Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Appreciation

Focus on things to be thankful for… what can I appreciate about myself… other people… the world around me? How do I feel supported at the moment?                                                                                                     L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

IMG_8398I appreciate the bountiful harvests currently being gathered in week after week at the school garden. I appreciate sharing this lovely organic, seasonal food with the children, watching them collect their shares to take home and seeing their faces light up.

What I appreciate about myself

*I have gained in confidence in planning and delivering Muddy Boots

* I have been very organised

*I have been good at welcoming people to the site and helping them to feel at home. I have been able to overcome my shyness at meeting new people and have actively enjoyed this aspect of the group.

*I have planned some great activities that have been well received

*I have taken lots of lovely pictures every week and shared them via FB

*I have inspired people to garden at home

*I have not let myself get stressed out by being ‘in charge’ of Muddy Boots

*I have dealt quite well with the difficulties of sharing the community allotment and have spoken honestly but tactfully to the people involved.

*I have created a good model for Muddy Boots and I have exciting plans for it in the future!

What I appreciate about others

*I have appreciated people’s practical help in setting up the site and tidying away at the end of sessions. I have almost always had help with tea and washing up duty.

*I have appreciated that Hilary, Abi, Gizelle, Oti, Zoe and Vicky all volunteered to lead sessions for me and all did such a great job.

*I have appreciated people’s feedback and honest suggestions for changes.

* I have appreciated people always turning up for sessions, even the two that happened in the rain! We have had an average of about 10 families each session which well exceed my initial expectations.

*I have appreciated the positive posts and thank you’s on FB and the recommendations people have made to their friends.

*I have appreciated the help and support of my friends and family.

*I have appreciated meeting new friends and forging new networks through Muddy Boots

*I have appreciated Sue’s positive attitude to having us at the Community allotment and her efforts in shielding me from bad attitudes of others on site who are less happy to have us there.

*I appreciate the offers of alternative venues that have been offered to me already by three separate people.

* I appreciate my sister asking me to set up this playgroup three years ago and the positive effect it has had on our relationship.

*I appreciate the time my mother has provided me with the gift of time, by looking after my son each thursday to allow me to work on this design and the write up.

What I appreciate about the world around me

*I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to design the education space at the community allotment three years ago.

* I appreciate being allowed the ongoing use of the education space and the wider community allotment site.

*I appreciate having a shed dedicated to the equipment I use for Muddy Boots. I appreciate not having to lug this gear around with me or it cluttering up my home.

*I appreciate harvesting crops that others have put time and effort into nurturing

* I appreciate finding interesting wildlife every week with the children at the allotment. From foxes to worms, they have been fascinated by it all.

* I appreciate the weather being very kind to us throughout the season.

I appreciate the gazebos on both sunny and rainy days. Shelter and shade were always important. They also created a pleasant focal point for people to gather.

*I appreciate being outdoors and having fun with my children and my friends.



Twelve Principles for twelve months – September – Produce no waste

IMG_7707Plastic packaging is a pet hate of mine and unfortunately it is often what fills the majority of my household bin.

September is a month of abundance. The trees are raining fruit down on us by the bucketful. This is wonderful as long as you can manage to keep up with the deluge. Often I pass trees that have dropped all their fruit and it litters the floor beneath them, rotting on the ground and feeding only birds and wasps. I totally understand that September is a busy month and the task of harvesting fruit can fall to the bottom of people’s lists. But it always breaks my heart just a little.

I am as guilty as anyone, this year I have completely neglected to harvest one of our plum trees. The fruit ripened while we were away in Cornwall and it needed immediate attention on our return. My attention was also needed elsewhere (as always) so this year we have not eaten a single homegrown plum. I am trying not to make the same mistake with the cooking apple tree. I am collecting the windfalls and bringing them into the house, where they sit in a wicker basket and slowly turn brown, then are fed to the chickens. My intentions are to make wonderful crumbles and puree but again real life is getting in the way. I hate this waste but I accept that life is so full currently and sometimes I just have to prioritize what is most demanding of my attention on any given day and ‘let it go’.

Reflecting on this has made me more forgiving of the wasted produce I see at the community allotment and school garden. Cucumbers left to rot on the vine, courgettes grown monstrously huge and bolted spinach everywhere. At our first new school year gardening club this week, we spent a good hour harvesting and sharing out vegetables amongst the children. This felt good. So many people don’t have enough to eat, not only in far off impoverished counties, but also in our own neighbourhoods. Wasted food seems like a terrible sin. I think often gardening projects concentrate on the growing of produce and make the mistake of neglecting the harvesting, processing and eating side of the equation. I intend to do what I can to address this in the gardening projects I am involved with.IMG_8331

This month’s principle ‘Produce no waste’ is a difficult one to excel at. So I am going to aim for ‘produce a little less waste’ I am going to make a meal plan for the week each sunday and shop accordingly. I am going to try to buy foods with less packaging, I am going to try to cook the correct amount of food and use up any leftovers the following day. I am going to keep on recycling all my kitchen waste to the chickens or into the compost heap. And lastly, I am going to try not to waste my most precious resource of all – time.

Goodies from the school garden

My eldest daughter and I have been involved in the school garden this spring and summer. Miss E has attended the gardening club and I have helped out. Its been great fun. The children were all given their own little bed in which to plant whatever they liked. We all mucked in too on the larger plot, planting potatoes, lettuces, tomatoes and flowers.

Yesterday was the last session of the school term and it was harvest time! The teacher in charge is retiring, so we rounded off the session with a treat of scones, jam and cream – oh so British of us!

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My garden in October



I picked the last of the chili and peppers yesterday. They had all turned red. We grew them in quite small pots on the steps of the terrace this year. It is a great sun-trap and they were very happy there. The final courgette has now been eaten as well as the last few tomatoes. What a fabulous tomato year! I think had more tomatos than even when we filled the polytunnel with them. Growing tomatoes outside is always a gamble, but no blight this year, for that I am very thankful. We have a small patch of spicy salad leaves ready to pick but I am slightly off salads at the moment and tending towards comfort foods as the weather turns colder.


I have planted garlic, kale and onions this month. See ‘Accept feedback’ post of details of the fate of my onions!


I need to sow some more salad leaves or a green manure in the polytunnel. I pulled up the last of the toms on the weekend, so it’s currently bare soil, not very Permaculture! To put the garden to bed I intend to cover the unused beds with garden compost, horse manure and green manures. I have been using the chop and drop method too, essentially creating a covering of compostable materials on the soil whenever you prune or pull up a plant. This creates lots of mini compost heaps that protect and enrich your soil.

I think one of my chickens is a cockerel. We brought 4 grey/blue laced Wyandottes as chicks. Two died and one of the remaining ones is looking like a boy, I am awaiting the first crow! (image below, what do you think?) My husband will kill and eat him. As a vegetarian of 20+years I am ok with this. At least I know he had a good life, was killed swiftly and humanely and the meat will be used to its full capacity and enjoyed.


I am feeling excited about our last weekend away at the cabin. I am feeling tired a lot of the time. I don’t know if this is the result of many months of broken seep, the toil of long-term breast-feeding or just the change of seasons. I am trying to nourish myself with lots of home cooked soups, stews and crumbles. Lovely autumnal foods. I am enjoying cosy evenings in front of the logburner and snuggling under blankets. However I am not enjoying biking back from yoga class in the dark and rain or having to get up while it is still dark.

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DSC_0078DSC_0065Weather stats

Thursday 17th October 2013

Sunny and still with clear blue skies. (A welcome change after four days of solid rain)

Sunrise 07.33 Sunset 18.06

Max temp 15 Min temp 10

My garden in September 2013



Apples and more apples, plums, runner beans, tomatoes, courgettes, lots of bright red tiny chilis, lettuces, herbs, beautiful cut flowers, 3 eggs a day (from 10 chickens, 6 in lay)


Spicy lettuce mix


Planting some garlic. I usually do this in January but never have very good results, so perhaps an earlier start would work better for me.

Cutting paths in the meadow (actually a rather scruffy ‘wilderness’ area at the back of my plot) As every time I venture down there, I get stung by nasty nettles.

Tidying up in the greenhouse, it is acting as a dumping area at the moment, as the photo shows! I would like to get sorted out before the end of the month.


Feeling chilly in the early mornings and evenings now. I have started putting on socks and trainers or boots rather than spending everyday in my old-faithful sandals. Some days are still very hot though.

We lit the log burner for the first time this season yesterday, it was so cosy and warmed us up a treat. I need to get a fire guard as S was rather interested and will soon be mobile.

I have packed away the kids sun hats and suntan cream. Blankets on beds now and cosytoes onto the pushchair again. Only a few weeks ago we were sleeping uncovered, September is such a month of changes.

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Monday 16th Sept 2013

Sunny, windy and cloudy

Max temp 12 min 8

Sunrise 06.40  Sunset 19.18

Apple day

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

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

pressingpress in action

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

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

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