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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Small and slow

To create change in our lives, we need to implement that change in a way that is sustainable. We are all creatures of habit, good habits take time to establish and bad habits can be hard to break. So any changes you attempt should be taken slowly, step by step in order to give yourself time to adjust to the new ways and make them a long-term part of your life.

A crash diet may help you shed a few pounds quickly, but as I am sure most of us have found out to our cost, the weight soon creeps back on plus a little extra for your trouble! Likewise with exercise, a new craze may keep your attention for a brief while, but unless you can truly embed a new  routine into your life, it soon falls by the wayside.

So with the Permaculture Principle of ‘Use small and slow solutions’ in mind I have embarked on a number of changes this month.

1. Food I have signed up for a community coaching nutrition and lifestyle coaching 6 month programme. I have wanted to do something like this for a long time but always found it to expensive one-to-one. So this programme is great for me, as its 40 women sharing one coach and communicating over Facebook to support each other. I only started this on Monday, but am eating lots more whole foods and feeling good! I liked the fact that the course runs over 6 months and you can spend as much or little time on it as you see fit. I think I will be making some positive changes to my diet and those of my family over the rest of this year.

IMG_2082Green juice ingredients

IMG_2084Tasty juice

IMG_2085Last nights dinner. Mummy and baby portions.

2. Clearing the clutter. As I have mentioned many times, such as in the post bookmarked below, the constant tidal wave of stuff that clogs up my house and my brain really does get me down.

https://nurturegreen.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/voluntary-simplicity/

So to try to tackle this ongoing issue I have been going small and slow with my clear outs. My aim is to clear three places per week. By places I mean a single drawer, cupboard, toy box or shelf. I am trying to fill a bag from each of those places with items to be donated to charity, handed onto friends, recycled or as a last resort put into the rubbish bin. I have found it quite liberating. I have a long way to go yet, but as my house gets emptier, I think I will get happier and more relaxed.

3. Exercise My husband has recently turned into a bit of an exercise junkie. Its weird. We have been together for 16 years and he has never been in the least bit sporty before. Now he is running 9 marathons this year raising money for charity. I am very proud of him and have been inspired to join his in his morning exercises. (No way am I going running with him!) We are doing a few 30 day challenges this month. Each morning we do a number of sit ups, crunches, squats, the plank and leg raises. The number of repetitions increases by a few each day. I have been pleased to see myself improve already. As a rather unfit person, I am now doing 130 squats and a 90 second plank – amazing! To be honest I am not sure I will be able to keep pace with the challenge for the full 30 days but if not I will set my own challenges and keep on trying to improve a little each day.

 

 

 

Twelve Principles for twelve months – June – Use small and slow solutions.

During June I shall attempt to reflect on the Permaculture Principle of ‘Use small and slow solutions’ This is one of the principles that resonated most strongly with me when I first heard it on my PDC in January 2012.

I have been a hugely impatient person all my life. If I have an idea, I like to put it action immediately. I hated to wait, so I was always dashing ahead of myself, like a bull in a china shop, making mistakes and muddling my was through. I feel that Permaculture (and maybe growing up) have taught me the benefits of stopping, thinking, planning and then acting. Have a cuppa tea, think, discuss, make plans, write lists then only spring into action when the ground work is completed and the time is right.

An example of  ‘Use small and slow solutions’ which is often quoted during PDC’s is that of planting a tree. Rather than planting your tree immediately, put it into a big pot, move it around your garden for a few days, weeks, months or even years, until you find a spot with the right aspect, soil, space and aesthetics. Previously I would be out in the garden repeatedly digging holes, uprooting my tree and wrecking my garden. Now-a-days, I aspire to using the pot method, although I do freely admit to still having an impulsive streak!

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Ten designs – Planning my Diploma Pathway

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I have been thinking about my diploma pathway and the ten designs that I need to  produce. Recently, while looking at the principle of ‘Design from pattern to detail’ I have looked at the whole of 2014 and tried to map out what I would like to achieve each month. I decided to see where I could apply one Permaculture principle each month in my learning, thinking, reading and activity. The wheel of the year diagram below shows the principle and the planned activities for each month. I have planned quite thoroughly for January to June and more vaguely for the second half of the year. I will keep adding to this sheet as new ideas occur to me.

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I have considered what type of designs I would like to be involved in. I have had a rough plan in my head for a while now and have done a lot of brainstorming on this subject. I have designed the image below to resemble a bee hive cell. Bees are amazingly productive creatures who work together to secure a future for the whole of their community. So I thought this shape was rather apt for Permaculture planning!  As a result of using this shape, I have ended up with 12 planned designs rather than 10. This is fine for now, as I will either have a few designs in reserve that I work on but don’t use towards my diploma, or as is more likely, my ideas will change dramatically before the end of the diploma and this design will be superceded by another.

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I have divided the diploma into 6 sections, these are general areas that I am interested in working within. They are; personal development, growing food, designing for a client, building skills, community projects and career possibilities. I have planned a two stage approach, one small design and one larger design within each of the 6 areas.

For example, ‘Building skills’ Stage one – The cabin. I will create a design that improves the space within and immediately outside the cabin. This will probably involve some basic DIY that I will have lots of help with from experienced home DIYers. Stage two – Garden building. I will design and (hopefully) make a small studio that serves a multitude of uses from a spare bedroom for guests to a space to run a home business from.

I am aiming for my stage one projects to start small and equip me with skills that I can then take forward to bigger more ambitious projects and designs in stage two. I feel that this is a good diploma design for me for the time being. It feels like it has structure but has also evolved naturally around my ambitions and interests. I am open to this completely changing as I progress through the diploma, we will see where life takes me!

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Voluntary simplicity

Before we had children, J and I spent three months living in a converted bus traveling around Europe. We had a few sets of clothes each, a couple of books and the pots and pans we needed. That was about it. To tidy up took 30 minutes tops. Having left all our belongings behind in the UK, we didn’t feel we were missing anything. It was a wonderfully liberating way to live.

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Fast forward 7 years, now there are five people in our household, each with their own interests that naturally generate lots of equipment, clothes, toys and books. As much as I love my busy, noisy, chaotic family life, sometimes I feel like I am drowning in a sea of ‘stuff’. The clutter and mess that comes with daily life can be over-whelming and I find managing it rather stressful and time-consuming.

With Christmas looming I feel the need to re-access the stuff in our household to make space for the new exciting things heading our way. I try to take a bag of outgrown clothes, books we won’t read again and no-longer wanted toys to the charity shop every month or so. The kids are getting better at co-operating with this now. They began by offering up only each other’s things for the bin bag of doom. “C doesn’t like this dolly anymore” says E chucking in C’s prized playmate. So a high level of parental assistance was required! But the last time we had a clear out I was pleased to see the girls being more considerate towards each other. It could well have been the thought of Santa watching that inspired the good behaviour.

Kids have too many toys, I think this is true of most families I know. I have noticed with my children that if you give them a roomful of toys they flit from thing to thing never really settling or playing for more than a few minutes and requiring a lot of input from adults. However, if they have just a few simple things, a teddy, a pen and paper, or a small box of blocks, then their play becomes much deeper and they enjoy themselves more. My favourite thing is to let them play in the garden, hours of fun are had in the tree house or making mud pies. This is what play should be about, imaginative creative fun. So why do we feel duty-bound to keep on filling our children’s rooms with prescriptive toys that they don’t particularly want or need? I am as guilty as anyone but I want to change.

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It seems almost impossible to keep the toy level down, as each time the kids go to a party, take a trip to town or visit a relative they come back with something. My pet hate is the awful plastic tat on the front of magazines. These rubbishy cheap toys are played with for a few moments then lie around neglected until I either stash them in a box or more often, sneak them into the bin.

While i am ranting on this subject, I also have to mention party bags. If you have been running around with your friends tanked up on fizzy drinks, sweets and beige food for hours, then do you really need a present to take home too? My kids generally return from parties laden with sweets and tiny toys. They have come to expect it and they don’t feel particularly grateful and I think that is wrong.

The first time we threw a party for our eldest daughter’s first birthday, a little boy (who shall remain nameless) came up to me at the end of the party and said, “I am going now so I am ready for my party bag” At that time I had not yet succumbed to the peer pressure to provide plastic tat in a plastic bag, so I just shared an embarrassed laugh with his mum. Now I feel obliged not to show up my children yet again (by being a mum who does things slightly differently to most of their friend’s mothers ) So we do give out party bags but I try my hardest to make them in keeping with my ethics without being too shameful for the kids. Paper bags containing raisins, seeds and plant pots have cut it so far but my eldest is only seven so I am not sure how many years we have left of being able to resist the slide into party excess.

A few years ago I read a book called Simplicity parenting by Kim John Payne.  Among other great parenting advise was a call to dramatically reduce the amount of toys your children have. This book struck a real chord with me and is backed up by the call in Permaculture for ‘voluntary simplicity’ I would love to reduce the toys/ books/ clothes in my house even further but there seems to be a lot of things stopping me.

1. I don’t want to be a mean mum. I understand and truly believe that kids are happier with less but asking them to part with stuff is not easy.

2.  That will be useful one day. Having three children of varying ages i find it hard to get rid of something that may come in useful for another child in the future.

3. I like things too! I love books, wooden and vintage children’s toys and i think i actually buy these for myself as much as for the kids.

4. Getting a bargain. It is hard to walk past a bargain, so secondhand shops and car boot sales are my downfalls.

This year I have tried to approach Christmas with the idea of voluntary simplicity in my mind. This year we will be doing a book swap with our cousins rather than buying gifts. My siblings and I are not exchanging gifts. My husband and I are buying one thing we actually want and need for each other. And the kids, well I am sure they will be spoilt rotten as always but I can always blame that on Santa Clause!

Hierachy of intervention – Teething

IMG_6732Baby boy is teething, poor little chap. He is chomping on everything in sight, dribbling loads and is not his usual happy self. Two tiny razor-sharp teeth have poked through now, so hopefully he should be feeling better soon.

One of the first things I learnt when I starting my ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course was the ‘Hierarchy of intervention’ This grand title basically means a system showing when and how to intervene in a situation when you have noticed a problem. There are 4 levels of intervention;

1. Do nothing

2. Biological resources

3. Mechanical or physical intervention

4. Chemical intervention.

So for example, if you have noticed slugs invading your vegetable patch, you could

1. Do nothing. Observe the slugs and keep an eye on what they are attracted to.

2. Biological resources. Build a pond to attract predators to eat the slugs. Let your chickens onto that area to eat them or plant things that the slugs don’t like.

3. Mechanical or physical intervention. Pick the slugs off and remove them or use a deterrent such as crushed egg shells or copper strips.

4. Chemical intervention. Put down slug pellets (although this would not be in line with organic gardening principles so would be an absolute last resort)

So what has this got to do with a teething baby I hear you wonder? When I first heard about this system and applied it to my parenting, I felt rather comforted. Conventional wisdom tells us to head straight for the chemist as soon as our children have a sniffle. But sometimes I question this approach. A raised temperature is there for a reason, right, to kill off a bug and make our children better. So why do we immediately feel we should react by suppressing this temperature and interfering with the bodies natural processes? Obviously sometimes medicine is the best approach but shouldn’t we sometimes trust in nature a little more? This has been one of my most difficult parenting challenges, of course when your baby is ill you want to make them better. But I think by taking a step back and considering gentler ways of reacting, I have helped my children build their immune systems and recover quickly from minor illnesses and normal childhood ailments such as teething.

Teething

1. Do nothing. Notice signs of teething and see how he is coping.

2. Biological resources. Lots of breast-feeding, cold hard fruit and veg sticks to chew on. Homeopathic Camilila powers rubbed into the gums. These are made from the camomile flower so are a natural product that seems to help a little and certainly are a welcome distraction for a teething baby.

3. Mechanical or physical intervention. Extra cuddles and carrying in the sling to give comfort. Put on the amber teething necklace. The amber has properties that help relieve pain. I have no idea how this works but I do have faith that it does work. We have used this necklace for all three of our children and they have cut their teeth without too many problems.

4. Chemical intervention. Baby paracetamol such as Nurophen or Calpol given only as a last resort. We have managed to avoid this so far and S is eight months old now. I like the fact that I have lots of other ideas to try before reaching for the bottle of chemicals!

Sewing nook – Design process continued.

2013-10-10 11.47.018. Base map

This is my working drawing of the dimensions of the wardrobe. The normal Permaculture tools of lines of desire, zones and sectors could be applied here, but the space is tiny so I am just using common sense about placements and scale.

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9. Apply Permaculture ethics and principles

Earth care – Use materials I already have whenever possible rather than purchasing new. People care – Zone 00, myself! I will mainly be making things for other people, so they will benefit from handmade presents and clothes repairs.                                                     Fair shares – I don’t really know, errm, let other people use the area too? Maybe I can teach my eldest daughter how to use the sewing machine in a couple of years.

Obtain a yield– Something for myself                                                                         Produce no waste– Make use of materials and objects we have already. Plan carefully and then only purchase what is absolutely necessary.                                                           Use small and slow solutions – A quick first project to ease me into the diploma.       Use edges and value the marginal – Using a marginal area of the house. Also using the edges of the space to the best potential.                                                                   Creatively use and respond to change– Our use of this house has changed a lot since we brought it. Two more children and loads of additional stuff has filled the house up a lot. So I have had to adapt and change how I practice my creative hobbies in the house. I expect this will continue to change in the future.

10. Working Design

This is the wardrobe I am using. The colour-coded book shelf on the left of the wardrobe is the result of nesting madness undertaken at 9 months pregnant. I do like it though, so it has stayed. The limited book shelf space is helping me curb my habit for secondhand paperbacks too!The second image shows the shoddy use of space in the wardrobe. The boxes, baskets and bags were moved elsewhere.

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2013-10-16 11.45.4111. Implementation plan

Go and buy wood for the desk and shelving, get this cut to size in the shop. Re-use wood from previous projects to support the selves and the desk. Check that I have suitable screws, rawl-plugs etc. Make desk, make shelves. Find the folding chair. Find the storage for sewing equipment. Buy a desk lamp and light bulb. Put up Ikea spice rack as a book shelve on inside of door. Use the blackboard paint to paint the inside of the other door. Try it out and see how the space works.

12. Implementation

I have now made the space and tried it out, all went well. There are a few niggles which I can sort out pretty easily. I still need to paint the blackboard on the inside of the door.

13. Documentation and maintenance

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14. Tweak and 15. Evaluate.

I will come back to these stages after I have used the space for a few weeks.

Starting the Diploma

Today I have had agreement from Hannah Thorogood that she is willing to be my tutor. I have paid my deposit and set up my direct debit to pay for the diploma. The next step is to have an induction meeting with Hannah and any other new diploma students she is taking on. It would be good to have some people to guild with locally. I am really excited to be making a proper start on my diploma at last!

A cabin in the woods

cabin 2We have been borrowing a friend’s cabin in the woods close to where we live, for a number of years now. These cabins are tiny homes with basic facilities, glorified sheds really, but we love them so much. They do not have their own running water or toilet facilities but these are communal and located a short walk away from the cabin. The cabins are usually pretty old, wooden and widely vary in condition from total disrepair to well-loved and beautifully maintained. Owner’s can build onto their cabins with permission from the land owner. You pay for the cabin and then an additional ground rent each year. We have always admired these cabins and had long discussions and day-dreams about one day owning one ourselves. We have loved visiting for short breaks.  We always take a walk around to look at the abandoned cabins and talk endlessly about what we would do if we owned one.

This summer (2013) we spent ten days at the woods during a heat wave, it was wonderful. The kids loved the freedom, the swings in the woods and the squirrels on the doorstep. We loved the immediate access to nature, the lack of contact with the outside world and the peace and quiet. We found a lovely old cabin up for sale and began pondering. Anyway, cutting a long story short, it proved to be too much of a financial commitment for us. However, on talking it over with our friends, it transpired that they were looking for someone to share their cabin as they were not making full use of it. This would involve paying half the ground rent and taking on various maintenance and improvement jobs. We jumped at the chance!

cabin 4 cabin 5

cabin 6

cabin 7 cabin 3

I thought that the revamp of the cabin would be an ideal Permaculture design project for me to use towards my Diploma. Having spent lots of time up at the cabin, I have done a far bit of ‘Observe and interact’ already. Usually in the form of daydreaming with cup of tea in hand and child on knee. Following soon will be some of my initial thoughts, structured using Permaculture design tools.