achieved. I have had another child, I am still happily married, I have found fulfilling work and my family are well and happy. This really gives me PAUSE to REFLECT and APPRECIATE how far I’ve come in my journey.

I found a note where I have the IDEA to start this blog!img_4378

and brainstorms of some ideas to be covered over the first few months of this blog. Planning my IDEAS using time limited brainstorms is something that I’ve often come back to. It HELPS me spring into ACTION and fulfil my VISIONimg_4380

So back to design pathway plans, in 2013 I had started 3 designs and planned another 3 as shown on the photo below. I eventually completed and wrote up 3 of them for the diploma. Some of the others were abandoned for various reasons and some are still to happen at some point. On this planning sheet I thought about what technical skills I would need to develop to carry out a particular project. i think this was a good idea, as it records progress and ensures I am furthering my learning and improving my skill set. I can REFLECT on this and APPRECIATE it as being a good idea that I will use in future design planning. img_4381


2014

At the beginning of 2014 I drew out this rough timeline, plotting when various designs would happen. Having a PATTERN, however rough is something that I like to use to keep me on track. Of course, life throws up unexpected events, opportunities and challenges and this timeline pretty much went out the window! Buts it is interesting to REFLECT on how I had envisaged the diploma looking as I began my journey. img_4382

This second timeline was created later in 2014 and shows a few tweaks to the initial plan and a bit more detail about what the 10 designs were likely to be. img_4390

I had also drawn up a timetable for how I planned on INTEGRATING to work into my life, planning certain activities each month to keep to MOMENTUM. I often use tables like this to spur myself on, especially thought the winter and early spring months when I generally have more time available for diploma work. This yearly PATTERN has been an interesting one to note. img_4383

Here is another PATTERN that I set for myself. I looked at one of Holmgren’s principles per month for the duration of 2014 and 2015. It really HELPed me to learn about the PRINCIPLES of permaculture. You can read my blog posts about each principle by searching ‘Twelve principles for twelve months’ in the search bar. img_4384

I struck upon the idea of using the PATTERN of a honey comb to structure my plans. I loved the link with bees, all working together for the greater good. I also liked the interlinking of the shapes, to reflect how my designs are interlinked too.  I think this drawing shows the first time I used the honeycomb idea. This drawing also shows how i thought about scale, staring with a small project and then rolling it out to larger project once my skill and confidence level increased. At this stage I thought to focus on 6 areas of interest; designing, building, community, teaching, personal development and growing food. I have returned to this IDEA of 6 areas time and again. The numbers 6 and 12 seem to resonate more for me than 5 and 10. So throughout the diploma I’ve often planned to do 12 designs, giving me a chance to reject or abandon 2 in order to submit my final 10 for assessment. I think this HELPS me to LIMIT the pressure that I put on myself for each design to be perfects, as I know that 2 will not make the final cut! img_4385

A more developed honeycomb design exploring some of my design ideas from 2014img_4391

I spent some time looking at Zones as explained in the image below. I thought about zones as areas in my life and how I’d like my designed to be spread across the zones. I thought about starting from the centre, zone 00 and working outwards; Fixing energy leaks at home and in myself than more time and energy will be available to work outwards into other zones. This led me onto begin one of my biggest designs around my health and wellbeing.img_4389

This list shows how I’d progressed with my diploma by the end of 2014.img_4392


2015

At the beginning of each year I like to spend some time setting intentions for the year ahead. This brainstorm shows my 2015 brainstorm, not purely about the diploma, but its clear to see here how embedded into my life the diploma had become. Again I used a PATTERN of six areas to base my thoughts around. img_4398

I looked at the areas of concern as stated in Permaculture diploma literature and considered how my design ideas fitted within this. img_4395

I continued my twelve principles for twelve months blog series and looked at Mollison’s principles over this year. I tried to link these in with the diploma work that I was involved in each month – with varying success. img_4413

I also continued my monthly garden updates but in 2015 I linked this in with my growing interest in the special points of the year in the Pagan calendar. img_4401

I decided that for 2015 I would concentrate my efforts into 4 designs. img_4400

These are the criteria that I used to help me decide which designs to focus on.img_4402

Which led me to this updated list of 12 designs (designs 1-4 were underway and the rest were planned) img_4403

So by now we have reached spring 2015 and something came up which threw me off course for my diploma but opened up a whole new career path for me. I’d been wanting to do Forest School leader training for years and then the possibility came up to do the course locally throughout 2015. I jumped at the change and spent every spare minute of 2015 working on this. It was all-consuming, I created another whole blog for this which acted as my portfolio. https://emilycrofton.wordpress.com/  You need a password to view it, so message me if you want to take a look. I ran my six practice sessions in a local woodland which has led me onto doing that on a permanent basic and making Forest School a big part of my career. So my permaculture diploma was put on PAUSE until 2016. I really APPRECIATE that this opportunity presented itself for me and I can REFLECT that putting permaculture diploma work on hold was a good decision, I set myself some sensible LIMITS.


2016

As always I started the year with some forward planning. This time I chose 12 areas to look at as shown in the photo below. I took these from a life balance exercise given to me by my health and nutrition tutor some time ago. img_4414img_4419

I was aware that I was likely to be short on time for the diploma this year too, with completing my forest school training and developing my Muddy Boots business. So I set myself a few achievable diploma aims for the year. I also reviewed where I was (5 completed designs) and where I wanted to get to by the year’s end (work started on a further 3 designs) Setting my self these aims really HELPS me to stay focussed, REFLECT on what I’ve achieved to date and consider how to INTEGRATE diploma work into my busy life.

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Sorry this is a very scrappy drawing but it show well how I used planning, by breaking down each design into the steps still needed to complete it. You can see by the circles and ticks that I have mainly focussed on completing my health and wellbeing and food group designs. I never did tackle the ‘using permaculture in my forest school training’ design. I think was probably a mistake, but it just felt too big, I definitely did use permaculture to help me complete my training and to run my sessions. But explaining HOW this happened seems like too big a project to undertake right now! I need the remaining designs to be small and manageable in the little chunks of time that I have available for them. Taking a PAUSE from diploma work last year has shown me that it’s really beneficial to be realistic. img_4415

I revisited how progress had been to date (early 2016) looked at 13 potential designs and considered how they were interlinked. img_4417

I looked at what steps I still had to take to complete each design and wrote lists for work to be done over late autumn and winter 2016 when I know I’d have time available. img_4420

I considered how the ethics of Permaculture would be integrated with my pathway design and activities. img_5222

I picked 4 permaculture principles at random and considered how they would be used in my pathway.

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I thought a bit more about PRINCIPLES and how useful or otherwise they could be and just for fun came up with my own 12 principles that I use in my life and in my designs. img_4406

I created a spiralling timeline looking forward and backwards and plotting when each design fell spaced over the 6 years from when I did my PDC in 2012 to when I hope to accredit in 2018. Pushing my self-imposed deadline back to 2018 HELPS to create a more manageable diploma pathway for me to feel is actually achievable. img_4421

I revisited and defined my aims for the diploma and what learning outcomes I wanted to achieve.

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I reconsidered my areas of interest and came up with 4 over-arching themes for my diploma; Art, Nature, Education and Health.img_4424

I looked at the 4 areas detailed above and thought about the skills that I had when I started my diploma journey and skills I’d already developed and/or would like to develop by the time I’d completed my diploma. img_4425

I revisited the honeycomb PATTERN and INTEGRATED into it my 4 areas of interest and possible designs leading from these. img_4426

I then rather fell in love with the honeycomb design and used it to illustrate the ETHICS and PRINCIPLES of permacultureimg_4404

To fit in with using the number’s 6 and 12 and to work well with the honeycomb design, I upped my 4 areas of interest to 6; Nature, Art, Health, Self, Education and Career. These seemed to fit in well with the designs that I have done to date and those that I have planned for the future. I worked these 6 areas into a honeycomb design and looked at their INTEGRATIONS

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I then narrowed this down to 12 designs, each design links back to at least 2 of the areas of interest and is placed in a suitable spot in the honeycomb to show what it links to. For example, designing the Muddy Boots garden links to both nature and career. My health and wellbeing design links to both self and health and planning my accreditation event links to self and education. I am feeling pretty happy with this as a pathway design for this stage of my diploma. But I am open to new IDEAS and PATTERNS as I progress towards the end of my diploma. img_4410

So to clarify with where I am at in my pathway right now (Oct 2016) this is where I stand with my 10 diploma designs. Completed or almost completed Still to do

  1. Pathway design
  2. Designing the Muddy Boots garden / Muddy boots re-design 
  3. Food from my garden
  4. Developing Muddy Boots from a hobby into a business 
  5. My health and wellbeing
  6. South Leicester food group
  7. Forest school parties
  8. Self care following natures patterns
  9. Finding land/ developing Muddy Boots
  10. My accreditation event

Muddy Boots garden re-design CEAP. Plan a schedule of implementation,maintenance, evaluation and tweaks.

IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

MONTH TASK DEADLINE?
February Re-measure and photograph the plot Early feb
Spend a few hours up at the allotment doing observations, sketching and planning the new layout Early feb
Sketch out a base map and play around with possible layouts of the main features Early feb
Get quotes for all building materials and decide where to source these from. Early feb
Buy building materials for fence/gate/play kitchen Half term
Take down the south wall of the existing fence and put up new one Half term
Put in the new gate and tower posts Half term
Put the new bolts on the gates By sessions start
Research mud kitchen ideas and re-do this feature End feb
Clear the movable objects from the newly enlarged space so I can see the layout more clearly End feb
March Draw out my finalised plans Early March
Tidy the shed and do a stock check. Make a list of any equip or materials I need to buy for this seasons activities. Early march
Begin saving tin cans for the allotment planters Early march
Move the sandpit End march
Buy more sand and fill it up By session start
Mark out the triangular bed Early march
Make the willow den Mid march
Cut the grass/ rake over to clear debris Mid march
Buy the marine ply board for the blackboard/ painting board/ spotted board/ welcome signs End march
Install the blackboard/ painting board etc and paint them in situ End march
Define the boundary of the strawberry bed and apple tree guild bed End march
Buy more plastic plates and another thermos flask End march
April Drill holes into the tin can planters Early april
Install the tin can planters and plant up with pansies By session start
Select, print and laminate some photos or pics of fruit/veg/flowers to decorate the picket fence. Put these up with staple gun. By session start
Mow lawns again By session start
Test out gazebos and decide which one to use Early april
Gather ground sheets, blankets etc Early april
Take home and wash and return all snack and drink utensils By session start
Buy washing up liquid, tea, coffee etc plus sponges, wash up equip By session start
Final checks before first session on April 15th By session start

CARRYING OUT THE IMPLEMENTATION

FEBRUARY

We spent three bright and cold days at the allotment over half term. We re-made the fence line and installed a new gate leading out into the wider community allotment.

Day 1 – moving the fence and beginning to re-install it. IMG_1235IMG_1233

Day 2 – completing the fence and putting in the gate

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Day 3. Moving the blue planters, moving a cherry tree, making the triangular corner bed and beginning work on the mud kitchen.


 

The P of CEAP is for Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation and tweaking.

But where is the actual design bit? This seems to come up a lot for me when using Permaculture design process systems. There is lots of detail about how to prepare for producing your design, but it never actually says “now draw your design” why is this?

So I have chosen to draw my design at this point in the design process. As at this point the space was more open and I could visualise the layout more clearly. I sketched out a rough plan for the new design while at the allotment and then worked more on the design at home.

So this is the design that I feel most happy with at the moment, but I am open to making more changes as the project rolls on and the space tells me what it needs. So I’ve kept the design loose, still using pieces of paper on the base map and not drawing it out in full yet.

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UPDATE – Here is the final design drawn out and coloured in!

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and a  close up to show some of the details.

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South Leicester Food Group. Diploma design write up 2

Our second order from Suma was delivered last week. I took delivery at my house this time and hosted a lovely get together last Wednesday. We ate good food, enjoyed good company and wonderful weather. The system was easier to manage this time around but still needs some work.

This post brings me up to date on developments with this design and looks at the E for Evaluations and D for Design and I for Implementation of OBREDIMET.

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After the first delivery we discussed the key functions that we wanted the group to fulfil.

1. For the ordering of items to be straightforward, manageable and time efficient.

2. Delivery to be easy to receive and to be able to to divide up people’s orders with ease.

3. For the group to meet up regularly to discuss and place orders and share meals.

4. To expand the remit of the group to include recipe sharing and group cooking days.

5. To share useful tools, such as meal planners around the group.

I looked at each key function in turn and considered multiple ways or systems of achieving that function. I then reflected on that possible system using the PNI tool. See the two photographs below.

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As a group we decided that we would trial various elements of the systems detailed above and reflect on how we get on. I have begun a table to evaluate each design and will continue this for each design we trial until we come up with something that works well for everyone. The evaluation looks at how well or badly each design worked in term of the 5 key function, a PNI and against Earth care/ People care/ Fair shares (the 3 ethics of Permaculture)

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As well as dividing up the order, we had a lovely ‘bring and share’ dinne with all the kids included as it was half term. We have 12 kids between us, 10 of which were present. IMG_6666IMG_6668IMG_6667

The children played together happily, dressing up, putting on a play, jumping on the trampoline and running around in the sunshine. That was very helpful in allowing us adults to divide up the food order and do our reflections. IMG_6671

 

I will post about this design again in late summer or autumn when we have had time to try out a few more designs and reflect on them. I will aim to complete the OBREDIMET design system and look at the M for Maintainance, E for Evaluation and T for Tweaks. I will also do a personal reflection on this design.

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.

 

My health and wellbeing design – IMPLEMENT and MAINTAIN

To help me implement and maintain the slow and steady changes I have been making to my lifestyle through using the designs, I decided to keep a record of progress each month.

May 2014– Began thinking about doing this design. Looked at Vision, helps and limits. Not exercising other than walking school run and gardening. Eating veggie diet.

June – Began Eat Smile Live health and nutrition programme. Began slowly accruing new knowledge and making a few changes to my diet.

July– Began 30 day exercise challenges, sit ups, squats, planks- enjoyed but found hard. Enjoying ESM programme. Eating lots of greens and finding it easier to eat health and raw foods as the weather improves.IMG_4016

Aug– Began the Coach to 5KM challenge. Enjoyed this but hurt my knee. Rested for 3 weeks then began running again on hols in Cornwall- loved it! Ran 30 mins without stopping. Began cutting out dairy products to help my health and for my son’s skin.

Sept – Began a weekly kettlebell class. Drinking lots of green smoothies and fresh juices. I did my first 5KM Parkrun. Eating 80% vegan now. ESM autumn cleanse began late sept.

Oct– Running 3X per week. Set myself the 6 week exercise programme. Started using the weekly meal planner design. Gearing up towards the Wolf run 10KM race

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Nov– Took part in the Wolf run race and loved it, immediately signed up for another in April. Finding it slightly harder to eat well in the colder months. Not loosing any more weight. Stuck around 11 stone.

Dec – Dark mornings and evenings, finding it harder to fit in runs. Managed to reach 100th mile since I began running in august. Tried a few times in the dark and didn’t like it. Loads going on, so didn’t make any kettlebell classes this month. Ate and drank too much over xmas but had fun!

Jan 2015– Aims for the month, no booze all month and Vegan January.  I enjoyed the Vegan challenge, didn’t find too hard at all so keen to continue. Running challenge for myself 365 miles throughout the year, so aiming for between 7-10 miles per week. Spa day for my birthday, a bit of a healthy treat and some ‘people care’ for myself and my mum and sister.

Feb – Aims for the month, try three new recipes each week. I brought a few new cook books for vegan meals and we are loving them so far. Drew up plans for the larger blackboard design and began using this. Managing to hit targets of running at least 7 miles each week. Evenings and mornings getting slightly lighter now, so exercise is easier to fit in. Life is feeling very busy, so glad to have my planners and targets to keep up the momentum. Began 6 week programme leading up to The Reaper Run next month. Scheduled in and went on a date night with my husband!

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I currently feel very motivated to continue with all aspect of this design. I am enjoying the exercise, my meal planning is easier, I am loving finding out more about health and the me-time/quality family time is wonderful. Long may it all continue!

My health and wellbeing design – DESIGN

IMG_8635Reminder of the aims I initially set myself for this design,

1. To learn about nutrition and health foods for myself and my family

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

3. To lose the excess baby weight

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

During the design process, these aims have been revised and tweaked as follows.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family. 

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges. 

Ideas for designs I could use to fulfil these aims.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family. 

First I looked at a few ideas from other sources for meal planning. IMG_5488IMG_5487

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Then I tried out a number of my own ideas and analysed them using PNI.IMG_5486Post-it notes on a piece of card.

Positive – I used this for about 6 weeks. it worked really well because you can keep the post-it notes week after week and re-use them.

Negative – The post-it notes fall off and get muddled up. I needed to make more space for the ‘ideas’ section or create a place to store meal ideas not being used that week. I also found it unnecessary to plan breakfasts.

Interesting – It is easy to juggle the meals around and it is a flexible way of planning.

IMG_5485 Incorporating it into my existing weekly planner blackboard.

Positive – This works well as it is easy to see at a glance just what else is happening that day and so how much time I will have for preparations.

Negative – The board is too crowded with too much information going on, so it’s not easy to fit all required info in. A larger board would be needed

Interesting – I tried allocating each day of the week a theme for example monday-soup, Tuesday, potatoes, Wednesday, rice etc. This really helped with planning and thinking up ideas. It was great to have a space for a shopping list next to the board, so as I planned I could update my shopping list accordingly and make sure we had the correct ingredients.

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularlyIMG_5570I used McHargs exclusion method to look at my daily and weekly routines and see when I had time to exercise. I found out that most of my available time was early mornings or evenings once the children were in bed. Weekends were also more flexible as my husband is around to help with the children. These times are marked with a ‘P’ for ‘Possible’ on the above planner.

IMG_5571I then created an overlay looking at possible activities that could work well at the available times of day.

IMG_5572I then created a third overlay looking at possible boundaries or challenges to taking on activity at these times. This helped me to be more realistic about what I could fit in as well as planning ways to overcome barriers I may come up against.

IMG_5574Finally I used this planner to set myself a realistic weekly plan incorporating up to 10 miles of running per week in three slots, plus a kettlebell class, a yoga session and quality time with my children and husband.

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges. 

IMG_5559I used a yearly planner to keep track of key dates for when related activity happened or I planned to happen. I will keep on updating this throughout 2015.

IMG_5590I created a new monthly planner at the beginning of 2015, looking at one Permaculture principle each month and planning related activity. Also on this planner I set myself one challenge each month; for example January’s challenge was to be Vegan and alcohol free all month. February’s challenge is to try out three new recipes each week. Next month, March, I will be trying out new forms of exercise. I will continue adding to this planner as the years rolls around. Not all challenges will relate to my health and wellbeing design, they will be tailored to fit with whatever diploma design is foremost in my mind at that time.

FINAL DECISIONS ON DESIGNS.

I decided that this diploma project needed a number of designs, all based around a calendar. I have considered ways of joining up some of these designs to create an easy flow of ideas and sensible, time efficient planning. I needed to find a way to plan meals that fitted around our schedules. I needed to carefully plan to allow for quick and easy cook meals on busy days or plan in advance by batch cooking meals and filing the fridge or freezer. So it was important that the meal planner linked with my weekly family diary.

I decided to expand the blackboard in our kitchen where I map out plans for each week. This is updated every Sunday evening to ensure we are organised for the week ahead.  I added a ‘Dinner’ column to this wall planner and added a task of weekly meal planning to my sunday chores list. I now check what ingredients are required for the planned meals and update the shopping list on the blackboard accordingly. This list is then photographed on my i-phone and taken to the shops with me.

The blackboard also allows me to see which days I am most able to fit in exercise sessions. The activity I did detailed above that showed me the best times to exercise was very useful, exercise is now scheduled in early mornings or evenings or quiet parts of the weekend. I added an ‘Exercise’ column to the blackboard and write in 3 runs, one class and 1 quiet/date/one to one time each week. I aim to stick to these commitments.

So the blackboard design photographed below helps me to achieve aims 1 and 2

To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family

To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

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Aim number 3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges Is more of an ongoing design. I am using the wheel of the year design photographed above and will keep on adding challenges to this as time goes on.

 

My health and wellbeing design ANALYSE

In order to analyse my possible options for creating this design, I firstly took a step back and considered my energy needs and yields. In other words an input output analysis, all about being healthy and happy. I looked at how these inputs and outputs linked up together too and discovered lots of complex links.

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This confirmed for me that the four areas I had chosen for the design to address where the right ones and they dovetailed nicely together with lots of areas of overlap. I then did a detailed brainstorm, looking at lots of possible options I could explore to achieve my four aims. As a quick reminder, the areas this design hopes to address are;

1. To learn about nutrition and healthy foods for myself and my family

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

3. To lose the excess baby weight

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

IMG_5560The whole brainstorm ( close-ups below for ease of reading)

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From the ideas explored in the brainstorms, I chose my favourite 6 or 7 for each area and put them into the table pictured below. I looked at each possible idea and considered how it worked with the Permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares.

I then did a PNI (positive, negative, interesting) for each possible idea and this eliminated quite a few options as they did not fit with the ethics.

I ended up with a much reduced list of ways I could approach each of my aims. I then looked at each one of these against the Permaculture Principles too and ticked which ones they linked with. (The table below shows all this process)

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So this is what I ended up with;

1. To learn about nutrition and healthy foods for myself and my family

Use online research, online courses, book research and talk to people. Try wholefoods and vegan diets.

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

Gardening, outdoor exercise, running, cycling and walking

3. To lose the excess baby weight

Lose this as a separate aim as it links in with the two aims detailed above and practice acceptance of my body rather than focussing on what I weigh. Aim to be fit rather than thin!

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

To allow myself time out alone and recognise the benefits this has on myself and the whole family. To schedule in date nights with my OH and one-on-one time with each of my children. Set up a local guild group to take time out to meet with others and focus on my diploma (This will become a separate design I think)

So in summary, my analysis has shown that my design needs to focus on using the nutrition information I have been gaining in a way that makes family mealtime easier to plan. My design needs to schedule time into my life for exercising and set myself targets and challenges. My design also needs to schedule in down-time for myself to be alone or with the family.

 

My health and wellbeing design – LEARN

A really important part of this design for me is to educate myself about health and wellbeing. So I have added ‘L’ for Learn to the design process acronym  SADIMET Making it now SLADIMET. I wanted to find information and inspiration from a variety of sources to draw on to develop my design. I love learning new things and wanted this design to give me the inspiration to continue expanding my knowledge.

One of the first thinking tools that I found useful was The circle of life. This divides your life into twelve important areas. They are; spirituality, creativity, finances, career, education, health, physical activity, home cooking, joy, social life, home environment and relationships. You grade how successful you feel your life is in each area by plotting a point on the circle. The centre of the circle is’ terrible’ and the edge of the circle is ‘wonderful’. The resultant image gives you a visual indication of areas that may require your attention or work.

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So from this activity I noted that four main areas that required my attention were home cooking, physical activity, spirituality and career/finances. I did some initial work on trying to link all four areas into this design, but eventually decided that career/finances, was too separate from the other three and really required a design all of its own. I am working on creating a poly-income for myself, so will definitely be coming back to address this area of my life in due course.

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I used the twelve ‘circle of life’ headings to begin a brainstorm for my Zone 00 design. I looked at each area again, just in case I had missed anything and to spark off new ideas. This was a very useful exercise and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make positive changes in their life and not really knowing where to begin.

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A lot of my learning came through the 6 month course that I undertook ‘Eat, smile, live’. It was carried out via regular videos and link sent to me. There was also a lively Facebook forum created where all the students on the course could share ideas and ask questions of the tutor and each other. I learnt loads about wholefoods and healthy lifestyle attitudes. I have lots of new ingredients in my pantry now and new recipes under my belt. I have met a network of people on a similar path and made new online and real-life friends. I have cooked healthy lunches for friends and helped other people learn more about improving their lives through making healthy choices. I can see how this knowledge links very naturally with my work around food growing. So I feel this will help me with future career options too.

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I brought a few new books to help me find out more about wholefoods, veganism and healthy eating and to inspire me to try new recipes. I used Graham Burnet’s new book “Vegan permaculture’ and found it very inspiring and helpful. Following are photos of some of my other favourite books.

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As well as writing this blog, I love to read other people’s blogs too and probably spend far too much doing exactly that. Here are some of the most useful blogs that I bookmarked and have returned to time and time again.

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I joined the local Vegan challenge for January 2015. I attended a few of their meetings and social events. I ate a fully Vegan diet during January and am still 90% vegan now, but I have begun having honey in my tea again. I love bees and feel that as long as they are being kept in an ethical manner, then bee-keepers are helping rather than harming the planet. So sweet tea is back in my life thank goodness!

 

My health and wellbeing design SURVEY

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BACKGROUND TO THE DESIGN

I have been working on a diploma design since early summer 2014 about my health and well-being. I wanted to do a design at this stage of the diploma that was about me and improving my life. I have learnt that in order to head out and make positive change in world, you first need to have your own life well-managed and running smoothly. I have also learnt that my children are only as happy as their least happy parent, so to help my household be happy, smooth and successful, any change needs to begin with myself and work outwards.

To help me begin the design process I looked at zoning in terms of my life. I used the principles involved in zoning that are normally applied to gardening. The areas you interact with most are located directly outside your backdoor, such as herb pots. Moving out in stages to places visited less regularly located further away from your house. IMG_5500

This is how I classified Zones in relation to my life; Zone 00 myself, Zone 0 my family, Zone 1 my house, Zone 2 my garden, Zone 3 my friends, Zone 4 my community and Zone 5 the wider world.

I then looked at the frequency of use for each of these zones. I also noted down all of my ideas for diploma design projects into the correct zone. Finally I wrote in the circle in pen designs I have already undertaken and in pencil ideas for designs. I wanted to ensure an even spread across all the zones to provide a balanced approach in my diploma journey.

The design I am currently working on, My health and wellbeing design,  falls into Zone 00- MYSELF. It seems important to address the centre of the circle at this stage in my diploma studies, to give me more energy to commit to other designs that I have planned for the future that will take me away from the home and out into the wider world.

I find writing up a vital part of the design process, not only does it count towards my Diploma, it also allows me to re-think over all my actions and decisions and makes the design much clearer in my mind and therefore more likely to be implemented effectively.

For this design I have been using the design process SADIMET but I have added a ‘L’ for ‘learning’, so the process acronym becomes SLADIMET. I will be writing a post on each stage of this design process over the coming weeks. Today I will be looking at SURVEY.

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When using the design web for my last design, I found Vision, Helps and Limits to be useful places to begin. I feel all three of these tools fall within the SURVEY stage, so I have used them in this design too.

VISION – To design some tools that help me to achieve my aims of losing weight, improving my fitness levels, improving my food choices and providing me with some time to devote to myself.

HELPS- I am interested in this area, I enjoy cooking and love cook books and healthy eating blogs. I have a goal in mind of my friend’s wedding in June 2015, so that gives me a year to work on and implement this design, a good timescale I think. My husband is a health-nut. He cycles everyday and is running 8 marathons during 2014. He will encourage and help me with my exercising. He is supportive with the children. My brother and sister and both pretty healthy too, so I have plenty of people to discuss ideas with. My oldest friend is a nutritionist and currently on maternity leave, so she should have some time to advise me. The Eat Smile Live course I have signed up for should be very helpful and the FB forums another support network I can use.

LIMITS- I have a limited amount of free time each week to spend away from home exercising. I do not have much money to spend on this design, so for example joining a gym is not possible. I want any food related changes to be suitable for the whole family, I am not willing to cook multiple meals each day. The kids can be fussy eaters and may be unwilling to try unfamiliar foods. I am breast-feeding so can’t take a big cut in my calorie level. I love food and am not interested in a ‘diet’ that is about restriction or meal replacement. It has to be truly healthy to work for me. I must have goals to aim for to help with will-power. Any options taken have to fit with the Permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares.

SURVEY – I began the design in May 2014. I focus me and assist the design process I signed up to take part in ‘Eat, Smile, Live’ nutrition and lifestyle coaching 6 month plan. I completed a thorough health history, looking at my baseline weight, measurements, food diary and exercise levels,  health concerns and desired outcomes.

To briefly summarise the health history, I was 15 months post-natal with my third child.  11 stone eight pounds, breast-feeding and woken up 2-3 times each night, feeling tired, not exercising and feeling unfit. My diet was vegetarian, around 60% home cooked with 1 meal out and 1-2 take aways per week. I struggled to find time for cooking in the evenings. I drank 3-4 black coffees per weeks and lots of cups of decaf tea with sugar each day. I craved chocolate and salty curries. I drank alcohol 3 to 4 times per week, usually red wine or real ale. I enjoyed swimming and yoga but couldn’t fit these into my life. I wanted to make changes.

I set myself four goals to address;

1. To learn about nutrition and healthy foods for myself and my family

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

3. To lose the excess baby weight

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

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Diploma design for Muddy Boots- Evaluation and further thoughts on Appreciation and Reflection

The 2014 Muddy Boots season has now finished. We ended with a celebration session during which we planted bulbs to see flower next year and ate a shared lunch. We also carried out some feedback and appreciation activities. I created a photo book using images taken throughout the year to show the group. This was handed round and participants were invited to add their comments on the back-cover. IMG_4973IMG_4972IMG_4971IMG_4970

I was so touched by the wonderful comments. This is one of my favourites;

“ Muddy Boots is a huge ray of sunshine in our lives. We look forward to every session. There is so much to learn, so much to share and a lovely sense of community and sharing. I don’t know what we would do without this group”

I also asked people to add their thoughts to a group evaluation in the form of a picture. See below. This worked quite well and was more fun than yet another evaluation form. IMG_4974  

If participants had not completed the mid-point evaluation form, then I did ask them to complete one at the last session. I collected 17 forms in total and have collated the findings.

Where did you hear about the group? Emily, a friend, the FB page or the LNM FB page

Why did the group appeal to you?  location, time, ethos, values, natural outdoor play, to learn about gardening, to spend time outdoors and healthy shared snack time.

What do you/your child get out of the group? spending time together, learning about growing food, meeting like-minded parents, being outdoors, a sense of community, a relaxed atmosphere, seeing friends, learning through play, having new experiences, freedom to get dirty, space to explore, learning skills and pride in food growing, being creative, learning to care for nature. ( It was great to see so many of my key function for the group echoed in people’s experiences of attending the group)

Have you been able to help out and if so, how did you feel about being asked to do so? 8 No, 7 tea duty/ washing up, 5 pack/set up, 7 session leading. 7 happy to help out, 6 willing to help in future, 4 unable to help due to children.

Do you think the group is good value for money? All 17 said yes

Would you be wiling to pay more, how much seems fair? 1 person said £2.50, 5 said £3.00 6 said £4.00 4 said £5.00 and 1 said £5.00+

Would you be willing to travel to a different site? Is so, how far? 1 person said don’t move, 1 person said I have no transport, 1 person said yes, less than 5 miles, 7 people said around 5 miles, 1 person said more than 5 miles and 6 people were happy to follow us where ever we moved to.

Should I put a cap on numbers of families attending? 5 said no cap, 4 said cap at 10, 5 said cap at 15, 1 said cap at 20.

What have been your favourite things about Muddy Boots? Activities, planting. being outdoors, watching children play, the sandpit, growing food, meeting people, the relaxed atmosphere, the good vibes, exploring the site, learning about Permaculture.

What haven’t you liked/ what changes can you suggest? It has been too busy on occasion, need a bigger space, have a longer session, have proper mugs for tea rather than the plastic glasses, continue all year round.

What activities should I run in the future? Natural crafting, digging, nature art, mini gardens, treasure hunts, planting, songs, water/ mud play, plant identification, longer sessions, more time for free play, harvesting, stories, exploring, keeping chickens, making fires, making shelters Caterpillar/butterfly keeping, nature lanterns, nature bracelets, leaf rubbings, pumpkin carving, seasonal celebrations, mud kitchen, cooking and eating.

SO IN CONCLUSION…. people enjoy the ethos of the group, the activities and ideas behind it. They want a longer session, they are happy to move but not too far, they are happy to pay more- maybe £4-5 each session. 

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I have looked back at the 8 key functions I identified for Muddy Boots in the planning stages and reflected on how successfully they were achieved.

KEY FUNCTION WAS THIS FUNCTION ACHIEVED? EVIDENCE NOTES
To teach children about food growing I think I started to introduce ideas around this subject We planted the following; runner beans, strawberries, sunflowers, peas, courgettes, beetroot, radishes, tomatoes, peppers and herbs plus flowers and bulbs.

We harvested; much of the above list plus, cucumbers, grapes, blackberries and lettuces

The key function needed to be more specific – too general.
To inspire a love of nature and art Yes – but I do think that only parents and children who already have these interests were the people who were likely to attend this group. Art– we tried willow weaving, potato printing, hand printing, colouring in sheets, we made a beanstalk sculpture, we created food faces, we sang songs and played with instruments.

Nature – we planted seeds and bulbs, we made bird-feeders, we went on a bug hunt, we celebrated finds from the natural world each week, we played with pinecones, sand, mud and water, we learnt about animals and insects.

“Playing outdoors, getting muddy, being creative, freedom to get dirty” – we quoted as being things the attending child enjoyed most in the feedback forms.

This is really two key functions not one.
To be a safe and welcoming environment for parents and their pre-school age children Yes Safe– No accidents or injuries reported other than the normal slips and falls. One child fell off a chair once.

Welcoming– I had lots of written and verbal comments about how welcoming and friendly the group felt.

Again this is 2 key functions really.
To be a place for like-minded parents to meet and forge new friendships and networks Yes I have looked at the register and noted the following;

16 people came to only 1 session – This is a big drop off but some of these people were grandparents attending with regulars, friends from out-of-town, but also some people who just decided it was not for them.

On average we had 27 people per session – 12 adults and 16 kids.

The best attendee came 11 times out of 14

Of the top 10 attenders, the average number of sessions attended was 6 times out of 14. There was a core of 12 families who attended regularly and lots of others who dropped in and out throughout the season.

Some new friendships were forged and others re-inforced by the group. The link to LNM FB group was important, as was the formation of the MBAP FB group.

Quote from the end of season evaluation “ Muddy Boots is a huge ray of sunshine in our lives. We look forward to every session. There is so much to learn, so much to share and a lovely sence of community and sharing. I don’t know what we would do without this group”

but will these friendships and networks endure once the group ends? How can I help with that?
To keep the education space of the community allotment looking good. (I designed this space for my PDC design project in 2012) Not really There was not time factored into the sessions for general site maintainance. We did however add some lovely features like the pizza pots, tin can flowerpot and sunflowers. I had to spend extra time at the allotment to keep it looking ok and the com allot people mowed the grass etc. Positive aspect of using the com allot- is there are lots of other people to help with site upkeep. Negative aspect is I don;t feel ownership over the space.
To be a learning opportunity for myself, possibly leading onto an income generation project in future years Yes and maybe It has been a great learning opportunity and running it alongside a P design project has really helped. Yes there is a possibility of generating income from this in future years. Needs lots more thought and planning.
To be a community run group that uses and values the individual skills of the participants Yes I think this key function was met very well. I had lots of help for the more mundane jobs like setting up/ packing up/ tea duty but also six people ran sessions. There skills like music, art, baby signing and guitar playing were used and appreciated. How do I keep this community feeling while exploring the income generation potential?
For families to enjoy playing and learning together outdoors Yes Lots of positive comments along these lines in the feedback and evaluation activities.

 

A further form of feedback I have received is the post-it-note comments I gathered from the other participants on the PDC when I gave my 5 minute presentation about my design for Muddy Boots. IMG_4969

And finally I just want to share my sheet for keeping a record of who is leading each session and the topics covered. This tiny bit of design worked really well, giving flexibility in the planning and in encouraging people to sign up for jobs where they saw gaps. The sheet was A1 size and displayed on the shed during each session. IMG_4992