Diploma design for “Muddy Boots’ – Principles

Look through the lens of each Principle… What do I see? What does it tell me about my current situation? What ideas does it give me about the direction I want to go in and how to get there?                                        L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

IMG_5795I looked briefly at all twelve principles and I have chosen four of the twelve principles to look at in more detail in relation to this design. I chose these four because they just seemed right, they somehow spoke to me and felt relevant to what I wanted to achieve with Muddy Boots outdoor playgroup. Below I will attempt to explain how each of the four principles has influenced my planning so far and how I intend to use wisdom from it in my future planning.

OBTAIN A YIELDIMG_42851. I want to make sure that I am ‘Obtaining a yield’ or getting something in return for all my hard work. Muddy Boots takes a lot of my time in the planning and carrying out of sessions. In return I am getting; a diploma design, useful experience leading outdoor education workshops that I can use in the future, continued access to the community allotment and a share of produce grown there.

2.  To find and develop a new network of like-minded people to connect with. This network could lead to unexpected positive outcomes. 

3. I also want to ensure the participants are obtaining a yield. I hope they feel they are getting good value for money and are enjoying a positive experience with their children, taking home ideas and inspiration for outdoor play.

4. We also create and gather in an actual yield of local, seasonal organically grown crops to be eaten as a group and excess taken home. I hope this will encourage others to begin growing food with their children and encourage kids to try fruit and vegetables they perhaps would otherwise of refused to eat.

DESIGN FROM PATTERN TO DETAILIMG_1378This is one of my favourite Principles and I have used it where-ever possible.

1. In planning the structure of the timetable. Dates of sessions first, details of session themes and leaders filled in as the weeks progress. I used post-it notes to record sessions and leader info to allow flexibility and this was definitely needed!

2. I thought about the structure of the group, how the leadership would work and related this to other patterns found in nature. I decided that my flock of chickens was a good group structure to replicate. The cockerel works hard to lead the way and protect the flock, but also all the chickens know what their roles are and they fulfill them on a regular basis. I am not sure I am particularly comfortable being the cockerel though!

3. I used this Principle when looking to design the planting plans and related activities throughout the year. I looked first at the needs and wants and a general overview of the areas we could use and my planned usage of them. I then filled in the details as the weeks rolled on.

4. Finally this Principle guided my weekly session planning. I always started with a broad theme, ‘butterflies’, ‘bug hunt’ or ‘jam making’ I then added a story book related to the theme, an art or gardening activity and sometimes a relevent snack or song too.

INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATEIMG_17181. I aimed to integrate every participant into Muddy Boots by making them feel welcomed and valued. I made a real effort to welcome people each week and chat to the new people, especially if they had come on their own.

2. Following on from this, I tried to introduce people to each other, creating stronger networks and linking together friends from different areas of my life.

3. I wanted everyone to feel a sense of ownership over the group and able to contribute their individual skills and ideas. I found that some people were more willing to get involved in the overall running of the group than others. Some people just wanted to turn up, enjoy and leave, but others were more pro-active in helping me set up, making tea and running activities. Both approaches were OK and I tried hard to be accepting of however much or little people felt able to involve themselves and to really show my appreciation for people willing to help out in any way they could.

4. I thought about how to integrate Muddy Boots into my life. I encouraged my friends, family and neighbours to attend the group. I used the produce from the allotment in my home cooking. I talked about the group at the Guilding and PDC sessions. I set up a Facebook page and shared it with all my FB friends and the relevant FB groups I am a member of. I took my own children along to sessions and asked their opinions and those of my husband to help me with planning and reflection.

USE SMALL AND SLOW SOLUTIONSIMG_13121. Don’t rush and try to do everything at once! This is a lesson I need to learn in many aspects of my life. I have lots of ideas and get very impatient to develop them. I am learning to pace myself.

2. Following on from the point above, try to avoid burn-out. Don’t allow myself or members to over-commit. The season runs for 15 sessions, so it is important to maintain the quality of the sessions throughout the whole season.

3. Get group members involved in garden design implementation and maintainance as part of the sessions. Many hands make light work!

4. I decided not to advertise the group initially other than through a small mail-out to existing members and through work of mouth. I later change my mind and after much deliberation, posted about the group on a FB group I am involved in “Leicester natural mummies’ this was well received and a large proportion of members found out about us from that group. This was a relatively ‘small solution’ but it had a large effect. A good example of ‘mamimum benefit from minimal effort’!

I also looked at the ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares as shown in the diagram below.

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Reflections on April

My principle for April was ‘Integrate rather than segregate’. I found a little time to reflect on this between child wrangling and Easter egg eating! I looked into companion planting and guilds. I am working on improving the apple tree guild at the community allotment and writing up an info board to explain what plants are included and why. Quite a few of the parents who attend Muddy Boots, don’t have a clue about gardening, so I thought I would educate them! And those that do garden, well I plan to convert them to the ways of Permaculture!photo 4The apple tree guild as it looked yesterday after I weeded it to discover which plants remained after two seasons of neglect. I spotted daffodils, wild garlic, fennel and comfrey. I will be adding to this patch soon.

I started making another web of connections diagram to show good and bad companions amongst plants that I am growing. I admit to getting too busy to complete this, but here is the picture of it as a work in progress.I should have increased the size or spaced the annual vegetable tags out more, as it is rather too crowded to read with ease.

IMG_1721I am using companion plants and polycultures in my garden. I am leaving in quite a few of the more useful ‘weeds’ and lots of the volunteer plants that have self seeded into my patch. So rather than the sea of brown that I see at many allotment plots, my garden is already a riot of green growth with a wide variety of colours, leave forms and plant structures. Some will be weeded out as and when I am really to pop in seedlings, other plants will be left to grow on and put to good use in the garden or the kitchen. All ‘weeds’ are food for the chickens, so where others see a front lawn full of dandelions, I see a crop for the chickens to eat!

I have made a number of patchwork quilts for my children using fabrics from clothes they have grown out of. I thought this was a lovely way to integrate what would be wasted or passed on. It’s also lovely to look at their quilts and be reminded of them in their younger years wearing those dungarees or that pretty dress.IMG_1718

I feel I am integrating the diploma into my life rather well. I am trying to make my diploma projects be about activities that I would be doing anyway, but Permaculture is helping me to do them far more effectively. It is also giving me the confidence to do things, like managing Muddy Boots, that maybe I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to take on otherwise.

My neighbour, an elderly lady with mental health issue has had a gardener erect a 6 foot fence along the boundary of our gardens. We felt really sad about this and asked if she’d consider a lower fence and a trellis to keep the light and views from being blocked out of our garden. She said no. She has fenced in the other side too and seems to be wanting to block everyone out and alienate her neighbours. I feel sorry for her. In stark contrast to this, our neighbours the other side have great. Our kids are constantly in and out of each other’s gardens, we have put a gate between the two gardens which is always open. We all hang out together a lot. It’s a really lovely sense of community. These two stark contrasts of neighbourly relations seemed to me to highlight the importance of the principle ‘integrate rather than segregate’ and the yield you can obtain if you do so effectively.

Twelve Principles for twelve months – April – Integrate rather than segregate

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This month I will be reflecting on the Permaculture Principle ‘Integrate rather than segregate’. April is likely to be a busy month for me in the garden and the kids will be at home for two weeks enjoying their Easter holidays. So with that in mind, I am not going to try to do too much this month. I want to look more into Companion planting and Guilds and use these great techniques in my garden planning and planting.

I want to ensure that my Permaculture diploma designs are fully integrated into my life and relevant to the activities I am involved in and the projects I want to achieve. My next design will on the outdoor play-group ‘Muddy Boots’ that I am involved in running. This year I will be taking the reins and steering the project by myself. I am planning on using Permaculture to help me to set up and manage the group. I want the participants to assist with how the group operates, so I will be using Looby Macnamara’s book ‘People and Permaculture’ to help me facilitate this.

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My principle for March was ‘Catch and store energy’ I only managed to fulfil two of my four aims linked to this principle. Wood was chopped and stored for the winter and the water catchment systems implemented. I didn’t get a chance to look into solar or wind power for the cabin. I will come back to this at a later date. As for watching how my energy levels changed and where I wasted energy, well, I just didn’t have the energy to address this one!