Over the last year a core part of my Edible Garden work has been to improve the fertility and life force of the soil, to ensure a healthy grounded place for flora and fauna to flourish ....In parallel my pathway as a permaculture practitioner also feels as though creating a holistically healthy base from which to grow a diverse rightlivelihood and life balance, has been key for me during this time - and its now time to start creating yields from them both
Mentoring can be a very powerful tool in lots of aspects of our permaculture work. I particularly like this article from thechangeagency.org which explains the benefits that successful mentoring can bring.
" Mentoring provides an opportunity to think and reflect in a confidential and supportive environment. It may make sense to review the preceding period, identify challenges, and workshop ways to respond to challenges in the future. "
Many aspects of permaculture design -process, ethics, principles and tools - can help to structure and guide mentoring relationships in permaculture contexts and settings.
This week Ive been reminded how valuable mentorship is in my both my personal and professional development and learning. Connecting, observing and receiving feedback from others who are more experienced and knowledgeable in subjects we are interested in taking further in our lives can be really empowering. My Skype mentoring session, which was part of the year long people focused permaculture facilitators programme, gave me space to reflect on the last few months of undertaking my facilitators pathway design, while gaining some focused clarity on specific designs and projects I had been working hard to start implementing. Looby's skill in identifying analogies and patterns, in the various tangles of my story is something I am really appreciating learning from her. In addition, a helpful reminder about how erosive my repetitive story for myself about "I need to be more confident" (So, if I need to be more confident, that must mean Im not confident enough!), can be, has given me the motivation to reframe that story by consciously identifying and noting times when I am taking steps to improve my confidence.
More flowers! my Growing Confidence design ....each time I do something which demonstrates I am a confident practitioner and person, I draw a flower in my planner /journal with a few notes. Looking back at the patterns should really help create a lovely spiral of confidence abundance! I have a different colour flower according to significance of the activity ('day to day', 'moderate', 'life changing'!)
Another Skype meeting with Ryan, the strategic communications co-ordinator from the Permaculture Association, about my developing work in communications and marketing in the permaculture community, was also a great time to appreciate the role of Ryan's mentorship. Then an observed Diploma tutorial along with some comprehensive feedback by Wilf, (Wilf observing me undertaking the tutorial, after me observing his tutoring/educator skills over the last few years), was my third experience of some wonderful mentors in my life just now.
Reflecting on the momentum and motivation these 3 events in the last few days gave me, also made me consider my mentoring role to others in the permaculture community and beyond too. This is something I will be looking at in more depth as part of my developing practitioner and designer role.
Over the last week I’ve been going a lot of thought to a design for improving and maintaining soil fertility and increased biodiversity of fauna, here in our garden in the Andalucian hills. With the permaculture ethic of people care ever central to my design work, one of the other functions of the design is to constantly beneficial connections with the other people who own and farm the land in our local community.
Here in March, there is a beautiful abundance of diverse spring flowers, which grow naturally as ground cover. Many neighboring landowners spray their land with glyphosate to get rid of the cover. For some of the olive and almond farmers, its done to make harvesting the crops easier. For others, the reason seems to be a mix of making the land look ‘neat’ and tidy, alongside reducing fire risk in the summer. The bare land looks and feels dead…any rain that falls erodes the soil. Many of the farmers who spray under trees, then apply large quantitates of synthetic fertilizer to improve the next years harvest.
Our land has been sprayed routinely, until we moved here last year. The soil lacks much organic matter at all, although its been encouraging to see an increased worm life in the garden over this winter.
In the past we have used cow/chicken manure from our animals, alongside home made compost to increase fertility in our edible garden in Yorkshire. Here in Spain we are thinking about stock free systems for our design, which so far includes: -
* Growing borage, and hopefully comfrey later. These are amazing pollinator attractors, deep rooted movers of nutrients, and we will be composting the plants, and making fertilizer ‘tea’ from the leaves to feed fruiting edible plants.
* Chopping and gathering nettles for a ‘tea’ to feed plants in their growing stage (nitrogen).
* Chopping and dropping many of the ground cover ‘weeds’ (leaving some to flower for pollinators, and because they look pretty). This will add organic matter as well as mulch between plants, ensuring less evaporation of water from the soil and exposure to the sun.
* Strimming large areas of ground cover under trees, leaving the soil covered and the roots present, minimizing erosion, reducing loss of water and nutrients from the soil, but hopefully will look neat and be a minimal fire risk near to the ground.
* Growing beans as nitrogen fixers, and for added organic matter
* Chipping pruned branches, using the chipped wood as mulch.
“How can we be build a new world when people are so deeply damaged by the old?”
City of Refuge is Starhawk’s long awaited 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 Fitth 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
Ive seen such wonderful posts throughout social media today, to mark International Women's Day 2016 - #IWD2016 -my favorite was this beautiful film from www.wiseatheart.com and shared via Permaculture Magazine
Inspired by so much of the energy from #IWD2016 I’ve been spending some time reflecting on all the wonderful women who impact my life at the moment – here are some of my thoughts of gratitude
Women who write the books I read, (and often review);
Women who I rarely (if at all ) meet face to face, but who are my friends and positive connections in the big wide world of social media;
Women who teach me, through courses, workshops, by example, and the other women who attend those events, with many of whom I stay friends with long after;
The global network of women who inspire me with their practice, knowledge and stories;
Many women working at strategic and national levels to generate political changes towards equal, balanced healthy lives, w3that are prioritised and happen , and women working for grassroots organisations with similar goals;
Women health care professionals I work alongside, who inspire my passion about quality of life as we die, Many of my patients and their families too ;
Women who design systems for healing and regenerating land, communities and self using permaculture principles and ethics;
My diverse group of friends, long term, and transient;
Women who farm to grow the food I eat;
My wonderful WISE (Women Inspiring Stories of Empowerment) group whose monthly Skype presence and space has given me so much so far this year, even in its short life;
Women in my local communities who work in local business and run services to help and support me with my day to day life needs;
Women and girls in my family, present in this world, and those no longer alive - especially my mum, Mo, whose letters wrote before my birth are teaching me about the similarities in politics, adventure in life and compassion we share ;
My Goddess daughter and other young women who inspire hope for your next generation;
And of course my beautiful partner and soul mate , H x
Last month I completed a 10-day residential course ‘ People and Permaculture Facilitator Training (FiT)’ run by Looby McNamara and Peter Cow, at Ragman’s Farm in the Forest of Dean. I only heard about the course a few weeks before it was due to commence, but the timing and content seemed to fit perfectly with everything else in my life.
Being back at Ragman’s was really special for me. This was the amazing permaculture site where I spent time learning much of my core permaculture knowledge from Patrick Whitefield on his PDC in June 2011, and then again for a weeks course in Organic Horticulture the following January.
The whole FiT course was an incredibly special experience, and perfectly timed to coincide with thinking about my next steps as a permaculture designer.
Here is a summary of some of the many positive outcomes of the training for me: -
Spending the duration of the course getting to know the most fantastic group of social permaculture/people centred designers and facilitators from all over world – being really motivated by the prospect of continued learning and growing alongside them over the next year, and hopefully much further ahead, through regular online meetings and connections.
The FiT training was a very different style and aspect of permaculture learning from Patrick’s courses. Being there in the same landscape with those connected experiences enabled me to further widen understanding I had built up in my Diploma, about the importance of putting people care at the core of any permaculture design, for a design to be be resilient and successful.
A much more detailed and in-depth understanding of using the Design Web as an intentional process for Social Permaculture/People centred permaculture design.
Developing skills, confidence and knowledge in facilitation – exploring the ability to see how this can be applied to and transferred to work and life situations beyond permaculture focused settings.
The creation of the first phase of my Facilitators/Right Livelihood Pathway as an umbrella design to incorporate several other smaller designs.
The FiT course will run again in November 2016 at Ragmans Farm. See the Thriving Ways website for further links and contact.
Ive just finished reading People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara - or should I say re-reading, its actually the 3rd read for me!. I initially read P&P from cover to cover when it was first published, (helpfully as I commenced my Diploma!), and then used various parts of it throughout the designs created for my portfolio. Reading it again in its entirety, a few pages each day, including journaling the suggested activities as I finished my Diploma has been really useful. P&P is one of those books that the more you read and use it, the more you gain from it. But in addition it made me realise how much I had developed and matured as a designer and practitioner throughout my Diploma journey. Alongside reading Looby's latest book 7 Ways to Think Differently, Ive spent time in the last few weeks identifying areas of ‘people care' and ‘social permaculture’ that I would now like to explore further in my design work . Aspects of these very much connect and Edge with the exciting Liberation Permaculture ideas, currently evolving within work undertaken by Nicole Vosper and Graham Burnett in the UK. (Spookily as I write this I’ve just received a questionnaire from Graham inviting me to engage further in the dialogue around Liberation and Permaculture!). I’ve also just signed up to attend thePeople and Permaculture Facilitators Training led by Looby and Peter Cow at Ragmans Lane Farm later this month, which is hopefully going to be a great step in taking my practice to a greater depth.
There are lots of reviews about People and Permaculture out there, and I’m not going to attempt another one here, only to say that its definitely one of the key resources I recommend for any one wanting to learn more about permaculture, and/or wanting to look at personal development design.
Many reviews have been left on Amazon and there is a great one at Permaculture Magazine. If you decide to buy a copy of either People and Permaculture or 7 Ways to Think Differently then you can order them directly from Looby or support the fab work of independent publisher Permanent Publications by purchasing through Green Shopping.
Designs in my Diploma in Permaculture Design portfolio using The Design Web, the framework at the core of People and Permaculture, are
Action Learning Pathway
Journey to Spain
regular updates and reflections about the permaculture designs in my life