Twelve Principles for twelve months – March – Efficient energy planning

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles. I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. March – Efficient energy planning

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It was hard to find an image that demonstrates the principle of ‘efficient energy planning’!   I finally settled on this one, of the abundant fresh produce harvested from my garden one day in August, and here is why… Years ago we used to have an allotment. It was about a mile from our house, so we used to walk or cycle there which took 30 mins at least. We began by spending whole weekends tending our plot. After a while we started renovating our house and this squeezed our available time to devote to the allotment. A few more years passed and we had our first child, by this point our free time to spend on the plot was minimal and by the time we had travelled there our daughter was fed up of being in her pushchair and needing our attention. So the allotment got more and more neglected and eventually we gave it up.

Soon after that we moved house to our current home with a huge south-facing garden. We now grow our fruit and veg in the garden, so we have only to step outside the back door to tend to our plants. We now have three children so there would be no way we could make the two mile round trip and devote the time required to the upkeep of an allotment, but by growing our food where we spend all our time, the garden gets attention little and often, And the results are wonderful! This demonstrates the importance of efficient energy planning in terms of Zoning, placing items used most often, closest to your home. The purpose of this is to minimise wasted energy in your system.

QUOTATIONS

Zoning is a conceptional design tool used for managing our own energies. Radiating out from the centre are zones one to five. Zone 00 is the self at the centre. On a land based design, elements that are in need of the most attention are placed nearer to the home and yourself than those that require less frequent attention.                                                                                                                 L. Macnamara. People and Permaculture 2012

Efficient energy planning is all about three things: zones, sectors, and slope. Using these three categories, you can set up your homestead so that you will need to use the least energy possible. This means energy from people and energy in other forms such as wind or water. In order to get the most accomplished in the least amount of time, increasing efficiency you should follow these ideas.                                                                         New England Permaculture Homestead blog  www.nepermhome.wordpress.com

 

We make every effort to put in structures that will produce or conserve energy, rather than structures that will continuously consume energy. Our aim is to catch, store and use energy before it is lost from the system.                                                                                                                  Ross and Jenny Mars. Getting Started in Permaculture 1994 

APPLICATIONS

1. Putting items needing to go upstairs into a basket placed on the bottom step and carrying them all up in one go at the end of the day rather than making multiple trips up and down the stairs throughout the day.

2. Storing water close to where it is needed, ideally at the top elevation of your site so that it can be moved with minimal effort using gravity.

3. Planting your herbs just outside the backdoor, so you can easily grab a handful while cooking dinner, ideally without even needing to put on your shoes!

CHALLENGE

I knew that this month would be a hectic one for me, as I am embarking on a number of different training courses and projects that are demanding of my time. So in order to efficiently plan my energy, I decided to get a leg-up on this challenge by completing it a few weeks ago. I wanted to look at my Permaculture Diploma in terms of Zoning and ensure that I had a good handle on what my diploma designs were going to be and how they fitted into the zones of my life. The diagram below shows zones in my life and ideas for related designs slotted into the relevant zone. This can help me decide which designs to prioritise by indicating how closely they are related to the centre of my life, my Zone 00.

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Twelve Principles for twelve months – February – Edge effect

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles. I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time. February – Edge effect

imageThis image shows how materials collect where one material meets another and an edge is created. Here fallen leaves accumulate along a kerb. This principle could be applied in a garden, for example to capture materials alongside the edges of a raised bed and add beneficial nutrients to the soil.

QUOTATIONS

“Edges are places of varied ecology as they share resources between two distinct ecosystems and are known as a net and sieve for energy. We can increase the yield of the system by manipulating where two ecosystems meet, and designing in their unique species. Here the patterns of nature merge to utilize their inspiration with our creativity.” Bill Mollison. ‘Introduction to Permaculture’

“Edges themselves are often very diverse. Many of the species from both ecosystems live there together with some that live only on the edge, giving more species diversity than the interior of either ecosystem.”                                                                                    Patrick Whitefield. ‘The Earth Care Manual’

When we are in the edge between illness and health, and on the road to recovery, we can use our wellness to create more wellness… There is a familiar pattern of trying to step out of the edge too quickly and thinking we are well again, doing too much and then relapsing. This edge period needs to contain a balance of relaxation and activity. There are advantages of staying in the edge, it is a good place to take time to reassess and create new patterns, and to make sure that wellness can really take root in our lives.           Looby Macnamara For Permaculture magazine 

APPLICATIONS To create a successful garden pond, it is important to consider the edges. A pond with straight vertical sides will be uninviting to wildlife. Whereas a pond with gently curving undulating edges and a variety of depths will create niches suitable for a multitude of life forms to inhabit.

Keyhole and mandala gardens are much used in Permaculture. Garden beds in these shapes provide easy access and produce many different spaces suited to different plants. Curved edges are more pleasing to the eye than straight edges and they follow nature more closely too. something we always try to do in permaculture. Personally I have found it challenging to fit curved beds into my garden as it is narrow and long, but I certainly like the theory behind the idea.

CHALLENGE I am going to use the edges of my day to be as productive as possible. I plan to use early mornings and the few hours between the kids going to sleep and my own bedtime for exercise and diploma work. These quiet moments are currently under used parts of my day and they have the benefit of providing time for me to be alone. My brain is most active early in the morning, so it’s a great time to write to-do lists and make plans. I also find that I have good ideas whilst running, particularly at dusk as my mind is concentrated on the task at hand and the general brain-chatter is silenced. However I must remember to write down my ideas as soon as I arrive home before the daily chaos rushes in again.

Another challenge for this month is to push myself to the edge of my comfort zone. When you stretch yourself, important things can happen. When you run a little faster or further than you are really comfortable with, something amazing happens, you get fitter! Likewise when you take on an uncomfortable challenge, such as attending a scary meeting or daring to speak up against an opinionated friend, you find new strength and confidence in your own abilities.

Another thing I want to do is try to overlap some of the projects that I am working on to create new edges. Lots of my activity has areas in common, such as the outdoor playgroup and Forest schools training. Both are involved in helping children engage with nature. So rather than keeping these parts of my life apart, I hope to ‘Integrate rather than segregate’ and join up my thinking. I hope this will make my life easier and create new abundant edges, sparking off new ideas and creative ways of working.

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Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Pause

Incorporate time for rest and rejuvenation… How can I recharge my batteries? How can I make times of rest and quiet a built-in part of my design? How can I rejuvenate myself?                                                                L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

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Pauses are important. Quiet spaces in between all the hectic activity of everyday life allow space for reflection, relaxation and appreciation. Without the pause of sleep that we require for a healthy life, we would not be able to function during the day. Constant chatter can become an annoyance but a good conversation after a day spent alone is a real gift. So I think it is the contrast of light and dark, company and alone-time, noise and peace that is important. We all need to strike a balance in our lives.

I need to carve out times of peace and pause in my life. My three children are wonderful but all-encompassing. My family life is full, noisy, messy and hectic from the moment they wake up until the last one falls asleep. I am often trying to breast feed, help with homework, find a missing shoe and watch a dance routine simultaneously while cooking dinner and working on the computer. Phew!

I try very hard to find moments of pause in my life. Moments that I used to take for granted pre-children are now precious and closely guarded. Five minutes with the paper, a quiet cup of tea, a bath all to myself – these are my simple pleasure. I go to bed early and read my book in a silent room. I grab a moment in the garden on my own whenever I can. I have recently started running. I go out for a while and run along the canal path on my own listening to the wind in my ears and thinking of nothing. It is blissful to me.

To rejuvenate myself and ease my Diploma path I have decided to gift myself a treat at significant points along the way. When a design write-up is completed or a difficult idea battled with, I will factor in a reward. This could be to buy an inspiring book, to schedule myself onto a course, to plan a visit to a garden or to take a day off and follow my interests without any diploma related agenda! I will also give myself some smaller rewards, a cuppa once a blog post is completed, a squre of chocolate or lunch with a friend. I have always worked well with delayed gratification. I love Christmas Eve far more than Christmas Day. I like to get all my tasks completed and sit back feeling excited for what is to come.  So the promise of a reward is as good for me as the actuality of it!

I will aim to design more moments of pause into Muddy Boots sessions. I have often thought that I cram too much into the sessions and have to drag the kids away from the sandpit or mud pie that is happily occupying them. Time and effort is spent in encouraging them to take part in an activity when they would be perfectly happy just staying with the sand and mud. I am mindful of providing good value for the parents as well as the kids you see. But yes, pause is important too and I will try to sit back, observe more and just ‘let it be’

Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Reflection

Evaluate progress… What is the current situation? What is going well? What is challenging?                      L.Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

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I am writing this with two more sessions of Muddy Boots to run before we stop for the Winter. I have been reflecting on how the design has worked all the way through the process really. It is a natural human response to look back over what has happened in your life and ponder. In order to make my reflections useful to me, I have formalised this pondering process and carried out lots of reflective activities for Muddy Boots.

1. I have kept a reflective journal. Immediately after each session I made notes about the following points; how many people attended the session, what the theme was, a brief description of activity, who led the activity, what the weather was like and how much I enjoyed the session. I tried to be honest in this and I have found it a revealing process. In summary, the sessions where I was well supported felt great, positive, inspiring and worthwhile. The few sessions were I felt I was battling through on my own, felt unfulfilling, hard work and unenjoyable. An easy lesson to learn there about working with others.

2. I have used The four questions a number of times when thinking about Muddy Boots. I have discussed the design during guilds and I have used the questions on my own. Especially at times when I am feeling stuck or troubled, I find it helps to settle my thoughts and see a way forward if I write down my responses to the four questions. ‘What is going well?’ ‘What are you finding difficult?’ ‘What are your long terms plans and visions?’ and ‘What are your next actievable steps?’

3. After the 7th session, I began doing Midpoint evaluations. I asked the group participants to complete a short questionnaire about where they found out about the group, what they enjoyed, why they came along, what changes they would like to see etc. This provided me with useful feedback, some of which led to immediate changes within the group like swapping squash for water and continuing to run sessions even if it rains.

4. At the final session on October 31st I will be doing Final evaluations. I need to spend some time thinking about what format this will take. I don’t want to do another written questionnaire really, so we may do a brainstorm activity. I would also like to give participant’s who may not be at the final session for one reason or another a chance to give me feedback. So I will welcome this via emails or the Facebook page. Again I need to consider exactly how this will work.

5. The four types of reflection listed above will feed into my reflections and resulting tweaks to the design. I hope to run Muddy Boots again next spring and summer but making some changes to how the group runs and hopefully proving me some payment for the hours I put in. So this design is very much ongoing and is hopefully the start of something much bigger for my future career path. Watch this space!

 

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.

 

 

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.

Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Momentum

Consider how to keep going…How am I going to maintain, build, increase momentum? What support might I need to keep on moving towards my vision?                                                                                               L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

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I looked at the ‘Helps and Limits’ to my momentum in running the Muddy Boots playgroup

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The flow diagram/brainstorm above shows my thoughts. So, to summarise the points noted above, I have decided to do a PNI analysis (Positive, negative, interesting)

POSITIVE EFFECT ON MOMENTUM

Good weather

Regular feedback from participants

New topics, new material and new ideas explored

Inspiration from books, courses, films, conversations and visits

Appreciation from other people

Enjoyment for myself

Taking Photographs of sessions and using these on FB or blog

Looking to the future and seeing what the experiences gained in planning Muddy Boots could lead me towards for a future career path.

NEGATIVE EFFECT ON MOMENTUM (AND WHAT I COULD DO TO CHANGE IT)

Bad weather – ensure people come dressed suitably. Use location with some inside space. Provide wellies and waterproof clothing. Buy gazebos with sides? Cancel in bad weather? Do not run through the winter and early spring?

Feeling uncomfortable and watched at the community allotment – Discuss my worries with Sue. Contact allotments for all officer to look into alternative sites? Begin looking into other types of locations instead/as well as using the comm allotment?

Lots of work for me with no financial rewards. Think about putting up the cost per person? Make Muddy Boots into a business for myself? Get Forest Schools training? Consider the other rewards I get from running the group?

Feeling so busy during the sessions, having to wear too many hats simultaneously. Mum, leader, photographer, friend, tea maker, caretaker etc. delegate more? Take on a student or other volunteer to support me? Ask for help more?

Managing all three of my children and being in charge of sessions. – This will get easier now that C is in full-time school. I will be down to one child of my own for most sessions.

INTERESTING EFFECT ON MOMENTUM

Having new people flowing in and out of the group brings with it a new energy and feel to the group, however the constant flows of new starters does restrict the depth of learning and I have to go over old ground quite often. Maybe I should utilise a sign up system in the future or work in 6 weeks blocks that are pre paid.

Not knowing how many people will be attending from week to week can be tricky. It makes planning quantities of materials very difficult. See above for ideas about overcoming this issue next season.

My mood and how much help I get each session very much affects how I feel about the group. I have been keeping a reflections diary to record this. (More on this when I reach the ‘Reflection’ anchor point)