Influences September ’16- February ’18

The summer is drawing to a close and I can feel autumn sneaking up behind me, so its time to re-direct my attention towards my Permaculture diploma. Writing up my designs is always a job for the colder months and I’m looking forward to cracking on with my diploma again with a hope of completing the last few design write ups over the winter and accrediting in the late spring 2018. So here is  a round-up of what has influenced my diploma pathway over the last year.

Training and learning

  • I completed my IPA in January 2017 (interim portfolio assessment) five of my 10 diploma designs were signed off by my tutor with minimum changes required. This was a big relief and very re-assuring that I was on the right track.
  • I am undertaking a wild food mentor online course with ‘Eat weeds’. Its teaching me more about how to identify and use wild foods. This is greatly helpful for my Forest school business, as I’ve began to include lots more foraging and campfire cooking activities.
  • I attended a two-day wild food course with a local expert. We went on wild food walks, foraged and learnt new cooking techniques. This was in the spring, I was hoping to do a further autumn course, but unfortunately it is fully booked – hopefully I’ll attend next year.
  • I signed up as a member of the ‘Radical self-love coven’ and have enjoyed a year-long online course into all things witchy. We’ve studied spell-work, numerology, crystals, feng shui, astrology and tarot. I’m loving it all.
  • I’ve been learning lots about the moon phases, women’s cycles and earth based spirituality. I’m a member of Lisa Lister’s ‘wake the witches’ group and numerous other useful forums.
  • I’ve attended some moon goddess training and would love to go on and learn more. I track the moon cycle and my menstrual cycle and am discovering some useful insights.
  • I’ve attended lots of doTerra essential oils workshops and use these oils everyday to support my health and general wellbeing.
  • I have attended four Forest school training days. Two general skills development days and an oils and balms workshop and a willow weaving day.
  • I’m still a member of the online group ‘The balance club’ This helps me to keep focussed on my health and wellbeing.

Events

  • I attended the Permaculture AGM at Graceworks in November 2016
  • I attended the Permaculture diploma accreditation event for Sarah Spencer in April 2017 and I was on her peer review panel.
  • Tomorrow I am attending the Permaculture diploma accreditation event for Sam Woods and I am on her peer review panel.
  • I led tours around the allotment site where I run Muddy Boots allotment playgroup for the East Midlands and the Britain in bloom judges in summer 2017
  • I took part in numerous muddy runs
  • I attend zumba, yoga and gym classes on a weekly basis.
  • We took a three-week camping holiday in August

Books

My bookshelf and bedside table are still filling up with books about spirituality, witchy paths, hypnosis, wild foods, goddesses, visualisation, female empowerment, self-love and of course gardening and love of the woods. I’m currently reading ‘The mists of Avalon’ , Lisa lister’s ‘Witch’ and Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ classic ‘women who run with the wolves’ My poor husband is a little freaked out!

Work

  • I’ve been running Forest school every Thursday and monthly on Saturdays.
  • The allotment playgroup has been running March- October every friday.
  • I plan and prep my Muddy Boots work every Wednesday
  • In 2016 I started running Forest school birthday partiesand half term children’s Forest school events.
  • I ran a women’s forest school retreat day in June. I will be writing this up in more details as its to form my next diploma design.
  • I took Muddy Boots to a local festival, the edible forest festival in September where I ran campfire cooking events, an epic mud kitchen, den making activities and a reading tent.
  • My colleague Jodie has now set up her own Forest school, I’ve assisted her at this on a few occasions and am glad to be able to return the favour after she’s helped me ut so much over the years.

Influences June 2015-September 2016

When I started my permaculture diploma, I intended to write-up an ‘Influences’ post every six month. I managed it for a while, but then real life got in the way and I have been slacking. So I have resolved to do a brief round-up today of the major influences on my permaculture journey over the last 15 months.

Training and learning

I completed my Level 3 Forest School leader training in early 2016 and I am now fully qualified and running my own Forest School. I lead 2 or 3 session each week currently and hope to build up the business in years to come.

I attended 3 Forest School skills training days in addition to my level 3 course.

I attended a Forest Schools Derbyshire conference in late 2015

I attended the national Diploma gathering for permaculture diploma students in spring 2016

I attended a day-long essential oils introduction workshop in summer 2016

I completed my monthly blog write-ups about Bill Mollison’s principles throughout 2015

I completed my garden reflections based on the pagan calendar throughout 2015

I volunteered at another forest school in october 2015 and learnt lots

Events

I helped out at the PDC in Leicester on various sessions during 2015

I attended a family samba drumming workshop at Soft Touch arts and took part in a parade.

I took part in a 10 KM Iron run event

The South Leicester food group that I set up continues to meet regularly and bulk buy foods together.

I am factoring in lots more time spent alone with my husband. This year we have been to gigs, the theatre and even has a weekend away in London together staying on a barge.

I am attending 2 yoga classes per week, using the gym and still running occasionally.

Books

I have read and been influenced by far too many books to list here over the last 15 months! My collection of children’s books about nature, food growing, the seasons, woods and allotments continues to grow with each passing season.

Work

Until July 2016 I had been teaching photography and art to a teenager on the autistic spectrum. We worked together to help her achieve her Bronze arts award. This work is currently paused while she transitions back to mainstream school, but I may take it up again soon with another student.

My Muddy Boots business is going very well. I am leading 8 sessions per month at the allotment and up to 10 sessions per month of Forest School. Most of my sessions are fully booked with a waiting list. Muddy Boots now operates as a business and makes me a modest income.

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Influences Nov 2014- May 2015

Today sees me finally getting around to posting the third installment of my ‘Influences’ posts. This post covers what I have been up to over the past 7 months. During this time the Diploma designs that I have been working on are, My health and well-being and South Leicester food group. I have also been busy with running Muddy Boots allotment playgroup and training as a Forest School Leader. 

COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

The six month health and nutrition programme that I started last summer called ‘Eat smile live’ came to an end in December. I also did a 30 day Spring cleanse with the same company during April and May. I learnt loads and made lots of new meals and have sustainably changed my diet for the better.

I took part in the Vegan January challenge, attending various events locally and being part of the FB forum. I managed the transition from Veggie to Vegan pretty easily and I am still eating a diet that is around 90% vegan to date.

I am still involved in helping to facilitate the PDC in Leicester. I did some of the publicity for the event and designed this poster. perm flyer with logos jpeg

 

I attended the first three PDC sessions but have pulled back a little from helping out over the next few months due to being rather overwhelmed with other work and short on time. I hope to get more involved again after the summer holidays.

I began my Level 3 Forest School Leader training in March and am loving it. The course takes around a year to complete and involves practical taught sessions, practical assessments, lots of written assignments and the facilitation of 6 sessions of Forest school. It is taking up a lot of my time and head space, I plan on using Permaculture to help me to plan my 6 sessions and a taster session I have planned for June. I have wanted to do this course for many years so am thrilled to have made a start. The photo shows us all looking exhausted at the end of our tools, knots and den making assessment day.

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I attended a two day Outdoor first aid course in April. It was a requirement of my Forest School training course, but was actually very interesting and useful for lots of areas of my life. I spend a night away from home, staying in a tiny room in a youth hostel, which was a real change for me, I have hardly spent a night away from my children or husband in 9 years!

EVENTS

This week I went on a wild food walk in a local Arboretum organised as part of National Vegetarian week. It was a lovely day and I saw lots of familiar faces there including some people who I’d studied Permaculture with over the years. The event re-inspired me to make the most of wild greens and I discovered some new uses for edibles in my garden, some of which I had previously considered to be weeds.

I attended the Permaculture Diploma accreditation of Reevsie. I was on his peer accreditation panel. After watching his presentation we had to discuss his designs and provide him with feedback. It was an interesting experience and great to see Reevsie complete his Diploma.

I am meeting regularly with six other families as part of the South Leicester food group  (I really need to come up with a more catchy name for this!) We have a shared meal, the kids play together, we share recipes and we order from Suma. The ordering process needs more work as it is rather long-winded currently. I am working on a diploma write-up about this group. Its been lovely connecting with a group of people, some of who are new friends for me and my children. We had a lovely day together recently enjoying good food, good company, and good weather! IMG_6668

I have taken part in three muddy runs, The Wolf Run in November, The Reaper in March and The Iron Run in May. Each of these invlved a 10KM run, lake swims, obsticles, mud pits and loads of fun. It is like being a kid again and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to find motivation for inproving their health and fitness. I have another run scheduled in for two weeks time, this time taking along my sister, I can’t wait! 11206608_10152818719262045_7253652698380650693_o

GUILDS

I set up a guild group at then end of 2014, especially for people who wanted to guild on weekday daytimes. Lots of the other local guilds are evenings and weekends and these times are not possible for me. We met up three times and chatted and ran through the four questions. The group seems to have rather fizzled out currently. I was a little fed up of being the person pushing for it to happen, so decided to sit back and see if anyone else made the effort. They haven’t! I am so busy at the moment that I can’t take on the leadership of the group so will let it do dormant for a while and see what happens in the autumn when people typically have more time for reflection.

JOBS

I taught two three day Photography workshops in December and January to year 8 and year 7 students. That was good fun as always. I have recently started one-to-one teaching a teenager on the Autistic spectrum. I see her every monday and we take photographs, use the darkroom,visit the museum and galleries and are planning a photography exhibition together. She is fantastic and I really enjoying the calm pace and responsive way that I need to interact with her.

My Muddy Boots Outdoor playgroup is going from strength to strength. I put the price up this year and I finally take home a little money! This feels great after doing it totally voluntarily for 3 years. I am fully booked with a long waiting list so am exploring the idea of running a second weekly session. IMG_6620

BOOKS

My obsession with healthy cook books continues. I get a lot of enjoyment from a shiny new cookbook! I am cooking lots from the books below and feel I am finally beginning to master the art of meal planning! IMG_6678 IMG_6679 IMG_6680 IMG_6681 IMG_6682

I have not been able to continue helping out with the gardening club at my children’s school this year. I am too busy and I also felt rather under valued there. I have so many skills to offer the school but I am not willing to give these away for free forever! I enjoyed spending time there but have realised that if I spread myself too thinly, then all aspects of my life suffer. I can’t do everything all the time, so sadly I declined to help out this year. Maybe another year I can resume my work at school, hopefully in a respected and paid role next time around. I enjoyed reading this book below and would love to design a school garden one day. Maybe I will do this as a fantasy design?  IMG_6677

This book was on my Christmas list and I really enjoyed it. I loved the way the chapters were divided up like zones and the recipes look interesting. IMG_6676

I have had a quick flick through this but not read it cover to cover yet. I have pretty much decided that I don’t want to teach PDC’s, at least not to adults. I don’t feel I have the depth of knowledge. I am very interested in the idea of doing a PDC for teenagers, children or family groups, so will keep this idea bubbling away on the back-burner and see what comes of it in the future. IMG_6674

I have been going through a bit of a desert island phase lately. I re-read all three of Lucy Irvine’s books. Castaway is one of my all time favourites. I am learning about den making, knot tying, firelighting etc at FS training, so it was interesting to read about these skills in real life or death situations! I also watched The Island with Bear Grilles and enjoyed that a lot. I think I would cope on a desert island as long as I had a good supply of water, plenty of coconut trees and somewhere comfortable to sleep! IMG_6673

Forest School teacher training

I am currently training to be a level 3 Forest Schools teacher. The course takes around nine months to complete and then I will be able to lead group of children or families for Forest School activities in the woods. Forest School teaches practical skills like tree identification, whittling, fire-lighting and den building alongside life skills like team-work, emotional intelligence and confidence building.

I am so excited! I have been wanting to do this training for years, but have never managed to find the money or time until now. I spotted a course in the woodland near to where we have our cabin, and decided to bite the bullet and book in. I have scraped together the cash and called in favours from family and friends to help with childcare. The course takes seven practical skills days and then 120 hours of writing. I have to plan and run six sessions for a client group taking then through a Forest Schools experience in either a wood belonging to a school or other setting. I am loving the course so far and thought I would share ten photos here on my blog that I took over the past few training days.

 

IMG_5846 The morning sun shining through the leaves still clinging onto a Beech tree.

IMG_5889Making an Elder bead necklace.

IMG_5884I co-lead a session making ‘nature crowns’ as part of a presentation on educational theory

IMG_5886 Making tent pegs by cutting and whittling a piece of wood.

IMG_5626 Collecting interesting tiny items on a woodland walk.

IMG_5629 Making a home for an owl!

IMG_5638 Using viewfinders to focus in on textures.

IMG_5831Lighting a fire using a flint ready to cook my lunch.

IMG_5641 Learning how to make a ‘wood-cookie’

IMG_5649My shadow looking enormous in thermal layers and waterproof! Full days spent out doors were wonderful but cold! It was very important to dress for the weather and drink lots of cups of tea.

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!

 

Influences March – Oct 2014

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I intend to do a 6 monthly ‘Influences’ post, in October and April. Since my last post in April, I have been mainly focussing on two Diploma design, Muddy Boots Allotment Playgroup and my health and nutrition diploma design probably to be called The Wolf Run Challenge. So a lot of my influences have been to do with working with community groups  or health and nutrition.

COURSES, WORKSHOPS AND EVENTS

I continue to attend the Leicester PDC every month. I have been participating in the reflection and planning meetings for these sessions too. I have led aspects of the morning circle most months. I have tried to make my contributions fun, informative and enjoyable. I have certainly enjoyed being involved in this way and I feel quite confident talking in-front of the group.

I had a phone tutorial with my tutor Hannah Thorogood in May and attended a one day course with her in April about developing a poly-income. I am due to see Hannah again before Christmas for a design support tutorial.

I attended a ‘Forest Gardens for Forest Schools practitioners’ one day course in September as detailed in my previous blog post. sarah house

I attended numerous workshops over two days at the Permaculture Convergence in September. I especially enjoyed ‘Vegan permaculture?’ led by Graham Burnett, ‘Mindfulness in permaculture’ and I watched Jan Martin’s diploma accreditation event which was very useful as it was the first accreditation I had seen. IMG_4223

GUILDS 

I still have not settled into a permanent guild which is an ongoing challenge. I have however been guilding at the PDC sessions with Ann, Dani and Sam. This has been great. We have tried to set other dates independent of the PDC along with Reevsie and Ellen too, but so far we are failing miserably to find suitable times and dates to get together.

I have been using the 4 questions with my husband and in my own reflections.

PLACES VISITED 

I visited The Eden Project while on holiday in Cornwall in August, actually we enjoyed it so much, we went twice in a week! I took lots of photographs so will do a post about this visit soon. It was very heartwarming to see so many people there, all learning about gardening and sustainability while enjoying a family day out!

I visited The Lost gardens of Heligan. I have read a few books about the re-discovering and restoration of Heligan, so it was lovely to see this special place for myself. I was very impressed with the outdoor education facilities. There was a den making activity laid on. Poles, ropes, groundsheets and tarpaulins were provided and families were encouraged to build their own shelter. My children loved this. It was made especially magical due to a freak rainstorm that lashed down just as we completed our den. We took shelter and ate our packed lunch in the den. The kids were in heaven!

I have paid numerous visits to my local botanical gardens. They were the venue for a few of the PDC sessions and I have returned throughout the summer to stroll around, play with the kids and make use of the tea rooms. It is interesting to visit with my brother, he has recently done a RHS Horticulture course and has learnt lots of latin names of plants and trees, so he loves to educate me as we wander around!

ONLINE LEARNING

I continue to use the Permaculture Diploma Facebook group. I have posted various questions and problems there and been astounded by the time and love shown by people in their thoughtful responses.

I have created a Facebook page for Muddy Boots which I update with text and images after each session. I also use this to communicate with group members and promote each session.

Probably my biggest influence from June onwards has been through my participation in the Eat Smile Live community coaching health and nutrition six month plan. I receive frequent emails and you-tube videos teaching me about different aspects of healthy lifestyles focussing on eating a balanced whole foods diet. There is a lively online community attached to the course too via Facebook which is a fantastic resource. I have been signposts to lots of other blogs and websites for inspiration too.

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BOOKS AND MAGAZINES

IMG_4688 People and permaculture has been my bible while working on my Muddy Boots design.

IMG_4689I brought Looby’s new book at the Convergence and read it all quickly the following week!

IMG_2654I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and the clutter that rules my household. This book is one I return to time and again for guidance and inspiration.

IMG_2653I try to protect my children from the negative influences of the modern world as much as possible while they are so young. It is not an easy task.

IMG_2652I really want to train as a forest schools teacher. Please universe, show me how this would be possible!

IMG_2651Fantastic cookbook used as the main reference book for my Eat Smile Live course.

IMG_2650IMG_2649IMG_2647More inspiration from the local library

IMG_2655This book was interesting as it talked about the importance of HOW you eat rather than WHAT you eat. Lots in here about slowing down and mindfulness, which currently interests me a lot.

IMG_4687IMG_4686My backcopies of Permaculture magazine, along with Country living and the Green Parent continue to be a source of inspiration. My husband would love me to get rid of them, but I say no! They are a useful resource and I genuinely do refer back to the quite often for ideas for planting, cooking, natural parenting and seasonal celebrations.

Workshop. Forest gardens for Forest schools practitioners.

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be included on a course that a friend of mine was running in Derbyshire. Like me, Sarah Spencer is studying for her Diploma in Applied Permaculture design. Sarah works at her local primary school and has designed and created a forest garden there. She lives on a nine acre smallholding and has another, more established Forest garden at her home. The one day course spanned both of these locations and was for teachers of Forest Schools, to show them how they could integrate Forest gardens into their teaching.

Sarah knows about my interest in Forest Schools and outdoor education, so she invited me to come along to the day. My role was to photograph the event, scribe for her when needed and provide feedback to be used in her diploma reflections. I certainly had a busy day fulfilling all of these roles as well as participating in the activities. I learn so much, met lots of interesting people and by the end of the day I felt even more certain that this is the direction in which I want my career to be heading.

Below are some images from the day.

sarah talksarah talkingleaf bashing mobiles stickman den obredimet on the grass plant dyes sarah house autumn walking legs barefootwalk garden rules sarahs garden sarahs house