My health and wellbeing design – Evaluate and Tweak

I began this design 18 months ago in May 2014. Since then I have learnt so much and made a lot of progress along the path to wellness, acceptance and happiness. To evaluate the design, I must first look back at what my initial aims were. This was my initial vision and reasons for taking on this design project;

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.

During the design process, these aims were refined and finally set 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.

 

So did I manage to fulfil my aims and visions? What designs did I create? Did I use them and were they successful? 

The main designs I created were as follows;

  1. A weekly food planner. I tried various methods of food planning and this is the one I finally settled on that is working for me now. The heading of soup, rice, pasta etc remain the same every week and I fill in the details of what I’d like to cook in each category. This method of working from pattern to detail has really helped me not to feel overwhelmed at the task of deciding what to cook. I often choose one cookery book each week and add a number of new recipes from it to my weekly planner. This keeps me learning new recipes and keeps our food interesting and varied. This works really well, but only if I find the time to update it on a sunday evening. I probably use this planner about half of the time but I do hope to build up to using it more often as it really helps with shopping, food planning and simplifying my decision-making in the evenings. IMG_0111
  2. A weekly activity/food/exercise planner. This is drawn up on a huge blackboard I have painted onto my kitchen wall. I update it every sunday evening to plan the week ahead. I don’t always use the ‘dinner’ column, some weeks it works better for me to have flexibility about which meals I cook on which days, allowing me to react to unexpected events like kids coming over after school for dinner. IMG_0112
  3. A wheel of the year challenge planner. Each month is given a Permaculture principle as a theme and a challenge to participate in. This worked well until June, then I have floundered a little with this one. I found my available time to work on permaculture diploma projects has shrunk significantly over this year due to other work commitments. So the task of finding out about and writing a blog post each month on a principle rather fell to the bottom of my to-do list. I have tried to get back on track and hope to complete the challenge for the year albeit in a rather shortened version than I had envisaged. IMG_0113
  4. A calendar to keep track of exercise challenges and events coming up and participated in. I have updated this regularly with the main exercise activities that I have done. It is gratifying to see these all listed in one place and see how busy I have been!
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So did these designs help me to fulfil my aims? PNI evaluation.

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

POSITIVE – my knowledge of health is far improved from where it was 18 months ago. I eat a mainly vegan, wholefoods diet now and feel that this suits my lifestyle and body type. I have more energy and feel fit and strong, I have not lost weight but feel my body is more muscular now. I enjoy cooking and have made some really positive changes around how we buy food and manage our food budget. I have thrown away my scales and am on my way to loving and accepting my body as it is now rather than pining for what it used to be before I was a mother.

NEGATIVE – I don’t always use the planning tools that I have created due to time constraints, laziness or just forgetting about them! I feel more organised and the week runs more smoothly when the tools are used. So I will be making a concerted effort to use them more in the future. My children, particularly the younger two don’t always eat what I make them. They can be fussy and so self-limit their diets, which can be rather frustrating for us all. I will keep on offering them tiny bites of these health-giving foods in the hope that they will come around eventually.

INTERESTING – This aspect of this design led me onto another design (Leicester food group) about how I buy and plan my foods. See this design write-up for more details.

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

POSITIVE – I found a cheap gym to join and use it on a weekly basis. I attend a boot camp class, yoga, use the gym and swim each week. I found a local dance class and take part in a tap and a ballet class each week which is fantastic fun. I have taken part in lots of running challenges, muddy runs and 10km cross country runs. I try to fit running into my life and really enjoy the clear head space and quiet time that this gives me. We take a lot of walks as a family and are encouraging the kids to pursue their sporty interests of running, bike-riding, swimming and climbing. I have been on a few date-nights with my husband, but not enough!

NEGATIVE – My exercise opportunities are at the bottom of the priority list. If Joe has to work late, then I can’t attend. So Ideally I’d like to find another childcare option as a fall-back option for next year so that my needs don’t always come last. The same goes for ‘me-time’ This has also slipped down my list. I have been super busy this year studying and building up my business. I love these activities, but they take every available moment that I had. So time away from the children is generally spend in front of the computer working hard and time for exercise and relaxation is squeezed.

INTERESTING – I have noticed that if I prioritise exercise and time out for myself, it makes me a better parent and partner as I am happier and calmer. I need to remind myself of that and grab that 30 minute run or long bath to unwind rather than tidying up the playroom. I think every parent has this internal debate about want versus needs and where to draw the line.

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

POSITIVE – I have taken part in 3 thirty day challenges and a 6 month health coaching course. I have learnt a lot and made positive changes around my health. I want to keep learning more and making improvements. I am enjoying the journey. I enjoy having regular small challenges to work towards and this gives me momentum.

NEGATIVE – The negative here really just echo the ones mentioned in the above areas, resistance from family members and lack of time.

INTERESTING – I have met some interesting people along the way and its fascinating how they are fitting into my social circle. My health coach now attends my outdoor playgroup along which her young daughter and some people I met online at FB food forums have now become good friends.

TWEAKS

  1. Strive to use the tools (that I created as part of this design) every week
  2. Set myself more challenges for 2016 to keep up the momentum
  3. Come up with an alternative fall-back childcare option
  4. Work in more free-time to my weekly schedule and spend this on me-time. quality time with my husband or one to one with my children.
  5. Keep on making improvements on what I cook and how we purchase food
  6. Make improvements to the children’s packed lunches and aim to eliminate these few processed foods that we do still buy

South Leicester food group. Diploma design write up 3

The food group has been going well. We have sorted out the ordering system into a lovely easy to manage design now. We have just received our fourth order and the food is amazing. It’s mainly organic wholefoods. So I know that I am cooking nourishing foods for myself and my family and gradually crowding out the bad habits by having my cupboards and fridge full of the good stuff.

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I am using the OBREDIMET design system to work through this design. Today’s post will clarify the D for Design and look at the M for Maintainance, E for Evaluation and T for Tweaks. I will also do a personal reflection on this design.

DESIGNIMG_6803The photo above is a reminder of the functions we wanted the food group to serve

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 social 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 tools and resources around the group (such as meal planners, recipes, book recommendations etc

Reflections on all of these are below.

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IMPLEMENTATION, MAINTAINANCE, EVALUATION AND TWEAKSIMG_9728

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PERSONAL EVALUATION

Looking back over my thoughts at the beginning of the design process, I can see where this design has been successful. Looking at the ‘why do I want to be involved’ section of the brainstorm below sets out my aims quite clearly for this design.

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The following table looks at my personal aims and the wider aims of the group for this design taken from the brainstorm above. I have evaluated each of them and it shows me that this design has been successful.

WHAT WERE MY AIMS? DID I ACHIEVE MY AIMS? HOW?
To further my personal development around food that I started in ‘My health and wellbeing design’ Yes. I eat mainly vegan food now, much of which is organic and wholefoods. I feel far more knowledgable about what is healthy and what isn’t. Ordering from Suma

Ordering an Adel and Cole box each week

Growing lots of my own fruit and veg, especially perennial fruit crops.

Attending healthy eating festivals locally

Taking part in Eat smile live spring and autumn cleanses

Meeting useful and knowledgeable people

Talking with Andrea (naturopath) and Rochelle (Healthy living coach)

To gain control of my family food budget and improve planning in this area Yes. We now have a weekly budget which we are managing to stick to.

But I do aim to keep reducing the amount I spend each week and start adding essentials like loo roll and almond milk to my suma order.

£200 each 6 week Suma

£150 each 6 week abel and cole

£300 each 6 weeks local co-op, waitrose, aldi and farm shop.

Keeping a record of what I spend and limiting local shops/ supermarket spending to £50 per week.

To get great food at the best possible price Yes and No

It depends on where the quality/price spectrum you fall. I thing this food is great value for money as its mainly organic and real. It fills you up and keeps you healthy, but its not cheap.

Buying in bulk from suma and sharing with other in the group.

Buying seasonally

Looking for bargains and stocking up.

To spend time with people I like and who support my food choices Yes

We don’t all make the same food choices but are supportive of each other.

The group members

Eat smile live forums and FB

people who I’ve met.

To write-up a diploma design with a time limit of ten hours writing and ten hours meeting/ordering. Yes I have limited my write-up time. Not sure I’ve quite made it under the ten hours, but it’s definitely been a far quicker writing up process than any of the other designs I’ve worked on so far.
ADDITIONAL AIMS OF THE GROUP DID WE ACHIEVE OUR AIMS? HOW?
To develop a network of people who appreciate wholefood and can share heathy recipes.

To be part of a co-operative venture.

To have meet ups and shared meals with the group

Yes The group is fab
To get better at stock control and knowing what is in my pantry

To improve my meal planning

Yes, we all feel that we are getting there. Still work to do though. By planning ahead, meal planning, checking what we have before placing next suma order, not doing unnecessary shopping. No shopping week challenges where we eat up what we already have.
To use my purchasing power at ethical shops

To be buying good quality food in an affordable way

Yes We feel very happy with the ethics of Suma, abel and cole and the healthy food shops/ farm shops that we use.
To create less food waste Yes and no We are all more aware of throwing food away, especially if its expensive in the first place we are more likely to use up leftovers and limit portions to avoid waste/ However, having young children there is always waste. We all compost/ feed birds/ chickens with our scraps
To create a ‘new normal’ for my kids.

For my children to meet others who eat similar food to them.

Getting there My daughter especially finds it very hard to eat around school friends houses, so eating with the food group really helps. We also make an effort as a family to have lots of gatherings where people can eat our food, or ideally bring and share dishes do that everyone is exposed to new dishes.

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I will be continuing on this healthy eating path for ever. I am learning lots and loving the journey. Its made me feel so much better and stronger and more energetic. The food is bloody delicious too!

I have noticed that this design write up did not include any info about applying the principles of Permaculture. We spoke a lot about permaculture, which was new to the other group members. One of which has gone on to attend a PDC alongside her husband after I sparked their interest. So Permaculture was a big part of the design, but in order to make this more evident in the write up, I’ve reflected on how we used the principles in this table.

Principle Possible application in this design
Observe and interact ·      We started by looking at our current buying and eating habits. We each did a ‘stock check’ of our pantry and observed on what we were buying and using.

·      Part of this design plan was to learn from others and share ideas around the group

·      The design is all about interacting and creating community through the medium of food

Catch and store energy ·      We had planned to meet up and harvest fruit together and make jams and preserves, to expand the season that home-grown foods were are available to us.
Obtain a yield ·      Ensure that the group is useful to us all by feeding back to each other and making changes to our systems as required.

·      Make sure I am getting useful results

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback ·      Observe and note any positives and negatives to each design we trial

·      Make changes and tweaks to the design as needed

Use and value renewable resources and services ·      Consider where I am sourcing my purchases. Is Suma the it the best source?

·      Should we try the local food co-op, farm shops or health food shops instead?

·      What resources do we have that we can share around the group?

·      Shared meals

Produce no waste ·      Use what I buy

·      Use all of the foods I purchase and if they are not getting used up by the ‘use by’ dates, then consider why? Do I need better recipes or to change my purchasing habits?

·      Trying ‘buy nothing’ weeks to use up foods in our houses and reduce waste

·      Bring left overs to our shared meals and share out the remaining left overs!

Design from pattern to detail ·      Try different design patterns and work towards the best solution.

·      Establish a pattern of meeting/ ordering every 6 weeks

Integrate rather than segregate ·      This design is all about coming together and the power of buing in bulk to get the best deals then sharing around our little community
Use small and slow solutions ·      See what we already have in our pantry before rushing out and buying more food.

·      Establishing which design works best by tweaking small changes

Use and value diversity ·      Working together with other women on this design was a big goal of mine, gathering a diversity of ideas and experiences.
Use edges and value the marginal ·      Not sure how this one fits?
Creatively use and respond to change ·      Observe and note what designs we trial

·      Make changes and tweaks to the design as needed

·      Respond to the changes in the group make up and be prepared for the group members and how we meet up to change over the years as we all grow and change.

 

End of 2016 update– This design is still working for me in some ways but not in others. I still order from Suma with this group every 6 weeks or so. I now have a weekly fruit and veg box delivered from Riverford rather than Abel and Cole as I feel they are a more ethical company with better employee care and less gimmicks.

The Suma group has now grown to ten families. This growing process was not easy to negotiate. Some members wanted new people to join, others did not, some people wanted to keep it women only, others wanted men to join. Its been tricky and some feelings were hurt and toes stepped on. Now that there are 10 families involved, we never all order every time, that would be just too huge a delivery for any one household to receive. But it does seem to work out that whenever anyone wants to order, there are sufficient numbers to do so and take the total well beyond the minimum order.

The big negative for me of having a larger group, is that we rarely get together for our shared meals any more. Its become too hard to co-ordinate schedules and too many people to fit into our houses! As our children grow, people return to work, kids schedules fill up and its harder and harder to find the time to get together socially. That is a shame. But I have made some solid friendships within the group and tend to see four of the members on an individual basis now rather than on mass.

Doing this design has made a sustainable change in the way that I buy food and manage my pantry. I’m really happy with that outcome. This design has also taught me a lot about group dynamics and the importance of picking carefully who you want to form groups with! Its taught me a lot about how I myself am in groups, that I like to lead but then I can easily get burnt out when it becomes expected that I will lead. We’ve got better at taking turns and other people taking the initiative, so I feel the group will probably tick along quite smoothly now. Maybe some people will leave, maybe others will join as time rolls on but I think we can sustain these changes.

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 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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My garden design – Evaluation 2014

I shared one of my Permaculture designs on this blog in the spring. It was a redesign of the food growing spaces in my back garden with the aim of providing us with something to eat on four days out of each week from May till September.  Here is a reminder of how that design looked. IMG_0953

I have also been sharing my monthly garden updates to keep track of how the garden is looking and progressing throughout the year. I am now coming to the end of the growing season and have been looking back over the design and how it worked out this year. I have looked at the garden features I had planned and the foods I had planned to grow. I have done a PNI analysis. Each item has also been graded from 10-1 with 10 being best. Items scoring under 5 will not be included in my garden for 2015 unless I can justify why they deserve a second chance!

DESIGN FEATURES POSITIVE 10-6 NEGATIVE5-0 INTERESTING
Polytunnel 0 Decided against this as the site proved unsuitable as it is too shaded by overhanging trees.
New Pond 0 Again the suggested site was too close to trees so the pond would fill with leaves each autumn. Also my children created a den behind the chicken run that required access over this area.
Stepping stones 2 I put a few in by the chicken run where I had the most trouble with mud. No other paths implemented due to lack of funds and time
Sectional chicken run 7 Works great in space b the shed, can open it up to let the hens forage behind the greenhouse too. Not used for chicken tractoring as yet, but plans to do so over this winter.
Raised beds 9 Great success, easy to make and maintain, very productive, great use of sunny part of garden, kids enjoy helping me.
Key hole beds 3 The woodchip paths rotted very quickly, the space is under trees so not great for annual veg. Difficult to access. Redesign as forest garden in 2015?
Water storage and capture 7 New tanks installed and collection off shed and overflow into pond. All functions well. However my son learnt to open the taps this summer and kept draining the tanks.
Wood store 6 Lots of wood storage spaces in garden now. We don’t need to buy in any wood this winter.
Pots on patio and deck 7 Looked lovely all summer and productive for herbs and cut flowers. However, v hot sunny position so lots of watering was required.
Table and chairs 8 New table and bench seating created out of reclaimed timber. Easy to crate seats up to 12 people. Kept on patio not lawn in the end seemed more practical option.
Grapevine 6 Great at shading deck in summer and letting in light in autumn/winter. However again it needed watering more and did not produce many grapes. They grapes that did grow were eaten by birds, but gret for birdwatching from kitchen
New lower fencing 5 I lkie it as it lets more light in and hopefully it will stand up better to winter storms. Our neighbour did not like it and put up a 6 foot fence along the remaining boundary would not consider a lower fence.
PLANTING
FRUIT
Rhubarb 5 Old plant needs dividing
Black currant 8 Loads of fruit but old bush, getting unstable
Gooseberry 6 Lots of fruit but tricky to harvest
Red currant 8 Great, need to take cuttings to start new plants as per black currants
Apple trees 6 Cooking apples was great, not loads on eating apple trees. Shared harvest with neighbours
Pear trees 4 Still establishing, spots on leaves diseased?
Blackberries 6 Were cut back hard this year so smaller harvest than normal
Raspberries 8 Good crop considering 1st year
White currant 4 Tasty but didn’t harvest many
Grapevines 5 Not too many grapes set and most lost to birds. Beautiful autumn colour
Fig 9 Fantastic, 50 ish fruits this year
Strawberries 6 Kids ate them all
Alpine strawberries 7 Spreading well
Cherry trees 6 First few cherry this year
Plum trees 4 Rubbish this year
ANNUAL VEG
Courgettes 2 Rubbish in my garden for last few years
Carrots 3 Didn’t really come to anything
Parsnips 0 Forgot to sow any
Beetroot 8 Great, ate stalks and leaves too
Raddishes 4 Ok in spring, went woody v quicky
Leeks 0 Dug up by chickens
Pumpkins 1 Lots of leafy growth but no fruit
Sweetcorns 1 Only 1 cob set! Rubbish
Cucumber 3 Didn’t do much
Mange tout 7 Great value
Broad beans 6 Good but needed more
Potatoes 6 Only had a few as take a lot of space but kids enjoyed harvest
Kale 4 Too late growing, chickens ate it
Spinach 3 Bolted v fast despite being in shade of grapevine
Lettuces 6 Great early and late in season, don;t bother in midsummer
Tomatoes 8 Great, lots of good outdoor toms, lots of work though
Peas 5 Not great this year
Chilis 9 Loads and v tasty and easy to grow
Aubergine 2 Small fruits set but none harvested
HERBS, FLOWERS AND MISC
Mint 7 Loads, need to keep in check
Edible flowers 9 Lovely and useful
Herbs in pots on patio 8 Fab
Sunflowers 6 Did ok, kids enjoyed the race
Lavendar 6 Establishing well
Calendula 9 Love it
Green manure mix 4 Didn’t do much
Sweetpeas 8 Lovely
Roses 9 Fab
Clematis 8 Lovely
Spring bulbs 6 Need more
PERENNIALS
Wild garlic 9 My fav, no effort, more each year, v useful in spring cooking
Perennial leaves patch 3 Not very successful, still needs to establish, went to seed quickly
Jerusulmn artichokes 8 Useful plant, lots of tubers but I don’t like eating them and fed to hens. Useful poles in garden.
Per.onions- various 6 First year so still at trial stage but hopeful.

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I have looked back at the five key functions I wanted my garden design to fulfil. They were; food production, attracting beneficial insects, water capture and sustainable usage, soil improvement and places to sit and enjoy the garden. 

Food production See notes above and below, the garden was pretty productive for a relatively small space and I am pleased with the amount of food i was able to produce.

Attracting beneficial insects I planted lots of flowers and herbs. I left wilderness areas and log piles. I could have concentrated more on this function but I felt the ecosystem in my garden is pretty well-balanced.

Water capture and sustainable usage New water capture and storage systems installed. See table above for details.

 Soil improvement I worked on mulching, green manure, composting and sheet mulches this year and I have started to learn what works and what does not work so well in my garden.

Places to sit and enjoy the garden. New table and bench seating created. I was gifted a bench, we made seating from timber around the firepit. I definitely enjoy my garden and would often rather hang out in my outdoor space than venture out into the wider world!

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I have looked at the food diary that I kept from May-September to see if I achieved my goal of eating something from my garden four days out of each week. Most weeks did achieve this goal, excluding those when we were away on holiday. Most harvests were small, with homegrown crops being pleasing addition to a meal rather than the bulk of what we ate. Salad crops and herbs did well as did fruit especially figs, currants and cooking apples. This is what I harvested each month.

MAY – wild garlic, parsley, lettuce, radishes, lemon verbena, mange tout, mint, lovage, eggs, pea shoots.

JUNE – Calendula, chives, beetroot stalks and leaves, onions, broad beans, basil, cucumber, nasturtiums, oregano, lettuce, raspberries, rocket, corn salad, eggs, rhubarb, strawberries, red/black/white currants, wild strawberries, gooseberries, cherries, spinach.

JULY – Broad beans, spring onions, beetroot stalks and leaves, blueberries, red/black/white currants, gooseberries, new potatoes, welsh onions, runner beans, eggs.

AUGUST – Runner beans, plums, tomatoes, chilis, figs, cucumber, courgettes, parsley, celery, purple beans, black and yellow toms, eggs.

SEPTEMBER – Figs, beetroots, courgettes, tomatoes, purple beans, blackberries, cooking apples, eating apples, raspberries, grapes, eggs, peppers, chilis, runner beans.

IMG_4924So in conclusion, my design was a great start to re-vamping the food growing areas in my garden. I have learnt a lot from this first year. All the record keeping has been manageable, enjoyable and a useful resource for me to refer back to in planning my tweaks to this design for my garden plans for 2015.

 

Adventures in whole foods – Making my own milk

No I have not brought a cow.

No I am not banging on about the wonders of breast-feeding yet again

I have discovered how to make Almond milk!

For the last six months or so we have switched from cow’s milk to almond milk. My son has eczema and dairy in all forms seems to make his skin far worse. So I decided to cut out dairy from his diet and mine. I am breast-feeding him still and if I ate a lot of dairy products, It did seem to have an effect (OK so I did mention breast-feeding just a tiny bit)

We have been buying Almond milk and noticed that the almond content seemed incredibly low at just 2% This led me to wonder about how this type of milk was made and if it was possibly to do it myself. In a lucky piece of timing, the tutor on my health and nutrition course sent us a video last week of herself making a green smoothie that included her making her own almond milk-perfect! So this morning I gave it a go and I am happy to report that it is quick, easy, cheaper than buying the cartons and very very tasty.

IMG_2658Step 1. Buy some whole almonds

IMG_2659Step 2. Soak your almonds overnight in plenty of cold water

IMG_2660Step 3. The next morning, rinse them carefully. You need roughly 1 cup of soaked almonds to 3 cups of cold water.

IMG_2661Step 4. Put the almonds and water into your blender. Blend on high for a few minutes.

IMG_2663Step 5. Pour the milk into a sieve lined with a muslin. You can buy special nut milk bags  but I found this worked just as well as didn’t cost me any money- which is always good!

IMG_2665Step 6. Pour the milk into a glass container through a funnel. I am using re-purposed lemonade bottles. Store the milk in your fridge, I think it is ok to keep for 3 or 4 days, but it is so tasty I don’t think it will last that long.

IMG_2664Step 6. The almond pulp can be used for baking, composted or I may feed mine to the chickens.

Step 7. Enjoy in your cups of tea, poured over cereals or in a hot chocolate!