One of the life tools I like to create at the start of a calendar year is choosing a focus word for that year. I create some art or craft work at the end of December or start of January, which goes on to become my daily reminder about my focus word and the energy behind it. It's a tool that has worked really well for me for several years now, no matter what is going on in my life at the time. My focus word for 2018 was "Creativity" - and when I chose this word in the January, I had no idea that the daily doodling I did, and shared on social media to help my emotional and cognitive wellbeing, would evolve into requests for Illustration work for prints, books and online courses by the start of 2019! While I'm sure this didn't just happen because of my chosen word, it certainly helped me to regularly connect with the intention behind it. So this year I have chosen "Activist", Activism is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, "the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or social one." Throughout my life I have nearly always been involved in various types of activism about issues close to my heart and spirit. Over the past decade this has very much been connected to my development as a permaculture practitioner and educator. I'm hoping that choosing this word as my focus in the coming months, will enable me to design my new form of activism, as part of my plan to continue to thrive while being unwell with Lyme Disease.
Over the last year I have been following the work of illustrator and online Mental Health Activist, Make Daisy Chains and also the Craftivism movement, especially the work of the Craftivism Collective Both of these are part of my inspiration for these first weeks of the year as I begin to design the early part of the journey, my focus word for 2019 will take. Im hoping to use the Wheel of the Year, Earth based festivals for times of reflection about my current permaculture projects, and how these are influenced by my new focus word. I plan to document the main topics of that reflective process, within future blog posts here.
Water in Plain Sight
Judith D. Schwartz
St Martin’s Press July 2016
Water in Plain Sight is another engaging informative work from Judith D Schwartz. It furthers many of the issues she explored in her 2013 book Cows Save The Planet, alongside discussing some very timely new topics.
In Water in Plain Sight we learn many disturbing and essential to understand accounts about how our global history of violence towards our planet, in the form of agricultural practices, hunting and deforestation are drastically altering access to water. Then contributing to the destruction of our land and communities via political turbulence, discrimination, conflict and suffering on massive scales.
Judith takes us on a journey around the globe, Zimbabwe, Mexico, California, Ohio, Texas, Western Australia and introduces us to a wonderfully diverse group of people who are demonstrating some amazing ways of how they are re-engaging with the natural cycles of water, particularly in slowing water cycles down. In turn these scientists, farmers and caretakers of land tell the stories of soil, water and community regeneration through their practices.
The most powerful message I gained from Judith’s book though, is that drought is due to how soil holds and moves water, rather than a lack of rainfall, and that this flow and cycle is crucial to take into account in combating climate change.
Schwartz’s writing style as an Investigative Journalist, as in Cows Save The Planet, cleverly connects a huge amount of widely researched material which links the personal and the political. She ensures that the messages in her work are accessible to all of us, regardless of how much we already know about global water/drought subjects.
Reading and then rereading Schwartz’s work has again given me inspiration to make some very real positive changes in our communities and lands. I can recommend it to all. Water in Plain Sight provides us with motivation and hope, in the form of a whole global toolbox of solutions to actively heal our planet with.
This book review also appeared in Permaculture Magazine in 2016 and in the Permaculture Women Magazine @ Medium
My Winter Solstice Doodle Prints , are available to buy now, with 100% of the profit going to support Manorlands Hospice, in Oxenhope, West Yorkshire. (England).You can find out about the amazing services Manorlands provides via the link tagged in this post . Its an organisation very close to my heart, as I've nursed in various roles at Manorlands over the last 15 years, and it's been a wonderful place to work.
The Winter Solstice Doodles are A4 in size on recycled card and Footprint Workers Co operative in Leeds have done a fab job in transforming my creativity into beautiful prints. They've been a great organisation to work with and I can very much recommend them.
Prints are £12.50 each which includes £2.50 for printing, packaging and postage in the UK, and £10 donated directly to Manorlands.
If you are on a low income, prints are available at a reduced price of £7.50 which includes £2.50 for printing, packaging and postage in the UK, and £5 donated directly to Manorlands.
If you would like a print, but are unable to afford the reduced price, or you would like to buy several prints, then please contact me and we can chat about this.
Payment is via PayPal. Please send me a direct message on Facebook or Instagram or via email, with your order, including a postal address, and I will let you know PayPal details.
Using Permaculture To Create A New Planner & Reflection Tool
As part of my portfolio of designs for my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, one of my favourite design created was a Reflection and Planner Journal , (This link isnt accesible on a mobile phone). This tool totally changed the way that I achieved the goals and intentions I set in my life and work. I have used versions of this design ever since. I also know that several friends have also used their own versions of the tool as well, with really positive feedback.
One thing I found when I first became very unwell and unable to work, last year, was that my Reflection and Planner Journal no longer felt as useful. The large spaces to fill on the pages, plus some of the content, was a constant reminder about how much my life had adversely changed through my illness. In addition the A4 size paper was becoming more and more difficult to physically manage to use as my movement, even when resting in bed, was very limited.
So I set about on a redesign! - I wanted one easily accessible place where I could record plans, ideas, reflections and resources ,using a variety of creative ways of documenting.
A friend had introduced me to the concept of Bullet Journaling several months before and I’d been considering it as something that I could well adapt to suite my own needs. Many commercially produced 'Dot Journals' typically used in bullet journaling, are A5 size, which means much easier accessibility in relation to my health needs.
The Design Web
I’m a keen fan of Looby Macnamara’s 'Design Web'- the Design Process at the core of her book People and Permaculture, for anything related to using permaculture design as a way of improving our own lives. So it was an obvious choice for me to use the Design Web to guide the design of my new Planner & Reflection Tool.
First of all, I decided to name my new Planner and Reflection Tool a 'Seed Journal' – a space to vision and record ideas, observations and reflections, many of which could become actual projects and designs, if, or when the conditions were optimal for them to germinate and grow. I purchased an A5 Dot Journal to try for the first time. (There are many different brands of these journals available. Purchasing one from a stationary shop local to you if at all possible, rather than from big multinationals, will obviously keep more money in your local community. )
Here is a summary of how I have used, (and sometimes creatively adapted), various Anchor Points from the Design Web as a core part of my Seed Journal Tool.
Seed Journal Overview
Ideas & Actions
Project Pages - Examples of these in my Seed Journal are :- Design pages, (a space to document information relating to a specific design); Blog post ideas; Lunar & Solar Cycles; Social media planning; Learning notes about a particular topic; Budgeting; Log of useful resources; Mindmap of project ideas for next year.
This Anchor Point for me is a reminder about how important creativity is in my life. And each week I try and engage in some artwork that is just for the sole purpose of taking a break, often I will listen to some relaxing meditation music at the same time, and then I glue the creative piece into my Seed Journal.
I use this Anchor Point to focus on recording daily activities that are important to me, and symptoms of my illness. It’s a really useful way to look at the patterns and connections between them, then making changes for the next month as suggestions and solutions emerge.
I find spending time on indepth visioning for the month ahead, a creative and inspiring way to design beyond the edges of my comfort zone, as well as considering aspects of my life and work that may of had very little attention recently. I use a mix of Mother Peace Tarot Cards, various decks of Oracle cards, Gaia Craft Permaculture Principle Cards and Group Works Cards.
Goals &/or Intentions
Actually not an Anchor Point in the Design Web, but nearly always part of a permaculture design. I like to use the SMART acronym for goal setting . This link is a great one for expanding on the typical: - Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Measurable; Time bound. The monthly overview in this image above is collaged from the wonderful Earth Pathways Diary
Ideas & Actions
I have a page each month where I can literally write down ideas as they come into my head. Then at the start of each week I consider how they might fit into the days ahead, or possible connections with project pages in my Seed Journal
At the end of each month I spend dedicated time on reflecting how the month has gone, and link to my goals and patterns for the month. I like using Roses, Buds and Thorns reflection tool here, but it's also a great opportunity to try out some of the others too, for example PMI (Pluses Minuses, Interesting) or SWOC (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Constraints).
Weekly & Daily Journal
The small spaces in this layout work really well for me. Enough room to document, without too much space to feel overwhelmed about filling it! It takes me about 10 minutes to draw this out each week. It can be a good opportunity for thinking about intentions for the week ahead.
Not officially part of the Design Web, but an additional section I use to capture the general overview of the week, for example, significant moon phases, festivals, celebrations or other important times.
As part of my ongoing learning and growing as a permaculture practitioner I like to focus on a particular Permaculture Principle each week, and spend time throughout the week reflecting on how this principle can be used in the different areas of my own life, community (online and face to face), and globally. It can be a useful focus for me when I am not well enough to engage in much physical activity, (I have called this my ‘structured daydreaming’ tool, a redefinition of 'not feeling well enough to do anything'). Sometimes I journal about my thoughts relating to principles, especially if it seems like it would be a good reflection to ‘capture’ for future projects. And on other occasions, I choose a permaculture principle I know is going to be a useful one for specific plans for the week. At other times I use the wonderful Gaia Craft Permaculture Principle Cards to inspire me.
I use this space to document a particular quote, poem, song lyrics or anything else that resonates with me at this time. Reminding myself about it each day really helps to ingrain its meaning and connection for me in my life.
Ideas & Actions
I use these Anchor Points together. This space is for ideas for action throughout the day, plus a log of other actions that occurred without plan, throughout the day.
People I want/need to connect with during that day. And then at the end of the day, additional people who I connected with.
I really like using tarot and oracle cards as part of my daily routine, to inspire and perhaps encourage thinking and reflecting outside of my comfort zone. I briefly record these reflections here.
I use the Roses Thorns and Buds reflection tool to do a mini-reflection for each day.
Not an Anchor Point in the Design Web – but I find it useful to have a separate section to be clear about which permaculture projects I am focusing on each day/week.
Space for daily gratitude.
Some Thoughts To End With
So, this was a brief exploration through, how my new Seed Journal Tool, guided by the a people focused permaculture design process, the Design Web, works incredibly well for me. Implementing this design has been a really useful reminder of how ecological principles and the Permaculture Ethics of People Care, Fairshares and Earth Care, can be used in healing, resilience building and regeneration of ourselves. I've been using my Seed Journal, including, overtime, several useful changes, for 9 months now. Its emerged into a really positive core aspect of how I am adapting my life to several major life events, in particular the onset of chronic illness, over the last two years. Rather than a prescriptive ‘how to’, this blog is very much about sharing ideas that may inspire you, and could well be adapted for your own life.
In case you missed the link earlier on in this post, you can buy People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara, featuring masses more information about using the Design Web for people focused Permaculture Design, from the Permaculture Market.
" How can we be build a new world when people are so deeply damaged by the old? ”
City of Refuge is Starhawk’s powerful and profound sequel to the Fifth Sacred Thing. It’s actually the 3rd novel of the story that begins in the 1960’s in Walking To Mercury. Although there is been a gap of over 20 years since Fifth Sacred Thing was published It expertly flows to take up the story as if it were written to further the tale of a much more recent novel.
Set in California 2049, the scene is set of a land of great contrasts. Califia in the North, protects the Elements, the four sacred things –air, fire, water, and earth—and values diversity, community, sharing power and responsibility. The Southlands are ruled by a fascist regime in which a small minority hold financial control, children are bred to be soldiers and disposable sex slaves - and rape is a seen as a reward. The lands and communities of the South are toxic and dying, those in the North resilient and abundantly diverse.
It’s a novel for anyone who is passionate about the future of our Earth and her communities. Starhawk tells the story through and in, webs and connections, of love, power and magic. She brings us hope through the many examples of solutions of healing and regeneration described . Although fiction, City of Refuge is so relevant to real life – hauntingly so at times. The challenge of inciting revolution in such a society as the Southlands, by building a city of refuge within it, is an ethically complex task for revolutionaries of the North . It is hugely inspiring to all of us who are working hard to create social and environmental change.
Many of the most horrifying elements of the book (violence and oppression of both land and people), are so, because they are not far in reality to the world we live in today. In comparison, the story also holds many beautiful descriptions of what large scale communities and land use designed with permaculture principles and ethics, can be like. Starhawk’s fiction is a deeply inspiring look at what is actually possible for a solutions focused healthy future.
In the afterword of the book, Starhawk summarises how the changes in our world over the last twenty years have influenced her thinking as an activist, ecofeminist, pagan and teacher and then how she approached writing the book .One major factor is that California Is now year on year living the very real impact of climate change, which was still only a growing concept in the early 90’s when the Fifth Sacred Thing was written. Another challenging subject explored well in the book is Non Violence and its place in a healing world – given the severity of aggression used to control whole communities here in 2016, is it truly possible for the story’s Army of Liberation to use non violent only tactics?
City of Refuge can certainly be enjoyed as a stand alone book and by folk who have never heard of permaculture. There are also many beautiful layers that we as permaculture designers and practitioners will appreciate to a new level as the story weaves through the principles, ethics and many, many design elements and systems as a permaculture designer and activist, I find everything I love in this novel: powerful story-telling toward a different and better future, deep respect for the power of growing and sharing health promoting food, liberated sexual images and identities, genuine love and care for the characters and plenty of plot twists which meant I really didn’t want the story to end .
Starhawks work has been a major influence in my life since my teens and I’ve been looking forward to the City of Refuge ever since I knew of its creation. In all honesty I can say its one of the best novels I’ve ever read. My reactions to the story line: - fear, horror, humour, hope, pride, determination and extreme grief changed from one hour to the next – the 650 page book was hard to put down! I’m now looking forward to re reading both Walking to Mercury and The Fifth Sacred Thing, before taking my time with a more slower, thoughtful read of City of Refuge again. I know those creative layers hold many more pause times for reflection, visioning and designing for healing our broken Earth.
Starhawk talks about writing the City of Refuge in this link
This book review also appeared in Permaculture Magazine Spring 2016
Earth Based Spirituality & Permaculture
The Pagan festival of Samhain, occurs at the end of October, and today is the Samhain New Moon. One of the of the eight festivals from the Wheel of the Year, it also marks the end of one year and the beginning of the next, in the Pagan calendar.
Like some other permaculture practitioners, I love to use the solar and lunar cycles and circles within this Earth based spirituality, as a grounding tool and guidance for my permaculture projects.
The core symbolism of the death of one year, followed by the birth of the next, offers a welcome opportunity to reflect on how the permaculture projects in my life have progressed over the last year.
Im spending time using the roses, thorns and buds reflection tool with each of my current projects, to help me re explore and focus on the functions of each different design. Possible aspects of each project that are no longer useful can also be stopped. Then I identify the “seeds” of next steps to be taken in each project, plus seeds of other potential designs/projects.
Connecting with patterns in nature at this time, I have designed a ‘pause’ time within each project over the next few weeks, as the time ahead darkens towards the shortest day of the Winter Solstice. In practical terms, for me, this means that I have dedicated a blank page in my journal for each project, and with an open mind will be recording any ideas, possibilities, knowledge and insight gained over the next few weeks. Then, as the days start to gradually get longer again after the Solstice, and seeds begin to germinate, these pages can be used to help influence the next chapters in my permaculture work.
In addition, this year, I have decided to keep a dream diary throughout these weeks of inner reflection and contemplation too, which I am really looking forward to using as a new tool in my life!
I've enjoyed and valued the following resources over this Samhain festival: -
Starhawk - Wheel of the Year - Samhain - online ritual
Starhawk - Dreaming The Dark - book
Maddy Harland - Celebrating Life and Death During The Festival of Samhain - Resurgance and Ecologist Magazine
Glennie Kindred - Sacred Earth Celebrations - book
Earth Pathways - Website and Diary
Some ideas for improving access to nature connection if you or someone you are close to has an illness or disability, meaning they find it difficult to be outdoors.
Studies over the last few years have consistently demonstrated that being in nature is beneficial for both our physical and emotional health. From my own observations, I would also add that for many people connecting with the other living parts of Earth also brings increased levels of wellbeing to both the spiritual and social aspects of our lives too.
In my work as a palliative care nurse and as an unpaid Carer of several family members I have witnessed many instances where being able to be creative about how to connect with nature can positively influence the quality of life for people who are too unwell or disabled spend time outside on a regular basis. Over the past year I have become very unwell and currently spend most of my time in bed. This has given me a great opportunity to reflect further about how poorly and disabled people who for whatever reasons find being outside challenging, can benefit from nature connection.
These are some of the ideas I have collated. Most of which I use in my own life too.
Being aware of any sadness, grief or loss you feel about not being able to connect with nature outdoors. Even just reading this short article may generate difficult emotions. And that’s ok. I’ve found that talking it through with someone close to you or writing, drawing or any other creative expression can really help, as do other ideas mentioned here.
As well as hopefully providing some useful ideas relating to nature connection and immersion, an additional function of this article is to inspire further discussion about the urgent need for permaculture practitioners to address issues of privilege in accessing permaculture.
There are a huge diverse number of resources relating to the ideas I have written about in this article. If you need some extra inspiration or a starting point. Here are some of my current favourites.
Dave Jackson Aromatherapist
Writing by Flo Scott – Flo has written a number of articles in Permaculture Magazine and also has her own blog at http://permaculturedesigner.co.uk – In particular check out Flo’s most recent post “Top 5 things to do in an Indoor Garden”
BBC Radio programmes – all of the following are available as podcasts (or on iplayer for those in the UK)
Gardeners Question Time
Tweet Of the Week
Alice Fowler’s regular column in The Guardian newspaper
Plus books and YouTube films by Alys
Permaculture Magazine – available via paper or digital subscription plus lots of free content
Lots of fantastic books at Permaculture Market
One of my current favourite books from Green Shopping, including many, many gorgeous photos, is No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty
‘She Explores’ podcast
Facebook Group - I have recently created a Facebook Group ”Permaculture, Chronic illness and Disability” for anyone with an interest in the topic to join. There is already a very friendly and solutions focused culture emerging there, so please come along and join in if you are interested.
Welcome to the first post in my new Blog, launched at the Pagan New Year, Samhain 2018. Here I will be writing regular short posts about how permaculture design can be applied to our everyday lives with the aim of healing and regenerating ourselves, communities and the planet. I'll be mainly focusing on my particular permaculture design interests in the image above, alongside reviews of permaculture resources, (books, websites, blogs, podcasts, social media, courses, events, permaculture demonstration sites...and more). I'll be sharing my blog posts on my own social media spaces, as well as in relevant permaculture Facebook Groups. To find me on social media or to contact me by email just click on the icons below. You can also email me via my Contact Me page
Welcome to my new 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.