November has been all about preparing to start the implementation of my long term permaculture garden design.
Rather than clearing the growing beds of my pop-up garden from this years growing season, I left the remaining plants in place, plus added a thick layer of fallen leaves from the lawn/wildlife meadow area of the garden. This means that until I am ready to work on a specific area, the soil fertility and insect habitat will be maintained as much as possible. Birds have also been very pleased with this decision and although Im not feeding birds from commercial feeders, I’m seeing an increased number spending time in my garden and finding food to eat from these mulched areas.
I ordered a diverse mix of trees from the Woodland Trust to plant as a hedgerow at the edge between my garden and a busy main road. The area already has some young hawthorn and holly trees in place and I’m going to be adding hornbeam, wild cherry, blackthorn, dog rose, elder, rowan, alder, hazel and yew. I’m also awaiting a delivery from Yorkshire Willow - a variety of various coloured willow rods to create a mini coppice area.
Two of my lovely friends put together this amazing shed from local, award winning Power Sheds in Bradford. They deliver anywhere in the UK and I can really recommend the quality of their product and customer service.
I’m making a lot of compost in my garden and to give the process a boost I ordered some “tiger” worms from Yorkshire Worms. The basic layout of my garden is only a year old with a thin layer of top soil on top of a lot of building rubble, so I’m hoping that these new garden friends are going to greatly help with the land regeneration. (The wood chip in this photo is bedding from my rescue guinea pigs, another important part of my composting system.)
And then lastly my raised gardening beds arrived from British Recyled Plastic, based down the road (and over the hill!) in Hebden Bridge. They create an amazing robust and chemically safe product from British farm waste plastic, to make garden beds and other outdoors furniture.
This year I’ve gradually been transitioning back into my role of being a tutor on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. It’s work I haven’t been well enough to do over the past few years and I’m feeling really excited to be part of such a great programme and community again.
Over the summer I spent time designing illustrations for the new Diploma website (designed and launched for the new 2020 system), which was a lovely creative way to start being connected. I then undertook the online training to became an assessment level tutor, meaning I can now work alongside apprentices through every stage of their Diploma journey.
Through the training, several other Diploma tutors in the north of England and myself, decided to create a regional, day-long gathering for anyone involoved in the Diploma in the area, initially to be an online event, and then hopefully to be an “in person” event as the pandemic conditions allow. We hosted the first of these gatherings last week and it was a really motivating event. We opened the gathering up to any Diploma apprentices and tutors who wanted to attend, with the aim of sharing the design, to inspire others to create other regional events. About 40 people joined in sessions about; documenting designs, ‘getting unstuck’, a review of the assessment criteria, design shares and time/space for everyone to be able to introduce themselves. Our northern England tutor guild is just about to arrange our gathering evaluation online meet up but we are already pretty sure there will be more similar events to happen.
I also facilitated my first tutorial in the new system last month and am looking forward to gradually accepting other apprentices over the next few months.
You can check out my tutor profile on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design website and get to know more about me and my permaculture interests by having a general nosey round my own website. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about my tutor work.
Back in spring I shared a blog post about a temporary edible garden I was designing as life in the the UK was being overwhelmed with the realities of the arrival of the COVID 19 pandemic . In this post I share some more photographs about how this temporary garden grew and thrived throughout the growing season of this surreal and uncertain year.
As I write this at the 1st October Harvest Full Moon, I have been in my new home (and garden) for just over a year and making plans to finish this "pop up" garden and rejoin my bigger much longer term whole garden design again.
For many people the sudden arrival of the Coronavirus Pandemic has meant significant changes in how we live our lives. As the weeks pass it is becoming more evident that in the UK, as in many other places in the world that we will be living with some level of “lockdown” situation for many more months, possibly longer.
From my own observations and listening to the stories of others, there are many similarities and parallels about life respecting the lockdown rules and managing the impacts of the overwhelming loss related to the pandemic, and my experience of being mainly housebound while living with long term illness over the last few years.
In the early months of my diagnosis with late stage Lyme Disease I used aspects of permaculture design to create a life that, although very different from my life prior to becoming seriously unwell, I could continue to thrive in. I have now easily been able to adapt these ideas to both enhancing my own experience of lockdown and also supporting others around me to be able to adapt as well as possible.
Here I share some of those ideas.
● I use The Design Web by Looby Macnamara from her book People and Permaculture (2012) to design the pattern of my days. I can really recommend spending some time on creating a template for this, which can then be used as the structure for each day to add detail to according to the different activities and priorities of each individual day.
● I spend time on a regular basis acknowledging the loss, grief and various emotional states associated with this, relating to how Covid 19 is impacting on our lives. Also how this can compound other loss in my life too. Gently accepting and reminding myself about the fact that fast changing sways of emotion are in fact grief and connecting with others about this can mean that the emotions don’t become overwhelming as often.
● Connection and integration with other people, (while physically distancing, but demonstrating social solidarity!) to support each other through the Pandemic, but just as importantly to focus and talk about other meaningful topics again to avoid being emotionally overwhelmed, is also a valuable tool.
● I use reflection a lot - a mini reflection at the end of each day, a more detailed one at the end of each week and then an in-depth time of reflection at each Earth festival. It really helps to have these periods of reflection with other people who know me well too, a bit like “life supervision”. Referring back to the daily pattern template above during the reflective time means that I can creatively make changes as needed on a regular basis. Regular reflection helps me to value my achievements however small, even on the most difficult days. Being able to identify potential for new projects or positive habits enables more flow and growth in my life too.
● Creating a journaling tool to record ideas, gratitude and event memories is a really positive strategy. The fast changing pace of the changes involved with the Coronavirus situation and the media responses, means that it can be difficult to focus on aspects of life not related to the crisis and this in turn can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and potential burnout. Using the permaculture principle of catch and store energy, in making a physical space to record actions and thoughts really helps to focus on solutions and regenerative ways forward.
● I use the permaculture tool of Zoning to help to connect with the things in life which give me meaning, even though the ways I can do this are often very different from before. This means that I can decide on an activity based on any limitations that the effects of the Coronavirus lockdown are having on my life at any particular time. For example – one of my main projects on the go is the design and creation of a new edible garden. Zone 0 activity related to it is to have dedicated thinking/daydreaming/mind mapping time, Zone 1 to listen to a podcast or audiobook about edible gardening, Zone 2 to read a book or watch a video about edible gardening, Zone 3 to chat to a friend or on a forum about gardening, Zone 4 to actually spend some time on practical gardening activities and Zone 5 to visit other edible gardens/allotments in my local community.
● Over recent years there has been many studies demonstrating about how beneficial nature connection is to our physical, emotional and spiritual health. I designed ways in which I could connect with nature when my health was at its most difficult and I spent many months in bed. One of the most effective ways I maintained this essential part of my life was to create a space in my bedroom to display objects and other representations of patterns in nature. I wrote in more depth about this in this here . Although now, through significant improvements in my health, I have the privilege of being able to spend time in my garden and enjoy daily walks in my local park, I realise that not everyone has access to this either geographically and/or because of needing to self-isolate or shield because of Covid 19. Having an inside space dedicated to connection with nature, continues to be a constant vital aspect to my holistic wellbeing.
● Growing food is also something that gives me and many other permaculture practitioners really significant meaning in life – I’m really lucky to have the space and health to be able grow food in my garden now and as the Coronavirus lockdown commenced in March I started a design for my edible garden. Throughout the difficult times of my illness I was able to grow food on windowsills in the house – sprouted seeds and pulses, herbs and chilli plants – and I still do as these ways of growing give me fresh home grown food each day of the year which is hugely impactful to my holistic wellbeing.
● I timetable a regular space in each day to intentionally “pause” and take a break from whatever else is going on in the day. For me this means 10-15 minutes of grounding, through awareness of my senses and purposefully connecting to Earth – I also found this tool really useful to use at any time that feels overwhelming too. This short time away from whatever else is happening in my day nearly always enables me to regain a healthy sense of control and is helpful when changes are happening quickly, such has been the case with the Coronavirus crisis.
These are some of the life tools, inspired by permaculture, I have been using and adapting over the past few years to stay as holistically healthy as possible. I hope that you have found some inspiration here in my ideas for your own self-care in these times of Covid 19.
An edited version of this article also appears in Permaculture Magazine Autumn 2020 (No. 105) - If you have the financial means I can strongly recommend subscribing to this wonderful quarterly publication. As well as the magazine, Permaculture Magazine website has masses of free permaculture related content plus a wonderful YouTube channel
There is a lot of grief in our communities right now. Grief related to so many aspects of the Covid 19 crisis. Grief related to our damaged Earth. Grief relating to people close to us who are dying and who we can't be alongside. Anticipatory grief. Actual grief. Complex grief.
I made this colouring-in page about the web-like pattern and aspects of grief that often form in our lives. Please feel free to print off and colour in/doodle on.
Click here for a PDF version to print from.
If you want to read more about different types of grief and practical, creative ways of living with so much loss then I can recommend the blog at What's Your Grief as a good place to start.
A few months ago I started a new blog series to run alongside a year long design process I had started for the garden at my new home. Then the Coronavirus Pandemic became a very real thing and realising the scale of changes we were urgently going to have to make to our lives, I decided to make an edible garden ASAP. My main reasons for creating this garden at this time rather than continuing with the long term period of observation I was part way through, was to give myself an immediate project which I know from past experience would hugely benefit my holistic health and well-being, at a time of probably prolonged changes, uncertainty and grief. Given my existing health limitations plus the limitations of the pandemic “lockdown”, I designed my new garden to be as simple as possible to implement and to use as few bought in components as possible. In addition, this design aims to be easily changed or adapted for the long term when more time has been spent as planned on the observation and analysis phases of my original project.
Here is a photo journey of my lockdown Edible Garden so far : -
(PS - sign up to get my monthly newsletter to read more instalments about this garden design)
My finished Edible Garden area - the beds are topped with spiky twigs to deter cats and birds. All ready to get planting into now! The shady strip of grass at the right side of the area has had some perennial wild grasses and herbage seeds sown into patches of bare soil, as well as edible flower/pollinator seeds sown into the edge alongside the fence. The function of this small area is to mainly be a space for wildlife habitat.
I've created this A4 colouring in page for anyone to print off and get creative (and relaxed!) with. Here is the PDF Link
I know lots of people are really struggling financially ATM and a lot of charities are desperate for support, but if you do have some spare cash then it would be great if you could donate a couple of £s to Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice.
As well as providing amazing specialist palliative care in the area, Manorlands has also been my place of work for many years and I am passionate about helping to make sure it can continue to thrive through the current pandemic and economic crisis we are in. Creative ways of providing good symptom management, end of life care and bereavement support are desperately needed through these times of Covid 19/Coronavirus and I'm so proud that my amazing Manorlands friends and colleagues are at the forefront of designing this solutions focused care in the hospice, community and hospital.
I know the financial support for charities announced by the government on Thursday will help significantly over the coming weeks, but Manorlands Hospice is going to need as much extra financial help as possible in order to continue to do the invaluable work it does in the near medium to long term.
You can donate directly to Manorlands via this link
Many hospices are in a similar position so, donating to your own local hospice instead if you can, is very much encouraged
If you don't have any spare money to donate then please still feel free to print off as many copies of this colouring in page as you need. Also, feel free to share this post widely with people you think might be interested. Thanks so much
As part of the design for my art room/office in my recently moved to new home, I upcycled this desk and chair I bought from a local charity furniture shop. I used some low toxicity Chalk Paint bought from the fab My Vibrant Home, an interiors design shop, 10 mins walk from my house and then decorated the top of the desk with a collage made from old copies of Permaculture Magazine -Not only does it look pretty lovely, but I now have a constant abundance of inspirational images in front of me for my permaculture illustration work
The second post in a new series of monthly blog posts sharing the journey through the design process in creating an urban permaculture garden at my new home.
Wild Garden - Early Design
About 75% of the area for my new garden is North facing and adjacent to a busy road with congested traffic at certain times of day. Even before I moved into the house 6 months ago, I knew that these limiting factors meant that I would not be able to use this area of garden for food growing or spending prolonged amounts of time relaxing of socialising. Instead I have created an early design for wildlife habitat areas to be the dominant function in this space.
Ideally I would have observed the area for a year before making any design decisions but I have chosen to take advantage of the turf laid for the lawn being very new, (about 9 months old), and so ideal for sowing additional perennial flowers, herbage, legumes and grasses within the existing new turf. Before this happens I have also decided to prune back, (and in one case, remove), some existing mature sycamore and lime trees edging the lawned area and roadside to allow a lot of extra light onto the lawn and prevent the trees from overhanging the house roof. In addition I hope that having the pruning and resulting wood processing done just prior to sowing the new seeds into the lawn, will have the added benefit of creating more bare patches on the grass, enabling easier, successful germination and growth of the new perennial plants. Last week this work on the trees was successfully undertaken by local tree surgeons.
The wood from the pruning work was processed on site into a variety of sizes of logs and then the smaller diameter branches either chipped for paths/mulches or left intact for creating wildlife habitat, all for other aspects of my garden designs.
Wild Garden - Seeds
I ordered perennial flower, grasses, herbage and legume seeds for the lawned/grassed area of the Wild Garden and also some annual cornfield seeds for the borders. The perennial plants won't flower this year but the annual ones should do, creating some 'pop up' pollinator and other wildlife habitat while the longer term design implementation is established. I can highly recommend Emorsgate Seeds, (suggested to me by my good friend and ecologist Jan Martin), for a fantastic range of seeds and advice for ecological restoration in the UK, on any scale. I'm aiming to sow all the mixes of seeds at the end of March is the weather/ground conditions are appropriate
Edible Garden - First Seeds Sown
....and then the first seeds for my Edible Garden got sown. These tomato ('Latah') and chilli ('Pretty in Purple' and 'Nigel's Outdoors' ) varieties from Real Seeds are some of my favourites and ones I had left over from last year. They'll be germinating and growing indoors until the summer.
I've also been researching info and ideas from Alys Fowler and Juliet Kemp for my pop up container garden design. These two books are great for designing gardens in a diverse range of small spaces.
Sign up to my monthly newsletter to get further updates about how my garden design is progressing through 2020.
The beautiful, haunting lyrics and music of "I Killed the Bees" have been crafted in such a powerful way, that since its release last year, this track has been firmly stuck on a loop in my head. Tygermylk's vision is for their song to be part of the catalyst for regenerative planetary change.In my opinion, this track from the band's upcoming EP, is destined to become a core anthem in climate justice activism.
A stunning version of "I Killed the Bees" is also available on Spotify
This mini-review was originally written for the current (No. 103 Spring 2020) edition of Permaculture Magazine
Welcome to my blog, born at the festival of Samhain 2018, the Pagan New Year. Here I aim to share regular everyday examples of how permaculture can provide healing and regeneration for ourselves, our communities and our planet.
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