Allotment playgroup

The education space at the allotment playgroup has been growing and developing rapidly throughout 2017. I’ve held 44 sessions over the spring, summer and autumn months. I’ve worked with around 30 family groups each friday over two sessions. Its been great fun. The willow den is really taking shape now but it has been plagued with wasps for the last few weeks and out-of-bounds!

This year the kids decided to plant lots of strawberries, herbs, beetroot, tomatoes, carrot, runner beans and sweet peas. We’ve also harvested apples, soft fruit, potatoes and courgettes. The children have been involved in every stage, from sowing seeds, to weeding, watering, harvesting, washing and preparing produce and of course eating it!

Its our last session this week before the winter break. I’ll be sad not to spend my Fridays at the allotment anymore, but I’ll be using the free time to try to complete my permaculture diploma before summer 2018.

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Muddy Boots garden re-design, update on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017

Instead of writing a wordy post explaining how the enlarged and re-designed allotment playgroup space worked, I thought I’d post some pictures for 2016 season instead!

 

I asked group members about how they felt about the new space and got a few lovely quotations.

X and I love it! It affords much more space for the little ones to move around and explore, with separate sections/beds that emphasise the growing plants/fruit/veg. ūüôā

So much more space to run around in, my two love it, especially the larger willow den. It will be so magical next year when it’s all green and leafy.¬†

The mud pit and the sandpit are a big hit for M, she doesn’t stop talking about Muddy Boots all week! I love being able to chat with my new MB friends while she is happily occupied. Thanks Emily, its fab.¬†

I have a Facebook page which is updated weekly, you can view it here.¬†Muddy Boots.¬†I also have a website which gets a monthly update. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m enjoying it.¬†Muddy Boots website

2017 planning is in progress. I plan on running 44 sessions across the year at the allotment, 2 sessions each Friday from March till october. I’ve already got a long waiting list of people wanting to book in. Exciting times!

Muddy Boots garden re-design. Maintainance plan

everyone gardening

I have now ran 8 sessions at the allotment and its been lovely. I find the sessions challenging due to how busy I am, but very enjoyable. The set ups and pack up are taking a long time, but I am hoping that as I develop strategies it will get easier. I also need to start being OK with asking the group members to help more! I wrote a maintainance plan in April and have just updated it with progress made to date. I have tried to keep it just for activity directly on site, rather than getting too bogged down in the detail of the day-to-day running of the group, however the two things are so interlinked that this is not easy.

MAINTAINANCE PLAN

MONTH TASKS PROGRESS
April Complete all tasks on the implementation plan ready for session 1 on April 15th Done on time
Run Spring season sessions on 15,22, 29 April and complete all prep and admin associated with these sessions. Done
Reflect and review how the free-play activities are working. Do I need to make any changes? Sandpit will need refilling every season, so get another few bags of sand over half term. Mud kitchen may need some introducing to the group, plan some activities around this. Loose parts materials are going down well.
May Run sessions on 6, 13, 20, 27 May and complete all prep and admin associated with these sessions. In progress
Mid May take summer bookings from group members then offer any spare places to waiting list then do publicity via website and FB if required. In progress
Build in weeding, watering and planting activities to my sessions. Aim to plant peas, potatoes, radish, sunflowers and flowers with the groups during May All planned in and some planting already achieved
Visit the site during half term to tidy mud kitchen, weed, water and tidy shed and refill sandpit  
June Summer season begins, run sessions on 10, 17, 24 June  
  Harvesting strawberries, currants, salads etc  
  Weeding and watering  
July Run sessions on 1, 8, 15 July  
  Harvesting beans, peas, grapes  
  Weeding and watering  
  Take autumn bookings before the end of term. Will probably need to advertise for autumn, as MB will lose quite a few members when they start school in September.  
  Evaluations and reflections with people leaving the group.  
August Summer break- need to go regularly to the allotment to keep on top of the weeding, watering and harvesting. Maybe invite group members to join me for a gardening day towards the end of the summer? Share the workload of prepping for autumn season  
  MB involvement in the Allotment open day? 6th Aug? Date TBC, will I be on holiday then?  
Septembe Autumn term begins, Run sessions on 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 Sept  
  Harvest blackberries, potatoes,  
October Run sessions on 7, 14 Sept  
  Autumn celebration event  
  Planting spring bulbs  
  Stock check the shed and tidy up ready for autumn-winter closed season.  
  Documentation, reflection, planned tweaks for next year  

holding ladybug

Muddy Boots allotment playgroup begins!

I completed my to-do list in the nick of time and ran my first session at the allotment this week. It was fantastic! Both morning and afternoon sessions were fully booked and almost everyone turned out despite it drizzling with rain for the entire day. I am so please (and relieved) to have got to this point. It always is a HUGE effort to get the group off the ground again each spring. Now comes the fun bit of running sessions every friday.

I was rushed off my feet all day, so didn’t manage to get any good pics of the site all finished and prepped, but will aim to do this next week. Following are some pics that I did take of the participants enjoying the activities and the re-vamped site.

Muddy Boots garden re-design CEAP. Plan a schedule of implementation,maintenance, evaluation and tweaks.

IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

MONTH TASK DEADLINE?
February Re-measure and photograph the plot Early feb
Spend a few hours up at the allotment doing observations, sketching and planning the new layout Early feb
Sketch out a base map and play around with possible layouts of the main features Early feb
Get quotes for all building materials and decide where to source these from. Early feb
Buy building materials for fence/gate/play kitchen Half term
Take down the south wall of the existing fence and put up new one Half term
Put in the new gate and tower posts Half term
Put the new bolts on the gates By sessions start
Research mud kitchen ideas and re-do this feature End feb
Clear the movable objects from the newly enlarged space so I can see the layout more clearly End feb
March Draw out my finalised plans Early March
Tidy the shed and do a stock check. Make a list of any equip or materials I need to buy for this seasons activities. Early march
Begin saving tin cans for the allotment planters Early march
Move the sandpit End march
Buy more sand and fill it up By session start
Mark out the triangular bed Early march
Make the willow den Mid march
Cut the grass/ rake over to clear debris Mid march
Buy the marine ply board for the blackboard/ painting board/ spotted board/ welcome signs End march
Install the blackboard/ painting board etc and paint them in situ End march
Define the boundary of the strawberry bed and apple tree guild bed End march
Buy more plastic plates and another thermos flask End march
April Drill holes into the tin can planters Early april
Install the tin can planters and plant up with pansies By session start
Select, print and laminate some photos or pics of fruit/veg/flowers to decorate the picket fence. Put these up with staple gun. By session start
Mow lawns again By session start
Test out gazebos and decide which one to use Early april
Gather ground sheets, blankets etc Early april
Take home and wash and return all snack and drink utensils By session start
Buy washing up liquid, tea, coffee etc plus sponges, wash up equip By session start
Final checks before first session on April 15th By session start

CARRYING OUT THE IMPLEMENTATION

FEBRUARY

We spent three bright and cold days at the allotment over half term. We re-made the fence line and installed a new gate leading out into the wider community allotment.

Day 1 Рmoving the fence and beginning to re-install it. IMG_1235IMG_1233

Day 2 – completing the fence and putting in the gate

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Day 3. Moving the blue planters, moving a cherry tree, making the triangular corner bed and beginning work on the mud kitchen.


 

The P of CEAP is for Plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance, evaluation and tweaking.

But where is the actual design bit? This seems to come up a lot for me when using Permaculture design process systems. There is lots of detail about how to prepare for producing your design, but it never actually says “now draw your design” why is this?

So I have chosen to draw my design at this point in the design process. As at this point the space was more open and I could visualise the layout more clearly. I sketched out a rough plan for the new design while at the allotment and then worked more on the design at home.

So this is the design that I feel most happy with at the moment, but I am open to making more changes as the project rolls on and the space tells me what it needs. So I’ve kept the design loose, still using pieces of paper on the base map and not drawing it out in full yet.

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UPDATE – Here is the final design drawn out and coloured in!

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and a  close up to show some of the details.

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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.